Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Fantasy Trip Video Review

Structuring Resource Decks

Still giving some thought to the development of resource cards.  In particular, how to structure the decks.

It seems to me there are at least two ways to structure resource decks.

The first way is to structure the decks based on character class.  For example, developing separate decks for Magic Users, Clerics, Fighters, Thieves, Barbarians, and Witches.  Each deck would contain the cards necessary for that class, including spells, character statistics, character illustrations, abilities, treasure and equipment specific to that class, and might cover three character levels.

The second way is to stucture the decks based on type of resource.  For example, separate decks for spells, equipment, treasure, character illustrations, and so on.  So you might have a deck of weapons, a deck of first-level spells, a deck of character statistics, a deck of monsters, and a deck of magic items.

Perhaps both kinds of decks would be useful.  For example, you might want a deck of spells, but you also might want a deck that is specifically for Witches, containing all the cards you would need to build a Witch character.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

DnD Right Out Of The Box

My interest in a resource card-based accessory for Dungeons and Dragons is also inspired by the thought that it would facilitate the introduction of new players into the role-playing hobby.

It would take very little time for each player to grab some dice, a character illustration card, a player attributes card, and a half-dozen item, skill and spell cards, slide them in the sleeved booklet, and be ready to play a game of DnD.  The illustrations on the card would be a quick visual cue to those new players, telling them what those item, skill and spell cards do.

For the DM, all they would need is dice and adventure map, and a couple of stacks of cards beside them:  a monster deck, treasure deck, and some clue or adventure hook cards.  That would facilitate improvisation, as the DM would be as surprised as the players as the characters explore and the DM draws cards to see what is discovered.

Appendix N: Attending Booksales

The CBC "Calgary Reads" Booksale is coming up three weeks from now.  As some of you are aware, I was inspired by my fellow OSR bloggers to acquaint myself with Appendix N, and garner a better appreciation for the roots of Dungeons and Dragons.  I have been reasonably successful in finding books from Appendix N at the last two CBC booksales.  Thus, I will be attending the next one, scheduled for May 11-13, 2012.  Any Calgary bloggers are welcome to join me for coffee friday afternoon, May 11, after we finish rooting through the booksale stacks.

Abbey, Lynn:

Adams, Richard: Watership Down

Alexander, Lloyd: The Book of Three 1; The Black Cauldron 2; The Castle of Llyr 3; Taran Wanderer 4; The High King 5

Anderson, Poul: Ensign Flandry; Flandry Of Terra; Agent of the Terran Empire; The Long Night; Three Hearts and Three Lions; The Broken Sword; The High Crusade; A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows

Anthony, Piers: A Spell for Chameleon; On A Pale Horse

Ariosto, Ludovico: Orlando Furioso

Asprin, Robert A.: Thieves World I; Tales from the Vulgar Unicorn II; Shadows of Sanctuary III; Storm Season IV; The Face of Chaos V; Another Fine Myth

Barker, M.A.R.: The Man Of Gold; Flamesong

Baum, L. Frank: The Wizard Of Oz, Emerald City Of Oz, Land of Oz

Beagle, Peter S.: The Last Unicorn

Bellairs, John: The Face In The Frost

Bellamy, Francis R : Atta

Bloodstone, John: Thundar Man Of Two Worlds

Bok, Hannes: The Sorcerers Ship

Brackett, Leigh: Eric John Stark, Outlaw Of Mars; The Best Of Leigh Brackett; The Sword Of Rhiannon; The Ginger Star 1; The Hounds Of Skaith 2; Reavers of Skaith 3

Bradley, Marion Z: Sword and Sorceress Anthology, Darkover Series

Brooks, Terry: The Sword of Shannara

Brown, Fredric:

Burroughs, Edgar R.: Pellucidar; Tanar of Pellucidar; A Princess Of Mars 1; The Gods Of Mars 2; Warlord Of Mars 3; Thuvia, Maid Of Mars 4; Chessmen of Mars 5; The Mastermind of Mars 6; A Fighting Man of Mars 7; The Moon Maid; Out of Time’s Abyss; Jungle Girl, Land of Hidden Men; Tarzan Of The Apes 1; The Return Of Tarzan 2; The Beasts of Tarzan 3; The Son Of Tarzan 4; Tarzan and the Lost Empire 10; At The Earth's Core

Cabell, James Branch:

Campbell, J Ramsey: Demons by Daylight

Carter, Lin: Thongor and the Dragon City; Thongor and the Wizards of Lemuria; Thongor Fights the Pirates of Tarakus; Zanathon; Tower at the Edge of Time; The Black Star; Beyond The Gates Of Dream; Down To A Sunless Sea; Journey to the Underground World; Warrior of World’s End; Flashing Swords 1; Flashing Swords 2; Flashing Swords 3; Flashing Swords 4; Flashing Swords 5; New Worlds For Old; The Young Magicians

Cervantes, Miguel: Don Quixote

Chalker, Jack L.: Midnight at the Well of Souls 1; Exiles at the Well of Souls 2; Quest For the Well Of Souls 3; The Return of Nathan Brazil 4, Twilight at the Well of Souls 5

Chandler, A. Bertram: The Road To The Rim; The Hard Way

Chant, Joy: Red Moon And Black Mountain

Cherryh, C.J.:

Cook, Glen: The Black Company

Daley, Brian: Han Solo At Star’s End; Han Solo’s Revenge; Han Solo And The Lost Legacy

Davidson, Avram: The Phoenix And The Mirror; The Island Under the Earth

deCamp, L. Sprague: The Complete Compleat Enchanter; The Compleat Enchanter; Lovecraft, A Biography; Warlocks and Warriors; The Fallible Fiend; Conan The Barbarian; Conan And The Spider God; Lest Darkness Fall; The Carnelian Cube; The Emperors Fan; The Reluctant King; The Goblin Tower; The Clocks Of Iraz

