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Saturday, October 31, 2020

Danse Macabre Filmstrip (1963)

A re-post from 2017, and 2013 before that:

For Halloween, here's something haunting that I remember watching in music class in late elementary school, around the same time I discovered D&D (1982). It's a 1963 educational filmstrip with fantastic watercolors by Harold Dexter Hoopes, set to the eerie music of Danse Macabre by Saint-Saens. It was unavailable on the web until a few years ago but now there are multiple versions on YouTube, one of which has better colors but includes a loud "filmstrip advance" beep throughout. There isn't much info available on the internet about the artist Hoopes. There was even a blog dedicated to restoring the individual frames of this filmstrip but it seems to have stalled out at frame 20.

There's also a later second edition of the filmstrip done in the mid-80s with art by David Prebenna, later an illustrator of Sesame Street/Muppet toddler books. It's cartoony and less haunting, but also worth watching.

Memories of this filmstrip led me to include "Danse Macabre" in my One Hit Point Monsters.

Happy All Hallow's Evening!

2020 Update:

Re-posted with an improved video now available on YT.

Monday, October 19, 2020

The Forgotten Smugglers' Cave #6: Bat Cave (aka Bloody Mess)

This is an installment of The Forgotten Smugglers' Cave, which starts here.

6. BAT CAVE (aka BLOODY MESS): The only entrance to this cave is the tunnel from Area 5 to the south, a narrow (single-file only), winding, and rubble-filled passage. Moving north through this passage, characters will note increasing humidity, a strong acrid smell, and reddish guano on the floor. 

The cave itself is oval, about 20 ft. east-west and 30 ft. north-south, with many stalactites, some dripping water. The floor is covered in bloody red guano-covered rubble, making it slippery and difficult to traverse (all attacks by characters are made at -4, with a modified 1 on the attack indicating the attacker has slipped). The area is pitch black during the day due to the winding passage blocking light from the south.

Bats. A large colony of vampire bats has taken up residence here, exiting to the surface through the chimney in Area 5. Unless already awakened by noise to the south (see Area 5), during the day they will be asleep on the ceiling, hidden among the stalactites. Characters moving about this room have a 1 in 6 chance of waking them per person in the room, per round (i.e., 2 in 6 for two, 3 in 6 for three, etc), at which point they will begin flying about, hungry for blood. If awakened here, 1d8 of the bats will begin attacking each round.

Vampire Bats21-40 (20 + 1d20): DX 18, AC 3 (9 while attached), HD 1/8, hp 1 each, AT 1 bite for 1 point damage, attaches on a successful hit and then automatically drains 1 hp per round for two rounds, at which point it is full and will detach and fly away.

Vampire Bat from "The Handy Natural History" (1910), by Ernest Protheroe. Source: Wikimedia

Old Well. In the northeast corner of the room, there is a 3'-wide hole in the floor where water dripping from the ceiling and running across the floor pools 8 ft. down. A rusted chain is fixed to a piton near the edge, and hangs down into the water. The chain is about 12 ft long, and a metal bucket is attached to the end of the chain, below the surface of the water. If the bucket is pulled up it will be filled with bloody-looking water (fouled by the guano). Etched on the bottom of the bucket is a rough map showing Areas 5-7, including the secret passage in Area 7.

The only exit from this room is back to the south. Follow the link on the above map.

To be continued...

Trivia: As I mentioned back in the One Hit Point Monster post, in the Combat section of the Basic rulebook, Holmes provides a vampire bat as an example of "a small fast creature" that would have a lower armor class (AC3) than one would expect based solely its natural armor.

Friday, October 16, 2020

"Frontiers in Brain Research": Audio of Holmes' Neurology Lecture at Worldcon in 1978

Flyer for World Con 36 aka Iguanacon. Click for a larger view.

Here's a forgotten artifact that has just resurfaced
an audio recording of a lecture given by J. Eric Holmes at Worldcon 36 in 1978 (aka Iguanacon; each one has a unique name). It's titled "Frontiers in Brain Research"  Holmes was a professor of neurology at USC — and is almost hour and half in length! 

A direct link to the recording, which you can download & listen to like a podcast:

Frontiers in Brain Research

(214.5 MB mp3, length 1:29:22)

The recording starts with announcement identifying it as a product of Cassette Communications Corporation, a company that made recordings at the con and then offered them on sale for $6 a tape to con-goers. Here is their flyer from World Con 36:

Click on the image for a larger view

Per the flyer, if you ordered six tapes ($30), you received received a bonus "custom album" holder; I found a picture of one of these from an old Ebay auction of Harlan Ellison recordings:

There are a few technical glitches in the recording: Holmes was already speaking when the recoding began, so there is no introduction, although it is still clearly near the beginning where he is outlining what he will be talking about. There is also a break in his speech not too far in where the recording seems to have been stopped and started again. And there is some background hiss, not unexpected for those of us that remember audio cassette recordings.

But overall this is a real treat: we get to hear Holmes speaking clearly (the first time I have heard his voice!) and at length on a topic that he knows extremely well. He keeps it light with periodic jokes and the audience is very enthusiastic, asking many questions; the last half-hour or so is a Q&A following the lecture.

The recording is hosted on AZFandom (Arizona Fandom), "a site dedicated to Arizona fandom from its beginnings in the late 1960s to its future in the years to come", which has a page for conventions held in Arizona, including one for Worldcon 36, which includes a section of audio recordings.

The Sci-Fi & Fantasy Fan preservation site Fanac also has a page with a wealth of documentation of Worldcon 38 / Iguanacon.

Per the Pocket Program, Holmes gave his lecture from 11:30 am to 12:45 pm on Saturday, September 2nd, 1978 in the Phoenix Room of the Hyatt Regency, shown here: 

Sketch of the Hyatt from the convention program

I asked Chris Holmes about this, and he recalls attending this convention with his father but no other details. To put this in context, t
his was less than a month after they had attended Gen Con XI (Aug 17-20), where J. Eric Holmes was a Guest of Honor, gave a lecture on "Fantasy Literature, Fantasy Art & Fantasy Gaming", and ran two D&D games, D&D For Beginners and D&D on Barsoom.

Chris (left) and J. Eric Holmes (right) at Gen Con XI. Source: Dragon #20

Full page ad for Gen Con XI that mentions Holmes, which ran in Dragon #15 and #16.

Holmes had a history of presenting research in his area of study for the science fiction fan, having written several science articles for the magazine Analog Science Fact and Fiction, including:

He later went on to co-author, with David F. Lindsley, a college textbook titled Basic Human Neurophysiologywhich was published in 1984 by Elsevier:

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

The Forgotten Smugglers' Cave #5: Smugglers' Bunk

This is an installment of The Forgotten Smugglers' Cave, which starts here.

Area 6

Area 7

SMUGGLERS' BUNK: This is a dry, sandy cave, roughly oval (30 ft east-west by 20 ft north-south) with three visible exits, south (sloping down to Area 3), north (Area 6, a narrow and rubble-filled passage) and east (Area 7). During the day, the room is dimly lit by a narrow natural chimney to the surface in the center of the ceiling (30 ft. high), although there are also several rusty torch sconces affixed to the walls.

Each turn spent searching this room has a 1 in 6 chance of waking a colony of vampire bats in Area 6 to the north. If this happens, 1d4 bats will begin arriving each round. 

Vampire Bats21-40 (20 + 1d20): DX 18, AC 3 (9 while attached), HD 1/8, hp 1 each, AT 1 bite for 1 point damage, attaches on a successful hit and then automatically drains 1 hp per round for two rounds, at which point it is full and will detach and fly away.

Firepit. Beneath the chimney is a rock-ringed shallow pit, once used for fires by the smugglers but now filled with sand. Digging in the sand will at first reveal only layers of old ashes, and then sand again, but several feet beneath this sand there is a waterproof, locked box of bronze (worth 50 g.p. itself) containing 500 pieces of eight (large silver coins equal to electrum in value), 3 gems worth 100 g.p. each and an etching showing the location of a lost pirate fortress (DM's choice; one possibility is the Judges Guild module the Corsairs of Tallibar by Mike Wilson).

Junk. Scattered around the room are five decaying wooden sleeping pallets, along with a number of discarded personal effects, half-buried in the sand. Much of it is worthless (rusted utensils, ceramic shards, broken bottles), but each turn spent searching the area will turn up one of the following (roll 1d6), but also give a chance of waking the bats (see above).

i. A broken cutlass with a fancy engraved hilt, worth 100 g.p. to a weaponsmith.

ii. A hook hand, well-preserved because it is made of bronze, and worth 150 g.p.

iii. Fish-shaped piece of wrought iron; actually a key to the locked door in the old office (Area TBD).

iv. A wax-sealed fifth of fine spiced rum; 1d10 swigs remain, with each swig giving a temporary boost of 1d4 hp, usable once per day per person.

v. Strangely well-preserved cavalier boots, which are boots of nimble feet, with 20 + 1d4 charges remaining.

vi. A decaying leather case holding a fine skeletal spyglass, which when used will give x-ray vision (as a potion) for 1 turn per day but also bestow a minor illusionary curse lasting 1 day that makes the viewing eye appear as an empty socket, even if covered with a patch, reducing Charisma to 3. The power of the spyglass only lasts as long it is kept on the eye; once removed, the single charge is expended for that day. Per OD&D Vol 3, x-ray vision allows the viewer to see through up to 10 ft. of rock or 6 inches of iron and to a total distance of 30 ft.

The adventure continues in several directions from here. Follow the links on the above map; if there is no link, the area is not yet posted.

Chronologically on this blog, the next posted installment was Area 6.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

The Forgotten Smugglers' Cave #4: End of the Line

This is an installment of The Forgotten Smugglers' Cave, which starts here.

