Monday, October 16, 2017

Maze of Peril Chapter 1, Scene 1: "The Green Dragon Tavern Was Crowded, Dark, Noisy"

This post is part of the Tales of Peril Book Club, indexed here.

Having gone through the front matter, we move onto the actual stories. As a reminder, if you haven't read the stories yet, this is where the real spoilers will begin. I know, however, that exposure to spoilers will sometimes increase interest...

The first story in the book is the novel the Maze of Peril, which is the lengthiest Boinger and Zereth tale (11 chapters), and also the last published in 1986, at least until this volume which includes a previously unpublished story. As I go through each chapter, I'll refer to the parts of the chapters as "scenes". Essentially wherever Holmes placed a gap in the text, I'll refer to as a separate scene. This post will cover the first scene in Chapter 1. 

The Maze of Peril begins on page 1 of Tales of Peril with a title page, and then re-prints the original dedication from 1986 publication, which is made out to Gary Gygax, for the game; "Chris, Eric, Jeff and others" for creating the characters; and Tolkien, Lovecraft and Sprague de Camp for "literary inspiration". In Holmes' 1981 book, Fantasy Role-Playing Games, he talks further of literary inspiration for fantasy worlds, again mentioned Tolkien and de Camp among others; a quote from which can be read here. And in his 1980 essay, Confession of a Dungeon Master (reprinted further on in Tales of Peril), he mentions Lovecraft as one world-builder (along with Burroughs, Howard, Haggard, Merrit and Smith) that he drew upon for use in creating bits of his D&D campaign.

See also articles I've written about Holmes on Tolkien, Holmes and the Cthulhu mythos, and Holmes and de Camp.

Next there is a newly added two paragraph preface by Chris Holmes introducing the story. He reveals that his father initially hoped to publish more Boinger and Zereth novels, but had trouble finding a publisher for Maze of Peril, and then moved on to other projects. Chris further indicates that the story is a "close recreation of one of our first adventures in my father's dungeon".  

On the next page, the story begins. Chapter 1 is titled "Entrances", which I believe has a dual meaning: the entrance of the characters into the story, as well as the entrance to the Underworld that they discover.

I love the beginning of this story. It's exactly what you'd expect for a novel based on a D&D game, with an archetypical meeting of the characters in a tavern prior to their first adventure. And here we get to watch Boinger (along with his friend Bardan the Dwarf) and Zereth meet for the first time, and in the famous Green DragonTheir meeting here also echoes the words from the introduction to the Sample Dungeon in the earlier Holmes Basic rulebook: "Humans and non-humans from all over the globe meet [in Portown]. At the Green Dragon Inn, the players of the game gather their characters for an assault on the fabulous passages beneath the ruined Wizard's tower".

The duo of Boinger and Zereth brings to mind other famous adventuring pairs, particularly Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser. Boinger and Zereth are interesting in that neither is human. As Holmes wrote in the quote above, human and non-humans gather at the Green Dragon. And with the addition of Bardan, the group includes each of the three original non-human player character races in OD&D: hobbit, elf, dwarf.

Zereth demonstrates his magic with a cantrip-like effect, heating Boinger's wine. The magic creates a "blue glow". Boinger enjoys the heated wine, saying that it improves the flavor. This is the first glimpse into his recurring love of food & drink.

Holmes scatters descriptions for the characters throughout. I'll collect them here as I read.

Boinger: Wears a grey hooded cloak, jacket of chainmail and sandals on his furry feet. From the "Meadow Country to the South". 

Zereth: Black hair, brown eyes, swarthy, high cheekbones, narrow chin, even white teeth. Jagged scar across left cheek. From "Labolinn" (more recently), but originally "of the Old People, the Elidel"; elsewhere referred to as "the Elfland". (This phrasing is perhaps a reference to Dunsany's the King of Elfland's Daughter.)

Bardan: Stocky, white beard, wears a "heavy iron helm with long Norman nosepiece", white beard, gruff voice. From the "Cold Mountains".

Green Dragon Tavern: The tavern is lit by a big central fire and a few tapers. A serving table near the entry way. The table they share in the back corner has wooden benches. Stout beer is served in wooden mugs, wine is served in "a horn cup with a metal base to hold it upright".

The first section ends with the first mention of the Underworld. Holmes then cuts to a description of the Underworld of his setting, which I'll get to in the next post.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Font Bundle with Futura

Design Cuts promo image for Futura

Here at the Zenopus Archives, Futura is our font. TSR used it in not only the Holmes Basic rulebook, but also the original printings of the LBBs and Greyhawk, the first four AD&D hardcovers, and certain modules of the time period such as the Keep on the Borderlands. Specifically, a combination of Futura Book (for ordinary type) and Futura Bold (for headers), as seen in this example from the Holmes rulebook:




If you are interested in obtaining Futura for use in free or commercial OSR projects, the version by the URW typeface foundry is currently available as part of a $39 font bundle deal that includes a license for commercial use. The ordinary price for all of the fonts in the bundle is supposedly $5088. As far as I can tell, the bundling company Design Cuts is legitimate, working with the various font owners to offer the bundle. This bundle is available for about 1 more week.