Derleth, August: The Trail of Cthuhlu

Dickson, Gordon R.:

Donaldson, Stephen: Thomas Covenant The Unbeliever

Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan: The Lost World

Dumas, Alexandre: The Three Musketeers

Dunsany, Lord: The King Of Elfland’s Daughter; Over the Hills and Far Away; The Charwoman's Shadow

Eco, Umberto: The Name Of The Rose

Eddings, David: Pawn of Prophecy, Queen Of Sorcery, Magician’s Gambit, Castle of Wizardry, Enchanter’s Endgame

Eddison, E. R.: The Worm Ouroboros; Mistress of Mistresses; A Fish Dinner In Memison

Ende, Michael: The Neverending Story

Farmer, Philip Jose: The Maker Of Universes 1; The Gates Of Creation 2; A Private Cosmos 3; Hadon Of Ancient Opar

Fiest, Raymond: Magician

Finney, Charles: The Unholy City; The Circus of Dr. Lao

Foster, Alan Dean: Nor Crystal Tears, Splinter of the Minds Eye; The End of the Matter; The Tar-Aiym Krang; Bloodhype; Orphan Star; For Love Of Mother-Not; The Time Of The Transference

Fox, Gardner: Kothar Barbarian Swordsman; Kothar and the Conjurer's Curse; Kothar and the Wizard Slayer; Kothar and the Magic Sword; Kothar And The Demon Queen; Kyrik Warlock Warrior; Kyrik Fights The Demon World; Kyrik and the Lost Queen; Kyrik and the Wizards Sword; Warrior Of Llarn

Funke, Cornelia: Inkheart

Gardner, Craig Shaw: A Malady Of Magicks

Garner, Alan: Elidor; The Moon Of Gomrath; The Weirdstone of Brisingamen

Gemmell, David: Legend

Goldman, William: The Princess Bride

Glut, Donald F: The Empire Strikes Back

Gygax, Gary: The Samarkand Solution; The Anubis Murders; Infernal Sorceress; Death In Delhi

Haggard, H. Rider: The People Of The Mist; The World's Desire; When The World Shook; She And Allan; King Solomon Mines; She

Hambly, Barbara: The Time of the Dark, The Walls Of Air, The Armies of Daylight, The Ladies of Mandrigyn, Dragonsbane

Harrison, Harry: The Adventures Of The Stainless Street Rat; The Stainless Steel Rat

Heinlein, Robert: Glory Road

Hickman, Tracy:

Hodgson, W.H.: The House On The Borderland

Holmes, John Eric: Mahars of Pellucidar

Howard, Robert E.: Sword Woman; Almuric; The People Of The Black Circle; Red Nails; Shadow Kingdoms; People Of The Dark; Beyond The Black River; The Hour Of The Dragon; Black Hounds Of Death; Conan 1; Conan Of Cimmeria 2; Conan the Freebooter 3; Conan the Wanderer 4; Conan the Adventurer 5; Conan the Buccaneer 6; Conan The Warrior 7; Conan The Usurper 8; Conan The Conqueror 9; Conan The Avenger 10; Conan Of Aquilonia 11; Conan of The Isles 12; Solomon Kane, The Hills Of The Dead; Skull-Face; Black Canaan; Swords Of Shahrazar; Marchers Of Valhalla

Hyne, C J Cutliffe: The Lost Continent

Jakes, John: Brak The Barbarian; Mark of Demons; The Sorceress

Jackson, Steve: Fighting Fantasy

Kline, Otis Adelbert: Swordsman Of Mars, Outlaw Of Mars, Planet of Peril

Kuttner, Henry: The Mask Of Circe; Elak Of Atlantis, The Dark World, Robots Have No Tails

Kurtz, Katherine: Deryni Rising; Deryni Checkmate; High Deryni

Lanier, Sterling: Hiero’s Journey; The Unforsaken Hiero

L’Engle, Madeleine: A Wrinkle In Time

Le Guin, Ursula: A Wizard Of Earthsea; The Left Hand Of Darkness; Tehanu; The Farthest Shore

Lee, Tanith: The Book Of The Damned I; The Book Of The Beast II; The Storm Lord, The Birthgrave, The Dragon Hoard, Night’s Master, Death’s Master

Leiber, Fritz: Swords and Deviltry 1; Swords Against Death 2; Swords In The Mist 3; Swords And Wizardry 4; The Swords of Lankhmar 5; Swords and Ice Magic 6

Lindsay, David: A Voyage To Arcturus

Lovecraft, H.P.: The Doom That Came To Sarnath; The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath; The Shadow Over Innsmouth; At The Mountains Of Madness; The Lurker At The Threshold; The Tomb; The Watchers Out Of Time; Waking Up Screaming; The Dunwich Horror

Martin, George R.R.: Dying Of The Light; A Song Of Ice And Fire

Matheson, Richard: I Am Legend

McCaffery, Anne: The Ship Who Sang; Dinosaur Planet

Merritt, A.: The Ship Of Ishtar; The Seven Footprints Of Satan; The Moon Pool; The Face In The Abyss; Dwellers In the Mirage; Creep Shadow Creep

Miller, Walter: A Canticle For Leibowitz

Moorcock, Michael: Legends From The End Of Time; The Jewel In The Skull; The Mad God’s Amulet; The Sleeping Sorceress; The Runestaff; The Lord of the Spiders; The Masters of the Pit; The City of the Beast; The Warlord of the Air; Stealer Of Souls; Stormbringer; Elric of Melnibone; The Sword Of The Dawn

Moore, C.L.: Northwest Smith; Jirel Of Joiry

Morris, William: The Well At Worlds End I; The Well At Worlds End II; The Wood Beyond the World; The Water of the Wondrous Isles

Mundy, Talbot: Tros Of Samothrace; Avenging Liafail 2; Liafail3; The Praetor's Dungeon 3; The Purple Pirate 6

Niven, Larry: The Man-Kzin Wars; A World Out Of Time; A Gift From Earth; Tales of Known Space; Neutron Star; The Magic May Return; The Magic Goes Away; The Flight of the Horse

Norman, John: Tarnsman Of Gor 1; Outlaw Of Gor 2; Priest-Kings Of Gor 3; Nomads Of Gor 4; Assassin Of Gor 5; Raiders Of Gor 6; Captive Of Gor 7; Hunters Of Gor 8; Marauders Of Gor 9, Tribesmen Of Gor 10, Slave Girl of Gor 11; Time Slave

Norton, Andre: Quag Keep; Exiles of the Stars; Warlock of Witch World; High Sorcery; Witch World; Sargasso Of Space; Lord Of Thunder

Nowlan, Philip F.: Armageddon 2419 A.D.

