Friday, June 21, 2019

Recaps & Roundups part 20: Supplement II - Blackmoor


The first D&D supplement was Greyhawk, featuring many game elements that had developed through play in Gary Gygax's home campaign. Naturally, the second supplement came from D&D's other progenitor, Dave Arneson, and was called Blackmoor. The development of this supplement was fraught: apparently Arneson was working on the final draft in March of 1975, but it had to go through two different editors, and was temporarily misplaced. The final edit was done hastily in a few weeks, and Blackmoor was finally published around December of 1975.

The finished product is patchy, and contains almost no detail on Arneson's Blackmoor campaign, but it does introduce a number of lasting elements to the game. I'll quickly run through them below.

New Rules Introduced

  • Hit Location during Melee
  • Lycanthropy gets more detail
  • Underwater adventuring
  • Specialised knowledge and expanded rules for Sages
  • Disease

New Classes Introduced

  • Monks (a sub-class of clerics)
  • Assassins (a sub-class of thieves)

Monsters in the game already that get updated or given stats

  • Merman
  • Giant Crab
  • Giant Octopus
  • Giant Squid
  • Giant Crocodile
  • Giant Toad
  • Giant Leech

New Monsters Introduced
  • Giant Frog
  • Giant Beaver
  • Giant Otter
  • Giant Wasp
  • Giant Stag Beetle
  • Rhinoceros Beetle
  • Bombardier Beetle
  • Fire Beetle
  • Boring Beetle
  • Fire Lizard
  • Minotaur Lizard
  • Elasmosaurus
  • Mosasaurus
  • Plesiosaurus
  • Giant Shark
  • Whale
  • Giant Eel
  • Lamprey
  • Sea Horse
  • Portuguese Man-of-War
  • Dolphin
  • Aquatic Elf (aka Sea Elf)
  • Pungi Ray
  • Manta Ray
  • Giant Sea Spider
  • Weed Eel
  • Sahuagin (Devil-Men of the Deep)
  • Floating Eyes
  • Ixitxachitl
  • Locathah
  • Morkoth (aka Morlock)
  • Poisonous Coral
  • Masher
  • Strangle Weed
  • Nymph (as a Dryad variant)
  • Mottled Worm (as a Purple Worm variant)
  • Sea Hag (as a sort of reverse Dryad)
  • Kopoacinth (aquatic gargoyles)
  • Koalinth (aquatic hobgoblins)
  • Lacedons (aquatic ghouls)

New Magic Items

  • Ring of Freedom
  • Ring of Movement
  • Clearwater Potion
  • Manta Ray Cloak
  • Necklace of Water Breathing
  • Trident of Fish Control
  • Net of Snaring
  • Black Pearls
  • Gold Pearls
  • Red Pearls
  • Helm of Underwater Vision

New Types of Treasure
  • Pearls
  • Pink Pearls
  • Silver Pearls

Diseases Introduced
  • Grippe
  • Bubonic Plague
  • Dysentery
  • Cholera
  • Malaria
  • Small Pox
  • Tuberculosis
  • Typhus
  • Typhoid Fever
  • Yellow Fever
  • Crud (heat rash, athlete's foot, jungle rot, ringworm)
  • Advanced Leprosy (

New Adventure Location - The Temple of the Frog

  • Deep within the misty swamps of Lake Gloomey lies the city of the Brothers of the Swamp, who believe that man is a biological abomination that threatens the existence of all life, and that animals should rule.
  • The Brothers of the Swamp began developing a creature that combined amphibians with the killer instincts of larger mammals, creating the giant killer frog. For years they hewed out caverns below their temple as breeding areas, offering human victims as sacrifice to a giant idol they called the Lord of the Swamp.
  • A special order, the Keepers of the Frogs, were created to tend the beasts, but eventually grew disdainful of them.
  • The temple tried to sustain itself by trading goods and purchasing slaves, disguised as merchants from "far places".
  • About 100 years ago, the Brothers gave sanctuary to some bandits in return for obtaining some needed articles. These bandits now reside in the temple, dominating non-religious life within in an unholy fashion. The temple became less a holy order than an outlaw kingdom, and this state of affairs lasted about a generation.
  • Stephen the Rock and three followers later appeared and quickly took over. Two of those followers died. Now the temple trades good of high quality, and Stephen has restored much of its original purpose. The location of the temple remains secret, but the place is organised, and the swamps around it teem with killer frogs.
  • Stephen comes from another world or dimension. His people discovered a dimensional nexus point in the area of Blackmoor, and he and his followers were sent to police it against incursions from similar beings. His people must have been technologically advanced, as Stephen must report yearly to a hovering satellite station, and possesses a number of powerful devices.



