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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, April 9, 2024

Arts & Arcana on sale - get the original Tomb of Horrors


The Special Edition of the D&D artbook Arts & Arcana is currently selling for $69.99 on Amazon, plus when I look at the page I'm also seeing a coupon for $23.33, making the total only $46.66. If you can get it for this, it's a great deal for a set that has a list price of $125. 

The real hidden gem of the set is a reprint of the original OD&D tournament version of Tomb of Horrors, in a digest format resembling the LBBs. FWIW, the page says only 10 copies are left in stock.

Arts & Arcana Special Edition

See also my earlier posts:

Locations for the Tomb of Horrors on the Great Kingdom Map

Delta's D&D Hotspot: Tomb of Ra-Hotep


Amazon is now sold out of the $69.99/$46.66 copies; I'm not sure if they will be adding any more. There are still used copies available on the Amazon page that are being sold by third parties.

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Erol Otus cover illustration for Playing at the World 2E

Yesterday on FB, artist Erol Otus shared his original, unadorned illustration for the cover of the first volume of the revised of second edition of Playing at the World by Jon Peterson, due out this July. Per Erol's post, the illustration is meant to call "to mind monochromatic publications from the earlier days like “The Strategic Review” and Fanzines". 

Given the blue color, might I add the Holmes Basic rulebook to that list?

See my previous post for more info about the revised edition, which can be pre-ordered from Amazon here:

Playing at the World, 2nd Edition, Volume 1: The Invention of D&D

Monday, March 11, 2024

Playing at the World revised edition out in July

With a cover by Erol Otus!

Cover by Erol Otus...!

Playing at the World, Jon Peterson's 2012 groundbreaking history of the origin of RPGs, has been out of print for a number of years, with secondhand copies going for increasingly higher prices, but as I reported previously a revised second edition is coming later this year from MIT Press

The expanded book will now be split into two volumes, with the first one, Volume 1: The Invention of Dungeons & Dragons, coming out on July 30th of this year. Per the publisher info, this volume "distills the story of how the wargaming clubs and fanzines circulating around the upper Midwest in the 1970s culminated in Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson’s seminal role-playing game, D&D". 

The MIT Press and Amazon pre-order pages have now been updated with the cover art: a fantastic illustration by the legendary old school TSR artist Erol Otus (shown above)*. The first volume is now available for pre-order from Amazon for $29.95, and with a price guarantee:

Playing at the World, 2nd Edition, Volume 1: The Invention of D&D

I've pre-ordered it myself.

It will be followed later by Volume 2: The Three Pillars of Role-Playing Games, "a deeper dive into the history of the setting, system, and character of D&D". This appears to correspond to chapters 2-4 of the original edition, which were: 2: Setting - The Medieval Fantasy Genre; 3: System - The Rules of the Game; and 4: Character - Roles and Immersion. 

*Thanks for captainjapan on the OD&D74 forums for this news.

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Scrum Con Preview Video by Little Wars TV

Just over three weeks until Scrum Con 2024!

Tony Marano of Little Wars TV has made a great preview video for us, with lots of footage from last year; it's a great way to get a feel for what the con is like.

See my earlier post for more info about the con (dates, location, etc). Badges can be purchased here on Tabletop Events.

Tickets sales have been healthy, but there are still plenty of seats left in great games, both RPGs & miniatures wargames. See the event schedule here (protip: set the "items per page" to 100 to scroll through the whole game list without paging back and forth).

If you liked my post last fall about playing in a Fury Road game, you can play in that game on Friday morning at 10 - there are still seats left.

See you there!

Saturday, March 2, 2024

GM's Day Sale at DMs Guild

DMs Guild and DrivethruRPG are running a GM's Day sale, with products up to 40% off.

This means that The Ruined Tower of Zenopus is on sale for $1.19 through March 10th.

