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Updated: 3 weeks 1 day ago

In Search of the Brazen Head of Scrum Con

Mon, 03/16/2020 - 20:45

Brazen Head illustration by John Sears of the 1000 Foot General
In seems incredible that Scrum Con 2020 was only two-and-half-weeks ago, in those halcyon pre-pandemic days.

In my Post-Op report I said I would write more about the game I ran, which was a session of In Search of the Brazen Head of Zenopus. The con program listing is shown above, with great Brazen Head art by John of the of the 1000 Foot General. It was scheduled to be at Table 14 in the Spring Room, but the game was actually ran in the upstairs Fenton room at the Civic Center; see the "dungeon map" of the site in this post.

This scenario is a sequel to the original Zenopus dungeon, set forty years later and using Holmes' characters from the Maze of Peril as pre-gens. 

IIRC, this was the fifth time that I have run this scenario. The four earlier occasions were: an initial playtest with my Local Group; a first con run at North Texas RPG Con in 2018 (with Chris Holmes playing!; pictures by players are here (Allan G.) and here (Noah G.)), and two sessions last year at Gary Con X; the first of which is written up here. I was supposed to run it again at Gary Con this year but the physical event has been canceled. I'd like to run it as part of Virtual Gary Con (badges and seats in available games are free to all!) but I have no experience with on-line games. I will play in at least one game at VGC in order to start gaining some experience in that milieu.

For Scrum Con, the game had a full table of players; with all of the pre-gens in play: Boinger, Zereth, Murray, Lady Hortensa, Sir Geoffrey, Brother Ambrose, Bardan, Olaf & Haldor (played together), Maximillian the Centaur and Sunna. I think this has happened only once before, in the first game I ran at Gary Con last year.

Olaf & Haldor character sheet and "table tent", photo by Ellen Levy
I'd like to share a full run-down of the game, but I'm still keeping the details secret to preserve certain surprises. So that will have to wait until some point in the future, perhaps after I publish it in some form.

I will say the Scrum Con group played their characters strategically. David H., playing Boinger, made an extremely innovative use of a found magic item, which made for a very memorable encounter. This group was also the first group to enter a certain part of the dungeon, so it was fun to get to playtest that area for the first time. Here is another photo of the game, different from the one I posted in my earlier post:

Running In Search of the Brazen Head of Zenopus, photo by Ellen Levy
The group included at least four folks who are members of the Holmes Basic Facebook Group, none of whom I had met in person before. Thanks to everyone who participated; it was great to meet and game with you!

If you would like to see more photos of the con, there are over 400 (!) here in a post on the blog Scrum in Miniature, written by our prime motivator, Joe.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Ruined Tower of Zenopus goes Electrum!

Wed, 03/11/2020 - 15:02

The Ruined Tower of Zenopus hit Electrum Best Seller status on DMs Guild last week! I've updated the image on the product page to include the Electrum badge; this is shown above but won't show up on the actual purchased pdf.

It's currently on sale for $1.79 as part of the site-wide sale for DM's Day (March 4th, the anniversary of the passing of Gary Gygax), which runs through the 15th.

Again, a big thank you to everyone who has purchased it, plus an even bigger thank you to those who have taken the time to write out a review it, including:

Old School Tumblr
Erik Jensen via Twitter
Noah at the Hapless Henchmen
Joel at the Abominable Fancy 

And any others I'm forgetting at the moment!

If you have purchased and have a moment, it could use more Ratings and short Reviews on the DMs Guild site itself.

If you missed it, I was recently on the Wandering DMs chatting live about the Ruined Tower, and it is was recorded.

Product Link:
The Ruined Tower of Zenopus on DMs Guild
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Wandering DMs Live Chat Recording

Mon, 03/09/2020 - 11:32

I had a great time chatting with the Wandering DMs yesterday! We focused on the Ruined Tower of Zenopus and the original Sample Dungeon but naturally the conversation ranged to other Holmes-related & old school D&D topics.

