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Updated: 2 hours 29 min ago

The Hermit Fortress

Sat, 04/22/2017 - 21:49

A strange rock column rises from the rocky wastes. If you dare, try to climb up to the Hermit Fortress using the ropes and platforms - but watch out for the beasts...
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Gygax's Killer Die

Fri, 04/21/2017 - 12:20
Gary's EN World avatar featuring his Futurama character
As a follow-up to yesterday's post on the Marked 20-sided Die, here are some quotes from Gygax on his own Marked d20. Thanks to T. Foster at the Mystical Trash Heap blog for bringing this to my attention.

"Those low-impact d20s did get pretty round in short order--well short order in terms of gaming time. Rob Kuntz had one that would stand on a point now and again. I still have a couple that I use when playing OD&D as the DM. One with gray faces on 10 sides is a "killer" die that comes up on those faces a lot--the 11-20 range, of course! Can't find it now, but it's likely in a box of old dice somewhere in the basement here. I have a second one with red faces that's as good for the monsters' rolls, of course" (EnWorld Q&A post)

"As it happens I have quite a number of the old low-impact dice around here somewhere. The points on the d4 were very sharp but wore down quickly. Rob had a d20 that would stand on a worn point about one roll in 50 : )"

"Somewhere I lost my d20 with half the faces colored gray. It was my "killer die" that rolled an inordinate number of 20s, and the players really hated it : )" (EnWorld Q&A post)

Following this, T. Foster wrote
"I played with you in "Necropolis" at Glathricon (in Evansville, IN) in 1988 and am pretty sure I encountered your infamous 'killer' d20 -- it was white, numbered 0-9 twice, and rolled awfully well (for you, badly for us :) )."

2/6/04 - in response to T. Foster
"It was either my gray or red "killer die," undoubtedly. It has since sent a large number of adventurers to their doom when rolled on behalf of my OD&D game "Old Guard Kobolds." The ninth party of six or more 2nd level characters fell to them at JanCon last month" (EnWorld Q&A post)

(A few minor edits to Gary's comments to correct obvious typos)
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Marked 20-sided Die

Thu, 04/20/2017 - 13:40
TSR's original dice set was included in Holmes Basic, Gamma World and sold separately
In the 1970s, rolling 1-20 wasn't as straightforward as today. The original dice set available from TSR included a white 20-sided dice, but it was numbered (and pre-inked) with 0-9 twice rather than 1-20. So these dice were actually d10s, and were most easily used to generate percentiles by rolling the same die twice in row or by rolling two different colored dice together. TSR even sold a separate white and pink set of Percentile Generators.

But since the beginning D&D has always needed d20s, for attacks and saving throws. The earliest D&D rulebooks don't explain how to use the 10-sided die to generate 1-20, but by the time of Holmes Basic, there was a recognized need to explain this, as the rulebook teaches two different ways to roll 1-20 with these dice. One is near the end of the book in the section "Using the Dice", which isn't in the Holmes manuscript, and so was added by TSR. This method uses a secondary "control" die to determine if the number is 1-10 or 11-20:

"For example: to generate 1-20, roll the 20-sided die and 6-sided die, and if the 6-sided die comes up 1-3 , the number shown on the 20-sider is 1-10 (1-0), and if the 6-sider comes up 4-6, add 10 to the 20-sided die and its numbers become 11-20 (1-0)".

The other method is described in the main part of the text in the section on Saving Throws (page 14). This was written by Holmes as it is found word-for-word in the manuscript:

"Numbers can be generated as follows: Mark one set of faces on a 20-sided die by coloring with a red permanent marker on one of each faces — 0, 1, 2, 3, etc. The marked faces will be considered to have a ten added to them — 1 = 11, 2 = 12, 3 = 13, etc. Unmarked
0 = 10, marked 0 = 20. This die will also be used to determine the results of combat from the combat table."

The picture at the top of this post (from an Ebay auction that indicated the dice were from a Basic set) shows an example of this: the owner has colored half of the faces of the 20-sider in a red color. The white faces represent 1-10, and the red faces represent 11-20. As I mentioned above these dice were pre-inked, so one couldn't just color the two sets of 0-9 with different colored crayons, the faces had to be marked to differentiate them.

