Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Recaps & Roundups part 55: The Minifigs D&D miniature line

Issue #6 of The Dragon featured an article on the debut of the Minifigs line of miniatures for Dungeons & Dragons.  Minifigs was founded in 1964 in Southampton, England. They mostly specialised in historical figures, but in 1975 they started making some fantasy figures, and later secured the D&D license.  This was the first official line of D&D minis.

The article from The Dragon actually covers the bulk of what was released for the line.  It's mostly a selection of dwarves, elves, orcs, goblins, and other humanoids.  Later on some sets of trolls, ogres and ogre magi would be released, as well as a selection of demons that included minis for Orcus and Demogorgon.

Here's the first ad below:

Click to get a better look

I won't go through and look at every miniature listed there, but I'll put up an example of each type of humanoid represented.

Dwarf King

The High Elf King and the Wood Elf King

Gnome with spear (painted)

Hobbit with sword (painted)

As far as the PC races go there's nothing out of the ordinary (although I suppose gnomes don't become a PC race until the Player's Handbook, which is about a year away).  The main thing to note is the difference between High Elves and Wood Elves: the former are armoured in fine regalia, while the latter are much more lightly armed and rustically dressed.

Gnoll Chieftain

The gnoll shown here definitely has the beginnings of the hyena-headed look that will be firmly established when the Monster Manual is released. 

Goblin with sling

Hobgoblin with partisan

The goblins aren't particularly memorable, but the hobgoblins have the distinctive style of armour and helmets that they'll be depicted with through much of 1st edition AD&D.

Kobold with axe (painted)

Now that's a classic dog-faced D&D kobold if I ever saw one.

Orc with kris-headed spear

Finally, the orc is pig-faced, and very much looks like the kind in Dave Sutherland's art, as already seen in Swords & Spells and the revised cover of the original D&D boxed set.

All of the above images are courtesy of DNDLead.com, which is a great site with what looks to be a pretty comprehensive look at the history of official D&D miniatures.

Despite the lack of sculpting detail in the figures above, it's immediately apparent when you look at them as a whole that they're from D&D.  Several of the humanoid figures look like Dave Sutherland drawings, and each type resembles its counterpart from the Monster Manual.  The release of that book is just a few months away, so I suspect that Minifigs either had access to its illustrations or was given a style guide of sorts with Sutherland's art.  Regardless, what we're seeing is another step towards the consolidation of D&D's visual identity.

I haven't covered the ogres, trolls and demons yet; I'll get to those when their ads pop up in The Dragon.  I also see that Minifigs did some World of Greyhawk minis circa 1980, so I'll cover those when the time comes as well.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Recaps & Roundups part 54: The Inner Temple of the Skeleton King

I'm still stuck on the topic of Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson after my trawl through their earliest work.  Last time I posted an early adventure from Steve, so now I guess it's Ian's turn.  I honestly couldn't remember where I found this image of "The Inner Temple of the Skeleton King", but a Googling of the filename revealed that it was The Other Side blog, the same place that I found the summaries of Owl & Weasel.  Apparently it comes from part 1 of a history of Games Workshop, but the link to the article is unfortunately dead.

This is apparently Ian's first ever dungeon.  Some of the writing is hard to make out, so it's not 100% clear what's in every room.  From what I can tell, it shares some of the same design sensibilities as Steve's "Dungeon of the Ground Goblins", though not being prepared for publication means that it's not as polished.  A lot of this is written in shorthand, so it's impossible to know what a lot of it means.  What's with all of the letters and cards scattered around the dungeon?  What do the underlined numbers at the end of some entries mean?  Without more levels of the dungeon, or access to the twisted mind of Mr. Livingstone, we'll never know.

It's interesting to see some of Livingstone's tropes already present here though.  If his Fighting Fantasy books are any indication, he loves to put a shop in a dungeon, and this one has a few.  He also loves to make players scavenge for essential items, and I would assume that the cards and numbers found in the dungeon are essential to some puzzle or trap on another level.  I'd love to see the whole thing; this snippet of the dungeon is obviously an early D&D design, with all the strengths and weaknesses that entails.  It has no concept of "monster ecology" or realistic dungeon design, but it does have touches of the anything-goes weirdness of 70s gaming.