The archive video recording of our conversation can now be found on their YT channel here:

Wandering DMs Season 02 Episode 10

There are also a podcast versions (no video) available in various places: Wandering DMs site Spotify Apple Podcasts Stitcher Listen Notes

Thank you to Dan & Paul for having me on their show!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

I will be a guest on Wandering DMs live chat tomorrow

Sat, 03/07/2020 - 15:26

FYI, I will be a guest on the Wandering DMs live chat tomorrow at 1 PM EST with hosts Delta & Paul!

They are fellow bloggers at Delta's DND Hotspot and Paul's Gameblog, respectively.

Their YT channel is here: http://youtube.com/wanderingdms

The twitter promo is here: https://twitter.com/wanderingdms/status/1236290506931310592"Set your clocks right, because we've got Zach from @ZenopusArchives on the show tomorrow to talk about his smash-hit Ruined Tower of Zenopus on DM's Guild, and his unmatched knowledge of Holmes Basic #DnD (1 PM Sunday)"
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Scrum Con Ad for the Ruined Tower of Zenopus

Thu, 03/05/2020 - 15:02

This is the advertisement for The Ruined Tower of Zenopus that was printed in the program for Scrum Con 2020! This sharp design was created by Second Saturday Scrum Club member John, who blogs at the 1000 Foot General. Read more about the adventure module in my earlier post.

The link in the ad (https://bit.ly/3bGicsr) goes to the DMs Guild page for the product. Coincidentally, they are having a 20% off sale for DM's Day, so the pdf is now only $1.79.

The entire Scrum Con program can now be viewed on Facebook here. There is also an ad for the second issue of Bayt Al Azif, edited by Jared Smith, which among lots of fantastic Call of Cthulhu scenarios includes a reprint of Holmes' 1983 review of the Call of Cthulhu, along with notes by myself. Read more about this here.

John also did illustrations and layout for the program book, which is a thing of beauty, including this neat dungeon map of the convention center. The editor of the program is Joe Procopio who blogs at Scrum in Miniature, and the photography is by Ellen Levy.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Scrum Con 2020 Post-Op

Tue, 03/03/2020 - 13:41
Scrum Con 2020 Program designed by the 1000 Foot General
Scrum Con 2020 was a resounding success! 

A big thank you to the organizers (the Scrum Club), the hard-working GMs, the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society (HMGS), who supported the con with a grant, and all of the attendees who came out and played in the games.

Guest of Honor Zeb Cook running Star Frontiers. Source: the FB Album
A large number of photos are up in a album on the Scrum Con Facebook page
. Most of the games at the con are represented, and most are annotated with the names of the GM, scenario and rules system. So you can click through the gallery and see and read about what was played. There were two sessions, morning (10-2) and afternoon (3:30-7:30), with a few shorter sessions starting at other times. The games were an even split between Miniatures and RPGs. Update: there are now over 400 photos in a post on the Scrum in Miniature.

A familiar fiend appeared in Noah G's Dungeon Hack+ game
I've also re-tweeted a bunch of photos from the day, adding the #scrumcon2020 tag.

And there is another con report by John at the 1000 Foot General, a member of the Scrum Club who also ran a session of his Star Schlock game and also designed an impressive program for the con (photo above).

Registration Desk after the morning rush
The games were spread across three rooms in the new venue, the Silver Spring Civic Center which everyone seemed to like. Being a member of the Scrum Club, I helped out around the registration desk in the morning, while my son played in Dragon Hunt, a Blood & Swash miniatures game run by Eric Schlegel of the HAWKS (Harford Area Weekly Kriegspielers). 

The Flea Market was popular all day, with items coming and going, including an extra copy of Dragon Strike (TSR, 1993) that I sold, and a beautiful original Monster Manual that I picked up. Thank you to the Scrum Club members and auxiliaries who manned the fort there.

Food options were plentiful around the site; Cava was basically the closest, which is where we had lunch. After the con a number of us went to McGinty's Public House for dinner, a short walk up the block.