Details and conjecture relevant to the Ultimate Sandbox

  • Dread "Blackmoor Castle" is mentioned.
  • Monks belong to the Order of Monastic Martial Arts. Under "followers" it's mentioned that monks can't have followers from a different Order, so this is not necessarily one monolithic organisation. After 6th level, there is only one monk of each level thereafter. In order, these levels are: Grand Master of Dragons, Grand Master of the North Wind, Grand Master of the West Wind, Grand Master of the South Wind, Grand Master of the East Wind, Grand Master of Winter, Grand Master of Autumn, Grand Master of Summer, Grand Master of Spring, and Grand Master of Flowers. Monks can only advance above 6th level by challenging and defeating the master directly above them in a fair fight.
  • All of the seasons are mentioned, confirming that Oerth has similar seasons to Earth.
  • All assassins belong to an Assassin's Guild. There can only be one Guildmaster (13th level), who can be challenged for leadership by another assassin of 12th level.
  • There is only one Assassin's Guild in a large city or area of 2,500 square miles.
  • For some reason, people react with ferocity to poisoned weapons. Hatred of these may have been drilled into the populace by the Church of Law, perhaps.
  • Mermen ride around on the back of seahorses
  • Fire Lizards are believed to be the ancestors of dragons, and dragons will avoid fighting them.
  • The "Portuguese" Man-of-War should hail from whatever region of Oerth corresponds most closely to Portugal, whether culturally or geographically.
  • Dolphins are very intelligent, hate sharks, can communicate with each other telepathically, have magic resistance like dwarves, and can detect magic. Apparently.
  • In eons past the land was flooded (this might have happened more than once) when the ice caps melted during a great struggle of the gods to control the planet. Some gods protected their mortal charges, while others changed the nature of life to adapt to the ocean. Sea elves and mermen was thus created by the gods of Neutrality and Law, while the gods of Chaos created the Sahuagin.
  • The underwater sahuagin capital city has a population of nearly 100,000.
  • There is one Sahuagin King and nine Princes, all subject to challenge for their position by other Sahuagin.
  • Sahuagin never stop growing throughout their lives.
  • Ixitxachitl are "Chaotic Clerical Philosophers".
  • Lycanthropy can affect animals, turning them into men with animal intelligence.
  • Some gnomes live underwater in air-enclosed cities connected to the surface by tunnels.
  • Some kobolds live underwater in air-enclosed caves connected to the surface by tunnels.
  • There are Evil High Priests who live in underwater castles surrounded by a spell that allows those within to breath.
  • Giant Leeches, Ochre Jellies, Green Slime, Ropers, and Gelatinous Cubes can all seemingly survive under the sea.
  • Mu, Lemuria and Atlantis are mentioned.
  • It's possible that Sages are favoured by the Gods of Law, because killing one will change your alignment instantly to Chaotic (unless the Sage was Chaotic).
  • Mummy rot is also named advanced leprosy, perhaps by scholars trying to understand it scientifically (they will probably be wrong, because I don't think this sticks).
  • Spotted Fever is the name given to the disease carried by Giant Ticks.
  • There's a rare type of bark that can cure malaria. It's also relished by Displacer Beasts and Blink Dogs, which I'm considering as the root of their mutual enmity.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Recaps & Roundups part 19: Dungeons & Dragons boxed set, 4th printing


By late 1975, the Dungeons & Dragons boxed set was on its 4th printing. I don't believe that the contents of the books were significantly different, although the errata sheet that came with the 2nd and 3rd printings is no longer included; it's possible that this printing incorporated those corrections into the text, though I don't have a copy to check.

The main difference is the box, which no longer has a woodgrain pattern with the art pasted to the front. It's is now plain white, with the art printed directly onto the box. The main image, showing a warrior on a rearing horse, has been replaced by a wizard blasting what are probably orcs.

The same mounted warrior has also been replaced on the cover of Vol. 1: Men & Magic, as shown below:


The covers of volumes 2 and 3 have been left untouched. I'm not sure why the mounted warrior was singled out for exclusion, but it could be because it's a very obvious swipe of some Marvel art. Other art swipes still remain, but it's one thing to have these swipes hidden away inside the booklets, and another to have one plastered on the front of your most high-profile product. This is all conjecture, of course, but if I had to hazard a guess this would be it.

Recaps & Roundups part 18: The Strategic Review #4


Issue #4 of The Strategic Review was cover-dated Winter 1975. It's noted in the TSR News article that this issue was late, as is Supplement II: Blackmoor and a number of other design projects. In order to bring some organisation to the company, a few hires have been made: Tim Kask as periodicals editor, Terry Kuntz as service manager, and Dave Arneson as part of the regular design staff. Arneson only lasted about a year with TSR. Kask lasted until 1980, editing their various magazines. As for Terry Kuntz, it's not as easy to find out how long he stayed, so it's going to remain a mystery to me unless someone pipes up in the comments.

