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Saturday, August 6, 2022

The Sutherland Dragon on Exhibit Continues!

The cover of the exhibition catalog

This summer, David Sutherland's original painting for the cover of the Holmes Basic Set has been on display again, this time at the Hunter Museum of American Art in Chattanooga, Tennessee, as part of the show Enchanted: A History of Fantasy Illustration, which runs at that museum through September 5th.

Enchanted at the Hunter Museum

After this, the Enchanted exhibit moves to the Flint Institute of the Arts, in Flint, Michigan, from September 23rd, 2022 until January 8th, 2023.

I haven't made it to Chattanooga myself, but the exhibit was organized by the Norman Rockwell Museum in Massachusetts, and I saw it there last summer. See my long post for more about the show and photos of Sutherland's painting, which I often call the Sutherland Dragon.

Also, I made a post with closer shots of details of the painting. It's beautiful in person and well worth making a road trip to see it with your own eyes!

And of course, the exhibit has a multitude of other treasures, including D&D art by Trampier (the pseudodragon from the original Monster Manual!), Easley and Elmore, and fantasy illustration by the likes of Frazetta, Brom and Tony DiTerlizzi.

DiTerlizzi himself made a great video preview of the catalog for the exhibition, which gives a sense of some of the art that is included. The catalog is available from the Norman Rockwell Museum shop or on Amazon (the latter includes my affiliate link).

(This post adapted from a recent Twitter thread)

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Gary Gygax Day 2022

Graphic by Jim Wampler

Happy Gary Gygax Day 2022!

As I don't have a new post ready, I'll highlight one I made a few months ago:

Gygax's "City on the Edge" Adventure: post-TSR Greyhawk development

See also these previous posts that I made for Gary Gygax Day:

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Holmes' Pellucidar Novels to be Reprinted


In my last post, I featured an episode of a podcast on which Chris Holmes was a guest, and where he made an exciting announcement: his father's two novels set in Edgar Rice Burroughs' Pellucidar setting are going to be reprinted later this summer by the ERB Inc, as part of their new "Edgar Rice Burroughs Universe" line. 

Holmes' books include Mahars of Pellucidar, originally published by ACE books in 1976 and out-of-print ever since, and its sequel Red Axe of Pellucidar, which was written after Mahars but canceled by the ERB estate and thus never before available in an authorized publication (unauthorized copies have circulated at fan conventions).

Find the pre-order page here on the ERB website

The cover art for each has been done by Richard Hescox, a veteran illustrator of sci-fi and fantasy with credits stretching back to the '70s, and a frontispiece illustration has been provided by Chris Holmes.

Each book also includes bonus written material: a foreword by Chris Holmes, and a bonus story set in one of ERB's worlds by another author.

Each book is available in three different formats: paperback; hardcover; or a limited edition hardcover signed by Chris Holmes. I've pre-ordered the latter for myself.

Pre-orders also include a bonus trading card while supplies last.

It's great to finally have these available again (Mahars) or for the first time (Red Axe)!

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Chris Holmes on the This Ol' Dungeon Podcast


While I was at Philmont, Chris Holmes alerted me that he would be appearing on an upcoming episode of the This Ol' Dungeon Podcast. The episode, number 22, is out now and can be found here:

Episode 22: Chris Holmes and the Tower of Zenopus

Here is the teaser for the episode: 

"This episode we are joined by Chris Holmes: artist, writer, hobby game designer, and all-around renaissance man.  Chris recounts his father's, John Eric Holmes, creation of the original D&D basic boxset as well as telling us about his own "made for the con" game designs-that he does as a way to express his interests and creativity.  He tells about an up-coming re-release of his father's Pellucidar books and hangs with us for the This Ol' Dungeon segment where we revisit "The Tower of Zenopus" - also known as the sample dungeon from the Holmes D&D boxset.  So, hang with us for another great episode!"

I've listened to it and enjoyed hearing Chris relate a few anecdotes about his father that I hadn't heard before as well an extensive critique of the Zenopus dungeon.

Links to other podcasts that Chris has appeared on previously can be found on the Podcasts page on the Zenopus Archives site.

