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The Forgotten Smugglers' Cave: Index of Posts

An index of posts describing the Forgotten Smugglers' Cave, an adventure for Holmes Basic characters levels 2-4.                    ...

Saturday, February 23, 2013

One Hit Point Monsters

The Hoop Snake, image from Monstropedia

Here are some new monsters designed for use with single characters (one-on-one play), small parties (perhaps without clerics), or younger players. Many contain a whimsical or fairy tale element for upping the fantastical during the game. Each monster has but a single hit point, meaning that any successful hit takes one out, so there is no need to track hit points, just the number of monsters. Each monster also attacks as a normal human using the Holmes Basic rules (THAC0 20), and does but a single point of damage on a successful hit.

All of the monsters have the same stats unless otherwise indicated on the table below:
HD 1/8 (1 hit point, attacks as Normal Human with THAC0 20), 1 attack that does 1 point of damage (DMG 1 x 1), AC 7, Combat Move of 20' per round of 10 sec, and an average Dex of 10. Each monster is worth 1 XP, or 2 if it has a special attack/defense. The number appearing is 1d8 times the dungeon level or wilderness zone difficulty level. Treasure is present 50% of the time, and is equal to 1d20 times the total XP value of the monsters, and can be in the form of coins, gems, jewelry or other valuables.

For larger parties or higher level characters, 10 times the number of 1HP monsters can be used, perhaps with an optional Swarm rule: roll for damage normally, but the result equals the number of 1 hp monsters destroyed in a single attack. If desired, each of these monsters can also be easily increased to 1/4, 1/2 or 1 HD, and do 1-6 hp of damage per attack.

Update: Apparently the table, cut and pasted from Word, was not showing up on some computers, and was messing up the formatting of this blog. I've reformatted the table as a 1-page pdf that can be downloaded via the Holmes Reference Sheets page on the ZA site. I've put a screenshot of this pdf below.

A "friendly talking magpie" is mentioned by Gygax in the module B2. Vampire Bats are mentioned by Holmes as having AC3 in the combat section of the Basic rulebook but not otherwise described. The particular version of the Jack-in-the-Green is inspired by the fantasy novel Mythago Wood by the late Robert Holdstock. The other monsters are inspired by folklore, natural history or wordplay.

Screenshot of the 1-page sheet (pdf): 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Holmes Basic - Cook Expert Reference Sheet

Inspired by the recent release of the pdf of the 1981 Expert Set, edited by David Cook with Steve Marsh (aka "Cook Expert"), I've put together a single page reference sheet for using Holmes Basic with the Cook Expert Set. It's a "bridge" table covering
levels 1-6, and includes To Hit, Saving Throws, Character Advancement, Spell Numbers, Turn Undead and Thieves' Abilities. 
In all cases, the rules for Holmes Basic take precedent, using the Cook Expert set to fill in higher level material not covered by Holmes. I've used the style of the Holmes Basic Tables, including a similar font (Futura Book BT). 

I've written before that in some ways the Cook Expert Set is an official expansion for Holmes Basic. But as Wayne R on the Semper Initiativus Unum blog recently wrote on Holmes Day: "In the Cook/Marsh Expert rulebook there is advice on integrating Holmes but unfortunately it's all backward. The Expert book should be used for adding the levels above 3 to Holmes, and additional spells, monsters, and magic items, and the wilderness rules that Holmes left out".

Download link (Google Docs):

Holmes Basic - Cook Expert Reference Sheet - v1.0

If you find any typos please post a comment and I'll revise the sheet.

You may note the bottom of the sheet says "Zenopus Archives - Holmes Ref". I've created a new subpage on the ZA website called "Holmes Ref" that will gather together tables for running Holmes Basic. "Ref" refers to both "reference" and "referee", and is a tribute to the Judges Guild Ready Ref Sheets. The only other table currently included is the single sheet Monster List by HD, but others will be added eventually with the idea of referees being able to create custom DM screens depending on what combination of Holmes and other rules they are using. Next up will be a version of the Reference Sheet using OD&D instead of Cook Expert for the higher levels.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Holmes Day 2013

Today is birthday of Dr. Holmes (1930-2010), and I bumped my "Testimonials" post from last year. It went to the top of my blog, it didn't enter any of the RSS feeds again. So If you haven't done so before (or want to again), please go there and leave a comment:

Holmes Basic Testimonials

Or write one on your own blog!
There are a few already by other bloggers:

In other news, I noticed today that the the Wizards old school D&D T-shirts, including the one with the Sutherland Dragon from the Holmes Boxed Set cover, are now $20 instead of $25. I'm wearing the Holmes one right now and it's a good quality tee.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Expert Set rulebook pdf notes

I ended up buying the new pdf of the Expert Set rulebook, which you can find here on DriveThruRPG

A few notes:

(1) The scan quality is great, the text is completely OCR'd and searchable, and the pdf is fully indexed with bookmarks. Front and back covers, including insides are all included, important since there's a table of contents inside the front and an index inside the back. Pages are mostly scanned straight, though a few are slightly off, which you can see in the screenshot of the Gnome Lair:

GNOME LAIR - location from the Sample Wilderness in the Expert Set rulebook

(2) It's a 1st printing of the rulebook according to the Acaeum. The distinguishing feature on the front cover is the lack of a white circle around the "2" on the upper left front cover. I hadn't seen the interior of a 1st printing before, but a quick comparison to a later printing didn't reveal any major text differences in the rules. I do note that the title page of the 1st printing has Gygax & Arneson's name on it, but for some reason their name is missing from the hard copy later printing that I have.

The corresponding Moldvay pdf from dndclassics is not a 1st printing, as it has a white circle around the "1" on the front cover. Apparently the Wizards are not paying attention to the printings at this level of granularity. It will be interesting to see what printing of the Holmes rulebook we end up with - most likely the 2nd or 3rd printing.

(3) Here's the neatest part of the pdf: It's 88 pages rather than the 68 pages as you'd expect (64 page rulebook plus covers). That's because it has several bonus items from the Expert Set at the end: a 16 page TSR product catalog, a 2-page RPGA membership form, and a 2-page TSR survey. The catalog is a real treasure if you haven't seen it before: a 1981 Gateway to Adventure TSR product catalog (see the cover here). There are several versions of this catalog, and this one happens to be the one that shows the Holmes Basic rulebook cover next to a listing for the new Expert Set rulebook. So now I have a better scan of the picture of this, which I've replaced in my previous post. However, I also noted that the catalog shows the Moldvay Box Set on another page along with the Expert Set. So perhaps the B/X box cover design was finished at the time of this catalog but not the rulebook cover design.

Update: Ten years later, they've added a Print-on-Demand (POD) option for this. Find it here:

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Expert Set brown dice

Brown dice from a first print Expert Set

In the early days my friend E.H. had the B/X sets, Moldvay Basic and Marsh/Cook Expert Sets. I'll always remember the dice from those sets, because they were so different than my pale blue Dragon Dice, which had replaced the chits in my Holmes Basic Set. His Basic Set dice were pea soup green, and his Expert Set dice were mud brown, and each set had a faint swirled pattern. On Tome of Treasures, a collecting site, I found a post with a picture of dice from a first print Expert Set that are exactly the same color as the brown ones I remember (see screenshot above). These dice came uninked, and the set also had a crayon for coloring them. There's been some discussion of the B/X dice on the Acaeum recently here. I haven't found a picture of the green dice yet.

In those days we'd try to play D&D anywhere. Once we were in his dad's brown Subaru, with E.H. DMing in the front with the green/brown dice in a flat space on the dash. Unfortunately the window was also open, and when his dad made a U-turn some of the dice went flying out the window. We had to dodge traffic to try to recover them, and I don't think we found all of them.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

B/X Expert Set for use with Holmes Basic

Screen shot from the bonus catalog at the end of the new Expert Set rulebook pdf

The D&D Expert Set rulebook by Cook/Marsh is now available on pdf at It was designed to accompany Moldvay Basic, together forming what is commonly called B/X now, but it contains a section in the beginning on using it with the previous (Holmes) Basic Set. So in one sense it's the official Expert Set for Holmes Basic.