Get it here:

Most of the classic TSR titles are included in the sale. For example, the Rules Cyclopedia print print and pdf is $26 instead of $35. Find it here:

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Leap Day: Giant Zenopus (New Monster)


Xenopus laevis from Amphibia and Reptiles by Hans Gadow (1901).
Source: Wikimedia Commons 

Giant Zenopus

Move: 30 feet/turn land; 180 feet/turn swimming
Hit Dice: 4
Armor Class: 5
Treasure Type: incidental
Alignment: neutral
Attacks: 1 rake with hindclaws
Damage: 2d4

The giant zenopus, an entirely aquatic frog, can grow to enormous proportions given a sufficiently nutritious diet, with specimens up to ten feet long having been reported. A ravenous scavenger, it will eat anything, locating and shoveling food into its tongueless mouth with strangely sensitive and prehensile hands. A strong swimmer, the zenopus is known to float motionless with its unblinking eyes just above the water, waiting for the opportunity to leap and grab its prey, raking with the large claws on its hindfeet as it pulls them under.

For defense, the skin of the zenopus exudes a slime that makes them extremely slippery (AC 5). Even worse, the slime of 1 in 10 frogs carries a parasitic aquatic chytrid fungus, and anyone scratched by the claws of such a frog must Save vs Poison or have their skin become infected. After 1 week, infection will cause loss of 1d4 hp per day due to the sloughing of skin, unless a Cure Disease or an anti-fungal poultice (consult a herbalist) is administered.

The eggs of the giant zenopus are prized by wizards for use in magical research due to their size (6" diameter), fetching 1,000 GP in larger cities. The eggs must be kept wet at all times or will perish. There are rumors that there are secret alchemical methods of cloning the eggs, and even darker tales speak of ways of transforming the egg into a frog that walks upright like a man.

The only other treasure that might be found is incidental to their behavior; i.e., that which was possessed by their prey.

---Based on the real world Xenopus, a frog long used in biological research, and which was presumably J. Eric Holmes' inspiration for the name of Zenopus. The name "Xenopus" means "strange foot" in Greek. The 94th anniversary of Holmes' birth was just a few weeks ago, on February 16th (Holmes Day).

---The concept of breeding frogmen from giant frogs goes back to Dave Arneson's Temple of the Frog adventure found in the Blackmoor OD&D supplement

"He has genetically modified the killer frogs to begin breeding frogmen..." --- the Temple of the Frog by Dave Arneson

And of course frogmen tie-in nicely to Holmes' Dagonites, who as described are more froggy than than fishy. 

"...surely your recent encounter with the frog-man should have convinced you of the reality of the Dagonites"  --- Murray the Mage, The Maze of Peril

---I originally drafted this in 2019 in comments to a post made to the late lamented Holmes Basic G+ group, just before G+ was shut down. While I transferred most of the posts from that group to an archive blog, this one didn't make it for unknown reasons. But I found it in an XML file I had downloaded and recovered the comments and revised them into this post.

Happy Leap Day!

See also:

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Chance & Circumstance blog:

On locating a copy of the 1973 Draft of D&D

Cover of the 1973 draft shared previously on Playing at the World

As posted here previously, the forthcoming book The Making of Original Dungeons & Dragons (which can be pre-ordered here) is set to include a copy of the 1973 draft of original D&D, also known informally as Guidon D&D. 

However, in the meantime researcher Michael Calleia has independently discovered a copy of this draft among the court records of the 1979 Arneson vs. Gygax lawsuit. Head over to his blog, Chance & Circumstance, to read more about this find:

Unveiling the Past: A Journey Through the July 1973 Draft and D&D’s Foundational Saga

Stay tuned for more from Michael, as he promises a series looking at the draft.

See also:

A Draft of OD&D (earlier post here)

For discussion of the draft see:

OD&D Discussion thread (requires membership to view)

EnWorld Discussion thread

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Scrum Con 2024 (March 29-30)

Badge Registration now open!


Attention DC metro area gamers:

Scrum Con is back for another year of games!

This year, for the first time, it will take place over two days, Friday March 29th and Saturday March 30th. The location is the same as last year (and 2020), in the Civic Building in Silver Spring, Maryland.

General registration opens today, Monday February 20th, at Tabletop Events:

Get your Scrum Con 2024 Badge Here

The standard price this year is $55 for a regular two-day pass, $25 for a Friday-only pass or $35 for a Saturday-only pass. But register right now (until this Thursday, Feb 22nd) and there is an early bird discount of $5 off per day. There is also an $80 VIP option that includes a two-day pass, a t-shirt and swag bag.

As in previous years, Scrum Con strives to offer an even mix of tabletop RPGs and miniatures wargaming. The schedule of games can be perused here:

Scrum Con 2024 schedule of games

In general, there are two slots of games each day, running from 10 AM - 2 PM and 3:30 - 7:30 PM, although there are few games at other times. So you should easily be able to play in two games per day.

