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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.                    ...

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Gary Con XII Goes Virtual!

Gary Con XII has gone virtual due to COVID-19! 

It starts today, March 26th and runs through Sunday March 29th. 

Tabletop Events has a completely separate site for Virtual Gary Con, and badges are free to all, even if you weren't signed up for the physical con. There are over 650 events on the schedule (mostly RPG, but also including seminars and other group events), and at least 230 of those still have seats available. And you can still sign up for games. The Gary Con Facebook Group is probably the most active site to check in to see what's going on during the con. 

Before last weekend, I had never played on-line, let alone GM'd a game, so I didn't feel comfortable signing up to run one of my previously scheduled games for VGC. But I am signed up to play in a bunch of games using a variety of formats (Roll20, Astral Tabletop, Zoom, Discord, Google Hangouts, Skype), so I am using this as opportunity to learn so I will be able run a game this way in the future.

Last Saturday night I played in a game in Roll20 for the first time. This was run by Scott of my local group, playtesting a game for Virtual Gary Con, "Scooby Doo and the Ghost of Vault 74", a Scooby/Fallout mashup run using Savage Worlds rules. I played Scoob himself. I had to learn a lot of Roll20 technical details, but overall I found it worked very well and enjoyed the session. Scott put a lot of effort into making a fun map for us to interact with. We used the audio/video in the game rather than a separate program, which worked well enough for me. The screenshot below is the welcome screen (from post-session, I didn't think to capture a shot during the game and I wouldn't want to spoil any of it anyway).

See you at the con!

Thursday, March 19, 2020

The Ruined Tower of Zenopus Adaptation by An Abominable Fancy

Joel Priddy over at An Abominable Fancy has a great series of posts on his adaptation of The Ruined Tower of Zenopus to his own game world! 

Here is an excerpt:

"Portown becomes Bandar Arzoo, an outpost of Parsas, the pseudo-Persia of my campaign. Built on the ruins of an ancient city, the base of most of the buildings are large blocks of milky-white rock, fitted without mortar, remnants from the ruin. The town's master is a badly-mutilated Rakshasa in magical disguise, bidding his time being devilishly charming and enjoying what luxuries his position affords until he is sufficiently recovered to cause some real trouble.
The Green Dragon Inn becomes Tennin Ad-ham, which serves a spiked wine called The Mother of All Evils.
Zenopus' tower is called Tabah, the ruin, by those who don't recall the story of Zenopus, and the Thaumaturgist's tower is Beda-At, the new tower."

Here are links to the six parts; the last also has links back to all of them:

Nutshell Review & Prep Notes Part One: Room A

Part Two: Rooms B-E

Part Three: Rooms F & G

Part Four: Rooms H-M

Part Five: Rooms N-S3

Part Six: Wandering Monsters

Thank you, Joel!

Product Link:
The Ruined Tower of Zenopus on DMs Guild

Monday, March 16, 2020

In Search of the Brazen Head of Scrum Con

Brazen Head illustration by John Sears of the 1000 Foot General

In seems incredible that Scrum Con 2020 was only two-and-half-weeks ago, in those halcyon pre-pandemic days.

In my Post-Op report I said I would write more about the game I ran, which was a session of In Search of the Brazen Head of Zenopus. The con program listing is shown above, with great Brazen Head art by John of the of the 1000 Foot General. It was scheduled to be at Table 14 in the Spring Room, but the game was actually ran in the upstairs Fenton room at the Civic Center; see the "dungeon map" of the site in this post.

This scenario is a sequel to the original Zenopus dungeon, set forty years later and using Holmes' characters from the Maze of Peril as pre-gens. 

IIRC, this was the fifth time that I have run this scenario. The four earlier occasions were: an initial playtest with my Local Group; a first con run at North Texas RPG Con in 2018 (with Chris Holmes playing!; pictures by players are here (Allan G.) and here (Noah G.)), and two sessions last year at Gary Con X; the first of which is written up here. I was supposed to run it again at Gary Con this year but the physical event has been canceled. I'd like to run it as part of Virtual Gary Con (badges and seats in available games are free to all!) but I have no experience with on-line games. I will play in at least one game at VGC in order to start gaining some experience in that milieu.

For Scrum Con, the game had a full table of players; with all of the pre-gens in play: Boinger, Zereth, Murray, Lady Hortensa, Sir Geoffrey, Brother Ambrose, Bardan, Olaf & Haldor (played together), Maximillian the Centaur and Sunna. I think this has happened only once before, in the first game I ran at Gary Con last year.

Olaf & Haldor character sheet and "table tent", photo by Ellen Levy

I'd like to share a full run-down of the game, but I'm still keeping the details secret to preserve certain surprises. So that will have to wait until some point in the future, perhaps after I publish it in some form.

I will say the Scrum Con group played their characters strategically. David H., playing Boinger, made an extremely innovative use of a found magic item, which made for a very memorable encounter. This group was also the first group to enter a certain part of the dungeon, so it was fun to get to playtest that area for the first time. Here is another photo of the game, different from the one I posted in my earlier post:

Running In Search of the Brazen Head of Zenopus, photo by Ellen Levy

The group included at least four folks who are members of the Holmes Basic Facebook Group, none of whom I had met in person before. Thanks to everyone who participated; it was great to meet and game with you!

If you would like to see more photos of the con, there are over 400 (!) here in a post on the blog Scrum in Miniature, written by our prime motivator, Joe.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

The Ruined Tower of Zenopus goes Electrum!

The Ruined Tower of Zenopus hit Electrum Best Seller status on DMs Guild last week! I've updated the image on the product page to include the Electrum badge; this is shown above but won't show up on the actual purchased pdf.

