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Updated: 20 hours 49 min ago

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


Thu, 01/05/2017 - 05:43
The adventuring party forms ... artwork by David C. Sutherland III for the module B1 In Search of the Unknown
Raise your flagons: the Holmes Basic G+ community just hit 500 members for the first time!
If you like this blog, you might consider joining the G+ group. Over there I often post links to articles (other blogs, discussion group threads, news articles, etc) of interest to the members. It's not strictly limited to discussion Holmes Basic; rather, anything of interest to fans of the era is fine. If you set notifications "on", you can get an email sent to your gmail "Social" tab when anyone makes a post (generally only one or two a day at most). Plus Chris Holmes has been hanging out there lately!

I created the community in Dec 2012 when G+ added communities. At the time I had privacy concerns so I set it to private (and can't change this now), so you will need to request to join, but I approve all requests that appear to be from real people interested in the community. 

Right now is great time to join because there's a fun collaborative project going on, organized by Jon of the Appendix M blog, which you can still participate in. Essentially, he's getting everyone to submit their stats/descriptions for anything shown in the art of the Holmes Basic rulebook. It will be assembled into a zine. If the art of the rulebook ever inspired you to create anything new, it would be perfect for this. Multiple submissions for each piece are being accepted. I've submitted my version of the lizardman riding the lizard art at the top of this blog!
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Gygaxian Armor

Wed, 12/14/2016 - 14:40
AD&D Armor by David C. Sutherland III
The picture above should have been included in the 1E AD&D PHB or DMG. It illustrates the nine standard types of AD&D armor as described in those books, but appeared only in the relatively obscure AD&D Dungeon Masters Adventure Log, published in 1980.

Below are the corresponding descriptions from 1E AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide, page 27, plus a few notes from the shorter descriptions given on page 165. I've reordered them & included the encumbrance and move ratings from the table on page 27, and the armor classes and cost from the PHB. These use the unarmored AC 10 system that debuted in AD&D PHB, replacing the unarmored AC 9 system of OD&D.

Padded Armor (AC 8, MV 9", 10 lbs, 4 GP) is "heavily padded, quilted coat and an additional soft leather jerkin and leggings".

Leather Armor (AC 8, MV 12", 15 lbs, 5 GP) is "shaped cuir bouli (leather hardened by immersion in boiling oil) cuirass and shoulder pieces and softer shirt and leggings" (pg 27) and "includes boots and gauntlets" (pg 165).

Studded Leather (AC 7, MV 9", 20 lbs, 15 GP) is "leather armor to which have been fastened metal studding as additional protection, usually including an outer coat of fairly close-set studs (small plates)" (pg 27), and with "an extra layer of protection at shoulder area" (pg 165).

Ring Mail (AC 7, MV 9", 25 lbs, 30 GP) is "relatively soft leather armor over padding. To the long coat of leather are sewn metal rings. This makes the coat rather heavy and bulky".

Scale Mail (AC 6, MV 6", 40 lbs, 45 GP) is "armor similar to ring mail, but overlapping scales of metal are sewn to both coat and leggings—or a skirted coat is worn. As with chain, weight falls mainly on the wearer’s shoulders and waist".

Chain Mail (AC 5, MV 9", 30 lbs, 75 GP) is "padding plus interlocking mesh armor covering the upper and lower body. Vulnerable areas have multiple thicknesses. Weight falls upon the shoulders and waist of the wearer".

Splint Mail (AC 4, MV 6", 40 lbs, 80 GP) is "light chain, greaves, and a leather coat into which are laminated vertical pieces of plate with shoulder guards".

Banded Mail (AC 4, MV 9", 35 lbs, 90 GP) is "a layered armor with padding, light chain, and series of overlapping bands of armor in vulnerable areas. Weight is somewhat distributed".

Plate Mail (AC 3, MV 6", 40 lbs, 400 GP) is "light chain with pieces of plate — cuirass, shoulder pieces, elbow and knee guards, and greaves. Weight is well distributed".

Plate armor (AC 2, MV 9", 40 lbs, 2000 GP) is "a full suit of plate which is no more weighty and a bit less bulky, considering what is known as “field plate”" [This is an optional addition that Gygax mentions; it is not illustrated above. Rules for this were later expanded in Unearthed Arcana in 1985]

On page 165, Gygax refers the reader to Charles Ffoulkes' Armour and Weapons (1909), which thanks to the internet can be viewed here.

Original D&D and the Classic D&D successors only included Leather, Chain and Plate, so the additional armor types are typically associated with AD&D. However, many of them actually appeared all the way back in Chainmail Man-to-Man Melee Table:

The AD&D Monster Manual, which uses the original AC system (unarmored AC 9) gives us a few clues for adapting these armor types to OD&D.

