Thursday, September 17, 2015

The "D&D For Beginners" Dungeon Model

In a recent post I mentioned that J. Eric Holmes and his son Chris ran a game at Gen Con XII in 1979 called "Dungeons & Dragons for Beginners". And for this they used a large 3 by 6-foot dungeon model decorated by Chris. This amazing model still exists and Chris has sent me pictures of it to share.

Essentially the dungeon is a grid with nine sections each about 1 by 2 feet (by my estimate). Some of the sections are further subdivided into multiple areas/rooms. Per Chris, the "rooms were originally covered by pieces of cardboard until their doors were opened".  For transport to Gen Con - then at the University of Wisconsin Parkside - they "boxed up the dungeon and checked it as oversized luggage".

Today we'll just start with the entrance. A staircase leads down to an archway:

This room has actually appeared publicly before: it was used as the setting for two pictures in Holmes' 1981 FRPG book. The first, on page 49, illustrates an encounter in the sample dungeon found in chapter 4:

Original Caption: "In the maze of the minotaur. Figure by Archive, photographic effects by Steve Pyryeztov"

I think the minotaur miniature shown here is actually from Heritage 1351 Minotaurs.

The second appears on page 171, as part of Chapter 11, "Little Metal People". Here you can see several of the same marks on the tiles that appear in the recent photo above:

Original Caption: "Poof! Alkarzotz the sorcerer meets the flaming salamander. Magician figure by Ral Partha, photographic effects by Steve Pyryeztov.

The wizard Alkarzotz is a very early Ral Partha figure, 01-001 Evil Wizard Casting Spell, sculpted by Tom Meier as part of the Fantasy Line. 

Chris says: "I got to assist the photographer the day he took those photos; we all had a lot of fun.  Dad probably paid the photographer more than he ever made off that book but he did get an excellent portrait and I got to see my dungeon in print."


  1. **...As luggage!!**

    ~brain explodes~

  2. Pyryeztov? Flaming salamander? Coincidence? I think not! ;-)

  3. Awesome sauce. I'd love to hear more about how he went about making this model (built from scratch? created from found objects/toys?).

    That's a great model.

  4. Stop teasing us Zenopus! More photos please! Oh and yeah, I'm curious what it was made out of as well!

  5. That arch also seems to resemble the arch on the cover of Holmes' Basic rules and box!