This method is referenced again in the section "Combat Melee":

"The probability of a hit is converted into a random number of 1 to 20 (the specially marked die is recommended)" (page 18) and "A 20-sided die must be marked or colored so that
one set of sides 0-9 is different from the other set. Count 0 as a 10. The marked set is then read as if 10 had been added to the roll (11-20), treating 0 as 10 or 20. This die is used for all combat resolution" (page 19)

Holmes probably learned this marked die method from other gamers, as there are earlier examples of it. For example, below is an auction photo from last year, for an auction you may have heard about, an original woodgrain D&D set that sold for over $20,000. Included with the set in the auction was a 20-sided die and a note (with the date of ~1974 given by the auctioneer). In the note we see similar instructions, with the white half of the die being 1-10 and the orange half being 11-20.

In 1979, the 1st edition DMG still assumes use of these 20-sided d10s in the section "Dice", on page 10:

"If a d20 is used either 1-20 (assuming the use of a standard d20 which is numbered 0-9 twice without coloring one set of faces to indicate that those faces have 10 added to the number appearing) or 1-40 (assuming that one set of faces is colored) can be gotten by adding 0 if 1 or 2 is rolled on the d4 and 10 or 20 (depending on the die type) if a 3 or 4 is rolled"

The structure of this sentence is complicated, but Gygax is saying to use d4 control dice to turn 1-10 into 1-20 (for an unmarked die) or 1-20 into 1-40 (for a marked die).

This was a short-lived era as other manufacturers began cranking out dice. 

At some point (I don't have a date but will update this post if I find it), 20-sided dice that were not pre-inked appeared, which allowed for coloring the two sets of numbers with different colored crayons. You still had to remember which color was low (1-10) and which was high (11-20). I have a dice like this that I received in an auction a while back (I can't even remember what it came with):

I also don't know when the first 20-sided dice that was numbered 1-20 first appeared, but the standard d10 appeared around 1980, possibly debuting at Gen Con that year

In the last printing of the Holmes Basic rulebook, dated Dec 1979 but certainly from 1980 as it is the third version with that date, the section on "Using the Dice" was revised to refer to "the assortment of 4-, 6-, 8-, 10-, 12- and 20-sided dice" (page 46), and the portion about the control die no longer refers to 1-20. Holmes' instructions for making a marked d20 is still found in the section on Saving Throws, however.

The Acaeum reports that some sets of Holmes Basic include a set of six dice. I've never actually seen one of these sets. It does seem strange TSR would revise the rulebook to refer to the 10-sided die without actually including it. But I'd like to see it confirmed that a set shipped this way versus having dice added later. A complicating factor is that Holmes Basic set was sold up until at least 1986 (I have a catalog from then listing it), so some may have had 6-dice sets added to them at later date.

Certainly by the time of the Moldvay Basic set and Dragon Dice, both from 1981, we have the standard 1980s set of six dice, including both the 10-sided die and the 20-sided die numbered 1-20.

See also:
Veteran of the Dice Wars
TSR Ads in Boys Life 1977-1982

And Jon Peterson's articles on the history of dice in D&D: 
How Gaming Got Its Dice
The Origins of Dice Notation
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Gygax Interview in Drache #3 October 1984

Fri, 04/14/2017 - 19:06
Cover of Drache #3, image from hereOver on the Acaeum, a poster named stebehil has been collecting and documenting all of TSR's German D&D releases in a dedicated thread. Yesterday he posted a translation of a Gygax interview from the magazine Drache, issue 3, October 1984. Drache means Dragon in German so this was the mean to be the equivalent of Dragon magazine. 

The cover of this issue is shown above, and teases the Gygax interview ("Interview mit Gary Gygax") as well a short tournament D&D Module ("D&D Turnier Modul") for a single thief character (thanks to stebehil for clarification of this info).

The wizard on the cover is very reminiscent of TSR's evil wizard Kelek (used in licensed products of the time and appearing in one episode of the D&D cartoon), particularly the color scheme and claw-like fingernails:

The interview is pretty much what you'd expect from a 1984 Gygax interview - he mentions his work in Hollywood with the D&D Entertainment Corporation - but it's fun to read a "new" one from Gygax while he was still at TSR (he left about one year later, in October 1985).