Halflings: "The usual protection ... consists of padded or leather armor", with an AC of 7.
Wood Elf: "They usually wear studded leather or ring mail (AC 6)".
Gnomes: "...armored with leather armor which is ringed or well studded with metal and shield (armor class 5)".

Thus, if adapting these additional types to Holmes Basic or OD&D, we might use:

Padded Armor:  AC 7, MV 9", 10 GP
Leather Armor:  AC 7, MV 12", 15 GP
Studded Leather:  AC 6, MV 9", 20 GP
Ring Mail:  AC 6, MV 9", 20 GP
Scale Mail:  AC 5, MV 6", 25 GP 
Chain Mail:  AC 5, MV 9", 30 GP
Splint Mail:  AC 4, MV 6", 40 GP
Banded Mail:  AC 4, MV 9", 45 GP
Plate Mail:  AC 3, MV 6", 50 GP
Plate Armor:  AC 2, MV 9", 200 GP 

The AC & prices for Leather/Chain/Plate come from the original list in OD&D and Holmes Basic. In AD&D, there's little functional difference between Studded Leather and Ring, other than Ring being slightly heavier and costing twice as much, so I just left them as identical on this chart.

One pratical use for this table in OD&D might be for adapting AD&D modules with these armor types. 

See also: The Monster Manual is a Holmes Supplement
(DMs Guild links include affilitate #)
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The City in the Lake of Unknown Depths

Thu, 12/08/2016 - 13:37
Greyhawk and the Lake of Unknown Depths, possibly hiding a drowned cityGreyhawk lore, in various stages of development, is scattered about in various early D&D publications. For example, at least two different products - neither of which is the actual World of Greyhawk product - include references to cities/civilizations under Nyr Dyv, the Lake of Unknown Depths.

The first is the fourth D&D supplement, Eldritch Wizardry, published in 1976. This time instead of new "ordinary" magic items, Gygax provided us with a slew of Artifacts, each with its own short backstory. Gygax snuck Greyhawk lore into some of these. For example, for the Codex of Infinite Planes, we learn:

"Long ago the wizard-cleric who ruled the Isles of Woe lost in the Lake of Unknown Depths used this work to gain knowledge of great power. It is told that this arcane wisdom is what eventually wrought the downfall of the mage-priest and caused the waters to swallow his domain", pg 43 of Eldritch Wizardry (1976).

This was later revised for the 1979 AD&D DMG, with the wizard-cleric becoming "the High Wizard Priest", and the "Lake of Unknown Depths" changed to its formal name, Nyr Dyv, along with a direct referral to the World of Greyhawk product, not yet published.

In the year after Eldritch Wizardry, the game play aid Outdoor Geomorphs: Set One Walled City (1977) was published, and included a short sample key to give DMs an idea of how the set should be used. Allan Grohe has kindly transcribed these for us. One of the city locations is a fish market, the Silvery Mart. Part of the description for it reads:

"If the owner of the fifth booth on the east side (counting up from the north) is engaged in conversation, he will relate a tale about his adventure on the Lake of Unknown Depths, where a very friendly mermaid told him of the City in the Lake. If bribed with no less than 10 gold pieces in goods or cash he will draw out a map showing where he thinks the fabled city lies beneath the waters (he is right), and he will warn whomever it is he is telling about it that there is a dreaded monster guarding the crystal steps down to the city. He can tell nothing more. (See #56, Society of the Sages, for details of which sage knows what about the legend of the City in the Lake)" 

Unfortunately, Area #56 is not included in sample key, so we'll never get to hear the full legend of the City in the Lake directly from the sage (unless we write it). It's possible Gygax had his earlier story from the Codex of the Infinite Planes in mind, in which case the City in the Lake could be the resting place of the High Wizard Priest of the Isles of Woe. On the other hand, the "crystal steps down to the city" sounds like something that purposefully built, and "fabled city" sounds more wondrous than sinister, so perhaps the two are separate locales under the lake.

This post on the Greyhawkery blog points out just how deep the lake is - over 30,000 feet deep, as deep as the deepest parts of the ocean. Perhaps caused by the same cataclysm that sank the Isles of Woe?

When the World of Greyhawk was finally published in 1980 (in folio format) and again in 1983 (boxed set), there was no mention of either legend in the description of the Nyr Dyv. The only fantastic lore is in regard to the the lake monsters:

"The Nyr Dyv is also well known for the monsters which inhabit its waters. Deep beneath the surface lurk huge creatures which prey upon unwary sailors or anyone so unlucky as to fall into the water. Warcraft, and occasionally merchants or bargees will bring back such monsters as trophies, as constant warfare upon these creatures is necessary to make the lake useful and usable" (pg 25)
A lake monster attacks a barge of the Rhennee; art by David Sutherland
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