It's also noted that Origins I has happened before this issue came out (meaning that an early version of Tomb of Horrors has debuted, as shown in my last post), and that TSR is considering a D&D supplement authored by "Dungeons & Dragons Enthusiasts Everywhere", which I don't think ever eventuated.

Also: THE DRAGON IS COMING.

As for non-D&D articles, there's one listing new troop types for Panzer Warfare, and another with some suggested rules changes for Tractics,

The D&D related-articles, and their relevance to my campaign, are very briefly covered

A Few More Words on Medieval Polearms (by Gary Gygax, who else): The following polearms are introduced:
  • Couteaux de Breches (treated as a Glaive)
  • Scorpion (treated as a Bill Guisarme)
  • Bohemian Ear-Spoon (treated as a Partisan)
  • Korseke (treated as a Spetum)
  • Chauves Souris (treated as a Ranseur)
  • Bec-de-Corbin (treated as a Lucern Hammer with respect to its effect on plate mail; disregarded as an unlikely weapon, except when knights fight afoot on the field of honour)
  • Military Fork (discussed, but not equated with any other pole arm)
  • Holy Water Sprinklers (treated as Morning Stars, although longer Japanese forms are mentioned)

Chainmail Weapon Additions: The following weapons are introduced to Chainmail:
  • Jo Stick
  • Bo Stick
  • Quarterstaff
I'll throw them into the mix around this time, perhaps due to some growing foreign influence, or the impending growth in influence of Oerth's various orders of monks.

Illusionists (by Peter Aronson): The Illusionist class is added to D&D. It comes with a number of brand new spells:

Level 1
  • Wall of Fog
  • Change Self
  • Gaze Reflection
  • Hypnotism

Level 2
  • Improved Phantasmal Forces
  • Fog
  • Blindness
  • Misdetection
  • Hypnotic Pattern
  • Deafness

Level 3
  • Fear
  • Spectral Forces
  • Paralyzation
  • Nondetection

Level 4
  • Improved Invisibility
  • Shadow Monsters
  • Shadow Magic
  • Minor Creation
  • Emotions
  • 1st Level Magic-User Spells

Level 5
  • Summon Shadow
  • Major Creation
  • Chaos
  • 2nd Level Magic-User Spells
  • Demi-Shadow Monsters
  • Demi-Shadow Magic
  • Create Spectres

I'll probably introduce this class via some NPCs before making it available as a PC class.

Tsolyani Names Without Tears (by M.A.R. Barker): This is a guide to the naming conventions in Barker's Tekumel, the setting for the Empire of the Petal Throne RPG. Articles about this game are all over the early TSR magazines, and I'm probably going to include it as a world that the PCs can travel to.

Creature Feature: The Clay Golem is introduced.

Mighty Magic Miscellany: This introduces a new type of magic item, cribbed from Jack Vance: Ioun Stones. The following colours are used: incandescent blue; scarlet and blue; deep red; pink; pink and green; pale green; pale lavender; pearly white; clear

Gallery of Gunfighters: Doc Holliday is detailed. The Old West will be another possible destination.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Recaps & Roundups part 17: Tomb of Horrors tournament edition

Cover by Tracy Lesch

The first Origins Game Fair was held from the 25th to the 27th of July 1975, at John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. The fair was to play host to a large D&D tournament, and inspired by Alan Lucien's Tomb of Ra-Hotep, Gary Gygax set about designing a killer dungeon for the event.  The result was the Tomb of Horrors.  Over the course of three days, eight teams of fifteen adventurers went into its depths, and died to its traps. Word spread, and the later groups were better prepared for the dangers of the tomb, but it's deadliness still became legendary. That legend only grew when it became one of the very first official AD&D adventure modules.  Today I'm not looking at the module version, but rather the reprint of the tournament module that came with the Arts & Arcana hardcover.

For the very few (perhaps none) among you who haven't read or played through the Tomb of Horrors, the set-up is this: the lich Acererak has holed up in his trap-filled tomb with all of his treasure, and the PCs want to get in there and take that treasure. There's really not much more to it than that (and what else do you really need?), but the inventiveness and the vindictive nature of some of the traps elevate Tomb of Horrors above other modules of its kind. This one is legendary for a reason, even if you probably never want to run your characters through it.

(As an aside, one of my friends took or group through this module when I was in my early teens, perhaps 12 or 13. We made it through, but upon reading the module later I learned that he had been very lenient with us. We used a wish from a freed efreet to bypass a lot of the tomb, as I recall. I also remember getting blasted by lightning for tap-dancing on an altar, and losing a finger in the devil mouth, but the less said about those events the better.)

