My birthday is this coming Friday and my good friend and business partner Richard sent me a very kind gift in the form of a copy of Dr. J. Eric Holmes's 1981 book Fantasy Role Playing Games. I'll likely be talking a lot about this book in the coming weeks as I work my way through it, but, having just flipped through it, I came across two images I had to share here:
I have no idea if these maps can be attributed to Dr. Holmes himself, although they certainly look similar to the dungeon map in the Blue Book (another map that may well not be the work of Holmes -- does anyone know its origins?). Regardless, these maps are interesting two me for a couple of reasons. First, they're keyed directly on to the map itself. This is a practice that seems to have been pretty commonplace in the old days. I can recall doing it on some of my earliest dungeons too and I believe that we have evidence that Gygax and Arneson both did this, at least to some degree.
Second, these maps are small, much like the map in the Blue Book. Nowadays, it's taken as Gospel that old school dungeons were megadungeons -- huge, sprawling campaign dungeons that could never be cleared and acted as the axes around which entire campaigns revolved. I certainly don't mean to dismiss that megadungeons of this sort existed, but I suspect, like many things in the old school renaissance, the prevalence of such megadungeons is probably exaggerated. I don't think it's for nothing that there are no published examples of megadungeons in the early days of the hobby, when most modules presented smaller "lair" dungeons. Likewise, none of the older guys I knew back then ran a megadungeon-based campaign. Instead, their campaigns were filled with many dungeons, some of them many levels deep but I don't think could compare to Castles Blackmoor or Greyhawk in terms of their size and scope.
In any case, the maps in Fantasy Role Playing Games are intriguing. I'm going to be reading the book closely to see if any sections of it discuss the creation of dungeons, with an eye toward trying to extract from it any insights into either Holmes's own philosophy of dungeon building or a more general sense of how referees at the time looked at this endeavor.