Read the Gygax interview in Drache #3 here

(Keep in mind that his answers were translated to German for the article and then back to English for this transcription, so some meaning may be garbled)

From a Holmes Basic perspective, there's one mention referring to the design of B2, so I've added that to my page Gygax on B2.

He also makes an offhand reference to an encounter that appears to be of a type he included in the Dungeon Geomorphs Set One: Basic Dungeons, which were included in the first three printings of Holmes Basic.

In the interview Gygax says:

"I also like it if you use tricks while designing a dungeon, like an illusion of a golden dragon over a basilisk, old men who are friendly the first time and deadly the second. These are fun things."

Compare with Room 1 in the Geomorph sample encounters, which are transcribed here:

1.  A rudely furnished room with an old holy man (lawful/good) who has sworn a vow of silence. He will not fight if attacked. He takes only 2 hit points. There is a pottery flask containing his drinking water in one corner; a small container near his pallet has a handful of lentils (all of his food); there are some rags hanging from a nail in the wall, and a wooden begging bowl on a rough wooded table near the door holds 1 silver piece and 3 coppers. If he is impolitely treated or his room is searched he will do nothing, but he will never aid the offenders. If so much as a single copper piece is dropped in his bowl, he will make a holy sign which will add 1 hit point permanently to all party members. After doing the latter, he will disappear when the party leaves, and he will be replaced by 1A.

a.    An insane fiend conforming generally to the description of 1. above. He will say nothing until a party is in his abode, but will then attack with two hidden daggers. He takes 12 hit points, with an armor class equal to 5 due to his 18 dexterity. He has no treasure to begin with…

I did a Google Image search of the Drache cover from above, and found that it had previously appeared on the cover of "Warte Auf Das Letzte Jahr", 1981 German 1translation of the of 1966 Philip K. Dick novel, Now Wait for Last Year. Per the ISFDB, the cover artist is Oliviero Berni. As the Kelek action figure is from 1983, this earlier date for the artwork makes me wonder if the TSR Kelek was actually influenced by this picture rather than the other way around.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

New Character Sheet PDF for Download

Fri, 04/07/2017 - 11:40
Screenshot of the Character Record
I tweaked the Character Record and now have a version ready for release:

Click Here to Download a PDF of the Character Record 

It can also be accessed from the Holmes Ref page.

This will eventually be incorporated into a new release of Holmes Ref.

If you spot any typos or errors let me know. Now roll 3d6 in order!
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

David Sutherland Day

Tue, 04/04/2017 - 16:30
 Sutherland's art from the title page of the Basic rulebook
Originally posted in 2013

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. I've designated 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, the title page (posted above) and foreword (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.

In 2012 his Basic Set artwork was featured in a line of retro t-shirts from WOTC. And in 2013 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 are a few somewhat obscure pieces from Swords & Spells (1976) that are very much in the same style as the Holmes title page piece:

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Gary Con IX Annotated Slideshow

Fri, 03/31/2017 - 04:44
"The Battle of the Brown Hills" - Chainmail Fantasy Supplement game
I had a fantastic time at Gary Con IX last weekend! I've put the photos up in a public FB album and annotated each photo:

Gary Con IX Annotated Slideshow

The slideshow should be viewable even if you don't have a FB account. Follow the link and click on the first photo (of the Zenopus Archives badge) to start viewing the photos.

Thanks to everyone who made Gary Con happen! 

I plan to return next year and run a game - something Holmes-related.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Gary Con Bound!

Thu, 03/23/2017 - 22:01

I'll be at Gary Con for the first time this year, from Fri at 11 AM until Sun at 4 PM.
The event is being held in the same hotel (now the Grand Geneva) as Gen Con X, almost forty years ago in Aug 1977. This was the year the Holmes Basic set debuted and the first Gen Con that J. Eric Holmes attended. This summer is also Gen Con 50.

I'll wear the above homemade id in addition to my official GC badge. Please say hello. 

