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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, July 25, 2023

STAR SCHLOCK Battle Game (Kickstarter)

Scrum Club member John S., who blogs over at the 1000 Foot General, is currently running a kickstarter for his skirmish miniatures game, Star Schlock. As the tagline in the graphic says, this game is inspired by the tropes and aesthetics of all of those sci-fi shows and movies we loved as kids - Trek, Planet of the Apes, Buck Rogers, SW, etc. 

I've pledged for the "Recruit" level, which supplies the Star Schlock Battle Game set, including the rulebooks, dice, cards, organizing consoles, and tokens for playing the game, plus a starter set of 12 pewter minis (unpainted) - 6 each of Space Apes and Explorer Corps. Higher pledges levels include more minis. It's already blown way past its funding goal, with all sorts of bonuses for different pledge levels being unlocked.

Space Apes vs Explorer Corps

It's running for about one more week; find it here:

Star Schlock Battle Game

Sunday, July 23, 2023

50 Years of Text Games by Aaron A. Reed (new book)

My copy of 50 Years of Text Games, which arrived recently

It was a memorable evening in the early '80s when I first encountered text-based computer games. While staying over at my friend Eric's house, his mom took us into her work place, which I think was a Motorola office, after business hours. 

She left us to ourselves in an office with a computer connected to a teleprinter that printed out everything that we typed and that it outputted, which I never encountered againEric already knew some of the games: a Star Trek one where you controlled the Enterprise, which we played briefly, and Adventure, which really struck a chord as we were already heavily into D&D. Eric got us past a few early obstacles, like the snake, that he knew about before we got stuck. Then we went to another office where two guys were also playing Adventure, like a scene out of AMC's Halt and Catch Fire, on a computer with a monitor. They let us watch, and based on my D&D knowledge, I suggested trying to burn the troll with the lamp oil, but it didn't work.

Without a computer at home I didn't get to play Adventure, or any text game, again for a number of years, but eventually we got a Tandy 1000 SL, and I bought Zork at Babbage's in the local mall after playing it at another kid's house and recognizing it was very similar to Adventure. Zork then led me to the myriad other Infocom titles, like Planetfall, the Lurking Horror and the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, only some of which I was able finish. I even tracked down Adventure by sending away for a shareware/freeware floppy disk that also included another simplistic D&D-inspired text game, The Beginner's Cave for the Wonderful World of Eamon system. 

These were the only text-based games that I encountered back in the '80s, and after that I've only briefly played them, but always remembered the genre fondly and have been inspired by it when designing challenges for D&D adventures, like the Forgotten Smugglers' Cave, which contains an area like the maze of the twisty little passages in Adventure.

Now I just received a new book, 50 Years of Text Games, by Aaron A. Reed, that provides great context for my early adventures in text, and also shows how they've continued on over the years, and developed in different ways. Subtitled "from Oregon Trail to AI Dungeon and everything ... in between", it profiles one important game for each year from 1971 to 2019, stretching over 600 pages (!). The book started as a blog that was run throughout the year of 2021, and the posts are archived here for anyone interested. I picked up my hardcopy via a subsequent kickstarter, which I believe is now sold out, but a digital version is still available.

I've already read a few sections, including the intro to the 1970s and the entry for the ground-breaking Galatea (2000), and am enjoying the clear prose, and am looking forward to reading more. One takeway, also gleaned from following the Renga in Blue blog, is that there were far more text-based games produced back in the 70s and 80s than I ever realized.

See also: The Renga in Blue, where the author is attempting to play every text adventure game by year of release.

Friday, July 21, 2023

Vampire Bat & Were-Vampire Bat (New Monster)

These are two new monsters for Holmes Basic, the first of which is featured in Area 6 of The Forgotten Smugglers' Cave adventure (which is indexed here), and originally appeared as part of my list of One Hit Point Monsters.

Illustration by Lore Suto

Vampire Bat

Move: 180 feet/turn flying
Hit Dice: 1/8 (1 hit point)
Armor Class: 3 (9 while attached)
Treasure Type: nil
Alignment: neutral
Attacks: 1 bite
Damage: 1 point

A native of subtropical climes, the vampire bat has of late begun appearing in certain temperate coastal towns, apparently escaping from traders importing them for clients unknown. Roosting in colonies of up to 50 individuals, often in the warmer caves of the near underworld, they venture out in smaller groups (2d6 bats) to feed on livestock, other mammals, or even humans. 

When suitable prey is located, the bats will silently swoop down and attack from behind (surprise on 1-5 in 6, attack at +4). A hit inflicts a point of damage and allows a bat to attach and, unless stopped, automatically drain another point for each of the next two rounds (thus, three points total), before detaching and flying away. Attacks on an attached bat are against armor class 9, but a miss with a weapon will automatically hit the victim for a point of damage. Unattached bats will continue attacking in an attempt to distract the prey from disturbing attached bats.

