Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Caves of Chaos revealed

Annotated scan of the cover image of B2 The Keep on the Borderlands. Art by Jim Roslof.
     I've looked at the cover of B2 countless times. It was the first module I owned. But I don't recall ever noticing until yesterday that you can see at least two of the Caves of Chaos in the background of the cover painting (circles marked B and C). My eyes have always focused on the combat in the foreground, which (without thinking about it too much) I assumed was a random wilderness encounter with hobgoblins (the Monster Manual describes them as having bright red-orange faces and blue noses). I never really noticed those dark spots in the background. But now they look to me like they must be cave openings in the distance, and thus the combat is taking place right in the valley of the Caves of Chaos, which completely makes sense as an artistic choice for Jim Roslof's composition.

     So which caves are they? The cave on the left is higher than the other as if they are on different contour lines as shown on the map. But since the hill overall seems to be sloping down to the left I would assume we are facing south. If so, the high hills in the distance would be south across the river (perhaps the peaks where the bandit camp is located). Caves J and K would roughly fit the pattern except the map shows them hidden in the trees. Caves D and E are to the left of Cave F (the hobgoblin cave), but are lower. So they are not easily placed.

Edit: I revised the annotated scan to show the cave locations suggested by paleologos. 
A is the Kobold Lair (partially obscured), B and C are the two Orc Lairs, and G is the Shunned Cavern, hidden behind a stand of trees.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Silver Anniversary Holmes Set

Front cover of the SA reprint of the Blue Book; scan from the Acaeum

     A fellow player in my group recently lent me copies of the Blue Book and B2 from the Silver Anniversary set put out by WOTC in 1999 (Thanks, Matt!). I'd never seen these in person before. Including both means the SA set essentially includes a "Holmes Basic Set",  (excepting a fatal flaw in the B2, which I describe below), which is why I placed it in my chronology of D&D Basic Sets a few weeks ago. In a sense this also is the last paper version of "Basic D&D" published by TSR/WOTC - a line that started with the Holmes set.

     As I'd gathered previously from discussion with machfront on Dragonsfoot, the Silver Anniversary Blue Book is a fascimile reprint of a 2nd edition Blue Book, specifically a printing without prices included in the product list on the back cover (which I've placed as the sixth overall printing of the rulebook). The SA reprint is identical except for the SA logo on the front cover and title page, and is currently the tenth known printing of the rulebook:

1st edition, 1st print: code F116-R, Lizard Logo
1st edition, 2nd print: code 2001, Lizard Logo, January 1978
1st edition, 3rd print: code 2001, Lizard Logo, May 1978 

2nd edition, 1st print: code 2001, Wizard Logo, November 1978, back cover B1 price $4.49
2nd edition, 2nd print: code 2001, Wizard Logo, November 1978, back cover B1 price $5.49
2nd edition, 3rd print: code 2001, Wizard Logo, November 1978, back cover no prices
3rd edition, 1st print: code 2001, Wizard Logo, December 1979, no ISBN pg 1
3rd edition, 2nd print: code 2001, Wizard Logo, December 1979, ISBN pg 1, "USING THE DICE OR CHITS" pg 46
3rd edition, 3rd print: code 2001, Wizard Logo, December 1979, ISBN pg 1, "USING THE DICE" pg 46
Silver Anniversary reprint, identical to 2nd edition, 3rd print except for SA logo on front cover

     Note this scheme refers solely to the rulebook, not the entire set itself (The Acaeum only tracks the entire set, but different boxes can have the same rulebook, or vice versa). I don't know why TSR/WOTC chose to reprint a 2nd edition version in the SA set instead of a later printing such as the last 3rd edition version. There's not many differences between the two; the most significant being on page 19, which (1) deletes a paragraph about d20s that are numbered 0-9 twice, and (2) has some corrections in the Monster Attack table. Technically, this version is the most "revised" and might have made more sense for the reprint. However, I don't think they put a lot of thought into the printings based on the B2 that was included:

Front cover of the SA reprint of the Blue Book; scan from the Acaeum

     At first glance the SA copy of B2 appears to be a reprint of the 1st print (Holmes-compatible) because the front cover has a Wizard Logo and a sentence about using the module with AD&D. However, as ken-do-im reported on Dragonsfoot, the interior of the module, except for the title page and reference sheet, is a reprint of the Moldvay-compatible revision of the module! The back cover is also an exact copy of the Moldvay version back cover (down to the ISBN number) rather than a Holmes back cover. It's not the end of the world since all of the D&D line is essentially compatible, but why did TSR/WOTC create such a Frankenstein? The weirdest part is the Holmes reference sheet inserted in the middle of the otherwise Moldvay-module. A half-hearted attempt to make the module compatible with the Blue Book in the SA set?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Arduin Adventure vs. Holmes Basic

