Friday, September 22, 2017

Gary Con Game Approved


I'm registered for next year's Gary Con X and just had my game proposal approved. Here's the 'long' description, which per the submission form will appear on-line:

Return to the Tower of Zenopus

Forty years ago adventurers first braved the dungeon under the ruined tower of the wizard Zenopus. Fearsome monsters were overcome and fabulous treasure recovered, but the doom of Zenopus was never revealed. The stairway leading down to the dangerous passages was eventually bricked over by order of Lady Lemunda, current ruler of prosperous Portown. However, recently your party uncovered a previously unknown means of entry. What secrets remain to be discovered in the old dungeons? Meet at the Green Dragon Inn and adventure as Boinger, Zereth, Murray or another character from J. Eric Holmes' stories (pre-generated characters will be provided). This adventure from the Zenopus Archives celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Holmes Basic D&D set.


And the 'short' version, which I assume will appear in print:

Meet at the Green Dragon Inn and return to the dungeon under the ruined tower of the doomed wizard Zenopus, forty years after adventurers first braved the passages. What secrets remain to be discovered? Play as Boinger, Zereth, Murray or another character from J. Eric Holmes' stories. This adventure from the Zenopus Archives celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Holmes Basic D&D set.

I plan on running the game twice, once on Fri, once Sat. I requested 9 AM - 1 PM (4 hours) for each day, but they are not scheduling until they get more submission.

Submit your games here: http://garycon.com/events-submission/

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Tales of Peril - Dust Jacket Flaps


In the previous post, we looked at the cover art for Tales of Peril. 
Moving inside, here are the contents from the dust jacket flaps:

Front Flap, upper: Quote from the Maze of Peril, Chapter 9, "Visible and Invisible", providing a preview of the battle against the Dagonites.

Front Flap, lower: List of contents. Focuses on highlights, and is more explanatory than the table of contents.

Back Flap, upper: Two paragraph biography of Holmes, different than the one that appeared at the back of the 1986 publication of Maze of Peril. It mentions his medical career, his Korean War service (which I don't think is well known), and gives an overview of his writing career.

Back Flap, lower: Photo of Holmes gaming. I've included a larger version of this photo above. Photo by Steve Pyryeztov. This photo is from the same session as the one near the front of Holmes' book Fantasy Role-Playing Games (1981).

In these photos we see Holmes running a game at his chalk board table in his basement. In his book, Holmes wrote "My own gaming table is spray-painted with "chalk board paint" so that the green surface can be marked with chalk and then, when the characters move on, a new set of doors and walls can be drawn around them. In this way, the little figures never move off the table, they only move to new positions as the scenery shifts around them" (pg 93). 

An earlier photo of Holmes at this same table can be see in the post, Holmes' Little Metal People Take II.

Looking at the above photo in more detail, we see chalked dungeon corridors, and Holmes pointing at a battle occurring at an intersection of these corridors. 

The wizard with staff held aloft vertically appears to be "ME4 Wizard" from Minifigs' Mythical Earth line. Thanks to Tony at the Cryptic Archivist for posting a picture of this figure in the Holmes Basic group recently. I'm sure some of our readers will ID some of the other minis.



Under Holmes' arms are visible at least three of the dime-store Hong Kong-manufactured monsters that inspired the Bulette of D&D. See this post by Tony DiTerlizzi, a former TSR artist, for more history and photos of these toys. I had several sets of these myself as a child. 

An AD&D Players Handbook rests on the table under the elbow of one player, so at this point (1980-81?) they were using the AD&D rules.

Behind the players are shelves of boxes filled with comic books. Each box has a comic, or just the cover, attached to it to show the contents. Between this picture and the one in the book, I can make out one cover for the Incredible Hulk Special 2 (1969)In this picture it's the barely visible box with the "K" to the right of the player with glasses. In the book, the Hulk is clearly visible on the cover.

This post is part of the Tales of Peril Book Club.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Tales of Peril - Cover Art

"Amazon Assault" by Ian Baggley, original art for the front cover of Tales of Peril 

Tales of Peril is a work of art, and the editor Allan Grohe deserves a round of applause for assembling such a beautiful tome.

The stunning front and back covers for Tales of Peril are by the artist Ian Baggley. They illustrate Underworld action scenes from the Maze of Peril novel, which I will mention again when we get to those portions of the story in the read-through.

