Monday, October 7, 2013

TFT's Master of the Amulets - Review and Revised Map

In 1981 Metagaming released their 7th MicroQuest, Master of the Amulets. Unlike the previous six, this one attempted to get away from using a pre-programmed adventure, relying on random placement of objects and die rolls to make each adventure unique. The main flaw of the pre-programmed MicroQuests was that they could really only be run through once and then all the mystery is gone. Since everything was random in MotA, there was no chance of that happening.

Of course, this meant that there wasn't much of an adventure, either. Worse, there wasn't much variety in encounters, with only a relatively small selection of critters (dragons, giants/ogres, gargoyles, giant snakes, wolves, trolls, bears, and "serpents", the one original monster introduced for this MicroQuest) and a limited number of random Fighters and Wizards. At barest minimum, then, the random encounters should have had a wider range of creatures that could be encountered.

As written, this MicroQuest seems to have been geared more towards basic Melee and Wizard, or perhaps the Dragons of Underearth summary TFT ruleset, then the Advanced modules and In the Labyrinth. There are some references to certain spells and talents, but overall it appears that ITL was an afterthought.

In his review in Space Gamer No. 49 Stefan Jones comments that had this MicroQuest come out before the release of ITL and the advanced combat/wizardry modules, this would have been "...state of the art adventure technology." But being released after put it in conflict with, for example, existing overland travel rules, along with some other small but important rules in ITL, such as how experience is accumulated, the use of gold bars for treasure (after the manner of Death Test), the nature of the amulets themselves, which does not comport with magic item rules as given in Advanced Wizard, and a few others.

This makes me conclude that this adventure was written and submitted for publishing prior to the release of ITL, but was delayed for some unknown reason. This explains not only the rules conflicts, but also the lack of any mention of Cidri, the giant game world that is home for most of the adventures written for The Fantasy Trip, sort of like "Greyhawk" for early Dungeons & Dragons (the main exceptions being Grail Quest, which is Arthurian Britain, and the Treasure of Silver Dragon and Unicorn Gold, which take place on the Dragonodon Earth).

As far as adventures go, this Master of the Amulets is only so-so. It could be improved, though, with the addition of more varied encounters, as noted previous. Optionally, if using the ITL Talents rules, one could include rules for gathering food and so forth by means of the Woodsman talent, with parties not so supported having issues finding food, etc. Another possibility might be to have hexes with ruins that could be randomly generated for type and accopanying encounters, with perhaps more challenges but better chances for treasure. Maybe have special encounters near river hexsides that allow the party to capture a boat. Lots of possibilities, really.

One improvement I will share, though, is a corrected map. As released the "ENTER" hex, along with the "X's" on four of the hexes where one places the amulet counters, were missing. I have through various diabolic means corrected these problems, and make available here this map. Be sure to go into the options when downloading it to get the full size version. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Proposed Metagaming The Fantasy Trip Material

This article focuses on TFT Material that was either being planned or about to be published at the time of Metagaming’s demise. There were a lot of interesting ideas in the pipeline, including a variety of adventure and rule supplements for the game. Much of this information was obtained from letters and status reports by Kevin Hendryx, written in early 1982, and also Interplay and Space Gamer magazines.

1.    [Worlds/Nations/Realms] of Cidri
A final title had not been decided on at the time of the proposal. This supplement would have been aimed at the Game Master and would cover outdoor/wilderness adventuring. Included would be information on how to organize and establish a nation/continent/ world, movement and scale in the wilderness, random encounter tables (scaled according to terrain and climate conditions), descriptions of regions and states suitable for adventuring in, some new monsters, and mini-adventures or scenarios to get the GM started on a campaign. This supplement might also have included topographical maps. Note that Interplay No. 5 had an article pertaining to the in-game effects of winter conditions. (ref: Product Proposal letter by Kevin Hendryx dated 3/16/82 and Status Report by Kevin Hendryx dated Feb ’82. See also Interplay No. 5)

2.    Affray
This proposed TFT Aerial combat module developed by Ian Bell; was in playtest and evaluation as of 2/19/82. This was originally requested in Interplay, to cover aerial combat between creatures, specifying that "The best approach is to do something that plays well but doesn't try for realism." (ref: Status Report by Kevin Hendryx dated Feb ’82 and Interplay No. 2)