Logo from the cover of The Arduin Adventure rulebook
     The original Arduin trilogy of booklets ("Grimoires", 1977-78) were written by Dave Hargrave as supplements to the original D&D game. The Arduin Adventure, published in 1980 by Grimoire Games, was the first product to present Arduin as a stand-alone game, in an introductory format seemingly inspired by the Holmes Basic Set. According to Gygax, the Holmes Basic Set was selling 12,000 copies a month by mid-1980, so it was natural that other game designers would follow suit. Thus, The Arduin Adventure box set ($9.95) included a 64-page rulebook with all of the necessary rules, three character sheets, two sheets of magic item cards, and two 20-sided dice. The rulebook was also available separately ($7.95), with cover art by Greg Espinoza.

Photo of the contents of The Arduin Adventure box set from a current Ebay auction

     Much like Basic D&D distilled the original D&D rules, The Arduin Adventure simplifies the Arduin trilogy to six races (elf, dwarf, hobbitt, human, amazon and half orc), five classes (warrior, thief, priest, mage and forester), twelve statistics (dexterity, agility, strength, intelligence, ego, wisdom, charisma, hit points, armor class, mana and experience level), combat rules, four levels of spells for priests and mages, a short list of magic items, and about 30 monsters.

The Forgotten Tower as depicted on the back cover of The Arduin Adventure.
Artwork by Brad Schenck (Morno)

     The rulebook also contains a nine-page introductory scenario, The Forgotten Tower, set in a lost wizard's tower (rather than beneath a destroyed one as in the Holmes Sample Dungeon). It has 45 rooms including eight in the dungeon that are to be keyed by the DM (ala B1 In Search of the Unknown). A picture of the Forgotten Tower was included on the back cover of the rulebook, with art by Brad Schenck (Morno), known for his work on Wee Warriors products, such as the cover and maps for the first D&D module, Palace of Vampire Queen.

     The Arduin combat rules use Dexterity scores for initiative. This goes back to the first Arduin Grimoire and predates the use in the Holmes Basic Set. In The Arduin Adventure, the "Monster" section gives typical Dex scores for each creature, and a few monsters in The Forgotten Tower also have Dex scores listed.

Skorpadillo by Erol Otus, from The Howling Tower.
Scan grabbed from Jeff's Gameblog.

     One "Basic" level dungeon module was also published for Arduin: The Howling Tower (Arduin Dungeon #2, 1979), for character levels 1-4. All of the monsters in The Howling Tower are provided with Dex scores (example: Skorpadillo, "dext. 16"). Erol Otus (also a Holmes Basic artist for B2) provided the interior artwork for The Howling Tower (two quarter page illustrations, including the one above). 

See also:
Detailed review at RPGnet

Discussion thread at Original D&D Discussion

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Obscure TSR art related to B1-B3, pt IV

Advertisement in Strategic Review for the first issue of The Dragon

     My original Holmes set was one of the last printings, which is not surprising because it was a birthday present in early '82. This set included the second printing of B2, which I still have though it is missing a few pages. This printing has an excellent illustration of a wingless dragon on page 6 by David C Sutherland III (DCS III). Later, when I got B1 (Moldvay version), I noticed this same dragon on page 6 of that module. So I've been familiar with this picture for a long time, and previously wondered why it was used despite neither adventure having a dragon. Later via the Acaeum I learned it was used in each case as filler to replace deleted text (described in more detail below), which explained the random usage. What I didn't know about was the original appearance of this art in the last issue of Strategic Review, as noted today on DF by paleologos (who also pointed out the previous artwork I have featured under this topic). He further postulates it is a fire lizard from the Blackmoor Supplement, which are described as "of identical appearance to dragons, without wings", and suggests placing it in the Cave of the Unknown in B2!

Here's a summary of the wanderings of this "dragon":

-Strategic Review #7, Apr '76 (last issue), page 11. Advertisement pictured above, for the first issue of The Dragon, which first appeared in Jun '76.

-Second printing of B2, 1980, page 6. The first and second printings of B2 are for the Holmes rules. The 1st printing is distinguished by a sentence on the cover indicating that the module can be used with AD&D, and pages 5-6 have a small section on "Using this module with AD&D", the text of which I posted here a while back. The second printing deletes the references to AD&D and fills in the space with two illustrations, one of intertwining snakes (by an unknown artist) and one of the DCS dragon.

