Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Hobbit 75th Anniversary

I missed the actual date (computer troubles) but since I'm such a huge Tolkien fan I couldn't let this slide. So better late then never. Courtesy of Wired.

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (1892-1973) didn’t live long enough to witness modern video games, or play Dungeons & Dragons, or even to see his works turned into movies. But as The Hobbit proved popular, and Lord of the Rings (published in 1954 and 1955) later became underground hits in the 1960s, it was clear his vision of Middle-earth had struck a chord. “Frodo Lives” and “Gandalf for President” slogans began to appear on bumper stickers, T-shirts, and buttons. Fan clubs sprang up. As readers began writing him, pestering him for details, noting discrepancies in his universe, and wondering when he’d write the next installment, he began to see how fans could get sucked into his world.
While Tolkien was said to be secretly pleased by how devoted his audience had become, the attention also made him uneasy. He named his readership “my deplorable cultus.” He knew fantasy could be dangerous — a “vast game,” he once wrote to his publisher about his writings, which could be “fatally attractive.” Even to himself.
The reclusive British scholar, lexicographer, and Oxford don was, in a way, the original geek. He specialized in the rather mundane field of philology (the history of languages). Most authors of the early twentieth century were busy smashing Victorian conventions and reassembling the pieces into irony-laden Modernism.
Not Tolkien.
An amateur writer, he didn’t even read contemporary fiction. He eschewed the modern world. He had founded literary clubs with archaic names: the TCBS (Tea Club and Barrovian Society), the Kolbitars society (so named because they sat so close to the fire they virtually bit the coals), and the Inklings. C. S. Lewis, author of the Narnia series, was also an Inklings member. Tolkien hung out with these fellow egghead, Middle Ages-minded pals in pubs, where they drank ale, smoked pipes, and made up stories by firelight.
The Hobbit was published 75 years ago today, on September 21, 1937.
The Hobbit was published 75 years ago today, on September 21, 1937.
To Tolkien the medievalist, Icelandic sagas and 
thousand-year-old poems like Beowulf were the finest literature ever written. Domineering dragons and world-weary wizards seemed perfectly legitimate characters for twentieth-century fiction. That’s why The Hobbit made sense. And why it worked. Tolkien wasn’t bowing to literary fashion, he was geeking out on his own passion. He didn’t worry whether his novels were seen as high art or bedtime story; in fact, he was doubtful his creations would have any appeal beyond his children and Oxford colleagues like C. S. “Jack” Lewis. Surrounded by those who didn’t get it, Tolkien was ridiculed. “How is your hobbit?” his colleagues mocked. Despite peer pressure, Tolkien remained undaunted.
The Professor felt compelled to invent legends because, he believed, Britain lacked its own, true, homegrown mythology. With The Hobbit and Rings, all Tolkien wanted, he once said, was to “open the door on Other Time” and “stand . . . outside time itself.” He succeeded.
Because the fantasy genre is well established today, and so  lucrative for entertainment, we forget there was a time when the heroic fantasy was not pop culture’s go-to genre.
In retrospect, what Tolkien accomplished seemed minor. One book. But he was a trailblazer. He wrote fantasy when few others did. Most of his stories were epic in length and told in a lofty language. (The Hobbit was one of his few works not aimed for an adult audience.) Their plots unfolded over a span of many years and often put ordinary characters — like Bilbo and Frodo — in extraordinary circumstances that involved magic, battles, strange creatures, and evil forces. Their quests restored some primal balance to the world.
Of course, with The Hobbit, Tolkien did not invent the genre. But, reviving its rules for the 20th century, he  hit the literary jackpot. Right author, right time. No one could have predicted how well his heroic, romantic, high fantasy would catch on.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Temple of Elemental Evil [free PDF] and Errata

Quick Note - Temple of Elemental Evil (free now 'till 9/28)

As +Moe Tousignant has already mentioned over on Google+ the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1ed module Temple of Elemental Evil is free for the next week and a half. This module is an all time classic. Granted there are lots of typos and errors within the module itself, it still remains one of the iconic mega-modules. I'm running it for a group right now that hasn't had the pleasure of exploring it yet. So grab a copy and relive the glory days, or better yet make some new ones.

T1-4 : Temple of Elemental Evil*** ERRATA ***

Sources : Dragonsfoot forums, Doomsday forums, Gary Gygax, Frank Mentzer
FR = french version
ENG= english version

Errata #1 (typo)  FR & ENG
If the bronze doors in area 145 (Dungeon Level One) are sundered, the stairs therein descend south to this room. However, entry is blocked by another set of like doors, set in the north wall of this area.

Correction :
145 leads up to 7 in the upper Temple.
148 leads down to the northern doors in 210.

Errata #2   FR & ENG
As discussed earlier, and elsewhere, Gary had a major change in direction while developing this adventure. His original plan to use Lolth was scrapped, and Zuggtmoy was created as her replacement. Some references to Lolth appeared in the published adventures, but all such references should be considered editing errors. Both Lareth and Falrinth should be played as followers of Zuggtmoy.

Errata #3 (room 210)   FR & ENG
Basically, the description of Room 210 (The Air Temple) is hard for me to make sense of. In the center of the area is said to be a “great pierced square of bronze, ten feet on a side.” Pierced by what? Is it sitting on the floor of the chamber, or is it a cube suspended in the true “center” of the area, pierced by support beams?
I believe the bronze square thing is a sort of hanging wind chime, a draft from the shaft could whistle through holes in it (thus pierced) to make an eerie sound. However, it should be circular as squares are not an Air Temple symbol.

In fact, this entire section is fubared in its use of symbols. Every time you see the word "square" associated with the Air Temple you should change it to "circle" and vice versa when seeing "circle" in regards to the Water Temple. At some point Gary changed his mind or got mixed-up on what symbol was used for these two temples. The proper symbols are: air=circle and water=square.

A dome is said to be “pierced” in the “northern ceiling” of the area, but again it isn’t clear what it’s pierced by. I assume it’s pierced by the 20’ shaft which I know extends down from the well on the Temple’s upper floor. The module says that directly below this shaft is a pit that’s 20’ in diameter and 5’ deep. The map shows this pit being in the exact center of the room, but shouldn’t it be more to the north, since the description says that the dome with the shaft is in the “northern ceiling”?
The opening in the dome and the pit below it should be on the northern area (10' south of the doors). That, of course interferes with the stairs to the north doors. My guess is the map is incorrect which is consistent with the generally shoddy map work for the module. Perhaps there were to be no steps before the bronze doors and an overzealous cartographer added the stairs to the north for symmetry and then needed to center the pit to get it out of the way.

Errata #4   FR & ENG
Lareth should be a follower of Zuggtmoy, not Lolth. Gary originally had Lolth as the demoness behind the ToEE, but decided to drop her after the GDQ series.

Errata #5   FR & ENG
One of the big ones in the distance from Hommlet to Nulb. Described as being but 6 miles distant in T1, it ended up about 30 miles away on the T1-4 map. Using the greater distance works better with the Flanaess map, and it prompts more action in Nulb. As presented, Nulb is basically superfluous. It needs a lot of development to use. Use the shorter distance if you’d prefer less work.

Errata #6   ENG
Pg. 11: Under encounter 23, the description should read: “A somewhat reclusive farmer, his spinster daughter and son dwell here.”

Errata #7   FR
Pg. 14: Under encounter 31, Burnes’ statistics are missing. They should be: S: 15 I: 17 W: 11 D: 10 C: 15 CH: 12.

Errata #8   ENG
Pg. 14: Under Area 7, the description should read: “…specially prepared mixtures, goose roasted to a golden brown, pork, steaming sausages, steak and kidney pie with mushrooms…”.

Errata #9   ENG
Pg. 19: Under GT 6, the description should read: “(This normal staff bears Nystul’s Magic Aura. A box under the pallet holds three daggers and a score of darts.”

Errata #10   ENG
Pg. 26: Under encounter 35, Lareth’s statistic for intelligence is missing and should be I: 9.  FR = 16

Errata #11   FR & ENG  Reason ? Thrommel being a paladin is Lawful Good ?

Appendix p.126

Fragarach: This hefty steel broadsword bears a mighty enchantment. It was originally fashioned for a deity (Lugh) of elsewhere/elsewhen, and eventually passed into the WORLD OF GREYHAWK™ Setting (Oerth). It served the forces of good well for a short time, all too soon falling into the hands of the minions of Chaotic Evil. It has been in their grasp for more than a decade, resting in hiding in The Temple of Elemental Evil, guarded by the worst of elemental grues. Fragarach means “The Answerer”.
The sword is of Lawful Good alignment. Any Chaotic (Neutral, Evil or Good) creature trying to grasp it takes 1-6 points of damage and falls senseless for 1-10 rounds. A Neutral (True, Good or Evil) creature holding it takes only 1-3 points and swoons for 1-4 rounds. In any Evil hands, Fragarach has no bonus whatsoever; in Lawful Neutral hands, it will strike but one opponent per round. The sword functions perfectly only for a Lawful Good user. In such hands, its +4 bonus (to damage) always operates, and it will strike as many opponents as have struck at its possessor unerringly. Fragarach always hits such targets, the +4 pertaining to additional damage only. If the opponent is of Evil alignment a d20 is rolled, and on a natural 20 such an opponent takes +8 additional points of damage. Note however that “The Answerer” always strikes last in a melee round.
The sword has a hilt of silver and gold wire, most cunningly wrought. Its guard and pommel are set with perfect emeralds (corundum)—7 gems, total value of sword is 65,000 gp. Its scabbard is likewise trimmed with precious metals and decorated with many gems of green and golden hue, worth another 35,000 gp.
G.P. Sale Value: 90,000 (including scabbard value of 35,000 gp)

Errata #12   FR & ENG
Pg. 127: Under the description for “Other Swords of Answering”, drop the one given in the module and use the Unearthed Arcana version (pg. 105).

Errata #13   FR & ENG
Falrinth is an odd one, and I think his character may heve been blurred when Gary handed his notes off to Frank. In the original version of the adventure there was no Zuggtmoy, there was just Lolth. After the D and Q modules Gary decided that he needed to go in a different direction, so he invented Zuggtmoy to replace Lolth. My guess is that Falrinth's description may be the result of Frank trying to make some old notes mesh with the later version of the adventure, unaware that Gary had changed directions and never intended both demon ladies to be involved. If I run the adventure again I will just make him a follower of Zuggtmoy.

Errata #14   ENG
Well, I asked Frank:
"How about this little ToEE mystery:
In area 307. Grotto
Where the leucrotta dwell.
The description states, "note that anyone bearing the "branched staff", described in area 427, commands their respect".
There is no "branched staff" in area 427, or anywhere else. Any ideas?
It sounds like it could be one of the tentacle rods from the D series. Just wondering if this was another reference from the Lolth version that made it in."

His reply:
"Exactly right; good show. I should have twiddled that one, tho, since anyone going thru the D's should have ended up far too high in level to be challenged by the Temple. Gary had written much of ToEE shortly after the D series, so a lot of that was still on his mind."
Doomsday : Assuming that the staff is not a Lolth-connected tentacle rod, but a device of similar magnitide that someone in the Temple hierarchy might possess, who would have it?
Well, if you go the path of least resistance that the leucrotta are recalling a servant of Zuggtmoy specifically. Then perhaps it can be Senshock's staff..

Errata #15   FR & ENG
On page 107 in the second column, it should read "in the dungeon area 339 and in each node,"
Page 98 en bas à gauche pour version FR : remplacer zone 351 par zone 339

Errata #16   ENG
Distance from Hommlett to Nulb is uncertain.
- Player's Background, p.5, says Nulb is 6 miles away.
- Moathouse text p.21 says the moathouse is 1 league from Hommlett and Nulb is 7 leagues further on.
- Interlude, Player's info, p.27, says half a day's jouney on foot (would be about 3-4 leagues).
- Interlude, DM Notes, p. 28, Hommlett is about 30 miles SW of Nulb (10 leagues)
- Overland map has 10-league hexes, making Nulb 7 - 10 leagues from Hommlett.
(But the roads on the map, and the danger markings, are non-sensical with the text descriptions).

Errata #17   ENG
Moathouse Dungeon Level -- The key lists all directions backwards.
North should be south, East should be West, and vice versa. Note the upper level key matches the map.

Errata #18   ENG
Temple, Ruins of Elemental Evil, Exterior Notes, p.36. Thrown down works and razed building are shown on the map by X marks, which are non-existent.

Errata #19   ENG
Temple, A.4. Escape Tunnel, p. 38. This is shown going East on the map. But is described as going West. The position of the tunnel exit should be marked with an X on the area map, somewhere in the woods, but this is no where to be found).

Errata #20   ENG
Temple Interior, C 10, Dais and Throne, p. 42, states that the throne can be commanded to drop to the Greater Temple (area 352). This is wrong on multiple levels. 352 is not the greater temple, and an examination of the map (and corresponding X under the throne on levels 1 and 2) shows it should sink to the throne location in 340 (which is where the following paragraph states that it goes).
This same paragraph also states that the Orb of Golden Death is located in (322), while it is clearly in 338.

Errata #21   ENG
Page 44, clues, Orb of Golden Death (in Appendix D) should read (in Appendix C).

Errata #22   ENG
Page 62, 210, After ten rounds of outpouring smoke, creatures in the pit are transported to the Air Cavern (area 526). This should read (A26) for the air node.

Errata #23   ENG
Page 62, 210a, Drelb is referrenced in Appendix A. New Monsters, but New Monsters are in Appendix B, and the Drelb is not listed among them.
Errata #24   ENG

Errata #24 ENG
Page 69, 225, Kelno's strategy says he will cast Darkness and flee if the battle goes against him, but Darkness is not one of his prepared spells.

Errata #25   ENG
Page 88, 337, South Room, Rules for Falrinth's Familiar should be provided in Appendix D. Appendix D does not exist.

Errata #26   ENG
Page 90, 339, and p 94, 353, Contradictory statements. Can Zuggtmoy enter 339 after the lowest door is sundered, or only after all 4 doors are sundered?

Errata #27   ENG
Page 91, 340, and p 94, 353, Contradictory statements. Can Zuggtmoy enter 340 after the lowest door is sundered, or only after 3 doors are sundered?