And as always, sign up with an email address on the mailing list at to stay on top of the latest announcements and updates.

For an idea of what the games are like, see this post on the Scrum in Miniature blog with over 400 photos from the 2023 event

Hope to see you there!

And please help us get the word out by sharing this with anyone who may be interested.

Friday, February 16, 2024

"How Dungeons & Dragons Started" Video

The day after I made my previous post rounding up everything we know about The Making of Original Dungeons & Dragons: 1970-1977, the forthcoming book describing the creation of the original D&D rules, the Dungeons & Dragons channel on YouTube posted an interview with Jason Tondro, a senior designer at WOTC, further detailing the contents. It's a long interview (38+ minutes) but well worth the time spent watching it, and Tondro's enthusiasm for the material covered in the book is evident. 

From this interview, it's clear that the book will include the entirety of 2nd Edition Chainmail, the map from Outdoor Survival, the "Guidon D&D" draft from 1973, the first printing of the LBBs (complete with the Tolkien references) from early 1974, and the first three supplements, among much correspondence and magazine articles.

The book can be pre-ordered here at Amazon, with a release date of June 18th:

The Making of Original Dungeons & Dragons: 1970-1977

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

"The Making of Original D&D: 1970-1977"

Everything we know about this upcoming WOTC book

"The Making of OD&D 1970-1977" promotional book image,
showing four ribbon bookmarks!

Last December, at a panel at PAX Unplugged called "50 Years of D&D Adventures", Wizards of the Coast announced their new books for 2024, which included a surprising release tied to the 50th anniversary of D&D: The Making of Original Dungeons & Dragons: 1970-1976  (The panel was recorded & is available here; see the 57:20 mark).

"Sneak Peak" image shown during the panel presentation

The panel members indicated that the book will be over 500 pages (!), will "a replica of the original Dungeons & Dragons game, page for page", "never-before seen correspondence" between Gygax and Arneson, and historical context by Jon Peterson (of Playing at the World). The "Sneak Peek" image appearing on the screen during the presentation shows two page spreads from the book, the one to the left showing the first page of the Fantasy Supplement of Chainmail, and the one to the right showing the title page of OD&D Volume 3, The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures. And the background shows a version of the Great Kingdom map, suggesting this may appear in the book as well.

Just after this I saw Jason Tondro, a WOTC Senior Designer who started playing with Holmes Basic, and previously worked on the Deck of Many Things (which looks interesting), post on FB that he had spent "most of the last six months on it and y’all are in for some surprises". 

Then, a few days ago, WOTC provided an updated release schedule that says that the book will come out on June 18th. Interestingly, the title has now been updated to "1970-1977" in this press release and also the mock-up promotional image shown at the top of this page. Does this change mean that it will discuss Holmes Basic, released in 1977, and edited by J. Eric Holmes from the OD&D booklets?

The full description from the press release reads:

"The ultimate book showcasing D&D's inception, including Gary Gygax's never-before-seen first draft of D&D written in 1973, a curated collection of published fanzine and magazine articles contribute to D&D's origin story. Each document is introduced, described, and woven into the story by one of the game's foremost historians, Jon Peterson."

The "new news" here is that the book will also include a "draft of D&D", which is most likely the draft termed "Guidon D&D" by Peterson, and also contemporary articles. The inclusion of the draft is particularly noteworthy and exciting as this is a document that has never before been shared with the public in its entirety.

The promo image of the cover shows four ribbon bookmarks in different colors that appear to correspond to sections of the book, which are colored along the bottom of the page in the "Sneak Peek" images, with red corresponding to Chainmail and yellow corresponding to the original D&D volumes.

I saw a post on Twitter that unlike the other forthcoming WOTC books, which will be released in both physical and digital formats, this one will only have a physical release. So unfortunately no pdf option. 

So, in summary, we now know the 500 pages of this tome will cover the years 1970-1977, and include at least:
  • "Gary Gygax's never-before-seen first draft of D&D written in 1973"
  • "a replica of the original Dungeons & Dragons game, page for page"
  • "never-before seen correspondence" between Gygax and Arneson
  • "a curated collection of published fanzine and magazine articles"
  • historical context by Jon Peterson

The book is already available for pre-order at Amazon for $99, but also with a price-drop guarantee:

The Making of Original Dungeons & Dragons: 1970-1977

I've already pre-ordered it myself!