This one would take a lot of work to get up to snuff if I decided to include it in the Ultimate Sandbox project, much more than Steve's effort.  I'm on the fence with doing the work for either, but those are decisions for a theoretical time in the future.  For now, I'll file them both away in the "maybe" basket.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Recaps & Roundups part 53: The Dungeon of the Ground Goblins

While I'm on the subject of Games Workshop founders Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson, I'd like to backtrack a bit and write about a small discovery I made.  First published in Games and Puzzles #48 (cover dated May 1976), "The Dungeon of the Ground Goblins" is a small dungeon adventure written by Steve.  It was later reprinted as part of a D&D flyer distributed by Game Designers Workshop (not to be confused with Games Workshop) in 1977.

It's a pretty simple adventure: a dungeon at the bottom of a hollow tree trunk, that's little more than a series of rooms, monsters and treasure with little to connect them thematically.  The main point of interest here is the presence of a "dungeon caretaker", suggesting that this whole thing has been purposely designed and curated.  Who by, and for what purpose?  Only Steve knows, assuming he ever came up with a rationale for all of this.  Something tells me he probably wouldn't remember some 40+ years down the track.

Most of this dungeon seems geared to low-level adventurers, with goblins, orcs, giant rats, and weaker undead. The gorgon would be a tough encounter, but having the dungeon caretaker right outside that room could be a way for PCs to find out they shouldn't go in there.  It's pretty heavy on the magic items, too: that haul of a +2 warhammer and a +2 shield is especially rich.

If I ever did use this dungeon for the Ultimate Sandbox, I'd have to design another five levels for it.  I'm tempted to include it, it because I'm a huge Steve Jackson fan.  I'm still mulling over where the Games Workshop-related material will fit in the grand scheme of things.  TSR stuff obviously gets jammed into Greyhawk, and the Judges Guild material is all a part of the Wilderlands of High Fantasy setting.  Some of the White Dwarf stuff goes into Greyhawk and D&D at large via the Fiend Folio, so its likely that I'll decide to jam all the other UK stuff there as well.  Still, it's tempting for me to rope in Allansia from the Fighting Fantasy series, as the only setting out there that I know for sure is created by Ian and Steve.  It's something for me to think about, anyway.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Recaps & Roundups part 52: Owl & Weasel

While Gary Gygax, Dave Arneson and company got the fantasy RPG ball rolling over in the USA, in the UK that credit should probably go to Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone.  In early 1975 the two school friends and flatmates, along with mutual friend John Peake, founded Games Workshop. Initially they sold games out of their flat by mail order.  They also launched the games fanzine Owl & Weasel, a copy of which ended up in the hands of Brian Blume.  In return, Blume sent them a copy of TSR's new game Dungeons & Dragons.  Jackson and Livingstone were impressed by the imaginative potential of the game, and got in touch with Blume to negotiate exclusive rights to sell D&D in Europe.  They started selling the game in late 1975, still operating out of their flat (until they got evicted in Summer of 1976 because too many gamers were showing up looking for a shop that didn't exist).

(I looked up John Peake, because I've never heard of him.  Apparently he was far more into the boardgame side of things, and had very little interest in RPGs.  He got out some time in 1976 when he saw which way the wind was blowing.)

The company expanded after that, and was able to open the first Games Workshop store in 1977.  In June of that year, they published the first issue of the magazine White Dwarf (which I just learned was chosen because it works for fantasy as well as sci-fi). In later years Jackson and Livingstone created the gamebook genre with the Fighting Fantasy series, which I would venture may have actually had more pop culture penetration outside of the USA than Dungeons & Dragons.  Certainly in Australia you're more likely to find 80s kids who were into FF than D&D, and those books were my gateway into the hobby.  In the 90s Livingstone became a top executive at video game company Eidos, and had a hand in the Tomb Raider and Hitman franchises.  Both of these men are giants in the gaming field, and a lot could be written about them, but for this blog I'll be focusing on their earlier RPG-related work.

White Dwarf includes plenty of D&D content, some of which eventually ends up in TSR's Fiend Folio.  I'm going to cover it for a while, at least up until issue #74, which is when Livingstone steps down as the magazine's editor.  Before that, though, I want to take a look at its precursor, Owl and Weasel, with a focus on its D&D articles.

Owl and Weasel ran for 25 issues, from February 1975 to April 1977.  The early issues focus on war-gaming, puzzles, and board games.  There are articles on chess and mah jong up in this thing; it's apparent that Ian and Steve were fans of games at large, not just fantasy and sci fi.  The first mention of Dungeons & Dragons is a brief bit in issue #5, from June of 1975.  Steve had watched a game being played at the City University Games Club, and been fascinated by it.  As of the writing of the article he'd yet to play D&D, but he asks for opinions and reviews from readers.