I wasn't familiar with Ian's work prior to this, but his previous credits include the Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerors of Hyperborea RPG, as detailed by grodog here. His Tales of Peril contributor biography states that "he trained at the Toronto School of Art where he focused on drawing, portraiture and oil painting". 

A gallery of Ian's fantasy are can be seen here on his Deviant Art page. I've posted the images from this page above and below so you can see the original art used for the covers.

I love these shadowy brazier-lit compositions, completely fitting for a book that heavily features the mysterious and dangerous Underworld.

The subject matter of the front cover is striking - why is that ship in a cavern? - and the perspective draws your eye right into the scene and the book itself. The back cover subject matter brings to mind Dave Trampier's classic Players Handbook cover, with the giant statue with gem-like eyes, flanked by braziers. It's also sort of a zoom-in of the front cover, where the statue can be seen in background.


"Dagon" by Ian Baggley, original art for the back cover of Tales of Peril

This post is part of the Tales of Peril Book Club.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Tales of Peril Book Club




Now that Tales of Peril has been available for a few months, I'm starting a new blog series called the "Tales of Peril Book Club". For it I will read through the entirety of Tales of Peril and make post(s) for each chapter/section. I encourage you to read along with me, and the posts will be directed to those who do, and thus will contain spoilers. You have been warned!

I've already re-read the 1st chapter of the Maze of Peril and made several pages of notes, but the first post(s) will deal with covers/index/introduction/etc, so you have a bit of time to get the first chapter read. I expect writing notes/blog posts to take me longer than actually reading the chapters, so posting frequency may vary depending on my schedule. I may split some chapters up into multiple posts if they are getting long. We'll see how it goes.

If you still need a copy, see How to Order Tales of Peril from Black Blade Publishing.

Index of Posts
Cover Art
Dust Jacket Flaps


Discussion Threads
OD&D Discussion
Dragonsfoot
Knights & Knaves Alehouse
Acaeum
The Piazza
RPG.net
Enworld
Yog-Sothoth

Monday, August 14, 2017

D&D on Barsoom art by Chris Holmes


Dungeons & Dragons on Barsoom, artwork by Chris Holmes, 1980

This fantastic artwork by Chris Holmes shows John Carter battling a Thark, perhaps Tars Tharkas. Chris told me that the sheet was used a player recruitment sheet at a long ago Gen Con and it seems most likely this was 1980 (the art is signed "Chris Holmes 80"). 

The text reads: "Dungeons and Dragons on Barsoom. A Fantasy Role Playing Game on Edgar Rice Burroughs world of Mars. For 8 players Exp. Level 3. Free Event. No Prize. Meet at 10:00 AM SUNDAY Morning and we will try to find a place to play. Sign up below. Chris Holmes", with an update: "We are just to the left of this note".

J. Eric Holmes and Chris had run this same game at Gen Con 78 and 79 as listed in the program books for those conventions. The 1979 program book has the following brief description: "Ever wondered what happened when your character got teleported to Mars? Find out in this small tourney. One session." 

There are no games listed for the Holmes in the 1980 booklet, so I didn't know they had also run this scenario there too until I saw the above.

If you'd like to see more art work by Chris, the gallery on his website was updated recently. Plus there's artwork of his throughout the new Tales of Peril book

Gen Con 50 is this week. I won't be there, but if you are there is a museum where there will be a typed draft of original D&D.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Zenopus Dungeon Factions

Some thoughts on using the encounters in the Sample Dungeon as "factions" vying for control of the dungeon:

Thaumaturgist (Rooms F and S) - This evil magic-user's goal is "to take over the dungeon level". Allies include a charmed smuggler (2nd level fighter) and a pet giant snake. Other resources include his tower (home base), a wand of petrification and a captured ape in a cage.

Per Holmes' advice, I've generally had him react to intruders by fleeing and ordering his lackey to attack, but in the Portown Rumors I positioned him as a potential employer in town. Why not have him play the same role if first encountered in the dungeon? He might parlay with the PCs to get them to aid in taking over the dungeon. An easy first mission would be cleaning out the giant rats in nearby Room G. Other targets might be the goblins in Room A, the giant spider in Room J, the giant crab in Room L,  the pirates/smugglers in Room M, the ghouls in Room P, or any wandering monsters he's encountered.