3.    Ultra Force – In the Name of Justice (a.k.a. “Herodium” or “In the Name of Justice”)
Comic book super-hero TFT supplement by Peter Christian. In Interplays No. 3 & 7 a different title, “In the Name of Justice” was given, and Interplay No. 8 gave the title as “Herodium” However, Scanner in Space Gamer No. 61 gives the final title. The target price was $7.95, the same as Conquerors of Underearth and Dragons of Underearth, implying that it would have been released in the same MetaGame style format. According to Scanner, this was planned for a late spring release. (ref: Status Report by Kevin Hendryx dated Feb ’82, Space Gamer No. 61, and Interplay Nos. 3, 7, & 8. See also Space Gamer No. 65 for Ronald Pehr’s article on this subject of Superheros)

4.    Nosferatu
Adventure supplement designed by John Sullivan. This was not regarded as requiring too much time to edit. Note that Interplay No. 3 had an article entitled “Vampyre” by the same author; presumably Nosferatu would have used elements of this article. (ref: Status Report by Kevin Hendryx dated Feb ’82 and Interplay No. 3)
5.    Infantry
Listed as a Modern Military RPG - probably intended to be a TFT supplement as a blurb in Interplay mentioned that a WWII supplement was in the works. Authored by Thomas Trunzo (ref: Status Report by Kevin Hendryx dated Feb ’82 and Interplay No. 1)

6.    The Runesword of Regalan (a.k.a. Runesword at Regalan)
TFT MicroQuest by Anthony Affrunti, intended for release in March 1983 at a price of $2.95, which was a dollar off from the usual $3.95 price tag for Micros at this time. It is not clear what the actual title was, as the two sources give it slightly differently, but Kevin Hendryx gives it as “Runesword of Regalan,” and this is likely the correct version. (ref: Status Report by Kevin Hendryx dated Feb ’82 and Space Gamer No. 61)

7.    Prison of the Spectral Demon
Another MicroQuest by Robbins and Wittke, intended for release in March 1983 at $2.95. (ref: Status Report by Kevin Hendryx dated Feb ’82 and Space Gamer No. 61)
8.    Pthantium Hall
This was a MicroQuest authored by Robert Schlott. No other information is available. (ref: Status Report by Kevin Hendryx dated Feb ’82).

9.    High Noon
TFT Western gunfighter supplement by David Tepool. This was regarded as a big undertaking, and one of the problems they were having was a lack of suitable playtesters. This product had been officially accepted for $500. Note that Interplay No. 2 published a rules set called “TFT: Wild West” by Fred Askew; not clear if there was any relationship (ref: Status Report by Kevin Hendryx dated Feb ’82 and Interplay Nos. 1-3)

10.  Energy Crisis - Land Beyond the Mountains
THIS is a fascinating item. It is only referenced by title, unfortunately, but it is clear that they were looking at all sorts of adventures for the LBTM campaign. Likely set in Soukhor in a Mnoren ruin of some sort. Status report included this in a list of manuscripts “closest to being publishable”. It is interesting to note that this was in work months before either the Darok or Dihad modules had been published. Written by Keith Gross (ref: Status Report by Kevin Hendryx dated Feb ’82 and draft notes of same dated 2/16/82).

11.  Dragons of Underearth
Of course, this was published, but it is interesting that the original title was “Dragonslayer” and that Keith Gross was paid $750 for it. Note that the normal rate for a MicroGame was $500. (ref: Status Report by Kevin Hendryx dated Feb ’82 and Interplay Nos. 3 & 8).

12.  Tollenkar’s Lair Revision
Apparently they were thinking of revising the adventure. It appears that they intended to both update and expand the module, perhaps with better maps, adding counters, etc. (ref: Status Report by Kevin Hendryx dated Feb ’82 and Interplay No. 6). Certainly, I would have had any number of ideas for revising it; see my review here.