Me (in Sauron cap) running the Brazen Head
In the afternoon I ran In Search of the Brazen Head of Zenopus in the upstairs Fenton room. I'll write more about it in another blog post. 

At the same time my son played in A Dead Man in Deptford, a wild miniatures (Frostgrave) game set in an alternate reality Elizabethan London, where he was William Shakespeare! This was run by Jeff Wasileski. Below are a few shots I took of this game. The first shows the view my son had sitting at the table; he felt like he was actually in a town.

The picture below was taken just after his party recovered "a work of magical dramaturgy that would open the door to another dimension" in an attic and leapt out the window to escape a demon, leaving one injured and doomed member of their party behind to guard the exit. Nearby is a model representing the Globe Theatre!
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Scrum Con 2020 is this Saturday!

Wed, 02/26/2020 - 13:57

The second annual Scrum Con is this Saturday, and you may want to attend if you are in DC Metro area. This year it has moved over to the Silver Spring Civic Building in Silver Spring, MD, just north of DC. The general info page for the con is here: Scrum Con 2020.

Tickets are $15 each, and there are are two sessions of games, from 10-2 and 3:30-7:30. Doors open at 9 AM.
The game sessions are evenly split between RPGs and Miniature Wargames. This close to the event most seats are taken, but there are a few open due to cancellations in the last week. For the latest availability, check the Events Schedule on Tabletop Events. As I write this, there are:
1 seat in Dragon Hunt (Miniatures) from 10-21 seat in WaT a Nice Village (Miniatures) from 10-22 seats in Incident at Space Station Accipiter (Miniatures) from 11-1 (2 hour game)1 seat in B8 Journey the Rock (B/X RPG) from 3:30-7:30
I will be running a session of In Search of the Brazen Head of Zenopus in the afternoon, but the seats are all filled currently.
In the morning I will be helping to give out badges to attendees. If you attend, make sure to say hello! 
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Playing at the World on Identifying Dice of the 1970s

Mon, 02/24/2020 - 17:44

C. P. dice (front) versus Holmes Basic dice (back). Source: Playing at the World
Jon Peterson has a new video on YT up looking at the dice that were available for sale in the 1970s, and how to identify them:

Playing at the World Episode #2: Identifying 1970s Dice
It's a great video, rich with information, examples and period photos. There's an accompanying blog post with more photos and dice maps. See embedded link below.

In the video the Holmes Basic dice feature prominently as a starting point for Jon to look at the other less common dice of the '70s. I did not know that the Creative Publications dice set sold by TSR, seen here in their original packaging, can be distinguished from the later set shipped with Holmes Basic. The most prominent distinguishing feature is the color of the d6, pink in the CP set and orange-red in the Holmes set. I had previously attributed the color variations to lighting in photos.

Identifying the Dice of the 1970sHow can you recognize a polyhedral gaming die made in the 1970s? The video above gives my tips for collectors and researchers who want to roll old school. After the cut, I give a quick reference guide to identifying these dice.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Gary Con XII games I'm running

Fri, 02/21/2020 - 14:04

Gary Con XII general event registration opens up tomorrow at 12 PM Central Time; this is also known as Silver registration and includes the vast majority of badge holders, approximately 2000 in number. Due to the new staggered release of seats for registration, there will be at least one more seat available tomorrow for every game at the con.

This year I'm DMing two different games, each a Holmes + OD&D game. This will be the first time I've run two different scenarios at one con.

Expedition to Skull Stack Crater is on Fri morning from 8 AM to 12 PM. The event listing can be found be found here. This is a "new" scenario; I wrote it a few years ago and ran it as part of my continuing annual kids' campaign.
Join an expedition to Skull Stack Crater to recover the legendary Spear of Decree, stolen from the Realm years ago by skull-masked raiders who then vanished from history. Your party has followed an old map to their hidden lair on an island in a water-filled volcanic crater. This 3rd level adventure from the Zenopus Archives celebrates the 40+ years of the Holmes Basic D&D set. Characters provided. In Search of the Brazen Head of Zenopus is scheduled for Sat night from 7-11 PM. The event listing can be found here; currently, 3 seats remain out of 8. This is the same scenario I ran twice last year, including once in the same time slot:"Meet at the Green Dragon Inn and return to the dungeon under the ruined tower of the doomed wizard Zenopus to search for his legendary talking mask, forty years after adventurers first braved the passages. Play as Boinger, Zereth, Murray, or another character from J. Eric Holmes' stories. This adventure from the Zenopus Archives celebrates the 40+ years of the Holmes Basic D&D set." 
Other Gary Con links of interest:
Gary Con website
Gary Con Forums General Discussion
Badge Registration
Full Schedule of Events (searchable)
Grand Geneva Resort website
Facebook Group
OD&D Discussion thread
Dragonsfoot thread
Knights & Knaves Alehouse thread

According to the Events schedule, there are 24 games listed as OD&D, including mine.

Other GMs on this list include paleologos of the OSR Grimoire blog (2 sessions), Paul Stormberg (3 sessions) and Chicagowiz (1 session), plus 4 from Tim Kask and 1 from Mike Mornard. And Muddy at OD&D Discussion is running three Blueholme games.

Are any other readers of this blog going?
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Ruined Tower of Zenopus reviewed at the Hapless Henchmen

Thu, 02/20/2020 - 13:26

Last week Noah S. over at the Hapless Henchman blog wrote many words about the Ruined Tower of Zenopus (as well the Dungeons & Dragons vs Rick & Morty set...!). Here's an excerpt:
"...What do you get for the price? A literal jumping off point for hours and hours of fun with friends, and of course some tropes that are as warm and comfortable as a bubble-bath. Zach has lovingly taken a 40-odd year old thing and made it readily accessible for current audiences and users of the system..."Thank you, Noah!

Read the rest over here:
Weview Wednesday - DIY Zenopus vs Sleek Corporate IP RickHey fam! Been off the blogging train for a bit, trying to get my brain in order. Frankly, since the Death of Google Plus and the Great Migration, I haven't been nearly as involved in an online RPG community as I previously was, although I wish that I could be.
The Ruined Tower of Zenopus is on DMs Guild!
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Holmes Day 2020

Wed, 02/19/2020 - 01:23

I didn't have time to post over the weekend, but Sunday was the 90th anniversary of the birth of J. Eric Holmes on Feb 16th, 1930. In previous years, I've bumped a Holmes Basic Testimonial post, but the comment section for that is getting long, so here's a new post.

For me, some of the Holmes Basic-related highlights of the past year were:

Returning to Gary Con for the second time and running In Search of the Brazen Head of Zenopus twice, and among many other highlights, playing in Carl Heyl's all-day drop-in Discos & Dragons game where I met his version of Zenopus.

Following the demise of the great G+, compiling the Holmes Basic G+ Community Archive, a collection in blog format of 7 years of posts to the community.

Running a kids' game, the Master's Lair (hope to turn this into a dungeon to share).

Returning to North Texas RPG Con for the third time and playing in Steve Muchow's sequel Zenopus dungeon; playing in Chris Holmes' game; and making a guest appearance as Zenopus himself in another session of Carl's Discos & Dragons game.

Writing up d12 Hauntings for the Zenopus Dungeon.

Continuing my long-running annual kids' game, this time with N1 Against the Cult of the Reptile God.

Being a guest on the Save or Die podcast for the second time, in Episode #154: Holmes Basic.

Writing about Holmes' 1946 Letter to a Pulp Magazine.

Facilitating the re-publication of Holmes' 1983 review of Call of Cthulhu RPG in the second issue of Jared Smith's Bayt al Azif zine.

Running the original Zenopus dungeon for the Scrum Club at a special session the weekend following Thanksgiving. Rich McKee transcribed the events of the game, which I apparently forgot to post here but appears on the Third Point of Singularity.

Releasing the Ruined Tower of Zenopus on DMs Guild, a 5E D&D Conversion of the original Zenopus Dungeon 

And a special shout-out to Thom Hall for running my Beyond the Door to Monster Mountain at DunDraCon 44 this past Saturday, as he has previous years (2017, 2018):

And I'm looking forward to the following in the next few months:

Helping to put on Scrum Con 2020 with the Second Saturday Scrum Club in less than two weeks (Feb 29th), and running a session of the aforementioned Brazen Head game.

Appearing on the Wandering DMs live video chat on Sunday, March 1st at 1 PM EST.

Returning to Gary Con XII at the end of March and for the first time running two different scenarios at a con, the Brazen Head and a new scenario, Expedition to Skull Stack Crater.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Gygaxian Two-Way Secret Doors

Thu, 02/13/2020 - 13:40
Gygaxian Two-Way Secret Door from the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide (1979)
Over on Facebook, in the Sages of Greyhawk group, James Ward (author of Metamorphosis Alpha and co-author of Gamma World) has been sharing anecdotes about his early games with Gary Gygax. In the first of these he mentioned:
"It wasn't until years later that I found out that sometimes Gary had two chambers connected to one secret door. Depending on if you pressed the right or left side of the door was the chamber you were allowed to enter."Like many of Gary's favorite dungeon tricks, we were actually warned about these in the original Dungeons & Dragons rules (1974). Specifically, one appears as area onH the "SAMPLE LEVEL" map in Vol 3, The Underworld and Wilderness Adventures. The corresponding key on the map shows that the standard secret door symbol with a "V" above it refers to a "secret door with two possible ways to open":

The descriptive text for the dungeon level further explains that:
"Point "H" is a two-way secret door. On a die roll of odd, let us suppose, it opens on a room to the west. Otherwise it opens on a passage south."So this example differs slightly from the version described by Ward in that it opens randomly in two directions, versus opening in two different directions depending on how it is manipulated.

At least two other variations on these doors appear in the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide (1979). The first is in the Sample Dungeon (pages 95-96), which describes one where the alternate opening is accessed through use of a key hidden in Room 2:
"Clutched in the bony fingers is the special key which will allow the secret door at location 28. to open to the treasury room (29.) rather than to the steps which lead down to the caverns (steps down at 30.)."In this situation, if the characters don't find the key they are much more likely to end up in the (presumably) more dangerous second level caverns rather than finding the abbey treasury containing the rumored fire opal.

This secret door is shown in the excerpt of the dungeon map included at the top of this page. There, the secret door is indicated by a standard "S" with a line drawn through it indicating the wall between the two different passages it opens onto.

The second example is in APPENDIX H: TRICKS:
"DOOR, SECRET: This pivoting stone portal will always swing open to the left, giving egress to an area guarded by a basilisk. However, if a second hidden stud is found (1% chance), then it will pivot to the right and allow entry to a chamber containing a magical fountain."It's a bit unclear here if the DM is simply supposed to roll for the 1% chance when the party is making its first secret door check or whether that is the chance if continued searching is made.

Offhand, I can't think of any others, and a quick search of the Gygax modules didn't turn up anything else. Let me know if you know of any others.

See also:
Gygax's Dungeon Delving Level from the Hall of Many Panes, where I look at a number of his other early dungeon traps and tricks.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Ruined Tower of Zenopus reviewed by Erik Jensen

Mon, 02/10/2020 - 14:10

Erik Jensen took the time to write out a nice review of the Ruined Tower of Zenopus in a series of tweets (also copied below).

Erik is the writer of the Wampus Country blog, organizer of Tridentcon, and GM on the schedule for Scrum Con this year and has a "Lumberlands" zine forthcoming. I've met Erik at Tridentcon and  Charm City Game Day several times; in fact, the first time I played 5E was in a game he ran at CCGD.

It's hard to get reviews for new products, so I want to thank Erik for taking the time for this:
Finally had the time to read The Ruined Tower of Zenopus: https://dmsguild.com/product/301308/The-Ruined-Tower-of-Zenopus…
@ZenopusArchives has done an AMAZING job with this 5e update of the Holmes sample dungeon, and now I'm going to tell you why.It's a solid dungeon using the classic map, but it's more than that. It's a great campaign starter for 5e with old-school sensibilities and trappings. It has new 5e monsters and items. Zach gives us 1st-level pregens.Tips for situating the thing as part of 'Ghosts of Saltmarsh' to turn the beginning of that campaign into a sandbox. You want old-school? A nice rumor table. A delineation of the factions in the dungeon. A list of classic AppN stories that probably inspired Holmes' dungeon. 'The Ruined Tower of Zenopus' is, stunningly, only $1.99. If you're a 5e DM, pick it up and put it in your go bag. If you're an old-school DM, pick it up and see what Zach did with this baby, you'll appreciate it. Strongly recommended, looking forward to using it myself. 

Get the Ruined Tower of Zenopus here on DMs Guild!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Tom Wham art on Gary Con XII Cups

Thu, 02/06/2020 - 18:32
Gary Con XII cup featuring Wham's Awful Green Things From Outer Space
Luke Gygax recently revealed the designs for the "Gary Con Collectible Stadium Cups" for this year's upcoming event. There are five designs, all featuring art by Tom Wham, most well-known for his self-illustrated board games, but also one of the three artists for the Holmes Basic rulebook. Wham was responsible for three pieces of art in the rulebook, including the famous Skull Mountain. Wham is a regular at Gary Con (scheduled to run four games this year) and a few years back I played in a session of Dragon Lairds (co-designed by Jim Ward) that he refereed, after which he signed the Skull Dungeon in one of my Basic rulebooks! While I didn't know he drew that until a few years ago, I've been a fan of his work since the '80s when I bought a Steve Jackson Games pocket box edition of his classic Awful Green Things From Outer Space, which I still have.

There are five (!) cup designs this year: four for purchase (two "Bright Green Beer" and two "Bright Blue Soda" cups), which give beer or soda discounts, and one white cup that you get if you are a GM, which combines both discounts.

The green cup shown above features the three life stages (egg, baby and adult) of the deadly aliens from Awful Green Things. Their look has varied slightly over the years, but the adults appear similar to those on the cover of the 1979 TSR version, which you can see on his website.

The white GM cup also features art from Awful Green Things, namely the steadfast Znutar robot, Leadfoot. Similar Leadfoot art appears on Wham's website here.

The other green cup features a group of Penguins. This art is more mysterious, but I came across it on his website with the caption, "Penguins of Destiny". This led me to a Worthpoint page archiving an Ebay auction for the original art (images included below), which says: 

Offered for auction is a piece of original art from the great Tom Wham plus a piece of rpg gaming history from Jim Ward. The Penguins of Destiny was an rpg event created by Jim Ward back in the day, and the players got a small penguin figure signed by Jim Ward at the event. Recreated in a piece of original art by Tom Wham for the Gen Con auction in 2013, both are being offered together.
Wham's game File 13: the Game Inventor's Game in Dragon #72 (August 1983) includes the "Penguins of Destiny - the Jim Ward life story game" in the list of invented games.

This blue cup features a running Snit from his other fondly remembered TSR game Snit's Revenge. This snit has distinctive bird-like feet, and I found it on one of the game tokens from the first boxed version from 1978:

Finally, the other blue cup features a flying dragon from Wham's more recent game, Feudality (2011). The dragon shows up on the cover of the game and on this page on his website (scroll to the bottom of the page).

See you at the con, hopefully with a Wham cup in hand! I'll be there and am scheduled to run two game sessions.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Fen Orc on "The Master of Dungeons"

Wed, 02/05/2020 - 15:36
Brubo the Hooded. Read to the end of Fen Orc's post to find out who he is.
Awesome post alert!

The Master of Dungeons

In this post the Fen Orc (formerly known as RPG Forge; I featured two of their posts previously) sets forth a new concept, "The Master of Dungeons", that could be added to any D&D dungeon near a city/town/domain setting. It will create more interactivity between the surface and dungeon elements, and interject all kinds of fun conflict and chaos. The post does an great job laying out the concept and then illustrating with a specific example designed for the Zenopus sample dungeon; I was enthralled as I read it.

The Master of DungeonsI was reflecting the other day about what a valuable resource 'dungeons' are and how odd it is that, in most campaigns, they don't seem to be owned by anybody. Which is peculiar, really, because dungeons are a powerful economic resource. Not only are they full of treasure, but magic items too.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Delta on the Monsters & Treasures of the Dungeon of Zenopus

Tue, 02/04/2020 - 05:22

As part of a continuing Subterrane Surveys series, Delta's D&D Hotspot has two posts up that look in detail at the monsters and treasures of the Dungeon of Zenopus, and the resultant experience point totals. The first one covers Holmes' original version as seen in the Holmes Manuscript, and the second one looks at the dungeon as published, which includes a number of changes made by Gygax.

Subterrane Surveys: Dungeon of Zenopus (per Holmes)Today we're looking at the sample dungeon from the first-ever D&D Basic Set, edited by Eric Holmes (1979) -- what many of us now call the "Dungeon of Zenopus". This has been very influential over the years -- and just last week, our friend Zenopus Archives published a 5E conversion on DM's Guild.
Subterrane Surveys: Dungeon of Zenopus (per Gygax)Today we're again looking at the sample dungeon in the first Basic D&D set (1979), the "Dungeon of Zenopus". Last time we looked at Eric Holmes' original unpublished draft. But after Holmes submitted that work, Gary Gygax took an editorial pass at it, changing many items on a line-by-line basis.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Ruined Tower of Zenopus goes Silver!

Tue, 01/28/2020 - 16:15

Today the Ruined Tower of Zenopus has reached Silver Best Seller on DMs Guild...!

A big thank you to all of you who have purchased it. Please help get the word out by sharing its release, particularly with 5e communities that I am not so plugged into.

The link to it is here on DMs Guild:
The Ruined Tower of Zenopus
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Ruined Tower of Zenopus reviewed on oldschoolfrp Tumblr

Sat, 01/25/2020 - 20:23

Old School FRP is one of my favorite Tumblr accounts --- I've had them in the sidebar here for years; see the section called "Crystal Ball" --- and they consistently post great old school art from TSR and other FRPG products. Yesterday they posted a review of The Ruined Tower of Zenopus:

"I bought this and gave it a first read-through.  It is an excellent conversion of one of my favorite classic low level adventures, updated for 5e.  There are some new monster stat blocks and minor magic items, a little town map on a peninsula (which makes it easier to locate the town on almost any coastline), options for expanding some areas, notes on factions, rumors, and ways to tie Portown to Saltmarsh, plus even 4 pre-gen PCs. Check it out."

The Ruined Tower is available on DMs Guild

Old School FRPzenopusarchives: This is a 5E conversion of the original Zenopus dungeon that I wrote and is now up on DMsGuild. Read more on the blog: https://zenopusarchives.blogspot.com/2020/01/the-ruined-tower-of-zenopus-5e-on.html I bought this and gave it a first read-through. It is an excellent conversion of one of my favorite classic low level adventures, updated for 5e.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Ruined Tower of Zenopus 5E on DMs Guild

Thu, 01/23/2020 - 14:00

Screenshot of the cover of The Ruined Tower of Zenopus on DMsGuild
I'm pleased to announce that the previously threatened 5E D&D conversion of Holmes' Sample Dungeon is finally available on the DMs Guild as a 18-page pdf for $1.99:

The Ruined Tower of Zenopus (DMs Guild link)

For use with the conversion a free pdf of the original dungeon, which includes the dungeon map, can be found on the Wizards website. (The Holmes Basic rulebook is still not available on DMs Guild).

In the time since I first announced it, I had my friend Scott review & edit it (particularly for 5E compatibility), I added a sample Portown area map, expanded two areas with additional content, added a list for "Further Reading" and basically tweaked it endlessly. 

Introduction, page 2
The Setting, page 3 (Includes a sample map of Portown & Environs)
About the Dungeon, page 4 (Includes a table of Wandering Monsters)
Areas of the Dungeon, pages 5-11 (Includes two expanded areas)
Appendix A: Further Reading, page 11
Appendix B: Dungeon Factions, page 12
Appendix C: Portown Rumors, pages 13-15
Appendix D: Use with Ghosts of Saltmarsh, page 16-17
Appendix E: Pre-generated 1st level characters, page 18 (four 1st level characters)

Includes the following new monsters, NPCs, and Magic Items for 5E: Cleaning Cube, Veteran Smuggler, Thaumaturgist, Monstrous Sand Crab, Lemunda, Monstrous Rat, Brazen Head of Zenopus, Verminslayer Longsword, Lesser Wand of Petrification, Scroll of Stone to Flesh

Original Dungeon: J. Eric Holmes
Conversion & Additional Content: Zach Howard
Content Review/Editing: Scott McKinley
Format: Derived from "Adventure Template for Open Office/LibreOffice” by Dale Robbins
Cover Art: "Italian Coast Scene with Ruined Tower" by Thomas Cole, 1838. Open Access Image from the National Gallery of Art at images.nga.gov
Portown & Environs Map: Zach Howard

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

"Until the Last Ship Sets Sail Into the West"

Tue, 01/21/2020 - 16:29

Christopher Tolkien reads from the end of the Lord of the Rings
I was saddened to learn that J.R.R. Tolkien's son Christoper Tolkien passed away on January 16th at the age of 95. Christopher's older brothers, John and Michael, predeceased him; his younger sister Priscilla survives him, as well as his children and grandchildren. Of his siblings, Christopher was by far the most involved in father's writing, having edited around twenty volumes of his father's unpublished manuscripts. He was the best positioned to do so, having become an academic at Oxford like this father.

Christopher was heavily involved in Middle-Earth throughout his life, from hearing the Bilbo stories that became The Hobbit as a child to drawing the beautiful maps for the Lord of the Rings. J.R.R. Tolkien passed away in 1973, and the first posthumous product was The Silmarillion (with the help of Guy Gavriel Kay) in 15 September 1977, just a few months after both Holmes Basic D&D and the Tolkien-derivative The Sword of Shannara, and the same fall that the animated Hobbit was released. This was all part of the late '70s cultural stew that lead up to the early '80s fantasy/sword & sorcery fad, which included D&D's first round of wide-spread popularity (we are in the second round now).

Christopher was around 55 when the Silmarillion came out and it kicked off a publishing era that did not end until the Fall of Gondolin in August 2018, when he was nearly 94! In a way this work was a continuation of his participation in the Inklings, the literary club at Oxford that would listen to and critique each other's writings. Christopher participated in this with his father, and I read somewhere in the past few days that Christopher was the last surviving Inkling. Thus, his passing truly marks the end of an age - the last ship setting sail into the West.

I have a shelf or two full of his books myself, including the entire HOME series (History of Middle-Earth). As I've noted previously, my blog series on the Holmes Manuscript owes something to his style of text analysis.

The other night I started re-watching the Tolkien biopic - I saw it in the theatre when it was released - and it is just as enjoyable on second viewing. I need to dig out and listen to my J.R.R. Tolkien Audio Collection that includes Christopher reading selections from the Silmarillion. Above I've posted a link to a clip of Christopher reading from the ending of The Lord of the Rings.

Namárië, Christopher.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs