This is the blog. Click here to go to the Zenopus Archives website.

Note: Many older posts on this blog are missing images, but can be viewed at the corresponding page in the Internet Archive


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.                    ...

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Gygaxian Armor

AD&D Armor by David C. Sutherland III

The picture above should have been included in the 1E AD&D PHB or DMG. It illustrates the nine standard types of AD&D armor as described in those books, but appeared only in the relatively obscure AD&D Dungeon Masters Adventure Log, published in 1980.

Below are the corresponding descriptions from 1E AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide, page 27, plus a few notes from the shorter descriptions given on page 165. I've reordered them & included the encumbrance and move ratings from the table on page 27, and the armor classes and cost from the PHB. These use the unarmored AC 10 system that debuted in AD&D PHB, replacing the unarmored AC 9 system of OD&D.

Padded Armor (AC 8, MV 9", 10 lbs, 4 GP) is "heavily padded, quilted coat and an additional soft leather jerkin and leggings".

Leather Armor (AC 8, MV 12", 15 lbs, 5 GP) is "shaped cuir bouli (leather hardened by immersion in boiling oil) cuirass and shoulder pieces and softer shirt and leggings" (pg 27) and "includes boots and gauntlets" (pg 165).

Studded Leather (AC 7, MV 9", 20 lbs, 15 GP) is "leather armor to which have been fastened metal studding as additional protection, usually including an outer coat of fairly close-set studs (small plates)" (pg 27), and with "an extra layer of protection at shoulder area" (pg 165).

Ring Mail (AC 7, MV 9", 25 lbs, 30 GP) is "relatively soft leather armor over padding. To the long coat of leather are sewn metal rings. This makes the coat rather heavy and bulky".

Scale Mail (AC 6, MV 6", 40 lbs, 45 GP) is "armor similar to ring mail, but overlapping scales of metal are sewn to both coat and leggings—or a skirted coat is worn. As with chain, weight falls mainly on the wearer’s shoulders and waist".

Chain Mail (AC 5, MV 9", 30 lbs, 75 GP) is "padding plus interlocking mesh armor covering the upper and lower body. Vulnerable areas have multiple thicknesses. Weight falls upon the shoulders and waist of the wearer".

Splint Mail (AC 4, MV 6", 40 lbs, 80 GP) is "light chain, greaves, and a leather coat into which are laminated vertical pieces of plate with shoulder guards".

Banded Mail (AC 4, MV 9", 35 lbs, 90 GP) is "a layered armor with padding, light chain, and series of overlapping bands of armor in vulnerable areas. Weight is somewhat distributed".

Plate Mail (AC 3, MV 6", 40 lbs, 400 GP) is "light chain with pieces of plate — cuirass, shoulder pieces, elbow and knee guards, and greaves. Weight is well distributed".

Plate armor (AC 2, MV 9", 40 lbs, 2000 GP) is "a full suit of plate which is no more weighty and a bit less bulky, considering what is known as “field plate”" [This is an optional addition that Gygax mentions; it is not illustrated above. Rules for this were later expanded in Unearthed Arcana in 1985]

On page 165, Gygax refers the reader to Charles Ffoulkes' Armour and Weapons (1909), which thanks to the internet can be viewed here.

Original D&D and the Classic D&D successors only included Leather, Chain and Plate, so the additional armor types are typically associated with AD&D. However, many of them actually appeared all the way back in Chainmail Man-to-Man Melee Table:

The AD&D Monster Manual, which uses the original AC system (unarmored AC 9) gives us a few clues for adapting these armor types to OD&D.

Halflings: "The usual protection ... consists of padded or leather armor", with an AC of 7.
Wood Elf: "They usually wear studded leather or ring mail (AC 6)".
Gnomes: "...armored with leather armor which is ringed or well studded with metal and shield (armor class 5)".

Thus, if adapting these additional types to Holmes Basic or OD&D, we might use:

Padded Armor:  AC 7, MV 9", 10 GP
Leather Armor:  AC 7, MV 12", 15 GP
Studded Leather:  AC 6, MV 9", 20 GP
Ring Mail:  AC 6, MV 9", 20 GP
Scale Mail:  AC 5, MV 6", 25 GP 
Chain Mail:  AC 5, MV 9", 30 GP
Splint Mail:  AC 4, MV 6", 40 GP
Banded MailAC 4, MV 9", 45 GP
Plate MailAC 3, MV 6", 50 GP
Plate Armor:  AC 2, MV 9", 200 GP 

The AC & prices for Leather/Chain/Plate come from the original list in OD&D and Holmes Basic. In AD&D, there's little functional difference between Studded Leather and Ring, other than Ring being slightly heavier and costing twice as much, so I just left them as identical on this chart.

One practical use for this table in OD&D might be for adapting AD&D modules with these armor types

See also: The Monster Manual is a Holmes Supplement
(DMs Guild links include affilitate #)

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The City in the Lake of Unknown Depths

The cover of the World of Greyhawk folio (1980),
showing Greyhawk and the Lake of Unknown Depths

Greyhawk lore, in various stages of development, is scattered about in various early D&D publications. For example, at least two different products - neither of which is the actual World of Greyhawk product - include references to cities or civilizations under Nyr Dyv, the Lake of Unknown Depths.

The first is the fourth D&D supplement, Eldritch Wizardry, published in 1976. In this booklet, instead of new "ordinary" magic items, Gygax provided us with a slew of Artifacts, each with its own short backstory, some of which include Greyhawk lore. For example, for the Codex of Infinite Planes, we learn:

"Long ago the wizard-cleric who ruled the Isles of Woe lost in the Lake of Unknown Depths used this work to gain knowledge of great power. It is told that this arcane wisdom is what eventually wrought the downfall of the mage-priest and caused the waters to swallow his domain", pg 43 of Eldritch Wizardry (1976).

This was later revised for the 1979 AD&D DMG, with the wizard-cleric becoming "the High Wizard Priest", and the "Lake of Unknown Depths" changed to its formal name, Nyr Dyv, along with a formal reference to the World of Greyhawk product, not yet published.

In the year after Eldritch Wizardry, the game play aid Outdoor Geomorphs: Set One Walled City (1977) was published, and included a short sample key to give DMs an idea of how the set should be used. Allan Grohe has kindly transcribed these for us. One of the city locations is a fish market, the Silvery Mart, and part of the description for it reads:

"If the owner of the fifth booth on the east side (counting up from the north) is engaged in conversation, he will relate a tale about his adventure on the Lake of Unknown Depths, where a very friendly mermaid told him of the City in the Lake. If bribed with no less than 10 gold pieces in goods or cash he will draw out a map showing where he thinks the fabled city lies beneath the waters (he is right), and he will warn whomever it is he is telling about it that there is a dreaded monster guarding the crystal steps down to the city. He can tell nothing more. (See #56, Society of the Sages, for details of which sage knows what about the legend of the City in the Lake)" 

Unfortunately, Area #56 is not included in the brief sample key, so we'll never get to hear the full legend of the City in the Lake directly from the sage, unless we write it ourselves. It's possible Gygax had his earlier story from the Codex of the Infinite Planes in mind, in which case the City in the Lake could be the resting place of the High Wizard Priest of the Isles of Woe. On the other hand, the "crystal steps down to the city" sound like something that was purposefully built, and "fabled city" sounds more wondrous than sinister, so perhaps the two are separate locales under the lake.

This post on the Greyhawkery blog points out just how deep the lake is - over 30,000 feet deep, as deep as the deepest parts of the ocean. Could this depth have been created by the same cataclysm that sank the Isles of Woe?

When the World of Greyhawk was finally published in 1980 (in folio format) and again in 1983 (boxed set), there was no mention of either legend in the description of the Nyr Dyv, with the only fantastic lore being in regard to the the lake monsters:

"The Nyr Dyv is also well known for the monsters which inhabit its waters. Deep beneath the surface lurk huge creatures which prey upon unwary sailors or anyone so unlucky as to fall into the water. Warcraft, and occasionally merchants or bargees will bring back such monsters as trophies, as constant warfare upon these creatures is necessary to make the lake useful and usable" (pg 25)

Illustration by David Sutherland from the 1980 WoG folio,
showing a barge being attacked by a lake monster

2018 Update: One other bit of lore regarding the Nyr Dyv is that S1 Tomb of Horrors suggests "An island (unmapped) in the Nyr Dyv" as one possible location for the Tomb.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Monochrome D2 Print-On-Demand

Tuesday's new batch of print-on-demand D&D from WOTC finally includes a '70s classic: the 1978 original monochrome version of D2 Shrine of the Kuo-Toa, part of Gary Gygax's timeless D1-D2-D3 'drow' trilogy.