Issue #6 is where D&D bursts onto the scene, with an enthusiastic three-page article from Steve.  He outlines the game, complains that the price is too high for three small booklets, and gives some examples of play.  It's mentioned that Ian was the "Gamesmaster", running a dungeon called the Caves of Truenor.  Should I decide to include these caves in my campaign, the details given are as follows:

  • The entrance is a cave in a rocky beach-side cliff.
  • The first tunnel leads to a four-way junction. One points to the left, and says "Beware Nixies" in the Universal Tongue. The other points right and says "White is Right" in Orcish.  (Well, they are Chaotic Evil...)
  • Some tunnels lead to a room that appears to be an elevator trap that takes the players deeper into the dungeon.
  • One of the rooms leads to a chamber with a chest guarded by a dozen ghouls.
  • Elsewhere in the dungeon is a corridor with six doors, and a chalice full of poison. The sixth door opens into a room with four giant snakes.
I'm pleased to note that Steve Jackson is an absolute bastard genius of a player: his plan to kill the snakes involves chopping up a dead party member, poisoning the pieces and feeding the snakes with them.  The other party members refuse, but he still does it anyway when their backs are turned.  Mr. Jackson, I salute you.

Issue #7 has more D&D, including a letter from a reader complaining about how unrealistic the D&D combat system is, and offering some alternatives.  The opposite page has an article by Ian Livingstone, with some very basic advice on the balance and design of dungeons.  Necessary stuff in the hobby's early days, but there's nothing revelatory here for D&D veterans.

Issue #8 has an article about the first play-by-mail D&D campaign in England. It also includes some house rules from Steve's game: PCs get two chances to open a stuck door, clerics can pray for extra spells, and fighters can't roll less than 3 hit points at 1st level.

(Also mentioned briefly is that there is already a computer version of D&D. This is probably The Dungeon or The Game of Dungeons, both of which I covered on my other blog, CRPG Adventures, in which I'm chronologically playing every CRPG and adventure game I can get my hands on. Posts on the games are here and here.)

Issue #9 has more house rules, related to death and healing.  Issue #10 reprints the Ranger class from The Strategic Review #2.  Issue #11 has a one-page article about hirelings, and some stuff about Empire of the Petal Throne. Issue #12 plugs the release of Supplement II: Blackmoor.  There doesn't appear to be much of any D&D content in issue #13, #14 or #15 (although #14 does feature the first appearance of future game designer Don Turnbull).

Issue #16 has a feature on the release of Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry, and also mentions that Ian and Steve are planning to head to America in July.  Quite a long time ago (2005!) I asked Gary on a message board if he had any personal contact with Steve and Ian, and he regaled me with a tale of them staying at his house and helping him clear his yard of some poison oak. He also dropped an interesting historical tidbit about wanting TSR and Games Workshop to merge, which got scuttled because Steve and Ian were wary of the Blumes.  It's still archived here.

Issue #17 has a house rule in the letters page that reduces a monster's combat effectiveness as it loses hit points.  On the article side, issue #18 has one about reality in D&D, but it's more interesting from a real world perspective: it has a reports about Ian and Steve's trip to the US and their first Gen Con, small write ups on Supplement IV: Gods, Demigods & Heroes and Swords and Spells, and a note on the final issue of The Strategic Review and the first issue of The Dragon.  It also has a full page on skateboarding, which is weird, but I guess it must have been a real novelty back then.

Issue #19 devotes more of its space to D&D than any issue before it.  It has some new rules in the form of ability score minimums for demi-human characters (similar to those that would soon appear in the upcoming Basic Set), as well as some house rules about time-keeping and spell use.  There's a little more about the two new supplements, and a two-page article about alignment (the never-ending debate).

Issue #20 is light on D&D, though it does have an old grognard writing in to complains about "all this fantasy nonsense".  Issue #21 is similarly light.

Issue #22 is D&D-heavy again, featuring Don Turnbull's first stab at the Monstermark system, a mathematical calculation to determine the relative strength of various monsters.  This will pop up again in the future as Turnbull refines it, so I'll write about it then.