Area 3

4. END OF THE LINE: The rusty rails from Area 3 extend east into tunnel 10 ft. wide and high, the walls and floor of which show occasional signs of being worked to widen and smooth the passage. The tunnel slopes up slightly to the east, and there is no natural light here. Every so often an odd bit of timber, rope or metal, or empty rum bottle lies discarded at one side or the other of the tunnel. Heading east, at 20 ft. there are old timbers shoring up the ceiling. 

Cave-in. At 40 ft., the passage ends at a mass of collapsed rubble and a few timbers, which covers the rails and completely blocks the way further east, which once continued towards Portown.

Discards. Scattered about on the floor in front of this area are a torn open backpack and several other pieces of equipment, all that remains of a failed attempt by a previous explorer to flee down this passage from the carrion crawler in Area 3. The pack is empty but contains a concealed pocket holding a large rough agate (worth 100 g.p. if properly polished; see Area 3 for the reputed property of agates) and the other equipment consists of 3 torches, an empty tinderbox, a rusty dagger, an oil flask, and another apparent oil flask that on closer inspection will be revealed to be filled with a red liquid (a potion of healing).

Despite the name, this is not the end of the adventure, merely a dead end in one direction from Area 3. 

Chronologically on this blog, the next posted installment was Area 5.

Monday, October 5, 2020

The Forgotten Smugglers' Cave illustrated: The Old Rowboat


"The Old Rowboat" by Lore Suto. Click for a larger view.

Above is another new illustration by Lore Suto for Area 3 (Grotto with Rocky Beach) of The Forgotten Smugglers' Cave. I will be adding the image to that post, but I'm also posting it here to highlight it.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

The Forgotten Smugglers' Cave #3: Grotto

This is an installment of the Forgotten Smugglers' Cave, which starts here.

Area 5

Area 2 Area 4

Area 8

3. GROTTO WITH ROCKY BEACH: The east end of the sea cave tunnel (Area 2) opens into a large natural cave, roughly circular with a 50 ft. diameter. The sea water extends into the grotto in a semi-circular pool, ending at a rocky beach, varying in radius from 10-20 feet, dependent on the tide. A carrion crawler currently lairs here.

Pool. At the entrance to the cave, the depth of the water in the pool ranges from 3 feet at low tide to 13 feet at high tide. At any time, there is a 3 in 6 chance the carrion crawler is hanging on the wall over the pool, fishing in the water. If so, there is a 2 in 6 chance it will attack a character as they enter (check for each as they enter), surprising on 1-4 in 6.  

Carrion Crawler: DX 12, AC 7, HD 3+1, hp 14, AT 8, D 0 + paralysis.

If the carrion crawler is not fishing, it will either (4 on the initial die roll) be on a wall of the cave, or (5-6) under the old rowboat described below.

The Crawler in the Grotto by Lore Suto
(click on image to enlarge, particularly if a moire pattern is visible)

Rocky Beach. The remainder of the grotto is a pebble and stone-covered beach that was once the unloading area for the smugglers. From the beach, there are three other exits visible, all natural passages, heading to the north (sloping up to Area 5), east (Area 4, see Rails below), south (sloping down to Area 8). During the day, the area is dimly lit by natural light filtering down the sea cave tunnel (except at high tide), and from the north.

An inspection of the rocks of the beach will turn up numerous bones, mostly of fish, but several that are human, evidently those of previous explorers who became victims of the carrion crawler.

Agates. For each turn spent searching the rocks, there is a 1 in 6 chance of finding a beach agate, up to a maximum of 1d10 agates. The base value of each is 10 g.p., with a chance of being worth more per the rules of the Gems table (i.e., a 1 in 6 chance of being worth 50 g.p., and if so there is a 1 in 6 chance of being worth 100 g.p., etc.). As agates are reputed to improve sleep (AD&D DMG, pg 26), optionally allow a character who keeps one of 100 g.p. or greater on their person at all times to gain 1 extra hit point per night of rest.

Rails. A rusted pair of rails for a small cart start about 10' ft. from the east wall and extend off down the eastern passage (Area 4). There is no cart is present.

"The Old Rowboat" by Lore Suto, click on the image for a larger view

Old Rowboat. In the northeast portion of the cave, above the high tide line, is an old turned-over rowboat, under which the carrion crawler rests. The wood of the boat is remarkably well-preserved for its age due to waterproofing with pine pitch. It can hold 4 people, and will float but unless re-waterproofed will slowly fill with water from leaks between boards. It is too large to fit through the entrance to the sea cave (Area 1). A pitted iron anchor rests against the grotto wall near the rowboat, but there are no oars present.

The adventure continues in several directions from here. Follow the links on the above map; if there is no link to an area, it has not been posted yet. Chronologically on this blog, the next posted installment was Area 4.

A hearty thanks to Lore Suto for kindly contributing the original art featured above!