13.  Conquerors of Underearth
CoU (also called CUE) is mentioned as having been very close to publication – Scanner in Space Gamer No. 61 stated that it was due for a late spring release with an asking price of $7.95. Another Keith Gross game, this one at least was described in some detail, taken from a Designer’s Introduction to DoU by Keith Gross in Interplay No. 8:

-    DoU was actually a *byproduct* of CoU, but got published first owing to its simplicity

-    CoU was intended to be a combination MicroGame-MicroQuest

-     A full designer’s intro to CoU was intended to be published in Interplay No. 9 (which, naturally, never saw the light of day)

-    CoU was intended to use DoU characters on a LoU scale strategic map, with MicroQuest paragraphs

-    CoU dealt with adventurers entering a Goblin fortress and encountering organized military units, and as such involved 10-20+ warriors per battle

-    There was an implication that CoU was originally intended to be a TFT supplement, but because of the large numbers of combatants, use of AM/AW/ITL slowed things up too much, thus the decision to design a streamlined “Son of the Fantasy Trip”

-    Talents listed in DoU were going to be described in CoU


It was also mentioned that CoU could use more playtesting, and that some rules had been omitted from the manuscript that were considered critical to the continuity of the other Underearth games. Further, about twice as much editing would be required over DoU, since it is a complete game with scenarios rather than a set of RPG rules. Interestingly, a mass combat game of this sort had been envisioned from the very beginning; the Designers Notes article in TSG No. 12 specifically mentions the concept of a “wargame” version of TFT. The review of Dragons of Underearth in TSG No. 55 mentioned the fact that talents were going to be described within CoU. The 1981 Metagaming Catalog stated that this was to published in a MetaGame format. (ref: Status Report by Kevin Hendryx dated Feb ’82, Interplay Nos. 6, 7, & 8, Metagaming Catalog 1981,  and Space Gamer Nos. 12 & 55, and 61).

14.  Soldier City - Shaylle
This, interestingly enough, did get published as City of the Sacred Flame by GameLords, Ltd. for their Haven campaign under the Thieves Guild rules system. Originally written to describe the capital of Darok in detail, Gamelords rewrote it when Metagaming tanked by removing some of the TFT game mechanics and Land Beyond the Mountains background, but kept all of the basic encounters. There is, thus, a very noticeable “substrate” of TFT-LBTM material in the module, if you look closely. Certain mentioned spells, talents, and even creatures are straight TFT (one description of a pet “monkey” shows how quickly they edited it - at the end of the paragraph they forgot to put “monkey” in place of “slinker”, showing the original intended TFT critter). Indeed, one could rewrite it back to something closely resembling its original intended form. The hard part is figuring out the names and especially some of the historical background, as they ended up changing a lot of details to “fit” into the Haven campaign. Worse, since they only had the Darok and Dihad components, they made the two of them mortal enemies, rather than their mutual enemy, Muipoco. Of note is that the encounters that I have read through are actually pretty interesting and well thought out; it’ll take sharp players to catch what is really going on (ref: City of the Sacred Flame, Interplay No. 7, and 1/3/93 e-mail from author Walter Hunt, formerly of GameLords, mentioning how it was altered after HT cancelled the contract.)

15.  Intrigue in Plaize
As with “Soldier City” this was similarly rewritten by GameLords and published as Within the Tyrant’s Demesne. Originally intended for release in April of 1983. Detailed the capitol of Dihad. Again, this one could also be “restored” to something like its original state, though the initial impression is that this one seems trickier than the Shaylle module. The rewrite, according to Richard Meyer, took about six weeks. (ref: Within the Tyrant’s Demesne, Space Gamer No. 61, Fantasy Gamer No. 1, and 1/3/93 e-mail from Walter Hunt, formerly of GameLords, mentioning how it was altered after HT cancelled the contract.)
16.  TFT Yearbook
Published only once as the “Fantasy Master’s Codex” in 1981, it was intended to be released annually with updates, new material, errata, and so forth. It is strange that nothing was released in 1982.