Here is my schedule of games: 

12-4 Acrid Herald (espionage RPG) scenario with Merle Rasmussen (author of Top Secret)
4-8 "The Last Great Adventure - in 3D" AD&D adventure with Harold Johnson (author of C1 Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan)
9-12 Gen Con 50 celebration at Horticultural Hall, original home of Gen Con

8-12 Orc's Drift CHAINMAIL game
12-2 Caves of Chaos - Cave G - 5E adaptation of B2
2-4 Dungeon! boardgame with the designer David Megarry
4-6 Auction run by Frank Mentzer
7-12 Battle of the Brown Hills CHAINMAIL written by Gygax, run by Paul Stormberg

10-12 Dragon Lairds card game with Tom Wham (a Holmes Basic artist!)
12-4 Braunstein IV: Banania with David Wesely

(I signed up late for the con, so I am not scheduled to run any games, though I will bring my Basic Rulebook)
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Fantastic Exciting Imaginative zine

Sat, 03/18/2017 - 14:07

A different perspective...
Fantastic Exciting Imaginative is a new zine of content for Holmes Basic or any old-D&D, compiled by Jon Wilson (aka bygrinstow) of the Appendix M blog. Contributors were drawn from G+ and include Jon, Paul Wolfe, JV West, Robert Fairbanks, Shane Ward, Tony A. Rowe, James George, Robyn George, Grandpa Chet, and myself. Jon is the primary artist, with one piece each by Denis McCarthy and Chris Holmes (!)

The name comes from Holmes' first line in the Introduction to the Basic Rulebook: "Dungeons & Dragons is a fantastic, exciting and imaginative game of role playing for adults 12 years and up".

For the theme, Jon's brilliant idea was to compile material inspired by each piece of art in the Basic rulebook (2nd/3rd edition) by the artists David C. Sutherland III, Dave Trampier and Tom Wham. Multiple contributions per artwork were accepted. For instance, my main contribution is the Regal Lizard Man*, a write-up of the lizardman in Sutherland's artwork accompanying the Foreword (shown in the header of this blog). But the same art also inspired the Iguanadyte by Robert Fairbanks. My other minor contribution is the Harpy Axe, a magic item inspired by the Harpy battle scene, which appeared previously as part of a list of "Lesser Magic Items" in the zine Dungeon Crawl.

Click here to download the free zine from DTRPG**
(It's only available in pdf, but the pdf does include a version optimized for printing at home).
*Inspired by the Regal Horned Lizard of the American Southwest
**link includes my Drivethrurpg affiliate # that gives me 5% credit if you do buy something while you are there
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Sample Dungeon in Gridmapper

Fri, 02/24/2017 - 23:48
Click here for a larger viewI recently became aware of a browser-based mapping tool called Gridmapper by Alex Schroeder. It looked easy & fun to use, so I tested it out by making a replica of the Sample Dungeon map (original by J. Eric Holmes, Basic rulebook version probably by David Sutherland. See them side-by-side in this post). Above is my current draft. 

Alex recently added the cave wall icons ("grotto"), which is essentially for this map, which mixes dungeon and cave walls. However, Gridmapper doesn't allow for water in the same square, or for partial water squares, hence the blockiness of the water areas. 

I added the thaumaturgist's tower, which is described in the text but not shown on the map.
Where icons were available, I've also added some notable features for various rooms; for fun I'll let you figure them out for yourself. 

(Just noticed I left the compass direction off the map)
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Character Sheet - New Draft

Mon, 02/20/2017 - 16:47

This is the latest draft of the character sheet for Holmes Ref. The original version is in Holmes Ref 1.0, and a previous revised draft was posted back in November. I made some significant revisions after that, but then it fell off my radar over the holidays. I just dug it out again, and made a few more changes.

  • Streamlined design
  • Added "Holmes Basic" in a font similar to that used for the original D&D logo (Quentin Caps)
  • Added icons representing Skull Mountain and the Tower of Zenopus
  • New "Background" section that can be used for the optional OD&D Backgrounds, or simply for player-generated character background. Included here is a spot for "Heir", which is the designated relative who inherits your character's equipment/treasure upon death, mentioned on page 8 of the Holmes Basic rulebook
Feedback/comments welcome! 
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Eastern Wizard Miniature

Sun, 02/19/2017 - 23:44
Photo from auction listing by Billy Galaxy Toys
Another painted Minifig mini from the J. Eric Holmes collection. This one is SS67 Eastern Wizard, from their Sword & Sorcery line. Note the "SS" stamp on the base.

