Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Work in Progress: DIY Cards for DUNGEON!

DIY Monster Card for DUNGEON!

I learned how to play the DUNGEON! boardgame (1981) shortly after Holmes Basic, and from the same brothers. I still have my original copy from back then, a bit battered. After playing it again numerous times over the past weekend I thought it would be fun to expand the range of monsters and treasures in the game. The duplicate monsters in my set are annotated with numbers cross-referencing the extra monsters from the old Dragon articles, but with blanks cards these could be written out, as well as adding brand new ones. So tonight I started working on blank templates for the cards. See the prototype of the first above, made from a table in Microsoft Word. When printed it will be cut out, folded along the dotted line and taped or glued to yield a card of the same dimensions as the originals (2" x 1.5"). The monster image on the left is public domain art of a dragon from the 19th century (from here). The rectangle on the right is for a picture of the new monster, and the line is for its name. I'll be making another version of this card for Traps, as well as a Treasure Card and perhaps a Spell Card. Eventually I'll put these together in a single sheet pdf and make them available to all.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Blue Book in Swords & Wizardry

Mounted Lizardman from Swords & Wizardry Core Rules, 4th printing, pg 23

I didn't sign up for the Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day, as I've never used rules, but I thought I'd point out a few influences of Holmes Basic I noticed in the S&W 4th printing pdf.

First, in S&W the Option 2 for Initiative/Order of Battle (pg 28) is called the "Blue Book Method", and accurately follows the order of combat from Holmes Basic, which is Spells - Missiles - Melee - Movement, the actions in each phase going in order of Dexterity scores. The Holmes Basic order of combat was strongly influenced by Warlock (1975), an OD&D supplement written by students at CalTech, and is a good option to include in S&W as OD&D as originally written doesn't give clear guidance on this.  

Second is the brief parrying option mentioned in S&W: "Another possibility is to let any character parry, but with a maximum effect of -2 to the enemy attack" (pg 11). This is similar to "The Parry" in Holmes Basic, pg 21, which gives the same penalty, and has its roots in Chainmail: "any weapon 1 class higher to three classes lower than the attacker the defender may parry the blow by subtracting 2 From the attacker's roll, but he has no counter blow" (pg 25). Parrying is also found in Warlock in a different form.

Third is artistic: S&W has a few homages to art by David Sutherland. The first, which I believe is by Matt Finch himself, is above and shows a lizardman with a polearm mounted on a giant lizard, and bearing a human skull. Compare with the artwork from the Foreword of the Blue Book in the banner at the top of this blog. The perspective is cleverly changed so that after all of these years we finally get to see what the lizardman was looking at. The second by Chad Thorson is a jawless skull with a melting candle on top, similar to the one on page 37 of the Blue Book; see this on the entry page for the Zenopus Archives site. (Update: This is a coincidence, however, as the artist had never seen the original when he made his drawing; see his comment below). The third, presumably also by Matt, is a sample cross-section laid out in a manner similar to the Skull Mountain cross-section.

Holmes Basic at its root is OD&D as interpreted by Holmes, and being a retroclone of OD&D, S&W should make for a fine expansion for Holmes Basic.

Jawless skull with candle from S&W 4th, pg 46
Sample dungeon cross section from S&W 4th, pg 72

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Basic Rulebook - New Print Variant

Back cover of newly discovered "6th printing"; screenshot from ebay auction

A keen-eyed Acaeum member, Lurker Below, alerted me to a completed ebay auction with pictures of a previously unknown printing of the Basic rulebook. It's a variation of the 2nd edition, November 1978, with prices missing from the back cover. This follows the general trend of earlier TSR product listings including prices, and later ones having them removed. The module B1 follows this trend, and was in fact often packaged together with the 2nd edition rulebook in the Basic Set. Updating the known printing list, we can place this newly discovered variant as the sixth printing overall:

