Sunday, September 18, 2016

Monster Face Bookmark

More of my endless monster faces, this time in the form of a bookmark & blue ink. This one is from a year or so ago, but just scanned recently.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Jeff Talanian on Holmes Basic

Jeff Talanian (aka Ghul) is the author of the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea RPG (a 2nd edition of which is on the way). Earlier in his career he was Gary Gygax's wingman on the Castle Zagyg series, co-authoring the Upper Works boxed set. 

Earlier this year Jeff was interviewed on the Dead Games Society podcast, Episode 20, where he talked about Holmes Basic for the better part of an hour.

Here's the DGS blurb for the show:
"The Dead Games Society talks with Jeffrey Talanian, creator of Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers, about his favorite dead edition of Dungeons and Dragons, the legendary Holmes Edition! It’s a great hour of hearing Jeffrey’s memory’s regarding this great out-of-print edition so beloved by the gaming community."

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the show:
17:09: "Well, one of my favorite things about it, sort of harkening back to when I was a kid, was there was a certain mystique to it, a sort of magic to it ... you can have so many sessions of game play with it for three levels, 48 pages..."

17:52: "Magic-users have so much more resources in that they can start creating scrolls at first level ... so if you have the money you don't necessarily have to be limited to throwing that one spell at an early level"

18:25: "...The initiative system is so much easier to grasp than what later came out with AD&D. Basically in Holmes it embraces a system that's ordered by dexterity..."

25:54: "...I think an open-ended game is anything but Basic because ... there's so much that you can do with it ... contrary to having hundreds and hundreds of pages of rules where everything is defined."

At 28:55, Jeff does a great reading of the first two paragraphs of the Background of the Zenopus Sample Dungeon, which he follows with "...if that doesn't grab the imagination of a young person back then ... it did for me anyway"

Q: How do you think the Holmes edition influenced the later D&D editions?
 36:55: "I would say format more than anything. It was much more of a digestable format ... it seemed like a more playable game as opposed to say a reference ... the whole intention of Holmes of being an introductory set for young people, it was perfectly aimed...

41:00" "'s the edition that I introduced my kids to ... I think introducing it to kids is a great thing to do. I introduced my kids to D&D through the Holmes set and we made that transition to the blue Expert set." much more. Listen to it! 

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Monster Face Montage

A new drawing begun as a possible cover illustration for Holmes Ref. But I have some other ideas for that I want to try out, so I decided to stop this one before it filled up the page.

I started with the tower in the center (possibly Zenopus' tower) and expanded outward from there. I can draw the faces sort of endlessly (and do so in the margins of papers), and have to remind myself to incorporate other elements. The castle in the center is underwater; note the fish and seaweed around it. There are few hexes in there as well.

For this one I used a new mechanical pencil I picked up recently (nothing fancy, just a Pentel Click 0.7). For others I've gone over pencil with ink, but this time I just scanned the pencil and increased the contrast. It worked well enough, and certainly saved time. 

If you are on G+, I was flattered when The Secret DM asked if he could turn this drawing into a map. To this end he had Christian Kessler of the Popular Enchanting blog color it into zones and asked G+ for help with keying it. See here.

See also Monster Face Dungeon and Monster Face Mountain.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Fantastic Worlds of Grenadier Kickstarter

If you've been watching Stranger Things summer and are interested in learning more about the miniatures company that made "The Demogorgon" mini featured prominently on the show, check out this kickstarter for an expanded edition of the book The Fantastic Worlds of Grenadier.

From the "About" page:
"The Fantastic Worlds of Grenadier is not only a book about a fantastic company that produced fantastic miniatures for fantastic worlds, but is also an insightful journey through many of the gaming and gaming miniatures trends and creations of the mid-1970s through the mid-1990s. A tremendous source of reference, an informative read, and full of ‘eye-candy’, The Fantastic Worlds of Grenadier is a must-have for all fans of Grenadier Models, gamers and gaming miniature collectors alike."

I'm in for a printed copy ($35 plus shipping). 10 days left until the Kickstarter ends.

By the way, "The Demogorgon" from Stranger Things was released in two different packages by Grenadier, first as part of the Fantasy Lords line, set 102 Demons, and then
then re-packaged as Fantasy Classics #321 Demon (1984). A picture of the latter in the original packaging was posted over at the Acaeum by grodog.

Saturday, July 23, 2016


If you haven't heard, the original PLANET OF THE APES (1968) will be back in certain theatres tomorrow (Sunday the 24th) and Wednesday (the 27th). Check your local listings!

The title of this post references an obscure PLANET OF THE APES-themed RPG from the Holmes Basic-era, 1978's SIMIAN CONQUEST. Read more about it here on Dragonsfoot.

1973 Promotional Poster for a Planet of the Apes movie marathon


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Save or Die Interview

The latest episode of the Save or Die! podcast, Episode 124, features an interview with yours truly. Here's the teaser:

"The Dmigoes welcome to Save or Die….the Mad Wizard Zenopus from the Holmes Basic set! Ok, not the wizard himself, but Zenopus from the esteemed blog Zenopus Archives. We talk about J. Eric Holmes, Purple Worms, and why so many dungeons have rivers flowing through them at one point or another?"

It was great fun recording the show & I'd like to thank Jim, Liz and Mike for having me on!

