Monday, 22 August 2022

Original Scenarios Resurrected V: P'teth Tower - the individual parts (1978/79, Brian K. Asbury)

Welcome to the fifth entry in the series Original Scenarios Resurrected, wherein D&D scenarios from the 70s and early 80s are republished with the permission of the authors, usually together with extra contemporaneous material. Today we return to P'teth Tower by Brian K. Asbury. For all entries in the series see here.

Today we're taking a second look at Brian K. Asbury's solitaire P'teth Tower. In the last post I presented the complete omnibus edition, but P'teth Tower was originally written in three parts, and any presentation of it would not be complete without a reproduction of it in its original form.

Of particular interest is the fact that Part I contains a very early use of ability checks. I've also included some parts of the subzine Aryxia with Part II which lends some context to the adventure.

Part I was originally published in  Trollcrusher 13 (Sept '78), part II in Trollcrusher 17 (June '79), and then there was also the unpublished Part III. I only own a copy of Trollcrusher 17 (that's my copy on the right), thanks go to Guy Fullerton for providing high quality scans of Part I, and to Brian not only for writing it, and allowing it to be shared, but also for hunting down his unpublished manuscript for Part III. 

Thursday, 4 August 2022

Original Scenarios Resurrected IV: The Complete P'teth Tower (1978/79, Brian K. Asbury)

Welcome to the fourth entry in the series Original Scenarios Resurrected, wherein D&D scenarios from the 70s and early 80s are republished with the permission of the authors, usually together with extra contemporaneous material. Today we turn to P'teth Tower by Brian K. Asbury. For all entries in the series see here.

Today I am very proud to return to Brian Asbury (see The Complete Barbarian) and present his 1978/79 solitaire adventure P'teth Tower - finally published in its completed form after 43 years. I had great fun playing through it - my favourite bit being how it handles being chased through the dungeon pursued by a monster.

In contrast to the more usual "Choose Your Own Adventure" or "Fighting Fantasy" style, P'teth Tower is a free-range dungeoncrawl where you take a party through an old-school dungeon, mapping as you go, with choices attempting to be the many choices you could make as a player. In addition, since it was written in the late 70s, it's an authentic attempt to recreate a dungeoncrawl 1970s style - and you're experiencing it just as it was at the time without any special interpretation or divination required.

There is complex publication history to this scenario - in brief this previously unpublished version is much improved as well as having an extra level and maps - so you may wish to skip this and go straight to the adventure; if so, break out your dice and get rolling up some characters, grab some graph paper for mapping, and dive straight in...

Sunday, 17 July 2022

Original Scenarios Resurrected III: The Temple of Psaan (1980, Andrew Ravenscroft)

Welcome to the third entry in the series Original Scenarios Resurrected, wherein D&D scenarios from the 70s and early 80s are republished with the permission of the authors, usually together with extra contemporaneous material. Today we look to The Temple of Psaan by Andrew Ravenscroft. For parts I and II see here and here.

Today we move on to The Temple of Psaan by Andy Ravenscroft, originally published January 1980 in The Beholder issue 11. Andy started out writing for Shire Talk, a small print run local D&D fanzine, but he soon moved onto more mainstream D&D fanzines, where his contributions were often illustrated by his friend Quentin Manley. Andy stopped writing for role playing games in the mid 80s, but more recently he is the author and publisher of Dark Streets, a science fiction noir set in near-future London. He is well known to regular readers of this blog for his contributions to the Complete History of Early D&D Scenarios, providing much of the info on scenarios in fanzines.

Andy published three D&D scenarios in this period, the second of which is the focus of today's post - Temple of Psaan. Originally titled The Temple of Psaan, it lost the "The" when it was published for reasons unknown. It is a short scenario inspired by the introductory chapters of L. Sprague de Camp's novel "The Fallible Fiend", a story about a demon servant whose literal mindedness causes him to fail one master after another.

Fanzine submissions were not usually returned to the author, so Andy no longer owns copies of the originals. In the case of Demonsblood, which was more akin to an APA, the articles were included exactly as typed. For The Beholder, however, Guy Duke retyped submissions. It is quite unusual, therefore, that Andy retains the original manuscript for The Temple of Psaan, which we present here for the first time, along with the published version of the adventure.

You will notice that the scan of the published scenario includes pencil marks where the original owner recorded hit points lost during combat. I've not removed these as they're a nice touch as they show that published adventure were played, not just read

It is immediately obvious that the printed scenario is far more developed than the handwritten original, and the most likely explanation for its surival is that the published version derives from a revised version Andy prepared for publication. In particular, many details in the original are explained in the published version.

As two simple examples, in the original there are 5 war-dogs in a room by the entrance - in the published version it details "Maldivius' guard dogs - he keeps 5 dogs in here to deter intruders. Attack without fear; no subdual." In the original for Andy's eyes only this was unnecessary detail, but it is needed for the published version to make it clear for others. Similarly in one room it simply states a Gnoll has for treasure 1GP, and for the published version this becomes "He is in possession of the princely sum of 1GP" which makes it clear that the treasure isn't just pathetic, it's intentionally humorously pathetic.

These details are what make the existence of the manuscript interesting - we can see here how a dungeon for personal use gets altered into one intended for publication and use by others. We cannot infer from the terse 1-line descriptions of early scenarios whether it was just a monster in a room to be killed, or if the DM was to improvise the detail, and how much information was in the DM's head who didn't see any need to write it down for themselves.