Issue #23 is given over almost entirely to coverage of the upcoming Games Day convention, with descriptions of the games happening there, a map of the hall, and ads galore.

Issue #24 has coverage of the D&D Day event, an article with mapping advice, and two new classes: Samurai and Psionist.  Both are staple homebrew classes, but I wonder if these were the first to see print?  The Samurai gets extra attacks and bonuses to unarmed combat, while the Psionist specialises in psionics as detailed in Eldritch Wizardry. There's also an announcement that Owl and Weasel is ending to make way for White Dwarf, which will have a much heavier focus on fantasy and sci-fi games.

Issue #25, the final issue, seems to be mostly set-up and hype for White Dwarf. with the only actual article being a bit with some basic advice about what makes a good D&D dungeon.

(The scans and information above come courtesy of The Other Side blog, who covered the entire run of Owl & Weasel in detail.  Without those articles, I'd have no idea what was in these issues.  As it is, I only have a general sense, aside from those where actual scans were provided.)

So that cover Owl & Weasel, which as far as I can tell doesn't have a lot in terms of rules and setting-related material.  It's far more interesting as a historical window into the UK gaming scene in the 70s, and the infancy of the D&D boom.  White Dwarf will have much more D&D content, and my coverage of the first issue should be coming up in about half a dozen posts.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Recaps & Roundups part 51: The Dungeoneer #5

The Dungeoneer #5 is cover dated April/May 1977.  I have it alongside the other D&D products from April, but given the way dating usually works on periodicals it probably came out a couple of months before that.  The contents are detailed below.

"The Arcane Elders, Chapter V" (author unknown, but probably J. Mark Hendricks): Lute the Bard and Ralph the Halfling reunite with Rohcyl the Sorcerer and his new-found barbarian friend Theoran. Together they all vow to defeat the druid who has enslaved Theoran's people. With one chapter left, this seems to be trying to wrap up. There's very little here in the way of setting info.

"The Goodies Bag": Two new magic items:

  • "The Pipes of Caleb" by Jennell Jaquays: These pipes were created by an ancient Patriarch of the same name, who used them to charm spider-like monsters called Harvestmen and lead them away from the lands of mankind. Apart from charming these monsters, the pipe protects the bearer and all within 5' from all Harvestmen. It can also charm other spider-like creatures, and enhances the bard's charming ability.  This is a very specific item, and if it ever makes it into my campaign I'll be sure to make it unique.
  • "The Ring of Slime Control" by Jennell Jaquays: This ring can summon and control all slime creatures: oozes, puddings, green slime, molds, jellies, slugs, worms, fungi, shambling mounds, etc. They can also control a new type of monster called an Aquazombie. Unfortunately, this ring also places its user under the control of the Slime God.  As with the previous item, this one should probably be unique.
"Monster Matrix": Both of these monsters are new. One, the Aquazombie, is a part of this issue's adventure, "Night of the Walking Wet".
  • "Harvestmen" by Jennell Jaquays: Like a cross between a giant spider and a human hand, these creatures were the result of a union between a spider demon and his high priestess in ages past. They ate their mother and spread across the land, until the cleric Caleb (mentioned above) defeated them. They attack by leaping and trying to crush their victims, pinning them helplessly to the ground unless they are strong enough to escape.  They also have a bite that can either poison or paralyze, and they can cast webs (like the spell).  Any group larger than 10 will be led by a Harvest Mother, which has double the Hit Dice or a regular Harvestman, and can lay eggs.
  • Aquazombies" by Jennell Jaquays: These zombie-like creatures are also known as "The Walking Wet" or "The Walking Dead".  (It's given both ways, but I suspect the former is the correct name.)  They aren't actually undead, but rather people who came into contact with the Slime God and were forced into symbiosis with an alien slime creature. Their main combat ability is to infect those they strike with the slime, turning them into Aquazombies as well. No doubt there'll be more about these creatures and the Slime God when I get to "Night of the Walking Wet".
"More Tricks and Traps" by Jennell Jaquays: This is a continuation of the article from last issue, and simply presents a list of tracks and traps to add to your dungeon. These include a teleport door, a room that removes the intelligence from magic swords, a living corridor that eats people, a room with a magnetic ceiling that grabs up weapons and armour, a room that turns all of its inhabitants invisible, underground cave forests, tunnels leading to the Starship Warden of Metamorphosis Alpha, winds that extinguish torches, a bridge over a molten pit with illusory walls, elevator rooms, and a room with giant statue, each of which reacts differently (fighting, asking riddles, etc.).  The majority of these are variations on ideas I've encountered before, and I doubt I'll have to go to much trouble to include them in the campaign.  I'd hazard a guess that the official modules have all of these ideas covered.

