Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The Tower of Zenopus in Ghosts of Saltmarsh

Ghosts of Saltmarsh alternate cover by N.C. Winters. I like this one more.

Way back in the mists of 2006, on Dragonsfoot I wrote that:
Another dungeon that could be fit into such a combined setting would be the Zenopus dungeon in the Holmes basic book. It's set in Portown on the coast and also has pirates/sea caves, so I've often thought of having Portown and Saltmarsh be the same. Neither town is described, though, so Restenford could be used for details. (Though I guess it could be a bit much to have one small town with both a haunted house and a ruined wizard's tower.)
I'm certainly not the only one who has had the idea of merging Portown and Saltmarsh. The similar coastal setting and lack of a full description for either town make them a natural fit. While Saltmarsh being described as a "small south-coast English fishing town of the 14th Century and with a population about 2,000" does feel smaller than Portown, a "small but busy city linking the caravan routes from the south to the merchant ships" plying the Northern Sea, it's still an easy merge for the DM building a coastal sandbox setting. In fact, I have run each of these adventures in the last few years in my kids game, and while I kept Saltmarsh separate, I still had it nearby on the same coast as Portown.

Now the Wizards of the Coast have themselves taken advantage of this. Yesterday an eagle-eyed member of the Holmes Basic community over on MeWe, Chris H., reported that he'd spotted the Tower of Zenopus in a flip-thru review of the forthcoming Ghosts of Saltmarsh...! This is the latest hardcover 5E adventure from WOTC, a compilation of conversions of the original AD&D modules U1 The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh*, U2 The Danger at Dunwater, and U3 The Final Enemy** (the pdfs are also available as a discounted bundle), plus four later adventures from Dungeon magazine.

In addition to the obvious similarities between Portown and Saltmarsh, I'm also not surprised to see Zenopus turn up in this product because Mike Mearls is credited as one of the co-Lead Designers (along with Kate Welch, interviewed here), and he ran a Return to the Tower of Zenopus this past March at Gary Con, and also tweeted this map, so it was certainly on his radar at the right time.

After looking into the previews myself, the area map for Saltmarsh --- drawn by Dyson Logos --- shows the town on the mouth of a river emptying into the Azure Sea. Yes, that's right, they've preserved the Greyhawk location names from the originals! Across this river on a peninsula is a location marked "Tower of Zenopus". Per the map compass, this places the tower generally to the west of Saltmarsh, which fits with Holmes' original description (albeit without an intervening river). The U1 Haunted House is in the other direction along the coast, east of Saltmarsh. 

On the page facing this map is a four-paragraph section titled "Tower of Zenopus", which gives the background for the location --- condensed from the original --- and some brief ideas for encounters found therein. It's much more of an adventure hook than a fleshed out location, and it acknowledges as much by concluding that the details are left for the DM to determine. It would be fairly simple to use a direct 5E conversion of the original dungeon (perhaps adapting my list of Portown rumors to get the PCs over there?). 

As far as I can recall, this is the first time TSR or Wizards has recycled any of the Zenopus content in a later product, and also the first time it has been officially placed in Greyhawk. Also significant is that they've titled it the "Tower of Zenopus", as over the years this has been the most frequently used colloquial name for the originally unnamed adventure. In the new version, just the like original, the tower is a complete ruin and the actual adventure is in the dungeons beneath. As I've written before, this follows the naming convention of Castle Greyhawk, where the dungeons are referred to by the name of the ruined edifice. 

In addition to the Azure Sea, the area map also includes the Hool Marshes to the east of Saltmarsh and the Dreadwood to north, clearly placing it on the original Darlene map from the World of Greyhawk folio or boxed set. Also, the "Geographic Features" section following the Tower of Zenopus mentions the "Kingdom of Keoland", a location going all the way back to the proto-Greyhawk Great Kingdom map.

After some further delving, I realized that this area map in Ghosts of Saltmarsh is simply a direct update of the area map from U2 Danger at Dunwater. All of the major geographical features and even the hexes lines on the map match the placement on the original. 
The original even gave hex numbers for the World of Greyhawk map, with Saltmarsh being located in hex U4-123. So while the new adventure may not be specifically identified as being in Greyhawk, it is easily placeable and usable with that campaign world.

In the image below I've annotated the original U2 map with the new location for the Tower:




*All Drivethrurpg links include my affiliate number.

**I've long suspected that this title is a sneaky pun (spoiler: The Enemy with Fins; i.e. the Sahuagin). I even asked Gygax about it once on DF, and while he claimed no knowledge, we did exchange some fintastic puns.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Delta's D&D Hotspot: Tomb of Ra-Hotep

The map of The Tomb of Ra-Hotep. Source: Paul's Gameblog

Delta has a report on running the Tomb of Ra-Hotep, the OD&D dungeon by Alan Lucien that inspired Gygax's Tomb of Horrors (and Necropolis, it seems). It was included as an extra in the reprint of the original tournament version of Tomb of Horrors, which was itself an extra with the Special Edition of last year's Art & Arcana.


HelgaCon: Tomb of Ra-Hotep

Continuing the Helgacon wrap-up this year. For the first time I also ran: The Lost Tomb of Ra-Hotep Originally written by Mr. Alan Luc...


See also: 
Mystical Trash Heap: Art & Arcana First Impressions

Paul's Gameblog: Credit Where Credit's Due

Locations for the Tomb of Horrors on the Great Kingdom Map 

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Dungeoneers Syndicate: Sutherland Dragon Mini

Where's my humongous pile of gold?

The latest post at the Dungeoneers Syndicate blog showcases a number of photos of the author's newly painted Sutherland Dragon, posing with the Holmes Basic rulebook and a bunch of '70s rulebooks and dice:


My David C. Sutherland III inspired Dragon miniature

I happened upon this Reaper Bones "Great Dragon" a while back...cool looking mini! Then the wheels started turning...I could paint this dragon to look like the one on the Holmes Blue Basic Box set cover! I had to hone my painting skills first...bought a bunch of smaller minis & studied the interwebs for tips & "how to" videos on Youtube.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Thongor Fights the Pirates of Tarakus (1970)

We're going to need a bigger boat, mateys...

Yesterday's used bookstore find: Thongor Fights the Pirates of Tarakus, the sixth and last novel in Lin Carter's Thongor series. This series is Appendix N-adjacent, as Carter is called out in the list but only for his later Warrior at the World's End (1974).

Carter is probably best known for his pastiche work with L. Sprague de Camp on the Lancer/Ace editions of Conan, but he also edited seminal '70s fantasy series such as Ballantine Adult Fantasy and Flashing Swords, works that helped popularize the fantasy genre in the '60s & '70s. Years ago I read his very early (1969) book on Tolkien's work, A Look Behind the Lord of the Rings

Carter also helped get the Cthulhu Mythos into D&D by way of J. Eric Holmes; Holmes cited Carter's "H.P. Lovecraft: The Gods", in The Shuttered Room and Other Pieces (1959), as one of his sources for his “Lovecraftian Mythos in D&D” article in Dragon #12 in 1978. See my post The Cthulhu Mythos in D&D in the 1970s.

Thongor is a "Clonan", with the above cover specifically calling out Howard's character: "Sorcery and seafighting - and mortal peril for the mightiest warrior-hero CONAN". The author's note situates the series on "the Lost Continent of Lemuria" (drawing from Lemuria in popular culture), which is Carter's Hyborian Age analog.

The particular paperback I found is stated as the third printing, published by Berkely Medallion in 1976, with a fantastic cover by Vincent DiFate, different than the 1970 original.

I'm not sure when I'll get to reading this, but I'll try to update this post when I do. Possibly the pirates in this book will inspire some background details for the pirates in the sea cave in the Sample Dungeon.

See also "Ochre Jelly Inspiration?" which discusses a Carter & de Camp Conan story.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Monster Faces 042519

I'm constantly drawing faces in margins, but I haven't made a more concerted drawing in a while. Here's a quick one I made recently, a new small addition to my line of Monster Faces:



Friday, April 26, 2019

#MyFirstRPG: Holmes Basic

#MyFirstRPG has been trending on Twitter. I've been collecting the ones referring to Holmes by retweeting them. Check out my profile over there to read them all:

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Cave of the Dice Chucker: The Party vs. The Caller

The Cro-Magnon Archivist strikes again with a True Crime report! 

What really happened to that party in the Example of Play in the Holmes Basic rulebook?

Rogues Gallery: Fighter and the case of the Incompetent Caller

What follows is a transcript from the court case of The Party vs. The Caller, recorded at the Adventurers Guild Chancery in the Spring of 1977. J. Eric Holmes used the typewritten transcript the Prosecuting Attorney submits as evidence as the Example of play on page 40 of the blue Dungeons and Dragons Rulebook.