The Episode 124 page has several links for topics we discussed. Here are a few more:

Dungeon made with Lego Heroica

Gygax's Castle Greyhawk Dungeon Level One handout from Origins II

Holmes Manuscript series - index of posts 

Monday, July 4, 2016

NTRPG 2016 Con Report

It's been about a month since I attended NTRPG Con 2016, my first ever multi-day con. 
I had a fantastic time, and here's my brief report.

On Saturday morning I participated in the Holmes Reading/Discussion with Chris Holmes and Allan Grohe (aka grodog, co-publisher of Black Blade Publishing). At 9 AM, it was an early slot with only 8 registered attendees, but more showed up (15-20?). A comfortable number for the small room. There were some technical difficulties: Allan had a set of slides and the Con provided a projector but there was no connecting cord, and there was a live feed but afterwards I noticed the camera was pointing the wrong direction. 

However, Allan recorded the audio on his phone (starting a few minutes late, after Chris Holmes had introduced himself), and it's now available on his website now (think of it as a podcast), along with the slides and handouts we provided:

John Eric Holmes Reading and Panel Discussion

In addition, I played in five great games: two Friday, two Saturday and one Sunday.

(1) The Misty Isles of the Eld - written/run by Chris Kutalik

The teaser from the convention program: "Come bring the fight to those fiendish space elves, the Eld. Players will explore a point crawl of a weird fantasy, extra planar island searching for a flying monument and fragments of a shattered god".

This game was drawn from Chris' new publication, Misty Isles of the Eld. Chris Holmes was also playing in this game, and I met him in person for the first time at the table. Since he was playing, Chris K. prepared some special pre-gens. Thus, I came to be playing a Wereshark thief by the name of "The Son of Ondrj", who met a brutal end, impaled by 5 or 6 Eld simultaneously. Then I picked up another pre-gen: Zereth the Elf!

I like getting copies of adventures that I've played through, so after the game I bought one of the brand new copies of Misty Isles, which Chris signed, "Killed Before Your Time".

(2) grodog's Castle Greyhawk - Enchanted Orchards of the Arimol, written/run by Allan Grohe (grodog).

The teaser: "Play test grodog's next Castle Greyhawk dungeon level, GC-02 Enchanted Orchards of the Arimol ... an extra planar sub-level accessible from GC-01 Iounic Caverns"

Here our group tested out this adventure with higher level AD&D characters than Allan had run previously. The star of the evening was the Druid, who ferried us around on a Chariot of Sustarre and took out the BBG with a Feeblemind spell and a failed saving throw of 1!

(3) Death on the Mssuma River - written/run by Victor Raymond

The teaser: "An item of great antiquity has been stolen from a noble clanhouse in the city of Jakalla, rumor has it that the burglar is proceeding north on the Mssuma River, headed for Bey Su "the Beauteous" he capital of Tsolyanu, the Empire of the Petal Throne. You have been hired to retrieve the precious item and return it to its rightful owner, preferably without bloodshed, but by force if necessary! This is an event for newcomers to the World of Tekumel, as originally published by TSR in 1975!"

This was a "Death on the Nile" style murder-mystery. We had a large group (10?) but it worked beautifully for the investigative mission. Also, we were in one of the private "boardrooms", which were great for immersion; while you lose a bit of the con atmosphere it's more like playing a game at someone's house.

Chris Holmes also played in this, and we were the only two non-humans in the party, who were all members of the same clan. I was a Shen warrior hired by the clan, and he played a Pe Choi. During the climactic battle my Shen experienced the temporal stasis produced by an "Excellent Ruby Eye". Victor was a long-time player in M.A.R. Barker's games and knows Tekumel as if he had lived there - because he did.

(4) AdLiD ("Ad-Lib Dungeon") - improvised by Frank Mentzer on the spot.

The teaser: "You decide what monsters and treasures will be found... and Frank creates an adventure on the spot. Anything can happen!".

Frank runs this game periodically. He give out notecards before the game and each player writes down something to be encountered during the game. If I thought about this more beforehand I would've written "Bargle". On the spot all I could muster was "H.P. Lovecraft". Thus our group encountering H.P. himself, complete with bat wings and tentacles, as the BBG. One of the other players in this game was a grandson of Bob Bledsaw, founder of Judges Guild, and I chatted with him during the break.

(5) Professor Monkey vs the Friends of Entropy written/run by Steve Winter

The teaser: "Professor Monkey's radium-powered lab represent everything the Friends of Entropy despise: science, machinery, and being alive. To no one's surprise, a volcano of trouble erupts when the..." 

From what I gather, Steve runs a Professor Monkey Gamma World game every year. The PCs all work for the Professor, who outfits them with gear. We spent the first hour creating characters. I ended up with a 5-meter-long (!) mutant fox. We zipped about a hex map, investigating different points of interest and trying to root out the Friends of Entropy, one of the original GW Cryptic Alliances.

Steve has a previous Professor Monkey adventure available as a free pdf on his blog.

After the game I asked Steve about the original Holmes Basic Set art, which he had reported was found in a crate by WOTC a few years ago. He said he believes it is now hanging in a safe location in the WOTC offices.

* * * * *

I was also able to chat with former TSR artists Diesel (aka DSL aka David S. Laforce) and Jeff Dee. I had them both sign a copy of the module A1 that I bought from Diesel. They were the original artists for the cover (Dee) and title page (Diesel) of A1.