Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Tower of Zenopus - free WOTC download (2008)

START of the Tower of Zenopus Sample Dungeon

     With the talk of 1E reprints and hope for a return of the official oldschool D&D pdfs, I'll note one free D&D pdf that has remained officially available from WOTC for the past three years: the Sample Dungeon from the Blue Book. In October 2008, in conjunction with the release of the 4th edition starter set, the website featured a retrospective on past D&D Basic Sets by Bart Caroll. This retrospective covered only the Holmes and Mentzer Basic Sets, and included free downloads from the Sample Dungeon found in each:
(be warned, the quality of the scans is poor albeit readable): (Tower of Zenopus, by J. Eric Holmes)
Ignore the first page of this pdf, as the scenario actually begins on page 2. Also note, while it is labeled "1977 Dungeon", it's actually from a later revised version ('78 or '79) of the Blue Book, which replaces the original, tougher "enormous spider" with a standard giant spider. (Mistamere Castle, by Frank Mentzer)

     Carroll makes a nice comparison between the two: "What did these two sets have in common? Both provided an introductory assemblage of the rules, allowing players to experience the first few levels of the game. Both provided newcomer DMs with a sample dungeon to fill out, and both suggested an evil wizard as the final adversary to an intro adventure".

     However, the retrospective also places a picture of the Skull Mountain graphic by a quote from the intro to the Sample Dungeon, perpetuating an occasional misperception that the Sample Dungeon is part of Skull Mountain, which it is not. The Sample Dungeon is under a town on the sea (Portown); Skull Mountain is a huge dungeon inside a mountain and is not described in any other way other than the cross-sectional graphic.


  1. That's really cool. Thanks for sharing that! Do you know of anyone who has taken that basic dungeon and expanded it in some cool way? Just curious.

  2. There was one called The Forgotten City by Thorkhammer on Dragonsfoot but I think he "retired" it from his Lulu site.

  3. I wonder, though, just how many of us played it as if the Tower of Zenopus were in Skull Mountain? I know I sure did.

  4. That's a good question, Matthew. The headers certainly imply this by having "Sample Cross-Section of Levels" right before "Sample Floor Plan, Part of First Level" and then "Sample Dungeon" and "Illustration of Sample Floor Plan". But even ignoring the background of the Zenopus dungeon, it's hard to reconcile the entrance to the sea in Room M with level 1 of Great Stone Skull being up on a mountain.

  5. Oh, no question they aren't supposed to be connected. But we just did it anyway. I don't remember if I decided it or just assumed, but they were always part and parcel in my games when I ran with the Blue Book.