Some of the figures from this line were inspired by the Conan stories. At first glance, this figure appears to have an unnatural "crab claw" hand, but I think he's actually holding a crescent shaped object. Anybody have any idea who he's supposed to represent, from Conan or another S&S story?
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Green Dragon Miniature

Sat, 02/18/2017 - 15:33

Photo from auction listing by Billy Galaxy Toys
This is a Green Dragon, painted & mounted on wood, from the J. Eric Holmes collection. Billy Galaxy Toys out of Portland, OR has been auctioning hundreds of miniatures from his collection on Ebay. This auction sold, but others are still available.

Of note, Holmes used the name of the Green Dragon Inn from Tolkien as the name of the tavern in Portown in the Holmes Basic Sample Dungeon, and in the Boinger and Zereth stories. This was apparently independent of the same usage in Greyhawk City

The figure is from the Minifigs Mythical Earth line, one of the first line of fantasy minis, produced starting in 1972 per the Lost Minis wiki. They were meant to represent Middle-Earth characters, although were named generically. This mini is ME58 Dragon, obviously representing Smaug from the Hobbit.

Another photo from the same auction, showing the dragon with two other unpainted Minifigs minis that it was auctioned with, ME49 Gondor Knight and ME59 Eagle. Unfortunately, the right wing is missing from the dragon: 

Photo from auction listing by Billy Galaxy Toys
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Holmes Basic at DunDraCon 2017

Fri, 02/17/2017 - 12:52
If you are going to DunDraCon, the long running convention in the San Francisco area, there will be a session of Holmes Basic on Saturday. The GM is running an adventure that I wrote, Beyond the Door to Monster Mountain.

Screenshot of the Event Listing. Click for a larger view
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Holmes Basic Testimonials

Thu, 02/16/2017 - 13:00

2017 update: Today John Eric Holmes would have been 87. And 40 years ago this month, in Feb 1977, he had just finished editing the manuscript for the Holmes Basic rulebook, as shown by the early Feb date on the Manuscript Copy Order Form. This summer in July we will mark 40 years since the publication of the Holmes Basic set.
As in previous years, please leave your personal Holmes Basic testimonials below in the comments. I've brought this post forward from the past so that previous comments are included. But feel free to comment again if you've commented before.

A few notable tributes from the past year:
-Chris Holmes read from his father's works on a John Eric Holmes Reading Panel and Discussion at the 2016 North Texas RPG Con. Partial audio of this panel is available on the Save or Die site as the Side Adventure 12

-In May on a Dead Games Society podcast, Jeff Talanian (author of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea) spoke about the influence of Holmes Basic on his work

-In July I was on the Save or Die podcast, Episode 124: Save vs. Zenopus
2015 update: Today is the 85th anniversary of the birth of J. Eric Holmes, Feb 16th, 1930. I'm reposting this testimonial thread for anyone who wishes to express their appreciation. Feel free to comment again if you added one previously.

A few months ago I heard from Chris Holmes, who wrote: "What a bunch of touching tributes you guys wrote.  I was delighted and moved to read them.  I liked the mention of Dad’s enthusiasm and style.  He was infectiously enthusiastic about many things, not surprisingly he was one of the most popular professor's at USC med school ...  I have enjoyed the Zenopus Archives a lot and you should thank your contributors for me."

On Chris Holmes' behalf, as well as my own, I thank you all for reading and commenting on this thread and the rest of the blog.

2013 update: If you haven't contributed previously, or want to add more, please leave a comment below. I plan to bump this post annually on this date. Thanks to everyone who  responded last year!

And some great news: Thanks to Dave at There's Dungeons Down Under, I was just alerted to a tweet from Steve Winter a few days ago that the original artwork by David Sutherland III for the Holmes Basic set has been found in a crate at the Wizards headquarters! I'd never heard anything about this art before and just assumed it was lost to the sands of time. Steve comments: "I'm pretty sure it's going to get a beauty treatment (new frame, protective glass, etc.) and hang in the gallery by #DnD R&D."
Original Post: Today marks the birthday of J. Eric Holmes (1930-2010). As a tribute I was hoping everyone could tell us why they like the Holmes Basic Set. To facilitate this I've added a new section titled "Holmes Basic Testimonials" to the Zenopus Archives website, which will link to threads (this post & various forums) where you can talk about the Bluebook.
Tell us how you started with Holmes Basic, or remember it fondly for other reasons, or came to appreciate it later, or are using it now, or just plain like reading through it.