Offutt, Andrew J.: Demon In The Mirror; Eyes Of Sarsis; Web Of The Spider; Conan, The Sword of Skelos; Conan The Mercenary; Swords Against Darkness I; Swords Against Darkness II; Swords Against Darkness III; Swords Against Darkness IV; Swords Against Darkness V; The Iron Lords; Cormac Mac Art

Piper, H. Beam: Space Viking

Pratchett, Terry: The Colour Of Magic, The Light Fantastic, Equal Rites, Mort

Pratt, Fletcher: Land Of Unreason; The Blue Star; The Well of the Unicorn; The Carnelian Cube

Saberhagen, Fred: The First Book Of Swords; Second Book Of Swords; Third Book Of Swords; Empire Of The East

Schmitz, James: The Witches of Karres

Shea, Michael: Color Out Of Time; A Quest For Simbilis; Nifft The Lean

Sims, John:

Sirota, Mike: Master Of Boranga

Smith, Clark Ashton: Lost Worlds Volume 1; Lost Worlds Volume 2; Out Of Space And Time 1; Out Of Space And Time 2; The Abominations of Yondo; Genius Loci; Poseidonis; Zothique; Hyperborea; Xiccarph; Tales Of Science And Sorcery; Other Dimensions 1; Other Dimensions 2

Smith, L. Neil: Lando Calrissian and the Midharp of Sharu; Lando Calrissian and the Starcave of Thonboka; Lando Calrissian and the Flamewind of Osean

Smith, E.E. ‘Doc’: Triplanetary

Springer, Nancy: The White Hart

St. Clair, Margaret: The Shadow People; Sign of the Labrys

Stasheff, Christopher: The Warlock Wandering; A Warlock's Blade; Warlock And Son; The Warlock Is Missing; Her Majesty's Wizard; King Kobold

Stewart, Mary: The Crystal Cave; The Hollow Hills; The Last Enchantment

Swann, Thomas: Green Phoenix; Day Of The Minotaur; Cry Silver Bells; Moondust

Tolkien, J.R.R.: The Hobbit; The Lord Of The Rings

Tubb, E.C.: The Winds Of Gath 1; Derai 2; Toyman 3; Kalin 4; Jester Of Scar 5; Lallia 6; Technos 7; Veruchia 8; Mayenne 9; Jondelle 10; Zenya 11; Eloise 12;

Van Arnam, Dave: Star Barbarian

Van Vogt, A.E.: The Voyage Of The Space Beagle; Quest For The Future

Vance, Jack: The Languages Of The Pao; The Dragon Masters; The Best of Jack Vance; The Dying Earth; The Eyes of the Overworld; Cugel’s Saga; Rhialto The Marvelous; Trullion, Alastor 2262; Wyst, Alastor 1716; Marune, Alastor 933; The Faceless Man 1; The Brave Free Men 2; The Astura 3; Lyonesse 1; The Green Pearl 2; Madouc 3; The Face 4; The Blue World; Galactic Effectuator; Big Planet; City Of The Chasch 1; Servants of the Wanhk 2; The Dirdir 3; The Pnume 4; Suldrun's Garden

Verne, Jules: The Mysterious Island

Wagner, Karl E: Bloodstone, Death Angel’s Shadow, Dark Crusade

Weinbaum, Stanley; The Black Flame; A Martian Odyssey

Wellman, Manly Wade: The Old Gods Waken; The Hanging Stones; The Lost And The Lurking; After Dark; Silver John; Who Fears The Devil?

White, Theodore: The Once and Future King

Williams, Robert M.: Return of Jongor

Williamson, Jack: The Trial Of Terra; The Legion Of Space

Zelazny, Roger: Nine Princes In Amber; The Guns of Avalon; Sign of the Unicorn; The Hand of Oberon; The Courts of Chaos; Jack Of Shadows; Dilvish, The Damned; The Changing Land; Isle of the Dead; Trumps of Doom; Blood Of Amber; Sign Of Chaos; Knight Of Shadows; Prince of Chaos

Thursday, April 19, 2012

DnD Spell Cards

Over the last two years, I've seen several putative variations of DnD spell cards. 

My interest in spell cards is quite simple: i've been tinkering with the idea of a card-based Dungeons and Dragons accessory, where all of your game resources are in card form, and can be swapped in and out of a three-panelled sleeved booklet, as you aquire and spend resources. 

Those card-based resources would include, treasure, magic items, spells, equipment, relationships, and other trackable items.

In addition to  the home-brew spell cards featured by several old and new-school bloggers, Wizards created a card-based accessory for 4th Edition, tied into their AEDU system, by issuing decks of powers cards.  I really loathed those cards, for a couple of reasons: one, they lacked artwork; two, the 4E powers themselves were too mechanical; and three, WOTC ignored all the other in-game resources.

On the other hand, Paizo published decks of item and treasure cards, featuring lush illustrations, but the related game mechanics were absent from the cards, as were resources like spells.

One of the things I loved about the ADnD Players Handbook was the inclusion of artwork  accompanying the spell descriptions.  Case in point is the spell, below, Dancing Lights. 

