Thursday, November 29, 2012

No Spell Scrolls for Clerics

Zereth casting a spell from a clerical scroll in "The Sorcerer's Jewel". Art by Jim Roslof. Scan from Grognardia

     One aspect of Holmes Basic that often jumps out at new readers (since it is not found in other editions of D&D) is the scrolls on the Treasure Tables that have Potion, Ring or Wand spells. Another feature that is much less frequently noted is that only magic-users can use scrolls with clerical spells!

      True, clerical scrolls are not explicitly mentioned anywhere in the first printing of the Holmes Basic. But the Scroll Table indicates that scrolls can contain "any of the spells previously described, under Spells or described here as potions, rings, wands, etc" (pg 36). Here "spells" must include both magic-user and cleric spells, given that scrolls can also contain non-standard spells from magic-items. The section on Scrolls then goes on to state that "The spells written on scrolls can be read only by magic-users, except for the protection spells" (pg 37). Thus, together Holmes suggests that scrolls with clerical spells exist but can only be used by magic-users.

      It's easy to see where this interpretation came from in the OD&D rules. Monsters & Treasure, page 24, gives a 25% chance of a scroll having clerical spells, with no further indication on who can read these scrolls, but page 32 says, "All Scrolls are spell for Magic-Users, and regardless of the level of the spell they can be used by any Magic-User capable of reading them". Furthermore, the description of Read Magic in Vol I indicates that it is the "means by which incantations on an item or scroll are read. Without such a spell or similar device magic is unintelligible to even a Magic-User" (Holmes also retains this sentence in the description of this spell in the Basic rulebook). Magic-users are also the only ones indicated as being able to make magic items in both OD&D and Holmes. I imagine this is just an oversight in the OD&D rules, with the statement about cleric scrolls in Vol 2 being added without proper clarification in the other sections of the rules. However, Holmes presumably found these statements, and the lack of a similar Read Magic spell for clerics, to suggest that clerics could not read scrolls with magic spells, and clarified the text in the Basic book accordingly.

     There's also evidence that he allowed magic-users to cast cleric scrolls in own personal campaign. In his short story the "Sorceror's Jewel" (Dragon #46), Zereth the Elf casts a number of spells from scrolls provided by the "Patriarch of the Church of Saint Mellon", including one that is a "healing spell".  

     There are some implications for a Holmesian campaign. How would these scrolls be made? Perhaps by a magic-user (for magic item creation) and cleric (for the spell) working together. 

      Furthermore, having magic-users able to cast cleric spells from scrolls suggests that there is not a big of a difference between the two types of magic. Magic-users should be able to research spells that duplicate any of the cleric spells. Perhaps clerics are just a specialized type of magic-user, one that uses rituals & mnemonics instead of spell books to refresh their spell memory each morning. Spells are only "divinely" given in that the deity provides faith to the character.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Portown by Paleologos

Portown by Paleologos. Click for a larger view
     If you haven't seen it before, the map above is a fantastic rendering of Portown designed by Holmes aficionado Paleologos and posted on Dragonsfoot in 2010. It's based on the "medieval Aegean port-town of La Canea" (modern Chania in Crete), which adds versimilitude. The linked post also provides a sentence or two about each of the fifteen locations listed on the key.

     Paleologos has carefully constructed the map according Holmes' few details about Portown. Zenopus' tower (Area 4, now ruins) was "on the low hills overlooking Portown", "close to the sea cliff west of town", and next to the graveyard (Area 2, also on a hill as with some real world graveyards). There's a separate cemetery placed according to the mention in the ghouls' room in the dungeon (Room P; "a short dirt tunnel which ends blindly under the cemetery"). The thaumaturgist's tower (Area 5) is also properly placed with respect to the entrance to the dungeon, but also near the city streets where the ape in his tower can potentially escape to. The sea cave (Room M) in the dungeon is connected to the sea by a 500' tunnel. In town proper, where there are less clues with respect to areas and location, there's the Green Dragon Inn (Area 12), and Warriors For Hire (Area 13) from the Maze of Peril. Area 12 also includes private residences such as the home of Lemunda's father, "a powerful lord in the city".

Monday, November 26, 2012

Maze of Peril discounted at NK

Just a quick note to say that Noble Knight is having a sale, so Maze of Peril is currently 10% off ($8.96 + shipping). The sale is ending soon (I meant to post this earlier). Nine Six copies are currently in stock.