Following Zenopus' demise, "[o]ther magic-users have moved into town", which I've taken to mean the thaumaturgist, but it also implies at least one other. Perhaps there is a rival M-U also searching for ancient treasures in the dungeon.

Another option is to have the thaumaturgist as a former apprentice of Zenopus who turned his master to stone and used him as the rotating statue in Room F. In this type of scenario there's the potential for restoring Zenopus with the scroll of stone to flesh. Another twist would be to place on the thaumaturgist on the town council, or perhaps as an advisor to one of the lords on the council.

Goblins (Room A) - this group lives in this huge room (120 x 120 feet, the largest in the dungeon) as evidenced by the beds (one for each goblin), tables and benches. Their total number is not defined as Holmes suggests adjusting it on the number of PCs. If goblins are encountered as wandering monsters on this level they could also be part of this group. If more goblins sneak into the area and join the group they may try to expand their area of control.

The only other clue that Holmes gives for goblins' motivations is survival - they will flee or surrender if half the number is killed, and will bargain duplicitously in order to escape. They have knowledge of "the dangerous trap rooms" although it is not clear what this refers to. The ambushing giant spider in nearby Room J is a possibility although it was much weaker in Holmes' original draft (only 1 HD), so I'm not sure if that is what Holmes was referring to. 

The goblins' room is very close to the entrance to the dungeon, with no other encounters between, and they could easily slip to the surface to steal food from the town; in Portown Rumors this activity is responsible for one of the rumors.

They have a good deal of coin (1000 SP, 2000 CP), which means they might be working for someone, perhaps the thaumaturgist. If the PCs offer more money, the goblins would probably provide information or cooperation for the time.

One of their chests is trapped with a sleeping gas. In my version I've added that they know how to make this gas and store in it breakable vials, for use as "sleep bombs" (ala the Green Goblin) to help them escape.

Pirates (Room M) - Another group of indeterminate number; there at least four but with a 1 in 4 chance every turn of 2-5 more arriving with no limit indicated. This group is mainly concerned with maintaining their sea cave hideout in the sea cave. They have a dangerous "guard dog" in the form of the hungry octopus they feed as they row in to keep from attacking them. They are also described as smugglers but are probably not currently moving the goods into town through the dungeon due to the various dangerous monsters in the way. But having them use the dungeon for transport could be a motivation for having them vie for control of the dungeon. Alternately, if their lair is threatened they may go seeking revenge on the offending party. 

The force in Room M are all described as normal men, but they had at least one former member who was a 2nd level fighter (now charmed by the thaumaturgist). This raises the possibility of stronger leaders that are currently elsewhere. If they feel threatened by the town they might assemble a larger force and stage a raid. In this way the current force in Room M could be used as advance force similar to the bandits watching the Keep in the wilderness in B2. 

They have Lemunda the Lovely prisoner. Did they kidnap her with the goal of ransoming her? Or did they catch her spying on them and are now debating what to do?

Ghouls (Room P) - These undead are tied to the cemetery in an ambiguous manner. The room contains some smashed coffins (their own or someone else's?) and the east door "leads to a short dirt tunnel which ends blindly under the cemetery". The coda to the adventure indicates something is going on there: "What inhuman rites are being practiced deep in the ghoul haunted passages beneath the graveyard?" This implies cult activities, which could be another faction. Perhaps the cultists are animating dead bodies - skeletons, zombies, ghouls. The cult would have a leader, possibly an evil curate (5th level Cleric) and many lower level acolytes (Level 1). Perhaps they carry a "sigil" that keeps their undead minions from attacking them. To increase the presence of this faction in the Sample Dungeon, we could add a roving band of cultists to a Wandering Monster table for the level.

Rats (Rooms G, N and RT) - These are not intelligent, but there are many ("there is no end to the rats"). Add a controlling were-rat or two (or even a vampire!) with a base somewhere in the rat tunnels and there's another faction vying for control of the dungeon.

Townsfolk - While the citizens of Portown are not ordinarily encountered in the dungeon, they've got a stake in it since it is under their town and the denizens may pose a threat. Per the coda of the adventure, the townspeople may not take kindly to trouble stirred up from below ("tampering with Things Better Left Alone"). This brings the possibility of invoking the "Angry Villager Rule" - "Anyone who has viewed a horror movie is aware of how dangerous angry villagers are"  (see OD&D, Vol 3, page 24).