Although uncredited, I believe this spell features a Dave Trampier ilustration. It would be lovely to have the above artwork in color, though the black and white version is perfectly serviceable. 

Yes, the spell description is probably sufficiently clear that an accompanying illustration is unnecessarily decadent, but having an illustrated set of resource cards like this would be a dream come true for this old-schooler.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Microgames: The Castle by Mayfair Games

Among microgames, those microgames published by Mayfair Games are the most obscure. 

Before the microgame market went bust, Mayfair Games published four microgames (Transylvania, Space Empires, I.C.B.M. and The Castle). 

I have already reviewed Transylvania, a fun little game of vampires and angry villagers.  The Castle, designed by Neil Zimmerer, has a style similar to Transylvania, with minimalist rules and and stylized counters. While Mayfair Games' The Castle shares some superficial similarities with SPI's Deathmaze and TFG's  Valkenburg Castle, two other excellent fantasy microgames, there are some interesting differences. 

The premise of The Castle is outlined above.  This microgame is basically a dungeon-crawl through a castle.  The goal: rescuing and escaping with the princess in order to collect a 1,000 gold piece reward.  This microgame can be played solitaire or competitively.

Like most Mayfair Games microgames, the ruleset is abbreviated.  The Castle rulebook is a slim volume of 8 digest-sized pages, but contains all the rules you need to play this game.

The Castle employs a fold-up mapboard.  The mapboard includes hallways, doors and rooms, through which the characters will travel.  At the top of the mapboard are tables, representing the combat abilities of the monsters appearing thoughout the map, with the associated damage those monsters inflict on the characters.

This microgame includes a sheet of counters, with the top row of counters representing the characters (Wizards, Clerics, Fighters and the Princess), gold counters representing treasure and items, and black counters representing monsters. 

Characters start with the number of hit points indicated on their counter:  6 for Wizards, 8 for Clerics, and 10 for Fighters. 

Monsters, too, start with the number of hit points on their counters: 2 for Bats, 3 for Goblins, 4 for Zombies, 6 for Gargoyles, and so on.

The gold treasure and black monster counters are turned face-down, and one of each is placed randomly in every room on the mapboard.  Thus, each room has a monster and treasure, but at the beginning of the game, you don't know what monsters and treasure occupy each room.

Your rescue attempt is complicated by the fact that the princess is being held in a locked cell.  In order to unlock the cell holding the princess, you must locate two of the six keys that are scattered amongst those face-down treasure counters. 

There are six keys, two of each of three types of keys: A, B, and Skeleton (S) keys.  You need a combination of those keys (AB, AS, BS, or SS) to unlock the cell holding the Princess.  Thus, this game is not simply about following the most direct route to the Princess, you must enter other rooms to locate those keys.

As you investigate the rooms of The Castle, you will encounter monsters.  This game employs a unique combat system: you roll one six-sided die, and that die roll determines the damage inflicted by both the character and the monster.

The number on the die roll represents how much damage the character inflicts upon the monster.  So if you roll a 5, you do 5 damage to the monster.  In order to determine how much damage the monster inflicts upon the character, you must consult the related monster table, printed on the mapboard, like the table above. 

In general, the lower your dice-roll, the more damage the monster will inflict.  For example, if you are battling the Behemoth and roll a 1, you inflict 1 damage to the Behemoth, while the Behemoth inflicts 3 damage on you.

Sir Ian McKellen, On Acting

A lot of would-be Dungeons and Dragons thespians will benefit from Sir Ian McKellen's insights on acting.  Most illuminating to me are his secrets regarding how he knows what his character's lines are.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Ogre Kickstarter Now Over $200,000

I just wish they had a Canadian shipping option, I would love to get in on the Ogre Designer's Edition Kickstarter project.

Greatest DnD Sword Of All Time?

What is the greatest Dungeons and Dragons magical sword of all time?  Three classic DnD magical swords are hidden amongst the treasure and equipment cards above, and those three represent some of my all-time favorites.  Truesteel, a Magic Realm stand-in for Excalibur, gets prominently featured at the centre of the image, but the other magical DnD swords are lurking nearby.

The above picture reveals just a sample of the equipment and treasure cards that I printed, when I was working on my resource card project several years ago.  Each card is roughly 1" x 1 1/4", a card size I have since decided is too small to accomplish the task of both communicating the look and use of each item.

I prefer the named magical DnD swords over the generically powered magical swords.  The vorpal sword and sword of sharpness were both cool, but the fact that they were a class of sword made them feel less unique.  I suppose you could have ruled that Vorpal and Sharpness were their names, thus solving that problem.

What is the greatest magical DnD sword, and why?  Bonus points if you can find Sharpness in the image above.

Thinking of Joining the Assassin's Guild?

Akroyd:  Why don't you just join the Assassin's Union!

Cusack: In this Union, will there be meetings?

Akroyd:  Of course!

Cusack:  No meetings.  [Fires both pistols]

Class Codes For Resource Cards

Here are some single-digit class codes for my resource card project.  As you can see, i'm having trouble with the Monk, Bard, Psionicist and Amazon, since Magic User, Barbarian, Paladin and Assassin are already occupying the M, B, P and A slots.

The class codes will be used on my resource cards to indicate which spells, powers, magic items, equipment and so on can be used by which class.

Jongleur is not a bad replacement for Bard, nor is Valkyrie for Amazon, but i'm not terribly happy with Grappler (for Monk) and Xsion (for Psionicist).  I settled on Xsion because it reminded me of the X-men, and anything with X's in it must be cool.

I'm open to alternatives, of course.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Save Or Die, Suckers!

The much-maligned "Save Or Die" mechanic could use a facelift.  In old-school Dungeons and Dragons, your saving throws are disassociated from your character attributes, instead connected to your class.  This results in extra record-keeping, as at the time of character creation you must consult a special saving throw table and record your saving throws, and then reference that table each time you level, to see if your saving throw scores have changed.  It seems to me that if saving throws are tied to classes, and each class has a prime attribute, that it would be much simpler to connect the saving throws to attributes instead.