Holmes Basic rulebook printings
1st edition, 1st print: code F116-R, Lizard Logo
1st edition, 2nd print: code 2001, Lizard Logo, Jan 1978
1st edition, 3rd print: code 2001, Lizard Logo, May 1978

2nd edition, 1st print: code 2001, Wizard Logo, Nov 1978, back cover B1 price $4.49
2nd edition, 2nd print: code 2001, Wizard Logo, Nov1978, back cover B1 price $5.49
2nd edition, 3rd print: code 2001, Wizard Logo, Nov 1978, no prices on back cover

3rd edition, 1st print: code 2001, Wizard Logo, Dec 1979, no ISBN on pg 1
3rd edition, 2nd print: code 2001, Wizard Logo, Dec 1979, ISBN on pg 1, "USING THE DICE OR CHITS" on pg 46
3rd edition, 3rd print: code 2001, Wizard Logo, Dec 1979, ISBN on pg 1, "USING THE DICE" on pg 46

Silver Anniversary reprint, 1999

Here are the the cover and title page of the newly discovered printing:

See also: List of Changes Made to the Holmes Basic Rulebook

4/16 Update
 Plaag on the Acaeum writes: 
"2nd edition, 3rd print Holmes Basic rulebook would probably be after the 3rd & 4th print PHB were out (so 6+/1979) as they still had prices in them."

This fits well with the supposed timeline: the 2nd edition first appeared in Nov 78 and the 3rd edition in Dec 79, so the 2nd edition, 3rd printing should be in the later part of 1979.

Several other copies of the printing have already been reported , so I imagine it's actually fairly common, just never distinguished before. The Acaeum only tracks the boxed set so the rulebook printings have only been hashed out in piecemeal. I have one 2nd edition, with prices, so I rely on others to notice any discrepancies in copies they have versus my list.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

David Sutherland Day

Sutherland's art from the title page of the Basic rulebook

Today marks the birthday of my favorite TSR artist, the late David C. Sutherland III (aka DCSIII), who passed away too young (age 56) in 2005. So I'm designating April 4th as "David Sutherland Day". Dave's work defines the look of D&D in 1977, when his art graced the cover of the Holmes Basic Set and first AD&D hardback, The Monster Manual. His work also defined the look of Holmes Basic, being used for the both the cover as well as the title page (posted above) and foreward (the lizard rider that graces the title of my blog). He was also responsible for most of the artwork for the first Basic module, B1 In Search of the Unknown.

Tome of Treasures has a page with an extensive listing of his TSR credits.

Last fall his Basic Set artwork was featured in a line of retro t-shirts from WOTC. And earlier this year, his original painting was recovered from a crate at the WOTC offices.

Please post a comment on what your favorite work(s) of his.

Here's another DCSIII birthday post on the Perpetual Role blog, with a gallery of his images (some NSFW).

Here are a few somewhat obscure pieces from Swords & Spells (1976) that are very much in the same style as the Holmes title page piece:

A Walk Through the Tomb of Horrors

The party prepares to investigate S1 Tomb of Horrors. Note the wizard's classic blue astronomer robes and cap, familiar to anyone who cut their teeth on Holmes Basic

If you missed it, on April Fools' Day WOTC posted two awesome "walk through" cartoon maps as a tie-in to the Dungeons of Dread compilation. The first is for S1 Tomb of Horrors, and the second is for S2 White Plume Mountain (warning: these cartoons contain major spoilers for the modules if you ever plan to run a character through these modules).

The artist's name is Jason Thompson, who also "draws comics based on H.P. Lovecraft stories at" I've previously read his comic for The Strange High House in the Mist, which I recommended in a post last fall. Faithful to the story (all words by Lovecraft, I believe) and with great B&W artwork.

Update: I read somewhere today that S3 is on the way.

As a completely unrelated bonus, here's another great April Fool's Day treat from Science Magazine: Stonehenge Site of First Rock Concert. Includes a familiar quote from a one Mr. Tufnel...