I'll try to avoid representing too much of what's in this reprint, but I will post up the map:

The original Tomb of Horrors map

It's a little faded, but for the most part this is a match for the tomb as published. There are some small differences, and at least one room in the published version that's not in the original, but it's very pleasing to note that the two are mostly identical.  I can't vouch for how closely the room descriptions match up, but my read-through of the tournament module all seemed very familiar.  If there are differences, they're in the minor details rather than the major ones.  I might do a close comparison when I get to covering the published module.

After laying out the basic premise, the module goes on to present some possible locations for the module. This is curious, because it can't have been of any relevance to players or DMs at the convention. Regardless of the reason, I appreciate the inclusion. The suggested locations are:
  • The highest hill in the Egg of Coot.
  • An island lying 100 miles east of Blackmoor.
  • In the great desert west of the Wild Coast.
  • On the border between the Paynim Kingdom and Perrunland.
  • At the eastern edge of the Duchy of Geoff.
  • In a swamp somewhere in the Wild Coast.
The published module has a different set of suggestions, and I believe that it eventually gets an official location in the Vast Swamp. I'm open to having the tomb's location move around, magically shifting from place to place.

As for Acererak, he's present in the adventure but I don't believe he is ever named. I'm pretty sure that the term "demi-lich" isn't used either, but he appears here as in the published module, as a floating skull that can drain souls.

Of interest are two phrases that appear during the topic of ways to destroy the lich. It mentions that "the highest Divine destroys it by touch" and that "a Mystic can destroy by mind battle". According to this reprint's introduction, both of these were classes planned for Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry.  The Mystic was eventually used as fodder for the psionics system, so I'll happily use that title to describe early psionic characters. As for the "Divine", nothing more is said. I'm tempted just to leave it as read, meaning that a divine being can kill the demi-lich with a touch. It's unlikely to come up in play, but you never know.

After the adventure, there's a list of pre-generated PCs for the tournament: two magic-users, two clerics, one paladin, an elven f/m-u, a dwarf fighter, five human fighters, a human thief, a hobbit thief, and a half-elf f/m-u/t.  None of them are named. I'll probably just include them as adventurers who recently entered the tomb and never came back out.

Finally, the adventure includes 24 illustrations to be shown to the players as they explore the tomb. These aren't of the same quality as those in the published module, but by the standards of TSR art in 1975 they're quite good. Here's an example:

A wall carving in the Tomb of Horrors

With two versions of the Tomb now out there, I need to decide which will be included in my campaign. What I'll probably end up doing is using both: initially the tomb will be as described in the tournament module, but eventually it will get upgraded to the published version. It's fine, even Acererak has to do some renovations now and then.

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Recaps & Roundups part 16: Tomb of Ra-Hotep


This series has just passed the point where the Origins I gaming convention was held, which saw the public debut of the Tomb of Horrors as a tournament module. The tournament version of that module was recently unearthed and republished as part of the Arts & Arcana tome (which is great by the way). I'll get to Tomb of Horrors soon enough, but first I want to tackle the appendix at the back of the Tomb of Horrors reprint: Tomb of Ra-Hotep.

Tomb of Ra-Hotep was an adventure written by Alan Lucien, who passed it on to Gary Gygax, and was a major influence on the design of Tomb of Horrors. The basic premise of both modules is the same: a tomb filled with traps, where an evil lich is buried with his treasure. Ra-Hotep has a more overtly Egyptian theme than its successor, and it's also much smaller.  It's not clear exactly when this adventure was created, but I'll place it here, just before the tournament version of Tomb of Horrors. It probably should have gone somewhere before the publication of Supplement I: Greyhawk, but I totally forgot about it until recently.

Here's the map, which is presented from a top-down as well as a side-on perspective. Nifty!


The tomb features lots of pit traps and secret doors, and a final battle with ten mummies and Ra-Hotep himself. Among the elements that Tomb of Horrors borrows (aside from the whole premise) we have:

  • A false burial chamber
  • A secret door at the bottom of a pit
  • A secret door covered by plaster

Ra-Hotep is a lich, who casts spells as a 17th-level cleric and a 16th-level magic-user. Among his plethora of magic items, he has a "jackal-stick" which can be used to control an item of Alan Lucien's own invention: the sphere of annihilation. The creation sphere is probably the reason that Lucien was given "special thanks" in the credits of Supplement I. Whether the lich came from him I am not sure of.

The notes for this dungeon are sparse, as seems to be customary for the time. They're also written more as a guide for the author than for a general audience, so I'll probably have to clean it up a bit before I drop it in my campaign. It also has one possible design flaw: there's a block that seals the PCs into the final encounter, but no way specified for it to be opened again. I've no doubt that PCs of a high enough level to survive the last battle would have the resources to get through a block of stone (and there is that sphere of annihilation), but it's something of an omission.

