Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Why Holmes' Sample Dungeon?

For those of you keeping up here at the Home Brew, you will have noticed that for the past forty-two odd campaign sessions have revolved around Holmes' sample dungeon from basic D&D rule book.

You may have also remember that that same dungeon was the inspiration for the Beneath the Ruined Tower of Zenopus radio play that we produced last year.

And now I begin work on an animated version of that same radio play which of course has the sample dungeon as the main setting.

Why has the Holmes' sample dungeon, a tiny thirty-five year old creation, been such a mainstay of my FRPG revival these recent years?

Perhaps it's because when I first opened the Holmes' basic set and flipped through the pages of the rules for the first time and I came across that crude dungeon map, my imagination and wonder and curiosity was forever sparked.

My basic set came with the module B: In Search Of The Unknown and we played the hell out of that one as I'm sure many of you have as well.  A great starter dungeon and learning tool without a doubt.

But the Sample Dungeon was a deadly maze, fully stocked with monsters, treasures, pirates, wizards tricks and traps and intersecting corridors to challenge even experienced characters and players as soon as they pass through that first four-way intersection.  It was and still is the best example of what Dungeons & Dragons was/is/could be.  It was a complete work and adventure that came in a set of rules. It has never been topped since.  The 'sample' dungeon in the DM Guide is incomplete as is the sample Haunted Keep in the Moldvay rules.

Holmes' threw everything at you to make a fun and exciting dungeon experience.  His brief and colorful portrait of the history of the tower of Zenopus and Portown with it's Green Dragon Inn and the author's permission for expansion has always made this the crossroads of that moment when the game was presented as just sit down and jump right in to one that become monetized over time.

That aside, when I was looking to get a campaign started I knew I'd be running an early adventure of come sort.  I figured B1 (ISOTU) and B2 (Keep on the Borderlands) were both probably all overplayed but Holmes' sample dungeon was just obscure enough to give folks a taste of a fun old school dungeon adventure.  I figured we'd play it out in a couple of sessions and then move on.  Little did I realize that this little sample dungeon would become the hub of a campaign that has been going on for forty-two plus sessions.  Of course I changed Portown to Caladan from Holmes' Maze of Peril, his prose story based on his own campaigns within his world where the sample dungeon comes from.

I have to say it IS my favorite dungeon.

That is why I have chosen to pay homage to it over and over again, in our campaign, in the radio play and now in the animation project because it really is that great.  It speaks volumes to what Holmes added to this hobby.

1 comment:

  1. I have to agree - those few pages in that smallish book packed a wallop like few others.