For my own scenarios I favour an extremely terse style where all the info is noted on the map in the blank spaces with lots of arrows. This is a style I developed in the mid 80s and it means I can not only see information at a glance, it's easy to ammend as you develop. There is never a formal key, and I hate to think what others would make of my (often rather illegible) scrawl!

Finally here's a short Bibliography of Andy's work.


July '79 - Demonsblood # 3: The Raven Croaks 1 (inc. falling damge rules)

Sept '79 - Demonsblood # 4: The Raven Croaks 2 (inc. Clearwater Caverns, a D&D scenario)

Nov '79 - Demonsblood # 5: The Raven Croaks 3 (inc. background skills)

Dec '79 - The Beholder #10: The Archer (a new character class) & a D&D crossword

Jan '80 - Demonsblood # 6: Reviews

Jan '80 - The Beholder #11: (The) Temple of Psaan

Mar '80 - Demonsblood # 7: The Raven Croaks 4 (inc. poisons & Cerberus Class scoutship for Traveller)

July '80 - The Beholder #16: The Devil's Quagmire - co-authored with Quentin Manley. A 14-page scenario

2014 - Dark Streets, a science fiction noir set in near-future London

Also contributed to Shire Talk, a local fanzine.

Thanks to Andy Ravenscroft for allowing me to publish this, and also to Guy Fullerton for his help.

Sunday, 26 June 2022

Original Scenarios Resurrected II: The Complete Barbarian (1977-79, Brian K. Asbury)

Welcome to the second in the series Original Scenarios Resurrected, wherein D&D scenarios from the 70s are republished with the permission of the authors, usually together with extra contemporaneous material. Today we look to The Barbarian by Brian K. Asbury. For part I see here.

Brian K. Asbury was a prolific writer in the early days of the UK D&D scene. He wrote numerous articles for White Dwarf and other early fanzines and magazines. He devised the Xill (from the Fiend Folio) but is probably best known as the author of "The Asbury System" for awarding XP based upon succesfully using thief skills or casting spells etc (from White Dwarf #5-9) and  - the focus of today's post - the first Barbarian character class.

The Barbarian, which appeared in White Dwarf issue 4 December 1977, was written for OD&D. It was many years before the "official" AD&D Barbarian was published, and Brian's class was very popular (being reprinted in The Best of White Dwarf Articles Volume 1, and even translated into Italian as part  of "The Blue Book"). It is a very atmospheric class, with great abilities including Fearlessness (Fear instead makes them go beserk) and Sensing Danger, whereas the Unearthed Arcana version is rather bland.

But furthermore Brian's Barbarian also had something which the official AD&D version never had - it's own dedicated scenario.

Tuesday, 21 June 2022

Original Scenarios Resurrected I: The Solo Dungeon (1977, Richard Bartle)

Welcome to a new series where out of print D&D scenarios from the 70s are resurrected (and often expanded with contemporary material by the original author). These Original Scenarios are resurrected as opposed to being reincarnated, since (as everyone knows) in D&D when you're reincarnated you have only a slim chance of coming back in the same form and are of a lower level - an OD&D adventure would be in danger of being reincarnated as a 5th edition adventure...

To start with, we present The Solo Dungeon by Richard Bartle from 1977, wherein you can get a truly authentic 1970s dungeon crawling experince. Richard wrote this adventure shortly before he co-created the world's first MUD - MUD1 - in 1978. Along with a scan of the adventure, we present a scan of the original manuscript along with the original introduction. 

Copies of this do come up on ebay from time to time, but not often, and they're not cheap. Last Saturday a copy sold for rather a tidy sum:

That's a health rate of return on your investment. I wonder how much the original '77 version would fetch?

Sunday, 12 June 2022

1975.7: The Inner Temple of the Golden Skeleton (Ian Livingstone)

Today's dungeon was never published at the time, nor did it have a widespread audience, so that means it doesn't truly belong in my list - but it does deserve highlighting for it is pivotal in the history of D&D. Thanks go to Kelvin Green for drawing my attention to it! The Inner Temple of the Golden Skeleton is a dungeon from 1975 by Sir Ian Livingstone. At this point no dungeons had ever been published (only sample extracts) - so the blue colouring is just a co-incidence - and the map+key was only written for Ian's own usage (so don't read too much into the lack of detail or roughly drawn map). It's importance is that it was one of the very first dungeons developed outside of the USA, with very little opportunity for it to be influenced by American dungeons, and it has a distinctly different feel to its state-side contemparies, though much about it remains a mystery:

Friday, 8 April 2022

Was D&D responsible for the explosion in popularity of RPGs in the 1970s?

When I was researching the scenarios timeline I soon noticed that the number of scenarios was growing rapidly year on year. Because I found out the publication month for almost all the scenarios, we can clearly see this by plotting a cumulative graph of scenarios by date:

Because of this raw data we can dig into some fundamental questions about D&D without relying upon perceived wisdom or looking through the distorted lens of expectations. Looking closer at the data I realised that the near universal perception that RPGS are popular because of D&D is infact the wrong way round - RPGs would have become popular without the publication of D&D - instead the place of D&D would have been taken by something else which had been seeded from Blackmoor.