Tuesday, September 26, 2017

1981 TSR Hobbies Catalogue

Welcome Greyhawk mavens and fans of D&D. As I showed off last week, I recently purchased an old Expert Boxed set and within this box (no dice unfortunately) was a mint copy of the 1981 TSR Hobbies game catalog. Oh my is there a lot of stuff in here. Strap in for a nostalgia ride!

I love the index to this document, such big text and the fantasy font. Very 80's. One the right is the two games that got me started, the Basic and Expert Sets. I now possess both of these great boxes with amazing Erol Otus art on the covers. My favorite part of the product blurb is how they describe dice:
"DRAGON DICE(tm) random number generators."
"DRAGON DICE(tm) Randomizers"

I vaguely recall TSR bringing back Dragon Dice in the 90's but as a game of some sorts. I never knew they tried to trademark the polyhedron set. And I certainly have never told a player to roll a 20-sided randomizer to attack. Too funny.

The next spread shows us the basics needed to run our Basic & Expert games plus the advent of the new Advanced D&D line (which I had soon jumped to). I like the blurb for Palace of the Silver Princess. If I knew then what I know now, a copy of the orange cover version of this module would've been worth money today due to its racy interior art.
The D&D Player Character Record Sheets were among my earliest buys. I still have many of those green sheet characters. Advanced D&D of course is what really got me going. My friend Charles got me the DMG for my 10th birthday and my other friends have been paying for it ever since. I also recall spending many a night pouring over the Deites & Demigods Cyclopedia. I was always a fan of mythology in school (weirdo) so to see stats and images associated with pantheons I'd never heard of was fascinating (oh yeah, and I hear it had nudes).

I never had the 1981 Dungeon Masters Screen though I did acquire it a few years ago. The Rogues Gallery is also a must if you want to learn more about the obscure luminary characters of Gygax's Greyhawk history. I never had the DM Log and Record stuff, regular notebooks always seemed to do the trick. I use steno notebooks to this day.
On the right is a whole assortment of early Greyhawk history in AD&D Modules. All of these old adventures (which all got their start in convention play) form the meat of the published World of Greyhawk setting as we know it. Check it out, even back in 1980-81 the Tomb of Horrors was a best seller.

This spread shows some classic games. One I've not heard of is Warlocks & Wizards. Talk about simple you are either a warrior or a warlock no other choice, and your quest is to escort a princess through the wilderness. Easy enough! Top Secret was always a guilty pleasure of mine. I love James Bond movies and though I didn't have this edition specifically I'd love to look through it today. Boot Hill and Gamma World are also games I'm sure my friends would jump at today. These original editions I'm sure are much more fun than their descendants.

I never had a chance to buy Boxed Games like Snits Revenge and Awful Green Things though I did get to sample some Tom Wham games like Elefant Hunt from the pages of Dragon Magazine. It's also incredible to see that the white booklet set of D&D was already a collectors edition in 1981! These are booklets I try to collect at conventions when I see them. So far I own Blackmoor and Eldritch Wizardry

At last, here we see the ad for the World of Greyhawk fantasy world setting. This is the 1980"folio" version which contains the same poster maps we all know and love by Darlene but the booklet on the kingdoms was still rather brief back then and didn't include deities at the time. In another two years, we'll have the full boxed set with maps and two guide books. 
I owned the Dungeon Geomorphs. Neat stuff. Didn't really do it for me. The Hex Books on the other hand...I used the hell out of those and to this day I still love drawing maps on them (thanks Black Blade Publishing). Lastly, check out the advert for Dragon Magazine. D&D got me hooked, but this magazine (until it went out of print for good) was really what kept me in the hobby for life. Getting a new magazine in the mail every month was a joy. Seeing the cover was always a surprise in of itself. The content was bonus: comics, games, fiction, letters. When I see how openly popular RPGs are today, it makes 10 year old me feel validated for staying with the hobby.

Finally we see the spread for GenCon Game Fair and TSR Shirts. It's crazy to think the convention (now in Indianapolis) had it's 50th anniversary this year. Back in 1981 I would've never dreamed I'd go to one of these much less ten or so! As to the t-shirts, I want them all! No wonder I never saw them before, you can only get them through the catalog (only $6 per shirt!). Hm, I wonder what would happen if I sent a check and T-shirt order to TSR in Wisconsin...