I'm sure the idea of connecting saving throws to character attributes is not a new one.  Here is an optional saving throw system, which I found in an old binder of mine.  I can't take credit for this system, as I don't recall developing it.


Your saving throw versus a particular threat is based on the attribute related to that threat (see below), modified by your level.  In order to pass a saving throw, roll either a d20 or 3d6 (whichever is the agreed-upon method) and subtract your level.  If your dice roll, modified by the subtraction of your level, is LESS than your attribute, you pass the saving throw.

Strength: save versus paralysis and constriction

Dexterity: save versus breath weapons, gaze attacks and traps

Constitution:  save versus disease, energy drain and poison

Intelligence:  save versus magic and illusion

Wisdom:  save versus demon/devil/divine magic, confusion, polymorph/pertrification

Charisma:  save versus death attacks, charm and fear

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Carcosa and Isle of the Unknown

Two items I never expected to see on the shelves of The Sentry Box, my friendly local gaming store (and here's a video about The Sentry Box).

Prediction Of Carnac The Magnificent

Gygaxian Words Of Wisdom

Jason Zavoda, owner of the wonderful Hall of the Mountain King blog, posted the following text, of a Gary Gygax letter that appears in Alarums and Excursions Issue 2.  I have copied and pasted the text here, because it provides tremendous insight into Gygax's thoughts on Dungeons and Dragons.  I will let you draw your own conclusions about which Gygax, this 1975 version or the later AD&D version, was more correct regarding several topics he touches therein.

Dear Lee;

Hello! and our thanks for the two copies of AandE. Brian Blume takes care of SR, and he immediately made off with one copy of your zine, so you can rest assured of the trade arrangement.

It certainly is a good feeling to have so many persons enjoying something one had a hand in creating. I have been a sf and fantasy fan since age 12, a wargame enthusiast since age 10 and began designing and writing about 1965. The games and rules are fairly successful these days, but I have yet to sell a sf or fantasy story, and that will be my next real project -- in a year or so when I have time to rewrite my favorite fantasy novel in hopes of something more than the usual rejection slips.

In case you don't know the history of DandD, it all began with the fantasy rules in CHAINMAIL. Dave A. took those rules and changed them into a prototype of what is now DandD. When I played in his "Blackmoor" campaign I fell in love with the new concept and expanded and changed his 20 or so pages of hand-written "rules" into about 100 ms. pages. Dave's group and ours here in Lake Geneva then began eager and enthusiastic play-testing, and the result was the DandD game in January of 1974. It is an ongoing game, as the GREYHAWK booklet shows, and when Dave hands me the ms. for BLACKMOOR I am sure that there will be more alternatives yet. I have personally worked out enough material lately to do still another supplement, and the heaps of material sent in by fans would certainly fill another -- besides providing a good bit of material for publication in SR. So as long as players desire, TSR will continue to provide more DandD goodies (although my partners bemoan the fact that this tends to deprive the historical end of out operation.)

If you have seen WAR OF THE WIZARDS, you are aware of how imaginative and creative a man Professor M.A.R. Barker is. We have arranged, finally, to publish his masterwork, EMPIRE OF THE PETAL THRONE. Professor Barker has been at work on his fantasy world creation for something like 40 years! It shows in his work. I hardly know where to begin in describing EPT. First, I must liken the whole of the Professor's work to JRRT's (and I understand that Professor Barker has a novel which he hopes to complete soon!). The whole of the game EMPIRE OF THE PETAL THRONE is perfectly thought-out and logically structured. Its form was influenced by DandD (and I am greatly flattered about that) although its author had been testing various other forms prior to the publication of DandD.

I will not describe the world of 'PETAL THRONE, for Professor Barker does that himself, far better than I could hope to, in his game. Suffice it to say tht we have spared no expense to do it justice when TSR publishes it. The box will be about 9" x 12" with a full-color illustration of the city of BeySy on the cover. The Professor is also one heck of an illustrator, and he did that map in a medieval style with building erections, larger-than-life figures of men, and so forth. In addition to a rules book (about the same number of words as DandD, possibly quite a few more) done in two-column, 3 1/2 x 11 size with a plastic ring binding so it will open flat to any section, there will be three full-color, plasticized mapboards (similar to the one found in STAR PROBE). Two are the map of the world, and the other is the city of Jakala. The first two are done with permission, on SPI hex maps, while the latter is done on a slightly smaller hex grid. The unfortunate part is what the whole will cost -- the $20 price range -- but we plan to make the separate parts available so that much cash won't have to be laid out all at once. We expect the work to be available by 15 July.

We also have a wonderful "parlor" version of DandD dungeon adventures coming up fairly soon -- great for when there are only non-addicts to play games with, for the family, or when there is only an hour or two for play. The game is well done, and its components are top-quality, and we expect it to be popular for many reasons -- not the least of which is it will help DandD enthusiasts demonstrate to the uninitiated why they love fantasy games.

I sang through both of the tunes in "Music to Loot Dungeons By". Good show!

There seems to be considerable confusion amongst your contributors -- particularly those who tend to be in a flap about incomplete or unpalatable solutions (to them) of DandD rules/questions/problems. The game is complex and complicated. When it was released, it was by no means in a final (or even polished) form, but were we to sit on it for another few years in order to get it that way? Can a broad fantasy game ever be finished? Of course we could not hold off publication, for it was too much fun to keep from others.

