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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, August 31, 2023

Corpse Fog (New Monster)

This is a new monster for Holmes Basic, one which is featured iArea 25 oThe Forgotten Smugglers' Cave adventure (which is indexed here).

Corpse Fog

Move: 90 feet/turn
Hit Dice: 3
Armor Class: 5
Treasure Type: B
Alignment: neutral
Attacks: 1 touch
Damage: 0 plus energy drain

A body, when interred near the sea, may become possessed by a form of undead known as the corpse fog. If such a corpse or its burial possessions are disturbed, fog with a greenish cast will begin to issue from its mouth, coalescing in two rounds into a churning humanoid form that will advance on the nearest living creature in an attempt to drain it of its life energy (each hit will drain one life energy level).

Initially having three hit dice, a corpse fog will add one more for each level drained from a character, and this will also add to its hit points (roll randomly for each new hit die). 

The corpse fog is immune to normal weapons, and is turned as undead of equivalent hit dice (HD 3 = wight, HD 4 = wraith, etc). A successful result will send the fog back into its corpse. 

Destroying a corpse fog will result in a blast of mist that will do 2d6 damage to all within 50 feet (save for half), but will also restore any levels drained by the fog.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Where is L3 Deep Dwarven Delve located?

The Area Map from L1

In my previous post, I noted that the published version of L3 Deep Dwarven Delve (1997) omits a separate map showing "an aerial view of the mountain and surrounding areas" that the cover of 1979 draft indicated would be included along with maps of the three dungeon levels. In the published module, the map of the first dungeon level does include an outline of the hill at 80 feet, which is the height at which this level is located, and also three surrounding lower topographic lines at 20' increments. This could be considered "an aerial view of the mountain", but there is nothing on it showing "surrounding areas".

The two earlier entries in the L-series, L1 The Secret of Bone Hill (1981) and L2 The Assassin's Knot (1983), each had large area maps. The one in L1, shown above, is drawn in a black & white topographic style similar to the famous one in B2 Keep on the Borderlands, but employs hexes rather than squares, and depicts a much larger area, about 28 miles east-west and 17 miles north-south. The map in L2 overlaps with this to the south, but only adds about half as much territory because much of the map is water. Here is a fan-made splice of these two maps, from a post on the Restenford Project blog, which may be useful if you are running a Lendore campaign:

Area Map combining the maps from L1 and L2

In contrast to the earlier modules, the content in L3 consists of one large dungeon under a single hill, which means it doesn't necessarily need such a large area map, particularly if its location can be referenced using one of the earlier maps. But L3, in addition to omitting an area map, does not even clearly indicate where the Delve is in relation to the maps from L1 and L2...! 

Instead, it keeps the location vague. The "Background" relates that humanoids have been attacking Restenford and Lake Farmin (aka Garrotten), and that after the most recent attack on the former, "a member of the militia, a ranger, tracked the humanoids back to their lair" and thus "[s]omewhere in the dark wilderness nearby lurks a great threat..." (page 3). The module further explains that the town council will "provide the directions to the Delve..." (page 4, "Preparing to Play"); and that "[t]he Delve resides beneath one of the many hills in the area" (page 7, "External Locale"), which could be almost anywhere on the L1 or L2 maps, each of which depicts numerous peaks, or somewhere off the edge of those.

To some degree this vagueness may be because the adventure was introduced by means of an event in Lakofka's campaign. In comments on FB, he wrote: "L3 starts with the attack on Restenford in 576CY. The party follows the retreating humanoids back to their lair: an ancient Dwarven cave complex" (see here); "...But the little road to the front door is not obvious. A ranger tracked them and came back to Restenford to report ... He told the adventuring party what to look for and left a token along the road that tells them where he spotted their movement. Once they know the proper peak and the approximate location of the main entrance they should be able to find it" (see here); and "If it’s too easy to find others will go up and discover the orcs etc" (see here). So, it's clear that he intended for the Delve, in game, to be a "hidden location" that is not accessible until it is "unlocked" by the attack.

But note that while Lakofka didn't want players to find the Delve early, he also didn't intend for the published module to keep it completely hidden from the DM, as evidenced by his original 1979 intention to include an area map, and also more recent comments: "I looked at L3. There is no area map. I would not miss something that basic. But TSR did. The entrance is up 80 feet and the hill at that point is around 2,000 feet. The height of the entire hill is not given" (see here). (Note that on review there's nothing in L3 stating the hill is 2,000 feet high at the entrance; in fact, it clearly states, "The main entrance is some 80 feet above ground level and cannot be seen from the base of the hill" (page 7)).

The lack of a specific location poses some problems for actual play as part of a campaign. In what direction do you tell the players they are headed? What do you do once they get there and want to leave and then return? Or what if you want to include it as a hidden but possibly findable location in the Lendore sandbox from the get-go?

Lakofka's aerial map for L3

Fortunately, in 2018, Lakofka found among his papers a draft of the aerial map of the exterior of the Delve, and shared this on FB, where he wrote:

"And I found the real location! Guardian Peak. On the L1 map it’s labeled Garden Peak!!"