Friday, July 8, 2022

Back from a Philmont Pointcrawl

Just before sunrise while ascending the Tooth of Time, a Philmont landmark

Earlier this week, I returned from the most challenging physical activity of my life so far: a 12-day backpacking trek in Philmont, the historic scout camp located in the Southern Rockies of north-central New Mexico. I was one of the advisors joining a crew of Scouts, including my son, that successfully traversed more than 66 miles over 11 days of hiking, at altitudes ranging from 6,700 feet at base camp to over 11,000 feet at the peak of Mount Phillips

Throughout the trek, each member of the crew, including advisors, packed 30 to 40 pounds of equipment, including clothes, camping gear, 4 to 5 liters of water, and distributed food (2 to 3 days worth at a time) and cooking gear, giving me a new appreciation for the oft-ignored rules for Encumbrance.

In D&D terms it was a pointcrawl from camp to camp, which were either unstaffed trail camps, or staffed camps having activities for the Scouts such as fly fishing or blacksmithing. This map, from our crew t-shirt design, shows the location of each as we circled the southern portion of the ranch in a clockwise direction: 

And this chart shows the altitude at each of these camps. On day five, we topped 9,000 feet and I started to feel effects of lessened oxygen, chiefly being more quickly winded when exerting myself.

In addition to the weight, distance and altitude, challenges for the Scouts during their trek included navigation, which meant finding the best trail to each camp and staying on it; setting up a campsite each afternoon or evening and cooking dinner; dealing with the weather, which varied from hot and sunny to cold and wet; planning ahead for dry camps lacking a water source; and avoiding wildlife, such as the black bears that circled our campsite one morning, and ravenous mini-bears (chipmunks) trying to steal food. Despite a few setbacks, the crew did a great job overcoming these challenges and completing their trek, and I could not be more proud of them.

One day even included some "dungeon delving" when we went about a thousand feet into the Contention, a former gold mine. The trek also included a bit of gaming: one of the other advisors brought a reprint of a classic Choose Your Own Adventure book, House of Danger, and on two occasions when we had time after dinner, he read it to the Scouts, letting them take turns picking the path through the story, which was quite fun. 

Prepping for this trip consumed a lot of my free time over the last few months, so hopefully now that it is complete I will have more time for writing. In particular, I'd like to complete the Forgotten Smugglers' Cave adventure series on this blog, and write up the Expedition to Skull Stack Crater, a scenario I ran at the last Gary Con.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Dragon Dice Bag cross stitch kit (1982)

The above image, taken from a recent Ebay auction, shows the packaging for a 1982 DRAGON DICE BAG, a "Counted Cross Stitch Kit" from TSR subsidiary Greenfield Needlewomen, which includes some interesting hand-drawn line art showing the bag front and back, along with a set of polyhedral dice. The bag front includes a dragon and "D&D games", and the back says "May you always make your saving throw". Another image from the auction shows the pattern for stitching the dragon, which is green-colored, with a yellow-green belly:

I've seen other Greenfield D&D-tie-in cross stitch products before - for examples, see this post on Cyclopeatron - but I don't recall seeing this particular one, which has more rudimentary packaging than the others. Per Frank Mentzer on FB, this is because:

This was very early after our acquisition. We retooled their packaging; later ones all have a distinctive green theme. This has their art, not ours. (No it's not a Sutherland dragon. ;> )

This one is also interesting because it uses the "DRAGON DICE" trademark and logo (i.e., the same font) also featured on TSR's 1981 Dragon Dice, the packaging artwork for which was designed by Jim Roslof and can be seen in this post.

Advertisement for TSR's DRAGON DICE
(this was the first set of dice that I owned, in the same blue color)

You can read more about TSR's purchase of Greenfield Needlewomen in Jon Peterson's book Game Wizards, which briefly covers it in the chapters titled, "1982: Extravagance" and "1983: Splitting the Party". Based on quotes from Gary Gygax in TSR's in-house newsletter Random Events, TSR had designs on growing their business by entering the adjacent craft field; which isn't unreasonable because, as pointed out by T. Foster in the first comment in this post on Grognardia, at the time D&D was often sold in hobby shops alongside craft products. However, this particular company, based in Greenfield, Indiana, was purchased seemingly because it was owned by relatives of the Brian and Kevin Blume, and ended up being shuttered by TSR in 1983 after losing a large sum of money for the company.

A thank you to a post on the TSR Old School Gamers FB group for making me aware of this.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Gary Con 2022: Day 2

DMing "Expedition to Skull Stack Crater".
Photo by Gary W.

This post covers the gaming highlights of my second day at Gary Con XIV, Friday the 25th. If you missed it, the report for first day can be found here.