-Fourth printing of B1, 1981, page 6. The first three printings of B1 are for the Holmes rules and have a monochrome yellow cover. The third printing is revised version for the Moldvay rules, with a brown color cover. The DCS dragon was inserted on page 6 to fill in a deleted section, also titled "Using this module with AD&D".

Previous entries in this series: pt I, pt II, pt III 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Dr. Holmes and the Cthulhu Mythos, part III

Excerpt from Dr. Holmes' letter to Rob Kuntz, 10/22/77

Further notes on the manuscript/letters for the "Lovecraftian Mythos in D&D" (Dragon #12):

Letter from Dr. Holmes to Rob Kuntz, dated 10/20/77, 1 page
On Dr. Holmes' letterhead from USC School of Medicine. Mailed to Kuntz at TSR address.
Quote: "Here are "Lovecraftian Gods" as promised at GenCon. A little late but use it if you can."

Letter from Kuntz to Holmes, undated, 1 page
Quote: "Of course [printing this in Dragon] does not exclude it from seeing print in the next addition of GDH along with due credit to the creator, yourself. Everyone from TSR says hello!"

Letter from Holmes to Kuntz, dated 11/22/77, 1 page
On Dr. Holmes' letterhead; mailed to Kuntz at personal address in Lake Geneva.
Quote: "I'm glad you added to it - I was tempted to keep going, especially with the Derleth and C.A. Smith Gods, but decided I had to stop somewhere."

1 page: Kuntz's intro paragraph, titled "The Lovecraftian Mythos in Dungeons & Dragon".
7 pages: Holmes' "The Lovecraftian Gods, the Great Old Ones".
1 page: Kuntz's descriptions for Cthuga, Ithaqua and Yig.
Each of the above is typed, with hand-written corrections/annotations, presumably by Kuntz.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Dr. Holmes and the Cthulhu Mythos, part II

Excerpt from Dr. Holmes' typed manuscript

     I previously wrote about Dr. Holmes' role in co-authoring (with Rob Kuntz) the article "The Lovecraftian Mythos in D&D" in Dragon #12, which was later revised by Jim Ward to become the Cthulhu Mythos in the Deities & Demigods rulebook. I concluded that Holmes was the primary author of the original article, though it remained unclear exactly what was written by Holmes and what was by Kuntz. 

     In 2004, a copy of the original typed manuscript for this article, as well as correspondence between Holmes and Kuntz, was auctioned at GenCon. Here are Frank Mentzer's pre-auction notes he posted in the gencon.com forums:

      At GenCon 1977, [Holmes] met briefly with Rob Kuntz ... to talk about ideas for a revision of the old "Gods Demigods & Heroes" D&D supplement [and] agreed to do a brief summary of the gods presented in the works of H.P. Lovecraft, for use in the upcoming book "Deities & Demigods".
     We have a new entry in our database for a copy of the "Original DDG Cthulhu Manuscript" (from someone's    obscure archives), including:
     a. Letter from Holmes to Kuntz, 10/20/77
     b. Reply from Kuntz to Holmes (undated but presumably early Nov. 1977)
     c. Reply from Holmes to Kuntz, 11/22/77
     d. Typed manuscript of the "Lovecraftian Mythos in D&D" with many hand-written editorial notes and changes

     As it turns out, a fellow Acaeum member won this auction, and was kind enough to let me look at the documents. From the manuscript it's clear that Holmes wrote the bulk of the article, including the main intro and entries for Azathoth, Cthulhu, Hastur, Nyarlathotep, Shub-Niggurath, The Necronomicon, The Elder Sign, Yog-Sothoth, Byakhee, The Deep Ones, The Great Race, The Old Ones (aka Primoridal Ones), The Mi-Go and The Shaggoths [sic]. Kuntz added another introductory paragraph (the one in italics) and entries for Cthuga, Ithaqua and Yig, and made a few minor edits to Holmes' entries - just a few word changes and two added sentences.
     Rob was once asked about the authorship of the article on the Pied Piper Publishing Forum and replied: "Originally J. Eric Holmes (And I added Hastur and a few others)". This matches what is shown by the manuscript and letters, except that he must have mis-remembered when he said he added Hastur. The conception of Hastur in the article is primarily a Derleth creation as are Cthuga and Ithaqua, so perhaps he switched these in his memory.

     One of the minor revisions that Kuntz made was in the entry for The Deep Ones, where he changed "Every large group will have at least one evil high priest, level 3-10" to "at least one evil clerical type, level 3-10", presumably because in OD&D the title EHP should only refer to evil clerics levels 7 and up. In the entry for the Necronomicon, he changed "chaotic" to "chaotic evil". The remaining word changes just correct grammar.