However, if the PCs gain some prominence - such as by rescuing Lemunda - the town leaders would probably support any efforts to defeat any and all of the above factions. The form of government is not specified, but Lemunda's father (who I've named Leomund) is described as "a powerful lord in the city above". This implies more than one "lord" to the city, and the intro refers to "the authorities", so perhaps there is a ruling council of lords. Gygax's guidance regarding the Castellan in B2 (see page 7) could be useful for role-playing a town leader such as Leomund and his reaction to the party's exploits.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Portown Adventuring Eras

This is a brief outline of the history of Portown, including adventures that could be set in each time period. The dates are set in YBB (Years Before Basic) or YAB (Years After Basic). Some are from the Holmes Sample Dungeon, the rest are extrapolations:

Prehistory: A "pre-human city" of "doubtful history" exists in the future site of Portown. A vast layered underworld is constructed by the Ancient Builders.


~500 YBB: Portown is founded to link "caravan routes from the south to the merchant ships" traveling the Northern Sea. Catacombs beneath the town are constructed, where the former Lords and Ladies of Portown are buried in sarcophagi (see Room N).

100 YBB: Zenopus arrives, builds a tower on the hill over the sea cliffs to the west of town and near the graveyard. Green Dragon Inn established.


~75 YBB: Zenopus excavates beneath his tower in search of ancient treasures. Adventure of the era: Zenopus hires PCs to investigate pre-human tunnels under his tower.


50 YBB: Zenopus vanishes when his tower in engulfed in green flame. "Several of his human servants" escape and relate that he was destroyed by "a powerful force he unleashed in the depths of the tower".
Adventure of the era: Investigate disappearance of Zenopus

~45 YBB: Town demolishes 'haunted' tower.
Adventure of the era: Investigate haunted tower prior to demolition

~5 YBB: Thaumaturgist arrives, builds or moves into a short tower (Room S) not far from the Zenopus ruins.


0 YBB/YAB: Present day. Lord Leomund (Level 10 Fighter) is the ruler of Portown. His daughter Lemunda has just gone missing. The Green Dragon Inn is a popular gathering place for adventurous types. Pirates and smugglers are very active on the Northern Sea. Bodies are going missing from the graveyard, possibly being transformed into ghouls (as in Room P) by cultists. 

Adventures of the era: Sample Dungeon as written, including rescue Lemunda. 
Investigate cult activities; possibly adapt a Call of Cthulhu scenario?

5-35 YAB: Quiet years. Old dungeon entrance sealed by Lord Leomund.

40 YAB: Lady Lemunda (now a L10+ Fighter) now ruler. Adventure of the era: Return to the Tower of Zenopus, deal with new threat(s) in the old dungeon. Pirate & cultists have merged/transmogrified into Dagonites.

(Revised from a post on G+, thanks to Andy C for suggesting I add the "pre-history" era)

See also: Portown Rumors (which are all in relation to the "Present Day" time period)

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Return to the Tower of Zenopus

As I wrote in my last post, this weekend marks 40 years since Origins III in 1977, the first known public release of the Holmes Basic Set. How I am celebrating?

Well, first off - my contributor copy of Tales of Peril arrived, and I opened it up late last night. It's a beautiful book. More on that later.

I'm thinking about a Holmes-inspired game I'd like to run at Gary Con next year. One idea I've had is a Return to the Tower of Zenopus. This would be set 40 years (naturally) after the events of the original when the smugglers were defeated and the dungeon entrance was sealed. Lady Lemunda is now the ruler of the town and trouble is stirring in the old dungeon. I would re-stock the dungeon using material from Maze of Peril, due to the thematic similarities. The pre-generated characters would be Boinger, Zereth & Murray (drawing from their character sheets in Tales of Peril) plus Hortensa, Geoffrey, Brother Ambrose, etc.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Seligman on Holmes Basic



As I've written previously, the earliest reported public availability for Holmes Basic is at Origins 1977, which ran from Friday July 22nd to Sunday, July 24th at Wagner College on Staten Island, NYC. This weekend is the 40th anniversary of this event!

The above information is from a convention report by Bill Seligman (who has a blog here) in the August 1977 issue of the APAzine, The Wild Hunt (via Jon Peterson and Playing at the World).