I bought the bundle last week & found the URW Futura to be sufficiently well done. It's not an exact match for the version used by TSR, being slightly more compact and taller, but probably close enough for most users. More about the various electronic renderings of Futura that are commercially available can be read in this Quora article from a few years back.

I plan to update the Holmes Ref sheets using the URW Futura, and will try to post an example later in the week.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Tales of Peril - Front Matter

This post is part of the Tales of Peril Book Club, indexed here.

Previously I looked at the dust jacket for Tales of Peril. Here, I'll cover the "front matter" - all of the sections before the main content. I'll go over these briefly since I want to get to the actual stories, and because Allan covered a lot of this material in the previews on his blog, which are linked to below.

Signature Page - each copy of the first edition (200 numbered copies, plus comp copies for contributors) contains a page signed by Chris Holmes, Allan Grohe and myself. Allan has a picture of the signed page for copy #1 here. I had fun signing these pages in person together with Chris and Allan at the North Texas RPG Con in 2016 when we participated in a reading and discussion panel, which Allan has archived here. The signed pages were then bound into the books during printing.

Title Page - this uses the same evocative font for "Tales of Peril" as on the cover, which I believe is Perigord Regular.

Copyright Info - one page (v), the first numbered page.

Credits - one page (vi), a formal list of the contributors to the content and production. 

Thanks - one page (vii), acknowledgement of the work of various contributors and others who helped make the book possible.

Table of Contents - two pages (viii-ix). Allan shared the list of contents here. The chapters of Maze of Peril are listed out separately, a nice addition not found in the original printing. 

List of Illustration and Artwork - two pages (x-xi). Allan shared the list here. In addition to the covers by Ian Baggley, the interior art is primarily by Chris Holmes, with one story reprinting artwork by the late Jim Roslof from Dragon Magazine.

Introduction by Allan Grohe, two pages (xii-xiii). Allan gives an overview of Holmes' career, and discusses the organization of the tales in the book. These follow the development of the characters Boinger and Zereth, and so begin with the tale that chronicles their earliest adventures - the Maze of Peril. Allan briefly describes the non-fiction material in the book, and the work of the artists. Near the end, Allan teases a possible follow-up project: "Eric's cache of original manuscripts and campaign materials ... If Tales of Peril is well-received, these may be published in the future". There is a wealth of material here, I've personally seen more than a hundred images from this material, much of it hand-drawn maps by Holmes for adventures he mentioned in his writings!

Bonus content: Allan recently shared his Holmes Basic origin story, originally written up for an early draft of this introduction.

Onward to the Tales!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Gary Con Game Approved


I'm registered for next year's Gary Con X and just had my game proposal approved. Here's the 'long' description, which per the submission form will appear on-line:

Return to the Tower of Zenopus

Forty years ago adventurers first braved the dungeon under the ruined tower of the wizard Zenopus. Fearsome monsters were overcome and fabulous treasure recovered, but the doom of Zenopus was never revealed. The stairway leading down to the dangerous passages was eventually bricked over by order of Lady Lemunda, current ruler of prosperous Portown. However, recently your party uncovered a previously unknown means of entry. What secrets remain to be discovered in the old dungeons? Meet at the Green Dragon Inn and adventure as Boinger, Zereth, Murray or another character from J. Eric Holmes' stories (pre-generated characters will be provided). This adventure from the Zenopus Archives celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Holmes Basic D&D set.


And the 'short' version, which I assume will appear in print:

Meet at the Green Dragon Inn and return to the dungeon under the ruined tower of the doomed wizard Zenopus, forty years after adventurers first braved the passages. What secrets remain to be discovered? Play as Boinger, Zereth, Murray or another character from J. Eric Holmes' stories. This adventure from the Zenopus Archives celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Holmes Basic D&D set.

I plan on running the game twice, once on Fri, once Sat. I requested 9 AM - 1 PM (4 hours) for each day, but they are not scheduling until they get more submission.

Submit your games here: http://garycon.com/events-submission/

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Tales of Peril - Dust Jacket Flaps


In the previous post, we looked at the cover art for Tales of Peril. 
Moving inside, here are the contents from the dust jacket flaps:

Front Flap, upper: Quote from the Maze of Peril, Chapter 9, "Visible and Invisible", providing a preview of the battle against the Dagonites.

Front Flap, lower: List of contents. Focuses on highlights, and is more explanatory than the table of contents.

