Scans of some kid’s D&D notebook from 1989

April 30th, 2012 by paul

As I mentioned, I recently came into a windfall: 45 pounds of D&D stuff that comprise some kid's D&D collection from the 80s. From the Dragon magazines, it looks like he subscribed from about '83 to '89, and he stopped playing around the time Second Edition came out.

I was excited to get the books and magazines, but the first thing I opened was the spiral notebook, on the cover of which were scratched the letters "D+D".

It's a peculiar, and brief, notebook. I might need a little help prizing out its secrets.

It starts very strong, with an awesome map of a land called ARCAUEN:

There are so many kickass names here, including, but not limited to, Drosifer Tower... Doricus... Isles of Clakoron... Drafek...Okioxion... Mount Flinkorst... Garroten... Dracorius Hill... Blueis Lake... Bay of Bengal... Straight of the Dragon. It's like an episode of He-Man, in the best possible way. My favorites have to be Bay of Bengal - yeah, it is an awesome name for a bay, even if it is real! and Straight of the Dragon. Straight of the Dragon isn't even a strait - it's a peninsula. Spotmarkedx suggested that the world of Arcauen is two dimensions, which you can traverse with the right spell: an island, in which the Straight is a peninsula, and a landlocked sea, in which the Straight is - well, still not a strait, actually. Maybe some sort of bay. Anyway, a good idea.

Other locations of note: Black Ledge, which protects Drosifer Tower, the home of (I suspect) the greatest evildoer of the campaign, and Plathister Tower, where good wizards weave great magics using the poetry of Sylvia Plath. That's just a guess.

The other interesting thing about this map is the scale: it's not a continent, as I first thought, but a pretty small island. It's maybe 30 miles across - approximately the same size as Mauritius. There are a lot of great locations packed together pretty tightly here.

On the next page, we have an Encounter Table!

It's a generalized encounter table, suitable for any location. It's quite well constructed: you can run encounters on the fly in Dangerous, Average, and Civilized zones. The monsters aren't filled it - you can do that when you run it. The percentages and the dice expressions look very reasonable. Either this is some published chart I've never read, from Second Edition or something, or this kid did a great job here.

Next page!

This is where the notebook gets confusing. What is that square thing on the bottom? A map? It does appear to say "15 ft" next to the tube thing.

In the corner, it looks like the player was writing with his left hand, or eyes closed, or something. "Assassin"? "Plokius"? And is that the eye of Sauron on a necklace?

Next page:

The thing at the top is a walled town: it's divided into "town", "castle", and "army", and it has little towers at the corners. This page also has some bizarre writing: a cipher or doodle language? and the enigmatic message "ROOM book".

I can make head nor tail of nearly nothing on this page, although I wouldn't be surprised if the thing at the bottom were barracks of some kind. I like the picture of the dashing, possibly levitating, mustachioed fellow. I believe he is wearing a clock around his neck like Flavor Flav. Or possibly it is the Eye of Sauron. Anyway, the guy is proud of it.

On the next page, the writer is trying to solve a cryptogram. I guess he's a player, not the DM. Can we give him any help? FO_IA_O

The rest of the page features a stick figure with 9 arms and legs, and a directional system for use with a d8, maybe for splash damage or wind direction.

On the last page of notes, we've got (top left) a silhouette of a unicorn duck, some wavy lines and numbers I don't understand, and the "first level" of something. Possibly a medieval mall.

You see what I'm saying, right guys? Confusing! Any ideas about what any of this means?

As a bonus, here are some character sheets:

Polass is cool because he has two names. I bet the other players had a field day with the fact that he had "ass" in his name, so the player, disgusted, wrote "Name: Polis" on the right side of the character sheet. This human barbarian ("fighter" written with a different pen) has plausible, rolled-looking stats. He also has THAC0 and non-weapon proficiencies, which narrows him down in time a little bit. 26 HP seems high for a first level character.

Polass's good gear, earned in adventuring, is written in pencil. He has a +2 Ring of Protection (boss!) and some mysterious stuff: "1 red, 1 black bottle", "quadruple crossbow", "ice blade", "silver balls 30". I like it all, and will use it as treasure in the next game I run, especially the quadruple crossbow.

Next, Dicorace! This player is pretty good at coming up with cool names. Cool names that end with something that sounds like "ass", and things that begin with "dick" or "pole", but who knows how intentional that was.

Dicorace is an elven mage with similarly high HP (12 at level 2) and more awesome equipment written in pencil: "1 green 1 white bottle", "eyes of dazing", "amulet of flight", "wand of fear". He also has 30 SP, which I just can't convince myself is silver pieces. Spell Points? He has 30. But Polass the barbarian fighter had 30 SP too. Maybe SP is some second edition stat I've forgotten.

Finally, Dicorace's spellbook:

Pretty good - fourth level spells for a second-level mage.

All in all, it looks like a pretty fun game. I'd join. Maybe I'd learn why everyone ended up with all these colored bottles!

Update: One last find: I flipped open Unearthed Arcana and found this beginning of what could well have been the greatest novel of the 20th century, had it been completed:

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14 Responses to “Scans of some kid’s D&D notebook from 1989”

  1. katre says:

    I misread, and thought he had “Eyes of Dancing”. I could get a lot of mileage out of mystical glasses that force anyone you look at to dance uncontrollably (if they fail their save, or course).