      Kuntz added one sentence (in parenthesis) concerning a saving throw to the entry for Nyarlathotep, and one sentence to end of the entry for Byakhee concerning damage inflicted.

     For the most part, Holmes' original text, including some typos, is printed verbatim in the Dragon article.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Blog Roundup of Holmes-Related Posts

I've had this list on the ZA site (here) for a while but hadn't posted it on the blog. I revised it a few days ago to add some new blogs and posts.

The blogs are ordered chronologically starting with the blog with the oldest post at top, and then for each blog the posts are ordered by date to the right. The subject matter includes anything related to Holmes Basic (including the Zenopus Dungeon, Skull Mountain, B1, B2, etc) or the other writings of Dr. Holmes.

An asterisk by the name of the blog indicates that the blogger started playing D&D with Holmes Basic. This is based on whether the blogger indicated this somewhere on their blog. 

Feel free to update me with any posts/blogs that I've missed, or let me know if you started with Holmes Basic.

Ten Foot Pole: Skull Mountain

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Gargoyle Etchings

John Taylor Arms was a printmaker with a Gothic Revivalist bent working in the first half of the 20th century. Starting in the 1920s he made a series of incredibly detailed etchings - some almost photorealist - of real-world gargoyles, a few of which are shown below:

The Gargoyle and His Quarry (1920)

Guardians of the Spire (1921)

The Thinker of Notre Dame Chapel (1923)

Friday, November 11, 2011

OSR Wizard Logo

I like the design of Strange Magic's OSR logo, but it's based on the mid-80s TSR logo, and I prefer earlier TSR logos (Lizard, Wizard, Face). So last weekend I scribbled a bit until I came up with one (within my limited drawing abilities). It's sort of the TSR Wizard after he's fired his wand.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

OSR Search Engine


This is cool...a spot for "OSReSearch". It's a Google based search engine for OSR-related material; a list of indexed sites is here. Searching "Holmes Basic" brings up various blogs (including this one) and forums (Dragonsfoot, OD&D Discussion, Acaeum). Nice place to search all of these at once.

It also has a brief intro to the OSR, so I've put a link to the engine in my little OSR logo to the right.

The creater, untimately, also has his own blog - http://untimately.blogspot.com/ - and is a member at OD&D Discussion.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Rappan Athuk: inspired by Skull Mountain

Bill Webb (tsathogga) of Frog God Games recently announced that his company will release an expanded version of his Rappan Athuk megadungeon "next summer as a hardbound, library-stitched book in both Pathfinder and Swords and Wizardry formats".

He further shared some of the inspiration for the origins of this megadungeon:
"The background of the big announcement goes all the way back to 1978, when I read a small book by Gary Gygax detailing the use of outdoor and wilderness adventures in D&D. This book, along with what has affectionately been termed the “Skull Dungeon” of John [Eric] Holmes fame, formed the basis of my thinking when I began to write my own vast dungeon that I called Rappan Athuk". The "small book" is Vol 3 of OD&D (The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures), and the "Skull Dungeon" is the "Sample Cross Section of Levels" from page 39 of the Blue Book:

Saturday, November 5, 2011

35 years of D&D Basic Sets

1996 - The Classic D&D Game (different cover)

1999 - Holmes Basic rulebook and B2 reprints included in Silver Anniversary Box

1999 - D&D Adventure Game (2nd edition AD&D)

2000 - D&D Adventure Game (3rd edition AD&D)

2004 - D&D Basic Game (3rd)

2006 - D&D Basic Game (revised; 3rd)

2008 - D&D Roleplaying Game Starter Set (4th edition AD&D)

2011 -  Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Beginner Box

(with thanks to the Acaeum, as always).

We still await a beginner's set for the OSR, either for an existing retroclone or a "community starter" as discussed at the OD&D Discussion Forums. (Let me know if I have forgotten something; I refer here to a physical boxed set, not just a pdf of starter rules, etc).  

Addendum: Yesterday, James on the Underdark Gazette posted An Introduction to Game-Mastering an Old School FRPG, a revision of a piece previously intended for either a Brave Halfling intro set (which changed to a different project) or the OD&D community starter linked above (which petered out).

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

TSR publication dates through 1981

From the copyright registration records in the Office of Copyright searchable database. The electronic database starts in 1978, so any product registered earlier is not included (possibly OD&D; Geomorphs Set 1). I stopped at 1981; in 1982 there's a big increase in licensed products, and I have declining interest in the dates at that point. : )

These come with the caveat that the publication dates are self-reported by TSR and may not be accurate. Many were registered years after the publication date. Please comment on any inconsistencies with any other evidence of known printing dates. 