Dave and I disagree on how to handle any number of things, and both of our campaigns differ from the "rules" found in DandD. If the time ever comes when all aspects of fantasy are covered and the vast majority of its players agree on how the game should be played, DandD will have become staid and boring indeed. Sorry, but I don't believe that there is anything desirable in having various campaigns playing similarly to one another. DandD is supposed to offer a challenge to the imagination and to do so in many ways. Perhaps the most important is in regard to what the probabilities of a given situation are. If players know what all of the monster parameters are, what can be expected in a given situation, exactly what will happen to them if they perform thus and so, most of the charm of the game is gone. Frankly, the reason I enjoy playing in Dave Arneson's campaign is that I do not know his treatments of monsters and suchlike, so I must keep thinking and reasoning in order to "survive". Now, for example, if I made a proclamation from on high which suited Mr. Johnstone, it would certainly be quite unacceptable to hundreds or even thousands of other players. My answer is, and has always been, if you don't like the way I do it, change the bloody rules to suit yourself and your players. DandD enthusiasts are far too individualistic and imaginative a bunch to be in agreement, and I certainly refuse to play god for them -- except as a referee in my own campaign where they jolly well better toe the mark. Let us consider the magic-user question.

We allow magic-users to employ the number of spells shown on the table, so a 1st level m-u gets exactly one 1st level spell to use once before he must go back to his books and prepare to use the spell once again -- or a spell once again. To allow unlimited use of the spell is to make the m-u's too powerful. There is a better solution, of course; one I have been aware of since the first. That is to utilize a point system based on the m-u's basic abilities and his or her level. Spell cost is then taken as a function of the spell and the circumstances in which it is cast and possibly how much force is put into the spell. All that would have required a great deal of space and been far more complex to handle, so I opted for the simple solution.

again, as a case in point, Ted Johnstone says I have trouble telling which rules are so completely obvious that he doesn't need to explain them. That, dear friends, is a statement which could only be made by someone who has never authored a set of rules or a game! Many of the rules which are completely obvious to me are totally obscure to others. I can say in complete truthfulness that I have had to explain each and every section of the rules to some players, either in person or by letter.

I desire variance in interpretation and, as long as I am editor of the TSR line and its magazine, I will do my utmost to see that there is as little trend towards standardization as possible. Each campaign should be a "variant", and there is no "official interpretation" from me or anyone else. If a game of "Dungeons and Beavers" suits a group, all I say is more power to them, for every fine referee runs his own variant of DandD anyway.

I recall that I told Bob Sacks that in Greyhawk we do not have existing religions included, for this is a touchy area. We have such groups as "The Church of the Latter Day Great Old Ones," Church of Crom, Scientist", "Brethren of St. Cuthbert of the Cudgle", and so on. Gods sometimes intervene. There are some artifacts and the like which aid clerics. In general, however, clerics are powerful enough without much aid, for they have quite a few advantages and work up very quickly. Fighters are really the ones whom everyone should be irate about, for they have the hardest time of it, if not backed up by other classes or by lots of other fighters or blessed with the most powerful of magic gear.

How does one use gunpowder weapons in the confined spaces of the dungeon? What happens to ears? Blackmoor has some gunpowder usage but the filthy stuff won't work in Greyhawk's world.

By the way, a score of 18 is only the usual top limit for humans in Greyhawk. We have monsters with intelligence scores well over 18, and one player is about to work out a deal which will jump his to not less than 19.

Please inform Ted that I too subscribe to the slogan "DandD is too important to leave to Gary Gygax." Gosh and golly! Whoever said anything else. However, pal, best remember that it is far too good to leave to you or any other individual or little group either! It now belongs to the thousands of players enjoying it worldwide, most of whom will probably never hear of you or your opinions unless you get them into THE STRATEGIC REVIEW. As soon as we can manage it, we intend to have expand SR, publish bimonthly and include a letter column.

Thanks again for sending AandE. It was most enjoyable. Watch out though, that it doesn't start DandD down the road of DIPLOMACY fandom with its constant feuds, bickering, invective, etc. Now tell the fellows to pick on Dave Arneson awhile -- after all he had as much to do with the whole mess as I did!

Regards, E. Gary Gygax

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Purpose Of Dungeons And Dragons Art

Yesterday, I posted three illustrations, asking which of those illustrations was the most representative of Dungeons and Dragons.

Before doing so, I stated that the PURPOSE of DnD Art is to reflect, elaborate or highlight the fantasy elements UNIQUE to Dungeons and Dragons. That purpose is superimposed on a larger purpose of fantasy art: to explore the imaginary, fantastic, and taboo.

The question remains, what changes came about in fantasy art, as a result of the publication of Dungeons and Dragons, that reveals the unique elements of DnD specifically, and fantasy role-playing generally?

Let's consider the elements that appeared in all three previously-posted illustrations.

1. Dragons: all three illustrations feature a Dragon. Dragons are not a unique feature to DnD, although the range of colors of Dragons is perhaps a unique feature, which is why I suggested you ignore the differences in colors. Dragon illustrations were produced long before DnD was published. Therefore, the inclusion of Dragons does not, in and of itself, indicate that the art is DnD Art.

2. Dungeons: all three illustrations feature dungeons or ruins. Ruins and dungeons are not a unique feature of Dungeons and Dragons. Arabian Nights, a collection of middle eastern and indian adventure tales, includes such stories as Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, featuring hidden caves filled with treasures. Many of the Swords and Sorcery tales of the early 20th Century featured dungeons and ruins. All of those were published prior to DnD. DnD reflects those tales, not the reverse, and therefore they are not elements unique to DnD, instead, deriving inspiration from them.

3. Treasure: all three Dragons sit on piles of treasure. Again, Dragon-troves and treasure-seeking pre-dates Dungeons and Dragons, and is thus not an element unique to role-playing games.

4. Magic: all three illustrations contain magical elements. In two cases, protagonists are using magical weapons. In the other, a magical spell is being cast. But the ideas of magical swords (excalibur for example) and magical spells (myriad folktales with witches and curses) are pre-DnD concepts.

Given that all of those elements are not uniquely Dungeons and Dragons, what is the only element remaining?

