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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.                    ...

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Dragon Dice Bag cross stitch kit (1982)

The above image, taken from a recent Ebay auction, shows the packaging for a 1982 DRAGON DICE BAG, a "Counted Cross Stitch Kit" from TSR subsidiary Greenfield Needlewomen, which includes some interesting hand-drawn line art showing the bag front and back, along with a set of polyhedral dice. The bag front includes a dragon and "D&D games", and the back says "May you always make your saving throw". Another image from the auction shows the pattern for stitching the dragon, which is green-colored, with a yellow-green belly:

I've seen other Greenfield D&D-tie-in cross stitch products before - for examples, see this post on Cyclopeatron - but I don't recall seeing this particular one, which has more rudimentary packaging than the others. Per Frank Mentzer on FB, this is because:

This was very early after our acquisition. We retooled their packaging; later ones all have a distinctive green theme. This has their art, not ours. (No it's not a Sutherland dragon. ;> )

This one is also interesting because it uses the "DRAGON DICE" trademark and logo (i.e., the same font) also featured on TSR's 1981 Dragon Dice, the packaging artwork for which was designed by Jim Roslof and can be seen in this post.

Advertisement for TSR's DRAGON DICE
(this was the first set of dice that I owned, in the same blue color)

You can read more about TSR's purchase of Greenfield Needlewomen in Jon Peterson's book Game Wizards, which briefly covers it in the chapters titled, "1982: Extravagance" and "1983: Splitting the Party". Based on quotes from Gary Gygax in TSR's in-house newsletter Random Events, TSR had designs on growing their business by entering the adjacent craft field; which isn't unreasonable because, as pointed out by T. Foster in the first comment in this post on Grognardia, at the time D&D was often sold in hobby shops alongside craft products. However, this particular company, based in Greenfield, Indiana, was purchased seemingly because it was owned by relatives of the Brian and Kevin Blume, and ended up being shuttered by TSR in 1983 after losing a large sum of money for the company.

A thank you to a post on the TSR Old School Gamers FB group for making me aware of this.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Gary Con 2022: Day 2

DMing "Expedition to Skull Stack Crater".
Photo by Gary W.

This post covers the gaming highlights of my second day at Gary Con XIV, Friday the 25th. If you missed it, the report for first day can be found here.

In the morning I ran Expedition to Skull Stack Crater, a newly revised version of a scenario that I originally ran for my son and his cousins more than five years ago, and had planned to run at Gary Con in 2020 before the pandemic unfolded. The setting is inspired by the various skull-faced dungeons and mountains of fiction, including of course the Skull Mountain cross-section of the Holmes Basic rulebook, but is an original location rather than a writeup of something pre-existing. You can read the introduction from the convention program here.

The pre-generated characters for this adventure are 3rd level, so it mostly uses the Holmes rules, with any higher level material filled in from OD&D. There were six players which is pretty much optimal for a con game. Several I knew previously, including Demos from OSR Grimoire and Larry from Follow Me and Die!, each of whom played in my Zenopus sequel at the last in-person Gary Con in 2019. And I'd exchanged forum posts with two others that I met here for the first time, James and Gary. The game fun was run and ran well with this fairly experienced group, who finished just before our time was up. I plan to revise this scenario and make it available on DrivethruRPG. Demos briefly mentions the game in his Gary Con recap here, and Larry shows off another photo from the game here.

Mike Carr refereeing Don't Give Up the Ship

In the afternoon I played in the annual session of TSR's Don't Give Up The Ship, refereed by Mike Carr, who co-authored the rules with Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. Carr is also well known to aficionados of Holmes Basic as the author of the module B1 In Search of the Unknown, the first Basic module ever published, and one of only two written for specifically for the Holmes set.

The DGUTS game took place in the Legends of Wargaming hall, and the large group of players - over 20 (!) - sat on chairs in a ring around a large blue sheet, representing the sea, where Carr carefully crouched or lay to manipulate the ships after receiving our written orders each turn. The scenario this time was an engagement between the French and British fleets during the Napoleonic era, specifically 17 October, 1812, and the players were divided evenly between the two sides.

My "Ship Data Sheet" & mini for the game

I played Andre Cheviot, captain of the French frigate Nereide, although these details were simply flavor as resolution of actions relied solely on movement orders, opportunities to fire, the ship's stats and dice rolls. The game moved slowly with so many players; in the five hours scheduled for the game I think we only finished 6 turns, but it was fun to participate in one of the more unique centerpiece events of the con. 