"A Change in the Elemental" by Jim Ward: This article suggests a number of variant elemental types: acid, gas/hydrogen, wind (a stronger form of air), molten lava, jungle plant (with poison thorns), sand, glue, darkness, light, and lightning.  I'm down with pretty much all of these, except for the Glue Elemental and the Jungle Plant Elemental.  All of the others are related to the classical elements, or to energy of some kind.  But Glue? Jungle Plants? They don't really fit, and if I ever use them they may not be true elementals.

The rest of the issue is taken up by the first half of the adventure "Night of the Walking Wet". The second half is in issue #6, so I'm going to hold off on talking about it until I cover that issue. 

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Recaps & Roundups part 50: Judges Guild Installment L (Tegel Manor)

I didn't have anything big planned for hitting a nice round number 50 in this series, but by happenstance it features a famous module, Judges Guild's Tegel Manor. It came as part of Installment K, the fourth sent out to JG subscribers, cover dated April/May 1977. A full list of what was included is as follows:

  • JG22 Journal L
  • JG23 Tegel Manor and Area Judge's Map (17" x 22")
  • JG24 Tegel Manor and Area Player's Map (11" x 17")
  • JG25 Booklet L
  • JG29 Character Checklist
  • JG30 Tegel Manor and Area Judge's Map (11" x 17")

JG22 Journal L

I actually have access to a copy of this journal for a change. It kicks off with an apology, as the last Ready Ref Sheet (Wizard's Guide and Construction Costs) was accidentally left out of the last installment. It actually first shipped with this installment, even though it was supposed to be in Installment K. After that there's a bit about the new format of the newsletter, and then some short articles.

  • "Shrewd Slants from the Sagacious Sage" notes that the climate around the City State is much milder than that of northern Europe. It also has a note from Gary Gygax explaining that the "% in Lair" stat for monsters serves as a guideline to determine if a wilderness encounter has happened in the monster's lair.
  • "Setting Up a D&D Campaign" by Tom Holsinger gives some advice about that topic, with particular focus on having a unifying theme, and the necessity of having a prior civilisation that has fallen, in order to explain the various ruins and treasure scattered about.  He follows it up with a lot of talk about demographics, food growth, and how that can affect military matters. I've never gone into that sort of stuff in anything more than the barest detail, but it's a basic necessity if you want a campaign to make a lick of sense. I won't get into any of Holsinger's specifics, but I will keep this article in mind if I ever need to address the topic. The one thign I will note is that he creates two new cleric spells: green thumb to double crop production, and its evil reverse, crop blight. Holsinger does bring up one intriguing idea, though: using the psychic potential stat from Empire of the Petal Throne to determine who can cast spells and operate magic items. It's a decent way to explain the difference between adventurers and regular folks, if you want one, and also to place a limit on the prevalence of magic in a campaign.

The rest of the newsletter is just Judges Guild shilling their own stuff, with a focus on Tegel Manor and the new Judges Shield, which I just discovered you need to tape together yourself!

JG29 Character Checklist

This product is a single sheet of paper in the installment, but was sold separately as bundles of six. It appears to be both a character sheet for multiple characters and a method of determining and tracking alignment for PCs and NPCs. Alignment is diced for on the charts on the upper left using 1d20, once for the Law/Chaos axis and once for the Good/Evil axis.  The combination of the two results gives the character's alignment, and a numerical value that can be modified based on the character's actions.  I've never been a fan of alignment tracking systems, and am generally pretty lax on alignment concerns except for clerics and paladins, so I doubt I'll apply this at all.

JG23 Tegel Manor and Area Judge's Map (17" x 22")
JG24 Tegel Manor and Area Player's Map (11" x 17")
JG30 Tegel Manor and Area Judge's Map (11" x 17")

These three maps are all double-sided, with one side showing a map of Tegel Manor and the other side showing the wilderness surrounding the manor.  The Judge's Map has all of the details, whereas the Player's Map gives basic outlines with very little filled in.  I don't think there's a difference between the two Judge's Maps except for size; I assume the smaller one is provided because it would be a little bit easier to handle at the table.

