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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.                    ...

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

The Forgotten Smugglers' Cave: Vampire Bats by Lore Suto


Artist Lore Suto (@loresuto on Twitter) has provided us with this terrifically frightening illustration of the Vampire Bats that dwell in The Forgotten Smugglers' Cave, an Holmes/OD&D adventure that I have been serializing on this blog, starting here

This illustration would make a great visual to show to the players if the bats are attracted by noise to the former Smugglers' Bunk (Area 5), or if they are stirred up in their lair (Area 6).

My most recent post in this series was back in October, but I have been working on it again recently, and will soon be posting the next installment, Area #7: Dry Storage.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Holmes for the Holidays 2020

Back for the pandemic, it's "Holmes for the Holidays"!

For this year, I've got an extra copy of Dragon #58 (February 1982), which features the Boinger and Zereth story, "In the Bag"The condition isn't the best: while the front cover looks like fine (see above), the back cover has a tear 2/3rds of the way across (it could be taped pretty easily), and the "Spellminders" counters from the center of the magazine are missing. Buy hey, it's free!

"In the Bag" was the last of Holmes' three Boinger and Zereth stories to appear in Dragon, and also the last of his writing of any kind for the magazine. Chronologically, it is set after "The Sorcerer's Jewel", as Boinger mentions that adventure, which had appeared one year earlier in Dragon #46 (February 1981). Murray and Olaf from The Maze of Peril also return in this story, and there are also references to Amazons and Dagon from that story (which at the time of this story, had been written but not yet been published).

The story is delightfully illustrated throughout by Donna Barr, an artist I'm not otherwise familiar with, but per wikipedia she illustrated other RPG products and comics books. While the Tales of Peril compilation includes "In the Bag", it does not include Barr's illustrations, which means this issue retains some draw for the Holmes collector.

The cover of Dragon #58 is by Clyde Caldwell - his second for the magazine - and features a castle with a skull-shaped gate reminiscent of Skull Mountain or Castle Greyskull (although Caldwell's painting is dated 1981 and it says here that the first He-Man toys were released in 1982). And to me, the lizard-riding, spear-wielding dwarf also recalls the lizard rider image featured at the top of this blog. 

The issue also include an article by the late Lenard Lakofka, "Beefing up the cleric", that details a bunch of new "official" cleric spells, which were later compiled in Unearthed Arcana. The article is introduced by Gary Gygax, who writes "All readers should be aware that Len Lakofka has been of considerable aid and assistance in formulating the whole of the AD&D game system".

* * * * *

For the give-away I will use the same system as before: 

If interested, leave a comment in reply to this post within the next two days, before automated moderation kicks in on this post. After two days, I will treat the list of comments as a table and roll randomly for the winner, using dice from a Holmes Basic set.

I'll cover postage (media mail) for any U.S. address. I can ship to other countries but I ask that you cover the difference (any amount over $4) in shipping by PayPal; so if you are overseas please only participate if you have a PayPal account and willing to chip in the extra. I'll estimate the exact shipping by weight and refund the difference if I overcharge.

Please note that due to the date I'm starting this that I probably won't get it in the mail until after Christmas.

* * * * * 

12/29 Update, including the Results:

I recruited two dice elves to make the rolls. There were less than 20 comments, so we used a Holmes white 20-sided die (numbered 0-9 twice) and an orange 6-sided die as the control die (1-3 = 1-10, 4-6 = 11-20).

After warming up the dice, we made the official roll...

...which indicates that number 7 is the winner! (the control die being a "1" means that it's "7" instead of 17). That's The Great Khan! 

Thanks to all who commented, and hopefully 2021 will be a better year for all.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

The Ruined Tower of Zenopus: Running it Retro II

Sarcophagus Skeletons by David Sutherland. An illustration for Room N,
although with a bit of artistic license as there is only one sarcophagus with an animated skeleton

This is the second post in a series of notes for running The Ruined Tower of Zenopus using old school D&D rules. It continues from the first post here. This post focuses on a roster of monster stats for the dungeon rooms.

Page 5: Printer-Friendly dungeon map. Usable as-is with any ruleset.

