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The Captain's Log: The Mystery of the Loaded Dice

By Jeffrey A. Rothermel

The Captain's Log

The Mystery of the Loaded Dice

(Part Two of the Dungeon Cooking Chronicles)

Computers occasionally misidentify a book. Humans occasionally misidentify dice. This Captain's Log entry highlights what can go wrong when no one opts to scrutinize what they have. Bookdealers, collectors and appraisers call it identify. Those in the Dungeons and Dragons world call it using the "identify" spell.

Authors note: This is a somewhat fictionalized account of a real Dungeons and Dragons Campaign. Few of the players knew one another prior to going to Captain's Book Shoppe LLC. The strangers expressed an interest in Dungeons and Dragons. They were recruited by Centauri-the-bookdealer whom is known to frequent Captain's Book Shoppe. If you are interested in joining, just ask to see Centauri the next time you are in the shop. The campaign events are basically real, but aspects have been fictionalized to protect client privacy. The campaign started with a book... Today we discuss The Player's Handbook.

Computers occasionally detect and categorize "a different book" as the same, comparable book. Experienced Dungeon's & Dragons (D&D) Handbook users can easily point out the differences of "the same book." Computers often mis-categorize (identify and group) Dungeons and Dragons items. Some things still require "human sense, touch and smell." The picture below depicts D&D Player's Handbooks. The "top left" and the "top center" are both technically, 6th printings from 1980 and have the same bibliographic information. Both covers were done by D. A. Trampier. The two thieves prying the ruby eye out of the statue is in my opinion, the iconic version. I would argue that the book with two thieves stealing the ruby is more collectable than the other version. The economics of playing Advanced Dungeons & Dragons with 1980s Tactical Studies Rules (TSR) collectable books rather than playing Fifth Edition Wizards of the Coast Dungeons and Dragons in 2024 is maybe an article for another time. Today, we will examine how one of the most ethical and skilled D&D players I know had loaded dice, a saloon changed its name, and I will also disclose the secret, magical recipe for Gnome Soup.

Dungeons & Dragons Players Handbooks.[1] Collectors will immediately spot the missing versions of the Player's Handbook. defines Completist Book Collecting as:

"A completist is a book collector who seeks all collectible editions of a particular title, subject, author, or other focus of their collection. Rather than just seeking the first edition of a book or work, a completist may seek all first appearances, including foreign publications, and works and objects ancillary to the book. A completist that collects a particular author seeks to assemble and exhaustive collection of all that author's works, in all states. A completist may also, for example, seek to obtain the manuscript editions, and even the typewriter that was used by the author, as well as the books they produced on it." Completist - Glossary of Book Collecting Terminology (Accessed February 18, 2024)

The hardbound books pictured above are more than commodities (collectables) in various conditions. They tell a story. They are a history of the game's evolution. The original (year 1978) Player's Handbook was 128 pages and detailed a player character class called: thief and a thief subclass called assassin. The Second Edition (year 1989) made no mention of the assassin class, or the fees paid to an assassin. It introduced the Rogue and still had the thief class. The Player's Handbook Core Rulebook I v3.5 was not only an awkwardly long title, but the character class of thief had disappeared. The Rogue had thieving skills. The current Player's Handbook is 320 pages and includes the additional dragonborn race.

Dungeons & Dragons Players Handbook Core Rulebook I v.3.5 did a superior job in comparing and contrasting the races as seen by the sketch on pages 12-13. A completist can often tell you the significance of each item in a collection. Controversy has a way of churning the book value caldron. This essay will avoid stepping into the minefield of the 1980s when the game was thought by some to be demonic. Centauri-the-Bookdealer would probably point out how the handbooks evolution and lack of a named Thief or Assassin was in part, a reflection of the marketing strategies of the times. The collector could tell you of other nuances and controversies, best left for another essay.

Our story resumed on February 17, 2024 in the fictional village of Pfhandalin. The Dungeon Master set the stage by describing a fictional world. A group of eight people from all walks of real life met to roleplay characters that work together to solve mysteries, puzzles and complete quests. Our party member, Kate, painted the sign which is below, and it also hangs over the door of the inn- in the fictional world of Phandalin. Artwork is a method of bridging the distant fictional concepts, while bringing it into clear reality.

Our mark in that fictional world has been made at the local, fictional inn. It has our stuffed manticore head on the wall from last month's adventure. The fictional owner of the inn has renamed his saloon. He now calls his place: "The Merry Manticore." Historians deal with myth, legends, history and lore as do booksellers. The portal between fantasy and reality is what makes book shoppes so interesting. (The following link will take you to our previous adventure / Captain's Log.)