There's also a page with three hieroglyphic messages, and I'm not clear where that should be placed. I'm thinking it's best placed at the beginning, in an above-ground building that serves as the entrance to the tomb.

As for placement in the campaign world, I don't think this one will ever get an official World of Greyhawk location. When the time comes, I'll plonk it down in one of the more Egyptian-themed areas of that setting (no doubt somewhere far away from the Tomb of Horrors).

Monday, June 03, 2019

Recaps & Roundups part 15: El Conquistador #12


Around Summer of 1975, after the publication of Greyhawk, Gary Gygax had several articles published in an issue of the fanzine El Conquistador. Apparently these articles were promised in exchange for a full-page D&D ad, at least according to Gary's hazy memory. One of these articles was about play-by-mail games, and not really of interest to this blog, but the other detailed a game session from Gary's Greyhawk campaign. It can be read here if you're so inclined.

Expedition to the Black Reservoir by Gary Gygax
In this story, four adventurers venture deep into the Castle Greyhawk dungeons, where they find a huge subterranean lake. There they inadvertently free a sea serpent, which they manage to kill, as well as fighting off some pterodactyls. Later, while unsuccessfully trying to locate the sea serpent's treasure, they spy a tower on an island. Inside the tower they find and capture a sorcerer, claiming his treasure chest. They try to take their captive with them but he escapes, and vows vengeance as the adventurers return to the surface.

There are lots of tidbits about the Greyhawk dungeons and campaign here, which I'll go through point by point below.

  • The description of the lands around Greyhawk Castle is vivid, and I'm just going to reproduce it in its entirety: "To the east of the busy walled city of Greyhawk the land is forsaken, overgrown with thorns and thistles. Oozing marsh creeps slowly down. The copses are huddles of weird, bloated trees. The wiry grass seems to grasp at the feet of any who dare to tread upon it. In the center of this unwholesome place, on a rock-boned prominence, hulks the ruin of the grim Greyhawk Castle."
  • Four adventurers and potential NPCs on this quest: Erac the Enchanter (a 7th-level magic-user); Londlar the Lama (a 7th-level cleric); Nulfyke (a 3rd-level dwarf fighter); and Ugubb the Acolyte of the Lake of Crystals (a 1st-level cleric). It's mentioned that Erac is a "paladin of law", but him being an actual paladin doesn't square with anything else in this story, so I'm just going to chalk it up as Gary using some flowery language to specify the character's alignment. Erac was able to cast knock, fireball and haste, and was in possession of a ray-firing device taken from a "quasi-human in another dimension". Londlar possessed a "great mace of holy power".
  • The party entered the Greyhawk ruins through its fallen west gate (described as moldering), and then into the great central keep. From there they heaved open an inner door and proceeded down some winding stone steps to enter the dungeons proper.
  • A door at the bottom of the stairs opened into an east-west corridor. The party turned east, then south at an intersection, then followed a branching passage heading southeast. This opened into a large cavern with glowing foxfire on the walls, floor and ceiling. This cavern was home to a score of elves, the "guardians of the eastern stairs". These elves bargain with the adventurers for a share of treasure and magic items should they pass this way on the way out. (Who gave these elves this task is left here as a mystery.) I'm happy to say that there are some similar elves in Castle Zagyg: The Upper Works, although the map details don't match up at all.
  • A short passage at the back of the cavern led to a long descent of uneven steps cut into living rock. At the bottom, the party tried heading north, but most of the tunnels were heading laterally. They made their way with much criss-crossing, until they found a narrow southerly passage with more stairs heading down. (At this point the adventurers debated the wisdom of going down, but a monster in the corridor persuaded them. A legitimate wandering monster, or Gary giving the PCs a deliberate nudge?)
  • The bottom of the stairs opened into an area that was "seemingly boundless and cloaked with a murk of ebon vapors which allowed but feeble penetration by lanthorn or torch". Northward was a sudden drop of a few feet into a huge lake, with inky water of unknown depth. A few yards to the west was a raft moored to an iron ring.
  • About 200 feet further west they found a flight of stairs wending upward, but the sudden emergence of a giant crab sent them scurrying back to the raft, which they poled out into the reservoir.
  • The roof of the cavern was high enough to be lost in the murk. Hexagonal granite posts several yards in diameter rose from the lake to support the cavern ceiling.
  • Some way north they came to some posts arranged in an oval pattern, too closely spaced to raft between. One of the pillars on the far side had a rusty lever, which took three PCs to move. Pulling the lever caused the pillar to descend, which released a hostile sea monster.
  • The party fled to the western boundary of the lake, and then north, where they eventually found a raised stone ledge. Here they killed the sea monster and fought off some pterodactyls. On the northernmost extremity of this ledge they found a punt to replace their smashed raft (which I suspect via Gary's commentary that the kind DM put there for them at the spur of the moment).
  • While searching for the sea monster's lair, the party spotted a slender tower on a stone island. The door of the tower was wizard locked. The inner chamber contained little furniture, but a stairway led up to a trapdoor. Beyond was a laboratory, where a black-robed, pointy-hatted wizard sat in a stupor, lost in the vapors arising from some "hellish censer". The wizard was easily bound and captured, and the party found a chest full of gold coins and gems. They also found his boat moored to the island.
  • The party relocated the sea monster's lair, but upon diving into the water Ugubb found that the water was deeper than the length of the rope he was attached to.
  • The wizard then escaped and fled, declaring himself to be the Sorcerer of the Black Reservoir (so, 9th level?). While the wizard vowed revenge, the PCs made their way back up to the surface.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Recaps & Roundups part 14: The Strategic Review #3


Issue #3 of The Strategic Review was cover-dated Autumn 1975. It kicks off with a bit of the old Gary Gygax invective, as he lets rip on a bad review of D&D that appeared in a rival publication. There is also some news at TSR, as Gygax becomes a full-time employee (which I'm surprised he wasn't already), and the manuscript for M.A.R. Barker's RPG Empire of the Petal Throne nears completion. Mention is also made of the upcoming D&D tournament at Origins I, and the horrible place in which participants will be adventuring. I believe this is the first oblique reference to the Tomb of Horrors.

Also included is a "comedy" article giving stats to various types of gamers, another detailing the Battle of the Ebro River for Napoleonic wargaming, and a parody song about a unicorn.

As for the D&D-relevant articles, here they are:

Creature Features: A sizable number of new monsters are introduced for the first time here, most of which are staples of the game.

  • Yetis
  • Shambling Mounds (aka Shamblers)
  • Leprechauns
  • Shriekers
  • Ghosts
  • Guardian Nagas
  • Water Nagas
  • Spirit Nagas
  • Wind Walkers
  • Piercers
  • Lurkers Above
It's noted that Shriekers are a favourite food of Shambling Mounds and Purple Worms. Of more interest is the curious note that Ghosts are not true undead. They are said to be the spirits of humans who were totally evil, but I'm still puzzling out how they're different from other undead creatures. I wonder if they are perhaps just a naturally-occurring phenomenon, rather than the result of evil magic, or a curse? A look at the AD&D Monster Manual shows that Ghosts are considered undead by that point, so I might just ignore this reference. Perhaps its just that they can't be turned at this point, leading scholars to misinterpret their nature.

Gallery of Gunfighters part 1: This is a short art that gives some history and context regarding the art of gun-fighting in the Old West. This is intended for TSR's Boot Hill game, but given that there are rules in the AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide for converting from Boot Hill to D&D, I will probably make it possible to access the Old West somehow.

Mapping the Dungeons: This article gives a round-up of what's going on with various campaigns around the country. The most interesting note here is a report from Dave Arneson about some of his Blackmoor adventurers travelling through a teleporter into Nazi Germany, and having a skirmish with the locals. These adventurers included The Great Svenny, Marty the Elf (who died), Richard the Hairy, and five berserkers (2 of whom died). They drive off the Nazis, just as their reinforcements arrived (3 magical-types and another 12 berserkers). A rematch was apparently set to happen soon after. I'll definitely include The Great Svenny and Richard the Hairy as NPCs in the Blackmoor area of my campaign.
  Gary Gygax notes that there was a similar battle in his Greyhawk campaign, but I won't get into that here because it gets reported on in greater detail in a later magazine.

Deserted Cities of Mars: This article discusses the nature of the many uninhabited cities on Mars, the setting of Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter novels. It ends with some random tables for determining some of the features of these cities. This setting has already been mentioned in some earlier D&D books, and I know that Gary had some of his players travel there, so I will include it as a possible destination as well.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Recaps & Roundups part 13: Wargamer's Digest vol. 2 #8


This issue of Wargamer's Digest, published with a cover date of June 1975, features another D&D article by Gary Gygax. Anyone who wants to read the article can find it here, but I'll detail the most interesting parts of it below.

The Magician's Ring by Gary Gygax: The article is an account of a D&D adventure undertaken by Lessnard the Magician (6th level) and three hirelings (a veteran (1st level) fighter, an acolyte (1st level) cleric, and a medium (1st level) magic-user named - sigh - Floppspel. The quartet venture into the Greyhawk dungeons, battling some wights and a giant scorpion (which kills the cleric). Floppspel finds a ring of invisibility on the scorpion's tail, and there's some dispute as to who should claim it. On the way out, while navigating past a pool filled with giant crocodiles (which killed the fighter) via some boots of levitation, Lessnard is almost killed when Floppspel tries to extort him for the ring. The two escape after their altercation almost drops both of them in with the crocodiles.

This story isn't much to write home about, and the quality of the prose is bad even by Gygax's standards. Perhaps more interesting than the story is the bit at the end where Gygax details how the rules played into the various actions of Floppspel. Nevertheless, it does feature some interesting tidbits about the Castle Greyhawk dungeons.

  • The ruins of Castle Greyhawk lie on a hill about a league to the east of the bustling City of Greyhawk.
  • The countryside between the two has numerous strange tunnels and wells, which are entrances to the "fiendish maze of dungeons, pits, labyrinths, crypts, catacombs and caverns which honeycomb the hill and the rock far beneath it".
  • Lessnard enters an outside entrance into a lower dungeon level, but finds the labyrinth beyond has been recently looted. Some stairs leading up a level bring him to a crypt and a trio of wights.
  • From a four-way junction near the crypt, Lessnard heads 100 paces north and enters a large chamber where he is surprised by a giant scorpion.
  • Somewhere between the stairs and the scorpion room, Lessnard had passed through a one-way door.
  • Somewhere not far from the crypt, a narrow crack in the wall leads to a hexagonal chamber. A deep well filled with dark water and hungry crocodiles took up most of the chamber, with only a narrow ledge providing a way around.
  • Lessnard, a 6th-level magic-user, and Floppspel, a 1st-level magic-user, will be included as NPCs in the city of Greyhawk. The cleric and the fighter seen in this story both died, and were eaten by crocodiles.
  • At one point Lessnard swears an oath to "Crum and St. Cuthbert". I'm going to assume that the former is supposed to be Crom, and that Gary changed the name to avoid any legal troubles. Both Crom and St. Cuthbert will be deities in my campaign. Lessnard, if he's ever encountered, will inexplicably pronounce the former as Crum. (I'm not entirely sure, but this might be the earliest mention of St. Cuthbert that we've had.)

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Recaps & Roundups part 12: The Strategic Review #2


The second issue of The Strategic Review features several D&D articles, as well as some additions to Cavaliers & Roundheads, Panzer Warfare, and - most notably - an in memoriam for TSR co-founder Don Kaye. Kaye was a close childhood friend to Gary Gygax, and he died of a heart attack in January 1975, just 36 years old. It's impossible to know what influence he might have had on D&D had he lived, but his death started a long chain of events that had huge implications for TSR. His one-third share in TSR passed to his wife, and was eventually bought out by Melvin Blume, father of TSR's other co-owner, Brian Blume. This gave the Blume family a controlling interest in the company, which was one of several factors that led to Gygax's ouster a decade down the line.

The following D&D articles are also featured in this issue:

Questions Most Frequently Asked About D&D: This is one of the most important early articles for clarifying and expanding the original D&D rules. It deals with the following:

  • It's recommended that the "alternate system" of combat in OD&D be used for combat with "principal figures" and stronger monsters.
  • It's clarified that normally creatures get one attack per round, and deal 1d6 damage per attack. This has already been superseded by the rules in Supplement I: Greyhawk.
  • An example is given where an 8th level fighter gets 8 attacks per round (1 per HD) against normal men or creatures of similar strength (kobolds, goblins, gnomes, dwarves, etc.). Whether this bonus applies to anyone other than fighters isn't said, but given later rules in AD&D I would think not.
  • Initiative is said to be a simple d6 roll for each side, rolled every round, with the higher number acting first. In the combat example, this roll is modified by the lone PC's Dexterity.
  • The combat example provides grappling rules, with both sides rolling 1d6 for every Hit Die involved.
  • Monsters roll saving throws as fighters of equivalent Hit Dice. Those with magic resistance may save as magic-users.
  • Morale is said to be up to the referee, although the 2d6 system from Chainmail is suggested.
  • XP rewards for finding magic items are introduced.
  • The "Vancian" spell-casting system is explained and clarified.

Creature Features: The Roper: The Roper is introduced for the first time.

Rangers: The ranger class is introduced as a sub-class of the fighter. They are heavily based on Aragorn from Lord of the Rings, and I plan to introduce them in a similar fashion: as the descendents of ancient kings that lurk on the fringes of society and protect it from evil.

Medieval Pole Arms: This isn't strictly a D&D article, but Gary Gygax has a long history of being obsessed with pole arms, and this will bleed through to the game eventually. This is his first stab at classifying and explaining the various kinds. Introduced to Chainmail here are the following:
  • Voulge
  • Bardiche
  • Guisarme
  • Glaive
  • Fauchard
  • Guisarme-Voulge
  • Glaive-Guisarme
  • Bill-Guisarme
  • Partisan
  • Spetum
  • Ranseur
  • Lucern Hammer
  • Pole Axe
  • Lochaber Axe

Friday, May 17, 2019

Recaps & Roundups part 11: Europa 6-8

I had promised earlier to intersperse Gary Gygax's earlier D&D articles into this series where appropriate. This time around it's an article from Europa, a war-gaming fanzine created by Walter Luc Haas of Switzerland. This issue is cover-dated April 1975, so I've placed it after Supplement I: Greyhawk. This may not be strictly accurate. The article indicates that Greyhawk is upcoming, so at the very least the article was written before Greyhawk was published. Whether it was published before or after is a mystery. Any comic fan can tell you that cover dates and publication dates rarely match up, and I doubt that fanzines are any different. Anyway, it says April on the cover, so that's where I'm slotting it in lieu of more accurate information.