17.  Campaign Guides
There was a stated intention to introduce TFT supplements to detail particular cultures, such as medieval Japan (“Samurais”) and China, Vikings, Egyptians, Aztecs, Zulus, Hellenes, Mongols, and Incas. Interest was also expressed in creating fantasy campaign backgrounds, to include new races, monsters, magic and so forth (ref: Interplay Nos. 1 & 2)

18.  Monster Manual
This concept goes back to the beginning, with mention of a monster manual in the Designers Notes article in TSG No. 12, which would incorporate (edited) gamer ideas. In a reply to a reader’s inquiry in Interplay, Trace Hollowell mentioned that some sort of a monster compendium was in the works, and William Gustafson also stated that a new monster book was to be the first book for a revised 2nd Edition of ITL. This was supposed to have a LOT of monsters. (ref: Interplay Nos. 3 & 4 and Space Gamer No. 12)

19.  Second Edition TFT/ITL
Mentioned in Interplay No. 4. William Gustafson was to be the author. No details given as to the kinds of changes that were to be made, though it is a safe bet that any “Steve Jacksonisms” would have been written out with extreme prejudice… (ref: Interplay No. 4 and Space Gamer No. 12)

20.  Religion Rules Supplement
This was requested in Interplay #2, and that it was intended to be “broad enough to handle all Terran religions and religions for other races” and emphasized that a separate form of magic should NOT be created. Paul Manz wrote a set of rules in Interplay No. 4 that were basically inspired by D&D (ref: Interplay Nos. 2 & 4; see also the Letters section in Interplay No. 7 for critiques of Manz’s article).
21.  Mounted Combat MicroGame
To be used with Melee to augment the fast rules given in Advanced Melee. The article in Space Gamer #18 predates publication of Advanced Melee, and is thus not really relevant (ref: Interplay No. 2 and Space Gamer No. 18).

22.  Ship Combat Module
Requested in Interplay No. 2 and intended to cover combat aboard and presumably between ships in TFT terms. Something like this based on Ramspeed appeared in Space Gamer No. 24. Interplay No. 6 mentioned that a new ship combat module for use with TFT was in the works, to be done by the Ramspeed game designer Colin Keizer (ref: Interplay Nos. 2 & 6 and Space Gamer No. 24)

23.  Building Rules
Intended to cover rules for construction, costs, time, etc. (ref: Interplay No. 2)

24.  Magazine expansions
Not really a supplement, per se. Interplay was slated to grow to 48 pages, with an increase in cover price. A TFT specific magazine was proposed as well, that would have been a full colour quarterly featuring an adventure in each issue and a cover price of 4 to 5 dollars. (ref: Interplay No. 5)

25.  Additional MicroQuests and TFT Campaign Modules
In the works were 4 to 6 new Microquests and 3 to 4 TFT campaign modules. It is likely that the campaign modules were for the Land Beyond the Mountains campaign. Some of the other material has probably been described above. (ref: Interplay No. 5)

26.  Trevalia
An offhand statement on p. 18 of “Warrior Lords of Darok” indicated that a supplement for this province, located somewhere west of Darok, over the mountains, was coming out “…when time permits.” Presumably a separate module might also have been written for this province’s capitol, Triyal, as was intended for the other LBTM materials. (ref: Warrior Lords of Darok)

27.  Starman
A tactical man-to-man future combat intended to be compatible with TFT - this probably became Starleader: Assault! (ref: Space Gamer No. 17)

28.  Medieval Siege Game
This was mentioned in Space Gamer but nothing seems to have come of it. While it was a stand alone MicroGame, there is a possibility that it might have been made TFT compatible, as was done with “Lords of Underearth”. (ref: Space Gamer No. 26)

29.  Khitin’s Hive
This title was noted on a Metagaming order form dated February 1982, with a scheduled release date of October 1982. This might have been a sequel of some sort to Chitin I, however, rather than a MicroQuest. (ref: Vindicator No. 2)

30.  LBTM Module for Muipoco
Mentioned in the introductions to Warrior Lords of Darok and Forest Lords of Dihad, it was supposed to come out later in ’82 - obviously that never happened! One wonders what “theme” this province would have had, and how they manage to survive fighting in a two front war (yes, the Soukhori are manipulating things, but there *has* to be some superior military capability to provide a basis for success). Since the Darok module had a focus on warriors and battle magic, and Dihad on magic and trade, one would surmise that Muipoco had something of both. Their military is implied to be quite good, perhaps at a Renaissance level with a professional mage corps for magical support - maybe a little like Venice in the 16th century, but with sorcery. This is reinforced by the references to gunrunners in the Dihad module. Perhaps the title could have been either “Warlords of Muipoco” or “Merchant Lords of Muipoco”? Both have a certain ring to them, but I have no idea what might have been. (ref: WLD and FLD)