Lee Gold is now offering pdf copies of early Alarums & Excursions issues (ordering details are here), and in these I found that Bill also included a convention report in issue #25 (dated 16 August 1977) as part of his contribution, "I WOULD HAVE MADE A GREAT PLATINUM DRAGON #10" (APAzines are compilations of mini-zines by each contributor).

Here's what Seligman had to say about the new Basic Set:

First, in his comments directed to previous A&E contributors:
"Eric Holmes: the new revised D&D is written extremely well, at least. Kudos to you, sir, at least future DMs will not have to struggle with what we had." (numbered page 3 of Seligman's min-zine, unnumbered page 83 of A&E #25)

Later, his news & thoughts on the new set:
"But now, for some even bigger news: THE NEW REVISED AND TRULY PROOFREAD VERSION OF D&D IS OUT!!! Well, not the whole thing, just the basic version, for $10.00, This includes dice, a dungeon geomorph (yuk) and a set of pre-allocated rooms for 1-3 levels (yuk). The whole set is designed for setting up to third level characters and up to the third level of the' dungeon. Further versions of D&D will expand the current one to the Nth level. The next D&D book to be put out will be on monsters — there will be 378 of them. It will be out in October [actually published in Dec - Z]. Future releases will be an advanced D&D playing volume, a Dungeonmasters guide, and a revised Gods, Demi-Gods, and HerphS, each of which will be 8'-1/2 by 11 inches and bound like a paperback.

What I think of Basic D&D-- it is far, far better written than the original. There are a lot, more examples. Including examples of melee, spell use, encumberance, and setting up a dungeon level. Naturally the spell system and combat system is the Gygaxian one — what did you expect? Kask [at Origins] justified this too -- he said that D&D is based on Vancian magic, and that it restricts high-level mages, who would otherwise control the whole game. I wish they had not included the geomorphs and dungeon example, since too many neo-DMs will use them with no individual changes when they first start out. However, if you are starting a D&D campaign, from the 1st level, then get this book. It is available w/o dice, geomorphs, pre-allocations, and box for $5.00, with for $10.00.

One thing though -- in the monster encounter charts, they list creatures like Leprechauns and Troglodytes which are not listed in the monster descriptions. Kask said that if a person never saw a Lucky Charms commercial or read a fairy tale there was nothing he could do --but normally somebody could work up something for those monsters. I disagree - assuming a true neo, he would not be able to assign the monster any hit points that were reasonable - he would not even really understand what hit points were for. But, Kask said, Leprechauns would be explained in the next book." (numbered page 4 of Seligman's mini-zine, unnumbered page 84 of A&E #25)

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Once and Future Romero


Yes, that's Ed Harris in the Knightriders film poster!

I was saddened to hear that George Romero passed away a few days ago. I have fond memories of a time about fifteen years ago when we lived near a great video store (remember those?) that had prominent shelves dedicated to certain directors: Romero, Herzog, Altman, etc. While I love Romero's zombie films, Knightriders (1981) is actually my favorite of his. It's an ensemble drama (Altman-esque) about a troupe of knights who joust on motorcyles at Renaissance Festivals. It's got his signature social commentary. Starring a young Ed Harris (pictured above) in the King Arthur-type role and Tom Savini in the Mordred-type role. A must see.

Monday, July 17, 2017

A Draft of OD&D

Over on Playing at the World, Jon Peterson announced late last week that the 50th anniversary of Gen Con would feature a museum dedicated to the history of the gaming hobby from its origins through recent times. As part of this there's big news for those of us who study the early history of D&D: "You will be able to see some amazing artifacts like this: a first draft of Dungeons & Dragons." Not the Dalluhn manuscript that he has written about previously (which now appears to be a later variant), but a newly uncovered draft. 

On ODD74, Jon wrote more about this document:
"The original larger draft weighed in at about 100 pages double spaced, and we might suppose it corresponds to the 100 page draft that Gygax sometimes mentioned in his later recollections of the development of D&D. Let's call that larger draft "Guidon" D&D. It was perhaps the earliest complete draft, though the photocopies ["Mornard Fragments"] of it that Mike [Mornard] received feature a number of hand corrections that date from a later time than when GD&D was first typed up."

