Thursday, May 24, 2018

Holy Divers & Magic Swords: Basic & Expert Rules for D&D in the 80's

Back again, fellow Grognards, for another installment of the Dungeoneers Syndicate. Cue up that Dio cd...light some incense...and off we go.
     I mention the late great Ronnie James because his work with Sabbath & solo career were both flying high around the time I was getting into D&D. "Holy Diver" & "Heaven & Hell" both stick in my head as a soundtrack to many of our gaming sessions.
     So lets check out the Basic & Expert D&D rule books this week...when I started playing the AD&D hardcover books were all published...these new additions were purchased at the same time as AD&D....and were integrated into our campaign as one game....
     The Original "Red Book"...the "Moldvay Basic" rulebook. Edited by Tom Moldvay...this was TSR's attempt to make D&D more accessible to a younger audience....and it worked! Like the older "Holmes Basic Book" it only covered up to 3rd level for characters...but there would be more to come! Awesome cover art by Erol Otus!
I bought this copy of Ebay a couple of years ago...1st printing! A bit beat up but still a copy in great condition considering its age...kinda like me!

Starts us off with a great drawing by Bill of the "Big 3" of early D&D art!

Nice intro by Tom Moldvay & a great list of thanks...check out Ernie Gygax & Jim Ward getting their props!

2 very cool works by David S LaForce....always liked the Gal & Guy dreaming up their characters!

Always cracks me up to see "Dwarves & Elves" listed as "classes"....OLD SCHOOL!

The great Erol Otus....great looking weapons! Probably influenced our weapon choice as much as the movie "The Sword & The Sorcerer" did! Rules were open ended enough to still allow for expansion...we started making our own spells & magic items with these rules! All sorts of magical swords were being produced!
Nice reproduction of a Character sheet...we laid out our characters just like this example...didn't get the actual sheets until much later in our careers!
A buxom warrior thanks to the brilliant Jeff Dee!
I always loved Otus' sense of humor....the coins leaking out of the fighters cloth an example of "Encumberance"!
Very well done drawing showing the various "breath weapon" shapes of various Dragons...just what a young DM needed to him him visualize!
My favorite drawing in the book! These 3 remind me of the Wizards in "Wizard City" in the cartoon ADVENTURE TIME! Dig home Otus has his name on the bottle of magical potion!

                         " In shadow, we find the light,
Safely sealed in darkest night.
So make sure y'all keep it tight.
Wizards only, fools!"
And lastly a nice sample dungeon! I always liked it when the gave a "underground" view...just to give the aspiring DM an idea how levels should (or at least could) stack on one another!

And on to the Expert Rules!
The 2nd "Blue Book"...edited by David Cook & Steve Marsh! Erol Otus delivers another classic cover...which continues where the Basic cover began!

Another Ebay purchase & another 1st printing! Score one for the home team!

This one starts off like the Basic....with a fantastic drawing by Bill Willingham! How TSR ever let this guy go is still amazing to me...all these decades later! 
Expert rules really expanded the limits for the novice D&D player...up to 14th level for some classes & Higher level spells! I remember using these books when we had "new" players joining our they didn't have to try and jump right into the Players Handbook! Simplified rules which let us get right into the dungeon crawl!
Halflings were still a "class"...& Jeff Dee gave us a great drawing of 2 Halflings in a conversation with a human fighter! That male halfling doesn't look to sure of the guy!
Here's a cool drawing of a fighter & a the underused Wade Hampton!
Three very helpful drawings demonstrating spells..."Disintegrate, Wizard Eye & Pass Wall" Otus & Dee!

 I've always believed that one of the greatest assets that D&D had was the numerous drawings demonstrating either spells...or monsters...or just about any concept they were presenting! They lack of art in other game systems really hurt ' my humble opinion!
Modes of transportation, for example, get their own much because they looked so cool as well as being helpful!

You want to see what an NPC (Non Player Character...for the non- D&D audience) Alchemist looks like? No problem! Erol Otus hides his name on a book in this one!
How about some mercenaries? I know I used the guy on the right as a blueprint for my own drawings of fighters! Jeff Dee gives him a Norse kinda look to me!
The Expert book has a bunch of Bill Willingham's work in it...and its all CLASSIC!

Iconic stuff to the Old School D&D crowd!
A small map of the "Grand Duchy of Karameikos" is included....for those wanting to get into the 'Mystara" campaign setting!
 Nice starter dungeon as well! Off we went into the "Gnome Lair"!

The Basic & Expert rules were intended for a younger audience than AD&D....simplified rules & less background info....we used these books with AD&D....made for a great fantasy world! Hope you guys liked looking back again!
'Till next time....

"Wizards Rule!"

Thursday, May 17, 2018

D&D meets Underground San-Fran artist: The Official Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Coloring Album 1979

Back again true believers! A look at another long out of print D&D gem! The "Official Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Coloring Album of 1979! Let's jump right into the deep end, shall we?
     This "coloring album" was published in 1979 by Troubador Press of San Francisco. Written by your hero & mine, Gary Gygax, with a starter dungeon & adventure for the young & young at heart!

I haven't colored anything in this book...the previous owner did. But this coloring album is what inspired us to color most(if not all) of the illustrations in our 3 AD&D books soon after!
     And just so you know...I didn't own this back when I started playing D&D...the same good friend I've mentioned many times here did. I'd always loved the art in this I tracked it down & pulled the trigger!
My friend colored his immediately....and did a pretty awesome job if memory serves me correctly.....
     The art in this book is iconic for me....looked at this at the same time as the Holmes basic & AD&D books. The artist here, one Greg Irons, is both a very colorful and tragic figure.Born in Philly in '47...he moved to San Fran and started illustrating for the underground press of the late 60's early 1970's. He even worked on the Beatles "Yellow Submarine" movie! Worked for concert promoter Bill Graham at the legendary Fillmore...and later illustrated books. He died in an accident in Bangkok in 1984 at the too young age of 37. Super talented guy...he did some tattoo work as well....would have loved to have gotten some ink for such a talented individual! Here's the link to his wiki page for anybody who'd like to check him out.
     Since this album is on the net at various places I won't reproduce it here in its entirety.....yet still lets check out the dungeon that came with Gary's adventure setting!
1 level....with the monsters already placed for the DM! Gary's story of the adventure is also well done! The ODM (Original Dungeon Master!) was a natural born storyteller & this album should be considered a treasure for his story alone!
     Let's look at some of the great works by Greg Irons in the album...
The party at the Green Dragon Inn before the adventure gets rolling....Humans, Dwarves & Halflings!
A Cleric turning a easy feet!
The party's encounter with a Beholder! The "Eye Tyrant" has killed a dwarf hero & sent him to a watery grave!
An Umber Hulk attacks! Great action depicted by Mr Irons!
A "sneak-peek" into the Abyss...where some demons are engaged in a game of dice...with Demogorgon lurking in the background!
Always remembered this Ettin surprising the party!
The Zorn here would make a killer tattoo....& would be perfect for a T shirt!
And a Wizard summoning an Effreti!
The last page shows some of the other books published by Troubador press....I've never know anybody who owned anything else by them. Might be worth a look...

    Very cool small illustration to go along with the contact info for TSR!
     I know we used this dungeon as a starting point for some of our early adventures...just a small beginners dungeon to get our feet to speak. These illustrations are on par for me with any of the ancient D&D art....great stuff that really helped bring the monster to life in my adolescent mind! I'll always be grateful to Gary for creating this & Greg for his brilliant art!
     Side note....there are always a few of these coloring albums on Ebay....sometimes you can catch them at a reasonable price like I did! The ones I've seen for sale on Amazon are always at an astronomical price....but each his own!
    Here is an extra added bonus to anybody reading this far...I found another of my friend's old AD&D notebooks!
The insane thing is he cut the cover & lettering off the original notebook & glued them onto this larger notebook! Looks to me like a "Black Rider" like figure searching for some Hobbit types!
     He copied the Chainmail rules into this one as well...along with the addition of new creatures from the MM2 and Fiend's Folio!

He must have planned on using this as a kind of DM's log....he even added info from Gamma World...since we were incorporating GW into our D&D campaign around then!
Great memories for me of weekend long D&D sessions and hanging out with my friends!
Hope you enjoyed this look back at gems from my D&D career! 'Till next time...Excelsior!