Monday, April 30, 2012

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

I (will) have OD&D booklets

I snagged the three LBB's on eBay for $90. They look to be in very good condition. I'm excited. I haven't had a hard copy of the OD&D booklet since mine mysteriously and tragically disappeared during my freshman year of college.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Topographical maps

The USGS recently posted GeoPDF's of more than 140,000 historical topographical maps. I've spent the last hour looking at the ones for my home town.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Alternative Holmesian elf advancement

This odd74 thread suggests a reading of blue book elves I quite like. Rather than treat elves as dual-class magic-users/fighting-men, give them half their earned experience points and apply those XP to the fighter advancement table only. When they gain a level on the fighter advancement table, they also gain spell capacity of a magic-user of the same level.

I may start using this in my games.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Friday, April 13, 2012

Annotated OD&D

I've started annotating the original D&D booklets, adding notes as I find interesting factoids on internet forums or have a spare moment for my own research.

As a page or section accumulates a goodly heft of footnotes, I'll post them here.

These notes apply to the dedication on the title page of Men & Magic. I welcome comments, corrections, and additional insights, which I shall jealously rake into my private hoard.

  1. Gygax and Jeff Perren published the Chainmail wargame rules in 1971.
  2. The fantasy rules were included as a supplement to the non-fantasy wargame rules in Chainmail. Most of the monsters and spells from Chainmail reappear in Dungeons & Dragons.
  3. The MMSA wargammers lived in Minneapolis-St. Paul in the mid 1960–70’s. Dave Arneson joined the MMSA in high school.
  4. The LGTSA wargammers met weekly in Gygax’s basement during the 1960’s and 70’s. Gygax named his company Tastical Studies Rules (TSR, Inc.) as a reference to its roots in the LGTSA.
  5. Rob Kuntz played the character Robilar in Gygax’s game, and eventually became co-referee of Greyhawk. Kuntz was the sixth employee hired by TSR, where he held numerous positions over the years.
  6. Gygax’s childhood friend Tom Keogh died in 1968. On the forum, Gygax shares this memory: “When I was a teen my dear friend Tom Keogh would sometimes make-up to look like Lugosi as a vampire—a pretty faur imitation too, and tom had made a costume similar to Lugosi’s with a high-collared cape too.” The magic item name “Keoghtom’s Ointment”, which first appears in the 1979 Dungeon Master’s Guide (p. 149), plays on Tom Keogh’s name. Dragon Magazine 71 (p. 20) details Keoghtom as a Greyhawk quasi-deity.
  7. Greg Bell supplies most of the illustrations, which bare a striking similarity to comic book panels from Strange Tales #167 (April 1968)
  8. David Sutherland would become one of the most important illustrators of AD&D.

Can anyone identify which illustrations in the LBB's were created by Sutherland?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Mieville on monsters

China Miéville has one or two interesting things to say in a recent interview, including this:

I spend a lot of time arguing for literalism of fantastic, rather than its reduction to allegory. Metaphor is inevitable but it escapes our intent, so we should relax about it. Our monsters are about themselves, and they can get on with being about all sorts of other stuff too, but if we want them to be primarily that, and don’t enjoy their monstrousness, they’re dead and nothing. [...] it’s what Toby Litt brilliantly called the “Scooby Doo Impasse”—that people always already know that they’ll pull the mask off the monster and see what it “really” is/means. The notion that that is what makes it legitimate is a very drab kind of heavy-handedness. [...] plenty of monsters get hobbled by their “meaning”. The Coppola Bram Stoker’s Dracula vampire had to shuffle along, so weighed down was he by bloated historical import. None of this is to say that monsters don’t mean things other than themselves—of course they do—but that to me they do so best when they believe in themselves.

This distinction between the more or less heavy-handed monster-as-metaphor and the monster as a thing in itself (and let's not wander into the semiotics mire) is a somewhat different, but related distinction to one that I first heard from, I think, Philotomy. "Story" and naturalism be damned—the boggles are just there, lurking quietly in that dark room, waiting for an unwary adventurer to open the door.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Monster of the Prophecy

I have sojourned for varying intervals in more than one solar system; and I have found your world and its inhabitants so quaint and curious and monstrous that I have lingered here a little longer than I intended, because of my taste for the bizarre—a taste which is ineradicable, though no doubt reprehensible.*

Monday, April 2, 2012