Edit: I just corrected one typo. The original printing of the Monster Manual should be 12/28/77 per the database, not 12/18/77. The 12/28/77 date is consistent with a Gygax column in Dragon where he wrote that the MM wasn't available until after Xmas that year. 

Edit #2: I realized yesterday that the formatting for the table is not showing up correctly on a PC (I created it in Excel on a Mac and simply copied and pasted it here). I'll try to fix it. You can see the same info in an image (rather than text), here.

Publication Date
Registration Date
Eldritch Wizardry 1/15/76
Swords & Spells
Metamorphosis Alpha RPG 12/1/76
Suspicion (mystery boardgame) 1/15/77
Monster & Treasure Assortment, Sets 1 & 2 (2 sets) 2/15/77
D&D Character Record Sheets 4/25/77
Outdoor Geomorphs 6/12/77
D&D Holmes Basic Set 7/10/77
Modern Armor (wargame rules) 7/15/77
Cordite & Steel wargame 7/15/77
Star Empires game 7/20/77
Warlocks & Warriors boardgame 7/25/77
Legions of the Petal Throne 8/20/77
Geomorphs, Sets 2 and 3 (2 sets) 9/21/77
Cohorts (Roman Checkers) 12/21/77
Monster Manual 12/28/77
Gamma World RPG
Monster & Treasure Assortment, Set 3 5/10/78
G1, G2, G3 monos (3 modules) 5/12/78
S1 Tomb of Horrors 6/29/78
Player's Handbook 8/15/78
D1, D2, D3 monos (3 modules) 9/26/78
AD&D Permanent Character Folder 3/7/79
B1 In Search of the Unknown 3/13/79
Official AD&D Coloring Album 4/10/79
Boot Hill RPG
Divine Right boardgame 5/24/79
AD&D PC Record Sheets 6/11/79
AD&D NPC Record Sheets 6/12/79
AD&D DM Screen 7/2/79
T1 Village of Hommlet 7/14/79
Dungeon Masters' Guide 8/1/79
Awful Green Things from Outer Space 8/1/79
Monster Manual, 4th printing 8/15/79
S2 White Plume Mountain 8/21/79
Rogues Gallery
S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks 2/5/80
Top Secret RPG
C1 Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan (mono) 5/7/80
World of Greyhawk Folio 5/7/80
Days of the Dragon Calendar 1981 5/15/80
Monster & Treasure Assortment Sets 1-3 5/21/80
Q1 Queen of the Demonweb Pits 6/12/80
B2 Keep on the Borderlands 7/2/80
Dragontales fiction collection 8/1/80
Best of Dragon, Vol I 8/15/80
A1 Slave Pits of the Undercity 10/14/80
Deities & Demigods 11/1/80
GW1 Legion of Gold 11/19/80
TS001 Operation: Rapidstrike! 12/15/80
AD&D DM Adventure Log 12/30/80
Finieous Treasury 1/1/81
Dungeon! Boardgame 1/29/81
D&D Moldvay Basic rulebook 2/16/81
D&D Moldvay Basic Set 2/16/81
D&D Cook Expert rulebook 2/16/81
D&D Cook Expert Set 2/16/81
Hexagonal Mapping Booklet 2/18/81
BH1 Mad Mesa
C1 Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan (color) 2/22/81
Awful Green Things from Outer Space (revised) 2/26/81
G1-2-3 Against the Giants 3/4/81
4 minigames (Antares, SAGA, Vampyre, Pleasantville) 4/3/81
Dungeon Geomorphs: Set 1-3 4/15/81
X1 Isle of Dread 4/22/81
A3 Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords 5/4/81
Fantasy Forest boardgame 5/24/81
A4 In the Dungeon of the Slave Lords 5/27/81
B3 Palace of the Silver Princess 6/10/81
AD&D DM Screen (revised) 6/10/81
C2 Ghost Tower of Inverness 6/17/80
L1 Secret of Bone Hill 6/22/81
A2 Secret of the Slavers Stockade 7/7/81
X2 Castle Amber 10/6/81
U1 Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh 10/14/81
Best of Dragon, Vol II 11/1/81
I1 Dwellers of the Forbidden City 11/18/81
Fiend Folio
Boot Hill Referee's Screen 12/3/81
Gamma World Referee Screen 12/15/81
Top Secret Administrator's Screen 12/15/81