Saturday, December 29, 2012

Airfix Robin Hood

Airfix Robin Hood figures, as shown on Plastic Soldier Review

I've never had many miniatures, although I will (soon?) be getting a large batch of them  from the Reaper Bones Kickstarter. Recently I was looking for some cheaper plastic figures for my kids to play with, and I was surprised to see that the Airfix Robin Hood sets mentioned by Gygax in Chainmail in 1971 are still available new. On page 8, he wrote: 

"The LGTSA Medieval Minatures Rules ... may be used equally well with any scale -- including the inexpensive Airfix "Robin Hood" and "Sherriff of Nottingham" 25mm plastic figures."

Apparently these sets were reissued a few years ago, and thus can still be purchased new on Amazon or Ebay for $10 or less. The figures are the same although the color of the plastic may be different.

From the reviews on Amazon I think these figures will be too fragile for the kids, so I ended up ordering a set of larger (60 mm) Jecsan Crusader Knights off Ebay. Though I'm still tempted to get a set of the cheap Airfix figures to join the forthcoming Bones minis.
Some folks paint the Airfix figures in elaborate fashion:

The same Robin Hood set shown above, but painted by Ratch as posted here


I remembered that Gygax also wrote in a 1972 article, "Fantasy Battles", about using the Airfix Robin Hood figures as Hobbits vs 40 mm Elastolin figures.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Quote of the Week: Holmes on The Hobbit

     "Literary inspiration for the worlds of the fantasy role-playing games comes from many sources. The fantasy worlds of Dungeons & Dragons and Chivalry & Sorcery are based on the myth and fairy tale. This field of literature is dominated by the work of one man in this century: J. R. R. Tolkien. Without the popularity of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, fantasy role playing would not have found the wide public it now enjoys. Despite this, most fantasy games are closer to the wild, blood-thirsty worlds of Fritz Leiber, Robert E. Howard, and L. Sprague de Camp ... As Dungeon Master, I have drawn extensively on the works of A. Merritt, Andre Norton, Clark Ashton Smith, Lord Dunsany, Edgard Rice Burroughs and H. Rider Haggard" - J. Eric Holmes, Fantasy Role-Playing Games, 1981, pg 46.

The animated Hobbit film premiered 35 years ago in November 1977, just about six months after the Basic Set was first released in June 1977. A big year that also saw the release of Star Wars in May, Tolkien's Silmarillion in September, and the first AD&D hardcover, the Monster Manual, in late December.

More Holmes on Tolkien

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Holmes for the Holidays II (the winner is...)

Click for a larger view

Original Post from 12/12 (see updates below):

Ho, Ho, Holmes! 

For the holidays, I will once again be giving away a surplus Holmes Basic box set, pictured above, that I acquired during the past year. Same rules as last year: if you are interested, add a comment in reply to this post. By the end of the weekend I'll treat the list of comments as a table and roll randomly for the winner, using dice from a Holmes Basic set. The goal here is to get Holmes Basic to someone who doesn't yet have one, so if you already flush please don't participate.

I'll cover postage (media mail) for any U.S. address. I can ship to other countries but I ask that you cover the difference (any amount over $4) in shipping by PayPal; so if you are overseas please only participate if you have a PayPal account and willing to chip in the extra.

More details on the item:
The rulebook is a 2nd edition, Nov 1978, and is in very nice shape. The inside is very clean - no marks that I could see - although the map of the Sample Dungeon has a slight printing defect - part of the background is gray rather than black. The reference sheet is attached. The B1 module is in excellent shape but more usd, with most of the keys filled in with pencilled numbers & letters from the monster & treasure list. There's also a smudge inside the cover and a piece of tape stuck to the page with the lists. The box is fairly worn with some split and taped corners, creases, and torn-off surfaces. But it still does its job of sturdily protecting the contents. Alas, no dice are included.

Update: Note that I have moderation on for any posts over 1 day old, so your comments to this post will not appear until I approve them. I set this up so I could get rid of that onerous captcha but keep spam comments at bay. I have been getting occasional spam comments in the posts I made about the WOTC T-shirts, so I'm going to leave the moderation on. After you post a comment, you should see this message:

Update #2, 12/17: Okay, I'm stopping the commenting now. 30 commentors. Will roll the dice soon.

Update #3, 12/19: Tonight I had my trusty assistant make the roll. To generate a random 1-30, we used the method suggested in the back of the Holmes rulebook: "If 1-30 or 1-36 are desired, read the 6-sider with the 20- or 12-sided die, with 1-2 equalling no addition, 3-4 adding 10, and 5-6 adding 20" (pg 45 of the 2nd printing). Note that the original white 20-sided die from the Holmes set is numbered 0-9 twice. And here is the result:

2 + 20 = 22. By my count, the savage halfling is the winner! I have sent an email to the address on his blog notifying him. 

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays 2012 to all! 

Until next year!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Treacherous Pathway to Quasqueton

Click for larger view
 A brief follow-up to yesterday's post: I later noticed that in this drawing Sutherland may have included the "treacherous pathway which leads up to the craggy outcropping of black rock". It's marked above in red. The portion at the bottom especially appears to be a path, marked by Sutherland with horizontal lines, which curve behind the rocks with the stump. Past these rocks it may then continue up the cliffside to the top. On the other hand, the treacherous pathway is supposed to lead to a cave opening to the first level of the dungeon rather than the watch tower. Perhaps the cave is right behind the rocks with the stump. 

By the way, the watch tower is not detailed in the module, but attempts have been made to flesh it out, for example the one here on Dragonsfoot by Shadowshack.

