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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.                    ...

Friday, September 29, 2023

1981 D&D Expert Set now available in POD

Ten years ago, I wrote about the newly released PDF of the 1981 D&D Expert Rules at DriveThruRPGNow, they've finally added a Print-On-Demand (POD) option for both the Expert Rules and the 1981 verison of the Isle of Dread, the two main components of the 1981 Expert Set (other than dice & crayon). Find them here at DriveThruRPG:

It's not widely known, but production on these rules started out as an expansion to the Holmes Basic rules. In March 1980, in Dragon #35, Gygax revealed that:
"Design is now hard at work on the second boxed D&D game, the Expert Set. It will take players through at least 12th level of experience, tie in the best of the “Original” material, and actually add some new classes, spells, magic, monsters and so on."

In context, this appeared to be an Expert Set that would complement the Holmes Basic Set. A late 1980 Gateway to Adventure catalog shows the Holmes Basic set side-by-side with an unpictured but soon-to-be-released Expert Set.

However, when the Expert Set finally arrived in 1981, it was instead accompanied by an entirely new Basic Set, which replaced the Holmes Basic set (although TSR continued to sell old stock of the rulebook through the Mail Order Hobby Shop until at least 1986). To aid owners of the original Basic rules who did not wish to buy the new Basic rulebook or set, the Cook/Marsh rulebook contained a section on page X4 titled "Using D&D Expert with an early edition of D&D Basic" which began "If your copy of the D&D Basic rules has a blue cover with a picture of a dragon on it, then this section is for you". This section then provides a summary of the "new material found in the 2nd edition of D&D Basic".

Over on the Holmes Ref page, I have a reference sheet with character info bridging Holmes with Cook/Marsh up to sixth level, titled "Holmes Basic / Cook Expert Reference Sheet v1.0".

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

d12 Years of the Zenopus Archives!

This month marks twelve years since I started this blog, with today being the anniversary of when I first announced I would be posting here

In celebration of this anniversary, below you will see an autogenerated table of random posts from the past twelve years of this blog. Grad a d12 and roll for one to read. Refresh your browser to see twelve different posts. 

Random Zenopus Archives Post (Roll d12)

And for a list of the highlights of the first ten years, see my earlier post Ten Years of the Zenopus Archives.

Friday, September 8, 2023

Gygax's Yggsburgh (2005) available once again

The front cover of Yggsburgh,
with an illustration by Jeffrey Catherine Jones

If you haven't heard, Gary Gygax's Yggsburgh sandbox campaign setting, originally released in 2005 and withdrawn from sales after he passed away in 2008, is once again available for purchase from Troll Lord Games, following an agreement with the Gygax estate. You can pre-order the hardcover from the TLG site for $65, which also includes an immediate download of the PDF, or you can buy the PDF alone from DrivethruRPG for $19.99:

Yggsburgh Print (pre-order) + PDF 

Yggsburgh PDF only

For those unfamiliar with it, Yggsburgh is a re-casting of Gygax's long-delayed City of Greyhawk project, intended as a setting for exploring the Castle Greyhawk dungeons, here re-christened Castle Zagyg.  

Back in May of 1980, shortly before the initial publication of the World of Greyhawk campaign setting, Gary Gygax discussed future releases for the setting in issue 37 of The Dragon, where in his regular column "From the Sorcerer's Scroll", under the title "Greyhawk: The Shape of the World", he estimated that "The City of Greyhawk might make a 1981 publication date, certainly 1982, and about the same time the series which will eventually represent the whole of the Dungeons of Castle Greyhawk will begin". Sadly, neither title ever appeared under Gygax's byline, and became the most infamous of TSR vaporware. 

Decades later, in the early 2000s, Gygax finally started a new project to publish this material, this time under the aegis of TLG's Castles & Crusades RPG. However, only Yggsburgh and the first portion of the Castle Zagyg, titled the Upper Works (2007), were finished and released before Gygax passed away, and the license to publish them was withdrawn.

Yggsburgh is a sprawling 256-page hardcover book, with cover art by the great Jeffrey Catherine Jones, repurposed from the 1972 Avon paperback edition of Nine Princes of Amber by Roger Zelazny. This was the first novel in the Amber series, which was included by Gygax in Appendix N in the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide in 1979. Originally, the entire series of Castle Zagyg books was slated to feature covers with Jones' classic work from the 1970s.

The book itself is also accompanied by an 8-page hexmap, drafted by Darlene in a style similar to her original maps for the World of Greyhawk, which was tipped into the back cover in the 2005 publication. This depicts an area 50 hexes east-west and 34 hexes north-south, at 1 mile per hex, for a total area of 1,700 square miles:

Players Version of the Yggsburgh Hex Map by Darlene

Rather than just being a high-level gazetteer, Yggsburgh is a big sandbox, which I'd compare to Lenard Lakofka's AD&D module L1 The Secret of Bone Hill. There's a city with 93 described areas, including the famous Green Dragon Inn, and an area map with 48 described locations, and including a number of fully detailed small dungeons, which is often overlooked: 

  • Thieves' Underground (13 rooms)
  • River King's Tomb (19 rooms)
  • The Cursed Mine (14 rooms)
  • The Gnome Burrows (25 rooms)
  • The Unholy Ringstones (25 encounter areas)

These could easily be extracted and run as one-shots or dropped in other settings. 

Castle Zagyg and Rob Kuntz's Dark Chateau (2005) are also two of the intended locations in the sandbox, so there is the potential for larger dungeons, although this does make the campaign setting incomplete on its own if you intend to use those.

I've had the original hardback for many years, and it's probably my favorite late-era Gygax product. While I haven't run anything from it yet, I will pick it up every now and then and read a bit. It's sort of a glorious sprawling mess like the original AD&D DMG, but in campaign setting form.