31.  LBTM Module for Soukhor
Also mentioned in WLD and FLD; would have been released at the same time as the Muipoco module. This one, at least, is a little easier to get a grip on - obviously a heavy focus would be on excavating Mnoren ruins and investigating various technological artifacts. I can even hazard a credible guess at what the title may have been: “Tech Lords of Soukhor”. In fact, I will go one step further and propose cover art for the module: have a king or ruler sitting on throne, contemplating an offering brought in by some peasant, who kneels before him holding up a broken TV; flanking the throne are a pair of Reptile Men, armed with halberds and large six-shot revolvers strapped to their sides. A hodge-podge of modern items may be seen displayed as trophies on the walls of the room, including random car parts, a stop sign, a computer printer, a bazooka, etc. (ref: WLD & FLD)
32.  Microquest Sequel to Silver Dragon and Unicorn Gold
Howard Thompson stated the following in his designer’s notes: “TREASURE OF THE UNICORN GOLD is a sequel to TREASURE OF THE SILVER DRAGON. UNICORN is the second of a planned treasure hunt trilogy. The third hunt will come after the UNICORN has been found.” So, how does one top a Silver Dragon and Gold Unicorn, you ask? Presumably a Platinum something or another... Perhaps, in keeping with the Meso-American theme of the previous two MicroQuests, it might have been a Coatl, a feathered serpent of that culture’s mythology. Mention of a third quest is also made in SG No. 33 “News and Plugs.” Of course, this project might have been derailed by the problems Unicorn Gold ran into with the U.S. Forest Service, even if Metagaming had stayed afloat. (ref: Space Gamer No. 33 and Interplay No. 3)

33.  The Inner Sea
TFT Campaign supplement by Jack Burlin. Was playtested by Bill Gustaphson and awaiting final decision from Thompson. Alas, no further information is available. (Source: Status Report by Kevin Hendryx dated Feb ’82.)

34.  The Kanirvan Conspiracy
This proposal by Kevin Hendryx has a convoluted history. The genesis of this supplement goes back to when Kevin was working at TSR. He had been assigned the task of rewriting Len Lakofka’s original manuscript for The Secret of Bone Hill, which had been deemed “unsuitable” as submitted. Kevin’s rewrite was very extensive, and also expanded upon the original scenario by adding a new dungeon inhabited by an evil cleric and his lizard men minions. When Len heard about the rewrite, however, he contacted Gary Gygax and protested. Gary then ordered the design department to simply edit the original submission. Thus, Kevin’s rewritten material was discarded. So as not to waste all of this effort, however, Kevin resubmitted the dungeon and plot as a separate module, Against the Cult of the Reptile God.
When Kevin resigned from TSR and went back to Metagaming, he took this proposal with him, reworking it and renaming it to The Kanirvan Conspiracy. But somewhat soon afterwards, Howard Thompson decided to eliminate his design staff, and by early 1983 Metagaming folded, and this proposal was never realized.
Curiously, TSR had not forgotten about the concept, and in late 1982 the published it as module N1.

35.  The Forest Oracle
Another proposal by Kevin Hendryx that was originally made to TSR but later made to Metagaming when he came back there. Later published by TSR as module N2. It is not clear if this was part of the rewrite to the original Secret of Bone Hill manuscript, or a separate proposal altogether. Also unknown is whether this was the title proposed to Metagaming, or if Kevin called it something else.

36.  Sword of the Jorisseri
Written by Jeff Edmunds. Not clear if this is TFT or not; the note indicated that it was “un-publishable as is” but also that it had been “accepted, unfortunately.” Likely was a MicroGame, rather than a TFT related item, but it is mentioned here in the off chance that it was TFT related (ref: Status Report by Kevin Hendryx dated Feb ’82).