In the morning I ran Expedition to Skull Stack Crater, a newly revised version of a scenario that I originally ran for my son and his cousins more than five years ago, and had planned to run at Gary Con in 2020 before the pandemic unfolded. The setting is inspired by the various skull-faced dungeons and mountains of fiction, including of course the Skull Mountain cross-section of the Holmes Basic rulebook, but is an original location rather than a writeup of something pre-existing. You can read the introduction from the convention program here.

The pre-generated characters for this adventure are 3rd level, so it mostly uses the Holmes rules, with any higher level material filled in from OD&D. There were six players which is pretty much optimal for a con game. Several I knew previously, including Demos from OSR Grimoire and Larry from Follow Me and Die!, each of whom played in my Zenopus sequel at the last in-person Gary Con in 2019. And I'd exchanged forum posts with two others that I met here for the first time, James and Gary. The game fun was run and ran well with this fairly experienced group, who finished just before our time was up. I plan to revise this scenario and make it available on DrivethruRPG. Demos briefly mentions the game in his Gary Con recap here, and Larry shows off another photo from the game here.

Mike Carr refereeing Don't Give Up the Ship

In the afternoon I played in the annual session of TSR's Don't Give Up The Ship, refereed by Mike Carr, who co-authored the rules with Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. Carr is also well known to aficionados of Holmes Basic as the author of the module B1 In Search of the Unknown, the first Basic module ever published, and one of only two written for specifically for the Holmes set.

The DGUTS game took place in the Legends of Wargaming hall, and the large group of players - over 20 (!) - sat on chairs in a ring around a large blue sheet, representing the sea, where Carr carefully crouched or lay to manipulate the ships after receiving our written orders each turn. The scenario this time was an engagement between the French and British fleets during the Napoleonic era, specifically 17 October, 1812, and the players were divided evenly between the two sides.

My "Ship Data Sheet" & mini for the game

I played Andre Cheviot, captain of the French frigate Nereide, although these details were simply flavor as resolution of actions relied solely on movement orders, opportunities to fire, the ship's stats and dice rolls. The game moved slowly with so many players; in the five hours scheduled for the game I think we only finished 6 turns, but it was fun to participate in one of the more unique centerpiece events of the con. 

Gary Con XVI GM's Cup,
featuring Geezel from Snarfquest

Towards the end of the game I ducked out into the hall to fill up on Spotted Cow beer from one of the Happy Hour stations, so this is a good point to show off my GM's Cup featuring art from Larry Elmore's Snarfquest comic, which ran for years in Dragon magazine in the mid-1980s. Other cups available this year featured Telerie and Snarf himself. Elmore was a guest at the con once again this year, and there was even a Snarfquest 5E D&D game as an event.

My last game of the day was part of the Legends of Roleplaying Tournament, an annual AD&D tournament organized by Paul Stormberg. For each one, Paul develops a scenario derived from old school material; for example, 2019 featured a sequel to the module B1 that was newly co-written by Paul and Mike Carr. This year's scenario was listed as "Depths of Terror", a level hidden deep within Gary Gygax's Castle Greyhawk. However, as a surprise, it actually turned out to be an expanded version of The Tomb of Ra-Hotep, a 1970s dungeon by Alan Lucien that Gygax hid in part of Castle Greyhawk, and which inspired Gygax's own Tomb of Horrors. The version for the tournament was expanded by Paul from the original together with additional vintage campaign material supplied by Lucien. Paul later indicated on Facebook that he plans to publish this version soon.

I joined a team of ten players who drew Steve Winter, former TSR employee, as our DM. I've played in Steve's games a number of times, including the in-person tournament in 2019. My group this time was very clever, and did a great job with the riddles and devious traps, placing 5th out of the 13 teams, and only a few points behind another team.

Dave and I after his game,
photo by one of the other players.

After the tournament ended, I stopped by to say hi to Dave W. of RPG Retro Reviews, who was running a 6-hour session of the original Tower of Zenopus dungeon using the Holmes Basic rules. I had met Dave in person back in 2020 when he played in my Zenopus sequel at the second Scrum Con

The strong Halfling; note this is after leveling,
so the level should be 2, not 1

By the time I arrived, another player had already left, so I ended up running his PC, a halfling with 18 strength (!), for the last hour of the game. He was mostly silent during my time due to my knowledge of the dungeon. The party had already rescued Lemunda, earning her father the mayor's favor, but I witnessed showdowns with the flying dagger (which killed a PC), the ghouls, and the evil thaumaturgist. I always enjoy see other folks spin on this ur-dungeon. 

Next up: Day 3