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The Forgotten Smugglers' Cave: Index of Posts

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

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Danse Macabre Filmstrip (1963)

A re-post from 2017, and 2013 before that:

For Halloween, here's something haunting that I remember watching in music class in late elementary school, around the same time I discovered D&D (1982). It's a 1963 educational filmstrip with fantastic watercolors by Harold Dexter Hoopes, set to the eerie music of Danse Macabre by Saint-Saens. It was unavailable on the web until a few years ago but now there are multiple versions on YouTube, one of which has better colors but includes a loud "filmstrip advance" beep throughout. There isn't much info available on the internet about the artist Hoopes. There was even a blog dedicated to restoring the individual frames of this filmstrip but it seems to have stalled out at frame 20.

There's also a later second edition of the filmstrip done in the mid-80s with art by David Prebenna, later an illustrator of Sesame Street/Muppet toddler books. It's cartoony and less haunting, but also worth watching.

Memories of this filmstrip led me to include "Danse Macabre" in my One Hit Point Monsters.

Happy All Hallow's Evening!

2020 Update:

Re-posted with an improved video now available on YT.

Monday, October 19, 2020

The Forgotten Smugglers' Cave #6: Bloody Mess

This is an installment of a new dungeon adventure set in the Portown milieu, which I'm writing for Holmes Basic D&D. You can find the Introduction to the dungeon here: Area 1.

Each entry includes part of a "pointcrawl" map showing the area & any exits, which include links allowing you to navigate the dungeon:
Area 5

6. BLOODY MESS. The only entrance to this cave is the tunnel from Area 5 to the south, a narrow (single-file only), winding, and rubble-filled passage. Moving north through this passage, characters will note increasing humidity, a strong acrid smell, and reddish guano on the floor. 

The cave itself is oval, about 20 ft. east-west and 30 ft. north-south, with many stalactites, some dripping water. The floor is covered in bloody red guano-covered rubble, making it slippery and difficult to traverse (all attacks by characters are made at -4, with a modified 1 on the attack indicating the attacker has slipped). The area is pitch black during the day due to the winding passage blocking light from the south.

Bats. A large colony of vampire bats has taken up residence here, exiting to the surface through the chimney in Area 5. Unless already awakened by noise to the south (see Area 5), during the day they will be asleep on the ceiling, hidden among the stalactites. Characters moving about this room have a 1 in 6 chance of waking them per person in the room, per round (i.e., 2 in 6 for two, 3 in 6 for three, etc), at which point they will begin flying about, hungry for blood. If awakened here, 1d8 of the bats will begin attacking each round.

Vampire Bats21-40 (20 + 1d20): DX 18, AC 3 (9 while attached), HD 1/8, hp 1 each, AT 1 bite for 1 point damage, attaches on a successful hit and then automatically drains 1 hp per round for two rounds, at which point it is full and will detach and fly away.

Vampire Bats by Lore Suto

Old Well. In the northeast corner of the room, there is a 3'-wide hole in the floor where water dripping from the ceiling and running across the floor pools 8 ft. down. A rusted chain is fixed to a piton near the edge, and hangs down into the water. The chain is about 12 ft long, and a metal bucket is attached to the end of the chain, below the surface of the water. If the bucket is pulled up it will be filled with bloody-looking water (fouled by the guano). Etched on the bottom of the bucket is a rough map showing Areas 5-7, including the secret passage in Area 7.

The only exit from this room is back to the south. Follow the link on the above map.

Chronologically on this blog, the previous installment was Area 5 and the next was Area 7.

Trivia: As I mentioned back in the One Hit Point Monster post, in the Combat section of the Basic rulebook, Holmes provides a vampire bat as an example of "a small fast creature" that would have a lower armor class (AC3) than one would expect based solely its natural armor.

Friday, October 16, 2020

"Frontiers in Brain Research": Audio of Holmes' Neurology Lecture at Worldcon in 1978

Flyer for World Con 36 aka Iguanacon. Click for a larger view.