Gary Con XVI GM's Cup,
featuring Geezel from Snarfquest

Towards the end of the game I ducked out into the hall to fill up on Spotted Cow beer from one of the Happy Hour stations, so this is a good point to show off my GM's Cup featuring art from Larry Elmore's Snarfquest comic, which ran for years in Dragon magazine in the mid-1980s. Other cups available this year featured Telerie and Snarf himself. Elmore was a guest at the con once again this year, and there was even a Snarfquest 5E D&D game as an event.

My last game of the day was part of the Legends of Roleplaying Tournament, an annual AD&D tournament organized by Paul Stormberg. For each one, Paul develops a scenario derived from old school material; for example, 2019 featured a sequel to the module B1 that was newly co-written by Paul and Mike Carr. This year's scenario was listed as "Depths of Terror", a level hidden deep within Gary Gygax's Castle Greyhawk. However, as a surprise, it actually turned out to be an expanded version of The Tomb of Ra-Hotep, a 1970s dungeon by Alan Lucien that Gygax hid in part of Castle Greyhawk, and which inspired Gygax's own Tomb of Horrors. The version for the tournament was expanded by Paul from the original together with additional vintage campaign material supplied by Lucien. Paul later indicated on Facebook that he plans to publish this version soon.

I joined a team of ten players who drew Steve Winter, former TSR employee, as our DM. I've played in Steve's games a number of times, including the in-person tournament in 2019. My group this time was very clever, and did a great job with the riddles and devious traps, placing 5th out of the 13 teams, and only a few points behind another team.

Dave and I after his game,
photo by one of the other players.

After the tournament ended, I stopped by to say hi to Dave W. of RPG Retro Reviews, who was running a 6-hour session of the original Tower of Zenopus dungeon using the Holmes Basic rules. I had met Dave in person back in 2020 when he played in my Zenopus sequel at the second Scrum Con

The strong Halfling; note this is after leveling,
so the level should be 2, not 1

By the time I arrived, another player had already left, so I ended up running his PC, a halfling with 18 strength (!), for the last hour of the game. He was mostly silent during my time due to my knowledge of the dungeon. The party had already rescued Lemunda, earning her father the mayor's favor, but I witnessed showdowns with the flying dagger (which killed a PC), the ghouls, and the evil thaumaturgist. I always enjoy see other folks spin on this ur-dungeon. 

This report continues with Days 3 and 4.

Friday, April 1, 2022

Gary Con 2022: Day 1

Promo featuring "Beyond the Cosmic Veil" illustration by Doug Kovacs.
See a larger version of the art here on FB.

Last weekend Gary Con returned as an in-person event, after going virtual ("ethereal") for two years due to the pandemic, and was once again held at the enormous Grand Geneva hotel near the town of Lake Geneva, once home to Gary Gygax and TSR. I too returned, attending for my third time in-person, and fifth overall, and running two different D&D scenarios for the first time ever. 

Here are the highlights of my first day, Thursday the 24th, when I joined in three games:

The Tower of Ulission, the first part of an OD&D tournament written by Dave Emigh for Winter War in the 1977, and then later published as a module by Judges Guild in 1979, which was run by Demos, who blogs at the OSR Grimoire. Lots of riddles and problem-solving in this one, as well as combat. There was a heavy Tolkien influence to the under-appreciated Emigh's world-building, including the inclusion of verse (!). Our party finished our mission, but there was a shocking unexpected twist at the end that I've never encountered in a D&D adventure before! Demos, who also goes by paleologos, has an extensive review of the published module over here at Dragonsfoot. I also played in the second round of this tournament, which will covered in my post for Day 3.

Hell's Highway

I like to play miniatures games between RPG sessions for a break, so my next event was Hell's Highway, a Mad Max/Fury Road-inspired miniatures racing game using modded matchbox cars, the rules for which were developed and run at the con by Brad Poikonen. In this scenario we raced between checkpoints on a cloth gameboard covering the entire table, attempting to earn fuel for our tribe while battling with the other contestants. Brad mentioned that they were hoping to run a Kickstarter to produce the game.

Paul Stormberg DMing with his custom screen;
photo by fellow player Jonathan B.

In evening I played in Lost Crypts of the Fire Opal, a fleshed-out version of the Sample Dungeon from the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide (1979). The expansion and running of the game was done by Paul Stormberg, the maestro who organizes the entire Legends of Wargaming and Legends of Role-playing Game Halls for Gary Con. 

Slepni Svenhaas with character portrait by Jeff Dee

I ran the pre-gen Slepni Svenhaas, a mountain dwarf who was assisting his brother Grupni, also in the party in finding the Fire Opal in hopes of becoming the next king of their kingdom. The party was large and played great, with lots of problem-solving, but we ended abruptly with a near-TPK caused by use of Unseen Servant! We were too clever for our own good. 

This series continues with Day 2 of Gary Con.