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Thursday, June 25, 2020

Fen Orc on the Ruined Tower of Zenopus





Fen Orc is relatively newish but very productive blog I'd recommend to any fans of this one. Per the sidebar, like many of us of a certain age, the author "got into D&D back in the '70s with Eric Holmes' 'Blue Book' set". Early on Fen Orc got my attention with a review (perhaps the first!) of my mini-dungeon, Beyond the Door to Monster Mountain and a look at the Legacy of Zenopus

Fen Orc has also been hard at work on material for you to use at the table, including a compilation of scenarios, the Fen Orc Almanac, which are compatible with Holmes Basic/Blueholme, and also a 2nd level for the Zenopus dungeon, Beneath the Ruined Wizards' Tower, which is pay-what-you-want on Drive Thru RPG.

I meant to highlight this earlier, but back in March, Fen Orc wrote an almost poetic review of The Ruined Tower of ZenopusHere is a lovely excerpt:
"Two bucks buys you 18 pages, faultlessly formatted and a beautiful cover painting (Thomas Cole’s 1838 Italian Coast Scene with Ruined Tower) that seems to symbolise the whole project: the crumbling tower is the monument of Holmes’ Basic D&D; the idyllic shepherd tending his flock in the shadow of the tower, that is Zach; the little boat out among the islets, that’s us, wondering if we should put ashore: in a moment the shepherd will stand up and wave to us to drop anchor. There’s treasure here, you see, that Zach knows about, in a place long neglected."

Read the full review here:

The Ruined Tower of Zenopus by Zach Howard

We are entering the post-modernity of roleplaying games. The author is dead. How quaint it is to look back on the modern era (the 1970s and '80s) with its assumptions about authorship and ownership, of texts with single discourses, of official 'canons'. It's not like that now, what with retro-clones and open gaming licences and Old School Revivals.
Click on the "RTOZ review" label below to find more reviews of the Ruined Tower of Zenopus

The Ruined Tower of Zenopus is available on DMs Guild

Monday, June 22, 2020

Reviews from R'lyeh on Bayt Al Azif #2



Reviews from R'lyeh recently reviewed the second issue of the Call of Cthulhu RPG zine Bayt Al Azif (link below), in a column entitled, "A Cthulhu Collecteana II".

As I announced last fall, this issue of this zine includes a reprint of J. Eric Holmes' 1983 review of the Call of Cthulhu RPG, along with some commentary on his review by myself. This was a follow-up to the article I wrote for the first issue about Holmes role in bringing the Cthulhu Mythos to D&D in the '70s. Each issue can be found at DrivethruRPG in either PDF or Print format:



(links include my DrivethruRPG affiliate number)


The R'lyehian reviewer Pookie provides an in-depth review of the issue, concluding:
"Overall, Bayt al Azif Issue 02 is a good second issue, much improved on the first. Its better sense of professionalism is combined with a good range of voices, scenarios, and articles about Lovecraftian investigative roleplaying"
And specifically regarding Holmes' review, Pookie writes:
"The second review is actually of Call of Cthulhu itself, but not of Call of Cthulhu, Seventh Edition. Rather, ‘“It is not dead which can eternal lie…” Game Review: Call of Cthulhu’ is actually a review of Call of Cthulhu, First Edition by J. Eric Holmes, the editor of the 1977 Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set RPG. This is fascinating continuation of Zach Howard’s ‘Clerical Cosmic Horror: The Brief Era of the Cthulhu Mythos as Dungeons & Dragons Pantheon’ from Bayt al Azif Issue 01 and he adds a commentary to the end of the review. Together they provide a contrast between a time when Cthulhu was just beginning to appear in the gaming hobby and its prevalence today."

Read the rest of the review here: 

A Cthulhu Collectanea II

s with editorial, 'Houses of the Unholy', which really takes stock of the progress of the magazine from the first issue to this one. So it is somewhat reflective in nature before it sets out what the -fulfilled and unfulfilled, the highlights, and the trends. From , .

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Scrum in Miniature: The Lost Art of Games Workshop's Holmes Basic

Scrum in Miniature: "Magic Swords (p. 35): Tom Wham (TSR, top) / Chris Baker, a.k.a. Fangorn (GW, bottom)"


My fellow Scrum Club member Joe has started a series called the "Lost Art of D&D" on his blog Scrum in Miniature, and the second installment covers the replacement art by John Blanche and Fangorn that was used by Games Workshop in the first printing of Holmes Basic rulebook, first released in December 1977. The post goes through the rulebook and shows each replacement work contrasted with the original from the U.S. version (example above).

In a 2001 interview, Gary Gygax was asked about the UK version, and responded:

"Yes, I saw the work, and I approved. Ian [Livingstone] and Steve [Jackson of Games Workshop] convinced me that their audience didn't like the illustrations used in American versions of the game, so I gave them the okay to produce their own. I had a copy of the Basic Set rules, but it was lost when Lorraine Williams took over TSR..."

Lost Art of D&D No. 2: Games Workshop's Holmes Basic (1977)

After Games Workshop attained the license to print a co-branded edition of TSR's 1977 Dungeons & Dragons basic rules book, they set about putting their own stamp on it, designing a new cover and replacing a number of the illustrations they deemed too crudely drawn for their U.K. market.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Lee Gold: 45 Years of Alarums & Excursions!

Alarums & Excursions #1, June 1975. Source: RPG Geek

As of this month, Lee Gold has been publishing the APAzine Alarums & Excursions for 45 years! During this time she has missed only a few months, which means that this month's issue is a jaw-dropping #535, pethe RPG Geek page. Lee not only assembles every issue, she also contributes her own column Tantivy:


Lee Gold's Tantivy from A&E #1. Source: RPG Geek

A lengthy 2019 audio interview with Lee can be found here on YouTube, and follow the link at the bottom of this page to read a new profile of Lee over at the DM David blog.

A little more on A&E: it's an APAzine (Amateur Press Association zine), which means that it is assembled from contributions from various subscribers. When it started in the '70s, it was the closest thing to what we would now recognize as an internet forum for D&D discussion, with content and comments going back and forth between contributors. Issues are dense with content, ideas and discussion and can be over a hundred pages in length. This is where J. Eric Holmes got his start writing D&D articles, along with many other RPG designers of the '70s, '80s and beyond, which DM David covers.

You can subscribe to, contribute to, or buy pdfs of back issues of A&E here at Lee's site. I own the first 29 issues in pdf, and if you are interested in the early history of D&D and RPGs they are well worth the money. I also own one copy in paper, issue #30:


Alarums & Excursions #30, January 1978 with cover art by Troy Hughes

Meet the Woman Who by 1976 Was the Most Important Gamer in Roleplaying After Gary

In 1976, after Dungeons & Dragons co-creator Gary Gygax, the most important person in roleplaying games was a Los Angeles woman named Lee Gold. She still contributes to the hobby and still runs a campaign using her Lands of Adventure (1983) game. Lee who? And what happened to Gary's co-designer Dave Arneson?