For each round of attachment, there is a 1% chance that a bat will transmit a rare form of lycanthropy, causing the victim to become a were-vampire bat (see below) in 2d12 days.

Established colonies produce a layer of pinkish guano across the floor of their cavern, which which produces an acrid smell that can be detected from a distance, and is prized as a fertilizer (20 gp per bucket). Due to the strength of the odor and slippery consistency, any melee in such areas is conducted at a -4 to hit, with a natural 1 indicating a slip and fall.

The bats sleep soundly in the lair during the day, but any activity in the lair has a 1 in 6 chance per character (e.g., 2 in 6 chance for 2 characters) of waking the bats. Once disturbed, all of the bats of the colony will join in on a frenzied attack on the intruders.

It is rumored that larger forms of the vampire bat exist in the tropics.

Were-Vampire Bat

Move: 120 feet/turn flying (giant bat form) or 60 feet/turn flying or 120 feet/turn walking (man-bat form)
Hit Dice: 2 + 2
Armor Class: 3 (giant bat form) or 5 (man-bat)
Treasure Type: C
Alignment: neutral/lawful evil
Attacks: 1 bite (giant bat form) or 1 bite and 2 claws (man-bat form)
Damage: 1d3 (giant bat form) or 1d6/1d3/1d3 (man-bat form)

The unfortunate victims of the vampire bat may, on occasion, be inflicted with a rare form of lycanthropy, eventually transforming into a were-vampire bat. Like the were-rat, the were-vampire bat may take three different forms: human, giant bat, or horrible hybrid man-bat. As with other lycanthropes, it is immune to normal weapons in the latter two forms. In man-bat form, it is less agile but stronger of limb, and able to attack with claws in addition to biting.

If possible, the were-bat will roost and hunt together with a colony of ordinary vampire bats, favoring old buildings that allow egress in either bat or human form. It can summon these bats to its aid at will, and will hunt together with a group of them in giant bat form.

Saturday, July 1, 2023

Agate-Eyed Skeleton (New Monster)

This is a new monster for Holmes Basic, one which is featured in Areas 20 and 24 of The Forgotten Smugglers' Cave adventure (which is indexed here).

Eye Agate. Image Source.

Agate-Eyed Skeleton

Move: 120 feet/turn
Hit Dice: 2
Armor Class: 7
Treasure Type: agate eyes (100 gp each)
Alignment: neutral
Attacks: 1 bony hands
Damage: 1d6

Agates are purported to promote restful sleep, and certain funerary practices incorporate this belief by burying the dead with such gemstones. Some secretive groups go even further, replacing the eyes of the deceased with eye agates, and if these are of sufficient value (100 gp per eye), the strange energies of the underworld may transform the thusly treated remains into an agate-eyed skeleton, an unusual variant of animated skeleton. 

The practices that produce such skeletons means that they are typically found in groups in burial chambers. If undisturbed, the skeletons will remain at rest, but anyone gazing upon their agate eyes must save versus magic or fall asleep for 1d6 turns. Unlike a Sleep spell, characters so affected cannot be awakened prior to this by any means short of a Dispel Magic.

Damaging Skeletons. Any attack that inflicts damage on a skeleton, and does not destroy it, will cause it to immediately animate and attack with its bony claws. Once arisen, characters viewing the eyes no longer need to save versus magic. Furthermore, even if the skeleton is destroyed, 1d6 other skeletons in the same area will animate each round until all in the area have joined in. The assault will continue until the intruders have been destroyed or have fled the area, although a successful turning (as a ghoul) by a cleric will send the skeletons back to their resting places and prevent any further ones from animating.

Moving Skeletons. Any attempt to move a skeleton will, after a one round delay, result in the same effect as damaging the skeleton. However, if during this round the bones are placed in a specially consecrated ossuary, which may or may not be located nearby (DM's discretion), the skeleton will not animate and both agates can be safely removed.

Removing Agates. If a character attempts to remove an agate without disturbing the skeleton, there is a small chance of success. The base chance is equal to the attempting character's dexterity (e.g., a 10% chance for a dexterity of 10). Thieves add their chance of removing traps to this (e.g. a thief with a 15 dexterity and a 15% chance of remove traps would have a 30% chance). If this roll is failed, the eye is removed but the skeleton then animates as if damaged and will incessantly attempt to retrieve its eye, to the point of relentlessly stalking the offending character. Removing a second eye agate from the same skeleton will automatically cause it to animate.

It is rumored that placing such gems in the eyes of skeletons before casting Animate Dead will also produce an agate-eyed skeleton.