In my prefacing instructions yesterday, I asked which of the three illustrations was MORE REPRESENTATIVE of Dungeons and Dragons than the others. What is the only significant remaining difference between the three illustrations?

The number of adventurers facing off against the Dragon.

One of the unique features of Dungeons and Dragons is the idea of the ADVENTURING PARTY, made up of various classes of adventurers, combating Dragons, exploring dungeons and ruins, seeking treasure, and employing magic. So, the illustration that most effectively reflects, elaborates and highlights the uniqueness of Dungeons and Dragons is the last illustration, featuring three adventurers.

The illustration with only two adventurers is less reflective, and the Elmore illustration is the least reflective, as it features a single combatant.

I will finish off this post by saying that the adventuring party is not the only unique element of Dungeons and Dragons. I'm not saying that an illustration must include several adventurers to be "DnD". However, I think you can gauge how well a DnD illustrator understands the game by how effectively they communicate this, and any other unique, elements of DnD.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Having Fun With Venn Diagrams

As some have already argued, the relationship between Fantasy Art and Dungeons and Dragons Art can be represented by the Venn diagram, above.  We can quibble over whether the DnD Art circle is fully contained within the Fantasy Art circle, or whether a tiny portion of the DnD Art circle extends beyond the Fantasy art circle.  However, I think it is reasonable to suggest that all (or nearly all) DnD Art is Fantasy Art, but not all Fantasy Art is DnD Art. 

I make this observation knowing that some people will suggest that Fantasy Art and Dnd Art are (or can be) the same.  When those people make that argument, they confuse viewer inspiration with creator purpose.  An art consumer can be INSPIRED BY a piece of fantasy art, and use that fantasy art to construct a Dungeons and Dragons character, encounter or milieu.  What I am referring to, when I speak of DnD Art, is fantasy art whose PURPOSE is to reflect, elaborate or highlight the fantasy elements unique to Dungeons and Dragons. That purpose must be reflected, back, as a clear representation of Dungeons and Dragons; most or all viewers should be able to agree that the fantasy art is also DnD Art.

Having established what I mean by DnD Art, I'm posting two illustrations, below.  The first illustration is a classic piece of Larry Elmore art, which appears on the cover of the Mentzer Basic Dungeons and Dragons Red Box.  The second illustration, by Wayne Reyonds, appears on the cover of the Pathfinder Beginner Box.

Which of these two illustrations is DnD Art (or "more" DnD, if you are still on the fence regarding my explication, above) and why?  For the purpose of this exercize, please ignore the color of the Dragons.

Here is another combat with a Dragon.  Why is the illustration below "more" DnD than either of the two illustrations, above?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Dragon Magazine Collection: April 2012

I possess only a handful of post-issue 142 Dragon Magazines.

Issue 142 of Dragon Magazine, published in February 1989, is a significant signpost in the history of DnD, for that issue contains the official preview for Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, 2nd Edition.

It never really occurred to me that I should be interested in what was said about Dungeons and Dragons, after the release of the 2nd Edition rules. After all, was 2nd Edition not the culmination of everything that had been, or could be, said about DnD?

I'm curious to hear whether I am mistaken in this regard, and if so, what wisdom can be gleaned from Dragon Magazines, post-issue 142.

If those post-issue 142 Dragon Magazines are worth pursuing, are there any issues that are particularly insightful?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

What Is Dungeons And Dragons Art?

How does one identify Dungeons and Dragons art?  Here are four illustrations by the amazing Keith Parkinson (may he rest in peace).  Which of these illustrations would you consider to be Dungeons and Dragons art, and why?

I had intended to use the art of Larry Elmore for the above exercize.  While Elmore is among the most beloved of all artists providing illustrations for Dungeons and Dragons products, I found it next to impossible to find any Elmore Dungeons and Dragons art. 

Therefore, as a bonus question, suggest one piece of Elmore art that you consider to be Dungeons and Dragons art, and tell me why.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Dungeon Module D2: Shrine of the Kuo-Toa

It's easy to find examples of "bad" Dungeons and Dragons artwork.  One has only to look at the D-series of modules to find it.  Of course, when I say bad, with quotations, I don't really mean bad.  Primitive, yes.  Amateurish?  Fine.  But it is also entirely appropriate, in keeping with the requirements for Dungeons and Dragons art, as separate from Fantasy Art.

Incidentally, some people, big fans of Elmore, Easley and Parkinson, uncritically consider fantasy art (particularly by those three artists) and DnD art to be the same thing.  I will return to why they are not in a separate post.

Having reached the end of module D1, Descent into the Depths of the Earth, and avoided or defeated the troglodytes, bugbears, trolls, dark elves, and assorted other adversaries that dwell in a large subterranean cavern, the party pushes on towards the fabled city of the Drow.  The party continues to encounter Drow patrols and merchant caravans, along with quintessential DnD monsters like the Rust Monster pictured above.

Several other new (for 1977) monsters appeared in Shrine of the Kuo-Toa.  The above Umber Hulk makes his first appearance here in this DnD module.

Above we discover a trio of Ropers, one being put to the torch while another Roper pulls a hapless party-member to his doom.  It's interesting to view these illustrations, and in so doing compare them to the artwork that will come in the mid-80's and beyond.  It's typical of these early illustrations that the party's survival is often in doubt.

Other than some standard subterranean corridors, we are provided with very few encounter areas in D2.  One such encounter area is a river crossing, populated by a single insane Kuo-Toa ferryman.  It is possible that this will be the first of several encounters with this Lovecraftian adversary, prior to reaching the Shrine.

It should be obvious that the above artwork is by Trampier, even without his signature appearing upside down at the top of the illustration.  It features Tramp's not-atypical conceit of framing the illustration from the persective of the monster, rather than that of the adventuring party.  It catches the action at the precise moment of decision and danger, for the madness of the insane Kuo-Toa will be revealed in the manner in which the party reacts to his hail.