It's currently on sale for $1.79 as part of the site-wide sale for DM's Day (March 4th, the anniversary of the passing of Gary Gygax), which runs through the 15th.

Again, a big thank you to everyone who has purchased it, plus an even bigger thank you to those who have taken the time to write out a review it, including:

Old School Tumblr
Erik Jensen via Twitter
Noah at the Hapless Henchmen
Joel at the Abominable Fancy 

And any others I'm forgetting at the moment!

If you have purchased and have a moment, it could use more Ratings and short Reviews on the DMs Guild site itself.

If you missed it, I was recently on the Wandering DMs chatting live about the Ruined Tower, and it is was recorded.

Product Link:
The Ruined Tower of Zenopus on DMs Guild

Monday, March 9, 2020

Wandering DMs Live Chat Recording

had a great time chatting with the Wandering DMs yesterday! We focused on the Ruined Tower of Zenopus and the original Sample Dungeon but naturally the conversation ranged to other Holmes-related & old school D&D topics.

The archive video recording of our conversation can now be found on their YT channel here:

Wandering DMs Season 02 Episode 10

There are also a podcast versions (no video) available in various places: Wandering DMs site Spotify Apple Podcasts Stitcher Listen Notes

Thank you to Dan & Paul for having me on their show!

Saturday, March 7, 2020

I will be a guest on Wandering DMs live chat tomorrow

FYI, I will be a guest on the Wandering DMs live chat tomorrow at 1 PM EST with hosts Delta & Paul!

They are fellow bloggers at Delta's DND Hotspot and Paul's Gameblog, respectively.

Their YT channel is here:

The twitter promo is here:
"Set your clocks right, because we've got Zach from @ZenopusArchives on the show tomorrow to talk about his smash-hit Ruined Tower of Zenopus on DM's Guild, and his unmatched knowledge of Holmes Basic #DnD (1 PM Sunday)"

Thursday, March 5, 2020

The Scrum Con Ad for the Ruined Tower of Zenopus

This is the advertisement for The Ruined Tower of Zenopus that was printed in the program for Scrum Con 2020! This sharp design was created by Second Saturday Scrum Club member John, who blogs at the 1000 Foot General. Read more about the adventure module in my earlier post.

The link in the ad ( goes to the DMs Guild page for the product. Coincidentally, they are having a 20% off sale for DM's Day, so the pdf is now only $1.79.

The entire Scrum Con program can now be viewed on Facebook here. There is also an ad for the second issue of Bayt Al Azif, edited by Jared Smith, which among lots of fantastic Call of Cthulhu scenarios includes a reprint of Holmes' 1983 review of the Call of Cthulhu, along with notes by myself. Read more about this here.

John also did illustrations and layout for the program book, which is a thing of beauty, including a neat dungeon map of the convention center. The editor of the program is Joe Procopio who blogs at Scrum in Miniature, and the photography is by Ellen Levy.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Scrum Con 2020 Post-Op

Scrum Con 2020 Program designed by the 1000 Foot General

Scrum Con 2020 was a resounding success! 

A big thank you to the organizers (the Scrum Club), the hard-working GMs, the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society (HMGS), who supported the con with a grant, and all of the attendees who came out and played in the games.

Guest of Honor Zeb Cook running Star Frontiers. Source: the FB Album

A large number of photos are up in a album on the Scrum Con Facebook pageMost of the games at the con are represented, and most are annotated with the names of the GM, scenario and rules system. So you can click through the gallery and see and read about what was played. There were two sessions, morning (10-2) and afternoon (3:30-7:30), with a few shorter sessions starting at other times. The games were an even split between Miniatures and RPGs. Update: there are now over 400 photos in a post on the Scrum in Miniature.

A familiar fiend appeared in Noah G's Dungeon Hack+ game

I've also re-tweeted a bunch of photos from the day, adding the #scrumcon2020 tag.

And there is another con report by John at the 1000 Foot General, a member of the Scrum Club who also ran a session of his Star Schlock game and also designed an impressive program for the con (photo above).

Registration Desk after the morning rush

The games were spread across three rooms in the new venue, the Silver Spring Civic Center which everyone seemed to like. Being a member of the Scrum Club, I helped out around the registration desk in the morning, while my son played in Dragon Hunt, a Blood & Swash miniatures game run by Eric Schlegel of the HAWKS (Harford Area Weekly Kriegspielers). 

The Flea Market was popular all day, with items coming and going, including an extra copy of Dragon Strike (TSR, 1993) that I sold, and a beautiful original Monster Manual that I picked up. Thank you to the Scrum Club members and auxiliaries who manned the fort there.

Food options were plentiful around the site; Cava was basically the closest, which is where we had lunch. After the con a number of us went to McGinty's Public House for dinner, a short walk up the block.

Me (in Sauron cap) running the Brazen Head

In the afternoon I ran In Search of the Brazen Head of Zenopus in the upstairs Fenton room. I'll write more about it in another blog post. 

At the same time my son played in A Dead Man in Deptford, a wild miniatures (Frostgrave) game set in an alternate reality Elizabethan London, where he was William Shakespeare! This was run by Jeff Wasileski. Below are a few shots I took of this game. The first shows the view my son had sitting at the table; he felt like he was actually in a town.

The picture below was taken just after his party recovered "a work of magical dramaturgy that would open the door to another dimension" in an attic and leapt out the window to escape a demon, leaving one injured and doomed member of their party behind to guard the exit. Nearby is a model representing the Globe Theatre!