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Friday, March 17, 2023

Rock Crab (New Monster)


Rock Crab by Lore Suto

The Rock Crab, a new monster, originally appeared only in the Random Encounter table of the Forgotten Smugglers' Cave adventure (indexed here). However, inspired by Lore Suto's fantastic illustration for them, I recently realized that if they also climb walls they fill a dungeon niche similar to piercers (which aren't in the Holmes Basic Monster List, so would essentially be a new monster themselves for a Holmes adventure), so I have revised the adventure to replace the piercers in Area 9 and the Random Encounter table with rock crabs.

Rock Crab

Least Large Huge Giant
Move 120 feet/turn,
90 feet/turn
90 feet/turn,
60 feet/turn
60 feet/turn,
30 feet/turn
30 feet/turn,
15 feet/turn
Hit Dice 1 hp 1/2 1 2
Armor Class 7 5 3 1
Treasure Type nil nil nil nil
2 claws for
1 hp each
2 claws for
1d4 each
2 claws for
1d6 each, or
1 drop for 1d8
2 claws for
1d8 each, or
1 drop for 1d12

These cavern-dwelling crabs have shells resembling cave formations, and thus can camouflage themselves in their environs by tucking their legs and claws underneath and remaining motionless. In this manner they attempt to surprise their prey as it passes (1-3 in 6). 

Furthermore, as they grow, the spikes on the back of their shells grow taller, coming to resemble groups of short stalagmites or stalactites. The huge and giant crabs have claws strong enough to grip rock, and will often climb to the ceiling and attempt to drop on their prey (surprise on 1-5 in 6; if the crab gains surprise, the drop is treated as an attack roll with a +4 to hit and doing the indicated damage; if a character is not surprised, they can automatically avoid the dropping crab). 

The least rock crabs will generally be found in hatcheries in large numbers (4d6). As they grow, they wander to other caverns but often stay in loosely associated groups (2d4 large, 1d6 huge, or 1d3 giant rock crabs). After one crab makes an initial attack, it will drum its claws on the floor for one melee round to alert the others in the area to join in. During this round it will attempt to dodge attacks but will not make an attack.
While the rock crab lives on land, they can still swim slowly and will sometimes dwell on the ceilings of water-filled caverns inhabited by fish upon which they can prey.

Their shells are extremely tough and can be fashioned into shields that are equal to metal in strength.

Monday, March 13, 2023

Gary Con "Roll With Gary" Dice (2018)


In 2018, Gary Con released a limited edition set of dice with colors matching the set packaged with Holmes Basic. These "Roll With Gary" dice were designed by Luke Gygax and produced by Black Oak Workshop.

The shapes and colors match those of the original set, including a yellow d4, orange d6, green d8, blue d12 and white 20-sided die. On each die, the highest number is replaced with the "GC" logo. The 20-sider is labeled 0-9 twice, just like the 20-sider in the original set, except that each "0" is replaced with a "GC". 

Friday, March 10, 2023

Were-shark ("New" Monster)

An unholy symbol depicting a were-shark; illustration by Lore Suto

A "new" monster for Holmes Basic, which is featured in Area #10 of The Forgotten Smugglers' Cave adventure.

The were-shark is one of the few monsters that was introduced into D&D by J. Eric Holmes, and certainly his most iconic monster contribution. He mentioned them in the entry for Lycanthropes in the Holmes Basic rulebook, and they featured prominently in his novel The Maze of Peril, in scenes based on actual game sessions from his early years running D&D for his sons. 

Holmes never provided us with a formal write-up of this beast, so here finally is a version for use with Holmes Basic & OD&D. Note that I've used the hyphenated spelling ("were-shark") in line with the way it appears in the Holmes Basic rulebook and The Maze of Peril.


Move: 60 feet/turn walking, 150 feet/turn swimming
Hit Dice: 4
Armor Class: 5
Treasure Type: C
Alignment: neutral/chaotic evil
Attacks: 1 bite and 1 tail slap
Damage: 2d6/1d6

An old coastal legend tells of a primordial sea deity who, angered by the increasing intrusion of land-dwellers into its domain, sent forth a lycanthropic curse to punish these interlopers. It begins with a grievous shark bite that, if survived, leads to something even more horrible. At night, the victim will find themselves yearning to swim, an urge that will grow until the light of the full moon striking the sea draws them inexorably into the water to complete the cycle by transforming into an enormous shark, hunting for food and further victims. Perhaps most disturbingly, they can also assume an unnatural hybrid form having the body of a shark joined with muscular human arms and legs, rendering neither watercraft nor beach a safe haven from their depredations. The sight of this hybrid emerging from the water may paralyze even the stoutest of souls (make a saving throw against turn to stone or be unable to take any action; may try again each round).
While a strong-willed were-shark may regain some measure of control while the moon is waning, as time goes on they typically spend more and more nights in the sea, and trend chaotic and evil as their affinity for their deital creator strengthens. Their presence in the water will attract other sharks to the vicinity, and the smaller ones can be summoned when in need.

Sharks (1d6): MV 240 feet/turn swimming, HD 1d3, AC 6, AT 1 bite for 1d6.

Eventually a were-shark will abandon civilization for a lair on a deserted island or hidden sea cave, occasionally shared with others of their kin, where they will sleep in human form during the day among a hoard of items plundered from anglers and sailors. Some become guardians for other followers of the deity, although their tendency to attack allies as well as foes renders them somewhat unreliable. 

In shark or hybrid form, their primary means of melee attack is a ferocious bite, but in hybrid form they can also slap a second opponent with their tail, which in addition to inflicting damage may stun the target (drop anything held on 1-2 in 6). As with other lycanthropes, a were-shark in animal or hybrid form is immune to normal weapons, but is subject to silver or magic. Sages caution that land-based plants such as wolvesbane may be ineffective against a were-shark. Whether there exists a seaweed or coral that can be substituted remains to be determined.

Chris' original illustration of the Wereshark from A&E #13, July 1976

See Also:
---All of the posts tagged WERESHARK in the Holmes Basic G+ Community Archive

Chris Holmes' inscription in a copy of Tales of Peril:

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

The Forgotten Smugglers' Cave: Draft Map

Draft Map. Click for a larger, clearer view that you can drag to your desktop

Above is my draft of a complete map for the Forgotten Smugglers' Cave adventure, showing entire complex, Areas 1-25. North is up, and each square is 10 feet. Area 16 is cut off at the bottom because the entire chamber is 300 feet in length, north to south. 

This map was made in Excel (it's a spreadsheet!), with a grid set to 10 squares per inch. I hope to make another version in Inkscape once I have some time to reacquaint myself with the program. But for the time being, I'm using this draft version to play test the dungeon, and hopefully it will be sufficient for anyone else to run it, should they wish. 

Click on the preview image above to see the larger image, which should be much clearer. You can drag that image to your desktop and print it out. When printing, set to "Print Entire Image" or 63%, which should scale it to fit on a single page.

Note that some of the descriptions in the areas may not match the map right now; I plan to go back and edit the room descriptions to match what is shown on the map.

Evening Update:

I've already updated the map twice since originally posting it. I've noticed a few errors, and added a few more features, a title & a compass, and made the numbers more prominent.

Friday, February 24, 2023

Scrum Con 2023 registration opens tomorrow!


Scrum Con returns this year on Saturday, April 8th, at the Civic Building in Silver Spring, Maryland, and registration, including both purchasing badges ($15 per person) and signing up for games, begins at noon EST tomorrow, Saturday 2/25/23.

For now, you can peruse the listing of games on Tabletop Events and pick out what you might be interested in signing up for. The selection includes an equal number of RPGs and miniatures wargames:

Scrum Con IV (2023) Schedule of Events

And as always, sign up with an email address on the mailing list at to stay on top of the latest announcements and updates.

For an idea of what the games are like, see my 2020 Post-Op or this post on Scrum in Miniature with over 400 photos.

Hope to see you there!

And please help us get the word out by sharing this with anyone who may be interested.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Blue Flame, Tiny Stars by Stephen Wendell


Arriving in the mail the day before yesterday was my comp copy of Blue Flame, Tiny Stars, a memoir of experiencing D&D for the first time by Stephen Wendell, who blogs over at Donjon Lands. In fact, this book started life as a series of posts over on that blog.

Get your copy here in PDF or POD:

Blue Flame, Tiny Stars at DrivethruRPG

Before publication, Stephen provided me with a copy of the compiled text for review, and here is the blurb that I provided him with after reading it:

“I greatly enjoyed Blue Flame, Tiny Stars, Stephen Wendell’s charming memoir of his discovery of Dungeons & Dragons in the early 1980s. It holds a particular fascination for me, as Stephen starts with the same version of the D&D Basic Set in the same year as myself. I recommend this book not just to fans of ‘Holmes Basic’ but to anyone who enjoys playing Dungeons & Dragons. The author’s clear prose captures the excitement of those early, half-remembered adventures when everything about the game was new and awe-inspiring.”

Now that I have the final product in hand, I can see that the document that I read has been turned into a beautiful book featuring a homage cover to Sutherland's original cover art, and other illustrations within by Stephen. It is about 30 pages long and zine-sized, and I am looking forward to reading again in this format.