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

45th Birthday Week

Ahoy Greyhawk scum! Last week was my 45th birthday (groan) and while I didn't get anything useful done, I did have a good old time. 
My friends and I went to the local Renaissance Fair for the second straight year. It was a blistering, sunny 90+ degrees out but I drank beer, conspired with elves, threw axes, ate a turkey leg, was entertained by wenches and pirate bards and of course, we watched our favorite knight Sir Duncan on the jousting grounds. Might For Right! Naturally, I got a tricorn hat there and just in time for "Talk Like a Pirate Day" too! Here is a pic of me with my clay tankard from last year's fair. Arr! 

Later that weekend I dined outside at the local Harvest Fest with friends again. We followed this with an overdue game night, finally finishing the Sunless Citadel. The heroes fought valiantly against the evil druid and his minions.
To cap off my fantastical week I got some more loot. First my good friend Eric gave me a Wacom Intuos Art tablet. I've been wanting to up my digital art game for years but have been reluctant. This was the shove I needed.

Secondly, I acquired an old D&D Expert Boxed Set. It is missing the dice sadly, but the box alone is worth it. Included is the rulebook, Isle of Dread module (yes I own both already), an ad to join the RPGA and a cool 1981 TSR catalog (which I'll show off at another date).

That's all for now, but also coming soon I am rejoining my Gamerstable friends for our successful Kickstarter backed return from podcast limbo!

Update 6/20/2021: I'm due for my 50th birthday in 2022. I'm ready to do more fun stuff like this!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Greyhawk Poll: Best Place to Retire

Welcome again Greyhawkers, this week I review my latest fan poll on the "Best Place to Retire a Character" in Greyhawk. I know just getting a PC to the point of retirement is hard, but where would they be most comfortable to settle down and spend their hard earned treasure in peace? Let's find out what you think...

Coming in first with a whopping 52% of the vote is the most popular and most obvious place, the City of Greyhawk. Yes, the Gem of the Flanaess has it all, it's politically neutral, it's centrally located, it's cosmopolitan taking in all cultures and races, and it has all the conveniences or advances of a magical/medieval society. Looking to spend thousands of gold pieces in one place? Greyhawk. Does your character want to live an expensive villa? Greyhawk. Do they want to run an inn? Greyhawk. Do they want to hang up the sword and run for mayor? Greyhawk.
So yes, any major city in the Flanaess will do, but the City of Greyhawk is for those who want to keep up on current events, stay in the limelight and perhaps come out of retirement should the world need saving again. The city is not for those who want anonymity.

What about characters who like the rustic, quiet life style, but want to stay somewhat close to the action? Coming in at 15% each is the County of Ulek and Highfolk. Ulek is nestled along the Lortmil mountains neighboring the Kingdom of Keoland, while the High Vale and Highfolk town lie along the winding Velverdyva River into the Yatil Mountains. Both places are nominally demihuman realms where humans also live in harmony. Highfolk is ruled by the Lord of the High Elves and is a land that brings images of Rivendell from the Hobbit to my mind. The County of Ulek is one of three independent Uleks, but this one is a shire-like place, like Hobbiton, but perhaps more populated like Tolkien's town of Bree where humans are integrated with halflings (and gnome).
Given the comparisons and similarities, County of Ulek and Highfolk are two prime spots for both demihumans to settle down and good or neutral-aligned human characters to remain among demihuman allies. Troublesome PCs may not apply to these places. Their likes would be better suited to the big city of Greyhawk. The one drawback of these places? They are not neutral realms and are often called on to wage war versus evil. Your retired elf or halfling might find themselves dusting off a weapon or wand before long.

Had your fill of kings and queens with their quests and intrigues? Maybe your character has a desire for a more lawful, democratic society that is still good? Well at 12% of the vote is the Yeomanry. This place is tucked next to the Crystalmist Mountains, well away from most trouble except from giant-kin. The landholders of the Yeomanry traditionally share the power here making this the best place to raise the next generation of adventurers by leaving them some property and title without having to usurp someone to get it.
Despite the quiet, remote location, the Yeomen are still a very martial society however. The finest warriors from humans to dwarves all belong to the Yeomanry League. Should trouble arise the Yeomen will not remain isolated for long, their freeholders will muster and march out to save some king even against their own interests. A retired PC would lose face if they ignored this call.