From this draft, Jon shares text that would become part of the cover of the booklets. It's a beautiful sight:


We can see the typist originally typed "Campaigns" and then altered it to make it singular and added "Games". And "& Pencil" was added later, ironically, in pencil.

Further changes were made for the printed covers (here Men & Magic, Vol 1):



Here "Campaign Games" becomes "Wargames Campaigns" and is moved to after "Medieval". And rather than using the components as adjectives to describe the game, the subtitle here uses them as components "Playable with" the campaigns. These components incorporate the "Pencil" addition and drop the word "Board". But the reference to a board remains in the text of the printed game: "The use of paper, pencil and map boards are standard" (pg 5, section "Scope".

That's all we know so far. This document has been speculated about for decades. I'm looking forward to learning more about it!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Chris Holmes on Tell Me About Your Character



Listen to Chris Holmes on the 3rd season of the short podcast Tell Me About Your Character, talking about his third favorite D&D character after Boinger and Zereth

http://www.tellmeaboutyourcharacter.com/episode/3/8

Monday, June 26, 2017

Tales of Peril Ordering Details

Tales of Peril at the Black Blade booth at NTRPG Con. Photo by Allan Grohe

I am excited to share that Tales of Peril - the Complete Boinger & Zereth Stories of John Eric Holmes - is now available for order. For details on how to order see this post on Allan Grohe's blog:

How to Order Tales of Peril (and other books) from Black Blade Publishing

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Lesser Magic Items

One of the new additions to Holmes Ref 2.0 is a table of Lesser Magic Items. The material in this table originally appeared with illustrations, in Dungeon Crawl #3 (2013), a zine edited by Wayne Rossi (still available; follow the link for more info). I've now made the Holmes Ref version available as a separate sheet:

Click here to read/view the table of Lesser Magic Items

Reproduced below for reference is the text of my original article (with a few new edits).

* * * * *

In the introductory module B2 Keep on the Borderlands, Gary Gygax wrote, "If only two or three player characters are to adventure, be sure to have a non-player character or two go along, as well as a few men-at-arms. In addition, give the player characters a magic dagger or some magic arrows and at least one potion of healing - family bequests to aid them in finding their fame and fortune when they go against Chaos" (pg 2).
 
This is great advice, but instead of standard D&D items, why not give each new character a more unusual low-power magic item? Some examples are provided below in the form of a table. Have each character roll a d20 for one starting item. Simply re-roll if it is a type the character can't use due to class restrictions. After an item is used, replace that entry with another of your own devising. Many of the items below have charges or doses, and are intended to be used up and replaced by greater magic items found while adventuring. These items were designed with Holmes Basic D&D in mind, but should be usable with any old school D&D rules, and can also be used as standard monster/NPC treasures. 

1. Brazen Head - Appears as a human head of brass. Once per day, if fed five gold coins, it will relay one local rumor, which may or may not be true. It must be carried uncovered or it will start wailing. It will also talk randomly while adventuring, providing advice or commentary that may or may not be helpful.

2. Dungeon Dust - A jar of desiccating dust harmful to the "cleanup crew": slimes, oozes, jellies, puddings, molds, gelatinous cubes, etc. A successful hit with a handful inflicts 2d6 damage. Contains 1d6+2 handfuls.

3. Foxfire Lantern - The interior of this hooded lantern contains a living phosphorescent fungus. The lantern sheds light in only a 5' radius, but it will never go out as long as the fungus is fed rations daily. To keep the lantern lit the character owning it must always buy and carry an extra supply of rations.

4. Golden Throat - A potion that vastly improves the imbiber's parleying skills for 6 turns, giving a +6 on reaction rolls. The flask contains 1d6 + 2 doses.

5. Harpy Axe - If this hand axe is thrown and does not strike a target in range (30') it will return to thrower's hand, up to three times per day. Harpies are said to enchant these to be reusable during aerial combat.

6. Healing Salve - One dose will heal 1 hit point per character per day. Additional doses during that same day have no effect. Comes in a jar with 1d20 + 20 doses total.

7. Hearing Cone - A small cone that enhances the ability to listen at doors, +1 per charge used. The number of charges to be used must be chosen before listening. Has 1d100 charges.

8. Heat Shield - This shield has the power to Resist Fire, once per day, as the Cleric Spell. After being exposed to fire 1d20 + 20 times it reverts to a normal shield.

