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Saturday, July 10, 2021

Dragon #46 retrospective on Enworld

Dragon Reflections, by M.T. Black, is a regular column on Enworld that offers retrospectives of Dragon magazine in chronological order. This week they've reached issue #46, which among other content includes Holmes' second published Boinger and Zereth story, "The Sorcerer's Jewel":

Dragon Reflections #46

Black covers the entire magazine, so doesn't say too much about Holmes' story, just that it is "pretty typical D&D-inspired fiction", but the first commenter offers this gem:

I would point the reader to Tales of Peril: The Complete Boinger and Zereth Stories of John Eric Holmes by Black Blade Publishing. Over the span of months, me and my D&D group read the entire collection out-loud together, on nights we weren't up for playing TTRPGs. More than "typical", I say the stories are "archetypal." It was so interesting to see how one of the authors of BD&D interpreted and portrayed how the class and race traits work in a story. The stories are zany and fun. We laughed out loud many a time. I recommend the book. (And I'm not sure, but I believe they're all autographed and numbered too.)

I followed up on this to comment that the Black Blade ordering page:

"hasn't been updated, but from communication with Allan and John (the folks behind Black Blade), I've heard that the first printing of Tales of Peril has sold out, and they are planning a reprint. If anyone who reads this is interested in a copy, if you email them at the address on that page they will add you to a list for notification when it has been reprinted."

I also commented that:

"One interesting bit in Holmes' story is a reference to "under Witch's Hill, where the old Suloise city is supposed to be buried". I believe this is only reference to specific setting material from the World of Greyhawk in the Boinger and Zereth stories. Given that the World of Greyhawk folio, which as noted above was also reviewed in this issue, mentions "A lost, ruined city of the Old Suloise is said to be hidden somewhere in the Suss forest" (page 26), and the Sea of Dust has buried Suel cities (also page 26), this suggests that Holmes had a copy of the new WoG folio, or at least had heard about the material from Gygax."

"The Sorcerer's Jewel" versus "The Sorceror's Jewel"

The title of contents spell the title of the story as "The Sorcerer's Jewel", but Kim Mohan's editorial on the same page, and the formal title above Jim Roslof's art on page 8 spell it "The Sorceror's Jewel": 

However, given that "sorceror" is a fairly common misspelling, and that the word is correctly spelled "sorcerer" throughout the actual story, I'd suggest "The Sorcerer's Jewel" as the correct spelling. Tales of Peril (2017) titles it as "The Sorcerer's Jewel", except where it reproduces the title as part of Jim Roslof's art. 

Furthermore, this wasn't even the original title of story; a few years back I briefly saw a typed manuscript for this story that was instead titled "The Apprentice Treasure Hunter", which appears to reference the character of Tarkan, pictured above between Boinger and Zereth. It's unclear whether Holmes was asked to change the title, or whether Dragon simply changed it themselves. Along these lines, it's also possible the use of Suloise (see above) was also an editorial change or suggestion.

Interestingly, "The Sorcerer's Jewel" is also the title of 1939 story by Robert Bloch. I've read this and it doesn't seem related in any way to Holmes' story.


  1. My first Dragon was #48, so I missed this one. Nice Roslof picture. I wonder if Dr. Holmes ever considered writing an adventure for Dragon?

    1. That would be very interesting. Other than the Holmes dungeon is Holmes known to have had any other adventures published? Does Chris Holmes remember anything?

    2. Jacob72, Holmes wrote another sample dungeon called "The Eye of Arzaz" in his 1981 book called "Fantasy Role Playing Games". It's written for a custom D&D-lite system that he presents in the book. There's also another sample map shown in that book with some monsters written right on the map. That's about it for published Holmes adventures, unfortunately!

    3. Lore, it's certainly possible, but I can't think of anything that he wrote that would indicate that.