Other Material that Could or Should have been in Work:
According to the Introductions to WLD and FLD, companion volumes detailing the life and denizens of the capitol cities for Muipoco and Soukhor were also to be published. As a point of fact, though, neither of these two provinces were sketched out beyond the most hazy of outlines, according to Gamelords president (and, as he put it, “chief bottle washer”) Richard Meyer in personal communication. Going beyond that, one might envision supplements or MicroQuests involving Skull Rock in Darok, the Dwarven city of Rhuz in the Asenborgs, or Mnoren ruins in Soukhor (as noted previous one may suspect that this last may have been the root of the Energy Crisis module - would that more information was available on it). There certainly was plenty of room for further development, here.
One might think that more MicroQuests or even a Campaign Module might have been called for as a sequel/expansion to either or both of the Death Test/Orb Quest and Silver Dragon/ Golden Unicorn series. For example, I could see a MicroQuest to bring down whoever it was that was gathering the Orbs and attempting to bring down the Thorsz, or a module along the lines of WLD or FLD to expand the Dragonodon gameworld.
Elyntia could also have supported a number of modules, if only for the Duchy of Dran, the Gargoyle Mountains, and so forth. An expanded map would have been nice, as well, to show where everything (i.e. LBTM, Elyntia, Tanander, Underearth) was located in relationship to one another. Of course, that might well have been covered in Kevin Hendryx’s proposed “Realms (or whatever) of Cidri.”
It is also to be noted that Steve Jackson apparently had some additional material for TFT/Cidri. In his article regarding the development of TFT and errata for the published game in The Space Gamer No. 29, July 1980, Mr. Jackson stated that: 
“One supplement that I designed, and several that I edited, are at Metagaming now and may eventually be published. There is dispute over the status of another supplement originally designed for TFT. I have literally reams of notes that were intended for later TFT games or supplements. If these ever are used, they will probably appear in a generalized form, suitable for any fantasy system.”

One can only speculate as to whatever became of the supplement that he designed; it is obviously something apart from Death Test II. That last statement regarding “reams of notes” is particularly interesting; it would suggest that at least some of the material that ended up in the original release of GURPS, including perhaps Caravan to Ein Arras, All in a Night’s Work, (both of these in the original GURPS boxed set) Orcslayer, and GURPS Fantasy, were perhaps modified from their original TFT/Cidri form and put into GURPS instead.


Conclusion:
Amazing what might have been, particularly when one considers the genuine quality of Orb Quest and the Land Beyond the Mountains modules, (to include the final capitol modules intended for Darok and Dihad). Why oh why couldn’t Thompson have waited a couple of months (at least) to close the doors! Think of it – Ultra Force, Conquerors of Underearth, Runesword of Regalan, and Prison of the Spectral Demon, along with Intrigue in Plaize, and Soldier City: Shaylle in their originally intended forms, would all very likely have been released, along with perhaps another issue or two of Interplay. Alas for TFT fans everywhere! What a tragic and inexcusable loss.
One has to wonder what held up publication of some of the above, though. For example, both Conquerors of Underearth and Nosferatu were apparently nearly complete back in February of 1982. Surely they could have gotten them done well before Metagaming collapsed over a year later! One becomes even more perplexed contemplating the six months between the release of Interplay No. 8 (the last issue) and the closing of Metagaming - even considering that the last issue was delayed owing to the company’s move they still should have managed one or even two more issues. It does make one curious as to what was going on internally at Metagaming from March 1982 to April 1983 when they officially ceased operations - obviously the collapse was not sudden, and had been building for some time.
Also of great interest are the hints of a 2nd Edition ITL. I wonder how far along they had gotten when Metagaming went under? One also wonders what sort of direction they were going to take the game in terms of rules changes, new material, etc.
As an aside, I wonder if manuscripts for any of these proposed games, supplements, or MicroQuests survived, and might be available in some fashion or another? Or at the least more useful descriptions of some of the un-described materials, perhaps related by the authors themselves (if they can even remember after all these years). If anyone has any additional information, or knows someone that does, now is a good time to come forward! I would pay hard cash for any surviving draft manuscripts, for their collector’s value.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Rehilt Project of Many Iterations...

This sword has been with me for many years, and represents my first inlay project and true rehilt on my own. It also holds the distinction of being the most frequently reworked of any of my projects, having been through four different iterations.