9. Image Mirror - Once per day this ordinary-looking steel mirror can store the reflection of a creature, which can be used later that day as a Mirror Image (per the M-U spell). The image will imitate the motions of the wielder, and as the spell it disappears if touched. After 1d20 + 20 images the mirror loses its power.

10. Loadstone - A small stone carved in the shape of a mule. If a charge is expended, the wielder's movement rate is improved by one category for the rest of the day. 1d20 + 20 charges.

11. Lucky Rat's Foot - The mummified foot of an albino Giant Rat. It allows the re-roll one Saving Throw of choice per day. It absorbs the bad luck and loses power after 1d6 + 2 successful re-rolls are made.

12. Mask of Restfulness - This soft mask is worn over the eyes while sleeping. It doubles overnight healing, but the character cannot be awoken unless the mask is removed, in which case benefit is lost for that night.

13. Nimble Feet - Boots that allow the wearer to strike first during one combat of choice each day (giving a dexterity of 19 for purposes of Holmes Basic initiative). After 20 + 1d20 combats the boots lose their power.

14. Nutcracker - This small (1') wooden construct remains inactive until a command word is spoken. Once activated, it will serve the character, including in combat. It has the following stats: AC4, 1 hp, attacks as a Normal Man with a miniature sword for 1 point of damage. Fights at +2 vs Giant Rats.

15. Miniature Item - A large item magically reduced to palm-sized. Once per day it can be commanded to return to full size or shrink. The speaker of the command word must also touch it to cause the change, which is slow (1 turn). Once enlarged it will not shrink until the next day, and vice versa. It will change 1d20+20 times before remaining full size. Roll 1d6 for item: 1= 10' Ladder, 2= Wagon, 3= Small Boat, 4= Large Chest, 5= 18' pike, 6= 10' Boulder (rollable by combined 36 strength).

16. Resolute Arrow - A sturdy arrow that never breaks whether it hits its target or not, and can always be found

17. Ring of Escape - If placed against a stone ceiling, this ring will expand to the diameter of a man-hole cover and provide a magical passage upwards to the first space above, up to 30'. The tunnel is easily climbable by anyone that can reach the ceiling. After use, a command word will cause the ring to appear at the top of the passage. It will function only once per day, and has 1d20+20 charges.

18. Thirsty Waterskin - Once per day, this ordinary-looking waterskin will locate the closest fresh, drinkable water.

19. Troll Cheese - This loaf-sized lumpy green cheese tastes "off" but is edible, and provides enough food for one person to survive for one day, although no hit points are gained if resting. Furthermore, the cheese will regenerate overnight if not fully eaten. Stomach acid prevents the consumed portion from regenerating inside the eater. Fire, including cooking, will destroy it.

20. Vermin Slayer - A sword +0, +1 vs ordinary or giant vermin such as insects, spiders, rats and bats.

Notes: 
The Brazen Head is a variation on the item of the same name from medieval lore. Holmes had another version in Room I the Sample Dungeon.

The Foxfire Lantern is inspired by the phosphorescent fungus found in Room L of the Sample Dungeon. There is a real-world glowing fungus called Foxfire.

The Harpy Axe is inspired by one of the earliest D&D games I played in. Our characters, riding on a magic carpet, battled harpies wielding returning axes. Thanks to Donald S., our DM.

Troll Cheese is inspired by a "dwarven cheese" I remember reading about in a fairy tale long ago.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Holmes Ref 2.0



One year ago on Free RPG Day I released Holmes Ref 1.0 (see blog post here), a 10-page compilation of various Holmes Ref Sheets. 

Click here to view/download Holmes Ref 2.0

This year's offering is Holmes Ref 2.0, an expanded version with 18 pages, including:

*Title Page with Monster Face Montage art
Character Creation Worksheet
*Blank Character Sheet - new version posted separately in April
Advancement Tables (previously called Holmes + OD&D "Bridge" Sheet)
Holmesian Random Names
Backgrounds for Humans
Cleric Spells Levels 1-6
M-U Spells Levels 1-3 
*M-U Spells Levels 4-6 - new, posted separately earlier this week
Monster Reference Table - revised to use dice notation (e.g. 1d6) vs ranges for damage
*Tips for using the Monster Table - from the pdf of the Monster Table, slightly revised
*One Hit Point Monsters
Magical Item Reference Table
*Lesser Magic Items - new sheet, material published in Dungeon Crawl #3 in 2013
Pre-generated First Level Characters 
*Pre-generated Third Level Characters - new sheet, not yet posted separately
*Draw and Key Your Own Dungeon - graph paper previously posted on Holmes Ref page
*Zenopus Archives logo with Monster Face Mountain Art 

Starred items are new to the Holmes Ref compilation.