Update: The crevasse to the right might be another location for the entrance cave. I've circled this on the picture.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Quote of the Week: Quasqueton Exterior

The watch tower of Quasqueton as depicted by David Sutherland; scan from Old School FRP

"Far from the nearest settlement, away from traveled routes, and high upon a craggy hill, the new construction took shape. Carved out of the rock protrusion which crested the heavily forested hill, this mystical hideaway was well hidden, and its rumored existence was never common knowledge. Even less well known was its name, the Caverns of Quasqueton ... Vast amounts of rock were removed and tumbled off the rough cliffs into large piles now overgrown with vegetation. A single tower was constructed above ground for lookout purposes, even though there was little to see other than a hilly, forested wilderness for miles around" (pg 6; bolding added for emphasis)

"The Caverns of Quasqueton ... are hewn from a great rock outcropping at the crest of a large wooded hill. Winds buffet the hill continuously, blowing and whistling through the trees, vines, and other vegetation which blanket the prominence on all sides" (pg 7)

"A cave-like opening, somewhat obscured by vegetation, is noticeable at the end of a treacherous pathway which leads up to the craggy outcropping of black rock. By sweeping aside some of the vines and branches the opening becomes easily accessible to human-size explorers. The opening leads straight into the rock formation, with a 10'
wide corridor leading the way to a large wooden door ... " (pg 8)

-from B1 In Search of the Unknown, 1978 by Mike Carr     

Notes: The image above is a great visual aid for players from the back cover of the original monochrome version of B1, which was included in some versions of the Basic Set. When the module was revised in 1981 for the Moldvay Basic set and reissued with a new brown-colored cover, this image was unfortunately not included.

(I'm starting this quote of the week feature to highlight some of my favorite passages from Holmes Basic & the writings of J. Eric Holmes)  

Update: This image possibly shows the pathway/entrance to Quasqueton. See this post for an annotated image. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Holmes Blog Profile: Bogeyman Tone

     Bogeyman Tone is a relatively new blog, started this past Nov by a brand new (!) D&D player, and subtitled "Getting used to the Holmes way of things…"

     Early on, he posted:

     "As a newbie to the the whole D&D lark I’ve made the decision to use Holmes as my introductory rule-set. I’m attracted to the simplicity of early edition D&D and Holmes obviously has that in spades. My understanding of the Holmes edition is that it can also be dangerous and unforgiving, another appealing characteristic as I grew up with the gothic grimdark of the Warhammer world and it’s an atmosphere that I’m quite attached to.  Additionally, Holmes is open-ended enough to allow all sorts of additions, bolt-ons and amendments to the rules, and I think I may eventually want to tinker."

     The author then began developing a very interesting Hollow Earth campaign using the Holmes rules with inspiration from Pellucidar and other Inner Earth tales, detailed in a series of posts. For example:

     "PCs are generated as per Holmes, except that of course they will be stone-age, primitive versions of Clerics, Fighting Men, Magic Users and Thieves (and obviously equipped as such, with an X% chance of possessing some arcane technological device of the Titans). Demi-Human classes remain the same except for the following:
  • Halflings are primitive pygmies
  • Dwarves are albino troglodyte types
  • Elves are remnants of the Atlans
     Alternatively, PCs may elect to be a Stranger in a Strange Land. The premise:
  • All hollow-earth stories involve a visitor: someone who, either by accident or design finds themselves thrust into the earth’s core and subject to frequent and harrowing adventure. Thus, the Stranger."
     In conjunction with this, he also started some interesting threads over on the Holmes forum on the OD&D Discussion boards, such as Suggestion for Gods in a Holmes Campaign.

     However, most recently he posted that his players want something more traditional, so he's going to start them with the Zenopus Sample Dungeon from the Holmes rulebook.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Holmes Basic Community on G+

I've just created a Holmes Basic Community of G+. I'll start posting links to my blog posts over there if you want to follow them there (rather than here), plus other random comments and links to other blogs that may not warrant a full post here.

It's private, so you'll have to request to join or see the content, although the community is publicly searchable on Google+ (i.e., anyone can search and find it, and then request to join). 

Below is a link if you wish to join. You'll need to be a Google Plus member first.

Holmes Basic G+ Community

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Skullcap Dungeon

Illustration of the entrance to Skullcap dungeon by Keith Parkinson

     I'd never looked at DL3 Dragons of Hope (1984, Tracy Hickman) before yesterday, so I didn't know that it contained a dungeon similar to the "Skull Mountain" dungeon in the Basic rulebook. Over on the Dungeon Fantastic blog, Peter has been reviewing the Dragonlance series, looking for the good bits that could be used elsewhere ("Salvaging Dragonlance"). It's interesting to me since I only had DL1 back-in-the-day, and never read any of the other modules. I knew from DL1 that some of them at least had cool maps. So after Peter mentioned the Skullcap dungeon I dug up a copy and took a look, and sure enough Skullcap is another one with an interesting map. Skullcap was once the mountain fortress of the wizard Fistandantilus, but "was blasted until only the shattered and glazed form a giant skull remain". Below is the cross-section map of Skullcap from the front inside cover of the module; cartography is credited to Dennis Kauth and Elizabeth Riedel. Much like the Holmes cross-section, the dungeon can be entered through the eyes (Area 47) or the mouth (Area 48) of the skull. As in Skull Mountain, the mouth of Skullcap leads directly to Level One of the dungeon, which is given a separate map. Then there's the large crater at the top (Area 49), which descends through a vertical shaft to the bottom of the dungeon, somewhat like "The Pit" in the Holmes cross-section. I won't give away what's found in the bottom of Skullcap, but it's certainly not for Basic level characters!

Addendum: So the question is, was Tracy Hickman influenced by the Holmes Basic cross-section, or is this coincidence?