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.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Return of the CHAINMAIL PDF

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)

Wednesday, January 4, 2017


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!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Gygaxian Armor

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 MailAC 4, MV 9", 45 GP
Plate MailAC 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 #)

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The City in the Lake of Unknown Depths

Greyhawk and the Lake of Unknown Depths, possibly hiding a drowned city
Greyhawk 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

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Monochrome D2 Print-On-Demand

Tuesday's new batch of print-on-demand D&D from WOTC finally includes a '70s classic: the 1978 original monochrome version of D2 Shrine of the Kuo-Toa, part of Gary Gygax's timeless D1-D2-D3 'drow' trilogy.

According to the printing info at the Acaeum, the pdf (which i had previously bought) is of the 5th printing of the module, although I'm not aware of any content differences in the printings of D2. However, there are significant differences in art and content as compared to the later D1-2 compilation, as detailed here.

The front and back cover art in the original are both by David Sutherland. The back cover is rarely seen as it was not included in the D1-2 compilation, and is a great composition depicting an encounter with a rust monster, still looking very much like the Chinese toy that inspired it:

Interior art is by Dave Trampier (DAT) and Sutherland (DCS)
DAT:  Umber Hulk encounter (pg 3), Kuo-Toa barge encounter (pg 6), Kuo-Toa 'fingerling' pool (pg 10-11), adventurers resting (pg 13)
DCS: Roper battle (pg 4), Svirfneblin encounter (pg 7), Kuo-Toa throne (pg 9)
Kuo-Toa for monster entry (pg 13), Svirfneblin/Kuo-Toa battle (pg 15), Svirfneblin for monster entry (pg 16).

See also my previous post about the D&D print-on-demand.

(Note: DMs Guild links include affilitate number)

Monday, November 28, 2016

New Character Sheet Draft

Above is a screenshot of a draft of a new Character Sheet for Holmes Ref. I included one in Holmes Ref 1.0 that was a quick reduction of the Character Creation Worksheet, but I thought I'd make a new one that was a bit more streamlined / pleasing to my eyes.

The note regarding item location is from Gygax's Encumbrance rules on page 9.

The "Designated Heir" is from page 8 of Holmes: "A character may be allowed to designate a "relative" who will inherit his wealth and possessions (after paying a 10% tax) on his death or disappearance." This rule originally appeared in OD&D Vol 1 (page 13, section "Relatives").

Any feedback is appreciated. After a few days I will turn it into a pdf and add it to the Holmes Ref page.