The first and last pages can be used for the player-facing side of DIY DM screens.

I won't be surprised if there are some typos/formatting errors/etc, so please let me know & I'll make note of them for future correction.

The compilation and individual sheets are available via the Holmes Ref page on the Zenopus Archives site. Holmes Ref 1.0 will remain anyone who wants a smaller version.

Also available is the Portown Rumors 3-page pdf posted last month.

Enjoy Free RPG day. I'm playing in a 1E AD&D game at a local store later today.

Update: For reference, I added more links to the original posts about the various sheets.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

M-U Spells Levels 4-6 Ref Sheet


Another year, another ala carte reference sheet for Holmes Ref. : )

This one is the next set of spells for Magic-Users, Levels 4-6, following on from Levels 1-3. Cleric spells Levels 1-6 are all on a single sheet, so this brings the two classes even.

Holmes Basic itself doesn't describe spells of these levels, but a few are referenced in the text, such as Conjure Elemental and Stone to Flesh, which is on a scroll in the Sample Dungeon. The spell details are all sourced from OD&D Vol 1, Greyhawk and Swords & Spells, which has a spell table with some info (mostly area of effect) not found in the earlier booklets. So this table is equally usable for Holmes Basic or OD&D including Greyhawk.

The direct link is below, or you can find it on the Holmes Ref page:

Click here to download the M-U Spell Reference Levels 4-6

This will be compiled into the next release of Holmes Ref...coming soon!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Tales of Peril in print!

Tales of Peril at the Black Blade booth. Photo by Allan Grohe.

Tales of Peril: the Complete Boinger & Zereth Stories of John Eric Holmes is in print! 

Thilong-awaited compilation is making its debut this week at the North Texas RPG Con, where it is available at the booth of the publisher, Black Blade Publishing. Above is a photo of the books taken by Allan Grohe, the book's editor. After the con it will be available for mail order, per Allan here.

Until that time you can view a series of previews of the book that Allan has posted on his new blog, From Kuroth's Quill:

Tales of Peril - Table of Contents

List of Illustrations and sample art: Wereshark by Chris Holmes

Back Cover Art by Ian Baggley

Front Cover Art by Ian Baggley

Monday, May 22, 2017

Mentzer Basic Cover Art Prototype


Mentzer Basic cover art prototype.

Above is Larry Elmore's original idea for the cover art of Mentzer Basic. Frank Mentzer posted about it over on Facebook recently, with a photo of the original art taken by Jon Peterson. Here's part of what Frank wrote about it:

"Initial cover concepts were similar to the previous edition, portraying a group of adventurers with a dragon. That was almost used, but it bothered Gary [Gygax]. After the color images were ready to be finalized in oils, after a lot of plans were made, Gary changed course. He asked Larry to focus the action on just one fighter and one dragon ... and the world-famous Red Box cover emerged."

This version has more elements in common with the Holmes Basic cover art painted by David Sutherland. In addition to the huge red dragon on a pile of gold, there is a block stone archway in the background, and a wizard framing the left side of the composition, both casting a spell and providing an upraised light source (here a glowing staff, in Sutherland's a torch). 

Larry Elmore is currently offering a limited edition print of this original concept via his website. Thanks to Gus Landt for bringing this offer to my attention via a post on the Acaeum. Note that above I cropped the blank margins off the original image to focus on the painting, but that the print being offered includes the margins, which have production notes.

Update: Here's a mock-up of the Mentzer Players Manual with this artwork that Frank posted in the comments to his Facebook post:




Update #2: Over on the Acaeum, misterspock posted an auction photo of a TSR Companion Rules box mock-up. IIRC a photo of this mock-up appeared in a TSR catalog prior to the release of the set. This cover has prototype art showing the same party of adventurers - wizard in red with staff, halfling in green, fighter with the same boots and shield.