Friday, June 21, 2019

Obscure Art Friday: Weighing the Heart of the Dead by Erol Otus

Erol Otus, Weighing the Heart of the Dead. Image source

The above picture is a fantastic full-page illustration by Erol Otus from Deities & Demigods (later retitled Legends & Lore), the fourth AD&D hardcover released in 1980. A tour-de-force of TSR's bullpen of artists at the time, it includes the work of Darlene, Dee, Diesel, Jaquays, Otus, Rosolf, Sutherland and Trampier, and lesser known artists (Eymoth, Jeff Lanners), all together in a single tome. 

But this picture is not in the highly sought after first or second printings that include the Cthulhu & Melnibonean Mythos, and which get the most attention these days. It was only added to the third printing when the Cthulhu & Melnibonean Mythos were removed. Some clues to the change are that Otus' signature includes an "81", which is the year after the book was originally published, and that Jeff Dee illustrated the rest of the Egyptian Mythos.

I'm not sure why TSR added this picture; I thought maybe they needed to fill in a page but by my count those two Mythos total 16 pages, which was exactly the amount removed (reducing the page count from 144 to 128 pages). Perhaps TSR let Otus add it because they were removing his stunning work on the Cthulhu Mythos (which he drew all of), which was his major contribution to the book besides the cover, title page illustration, and a few Non-Human Deities.

I had the version with this picture when I was kid and always liked it; these days I only have the earlier version but at some point realized this picture was not in it. I posted about it a few years ago in the Holmes Basic Community on G+. Per our discussions there, the image is a bit confusingly placed, as it comes on page 43 at the end of the Chinese Mythos, whose last entry is "Yen-Wang-Yeh (judge of the dead)", but the image is clearly illustrating a scene from the Egyptian Mythos, which after removal of the Cthulhu Mythos is placed right after the Chinese Mythos. 

Thoth is pictured in the background, and Anubis  in the foreground, fulfilling his role as "collector of the souls for transportation to the house of the dead", per his entry in the Egyptian Mythos. Curiously, there does not seem to be any further description of the Judgement scene anywhere else in the Egyptian Mythos, including any description of the creature standing behind the scales.

I found the above scan at the Sharktanks tumblr, where they wrote: 
"The Egyptian rite of Judgement from TSR’s “Deities and Demigods” by Erol Otus, 1980.  Still the only artistic depiction of the rite I’ve seen outside of the original hieroglyphs. The Devourer of the Dead is a lot bigger in this version than in the ancient copies I’ve seen."
The Wikipedia entry for the Book of the Dead gives more information, including a picture showing the same entities:



"This detail scene, from the Papyrus of Hunefer (c. 1275 BCE), shows the scribe Hunefer's heart being weighed on the scale of Maat against the feather of truth, by the jackal-headed Anubis. The ibis-headed Thoth, scribe of the gods, records the result. If his heart equals exactly the weight of the feather, Hunefer is allowed to pass into the afterlife. If not, he is eaten by the waiting chimeric devouring creature Ammit composed of the deadly crocodile, lion, and hippopotamus. Vignettes such as these were a common illustration in Egyptian books of the dead."

Friday, June 7, 2019

NTRPGCon Bound




I'll be making a short visit to North Texas RPG Con this year, from midday Fri until Sun morning. I'm not running a game myself, as I wasn't sure of my attendance by the submission deadline, but I'm signed up for some fantastic-sounding games:
Friday
A 1975 Castle Greyhawk "deep level" by Rob Kuntz: an OD&D game with 10th+ level characters run by Paul Stormberg of the Collector's Trove and Legends of Wargaming at Gary Con each year. 
"Wow! A chance to play in a high level Dungeons & Dragons adventure by Rob Kuntz in 1975! One of the deepest levels of Greyhawk Castle!"

Zenopus - 40 years later: This is Steve Muchow's sequel to the Zenopus dungeon, which he invited me to play last year. This is his second year running it at the con.
"It's been 40 years since the dungeon of Zenopus has been cleansed. But a new evil arises and Portown seeks brave adventurers to save the town."


* * * * *
Saturday
The Queen of Elfland's Son: a Goodman DCC module run by Jonathan Perkel, who started the Holmes FB group & played Boinger in my game last year.
"This quest will take the heroes to the very borders of Elfland and pit them against the cruelty of the Unseelie Court of Faerie. Will the heroes overcome the machinations of the Queen of Elfland or will they fall victim to the glamours and wiles of Elfland’s malicious nobility?"

80's Heroes vs Monsters Costume Party Chaos: a non-D&D game designed & run by Chris Holmes!
"You are invited to a mysterious costume party with a costume of your favorite hero from Movies-Comics-T.V. Your white limo arrives. ------- You will be playing a new set of combat rules. It will be fun."

Ruins of Mistamere: A sequel/re-imagining of the group adventure from the Mentzer Basic Set using AD&D 1e rules, run by Lloyd Metcalf.
"The long lost lord Gygar from castle Mistamere is said to have left behind great treasure and magic, along with the a great reward has been offered for the capture of Bargle who murdered the beloved Aleena.

* * * * *

Also of note in the realm of Holmes Basic, Carl Heyl (DM Carl of Save or Die) is running two sessions of his Discos & Dragons game, which I played in last year at NTRPGCon and again in drop-in form this past March at Gary Con. It's a Holmes/OD&D hexcrawl on the Outdoor Survival board using only minis, dice & other game pieces from the 1970s!
"Good King Gary is being held prisoner in the kingdom to the north. Bad Baron Bart is doing nothing to save him. Join the ranks of Gary's Crusaders to travel the world of AHOS (Avalon Hill Outdoor Survival board) and delve domino dungeons to gather the treasure to pay the ransom and have Good King Gary take back his kingdom!"

Update: I forgot to mention one other Holmes-related game at the con this year, the Necropolis of Nuromen. This was a Blueholme game using a module published for those rules. This game was also run by Jonathan Perkel.

"You have been drawn to the area by rumours of Nuromen the Necromancer and his vast treasure hoard, lost since the fall of his domain of Law’s End."