As I wrote on the Rules Expansion page on the ZA site: 

In Dragon #35, Gygax also revealed that "Design is now hard at work on the second boxed D&D game, the Expert Set. It will take players through at least 12th level of experience, tie in the best of the “Original” material, and actually add some new classes, spells, magic, monsters and so on." In context, this appeared to be an Expert Set that would complement the Holmes Basic Set. A late 1980 Gateway to Adventure catalog shows the Holmes Basic set side-by-side with an unpictured but soon-to-be-released Expert Set. However, when the Expert Set finally arrived in 1981 it was accompanied by an entirely new Basic Set that replaced the Holmes Basic set (although TSR continued to have the original in stock through the Mail Order Hobby Shop until at least 1986). To aid owners of the original Basic set who did not wish to buy a new set, the Cook/Marsh rulebook contained a section on page X4 titled "Using D&D Expert with an early edition of D&D Basic" which began "If your copy of the D&D Basic rules has a blue cover with a picture of a dragon on it, then this section is for you". This section then provides a summary of the "new material found in the 2nd edition of D&D Basic.

See also the previous post, Holmes Expert Set from TSR catalog.

Update: I ended up buying the new pdf of the Expert Set rulebook. See a future post for some notes.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Draw Your Own Floor Plan, II

Three Level Dungeon, click for a larger view

Here's a three-level dungeon I drew on a copy of the Draw Your Own Floor Plan sheet from B2. It's in the same style as the previous map by my friend E.H., with green ink dungeon walls (presumably because the grid is in black), red secret doors, yellow 10' falling blocks (here outlined in green ink) and black pits. It also shows the influence of the Holmes Basic rulebook in two places: the levels are Lvl 1, Lvl1 up, and 2nd Lvl, like the first three levels of Skull Mountain, and there's an underground cave with a beach and water (Room 21) per the Sample Dungeon.

Some of the other traps on the map:
Room 3 - The "L" on the door indicates it is locked.
Room 7 - The brown-colored trap at the entrance is a blade that swings out sideways when the door is opened. The wavy lines along the walls are curtains, surely concealing a hiding monster. Boo!
Room 8 -  In the hall leading to this room, the circle with a line in the hall is a "pendulum ball" trap (ball swings down from the ceiling). There's also one at the entrance to room 12.
Room 15 - A key I have elsewhere indicates that a "red man" is a teleporter, though it's possible I had something else in mind here.
Room 17 - At the bottom of the stairs to the east is a "pendulum blade" trap (blade swings down from the ceiling). 
Room 19 - The entrance to this room is just a wall, which may mean it was bricked shut. Perhaps the teleporter sent you here. Or I just forgot to draw a door, as there seems to be one missing between rooms 26 and 27. 

I do have two pages of unfinished notes for this dungeon, including the two upper levels, but I think they date from several years after I originally drew the map. In this conception some kind of evil cult had taken up residence in the lower level and was intent on summoning an evil horror in room 19.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Basic Blueholme

Cover of the Blueholme Prentice Rules, available at RPGNow

I posted an announcement in the Holmes Basic G+ Community, but I have been remiss in posting here about the release of the first parts of a new OGL clone of Holmes Basic, Blueholme. I was waiting to gather up links to reviews from other blogs, but the editor himself scooped me on that, so for that I'll just point you over to the post on his blog, Dreamscape Design. The editor, M.T., goes by Vile on the OD&D Discussion forums, where he is an enthusiastic convert to the charm of the original Basic set.

So far there are two releases for Blueholme, each currently a free download on RPGnow:

Prentice Rules - A starter set of rules, covering levels 1-3 much as the original Basic rulebook. There's an enthusiastic review over here at the Dispatches from Kickassistan blog. Since I am dedicated to the original Holmes Basic rulebook, I can't say I will personally be using the Prentice Rules, but they do a great job of cloning for anyone who does not have the original. In the interest of simplicity it does sidestep the famous (infamous?) rule giving daggers two blows per round and heavy weapons one attack every other round. The Prentice Rules particularly shine in the use of fantastic public domain art by the illustrators Henry Justice Ford and Victor R. Lambdin. Even if you are not a fan of the Holmes set it is worth checking out these rules just to see how this art has been masterfully juxtaposed with the rules. My only criticism of the look of the rules is the constant referral to the game as BLUEHOLME TM, which brings to mind mid-80s trademark proliferation in TSR products.

(Full disclosure: I am listed in the Acknowledgements section, which is quite an honor particularly given the other names that included).

Maze of Nuromen - this is an introductory module by J.B. of the Forbidden Mazes of the Jennerak blog. Here is his original post about the adventure from 2011. J.B. is also a member of the OD&D Discussion forums (as xerxez). This module continues with the use of great public domain art, here by Harry Clarke. I'll post more on this module when I have a chance to read through it in more detail.