The map he shared, shown above, is possibly the exterior map referred to in the 1979 draft, or a later drafting of it, as to me it looks like something drawn on a computer program in the 1980s. It's not an area map like in the earlier modules, just an immediate location map showing the exterior of the hill up to its peak at 3,145 feet, and with topographic lines at 500 foot intervals. It shows the two entrances to the dungeon, each at 2,000 feet as referenced in Lakofka's quote above, rather than at the 80 feet indicated in the module (and which means that TSR most likely did not have a copy of this map when they produced L3). 

It also depicts the "Humanoid Trail" leading to Entrance A, which Lakofka referenced in one of the above quotes. The published module instead describes this singular trail in the plural, describing that "[t]he humanoid trails leading from the front gate (entrance A) are well hidden. At ground level, the trails can be found only by inspection and are not obvious to casual searchers". 

Most crucially, there is a label added to the map in pencil reading, "Garden Peak aka Guardian Peak". If you look at the L1 area map at the top of this page you will see a Garden Peak near the upper center. The reason for the dual names is that while the peak is labeled Garden on the L1 map, the text of the module refers to it as Guardian (page 8). Lakofka's comment quoted above implies that Guardian is the correct name. In a game, one might use both names if Garden is assumed to be a corruption of the earlier name, Guardian.

There is a discrepancy in the contour lines shown on the aerial map of Guardian, which are at 500 foot increments, and the map in L1, which the key indicates are at 400 foot increments. When he found the map, Lakofka noted this discrepancy, and issued a correction: "Based on the L1 map these elevations are incorrect. The contour lines should be 400 not 500. The very top contour line should be eliminated. So the A [and] B entrances should be on the 1600 foot line and the peak 2145 not 3145" (see here). The L1 map shows only five contour lines between the river and the peak of Garden, so this correction does allow the Guardian map to fit in better. Even adjusting for this, the shape of the contour lines on the Guardian map don't quite match the ones on the L1 map, but are close enough to use. If using this map, make sure to note the direction of north on the Guardian map; it should be turned to line up with the map in L1.

In retrospect, Garden/Guardian Peak is a good location for the Delve, as there are no encounters or areas of interest that are specifically tied to it in L1. It's referenced a single time in the text of the module (page 8), where it is simply given as part of a list of locations, also including Lark Hill, High Top, Low Point and Reddy Forest, that are described as potential sites for encounters with NPCs: "These sites are often used as campgrounds by travelers, and for the purpose of this module they will be sites for special encounters. Other hills and forests may also be added to this list if the DM desires". The text goes on to describe four NPCs that can be encountered in these areas, about 1/3 of the time a random encounter in indicated. While it's a bit difficult to believe that a lone NPC could safely camp on Guardian if it is home to the large force of humanoids found in the Delve, but it is easy enough to remove Guardian from this list and make it more desolate. The module further describes these peaks as "grass-covered, with bushes and rock outcroppings every 50 to 300 feet. Small stands of trees are quite common. The larger copses are shown on the map", which fits well with the aerial map shown above, although there should be one "larger copse" at the north end of the map.

In conclusion, this unearthed treasure provides us with a specific location for the Delve in relation to the other L-series locations. The dungeon in L3 is very linear, but clearly situating it in the L1 Area Map helps to give it more of a feel as just another location in the sandbox.

Thursday, August 3, 2023

L3 Deep Dwarven Delve: 1979 draft

Lakofka's photo of the vintage typescript draft for L3

The late Lenard Lakofka is probably best remembered for his long-running, detailed-oriented column in Dragon magazine, Leomund's Tiny Hut (1979-1986), and for writing the classic AD&D modules L1 The Secret of Bone Hill (1981) and L2 The Assassin's Knot (1983). The former is innovative as a small sandbox, the latter as a murder mystery, and they were drawn from the adventures he ran in his home campaign set in the Lendore Isles, which were later incorporated by Gary Gygax into the World of Greyhawk (1980). 

No further L-coded modules appeared during the era of 1st Edition AD&D, and thus for many years that was it for the series, as far as gamers knew. However, after ownership of D&D passed from TSR to Wizards of Coast, they surprised us by publishing a third installment for the 25th anniversary of D&D. Specifically, the 1999 Silver Anniversary Collector's set included the module L3 Deep Dwarven Delvetouted on its cover as "the last 1st Edition AD&D adventure ever to be published!", because it "lain unseen and forgotten in the TSR design vault for twenty years". However, as Shannon Appelcline reports on the DriveThruRPG page for the product, this story may only be considered accurate if you expansively include Lakofka's home as part of "the TSR design vault":
"[Sean K. Reynolds of WOTC] said that all of TSR's copies of the adventure had been "lost or destroyed" over the years. The adventure (apparently) resurfaced only when Lakofka found a copy around his house and sent it to Roger E. Moore in 1997 ... [who] then passed the adventure on to Reynolds in 1998."

