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Friday, January 28, 2022

Piazza Thread: Original Known World Campaign Documents


Sample Page from the Original Known World documents - "Origins of Characters".
Note the extensive list of non-human races available for play including
Felis Sapiens, Toad-Men, Balrogs, Protein Polymorphs and Tharks...!

Over on the Piazza, a great forum dedicated to the various and sundry D&D settings, member TraverseTravis has posted scans of a sheaf of documents from the Original Known World D&D campaign of Lawrence Schick and the late Tom Moldvay before they started working for TSR. This is the original material which Moldvay and others drew on for developing the published Known World campaign setting - later Mystara - as it initially appears in the 1981 D&D Expert Rulebook and the module X1 Isle of Dread

Portions of this material surfaced back in 2015, which I described in post on this blog called "Ur-Known World"; from there you can find a link to an interview with Schick on Black Gate.

The new set of documents was saved by one of the original members of the group, Bill Wilkerson (thanked as a playtester in Moldvay's module B4 The Lost City), who provided them to TraverseTravis for scanning. Shannon Appecline compiled the scans into a single document organized by subject according to OD&D Vol I-III.

Find links for downloading them in the first post here:

Bill Wilkerson's Original Known World documents


I've been contributing to the Piazza thread with comments on how the "New Monsters" from the Original Known World were later used by Moldvay and Schick in various TSR publications such as the Fiend Folio, X1 Isle of Dread and X2 Castle Amber.

A big thanks to TraverseTravis and Shannon Appelcline for their efforts in making this material available to the public!


Thursday, January 20, 2022

Dragonsfoot Thread: How many AD&D players knew of OD&D?



A recent thread over on Dragonsfoot asks: How many AD&D players who started in the 80s knew about OD&D?

Here is my answer, which I posted there, and have expanded a bit here:

My first D&D set, from 1982, was (obviously) Holmes Basic, and the rulebook includes a Preface stating that it is "based upon the original work published in 1974 and three supplementary books published in the two year period after the initial release of DUNGEONS & DRAGONS", and then reprints the "Foreword from the Original Edition", which starts with a brief yet evocative history lesson on the origins of D&D from Gygax that begins, "ONCE UPON A TIME, long, long ago..." And my copy, a 3rd edition printing, had a product listing on the back cover of "OTHER ITEMS FROM TSR" available for mail order, which included "Original Dungeons & Dragons Collector's Editions".

So I was aware of the original D&D rules basically as soon as I had my first rule set. I quickly moved onto AD&D from Holmes Basic, owning all of the hardcover rulebooks by mid-1983, but there again I encountered OD&D: my copies of the Monster Manual and the Players Handbook also have product listings that include OD&D. 

I learned more about the early history once I started reading Dragon. In particular, the Best of Dragon #1 and #2 (which I found on the rack at B. Dalton in the local mall) reprint a number of articles from the early, OD&D years, including "Gary Gygax on D&D: Origins of the Game" (in BoD #1).



 

At some point I found a copy of Moldvay Basic at a Goodwill thrift store. This set included a copy of one version of TSR's Gateway to Adventure catalog, which had a page for the "Collectors Edition" which showed the OD&D set and supplements. This was the first place that I actually saw what the OD&D booklets looked like, other than Eldritch Wizardry, which I had once spotted at B. Dalton. 

Still later in the '80s, I came across a still new-on-the-shelf copy of the Original Collector's Edition (OCE) of Whitebox OD&D at a game shop and bought it, which I still have. I was actually somewhat surprised that the rules were so similar to what I was familiar with - I was expecting more differences. In the next year or two after that I ordered Chainmail and the Blackmoor supplement directly from TSR's Mail Order Hobby Shop, which was still selling copies through '89 or so, although the copy of Blackmoor I received from them was essentially a high grade photocopy.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Demon Idol Review


A Happy New Year from my original and new Demon Idols!

That's my original Players Handbook, which I received for my birthday in 1983 along with a Pac-Man watch. I still remember reading it in bed that night, captivated by all the new options not found in my Holmes Basic rulebook, like Half-Orcs!

The statue is a new Xmas present; a licensed "D&D Dice Tower" available from Gamestop.

Here's a quick review of the new demon idol tower:

Construction: Probably the biggest dice tower you'll ever own, being 10 inches tall, 8.5 inches wide, and 7 inches deep. It feels sturdy, weighing a bit under 4 lbs. The "aged" color and texture are well done. 

DesignThe nicest feature is the fire, which lights up via a switch on the bottom. It requires 3 button cell batteries (1.5 LR44), which are included.

It's not a perfect recreation of Dave Trampier's original art; notably, the horns have been turned into ears, giving it a more goblin-y feel. The statue's feet are not visible in the original; here, they are wearing sandals that somewhat comically resemble flip-flops. 

Note that the statue is missing one jeweled eye in a nod to the PHB cover. I feel like a bit of an opportunity was missed here to have two removable eyes.

For a more faithful and creepier design, see the version available from Otherworld Miniatures.

Functionality: The top of the head comes off, revealing a chute into which you drop your die, which shoots out the dungeon archway in the front. It works well; my first roll sent the dice flying about 3 feet across the kitchen floor.

And it could easily serve as a gigantic dungeon prop. The archway is big enough to slide a mini into, and there are some flat spaces on the pedastal and statue in which a mini could stand.