  2. mwschmeer says:

    If you scan the whole book, I’ll host it on my blog’s download page:

    I’ve got a whole lot of stuff I call “1981 Flashback” that are scans of juvenila.

  3. paul paul says:

    These are everything I found, but you’re welcome to grab them if you want.

  4. Gerald says:

    I think the note in the bottom right corner of the third page is a note from a dying person, or a dying prisoner or something like that. The third word looks very much like “Help” – and if the person was dying then that would explain the terrible hand-writing.
    Perhaps the note was wrapped around the necklace and thrown into the pipe – and the adventurers found it as it dropped out of the hole at the base of the pipe. Or perhaps that’s the way to get in to rescue the prisoner!

  5. Carlo says:

    SP would be “speed”, yes? 30 feet per round being the standard movement rate for humans and elves.

  6. Michael (Gronan) Mornard says:

    A unicorn duck, eh? Hmmm…..

  7. Ryan says:

    I think that unicorn duck is actually a marshmallow dragon

  8. Jason Hurst says:

    I want to be 12 again, and play D&D, now.

  9. [...] got that giant box of D&D stuff in the mail, one of the first things I did (after reading the original owner's game notebook and the In Search of The Unknown module) was settle down with a random Dragon issue I'd never read [...]

  10. 1d30 says:

    Carlo: I thought of the Speed thing too, but in 2E the base movement was 12″ (120′ per round) and none of their stuff was so encumbering that they’d be down to 3″ (or 30′).

    Dicorace can speak Ancient Druid!

    Polass knows nonweapon proficiencies and also has a secondary skill (forester)!

    I suspect the HP thing is a houserule to keep people from dying at L1 from one goblin stab. Let’s see, if Polass is a F1 with 10 CON and 26 HP, and Dicorace is a W2 with 11 CON and 12 HP … even double maximum starting HP wouldn’t give a d12 Barbarian 26 HP. Maybe some system involving racial base HP plus whatever you get for class.

    Maybe Polass started out as a Barbarian and then lost his Barbarianhood by associating with the treacherous Dicorace!

  11. 1d30 says:

    I suspect the colored bottles are unidentified potions which the DM assigned colors to so he could keep track of where you found them.

  12. Grish says:

    I reckon that whoever rolled up ‘Polass’ is a different player from the notebook owner. It looks to me like whoever rolled up ‘Dicorace’, changed the name to ‘Polis’ added the alignment and changed him to a fighter. The writing is different (e.g. Polass has ‘Cons__’ and Dicorace has ‘Con:’). Maybe ‘Dicorace’ was pronounced DICE-or-us. My first character was Bilbo and my second was a very original Gilbo.

    I’m with you guys, it looks awesome and I dream of finding stuff like this. I wonder if Plokius was a mysterious, moustachiod assassin with an awesome amulet who was seen levitating away after his crime? It looks like there must’ve been clues to the cipher spread throughout the dungeon as the player drew it, a Y, D and U can be seen on two pages leading up to the attempt to crack the cipher.

    Awesome loot! Love the ice sword.

  13. Grish says:

    Oh, forgot to add: I think that the SP was in fact, silver pieces. Looks like the old starting money at character creation time. Polass has GP and SP together. Looks to me like Dicorace maybe forgot to put his SP and added it to the top of the next column. What do you think?

  14. Grish says:

    Hey guys, I noticed something else: the notebook cover is dated 1991.

    I was imagining I had been the DM with these two characters and came up with some random thoughts. Dicorace knows the ancient druid language because of a much-revered an immortal human druid who lives near his people. He’s a hermit who doesn’t interact with many and the elves don’t speak to outsiders about him.

    The notes in this book are from their adventure in tracking down the mysterious assassin named as Plokius by the dying lord he killed. They overcame him and avenged the fallen lord. The lord’s daughter gifted Polis with a rare and wonderful weapon: an ice sword. It has a rounded hilt of dark brass with curious circular spirals and no crossguard. At will, a long blade of whitish sharp ice forms and can be used. It’s not overly brittle, but over time does break and melt away, depending on climate. It does damage as a long sword, but may do extra against fire-type creatures and less against cold-type creatures. This success has allowed Polis to become a 2nd level fighter (keeping the HP at 26 as somewhat of an explanation).

    His elf companion was given a crumbling scroll of spells no one in the vicinity could make use of, the fourth level wizard spells ‘Fire Trap’, ‘Ice Storm’ and ‘Wall of Fire’.

    Seeking further adventure, Dicorace offers to guide Polis to a ruined temple where an evil cult once dwelled until the Dicorace’s people drove them away. But animals and birds in that area won’t go near it and some whisper that evil still dwells within. His price for doing this is the Ring of Protection +2 Polis claimed from Plokius’s body, which would help the elf much more.

    Dicorace’s Eyes of Dazing was a gift from his family as he left to seek his fortune. He kept Plokius’ Amulet of Light, which can glow upon command, giving 20′ of light for as long as desired. The Wand of Fear has 18 charges and is non-rechargeable.

    Who knows what terrors they may face in the ruined temple?

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