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.

Saturday, 2 April 2022

Final Timeline of Early D&D Scenarios X: 1979 November-December

These last two dozen scenarios take us through to the end of '79 and the end of the run. So that's every scenario published in the 1970s - all two hundred of them (or rather, those that I've been able to uncover). The aim was to have a comprehensive reference list in chronological order so that I could investigate how they influenced each other, and to see how they developed - which is what this blog's going to focus on next.

The list is perhaps more defined by what it doesn't contain - anything that is clearly not D&D (such as Runequest), anything that is just a description of a setting (i.e. without actual gameable content). Other than that, the rule has been - if in doubt, include it. This has meant I've uncovered lots of items of interest and connections between them that I'd never have discovered with a narrower focus.

The published clause has been extended to include anything that was shared sufficiently that it became potentially influential. Thus I included the very first personal dungeons, and some unpublished tournament adventures which have survived - as both of these illustrate the history and development of scenarios very well.

It includes sample adventures, dungeon crawl boardgames, solitaire adventures, map-only products, key-only products, random dungeon creation tools. It contains adverts, cartoons, and colouring books. It includes famous modules published by major name publishers that have been revised and republished many times in many editions over the years, all the way down to school fanzines with a tiny circulation. It includes obscure scenarios that are unsung greats, and others that are best forgotten. I'm fairly confident when I proclaim that No-one owns an original copy of every published scenario in the list - though I'm pretty sure a couple of people come extremely close.

By Erol Otus, my favourite RPG artist, from The Howling Tower

Sunday, 27 March 2022

A Complete Timeline of Early D&D Scenarios IX: 1979 September-October

We're rounding the final corner now with this penultimate set of scenarios. This is an unusual set as it's two-thirds fanzines and one-third Judges Guild with just one other entry - a tournament that was published many years later by TSR. There are no small press publications, but this is no doubt because the small press items are very difficult to date, and there are several '79 scenarios which I have no month for so they are listed at the end of the year. 

This is the ninth installment of my series listing all of the D&D scenarios published in the 1970s. I hope by collecting them all in order it will allow developments, trends and influences to be identified- at the end I will write posts covering these various aspects. 

Since two-thirds of this selection of scenarios come from fanzines, here's another piece of Paul Blackwell's amazing fanzine art to put us in the mood (his work really deserves to be collected together and republished), this time from Demonsblood #4:

Saturday, 19 March 2022

A Complete Timeline of Early D&D Scenarios VIII: 1979 July-August

Since every year has double the number of scenarios compared to the previous year, progress through 1979 has slowed to a crawl. We've made it to the second half of '79 now, and two more posts after this should see us to the end. I say "we" as I could not have done it on my own - for this post I have to thank Andy Ravenscroft, Guy Fullerton, Jon Peterson, Allan Grohe, Bane McDeath, VivaVilez, and Ian (mbassoc2003) for providing photos/details of many of these scenarios, and also Andy Ravenscroft for his comments which provide a perspective on the 70's zine scene from one of its contributors.

This is the eight installment of my series covering all of the D&D scenarios published in the 1970s. The aim is to identify developments, trends and influences - at the end I will write posts covering these various aspects. 

So gird your loins and prepare for battle as we face two dozen more scenarios - including four of the most famous scenarios of all time, all released on the very same day...
(Paul Blackwell is the artist, from Trollcrusher #18)