Back Flap, upper: Two paragraph biography of Holmes, different than the one that appeared at the back of the 1986 publication of Maze of Peril. It mentions his medical career, his Korean War service (which I don't think is well known), and gives an overview of his writing career.

Back Flap, lower: Photo of Holmes gaming. I've included a larger version of this photo above. Photo by Steve Pyryeztov. This photo is from the same session as the one near the front of Holmes' book Fantasy Role-Playing Games (1981).

In these photos we see Holmes running a game at his chalk board table in his basement. In his book, Holmes wrote "My own gaming table is spray-painted with "chalk board paint" so that the green surface can be marked with chalk and then, when the characters move on, a new set of doors and walls can be drawn around them. In this way, the little figures never move off the table, they only move to new positions as the scenery shifts around them" (pg 93). 

An earlier photo of Holmes at this same table can be see in the post, Holmes' Little Metal People Take II.

Looking at the above photo in more detail, we see chalked dungeon corridors, and Holmes pointing at a battle occurring at an intersection of these corridors. 

The wizard with staff held aloft vertically appears to be "ME4 Wizard" from Minifigs' Mythical Earth line. Thanks to Tony at the Cryptic Archivist for posting a picture of this figure in the Holmes Basic group recently. I'm sure some of our readers will ID some of the other minis.



Under Holmes' arms are visible at least three of the dime-store Hong Kong-manufactured monsters that inspired the Bulette of D&D. See this post by Tony DiTerlizzi, a former TSR artist, for more history and photos of these toys. I had several sets of these myself as a child. 

An AD&D Players Handbook rests on the table under the elbow of one player, so at this point (1980-81?) they were using the AD&D rules.

Behind the players are shelves of boxes filled with comic books. Each box has a comic, or just the cover, attached to it to show the contents. Between this picture and the one in the book, I can make out one cover for the Incredible Hulk Special 2 (1969)In this picture it's the barely visible box with the "K" to the right of the player with glasses. In the book, the Hulk is clearly visible on the cover.

This post is part of the Tales of Peril Book Club.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Tales of Peril - Cover Art

"Amazon Assault" by Ian Baggley, original art for the front cover of Tales of Peril 

Tales of Peril is a work of art, and the editor Allan Grohe deserves a round of applause for assembling such a beautiful tome.

The stunning front and back covers for Tales of Peril are by the artist Ian Baggley. They illustrate Underworld action scenes from the Maze of Peril novel, which I will mention again when we get to those portions of the story in the read-through.

I wasn't familiar with Ian's work prior to this, but his previous credits include the Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerors of Hyperborea RPG, as detailed by grodog here. His Tales of Peril contributor biography states that "he trained at the Toronto School of Art where he focused on drawing, portraiture and oil painting". 

A gallery of Ian's fantasy are can be seen here on his Deviant Art page. I've posted the images from this page above and below so you can see the original art used for the covers.

I love these shadowy brazier-lit compositions, completely fitting for a book that heavily features the mysterious and dangerous Underworld. In the Introduction, Allan refers to Ian's "signature charcoal medium (with some fine detail work in gouache and ink)".

The subject matter of the front cover is striking - why is that ship in a cavern? - and the perspective draws your eye right into the scene and the book itself. The back cover subject matter brings to mind Dave Trampier's classic Players Handbook cover, with the giant statue with gem-like eyes, flanked by braziers. It's also sort of a zoom-in of the front cover, where the statue can be seen in background.


"Dagon" by Ian Baggley, original art for the back cover of Tales of Peril

This post is part of the Tales of Peril Book Club.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Tales of Peril Book Club




Now that Tales of Peril has been available for a few months, I'm starting a new blog series called the "Tales of Peril Book Club". For it I will read through the entirety of Tales of Peril and make post(s) for each chapter/section. I encourage you to read along with me, and the posts will be directed to those who do, and thus will contain spoilers. You have been warned!

I've already re-read the 1st chapter of the Maze of Peril and made several pages of notes, but the first post(s) will deal with covers/index/introduction/etc, so you have a bit of time to get the first chapter read. I expect writing notes/blog posts to take me longer than actually reading the chapters, so posting frequency may vary depending on my schedule. I may split some chapters up into multiple posts if they are getting long. We'll see how it goes.

If you still need a copy, see How to Order Tales of Peril from Black Blade Publishing.

Index of Posts
Cover Art
Dust Jacket Flaps
Front Matter (including Introduction)
Maze of Peril Chapter 1, Scene 1

Discussion Threads
OD&D Discussion
Dragonsfoot
Knights & Knaves Alehouse
Acaeum
The Piazza
RPG.net
Enworld
Yog-Sothoth

G+ (Holmes Basic Community)
Facebook (Holmes Basic Group)
Twitter (Zenopus Archives account)
Tumblr (Zenopus Archives account)