For those who want to check out this article (and the complete fanzine in which it saw publication) the link is here.

How to Set Up Your Dungeons & Dragons Campaign - And be Stuck Referring it Seven Days Per Week Until the Wee Hours of the Morning! by Gary Gygax

The first thing that should be noted is that this is part II of a series. According to Falconer in this thread, the other two parts are shorter and less interesting. The first covers the origins of the game, and the third covers the game's future, with the release of various supplements. I'd still like to see them, but it's nice to know that I'm not missing a great deal.

Gygax sets out everything that the referee should so to set up a D&D campaign. It's info that should have been included in the original rules, let's be honest.  He outlines five broad steps that must be taken:
  1. Deciding on the overall setting of the campaign
  2. Mapping the countryside of the immediate area
  3. Mapping the dungeon where most adventures will take place
  4. Mapping the nearest large town
  5. Outlining the entire world, including other times and dimensions if required
Step 1 is simply figuring out what type of world the adventures will take place in. Gary gives a few examples, including Teutonic/Norse mythology, medieval European folklore (including King Arther and Holger the Dane), the Hyborian Age, Fritz Leiber's Nehwon, Indian mythology, and the lost continents of Mu or Atlantis.

For step 2, Gary recommends mapping the wildernes on hex paper, with a scale of 1 mile per hex.

Step 3 requires mapping the dungeon, and Gary recommends having a theme for each level. Some sample themes given are: a level with large open areas swarming with goblins; a level where the basic pattern of corridors seems to repeat endlessly; and one inhabited by nothing but fire-dwelling or fire-using monsters.

At this point, we get what is probably the most detailed description of "Old Greyhawk Castle" yet to see print. It's said to be 13 levels deep, and goes as follows:
  • Level 1 was a simple maze of rooms and corridors (which Gary deemed to be interesting enough for those who had never played such a game before).
  • Level 2 had two unusual features: a Nixie pool and a fountain of snakes.
  • Level 3 features a torture chamber and many small cells and prison rooms.
  • Level 4 was a level of crypts filled with undead.
  • Level 5 was centered around a strange font of black fire, and was inhabited by gargoyles.
  • Level 6 was a repeating maze with dozens of wild hogs in inconvenient spots, backed up by appropriate numbers of wereboars
  • Level 7 was centered around a circular labyrinth and a street with masses of ogres.
  • Levels 8 through 10 were caves and caverns, inhabited by trolls and giant insects. They also had a transporter nexus, guarded by an evil wizard with a number of tough associates.
  • Level 11 was the home of the most powerful wizard in the dungeon, and his balrog servants. Martian White Apes populated the rest of the level. There was also a system of sub-passages underneath the corridors, which was filled with poisonous creatures with no treasure.
  • Level 12 was filled with dragons.
  • Level 13 (the bottom level) contained an inescapable slide which took the players "clear through to China", from which they would have to return via the wilderness.
  • A series of slanting passages began on level 2 and led to the bottom level, but apparently the chance of stumbling downwards was greater starting from levels 7-8.
  • Side levels include a barracks with warring clans of orcs, hobgoblins, and gnolls; a museum; a huge arena; a giant's home; and a garden of fungi.
Gygax has given some contradictory information about Castle Greyhawk over the years. No doubt some of that is due to the ever-evolving nature of the dungeon, but I'd chalk some of it up to memory and the passage of time. Given the vintage of this article, I'd expect everything here to be fresh in Gary's mind, and quite accurate.

Step 4 involves mapping the town and Gary says that the place should resemble something from the Conan or Fafhrd & Gray Mouser stories. Strange towers, a thieves' quarter, and temples to horrible deities are given as features to include, as are factions such as the thieves' guild, a society of evil clerics, and a brotherhood of lawful men.

Step 5, outlining the world, is said to be something the referee doesn't need to tackle right away. Visiting other worlds is mentioned as a possibility, with the option of flying a magic carpet to the moon given as an example.

The rest of the article is given over to some brief tips on creating PCs, and a bit about how someone wanting to play a Gold Dragon should be handled. None of it's concrete enough to be of much interest to this project. Certainly it's not a patch on the solid gold Castle Greyhawk details given above.