Coming in last at 2% each is Caliphate of Ekbir and the Olman Isles (Narisban). I chose these two vastly different places for a reason. They are far from the other polled locations, being decidedly beyond the Flanaess. The City of Ekbir is huge at over 60,000 people (close to Greyhawk in size) assuring that it has many of the same conveniences of Greyhawk yet the culture is the Baklunish West. As such, Ekbir's racial demographics (halflings are found here) and language barrier would be a turn off to a retiring dwarf or Cold North barbarian for instance. Ekbir is also a highly lawful good society making it attractive to paladins and some clerics (of the proper deity) but maybe not so much rouges and rangers. You can retire your PC in Ekbir in order to hide from the troubles of the Flanaess at large, because no one will think to look here.
Similarly there is Narisban, a tiny island town in the tropical Olman Isles. This place is as remote as it gets for those really looking to get away from it all. The weather is nice year round (barring storms), there's miles of beaches and while the native Olman people probably don't speak your retired character's language, they are not a threat to a former-hero (ignore those cannibal rumors). You won't have much in Narisban except what you bring with you or your can barter to get, making it a good home for resourceful outdoors types like rangers and druids. The place does get visited by pirates and sneaky Scarlet Brotherhood types however, so you can't exactly throw away your magic dagger and armor. Random jungle monsters might be a concern too, so build a sturdy hut and keep antitoxin handy.

That's all for now! Let me know where you have retired a PC to in your campaigns.

Update 6/20/2021: Since my 1000th post I've gone into semi-retirement from blogging. Maybe I was thinking about it back in 2017? You can find me in one of these places I imagine.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Frank Mentzer's Empyrea

Hey Greyhawkers. Most you by now have seen the news about an upcoming Kickstarter for Empyrea, Frank Mentzer's home campaign that was nominally supposed to be set to the west across the Solnor Ocean in the World of Greyhawk. Even better this will be a boxed set and the announcement promises much more, check it out:

"Frank Mentzer's Empyrea begins on Monday 02 October—a Kickstarter for a boxed campaign set usable with multiple fantasy RPG systems.

This set is the first big step, created with the help of many friends. Watch for details coming throughout September.
The core set has a lot to cover, and must be brief. The ambitious Empyrea product line will eventually include adventures, novels, details of all cities and major areas, and other supporting products.

Empyrea Online is a future Community project, where many fans can design the details of the Realm. We hope to make parallel-world Empyreas available for most popular RPG systems. We'll need your help describing it… that’s a lot of real estate! The gateway has opened; throw your hat in the ring at http://worldofempyrea.com/.

This is thrilling! Lots more news to come. Thanks very much for your interest.

—Frank Mentzer"

I'm anxious to see how old school and Greyhawk-ish they can make this without the obvious entanglements. For example check out this story snippet from the official Empyrea group on G+


—About the Voyage... a word from history—

Krazandol, 230 B.H

Almater Pudin, Lord of the Land Below, sits with Prince Carin.

"No, that Voyage story that you know is wrong. Listen up, kid…”

"I still remember. Grandpa said, 'Those humans are at it again. War's coming, again. It always ends like this. We gotta get out of here.’”

"The Great Solnor Migration is a legendary event in the annals of history. Within a single month, and with little forewarning, a flotilla of hundreds of boats left the eastern shore of the homeland. Olve, Noniz, Hobniz, and even some of our Dwur left by the hundreds, braving the vast sea to find Life, and leave War behind. And the Lords of the Sea came, and helped us along the way, but you're too young to learn about that.”

"They helped, and most of us survived. What we found left us astounded, and awed…”

"This—not the war-torn lands overrun by humans, THIS continent—is our original homeland. All of us came from here.

"But son, it is time to prepare, for the Humans will come. They always do."

Looks good! I'm also optimistic about the community building aspect since that type of fan-focused crowd-sourcing is what really set Greyhawk apart in the 90's early 2000's. Will I throw my hat in the ring? Hard to say. Time will tell.

Update 6/20/2021: Spoiler. Something goes wrong, not talking about it here, but this project doesn't see completion.