Here's a forgotten artifact that has just resurfaced
an audio recording of a lecture given by J. Eric Holmes at Worldcon 36 in 1978 (aka Iguanacon; each one has a unique name). It's titled "Frontiers in Brain Research"  Holmes was a professor of neurology at USC — and is almost hour and half in length! 

A direct link to the recording, which you can download & listen to like a podcast:

Frontiers in Brain Research

(214.5 MB mp3, length 1:29:22)

The recording starts with announcement identifying it as a product of Cassette Communications Corporation, a company that made recordings at the con and then offered them on sale for $6 a tape to con-goers. Here is their flyer from World Con 36:

Click on the image for a larger view

Per the flyer, if you ordered six tapes ($30), you received received a bonus "custom album" holder; I found a picture of one of these from an old Ebay auction of Harlan Ellison recordings:

There are a few technical glitches in the recording: Holmes was already speaking when the recoding began, so there is no introduction, although it is still clearly near the beginning where he is outlining what he will be talking about. There is also a break in his speech not too far in where the recording seems to have been stopped and started again. And there is some background hiss, not unexpected for those of us that remember audio cassette recordings.

But overall this is a real treat: we get to hear Holmes speaking clearly (the first time I have heard his voice!) and at length on a topic that he knows extremely well. He keeps it light with periodic jokes and the audience is very enthusiastic, asking many questions; the last half-hour or so is a Q&A following the lecture.

The recording is hosted on AZFandom (Arizona Fandom), "a site dedicated to Arizona fandom from its beginnings in the late 1960s to its future in the years to come", which has a page for conventions held in Arizona, including one for Worldcon 36, which includes a section of audio recordings.

The Sci-Fi & Fantasy Fan preservation site Fanac also has a page with a wealth of documentation of Worldcon 38 / Iguanacon.

Per the Pocket Program, Holmes gave his lecture from 11:30 am to 12:45 pm on Saturday, September 2nd, 1978 in the Phoenix Room of the Hyatt Regency, shown here: 

Sketch of the Hyatt from the convention program

I asked Chris Holmes about this, and he recalls attending this convention with his father but no other details. To put this in context, t
his was less than a month after they had attended Gen Con XI (Aug 17-20), where J. Eric Holmes was a Guest of Honor, gave a lecture on "Fantasy Literature, Fantasy Art & Fantasy Gaming", and ran two D&D games, D&D For Beginners and D&D on Barsoom.

Chris (left) and J. Eric Holmes (right) at Gen Con XI. Source: Dragon #20

Full page ad for Gen Con XI that mentions Holmes, which ran in Dragon #15 and #16.

Holmes had a history of presenting research in his area of study for the science fiction fan, having written several science articles for the magazine Analog Science Fact and Fiction, including:

He later went on to co-author, with David F. Lindsley, a college textbook titled Basic Human Neurophysiologywhich was published in 1984 by Elsevier:

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

The Forgotten Smugglers' Cave #5: Smugglers' Bunk

This is an installment of a new adventure for Holmes Basic D&D. You can find the Introduction to the dungeon here: Area 1.

Each entry includes part of a "pointcrawl" map showing the area & any exits, which include links allowing you to navigate the dungeon:

Area 6

 === Area 7
Area 3

SMUGGLERS' BUNK: This is a dry, sandy cave, roughly oval (70 ft east-west by 50 ft north-south). During the day, the room is dimly lit by a narrow natural chimney to the surface in the center of the ceiling (30 ft. high), although there are also several rusty torch sconces affixed to the walls. Beneath the chimney is a rock-ringed shallow pit, and scattered around the room are ten decaying wooden pallets.

Exits. There are three tunnels exiting the room. To the north, the tunnel leads 70 feet to Area 3 (if players look down this tunnel, check out the description in that Area). To the east, a tunnel leads 60 feet to Area 7. To the south, a tunnel leads 60 feet to Area 3.

Bats. Each turn spent searching this room has a 1 in 6 chance of waking a colony of vampire bats in Area 6 to the north. If this happens, 1d4 bats will begin arriving each round. 

Vampire Bats21-40 (20 + 1d20): DX 18, AC 3 (9 while attached), HD 1/8, hp 1 each, AT 1 bite for 1 point damage, attaches on a successful hit and then automatically drains 1 hp per round for two rounds, at which point it is full and will detach and fly away.

Firepit. The pit was once used for fires by the smugglers but now filled with sand. Digging in the sand will at first reveal only layers of old ashes, and then sand again, but several feet beneath this sand there is a waterproof, locked box of bronze (worth 50 g.p. itself) containing 500 pieces of eight (large silver coins equal to electrum in value), 3 gems worth 100 g.p. each and an etching showing the location of a lost pirate fortress (DM's choice; one possibility is the Judges Guild module the Corsairs of Tallibar by Mike Wilson).

Junk. The wooden pallets were once used for sleeping. Searching around them will uncover a number of discarded personal effects, half-buried in the sand. Much of it is worthless (rusted utensils, ceramic shards, broken bottles), but each turn spent searching the area will turn up one of the following (roll 1d6), but also give a chance of waking the bats (see above).

i. A broken cutlass with a fancy engraved hilt, worth 100 g.p. to a weaponsmith.

ii. A hook hand, well-preserved because it is made of bronze, and worth 150 g.p.

iii. A shark-shaped key of wrought iron that will open the doors in the catacombs in Area 24.

iv. A wax-sealed fifth of fine spiced rum; 1d10 swigs remain, with each swig giving a temporary boost of 1d4 hp, usable once per day per person.

v. Strangely well-preserved cavalier boots, which are boots of nimble feet, with 20 + 1d4 charges remaining.

vi. A decaying leather case holding a fine skeletal spyglass, which when used will give x-ray vision (as a potion) for 1 turn per day but also bestow a minor illusionary curse lasting 1 day that makes the viewing eye appear as an empty socket, even if covered with a patch, reducing Charisma to 3. The power of the spyglass only lasts as long it is kept on the eye; once removed, the single charge is expended for that day. Per OD&D Vol 3, x-ray vision allows the viewer to see through up to 10 ft. of rock or 6 inches of iron and to a total distance of 30 ft.

The adventure continues in several directions from here. Follow the links on the above map; if there is no link, the area is not yet posted.

Chronologically on this blog, the next posted installment was Area 6.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

The Forgotten Smugglers' Cave #4: End of the Line

This is an installment of a new dungeon adventure set in the Portown milieu, which I'm writing for Holmes Basic D&D. You can find the Introduction to the dungeon here: Area 1.

Each entry includes part of a "pointcrawl" map showing the area & any exits, which include links allowing you to navigate the dungeon:

Area 3  ===  4. END OF THE LINE 

4. END OF THE LINE: The rusty rails from Area 3 extend east into tunnel 10 ft. wide and high, the walls and floor of which show occasional signs of being worked to widen and smooth the passage. The tunnel slopes up slightly to the east, and there is no natural light here. Every so often an odd bit of timber, rope or metal, or empty rum bottle lies discarded at one side or the other of the tunnel. Heading east, every 20 feet there are old timbers shoring up the ceiling. 

Cave-in. At 150 feet, the passage ends at a mass of collapsed rubble and a few timbers, which covers the rails and completely blocks the way further east, which once continued towards Portown.

Discards. Scattered about on the floor in front of this area are a torn open backpack and several other pieces of equipment, all that remains of a failed attempt by a previous explorer to flee down this passage from the carrion crawler in Area 3. The pack is empty but contains a concealed pocket holding a large rough agate (worth 100 g.p. if properly polished; see Area 3 for the reputed property of agates) and the other equipment consists of 3 torches, an empty tinderbox, a rusty dagger, an oil flask, and another apparent oil flask that on closer inspection will be revealed to be filled with a red liquid (a potion of healing).

Despite the name, this is not the end of the adventure, merely a dead end in one direction from Area 3. 

Chronologically on this blog, the next posted installment was Area 5.

Monday, October 5, 2020

The Forgotten Smugglers' Cave illustrated: The Old Rowboat

"The Old Rowboat" by Lore Suto. Click for a larger view.

Above is another new illustration by Lore Suto for Area 3 (Grotto with Rocky Beach) of The Forgotten Smugglers' Cave. I will be adding the image to that post, but I'm also posting it here to highlight it.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

The Forgotten Smugglers' Cave #3: Grotto with Rocky Beach

This is an installment of a new dungeon adventure set in the Portown milieu, which I'm writing for Holmes Basic D&D. You can find the Introduction to the dungeon here: Area 1.

Each entry includes part of a "pointcrawl" map showing the area & any exits, which include links allowing you to navigate the dungeon:

Area 5
Area 2 ===
 === Area 4
Area 8

3. GROTTO WITH ROCKY BEACH: The east end of the sea cave tunnel (Area 2) opens into a large natural cave, roughly circular with a 50 ft. diameter. During the day, the area is very dimly lit by natural light from the north. When the first character enters, check to see if they are attacked by a carrion crawler that lairs here (see below). 

From the entrance, it can be seen that the sea water ends in the grotto in a semi-circular pool, which at low tide is 10 feet in radius and 3 feet deep (20 feet in radius and 13 feet deep at high tide). Beyond the water is a pebble and stone-covered beach that covers the floor of the remainder of the grotto. Stalactites hang overhead, and there are some stalagmites near the walls. In the northeast portion of the cave, well past the high tide line, is an old turned-over rowboat.

Exits. There are three other exits: north, east and south. If investigated, the one to the north is a natural passage that goes 60 feet before opening up (Area 5). To the east, a rusted pair of cart rails start about 10 feet before the exit, and then extend into the tunnel for as far as can be seen (the tunnel and rails go 150 feet before ending at a collapse, which is Area 4). There is no cart present. To the south, another natural passage goes 140 feet before opening up (Area 8). 

Inhabitant. During low tide, which is the most likely time that the party will be entering, there is a 2 in 6 chance that the carrion crawler will be fishing from the wall above the pool (3 in 6 at medium tide, 4 in 6 a high tide). If so, there is then a 2 in 6 chance that it will attack each character as they enter (check for each person), surprising them on 1-4 in 6.  

Carrion Crawler: DX 12, AC 7, HD 3+1, hp 14, AT 8, D 0 + paralysis.

If the carrion crawler is not fishing, it will either be on a wall of the grotto (3 on the initial die roll), or under the old rowboat (4-6 on the roll)
Carrion Crawler by Lore Suto

Rocky Beach. This was once the unloading area for the smugglers. An inspection of the rocks of the beach will turn up numerous bones, mostly of fish, but several that are human, evidently those of previous explorers who became victims of the carrion crawler, and possibly some agates.

Agates. For each turn spent searching the rocks, there is a 1 in 6 chance of finding a beach agate, up to a maximum of 1d10 agates. The base value of each is 10 g.p., with a chance of being worth more per the rules of the Gems table (i.e., a 1 in 6 chance of being worth 50 g.p., and if so there is a 1 in 6 chance of being worth 100 g.p., etc.). As agates are reputed to improve sleep (AD&D DMG, pg 26), optionally allow a character who keeps one of 100 g.p. or greater on their person at all times to gain 1 extra hit point per night of rest.

The Old Rowboat by Lore Suto

Old Rowboat.  The carrion crawler nests here when not elsewhere in the area, although it has no treasure. If the boat is examined, it will be noted that its wood is remarkably well-preserved for its age due to waterproofing with pine pitch, and that it can hold 4 people. It is too large to fit through the entrance to the sea cave (Area 1). A pitted iron anchor weighing 10 lbs rests against the grotto wall behind the rowboat, but there are no oars present.

Optional: The rowboat will leak unless re-waterproofed using fresh pine pitch (some of which can be found in Area 7). Omit this in a game with limited time, such as at a convention.

The adventure continues in several directions from here; follow the links on the above map. Chronologically on this blog, the next posted installment was Area 4.

A hearty thanks to Lore Suto for kindly contributing the original art featured above!