Here's the direct link.

If you are unfamiliar, this is J. Eric Holmes' 1986 D&D novel featuring Boinger the Halfling & Zereth the Elf, the same characters from his three short stories in Dragon magazine.

It's still cheaper if you order from the original publisher, but you will have to send check or money order unlike NK which takes cards & PayPal. See my previous post for more info on ordering from the publisher.

Friday, November 23, 2012

JEH Easter Egg

Detail of Sample Dungeon map, annotated

Here's another possible Holmes Basic Easter Egg that I can't believe I never noticed before: the room letters  in the Sample Dungeon vertically spell out the initials of John Eric Holmes. This could be coincidental, but Room J is quite a ways out of sequence with Rooms H, I, K, L and M, making it possible that it was deliberately placed above the Room E (empty room) and H. Below is the full map, annotated:

Click for larger view

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Delving Deeper demo game ends with dragonslaying

     Tonight we finished the first Delving Deeper demo game, which was started back in August by the co-author Simon Bull as a play-by-post on the OD&D Discussion boards. Most of the party (including several replacements) perished, but three magic-users and an elven fighter survived and killed a young black dragon ([AC 4, HD 3+2, 12 hp]). My character, Mot the Magicien, was amazingly among the characters that survived. His luck with the dice (rolled by the DM) was extraordinary. During an early battle with kobolds he was attacked six times, each of which missed, and he made two attacks, each of which hit and killed a kobold, and he charmed another. During the finale, he hit the dragon with flaming oil and a thrown dagger, and made his saving throw against dragon breath, taking 2 hit points of damage (out of his total of 4). 

The game ended with a twist by the DM:

"Tirandir, Ædelwynn, and Mot can hardly believe their eyes as they eagerly talk of how they will divide the treasure up.

"Very well done indeed, chapsss," says Malaveque [a chaotic elven M-U], who was ever lurking in the shadows behind them.

The three heroes hear Malaveque's scroll unravel, and turn about just in time to see him uttering it while the dangerous Lizardman guards him.

Malaveque's sleep spell goes off and the players tumble immediately into a slumber to dream of fabulous treasures unjustly stolen from them!"

Tirandir, Ædelwynn, and Mot awake some hours later as the first light of dawn falls into the lair from the swampy gap in the ceiling above. All are cold, stiff and grumpy from sleeping awkwardly on the damp, broken cobbles overnight.

They immediately note that Malaveque and the Lizardman are gone. Along with the pick of the treasure!

All that remains to them is 2,000 cp, 23,000 sp, and 6,000 gp. No doubt the treacherous elf couldn't carry any more!

But at least you have your lives, and that is something to be thankful for!"

The remaining coin, however, is enough for each of us survivors to reach 2nd level.
And OOC we learned that the treacherous Malaveque was a later victim of his own greed:

"For your interest, the magic-user scroll from the dragon's hoard was cursed, and the cunning Malaveque was magically transported to an alternate (and rather unfriendly, we suppose!) plane of existence when he opened it."

By seeming coincidence, layout of the illustrated Delving Deeper booklets was also finished today, with links to download the pdfs being sent out to those who ordered the boxed set. 
For anyone interested, the unillustrated Delving Deeper rules can be downloaded for free from RPGnow or DriveThruRPG as a bundle of three pdfs.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Kingsport as Portown

Map of Marblehead, MA, insipration for Lovecraft's Kingsport

     Previously, in "How Zenopus Met His Doom", I discussed similarities between Holmes' Sample Dungeon & Lovecraft's short story, The Festival, set in the fictional New England town of Kingsport. The geography of the Sample Dungeon also fits well with Marblehead, the real-world town on which Kingsport is based. Holmes describes his wizard's tower as "on the low hills overlooking Portown" and "close to the sea cliff west of the town, and appropriately, next door to the graveyard". Marblehead has several cemeteries in the hills overlooking the town, including near the sea to the west of the town (Marblehead is on a peninsula so the sea is to both the east and west of the town). I have no idea whether Holmes himself was aware of this, but he was familiar with books about the Cthulhu Mythos, as mentioned in his letter in The Dragon #16. Regardless, the similarities make Kingsport/Marblehead a useful model for a map of Portown.

