Friday, February 21, 2020

Gary Con XII games I'm running



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?

Thursday, February 20, 2020

The Ruined Tower of Zenopus reviewed at the Hapless Henchmen



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 Rick

Hey 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!

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Holmes Day 2020



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.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Gygaxian Two-Way Secret Doors

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.

Monday, February 10, 2020

The Ruined Tower of Zenopus reviewed by Erik Jensen



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: dmsguild.com/product/301308
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!



Thursday, February 6, 2020

Tom Wham art on Gary Con XII Cups

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.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Fen Orc on "The Master of Dungeons"

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 Dungeons

I 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.