According to the printing info at the Acaeum, the pdf (which i had previously bought) is of the 5th printing of the module, although I'm not aware of any content differences in the printings of D2. However, there are significant differences in art and content as compared to the later D1-2 compilation, as detailed here.

The front and back cover art in the original are both by David Sutherland. The back cover is rarely seen as it was not included in the D1-2 compilation, and is a great composition depicting an encounter with a rust monster, still looking very much like the Chinese toy that inspired it:

Interior art is by Dave Trampier (DAT) and Sutherland (DCS)
DAT:  Umber Hulk encounter (pg 3), Kuo-Toa barge encounter (pg 6), Kuo-Toa 'fingerling' pool (pg 10-11), adventurers resting (pg 13)
DCS: Roper battle (pg 4), Svirfneblin encounter (pg 7), Kuo-Toa throne (pg 9)
Kuo-Toa for monster entry (pg 13), Svirfneblin/Kuo-Toa battle (pg 15), Svirfneblin for monster entry (pg 16).

See also my previous post about the D&D print-on-demand.

(Note: links include affilitate number that gives me 5% credit if you make a purchase)

Monday, November 28, 2016

New Character Sheet Draft

Above is a screenshot of a draft of a new Character Sheet for Holmes Ref. I included one in Holmes Ref 1.0 that was a quick reduction of the Character Creation Worksheet, but I thought I'd make a new one that was a bit more streamlined / pleasing to my eyes.

The note regarding item location is from Gygax's Encumbrance rules on page 9.

The "Designated Heir" is from page 8 of Holmes: "A character may be allowed to designate a "relative" who will inherit his wealth and possessions (after paying a 10% tax) on his death or disappearance." This rule originally appeared in OD&D Vol 1 (page 13, section "Relatives").

Any feedback is appreciated. After a few days I will turn it into a pdf and add it to the Holmes Ref page.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Allen Hammack Q&A with James Mishler

 James Mishler's Q&A with Game Designer Allen Hammack  

If you missed it, on Thanksgiving Day on his blog Adventures in Gaming James Mishler posted a great interview with former TSR employee Allen Hammack, author of the classic AD&D modules C2 Ghost Tower of Inverness and A3 Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lord.

Hammack's time at TSR (1978-1983) overlaps with most of the Holmes Basic-era, and of particular note to us, the interview mentions that among other products he worked as an editor on the "1978 editions" of the Holmes Basic Set. Since that set out first came out in 1977 and Hammack started in 1978, I assume he most likely worked on revisions that were included in the 3rd printing (May 1978), 2nd edition (Nov 1978) and/or 3rd edition (Dec 1979).

Hammack also mentions that "Dave Sutherland used to draw tiny biplanes into wizard hats in honor of the Fight in the Skies WWI game" [later Dawn Patrol]. This sent me back to Sutherland's Holmes Basic Set cover art to look for biplanes in the wizard's hat. None spotted there, but I'll keep on the lookout for other Sutherland wizards.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Character Creation Worksheet without line shading

I had a request for a version of the Character Creation Worksheet without line shading so that it easier to use with a highlighter (the link is to the previous blog post about it which has a link to the original version with line shading). A screenshot of this modified sheet is posted above, and the 1-page pdf is now available for downloading:

(direct link)

It can also be accessed from the Holmes Ref page on the Zenopus Archives site.

