Monday, July 01, 2019

Recaps & Roundups part 22: The Character Archaic

Cover art by Morno
The Character Archaic, published in September 1975, was the first commercially available set of character sheets for D&D. They were published by Wee Warriors, a company founded by husband and wife team Pete and Judy Kerestan. While not technically a TSR product, it was distributed by TSR, as were several later Wee Warriors products, so I'll be covering them when I reach them in the timeline.

Although TSR had yet to release any character sheets of their own, by this point they apparently had developed some for internal use. According to the Acaeum they were on top-tearing pads, and printed on green, orange, or white paper. Here's one of the sheets below:

I don't have access to a copy of The Character Archaic, so I'm relying on second-hand knowledge and some photos to tell me what's inside the thing. The Acaeum says that it features 20 character sheets, a dungeon map, a creature encounter sheet, a character roll call, and a combat matrix reference.  I'm not sure what those last three entail, but I do have some examples of the character sheets and a photo of the dungeon map.

Both of the above sheets are identical except for the illustration in the top corner of the right page. I'm not sure, but it's possible that there are more illustrations than the two shown above. It's interesting to note that these sheets aren't strictly for D&D; among the ability scores are Psychic Ability and Comeliness, which suggests that the sheets are also intended for use with Empire of the Petal Throne. To be honest, they seem to be more geared towards EPT than D&D, with spaces for skills and training, as well as bonuses to hit and damage for every ability score.

The dungeon map is labelled 'The Wizard's Tomb', and I have a photo below (taken from a thread on RPGGeek).

That's not the whole thing, obviously, as some of it is frustratingly cut off at the bottom. Rooms 1 through 13 can be seen clearly, as well as Room 24. There are also three numbered areas in the long passage to the left, so it's likely that there are seven others room that we can't see. Does anyone know if there are any better images of this map out there?

There were definitely other character sheets out there in 1975, and you can check out a list of them over at Playing at the World.  Most of those were in 'zines and newsletters. TSR wouldn't publish their own until 1977, so for about two years The Character Archaic was as official as it got.

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