Friday, August 30, 2013

The Great Stone Face

The Great Stone Face vs The Great Stone Skull

Recently I learned that the famous rock formation known as The Old Man of the Mountain was also referred to as The Great Stone Face. The Old Man, which unfortunately collapsed in 2003, was located on Cannon Mountain in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Nathaniel Hawthorne traveled to the area in 1832, which later inspired him to write the short story, The Great Stone Face (1850). Incidentally, Hawthorne was a favorite of H.P. Lovecraft as related in his celebrated essay Supernatural Horror in Literature

The Great Stone Face was a mimetolith, a natural rock formation that resembles another object such as a face. Here in Holmes-country, our most famous rock-face is the Great Stone Skull in the Sample Cross Section (pg 38), colloquially known as Skull Mountain. In the past I've assumed the Skull to be carved rather than natural, but an alternate origin could have the site for the dungeon being chosen because of a pre-existing mimetolith. The evocative 1950s postcard of the moonlit Old Man shown above could even be used as an illustration for a Skull Mountain type-dungeon.

Comparing the Old Man and the Skull, we see that each appears in a left-facing profile at the top of a mountain. In fact, the Old Man could only be seen when viewed in this direction. And the phrasing of "Great Stone Face" is very similar to "Great Stone Skull". I've previously noted that the exact phrase "Great Stone Skull" appears in Shadows in the Skull, a 1975 Conan sequel by de Camp and Carter. In the 1940s, de Camp attended a Naval Training School at Dartmouth in NH, about one hour from the Old Man. There's no direct evidence that the Old Man inspired either the Conan story or the Cross-Section, but the similarities are intriguing.

Another "Great Stone Face" appears on page 30 of the Greyhawk Supplement (1975) by Gygax and Kuntz:

This drawing, apparently by Gygax himself, brings to mind an Easter Island moai and is not  further explained, although page 62 includes the following in a list of Tricks and Traps:

"A great bas-relief face which if looked upon will either bestow some worthwhile
knowledge or increase to the beholder or else cause him to save versus magic or else
be turned into a wart on its face or something similar (see A. Merritt's FACE IN THE
ABYSS for a good example)".

The reader might conflate these two conceptions, and one sentence in the Face in the Abyss (1923) does describe the titular face as the "great stone Face", but the consensus is that the "Enigma" and "Bas-relief face" were two separate locations in Castle Greyhawk.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Dungeon Crawl #3

Cover of Dungeon Crawl #3, screenshot of the Lulu preview, art by Victor Vasnetsov, 1882

Wayne Rossi of the Semper Initiativus Unum blog has just released Dungeon Crawl #3. The links for it are pasted below. I'm happy to have made a small contribution, an article called "Lesser Magic Items" that describes twenty weak magic items for 1st level characters. These are written with Holmes Basic in mind but really can be used for any OSR D&D. It's in the vein of my list of One Hit Point Monsters. Wayne arranged for three pictures of the items by John Blaszczyk to accompany the article which is quite neat for me to see. This is my first article in an independent publication outside my blog/site.

The centerpiece of the zine is "The Dungeons of Xenopus, Level 2" by Wayne which serves as a continuation of the Holmes Basic Sample Dungeon, although he notes it can easily be used on its own or as part of another dungeon. The map is nicely rendered by Dyson Logos with a circular layout by Wayne true to the first level of the dungeon. Wayne also adds touches to the dungeon to connect it thematically with the 1st level and Holmes' other writings, and there two illustrations also by John Blaszczyk to accompany particular encounters. You'll have to read or play in it to learn about these!

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Interview with Wayne about the zine:

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Magic Item Reference Sheet

Screenshot of the Magic Item Reference Sheet - click for a larger view

The latest reference sheet that I've created for Holmes Ref is a one-sheet listing all of the magic items from Holmes Basic and a brief description of the effects of each. It takes the form of a single combined table numbered 1-200 (roll d100 and d6, adding 100 if the d6 is 4-6). The chances of obtaining any particular magic item should be identical to the chance of obtaining via the nested tables in the original.

Having one extra space in the weapon section at the bottom, I chose to add the Hammer +2, mentioned in the text of the Magical Weapons section (pg 46) but not included in the original tables. I reduced the chance of rolling a Hammer +1 from 2% to 1.5%, giving the Hammer +2 a 1/2% chance.

View/Print/Download the sheet (pdf) here:
Magic Item Reference Sheet v1.0

Previous sheets are available on the site here.

In the post about Holmes Ref I linked above I posted a portion of an expanded magic items table. I still plan to finish the expanded one that I posted a portion of above, but right now I'm focusing on the "basics" to try and get a working version of Holmes Ref finished.