If this version is preferred, I will replace it in the Holmes Ref 1.0 compilation. I had put the shaded lines in for readability because the page is so busy. But this version should use less slightly less printer ink and (in addition to being able to be used with a highlighter) may generally serve better as a worksheet/character sheet, being easier to write/erase on the unshaded lines. Let me know.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea RPG 2nd Edition Kickstarter

Screenshot from the Kickstarter Page showing the cover for the 2nd Edition rulebook

As I write this, 12 hours remain in the kickstarter for the 2nd Edition of the Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea RPG. The kickstarter currently over 800 backers with over $64K raised, meaning that all stretch goals have been unlocked. I've backed the game at the $59 level (plus shipping), which includes a hardcover book, pdf, and the stretch goals, many of which are improvements to the book itself.

This game was written by Jeff Talanian, who has professed deep admiration for Holmes Basic. See this post from September where I transcribed some quotes from his interview on the Dead Games Society podcast. The second sentence in the kickstarter states that the game is "Inspired by Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, and Clark Ashton Smith!". These are three "Weird Fiction" authors whom J. Eric Holmes was very fond of. As he wrote in his widely read 1980 article in the magazine Psychology Today, " players have wandered through bits of Barsoom and Hyperborea, through worlds created by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard, H. Rider Haggard, A. Merritt, H.P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith".

The AS&SH RPG includes the 4 standard D&D classes, as well as 22 subclasses, among which are all of those originally promised for AD&D in the Holmes Basic rulebook: paladins, rangers, illusionists, monks, druids, assassins and even the witch. Plus many others. Instead of demi-humans, the game includes a variety of fictional human cultures from which to create a character.

Peruse the Kickstarter page and this update thread on the OD&D Discussion Forum for many examples of the fantastic art commissioned for this new edition by at least ten artists, including Russ Nicholson of Fiend Folio and Fighting Fantasy fame. Nicholson's artwork remains very much in the style of his Fiend Folio work (which I love), for example see this piece posted in the OD&D thread:

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

TSR Print-On-Demand

Screenshot of the new options

Old school D&D is coming back "in print"!

Yesterday WOTC added a print-on-demand option to several of the TSR classics available on DMsGuild (aka DriveThruRPG aka RPGNow). Currently, only a handful of random products are included, but more should be added each week. You can find the products with the print options by going to, and then to "Narrow Results" at the top of the left sidebar and selecting "D&D Classics" under "Content" and "Print" under "Format". 

Link to the old school D&D items available for P.O.D.

[Disclosure: Link includes my Drivethru Affiliate # that gives me credit if you purchase]

Note there's an option to get the pdf along with the hardcopy for $2 extra.

Be warned that the print quality may vary greatly depending on the quality of the pdf. I looked at the previews for two pdfs. X2 Castle Amber has a poorly scanned pdf, and I saw a comment on G+ that the map(s) are incomplete (I couldn't confirm this from the limited preview). The pdf of L1 The Secret of Bone Hill looked better, so it may make for a decent printed copy. Also, from what I've heard the cover will be attached, not loose as in the original TSR modules, and all maps will appear in the books in the same order as they as they do in the pdf. Basically just a straight print of whatever you see in the pdf. I'll update this as further buyer reports come in.

More discussion on my favorite forums:  

And here's an announcement by the product manager on RPGnet:!&p=20593831#post20593831

Hopefully the recent OD&D reprints will be included soon!

I can't make this post without mentioning that Holmes Basic still remains unavailable in pdf format, let alone print-on-demand. New pdf offerings are still being added on a weekly basis, so hopefully it's still in the queue.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Beren and Luthien (2017)

Tolkien's "Beren and Luthien" story will be published next year in a stand-alone format edited by Christopher Tolkien and fully illustrated by Alan Lee. This is per a Harper Collins press release, as reported on Too Many Books, a blog by Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull, who have written many annotated Tolkien books. 

This format should give the story the attention it deserves; to the general public its currently just another part of the often-overlooked Silmarillion.

Apparently the main portion of this book will be the original form of the story as written by Tolkien in 1917 (and published in the Lost Tales), supplemented by material from later versions. I believe the later source text for the Silmarillion chapter has never been published in full, so this book may include be some unpublished material last prose version has never been published in full so there may be some unpublished material included.

Update: Great post by John Garth discussing the possible content of the book.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Gygaxian Orc Tribes

Fighting Man, Magic-User and Cleric take on dungeon orcs. By David Sutherland III.

Gary Gygax on the orc tribes of Castle Greyhawk, EnworldQ&A 2/2/04:
"The orcs in the dungeon were of two separate tribes, but I have forgotten the names I gave them. As near as I can recollect, one was the Grinning Skull and the other was the Bloody Axe. They were all cut down or made into vassals by Robilar and Terik, with a good deal of assistance from Tenser."

Chronology of Orc Tribes in Gygaxian D&D:

Lord of the Rings: Tolkien is, of course, the original source of orcs and their tribes. Aragorn refers to Saruman's Isengarders as "Orcs of the White Hand" (TT, Bk 1, Ch 2) after seeing shields with a
"small white hand in the centre of a black field" (TT, Bk 1, Ch 1). He notes that orcs "in the service of Barad-dur [Sauron's tower] use the sign of the Red Eye" (TT, Bk 1, Ch 1). Pippin and Merry later see Mordor orcs with "a red eye painted on their shields" (TT, Bk 1, Ch 3). Also called the Evil Eye in at least two instances; for example, "One [orc-helmet] fitted Frodo well enough, a black cap with iron rim, and iron hoops covered with leather upon which the Evil Eye was painted in red above the beaklike nost-guard" (RoTK, Bk 2, Ch 1). There is at least one further group; In Cirith Ungol, Sam notices two liveries, "one marked by the Red Eye, the other by a Moon disfigured with a ghastly face of death" (RotK, Bk 2, Ch 1). The Moon device is that of the Witch-King, ruler of Minas Morgul, formerly the Tower of the Moon.

Chainmail (1971): The names of five tribes are given, all based on Tolkien:

  • Orcs of the Red Eye
  • Orcs of Mordor
  • Orcs of the Mountains
  • Orcs of the White Hand
  • Isengarders
These are from the 2nd print (1972), but are presumably also in the 1st. They were removed from later printings along with other Tolkien references. The list is duplicative because in the Lord of the Rings, the Orcs of the Red Eye are the same as the Orcs of Mordor, and the Orcs of the White Hand are Isengarders. The Orcs of the Red Eye and White Hand also appeared in Patt's earlier Rules for Middle Earth (The Courier, 1970). Falconer pointed out that Arneson used these same five names, as seen in the First Fantasy Campaign (1977, Judges Guild).

Battle of the Brown Hills (pg 8-10 of the Wargamer's Newsletter #116, November 1971):

In this article, Gygax describes a fantasy battle between the forces of Law and Chaos, played using the Chainmail rules. Notably, the forces of Chaos include three tribes: Orcs of the Mountains (wielding sword & shield or bows), Orcs of the Vile Rune (wielding sword & shield) and Orcs of the Longspear (presumably wielding long spears). We can surmise shields would feature each tribe's device.

OD&D Vol 2 (1st print, 1974): "the number of different tribes of Orcs can be as varied as desired, basing the decision on Tolkien or random chance". No tribe names are given. The reference to "Tolkien or random chance" was deleted in later printings.

Scruby Fantasy 30mm minis (1975): Per Gygax on Enworld (10/8/07), "Jack Scruby began casting orcs, so we had real miniatures for them -- the Orcs of the Vile Rune whose symbol was a fist with a raised digit."

Holmes (July 1977): "There are many tribes or nations of orcs".

Monster Manual (Dec 1977): Here we get Gygaxian tribe names, including: 

  • Vile Rune (as seen previously in the Battle for the Brown Hills)
  • Bloody Head (perhaps the actual name for Grinning Skull?)
  • Death Moon (perhaps inspired by the Moon device of Minas Morgul?)
  • Broken Bone
  • Evil Eye (perhaps an update of Red Eye?)
  • Leprous Hand (perhaps an update of White Hand?)
  • Rotting Eye
  • Dripping Blade (perhaps the actual name for Bloody Axe?)
Gone are the names directly from Tolkien, but he sticks to a similar two-word style.

Gygax further notes that a "standard is always present where the tribal chief is" and "Their garments are tribal colors, as are shield devices or trim".

Dungeon Masters Guide (Aug 1979): This introduces a major new facet of humanoid tribes, including orcs, that departs from Tolkien: shamans & witch doctors (pg 40). These became a standard part of humanoid tribes, as shown by the citation from WG4 below.

B2 Keep on the Borderlands (1979): In the Caves of Chaos, there are two rival orc tribes in Caves B & C. This is the only type of humanoid having two different groups. The tribe in Cave B decorates its cave entrance with "cheerful greetings" - heads and skulls placed in niches in a wall - perhaps a reference to the Grinning Skull/Bloody Head/Bloody Skull tribe. And Falconer notes that the leader of Cave C wields a magic hand axe - a possible reference to the Bloody Axe tribe. So the two tribes of the Caves of Chaos are in some ways analogous to the two tribes of the Greyhawk Castle dungeons. 

World of Greyhawk Folio (1980): Includes a series of shield devices for various kingdoms, including a grinning human skull for the "Orcs of the Pomarj" (the dominant humanoid of the Pomarj). This device was retained in the World of Greyhawk boxed set (1983). It's possible that Gygax was remembering this device when he mentioned "Grinning Skull" as the possible name of the Greyhawk Castle tribe.

Orcs of the Pomarj

Developments from Stonefist to South Province (Dragon #57, Jan 1982): "Three major groups vie for control of the whole of the Bone March. The most powerful group, until the Battle of the Loftwood, was the humanoid group under the orcs of the Vile Rune. Now paramount are the orcs of the Death Moon tribe. Both groups have considerable numbers of various sorts of humanoids serving them. Both are also led by half-orcs and assisted by evil humans. The third power group is a force of ogres and gnolls based in the hills at the head of the Teesar Torrent" (pg 15).

The Gods of the Orcs (Dragon #62, June 1982): "The division of orcs into separate tribes (Evil Eye, Death Moon, Broken Bone, etc.) is usually made along cult lines. The tribal symbol is the holy symbol of the orcish god the tribe holds as its patron" (pg 29). "Luthic’s worship is one of the few that allow male and female orcs to become clerics ... Orcs in her tribe (Vile Rune) generally dwell underground, and seem to commit fewer raids against other creatures, though they are especially fierce if their lair is threatened" (pg 32). This is an article by Roger E. Moore detailing the gods of the Orcs other than Gruumsh, who appeared in Deities & Demigods (1980). Gygax later incorporated the article into Unearthed Arcana (1985) with credit to Moore.

WG4 Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun (1982): "These are Orcs of the Rotting Eye tribe, belonging to the clan of the Jagged Knife. The standard is a huge, glaive like knife blade with a serrated edge ... colored a rust red and atop a long shaft, beneath it being the circular target depicting a rotting eye colored yellow green and red. This symbol is repeated on the shields of the soldiers, with the jagged-bladed knife seeming to grow out of the rotting eye device. Guards and ranking figures wear dull red clothing. The sub-chief, shaman, and chief also have cloaks of yellowish green, the chief‘s being striped with red, the shaman’s merely bordered with that color" (pg 8). This module is set in the Yatil Mountains of Greyhawk.

Castle Zagyg (2008): The first dungeon level ("Storerooms") has a Bloody Skull orc tribe. Bloody Skull may have been the actual name, or was used to replace Bloody Head as the name was already published in the Monster Manual. Update: I also checked the earlier Yggsburgh hardcover (2005). There are some orc encounters, but no mention of tribes.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Thomas Cole, DM

Inspired by the If Romantic-Era Artists Ran D&D Campaigns post on the Against the Wicked City blog, here's one for Thomas Cole. An early 19th-century American landscape artist, most associated with the Hudson River School, Cole also painted European ruins (while traveling), historical & biblical scenes, allegories and fantastic landscapes.

As DM, Cole would start the first level PCs with a ruined tower over a seaside cliff, the former abode of a strange wizard...

Italian Seacoast with Ruined Tower

And then onto a sturdy keep on the border of the wild lands...

Then deep into a wilderness hexcrawl...

And into the dungeons beneath the ruins of a castle built by a mad demigod...

Ruins of Kenilworth Castle

In search of stolen artifacts hidden in a mountain with a white plume of smoke...

Mount Aetna

Against the giants...

Titan's Goblet

And finally on to the other planes of existence...