Tegel Manor

Surroundings, with the manor in the bottom right and the village in
the upper left

JG25 Booklet L

This booklet is pretty much entirely given over to a description of Tegel Manor. Unlike the previous three booklets, which were more about the campaign setting, this is an adventure module. It's possible that it's the largest one made for D&D to this point, and it's certainly one of the very first to be sold as a commercial product; I think the only other one I've covered so far that was sold in shops on its own is Palace of the Vampire Queen from Wee Warriors.

I'm not actually working from the original booklet.  In addition to being included in Installment L, Tegel Manor was sold in shops as product JG 27.  I'm working from a pdf of the third printing, and I'm not sure if there are any difference s between that and the original.

Tegel Manor and Tegel Village are located along the seacoast in Campaign Map 1, in hex 4416. (I covered that map in this previous post if you'd like a look.)  The manor is said to be left over from ancient days, and protected by a charm that shields it from age (and fire, just in case the PCs have the bright idea to burn the place down).  It's hereditary owners are the Rump family, although they've been lax in their duties and it's said that their eccentricities have led to the manor's corruption.

The current owner of the manor is Sir Runic the Rump, a dim-witted coward who is also somehow a paladin. Distraught at the corruption of his ancestors and living relatives, he's desperate to get rid of the place, and will try to sell it cheap.

The only other living Rumps mentioned are Roughneck Rump the Rotund, a feared highwayman, and Ruang the Ripper, an assassin. Both can be encountered roaming the countryside, along with other dangerous monsters and NPCs.

The manor itself is... well, it's wild. In some places it reads like a haunted house, with ghosts, undead, creepy paintings, unexplained noises, and other such trappings.  In others, it's like a monster zoo, with owlbears and rust monsters and even a purple worm.  Other areas just have weird magical effects going on, or bizarre scenes that play out. I don't know if I've ever read a module as baffling as this one.

It also looks pretty difficult to run without a lot of prep.  The room descriptions are sparse, mostly focused on the inhabitants, treasure, or weird magical happenings; this is fine, I'm quite happy for a module to stick to the relevant stuff. There's a lot of info covered on the map though: labels for what type of room it is (bedroom, kitchen, etc.), traps, magic statues, weird noises, teleportation squares, paintings of the Rump family that bestow magical effects when they are looked at... It's a lot to keep track of, and none of it's covered in the room descriptions.  Here's a description of room A2:

"A2  150'x110'x40' H  Two long tables with 12 skeletons 1 HD, 5-3-4-4-1-2-3-5-6-7-1-2 HTK, AC 7, sword armed.  30 Silver goblets 120 SP @ and gigantic halbard hanging on wall."

The map has it labelled as the Great Hall, and shows six pillars.  There are eight statues around the walls, two of which are magical. There are two fireplaces, one of which has a secret door in it.  The east wall is covered by a curtain, and has a couple of secret doors behind it as well. The west wall has a teleport square that leads to DL1B (which I assume means dungeon level 1, room B). There's a fake door on the south wall. And there are two squares that have an unspecified trap.  That's one of the more complex rooms, but it's very busy. I'd need to consolidate all of that info to ever have a hope of running it.

The magic statues are determined randomly as to their effects; some will raise or lower stats, some will cast a spell, some may ask a riddle or answer a question, or give a map, and some will perform a service if a missing part is recovered. 

There are also a number of portraits of the Rump family around the mansion, 100 in total. Most of them appear as some sort of undead creature, and do something magical when looked at. For example, Riven the Refected appears as a Spectre, and cries a potion of ESP. Rudlong the Revenger forewarns the party of their next encounter. Some have more mundane effects, like laughter or following the PCs with their eyes, and other do nothing. Probably my favourite is Radded Rufus, whose effect is "PROB 30% of ripped sack". Ouch!

A lot of the rooms seem to have scenes that play out over and over again, such as ghosts that go through their motions, or an Invisible Stalker that is continuously walking through a secret door from one side of the room to the other. The inhabitants of the manor may be cursed, but it's never specified exactly what's going on in this place.  I'd struggle to run this adventure, I think. It has a level of goofiness and an anything-goes defiance of logic that don't really fit my sensibilities, or those of my players.