Why do I like the Holmes Basic set? Well, it was my first D&D set, and left an indelible impression on my psyche. But I also like it because because it's a concise edit of the original D&D invention by an enthusiastic volunteer who was both a player of the game and long-time fan of fantasy literature. It's not necessarily perfect but has a strong vibe of "this game is awesome so I want to share it with as many folks as possible, so here's an introductory version". 

I could go on and on, but I'd like to hear from everyone else.

See also:
Testimonal Thread at OD&D Discussion
Testimonial Thread at Knights & Knaves Alehouse  
Testimonial Thread at Dragonsfoot
Testimonal Post & Comments at Facebook (new for 2017)
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Megarry's Copy of the Great Kingdom Map

Fri, 02/03/2017 - 05:39
Dave Megarry's Copy of the Great Kingdom Map
Above is a scan of a map from the early '70s showing Blackmoor and the Great Kingdom. This copy was recently uncovered by Dave Megarry, creator of the Dungeon boardgame, and a player in Dave Arneson's original campaign. Thanks to the Secrets of Blackmoor documentary (who will be posting the map on their FB page) and Dan at Hidden in Shadows I have the opportunity to take a look at this version here. Update: Dan has made a related post over here.

I've written before about another version of this map. Back in 2014, Jon Peterson gave us a glimpse of it in his video, a "History of D&D in 12 Treasures", where he labeled the map the 1971 Great Kingdom Map. Based on the video, I wrote a post titled "The Land of the Great Kingdom and Environs" (quoting the original D&D preface), where I noted similarities to the setting as finally published in the 1980 World of Greyhawk Folio (these notes are repeated below). I also back-annotated the details from the 1971 map to the original, more artistic Great Kingdom map published in Domesday Book #9 and reprinted in Jon's book, Playing at the World. Also see the even earlier post, "The Weird Enclave of Blackmoor".

Megarry's copy gives us a clearer view of the map than the glimpses in Jon's video. Each clearly originates from the same source, but Megarry's has some additional writing in colored pen. Much of it is just to darken the lines and/or writing, but there is at least one addition to the details, noted below.

Here are the features I couldn't see on the version in the "12 Treasures" video:

Keoland: This is to the southwest of the the Nir Div (later Nyr Dyv), as in the WoG Folio (1980), which notes that it was "the first major kingdom to be established in the Flanaess". Grodog's Greyhawk notes that Keoland was named for Tom Keogh, who Gygax elsewhere mentioned as a friend from his teen years. In Quag Keep, Chapter 5 there is a Keoland (once called Koeland) to the southwest of Greyhawk City.  It is mentioned that Keoland has "three tributaries of size feeding the main stream" (which may be called the Vold), which fits the map above showing three waterways running north in the Keoland area to join a larger river.

Eastern Ocean: This was "Western Ocean" on the Domesday Book map, but since it's to the east of the continent the revised name makes sense.

Nomads: This is written twice just to the north of the Dry Steppes and south of the Paynims. These possibly became the Tiger and Wolf Nomads in the published setting, although those groups are much further north. Another possibility is Ull, which is in a similar position relative to the Paynims and the Dry Steppes in the published setting, and is described as a "strong tribal clan of the Paynim nomads". Quag Keep mentions the Nomad Raiders of Lar who venture into the Dry Steppes, which fits with this map having the Nomads right next to the Dry Steppes. 

Contested Area: This label is south of the Gran Duchy of Urnst, west of the Kingdom of Catmelun, and east of Keoland. If Catmelun is Nyrond (see the earlier notes below), this might be analogous to the County of Urnst, which in the WoG Folio is an area fought over by the Gran Duchy of Urnst and Nyrond. Dan at Hidden in Shadows suggests this area might be what became the Wild Coast, which I agree is another possibility. It's relatively close to Greyhawk as in the WoG Folio, which says that "Portions of the area have been under the control of Celene, the Prince of Ulek, the Gynarch of Hardby, and the Free City of Greyhawk at various times" - certainly a "contested area". The name also predates the Folio, as the Wild Coast is mentioned once in Quag Keep, in a description of a battle between a demon and a dragon "from Blackmoor, out over Great Bay, down to the Wild Coast" (chapter 3). Looking at the map above, there is a great deal of territory between the Great Bay and the Contested Area; it's possible Norton was using the term simply to refer to the entire eastern coast.