Pages 4-13: Areas of the Dungeon. Here is a Roster of Monsters:

Room A. Goblins: MV 60, AC 6, HD 1-1, AT 1 weapon for 1d6. For 1-3 PCs: 3 goblins; 4-5 PCs: 5 goblins; 6+ PCs, 7-8 goblins

Room B. 4 skeletons: MV 120, AC 8, HD 1/2, AT 1 claws for 1d6

Room F. The veteran smuggler: MV 60, AC 5 (chain), F2, hp 11, AT 1 sword+1 for 1d6, Str 12, Int 10, Wis 9, Con 13, Dex 10, Cha 12

The thaumaturgist: MV 120, AC 9, MU4, hp 9, AT 1 spell or 1 dagger for 1d6, Str 9, Int 16, Wis 9, Con 10, Dex 11, Cha 12. Spells: Read Magic, Charm Person, Magic Missile, Protection from Good, Wizard Lock, Web

Room G. 2d4 giant rats: MV 120, AC 7, HD 1/2, hp 2, AT 1 bite for 1d3 + 5% chance of disease

Room J. 1 giant spider (Holmes manuscript): MV 60, AC 3, HD 1, hp 4, AT 1 bite for 1d6 + save vs. poison

1 enormous spider (1st edition rulebook): MV 20 (100 in web), AC 3, HD 6, hp 31, AT 1 bite for 1d8 + save vs. poison at -1

1 giant spider (2nd edition rulebook): MV 30 (120 in web), AC 4, HD 4+4, hp 21, AT 1 bite for 2d4 + save vs. poison

Spider attack rules: 

1st round: If the room is entered incautiously, roll a die to select a PC, and then roll for the spider's attack on them. On a hit, the PC is knocked down (the original does not indicate whether this causes damage; it could be interpreted as a standard d6 of damage), and may not return a blow. Continue with rounds 2-4 below. On a miss, the next round instead switches to normal combat.

2nd round: If there was a knockdown, the spider gets an attack on the PC, who gets no return attack. Others may join combat now and attack the spider. 

3rd round: Spider gets an attack on the PC, who may attack at -2 while getting up.

4th round and after: Normal attacks on both sides.

Room L. 1 monstrous sand crab: MV 60, AC 3, HD 2, AT 2 pinchers for 2d6 each

Room M. 4 smugglers: MV 120, AC 7, HD NH, hp 4, AT 1 cutlass for 1d6

Lemunda: MV 120, AC 9, F2, hp 11, AT 1 dagger for 1d6, Str 10, Int 14, Wis 12, Con 15, Dex 12, Cha 17

1 giant octopus: MV 120 (swimming), AC 7, HD 3, hp 16, AT 6 tentacles for 0 + drag underwater

Room N. Endless giant rats: see Room G

1 flying dagger: MV 0, AC 3, HD 1, hp special, AT 1 for 1d6; if hit, motionless for 3 rounds

1 sarcophagus skeleton: MV 120, AC 7, HD 1, hp 7, AT 1 scimitar for 1d6

Room P.  2 ghouls: MV 90, AC 6, HD 2, hp 11, 9, AT claw/claw/bite for 1d3 each & paralysis

Option: 1d6 cultists: MV 120, AC 9, HD NH, AT 1 scimitar for 1d6

1 ghoul; as above, but with 7 hp

Room RT. Endless giant rats: see Room G

Option1 monstrous rat: MV 180, AC 5, HD 1-1, hp 7, AT 1 bite/1 claws for 1d3+1 each

1d6 giant rats: see Room G

Room S. 1 giant constrictor snake: MV 100, AC 6, HD 2, hp 13, AT 1 bite for 1d6

Room S2. Ape: MV 120, AC7, HD 2, hp 9, AT 1 pummel for 1d6

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

The Ruined Tower of Zenopus video review by captcorajus

Over on Youtube, captcorajus has a new video review of the Ruined Tower of Zenopus, part of the "RPG OSR Review" series on his channel. Followers of this blog may remember several of his earlier videos that I have featured here, including ones for Holmes Basic (2015), for the original version of the Tower of Zenopus (2019), and for the Maze of Peril (2020). There are also videos for a number of TSR modules and other RPG products. And as I mentioned in the post linking to the review of the Maze of Peril, I had the pleasure of meeting captcorajus at Scrum Con this past February, where he played Bardan the Dwarf in my Zenopus sequel game, In Search of the Brazen Head of Zenopus.

To watch the review, follow this link to YV or click on the video below:

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

The Ruined Tower of Zenopus: Running it Retro

Occasionally, I have been asked about a retro version of
The Ruined Tower of Zenopus (RTOZ); i.e., one for an old-school D&D or OSR ruleset. There is of course, the original adventure, still available as a free pdf on the Wizards site, but it doesn't include the content that I added. 

I would love to include such conversion notes in the adventure itself, but DMs Guild doesn't allow products to include rules for non-5e D&D systems. So instead I will post some notes here on the blog. These are written up for Holmes Ref, which uses OD&D to expand Holmes, but really should be sufficient for any old D&D (e.g., OD&D, B/X, AD&D 1E, AD&D 2E) or retroclone thereof. These notes focus on rules & assume that you have a copy of the RTOZ at hand.

Pages 1-3 don't require any retroversion. Page 1 is the cover; page 2 the introduction; and page 3 is my map of Portown and a description of the points of interest. No rules here!

Page 4

Doors: Force open on 1-2 in 6, optionally modified for strength (i.e., if using Strength adjustments for doors such as I included in the Rolling Up An Adventurer sheet for Holmes Ref or the bonuses given in the Greyhawk supplement). Repeat attempts are possible, but there is no chance for surprise after the first attempt. Doors can also be chopped apart with the right tools, such as axes; this takes 1 turn and makes such a racket that it necessitates an immediate check for wandering monsters.

Wandering Monsters:

Check as indicated; the rules given in the RTOZ are the same as in the original dungeon.

For the monsters, use the following stats. If running Holmes, you can use 1/10 of the MV as Dexterity for determining first strike, or roll it on the spot as suggested in the Holmes rules.

For HD, "NH" means "normal human". For Holmes, this means they have 1d6 hp and use on their own line on the combat and saving throw tables (which is -1 compared to a 1st level fighter). In OD&D, they would be treated as 1st level fighters.

The behavior and treasure for each monster can be left unchanged.

1. 1d3 goblins: MV 60, AC 6, HD 1-1, AT 1 weapon for 1d6

2. 1d3 zombies: MV 60, AC 8, HD 2, AT 1 claws for 1d8, only attack every other round

3. 1d3 skeletons: MV 120, AC 8, HD 1/2, AT 1 claws for 1d6

(Note: I use the Monster Manual move rates for zombies and skeletons, which is reversed from that of the Holmes rulebook. If you prefer, switch them back).

4. 1d6 giant rats: MV 120, AC 7, HD 1/2, AT 1 bite for 1d3 + 5% chance of disease

    1 monstrous rat: MV 180, AC 5, HD 1-1, AT 1 bite/1 claws for 1d3+1 each

5. 1d6 large sand crabs: MV 90, AC 6, HD 1/2, AT 2 pinchers for 1d4 each

6. 1d3 giant centipedes: MV 150, AC 9, HD 1/4, AT 1 bite for 0 but save vs. poison at +4

7. 1d6 smugglers: MV 120, AC 7, HD NH, AT 1 cutlass for 1d6

8. 1d3 large spiders: MV 60, AC 8, HD 1+1, AT 1 bite for 1 + save vs. poison at +2

9. 1d6 stirges: MV 180, AC 7, HD 1, AT 1 proboscis (at +2) for 1d3 & drain blood at 1d4/round

10. 1d6 cultists: MV 120, AC 9, HD NH, AT 1 scimitar for 1d6

11. 1 ghoul: MV 90, AC 6, HD 2, AT claw/claw/bite for 1d3 each & paralysis

12. 1 cleaning cube: MV 30, AC 9, HD 2, AT 1 touch for 1d4 & paralysis

Instead of an item from the 5E Trinkets table, the cleaning cube will be carrying a random piece of equipment from the Holmes Ref Equipment Reference Sheet


Holmes-style stat blocks are below. Use the descriptions from the RTOZ.

Monstrous Rat

Move: 180 feet/turn, 90 feet/turn swimming
Hit Dice: 1-1
Armor Class: 5
Treasure Type: Q
Attacks: 1 bite, 1 claws
Damage: 1d3 + 1 each

(I wrote this up previously as a "Giant Rat King" here)

Large Sand Crab

Move: 90 feet/turn
Hit Dice: 1/2
Armor Class: 6
Treasure Type: nil
Attacks: 2 pinchers
Damage: 1d4 each


Move: 120 feet/turn
Hit Dice: Normal Human (1d6 hit points)
Armor Class: 7
Treasure Type: 2d6 gp
Alignment: neutral
Attacks: 1 cutlass
Damage: 1d6


Move: 120 feet/turn
Hit Dice: Normal Human (1d6 hit points)
Armor Class: 9
Treasure Type: nil
Alignment: chaotic evil
Attacks: 1 scimitar
Damage: 1d6 

Cleaning Cube

Move: 30 feet/turn
Hit Dice: 2
Armor Class: 9
Treasure Type: variable
Attacks: 1 touch
Damage: 1d4 plus save vs. paralysis

Page 5: Doesn't need any retroversion as it is just a printer-friendly map of the dungeon.

That's it for now. I'll continue in another with notes on converting the rooms (Page 6 & beyond).

The second & final installment of "Running it Retro" can be found here.