Another secondary encounter area features deep gnome miners, foes of the Kuo-Toa, whose reaction and sympathetic gestures towards the party may affect the success of their visit to the Shrine.  The deep gnomes have been scouting the Shrine of the Kuo-Toa, and have had several military encounters with these fish-men.  The deep gnomes are potentially powerful allies, if the party reacts to them in a fashion appropriate to their motivations.

Finally, we reach the Shrine of the Kuo-Toa.  Like the central subterranean cavern adventure location in D1, there is no requirement that the Shrine be cleared of foes.  In fact, you could, potentially, bypass this encounter location without participating in a single combat.  That is because there is significant underworld traffic through this area, including the traffic of drow patrols and merchant caravans.  Although the Drow and the Kuo-Toa hate each other, they have come to an uneasy accommodation, with rare breaches of that truce.  Other underworld denizens travel to and past the Shrine, so it is not unusual to find over-worlders in the vicinity.

However, there are clues to be gathered at the Shrine, regarding the intentions of the dark elves, and opportunities for other intelligence-gathering and preparation for what lies beyond, not to mention ample treasure and combat for those who wish to partake in those activities.  A smart party will take advantage of their friendship with the deep gnomes, or use subterfuge and cleverness to gain information and treasure here.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

More Pathfinder Minis

Paizo continues to release previews of their Rise of the Runelords miniatures set.  The above Alu-Fiend miniature will be an excellent accompaniment to the Succubus miniature that was included in Paizo's Heroes and Monsters set.  

I'm not all that familiar with the Pathfinder bestiary, so I can't tell you what the above figure represents.  It looks vaguely centaur-like, although both the tail and the tube-top are puzzlements.

I presume the figure above is a Naga.  Looks pretty cool.

The last two figures are named adversaries from the Paizo Rise of the Runelord adventure path.  The first is some sort of mage, the second is a Lich, in the early stages of decay.  Both miniatures seem interesting.

So far, Paizo has previewed 40 of the 65 miniatures in this set.  They are inluding an additional 3-5 Goblin miniatures, which, once again, will go into my re-sale pile, as i'm not a fan of the Pathfinder Goblins.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Females And Framing Less Controversial

Depending on your perspective, the art of Dungeons and Dragons became either more professional, or less visceral, as the game and its adherents grew ever more sophisticated.

Dragon Magazine 126, published in October 1987, features a cover by Daniel Horne, of a female ranger battling a skeletal frost giant.  Sensibly dressed, and actively posed to fire an enchanted arrow at her adversary, there is little to criticize in this illustration, from a framing and art theory perspective.

Our heroine is posed in the foreground, as befitting the focus of the illustration.  This is the ranger's story, not the frost giant's.  Well lit, the froze wasteland setting is interesting, but is suitably muted to avoid detracting from the central narrative.  The color choices are appropriate:  blues and oranges, blacks and whites, reds and greens. 

This was an exceedingly popular illustration, so much so that it was printed on heavy card stock and included in the binder version of the 2nd Edition AD&D Monster Manual.

Compare this full color illustration to that of the early Dungeons and Dragons artwork, much of which was printed in black and white.  In those early pieces, the framing of the action was all wrong.  So was the lighting.  The most important portions of the narrative were often at the edge of the frame, or entirely off-screen.  It would be unsurprising to hear criticism of that early artwork as amateurish and poorly framed.

So why would anyone prefer that old artwork to the more professional illustrations that followed?  Is it simply nostalgia, or is there something that the old artwork communicated, that was lost in translation?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

No Stranger To Controversy

Back in the day, Dungeons and Dragons was no stranger to controversy. Besides attracting criticism for it's portrayal of gods, demons and devils, and attendant accusations of encouraging devil worship, there was ongoing concern about the depiction of naked bodies, predominantly those of women.

Those expressions of concern finally precipitated editorial changes at Dragon Magazine, in reaction to angry letters over what was perhaps the best cover of Dragon Magazine ever, that of Issue 114, published in October 1986.

The contents of Issue 114 were in themselves controversial, as Dragon Magazine once again published a revised Witch class.

However, it was David Martin's depiction of a naked Witch on the front cover of Dragon that resulted in a new artwork policy. That new policy was announced in Issue 117, following several months of argument and counter-argument between those who supported the depiction of nakedness in Dungeons and Dragons art and those who opposed it.

The early versions of Dungeons and Dragons were billed as a game for adults.  As the game grew in popularity, it garnered more teenage and pre-teen players.  It is little surprise, then, that there was heightened sensitivity amongst the staffers of TSR and Dragon Magazine to the issues of nakedness.

The Dragon Editorial staff concluded that the above depiction of a naked Witch crossed the line. 

While it is easy for us to disagree with their assessment, we were not in the pressure cooker with the 1980's morality police, they were.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Spell Cards Reloaded

Over at The Aspiring Lich, Chris has produced a mock-up of a spell card design for his Labyrinth Lord games.  Here is an example of one of his cards, a staple for any first-level Magic-User:  Sleep.

I'm a sucker for resource cards.  Years ago, I toyed with the idea of designing a set of 1.25" x 2" resource cards, that included equipment, treasure and spells.

My initial resource card mock-ups are still sitting on a memory stick, somewhere, waiting for my return. 

I'd really love to see a set of spell cards for OSR games, and some appropriate accompanying artwork on each card would be icing on the cake.

Just over a year ago, Sully at A Pack Of Gnolls had a similar idea, for 4E ritual spells, and posted a mock-up of Magic Mouth, complete with some appropriate Dave Trampier artwork.  I was as enthusiastic about spell cards, then, as I am now.

I suggested to Chris that this might be a good candidate for a kickstarter crowd-sourcing project. Thoughts?

Now That's A Lich!

I have a couple of substantial posts planned, but I just had to post a picture of this Lich, which is being previewed over at the Otherworld Miniatures site.  Now that's a Lich!