Note that while The Art & Arcana Deluxe, which is the previous WOTC publication most similar in nature to this one, still has a list price of $125 on Amazon, it is currently for sale for $66. Looking at my records, the price when I pre-ordered it was $100, but with the pre-order price guarantee I got it for $63.50.


Just out today (2/15/24) is a fascinating interview with Jason Tondro, who I quoted above, further detailing the contents of this book. From this it's clear it will include the entirety of 2nd Edition Chainmail, the "Guidon D&D" draft, the first printing of the LBBs (complete with the Tolkien references) and the first three supplements, among much other correspondence and magazine articles. It's a long interview (38+ minutes) but well worth the time spent watching it.

See also:

OD&D Discussion thread

Dragonsfoot discussion thread

EnWorld discussion thread

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Sutherland Dragon mini from Wizkids


As part of the 50th anniversary of the publication of D&D occurring this month*, WizKids has announced a Red Dragon mini based on David Sutherland's cover for the Holmes Basic Set, which is available for pre-order now and will be released later this year.

Pre-order it here:

WizKids Classic Red Dragon

The full text from the product page reads:

"A fiery peril to adventurers of editions, new and old, the red dragon has remained a mainstay of fantasy villainy. Celebrate this classic D&D threat with our new D&D Icons of the Realms: 50th Anniversary - Classic Red Dragon Boxed Miniature (Set 31)! 

This set includes the red dragon as depicted on the cover of the 1977 Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set. The beast among monsters. The tyrant among kings. The dragon among dragons."

Thanks to Josh and Leroyd20 on Twitter for a heads up on this release.

*Specifically, this upcoming weekend per the Playing at the World blog.

Saturday, January 20, 2024

Dice Dragon: Breath Weapon further research

Based on further reports from adventurers collected by the Portown Sage, it is apparent that the Dice Dragon does not only breath faerie fire; rather, that is just one possible effect. The revised bestiary shall now read:

Dice dragons defend themselves with a sharp bite or, three times a day, a small puff of weird fire at a single target, which does no damage but causes a random effect (unless a save versus breath weapon is made) that lasts for 3d4 turns, as determined by rolling a d12:

  1. Aged Equipment. All of the target’s non-magical equipment ages such that the next use causes it to break.

  2. Berserk Grappler. The target immediately attempts to grapple the nearest creature other than the dragon, and continues to do so for the duration. 

  3. Cloud of Darkness. Emanates from the target in a 30 foot radius, and moves with them.

  4. Contagious De-evolution. The target, but not their equipment, polymorphs into a small lemur, and anyone who touches the lemur must save or suffer the same.

  5. Enforced Pacifism. Any attack made by the target is followed by a round of incapacitating pain and suffering of 1d4 points of damage.

  6. Faerie Fire. Outlines the target (+2 to be hit), and then in the next round spreads to all in a 30 foot radius.

  7. Intermittent Beacon. Target emits a flash of light that blinds all in a 30 foot radius for 1 turn unless a save is made. This repeats once per turn for the duration.

  8. Magic Absorption. The power of one spell or magic item, determined randomly, possessed by the target is transferred to the dragon to use. A spell or charged item so affected is lost, but a permanent item will be restored after the duration.

  9. Noxious Stench. Emits from the target and is so strong that all within 60 feet must save each round to take any action.

  10. Ravenous Hunger. For the duration, the target can do nothing but eat; after eating all their own rations, they will go after that of any others within sight.

  11. Screaming Fear. Target flees, screaming maniacally, until at least 1000 feet from the dragon, and then screams again for one entire round each turn thereafter.

  12. Visible Gaseous Form. Target assumes the form of a highly visible purple gas; all items drop to the ground.

Note: This is a revision of a new monster published previously on this blog. I decided that a monster with "Dice" in the title should produce a dice-based random effect. Also, the revised dragon employs all of the polyhedrals of the TSR Dragon Dice Set: d4 for breath weapon duration, d6 for bite damage; d8 for hit dice; d10 for percentile-based alignment; d12 for breath weapon effect; and d20 for attacks/saves.