Sunday, February 19, 2017

Eastern Wizard Miniature

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?

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Green Dragon Miniature


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

Friday, February 17, 2017

Holmes Basic at DunDraCon 2017

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

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Holmes Basic Testimonials



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)

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Megarry's Copy of the Great Kingdom Map

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

Note: I have moderation set up for comments made two days after the initial post. This reduces spam comments. So if you make a post it won't appear right away, but as soon as I get a chance to check the pending comment queue I will approve it and then it will appear.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

AD&D Core Back in Print!

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)

Monday, January 16, 2017

A Dungeon Map


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.