Furthermore, as Appelcline explains, even after the original was located, publishing it was not without snags:  

"[Wizards] thought [Delve] needed "depth and clarification" to bring it up to modern AD&D standards. Lakofka was happy to oblige and produced a new version of his adventure… which Wizards again lost. Lakofka says that he didn't hear about the loss until after "Delve" was published, by which time a number of Wizards developers had stepped in to do the required expansion for the adventure ... Lakofka says that "Delve" is about 80% comprised of material he'd turned in two decades earlier."
The reception to L3 was somewhat mixed. While most were grateful for another AD&D module, especially one that written during the original era, some were disappointed that it wasn't as innovative as Lakofka's earlier modules, being a rather linear dungeon crawl. And being a limited edition, copies became increasingly expensive over the years, although now you can get an inexpensive pdf or print-on-demand copy from DriveThruRPG. 

In the years after L3 was published, Lakofka became active in D&D circles again, eventually releasing more Lendore material through Dragonsfoot, including L4 Devilspawn and L5 The Kroten Campaign.

Another twenty years had passed when, in 2018, Lakofka once again located in his house a copy of the draft for L3, in a formatted typescript, and posted a photo of it (shown above) in a comment to a FB group, the Flanaess Geographical Society.

It's exciting to see this typescript draft, particularly because the cover is laid out in vintage TSR format. I don't recall ever seeing a draft of this type for any other TSR module. And with "FINAL CORRECTION COPY" written across the top, it suggests that at one point someone (Lakofka? a TSR editor?) considered it close to finished.

While his photo only shows the cover page and a small portion of one interior page, there are still interesting details to be gleaned: 
---The title is "The Deep Dwarven Delve", which became just "Deep Dwarven Delve" as published, although the interior text still refers to it by the original title in several places. 
---The cover has a copyright date is 1979 and uses the TSR Wizard Logo. Lakofka ran Deep Dwarven Delve at Gen Con 12 in August 1979, according to the program book, indicating that the adventure had taken shape by mid-1979. While the draft's 1979 date could just indicate when it was originally written, the Wizard Logo was phased out in 1980, and L1 employs TSR's next logo, the Face Logo. This suggests that this draft, which must have been prepared by an editor at TSR, actually does date to 1979 or 1980. 
---It refers to "one part of a four-part series", whereas the published version, which has different cover text, states that it was "[w]ritten as the concluding adventure of the "L" series". This suggests that Lakofka not only wrote this draft of L3 written in 1979, but also conceived that the series would include an L4 at the time. WOTC in the '90s omitted any mention of further unfinished work, possibly because they wanted to seem like they were bringing the L-series to a conclusion. 
---The reference to "three level maps" matches the published version, but the "aerial view of the mountain and surrounding areas", does not. Either this was never finished, lost, or omitted by WOTC. And this is a big omission, because there's no indication in L3 as to where exactly it is located on the memorable area maps found in L1 and L2. As Lakofka wrote on FB: "i looked at L3. there is no area map. i would not miss something that basic. But TSR did". 
---It also mentions "monster rosters", and the published module does, in fact, contain a section titled "Rosters" on pages 5-7, which has a list of monsters for each of the three levels of the dungeon. 
---It recommends characters of levels 2-6, with approximately 40 levels total, whereas the published module suggests 6-10 characters of levels 3-6, average 4, with about 35 total levels and no more than 45 (page 4). 
---The small portion of the interior page shown in the photo contains text that is close to the same material as published, with a few minor changes. The original reads:
The Deep Dwarven Delve can be played at two levels; first as an orc stronghold (level one), and second as a hidden treasure store and place of great evil (levels two and three). The upper level of the Delve is filled with orcs, bugbears, ogres, trolls an a magic-user. They do not know of the.......................................first level of the Delve 
This was changed on page 4 of the published module to: 
The Deep Dwarven Delve can be played as two linked adventures; first as a humanoid stronghold (Level One), and second as a hidden treasure store and place of great evil (Levels Two and Three). 
(the heading "NOTES FOR THE DM" was moved to page 3, after the Background)  
---The last sentence in the original paragraph exactly describes the composition of monsters found in the "First Level Roster" on page 5 as published. This suggests the types of monsters on the first level were not changed from draft to publication.

Lakofka later indicated he was preparing a comparison document between the two versions, but unfortunately ended up putting it aside when he moved, and never got back to it or shared what he had completed. He did, however, make the comment that "TSR decided to change the final encounter in the Delve (along with a few minor changes in other encounters)" (here on FB), which together with the details gathered from the draft cover page suggests that overall, the published version of L3 is not too dissimilar to what he original drafted in 1979.

In future posts, I will take a look at where L3 should be located on the L1 area map, and also what Lakofka intended for the original final encounter of L3.

Tuesday, August 1, 2023


The kickstarter for the STAR SCHLOCK Battle Game, which I featured in my previous post, ends this evening. 

Based on all of the stretch goals that have been unlocked so far, a $95 Recruit pledge will get you the game plus at least 25 metal minis!

Find it here:

Star Schlock Battle Game