The Great Kingdom: Visible on the "12 Treasures" map, but here we can more clearly see the 18 regions of the Great Kingdom, plus a "Royal Demense" [sic] in the center. The WoG Folio refers to the "Royal Demense surrounding the capital" as part of the area of authority of the Overking. The Domesday Book version of the map has an asterisk in this region, just south of the lake and possibly indicating the capital. It's situated a bit like Rauxes, the capital in the Folio, which is near where two rivers come together in a "V", but without a lake. Over in a sister post on Hidden in Shadows, Dave Meggary suggests that "the numbered areas were districts within the Kingdom which had their own Dukes and such". Some of these areas may have become the former holdings of the Great Kingdom noted in the Folio, including the nearly autonomous North and South Provinces, the Prelacy of Almor, the See of Medegia, the several member states of the Iron League, and possibly even Bone March.

Kingdom of Botulia: This is another island nation, near the Duchy of Maritz (see below). I can't find any names similar to "Botulia" anywhere else. These two nations perhaps became the island nations of the published setting: the Sea Barons and the Spindrift Isles.

Egg of Coot: On this map this region has an addition in blue marker: an 'X' labelled "Capitol". There's an asterisk-looking mark near the "F" in "OF", which could be another city, but there's no other label.

County of Hither Body (?): This region is east of the Hold of Iron Hand, northwest of the Egg of Coot. I'm not sure about that last word. In Quag Keep, there is a mention of the Hither Hills (thanks to Timrod's Quag Keep Companion for this info), which makes sense as the area is surrounded by hills. 

In view of these, I've updated the annotations on the Domesday Book Great Kingdom map:

Great Kingdom Map from Domesday Book #9, annotated in view of the 1971 map

For reference, and ease in reading, here the notes from my previous post:

Perunland is between the mountains to the northwest of Nir Dyv lake, as with Perrenland in the published Greyhawk map. 

A Paynim Kingdom is further to the northwest, south of the Far Ocean. In the published Greyhawk this becomes the Plains of the Paynims, south of the Dramidj Ocean.

The Hold of Iron Hand, north of the Paynim Kingdom on the Great Kingdom map, likely became the Hold of Stonefist. In published Greyhawk it is not anywhere near the Paynims, instead being at the western base of a northwestern peninsula in the same position relative to the Barbarian Kingdoms. Gygax seems to have split the northern areas of his Great Kingdom map, putting the the Hold and the Barbarian kingdoms on a great peninsula to the northeast, and leaving Perrenland, the Paynims and Blackmoor in the northwest.

A Grand Duchy of Urnst is to the immediate southeast of Nir Dyv lake, as in the published World of Greyhawk. A Kingdom of Catmelun is to the southwest of this, possibly where the Kingdom of Nyrond is in the published version.

A Grand Duchy of Geoff is to the west near the mountains, as in published Greyhawk.

Where the City of Greyhawk should be, there's C. of Yerocundy [sp?] and to the west, a Kingdom of Faraz. There is the possibility that these two were combined to form the Kingdom of Furyondy, which in published Greyhawk is to the west of the lake like Faraz.

Interestingly, Andre Norton's 1978 Greyhawk novel, Quag Keep, uses similar but not identical names for two kingdoms: 

"We shall have Yerocunby and Faraaz facing us at the border. But then the river will lead us straight into the mountains" (Chapter 6).

A Duchy of Maritz [sp?] also appears as an island on the Great Kingdom map.

Quag Keep further mentions:

"In addition he saw a dozen of these silver, halfmoon circles coined in Faraaz, and two of the mother-of-pearl discs incised with the fierce head of a sea-serpent which came from the island Duchy of Maritiz" (Chapter 3)

This warrants a closer look at the geography mentioned in Quag Keep versus the Great Kingdom map. Andre Norton consulted with Gygax in writing Quag Keep so she possibly saw an earlier version of Greyhawk using these names.

