Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Origin of the Habit

On eBay I recently saw the exact same set that got me started playing D&D. I'd been buying a few minis here and there, but this was my starter set.

This set came out in 1980, which sounds about right, because I think I first started kicking the D&D tires in 1978 or 79. I still have many of the miniatures that came in the set, but the box and map have long since been lost. I'd even had trouble wracking my brain about what the company and name of the product were. When I was down at ReaperCon, Ed Pugh told me what it was and so I've been searching for a set out of nostalgia...my nostalgia budget this month didn't exceed $70, which was the winning bid range. Maybe later another will come up and I'll be better funded or more lucky.The set came with enough figures for a small party (wizard, dwarf, fighter, halfling thief). It also came with paints, a brush, a d6, a dungeon map, painting guide, and rule book.

The rules were really simple, and characters had only three or four stats to keep track of--everything was on a d6.

Fighting Ability

My little brother, my friends Matt Clark and Audie McAvoy and I took the basic rule set and created our own complete and detailed rules system. We also took the premise of the map and did it up in 3D with balsa wood walls painted like stone glued to foam core board marked out in two inch squares. We built the dungeon levels to stack down to around third level, and down to the lower levels you walked on 2x4 bridges on saw horses to other levels around my basement...which we'd marked out in 2" squares using yard sticks and permanent markers. (I had a permissive mother)

Our version of the game didn't involve quite so much role playing, it was more board game based, I suppose. Each player had their own party of 5 characters and we all went into the dungeon each week in staggered turns, competing for the treasure to be found there. My little brother had three mounted knights who rode their war horses through the dungeon.

Each week we would rotate DMing duties, so that everyone got a chance to compete. We were very strict about turns--if you went to the bathroom IRL you had to secure a room and if your turn came up and monsters attacked while the player wasn't there, you were presumed to have been surprised and too stunned to react. When we stopped playing, everyone had to teleport out of the dungeon.

Those were wonderful days, and I've still got all of the characters, notebooks and other items we used back then...though the basement flooded while I was at college and the dungeon levels were destroyed. At some point, I hope to use the maps I still have to reconstruct the old dungeon for my current players.

I didn't convert to AD&D Second Edition from my own home brew game system until the 1990's...1991, I think. That conversion was the last one I'll ever do. I'm a 2E holdout for life, now.

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Saturday, September 15, 2007


This is the reason I needed the Kna, who are racial enemies of the Kopru. The Kopru is listed on page 69 of TSR 2501: Mystara Monstrous Compendium Index.

The first time I saw the WOTC Half-Illithid Lizardfolk, I thought how much cooler it would have been if they'd made it a kopru, since that is what it looked like. Here is the WOTC fig:

So, when I got to the Korpu entry in my work on the 2E Monstrous Manual I'm creating, I decided to scartch build the mini myself. Take that, WOTC!

I started by cutting the half-illithid in half...hmmm, something very wrong about how that sounds...and then using a tiny drill bit to make a hole in the torso that I could stick an unbent paperclip into for my skeleton. Then I put the wire in my sculpting block vise and started making green stuff. I should have taken a picture of that first step, but I already had the body made before I remembered that I wanted to.

Then, exercising patience I have had to learn to develop, I let it harden before putting on the remaining flukes. Once it was all hardened, I based it using a plastic slotted base that I put a coat of brown stuff on, using that to attach some cleaned up rocks. The rocks hid a central "pillar" of brown stuff that I used to attach the Korpu to the base. Then, before it hardened, I pushed some lichen into the crevices so that it would stick to and disguise the brown stuff--leaving only the rocks showing.

My sculpting skills are still extremely rudimentary, as are my painting skills, but I'm not out to win any contests...only to have the most complete range of monsters my PCs might face that is possible. Given that standard, I'm very pleased with the results.

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This creature is found on page 68 of TSR 2501: Mystara Mounstrous Compendium Appendix. I had been using these miniatures from Reaper (and a couple older ones from some other company including the Ral Partha AD&D Sahuagin) as kuotoa, but when WOTC put out Night Below I got a plentiful supply of kuotoa. So, I took the Reaper minis out and painted them up to look like the Kna. I'm relatively pleased with the results. I'm starting to get a lot of oceanic monsters, I'm going to need to get my PCs on a ship one of these days.

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Realms Research

Here's one thing that I wish TSR would have done and WOTC would do...and that is clearly indicate in each Forgotten Realms product what year the product information reflects in Dale Reckoning.

It is sooooo frustrating to try to put the information in some kind of chronological order when you have no idea when in the chronology the module or product takes place.

That said, I blundered into a useful Wiki today:

Forgotten Realms Wiki

It doesn't include dates for the references either, but the presumption is that the information is current DR in the official time line.

One example of my frustration, I'm indexing the Villain's Lorebook (TSR 9552) and in the entry for Lord Orgauth of Zhentil Keep there are two entries at the end, for Abarax and Eshaeris. They are clearly not human, but the entry doesn't say what they are. In Googling to find the information, I discovered that Abarax is a pit fiend, and while the Villain's Lorebook is probably around 1368-70 DR, because it is post Prince of Lies, but the Wiki entry I found Abarax in says that Orgauth is dead but Abarax the Pit Fiend polymorphed into Orgauth and took his place...then was Abarax was killed later.

Now, my campaign is in 1368, so none of that has happened yet...but should I put the information about "future" happenings into my index?

It's all very complicated.


Saturday, September 08, 2007

2E Citation Project

I've been working a lot the past few days going through all of my 2nd Edition materials (not finished, but good start) and putting into an Excel Spreadsheet all of the 2nd Edition monsters with stats and then indicating what source material you can find that monster in.

This is useful if you are collecting minis from WOTC or another source and you would like to find out if there are already 2nd Edition stats for that creature instead of taking the time to try and convert from 3E, 3.5E or 4E information.

I'm hoping someone other than myself will find this information useful.

Here is the link to the current info, and I've got it in an html document so anyone can read it. I'll upload to the same URL everytime I update the information. If you find errors, please let me know.

Shandar's 2E Monster Index

The column for "Mini?" is an indicator of whether or not I have a miniature for that particular monster. There may or may not be an official miniature for the monster, but if there is an N there, it means I don't have a figure to represent that creature. Sometimes when there is a Y there it means that I have sculpted, scratchbuilt, or substituted a similar miniature for the official monster because it doen't exist (so far as I know). If you have a mini for one of the monsters I've marked N, and might be tempted to part with it, please contact me. I'd really like one of everything. :)

I'm also compiling a similar document of Named Monsters, and a complete compendium of citations for NPCs in the Forgotten Realms. That is a huge undertaking, and it may overlap some index already out there, but if one exists besides the one I'm doing, I haven't found it yet.

At any rate, enjoy!