The first picture shows its initial form, as bought from a Renaissance Faire shop in the Cerritos mall (this shop later moved to the Del Amo mall, but eventually closed sometime in the mid-1990’s) back in c. 1993 for about $110. The blade is from Kris Cutlery and is one of their early Viking swords with simple brass fittings in a Viking-esque type of hilt, with wood scales riveted to the tang. Note that the blade lacks a deep fuller, and for this reason is somewhat heavier than would otherwise be the case.

 
Since this was not really historically accurate, I resolved to make a new piece, and created waxes for new hilt fittings, in a loosely Type R style, and carved grooves into the waxes to facilitate the inlay work. I had the pieces cast at a local foundry just up the street from me at that time in silicon bronze, to which I added the sterling silver wire inlay and a twisted sterling silver wire separator between the upper guard and pommel cap. The design is simple and taken from a Thorr’s hammer found in Kabara, Sk√•ne (Scania). As seen in the photo, it had a leather covered grip with simple silver vettrim made from thin sterling silver sheet with the ends silver soldered together. While not too bad, it was still a very heavy sword, weighing around 4 lbs. This, then, was its first rebirth, which I believe was completed c. 1994 (based on the fact that I recall asking for advice on the project at the Hammer-In up at Oso’s Forge in Bakersfield in 1993). The second and third photos below show this.




The second rebirth occurred as I realized I did not like this style, nor did I prefer the grip. This time I redid the pommel and grip, as seen in the next photo. Now with a bare wood (maple, in this case, stained with a special stain intended for maple which is then heated to bring out a rich colour) grip, and a more bulbous Type S style, it looked better. Note the real ivory used as a spacer in the center of the grip. However, the sword was still quite heavy and uncomfortable to handle and wield, mostly because of the weight but also too because the grip shape was a little too thin relative to the guards and pommel. Not that this is historically inaccurate – I have seen examples of grips this thin – but it just did not work with this particular hilt. This was likely complete c. 2000, perhaps a year or two earlier.



The third and (I sincerely hope) final rebirth came about as a result of the excessive weight of the piece and a feeling that the grip was too thin in cross-section, as noted previous. That, and I realized that the pommel was not quite accurate in shape. I finally decided, after much internal debate, to rebuild this piece for one last time. I made a new pommel cap which is more in accord with actual finds, and cut down the shoulders of the blade and tang to make the whole piece shorter and a bit lighter. I think it is more around 3½ lbs., now, which is much more reasonable, even if it still is on the heavier end of the scale. The grip core is shaped a bit like the Behmer type V “hourglass” hilts, with the ridges in the center carved into the wood (as opposed to being glued on leather cord). This rework was started in 2007, with the hilt mostly complete by Danish Days 2009, though the final wrapping of the grip with leather was not complete until probably late 2010 or even 2011.

My Collection of Early Museum Replicas Catalogues is now Complete!!!

I got my first MRL catalogue back in 1987. This was cat. no. 4. From that point on I obtained most of them, except a period around 1995 when I moved and stuff did not get forwarded, alas. Several years ago I was able to trade a Bowie knife I had made to get most of the missing catalogues added to my collection. The only early one I was missing was No. 36.

A sidenote: by "early" I mean prior to the takeover of MRL by Windlass, which marked a major shift in their product line by eliminating all Del Tins and any other manufacturer outside of Windlass (and, on occasion, other manufacturers from China or India). This occurred in 1996, with catalogue no. 45 (though no. 44 only had a very few DT offerings), thus ending the Golden Age of MRL. This is not to say that Windlass offerings are necessarily bad, but they are not up to the same quality as Del Tin or Arms & Armor, though they are fine for the price point niche they occupy.

Back to the subject at hand. While I had not sought earnestly for this particular missing catalogue, I had looked a bit but to no avail. Recently I posted a wanted ad on Armour Archive. While I got a few nibbles, it wasn't until one poster pointed me to a contact he had at MRL that allowed me to finally obtain the one I was missing. A special thanks, therefore, goes to Robin Chaudhuri of Museum Replicas, Ltd., for finding and sending me this, which arrived yesterday:



At long last, my quest is complete!