     In addition to The Festival, Lovecraft's fictional Kingsport is also the setting for two other Lovecraft stories: The Terrible Old Man (1921) and The Strange High House in the Mist (1931). Lovecraft scholar Joshi notes that this later tale is also inspired by two other New England locations (Magnolia; Mother Ann) having high sea cliffs, as well as "a passage in Dunsany's Chronicles of Rodriguez (1922) about the home of a wizard on the top of a crag" (Note by S. T. Joshi in The Dreams in the Witch House, pg 431).  An excellent graphic adaptation of Strange High House can be read here.

Update - An 1872 map of Marblehead, showing the Waterside Cemetery to the west:

Marblehead, 1872 map, click for larger view

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Lizard Rider by Moebius

A few weeks ago a reader named Ivan sent me the above image by the late artist Moebius (Jean Giraud), which is from his art book Chaos (Marvel, 1991). Ivan noted that the composition is very similar to the artwork by David C. Sutherland III from page 3 of the Basic rulebook, which you can see above in the banner for my blog. Each shows a rider with a pole arm and headgear, seated on the back of a giant lizard with spikes running down its back, which is perched on the edge of a rocky cliff. The tail of the lizard is even curving in the same direction in each. Ivan also pointed out that the white flyer is from Moebius' series Arzach. I don't know of any particular connection between Moebius and Dungeons & Dragons, although he was working on Metal Hurant, the original French version of Heavy Metal magazine, during the years the Holmes rulebook was in print (1977-1981). 

It occurred to me that Sutherland's image was possibly inspired by the Dewback in Star Wars, which came out in late May 1977, just a few months before Holmes Basic in July. The dewback barely appears in Star Wars, but was eventually well-known among kids due to being a Kenner toy. However, a partial shot was featured in some publicity material accompanying the film. Note the right-handed pole being held by the stormtrooper:

1977 publicity still for Star Wars showing dewback with "sandtrooper"
 This image has been stuck in my mind for years due the cartoon version featured on the bottom of the Star Wars lunchbox I owned when I was in elementary school:

Cartoon version of the same image, from the bottom of the Star Wars lunchbox. Image from Jeff's Old Toys blog.

Friday, November 9, 2012

New "basic level" AD&D adventure from WOTC

Illustration by David S. LaForce (DSL) from one of the the original A-series modules

Next summer, Wizards is releasing a hardback compilation of the A-series of modules and as a bonus it will include a new introductory module, A0 Danger at Darkshelf Quarry.

"Added to the collection is an all-new fifth adventure -- A0: Danger at Darkshelf Quarry -- that you can use to kick off an AD&D campaign that pits a group of adventurers against the evil Slave Lords! Module A0, designed for levels 1-3, sets the stage for events that unfold throughout the remainder of the "A" series.""

According to the product page, the compilation will include the original modules (rather than the later A1-4 supermodule), and is "complete with original black-and-white interior art" (like the picture shown above). If we are lucky, perhaps A0 will feature some new work by the original artists such as DSL, Dee or Otus.

A1 is for levels 4-7, and the sequels are for increasing levels up to 11 (see this chart at the Acaeum), so this is a smart marketing move on the part of WOTC, as it allows them to sell a single AD&D product for levels 1-10+. And probably with the hope that everyone that bought the reprints from this year will buy the new compilation.

As far as I know, this is the first "new" 1E AD&D module to be released by TSR/WOTC since L3 Deep Dwarven Delve in 1999 as part of the Silver Anniversary Set. Hopefully it is the first of more! It feels as if AD&D is back in print and being supported. 

Thanks to Echohawk at the Acaeum for bringing this to my attention. He also mentioned that the Unearthed Arcana reprint will include the errata from Dragon Magazine, giving a second reason to buy it (the original having notoriously poor binding).

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

More Holmes Basic T-Shirts

The Wizards merchandise website now has more old school t-shirt designs, including this one called "Red Dragon Cover" with the Holmes Box cover, minus the logo and product number. (Here's my previous post on the first shirt design). Confusingly, the website is still calling this a pre-sale, and the linked FAQ says that it ended 11/5, but the shopping cart still seems to be functioning. I haven't placed an order, but the price of each shirt is still $25, plus $1.25 tax, and the shipping calculator is giving me a quote of $9.45, for a total of almost $36 for a single shirt. It appears that additional shirts can be added to an order for about $2.

Another design shows a composite of monsters by Dave Trampier, incluiding his warrior vs minotaur (orc?) from the Holmes rulebook: