Post by bigjackbrass on Aug 21, 2008 4:21:34 GMT -6
I've never read it, but J. Eric Holmes' novel The Maze of Peril is often mentioned as an early D&D book. Anyone here familiar with it? I do have Dr. Holmes' non-fiction Fantasy Role Playing Games but have never seen a copy of Maze.
It actually seems to still be available from the publisher (odd, considering the vastly inflated prices on the second-hand market!) as you can see on their website. Unfortunately, ordering means mailing a cheque or postal order usable in the USA, which makes things a bit trickier for those of us in Ye Olde Englande, so I'm hesitant to go to the expense and trouble of doing so if the novel is a complete crock. Then again, it's tempting if only because one of the characters is called "Boinger the halfling."
I haven't read it, or even heard of it, but here's the single reader review from amazon:
This book is fun to read, as long as you're not expecting great literature. In contrast to most fantasies, where the protagonists pursue high-minded and altruistic goals, the adventures in The Maze of Peril seem predominantly interested in themselves. It's an amusing change of pace to see fantasy characters who squabble over treasure instead of devoting their efforts to some world-saving quest.
Yep. Sounds like D&D!
We have seen the black suns / Pouring forth the night. --Clark Ashton Smith
I really, really dug Maze of Peril! I'm a big fan of Holmes' sample dungeon "Zenopus's Tower" in the Blue Box Basic Set, and there are definitely echoes of that dungeon in the first section of the book - although there are more differences than similarities, and the book goes in some interesting directions in subsequent chapters.
I picked up a copy direct from the publisher, after seeing that Space & Time's mailing address is like 20 blocks from me. I'd definitely recommend the book to anyone interested in old-school D&D, and to match action to words, I'd be happy to serve as your overseas purchase agent, bigjackbrass - send me a PM and we can work out the details.
I blog at The Mule Abides, always welcome new players in NYC at New York Red Box, and am one of the designers of Adventurer Conqueror King -
There are several J. Eric Holmes stories in The Dragon, up through about issue #58 (my first, which featured his "In the Bag" story). So, if you have the Dragon Archive or the original issues, or illegal .pdfs, you can search around for his stories to read them and see if you like his style. The issues are 31, 46, and 58.
Post by danproctor on Sept 2, 2008 18:46:55 GMT -6
Yeah, Maze of Peril is definitely a fun read. I posted a review of it over on the KnK boards a long while back. I don't think anyone responded to it so I'm not sure if they were interested. But, while it certainly isn't great literature I did find myself wanting more when it ended. It does make me chuckle though, because to me it did have the "feel" of stories written about actual D&D sessions, not like "stories" like Dragonlance for instance. So the way characters reacted to other character's deaths, for example, was pretty funny because it is definitely how characters are in game, but in a typical fantasy story i think it would be handled differently. I don't know, hard to explain.
If you enjoyed Holmes' fiction, you should check out this 1980 Psychology Today article "Confessions of a Dungeon Master" since it also includes some details from his campaign that relate back to the fiction.
Post by bigjackbrass on Sept 4, 2008 12:49:14 GMT -6
Well, I've finished the three stories from Dragon and they're actually rather enjoyable. A dark elf hero! and yes, a hobbit called Boinger. Nothing spectacular, but they're decently written and far superior to a lot of the other gaming fiction I've slogged my way through over the years.
With my taste for Ye Olde fantasy novels piqued I started on Quag Keep. A couple of chapters in so far and... uh, I'm reserving judgement until I finish it...
Thanks for the links, grodog! It's inspiring to see Holmes' Gen Con events listed, and good to know that there's other fiction of his out there.
A Google Scholar search seems to indicate that the online archives of Psychology Today don't go as far back as 1980. A university library might well have a copy, though. Here are the specifics: Psychology today [0033-3107] Holmes yr:1980 vol:14 pg:84
Post by bigjackbrass on Sept 6, 2008 9:17:57 GMT -6
I'd love to read the article. Searching for it on-line brings up an enormous number of references, but they're very often anti-gaming religious groups citing it, and other articles, rather selectively. I was a little surprised that such an old piece, particularly one that does receive comment even now, is not more easily available on the Internet.
Post by bigjackbrass on Sept 9, 2008 12:23:05 GMT -6
Thanks Dan, lovely to finally read the article. I've a copy of Dr. Holmes' Fantasy Role Playing Games on the shelf next to me, written around the same time as this piece, and it's interesting to compare the style and content of the two, produced as they were for slilghtly different audiences.
It also reminded me of something I always wanted: a table painted with blackboard paint! *sigh* Not sure the missus would approve... Hmm, thinking about it, do they even still use blackboards in schools these days?
Awesome! I'm fascinated by the mix of elements in Holmes' career (as well as that of Carl Sargent), and there's some nice tidbits relating to that here, like his gaming group being made up of doctors & nurses with a "touching faith in the power of healing". As expected, there's also glimpses of the early history of the game (lamias as PCs!), as well as the social context of the article - apparently by 1980 you could assume that a general audience would have some idea what D&D is, since Holmes seems remarkably free of the need to laboriously explain the fundamentals of a role-playing game.
I checked with Space & Time Books' publisher, Gordon Linzner, and they do indeed have copies of Maze of Peril left in stock. Last time we met I pumped Gordon for background on the book's publication. He wasn't a D&D fan, although as someone who had been going to SF cons since the '50s he was certainly aware of the game. He decided to publish Maze because he thought it was a good read & would make a good addition to his small press catalog. No particular details about the book's history stood out in Gordon's mind 20+ years later. We speculated that it wasn't picked up by a major publisher because it was relatively short, at a time when fat fantasy trilogies and series were the going thing, and perhaps also due to a prejudice against "game fiction".
I just received my copy of The Maze of Peril from Tavis and it made my day - thanks Tavis.
It appears from his conversations with Gordon the publisher that only 1,000 copies were ever printed and so far, 22 years later, only half of those have sold. That makes the book a rarer item than I thought, and here was me naively thinking I may one day have found a copy in an Australian 2nd-hand bookstore.
I was interested to read in the back of the book that Boinger/Zereth stories appeared in Alarums & Excursions, which I think shall prove to be a harder treasure to obtain.
Post by bigjackbrass on Oct 8, 2008 14:03:17 GMT -6
Ah, looks like my information is a bit out of date, greyharp.
EDIT to add: Have you seen this Acaeum thread about a Holmes bibliography? Annoyingly, the bibliography it links to lacks the A&E issue number info you're after, although it does mention the name of the stories, but if you look to the bottom of the page there's a post from February saying that "zhowar" has the issue numbers and will post an update... Obviously a bit overdue Might be a lead for you to follow if you can contact zhowar.
Ah, looks like my information is a bit out of date, greyharp.
Your info might be out of date bjb, but my memory is shocking. I have a copy of zhowar's article on my hard drive, but forgot all about it. Even worse, I've read the Acaeum thread in the past and forgot it even existed. :-[ You're right, looks like zhowar and grodog are the people to talk to, thanks again.
What I'd really love to see is a web page dedicated solely to Holmes and his D&D output, to bring all of these loose threads together for D&D history posterity. Maybe I'll get off my procrastinating butt one day and do something about it.