That said, I'll say this for it: the place is memorable.  It kind of reminds me of the later D&D module Castle Amber in that regard. In almost every room there's something insane going on, or some new wild thing that could happen to your character.  I could see all sorts of great stories coming out of Tegel Manor, and now that I think of it it'd work great as a one-off party adventure, as long as you're in the right mood for it. I will certainly have the manor as a location in my version of the Wilderlands, but I may never actually point my players towards it, or require them to go inside.

The map is also great. It has tons of info packed in, and manages to include the upper floor as well as all the levels of several towers. Judges Guild have always made great maps, and this is another one.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention that there's a whole dungeon underneath the manor, with four levels. It's kind of banal in comparison to what's going on up above. The first level is a series of giant rat warrens that can be accessed via holes in the manor walls. Dungeon level 2 has the living quarters of Ranorek Rump, a missing link caveman who I forgot to mention under living relatives above. Level 3 is a lot of undead and vermin, and Level 4 is undead and monsters (harpies, a basilisk).

The booklet ends with some optional rules for resurrection, which determine whether a character returns maimed or scarred. I tend to think that resurrection magic implies healing as well, and prefer that characters come back hale and hearty, so I won't be using this. Although perhaps resurrection is different in the Wilderlands, and less effective?  Perhaps.

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Recaps & Roundups part 49: JG2 Dungeon Tac Cards & JG28 Judges' Shield

I'm tackling two Judges Guild products this time around, because neither of them should take up too much time. I don't have a copy of either, but I should be able to scrounge up enough info on them for a short post.

The first of these is product JG2, the Dungeon Tac Cards. I covered these previously, when they were sent out to Judges Guild members as part of their first subscription installment in late 1976. The first edition of this product consisted of 135 cards, each representing an action that a player might take, the idea being that players would have these cards face up in front of their character sheet to indicate what their character was doing or what they had in their hands.

In approximately April of 1977, the second edition of these cards was released as a product for sale in stores. This set had 140 cards, five more than the previous edition, but there are no new cards added: the old cards were simply given in different numbers. I listed the card amounts in my previous post on this product, so I'll do the same for this set. The cards are double-sided, with a different action on each side.

  • 5 Move/Charge Move cards
  • 5 Parry/Get Up cards
  • 5 Punch/Grapple cards
  • 5 Heavy Crossbow cards
  • 5 Dagger cards
  • 5 Horsebow cards
  • 5 Sword (longer) cards
  • 5 Sword (shorter) cards
  • 5 Shortbow cards
  • 5 Hand Axe cards
  • 5 Shield cards
  • 5 Mounted Lance/Pike cards
  • 5 Equipment (misc.) cards
  • 5 Morning Star cards
  • 5 Flail cards
  • 5 Torch cards
  • 5 Two-Handed-Sword cards
  • 5 Battle Axe cards
  • 5 Mace cards
  • 5 Halberd cards
  • 5 Composite Bow cards
  • 5 Spear cards
  • 5 Light Crossbow cards
  • 5 Pole Arm cards
  • 5 War Hammer cards
  • 5 Staff/Wand cards
  • 5 Longbow cards
  • 5 cards with Men Attacking and Saving Throw charts

The cards were given in varying numbers in the old set, but here they all come in sets of 5. It should also be noted that the cards featuring the Monster Attack and Damage charts, as well as the ones with the Man-to-Man rules from Chainmail, are no longer included. I can see leaving out the monster rules, because only the DM needs those. As for Man-to-Man combat, I suspect that very few groups were using those rules, so the JG folks left those cards out.

The second product I'm looking at today is JG 28, the Judges' Shield. I'm sure most of you know what this is: a multi-panelled cardboard shield with various charts printed on it, that can be used for reference during the game as well as to block the DM's notes from the prying eyes of the players. This particular shield has some historical significance, though, because it's the first one ever. I know of very few DMs who operate without one, so they've become something of an indispensable tool, and Judges Guild were the ones who came up with the idea.

I found scans of both sides of the Shield which I'll provide below.

Side facing players

Side facing DM

There's nothing too out of the ordinary on here, except maybe the section on the spell phantasmal forces; it must have caused more than a few headaches during gameplay for the JG crew to have thought it worthy of inclusion. The DM's side has a pretty comprehensive list of monster stats, including those from the first three supplements, as well as The Strategic Review and The Dragon. I was surprised to see that the Denebian Slime Devil and the Death Angel made the cut, as they won't be included in the Monster Manual by TSR. The Death Angel was only just in the last issue of The Dragon that I covered, so Judges Guild must have tried really hard to make this product up-to-date.