-Neron March (possibly "Nekon") might possibly be a predecessor of "Gran March". 

-In the comments Jon mentions Walworth north of the lake and that In published Greyhawk The Shield Lands appear in the same location and are ruled by the Earl of Walworth. In the video, Jon mentions that Gygax was named the Earl of Walworth in Domesday Book #2, and Walworth represents his holdings in the game (and is also the name of the county that Lake Geneva is in, in Wisconsin).

-I left out material from the map in the video that I couldn't read, and several small areas around Blackmoor that don't seem to correspond to anything significant: March Slove, County of Celate and County of Stabilny.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

AD&D Core Back in Print!

Wed, 02/01/2017 - 04:42
Screenshot of the new POD options for the Monster Manual

As of last week, the "Big 3" of the AD&D rules are now back in print via DrivethruRPG:
Monster Manual (1977) (pretty much usuable with OD&D or Holmes Basic as-is)
Players Handbook (1978)
Dungeon Masters Guide (1979)

The prices: $25 for the hardcopy, $9 for the pdf, or $28 for both together.

These are the "deluxe reprints" from a few years ago, so unfortunately they have the revised covers, and some introduced OCR typos, but it's still great for accessibility, placing the entire ruleset "back in print". It also gives hope that the OD&D reprint volumes will be made available shortly.

Also, this week they've added two more AD&D modules in print-on-demand:
A1 Slave Pits of the Undercity - $9 POD
A2 Secret of the Slavers Stockade - $10 POD

A3 Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords ($10 POD) was previously available, so we almost have the entire A series available in print again.

Other classic D&D/AD&D modules already released in print-on-demand:
C2 Ghost Tower of Inverness 
D2 Shrine of the Kuo-Toa (original monochrome version)
S1 Tomb of Horrors 
S2 White Plume Mountain  (original monochrome version)
WG5 Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure 
X2 Castle Amber

Previous related posts:
Return of the Chainmail PDF (not available in print yet)
Monochrome D2 Print on Demand
TSR Print on Demand

(Links include my DTRPG affiliate # which gives me 5% credit if you make a purchase)
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

A Dungeon Map

Mon, 01/16/2017 - 11:34

Dungeon Map by Zenopus Archives. Click for a Larger View
Above is a draft of a dungeon map I've been slowly working on the last month or so. I finally finished the final layout/walls, so I thought I'd post it. I hope to turn it into a stocked Holmes Basic/OD&D Dungeon. This isn't necessarily the final draft as I may add more features to particular rooms once I thinking more about the room contents.

Current features (clockwise from left), which I added for variety while drawing:
-Entrance double doors on left. Next to the doors are 'peepholes' that can be used to spy in or out of the rooms on either side of the doors.
-Room with tentacles that extend from walls
-Room with 20' x 20' square pit
-Room with chasm with waterfall at end and river running through it
-Room filled with rubble
-Room with five alcoves
-Two-way chasm extending through room and walls
-Room with three 'closets' - doors resemble rock walls so can be treated as concealed
-Room with wall in middle full of arrow slits
-Staircase up to room with weird tentacle statue.
-Room with rectangular pool - magical, of course
-Room filled with gas
-Large central/final room with "viewing area" surrounded by metal bars (denoted by dots), and "maw" on west wall.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Return of the CHAINMAIL PDF

Tue, 01/10/2017 - 14:36

As of today, CHAINMAIL (1971) is once again available for purchase at DrivethruRPG:


If you purchased the pdf in the past, you should be able to download the new version for free. Per Stormcrow on ODD74, the new pdf is an improved version, clean-up and with bookmarks. From the preview, the pdf is a 3rd edition (1975), 7th printing of the rules.

There's no print-on-demand option yet, but that may be coming as WOTC has been slowly adding new titles (for example, a print option for dungeon module A2 was added this week).

Holmes used Chainmail as one of his sources when assembling the manuscript of Basic. He included some rules from Chainmail that didn't appear elsewhere in OD&D, such as the Parry rule (See Part 17 of my Holmes Manuscript series).

(Links include my DTRPG affiliate # which gives me 5% if you make a purchase)
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs