Friday, September 27, 2019

A Brief History of Tolkien RPGs by John Rateliff

John Rateliff showing off the prototype cover art for TSR's canceled Middle-Earth game

It's once again Tolkien Week, the week containing Hobbit Day (Sep 22nd, Bilbo & Frodo's birthday). Recently there's been some talk on EnWorld and the Piazza about TSR's failed attempt to license Middle-Earth in 1992. A post on the Piazza thread by Falconer led me back to where this was originally revealed: a very interesting talk entitled "The Brief History of Tolkien RPGs" by John Rateliff, given as his guest-of-honor speech at MERPcon in August 2008. Rateliff is the author of the History of the Hobbit and also a former TSR editor and author, where his works included the excellent Return to the Keep on the Borderlands.

His talk is available in two formats: 

(1) A series of posts of the same name on his blog, Sacnoth's Scriptorium. I've been following this for years (since ~2012), but this series is even older (2008) and I'd never come across it before. 

Part IV

(2) A video/audio recording posted on YT. It's over an hour long and is interrupted by many audience questions & comments, but is an enjoyable watch/listen (but if you just listen you'll miss out on some of his exhibits, like the prototype cover for TSR's canceled ME game).

Tolkien Moot 2008 MerpCon IV John D. Rateliff solo speech History of the Hobbit author

http://tolkienmoot.org John D. Rateliff, author of The History of the Hobbit at MerpCon 4 Tolkien Moot 2008. Tolkien Moot is an annual Tolkien convention sponsored by the Inland Empire Tolkien Society for fans and scholars, enthusiasts, and Tolkien role-playing gaming gamers of J.R.R.


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Earlier Tolkien posts on this blog that you may have missed:

Green Dragon Miniature (Mythical Earth Minifig)
Gygaxian Orc Tribes (originally derived from Tolkien)
The Endless Caverns of Tu (D&D in Middle-Earth campaign idea)

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Bayt Al Azif #2: Unboxing Video



Over on YouTube, MaxWriter* has an unboxing video of the print-on-demand of issue 2 of Bayt Al Azif. He pages through all of the articles, so at 4:33 in the video you can get a glimpse of the reprint of Holmes' 1983 review of Call of Cthulhu and Chris Holmes' new art that accompanies it. For more details see my previous post. 


Purchase link:


(link includes my DrivethruRPG affiliate number)

*MaxWriter also has a long-running thread at ODD74, "Role Playing Journals", that details  game sessions he's run.

Bayt Al Azif #2 Unboxing

The second issue of Bayt Al Azif is out and it looks as amazing as the first. It's available as a softcover, hardcover, and PDF. Check it out. Bayt Al Azif Issue #2 - https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/246849/Bayt-al-Azif-2-A-magazine-for-Cthulhu-Mythos-roleplaying-games Hi everyone - I'm Andy and I've been doing Minecraft videos for some time in addition to IRL stuff and tabletop roleplaying games.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Holmes' 1983 review of the Call of Cthulhu RPG: Rediscovered and republished in Bayt Al Azif #2

Cover art by Jensine Eckwall

A major announcement for Holmes enthusiasts: in 1983 Holmes wrote a review of the then relatively new Call of Cthulhu RPG (by Sandy Petersen), for the inaugural issue of the short-lived Gameplay Magazine (February '83 to April '84), a periodical similar to Dragon but with much more of a general gaming focus. I was completely unaware of this major piece by Holmes ⁠— one of his last in the field of writing about RPGs ⁠— until recently when the long-lost article was rediscovered by Tony A. Rowe of the Cryptic Archivist blog. The original 1986 author bio for the Maze of Peril novel mentions that Holmes had articles in several magazines including Gameplay, but after finding a computer game review he wrote in a later issue (detailed in the Holmes bibliography) I had assumed that was all he had written for that publication. Not so. The review, which is a two full pages as originally published, is written in his characteristic engaging and genre-fan style and includes anecdotes and advice based on CoC games that he himself had run, as well as providing more fodder for a Holmes "Appendix N"

And now, with the permission of Chris Holmes, I am thrilled to announce that this article is once again in print in the second issue of the Cthulhu RPG magazine Bayt Al Azif, along with brand new illustration by Chris of a scene from one of those actual-play stories (!), and a half-page of commentary on the review by myself (bringing the total to 3 full-pages):




(link includes my DrivethruRPG affiliate number)

Both digital and hardcopy are available through the above link. This second issue is longer ⁠— 108 pages ⁠— than the the first, and once again includes a wide variety of articles of interest to the Cthulhu RPG enthusiast, including multiple scenarios set in different eras. Here's a screenshot of the Table of Contents:




Thanks to Tony for locating and scanning the original article, to Chris for agreeing to reprint it and providing accompanying art, and to the editor Jared Smith for accepting it for his magazine and doing the layout.

See also the earlier post about my article for the first issue of Bayt al Azif.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Holmes Games at Pacificon

"Tegel Manor mapping" by Guy Fullerton showing a marked 20-sider in use

Over at K&KA Alehouse and Dragonsfoot, Guy Fullerton has posted a con report from Pacificon Game Expo 41, which took place this past Labor Day weekend in Santa Clara, CA, which includes two different Holmes Basic games he played in.


These included Tegel Manor DM'd by Thom Hall:

Open Role Playing
Fri 7 PM
to 11 PM
(4 hrs)

R-475: Tegel Manor
Presented by Thom Hall

Holmes Edition Basic D&D published by TSR
Regular signup, room for 6 players
Regular Game, New to gaming, Characters/Armies Supplied, All Ages
Location: Prospector 1 - A
Description:Bob Bledsaw's Tegel Manor published by Judges Guild in 1977. Tegel Manor, a great manor-fortress on the seacoast, is rumored to be left over from ancient days...


...and a Holmes + Greyhawk City State of the Invincible Overlord game DM'd by DF/ODD74 member peterlind, which I didn't see on the event listing.

Guy also ran two sessions of AD&D himself:

Open Role Playing
Sat 9 AM
to 3 PM
(6 hrs)

R-321: The Mere Beneath
Presented by Guy Fullerton

AD&D 1st Ed. published by TSR
Regular signup, room for 6 players
Regular Game, General gaming experience, Characters/Armies Supplied, Thirteen and older
Location: Prospector 1 - A
Description:Descend a waterfall to explore the watery caverns, and plunder an ancient Hydromancer fortress. Exploration (no plot) and danger (no fudging). Lvl 4-5

Open Role Playing
Sun 9 AM
to 3 PM
(6 hrs)

R-323: The Garden of al-Astorion
Presented by Guy Fullerton

AD&D 1st Ed. published by TSR
Regular signup, room for 6 players
Regular Game, General gaming experience, Characters/Armies Supplied, Thirteen and older
Location: Monterey - A
Description:Rumors say this secluded valley contains a garden of enchanted fruit trees, and gems the size of eggs. Your party surely has the strength to drive off the primitive beast-men within, and reap the rewards. Classic module by Gabor Lux, aka Melan. Exploration (no plot) and danger (no fudging). Lvl 6-9

Now that you've read the event descriptions, head over and read about how the games went.