The sign reminded me of Tolkien's inns: The Green Dragon and The Prancing Pony. The opening pages of Terry Brook's book Sword of Shanara had an unnamed inn that remains in my memory, since I read that passage as a teenager. Those books along with many others are on the recommended reading list found on page 312 of the Fifth Edition Player's Handbook: Appendix E: Inspirational Reading. Additionally, if you are opening a used bookstore, the list will not steer you wrong about what to stock in your Fantasy Section.

Captain's Book Shoppe LLC

1570 S. 1st Ave, Suite H

Iowa City, Iowa 52240

Phone (319) 351-3166

The Captain's Book Shoppe phone number has always been (319) 351-3166. More than half a decade ago, that number was a taxi company. Still to this day, people call the store in search of a cab. The ghosts of cabby's frequent the shoppe through their books. Last month's mysterious cabbie ghost and author was Leonard Nimoy. As I researched the authenticity of a few of his signatures that are in the store, I came across Nimoy telling the story of driving Senator John F. Kennedy on a ten-minute cab ride.[2]

This month's Yellow Cab driving ghost who has books in the store is David Trampier. He was a cab driver 360 miles from the Captain's Book Shoppe in Carbondale, Illinois. The name may seem familiar to you, because he is the artist that did the covers of the original Dungeons and Dragons Handbooks.

Trampier's bold, black and white illustrations were a style of artwork that influenced a generation of artists. He drew many of the monsters listed in the original Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual. His style was easily identifiable along with his D.A.T. signature normally in the bottom right corner of the work. As a cartoonist, his work included The Wormy Comic Strip which was published in Dragon Magazine. He signed his work as: "Tramp." He simply vanished in the early 1980's. Fans noticed a 2005 article in an Illinois college newspaper about a Yellow Cabby named: Cabby no. 4 David Trampier. The Strange Case of David A. Trampier | Skyland Games (

Trampier's disappearance from the artworld is similar to the vanishing of the Assassin and Thief class from the later versions of the Player's Handbook. This is why I find the original Player's Handbooks uniquely special.

Page 193 of the AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide has an iconic D. A. Trampier's illustration.

Our party of adventurers found ourselves in a subterranean kitchen. A group of gnomes were busy preparing a most delicious smelling meal. The party had the opportunity to feast upon the delicious soup. It took a vast amount of espionage to secure this secret recipe that the party of adventures all agreed, tasted great. The chef revealed the secret. The recipe was from the internet: Healthy Seasonal Recipes. You can find the recipe in the footnotes.[3] If you are interested in discovering more old-world recipes, you can check out Captain's Cookbooks at the following click-bait link:

There is an element of chance and luck in the game of Dungeons and Dragons. There is also the mathematical sciences of probability meaning various types of dice are used to determine outcomes. The odd shaped yellow, gold, pink and white dice in the picture above are called twenty-sided-dice (D-20). A single D-20 is rolled to determine the success of a round of melee. High rolls are preferred. Dice have evolved over time.

The pink and white dice come from the 1980s. They came with a wax marker. The numbers go from 0-9. The second set of 0-9 were colored with the marker to designate 11-20. The unmarked numbers represented 1-10. Today, D-20 are marked and colored with the full number as seen by the golden D-20 next to the pink D-20.

The evolution of dice means, the original D&D players have multiple versions of dice. Some players might be considered a completist, meaning they prefer to have as many types of dice as possible. During this adventure, Brocc the Gnome- with many editions of dice, could never roll above a "five." Pictured below is the D-20 that he used all night during the campaign. The "die" had twenty sides, but only the numbers 1-5 stamped into the item. The die was loaded to lose.

"I just bought this set of dice." He muttered along with a few expletives in Gnome.

The Captain's Book Shoppe LLC Privacy Policy is null and void when using loaded dice.

No matter which version of the game is played; a five or less are not winning rolls in Dungeons and Dragons.

Dungeons and Dragons players often like to build a better mouse trap. Pictured above is a home-made "dice roller." Drop the dice into the top of the item. Gravity pulls it, tumbling over shelves inside the tower. The dice roll out into the tray.

The night was a fun time of puzzles that needed to be solved.

Pro-tip, don't be like me, when the night of gaming is over and say to the Rogue that brought the losing dice to the table, "We sure could have used a thief."

If the Captain's Book Shoppe ever gets an official gaming room, this night will be the reason there will be a sign that says: "Always check the Rogue for loaded dice." The sign will hang under the MERRY MANTICORE sign.


I welcome your insights concerning the topics that were just discussed. Please give me a phone call at the store: (319) 351-3166 or send me an email at:

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= = = = = FOOT NOTES

Top left:  Gygax, Gary. ADVANCED DUNGONS & DRAGONS Special Reference Work PLAYERS HANDBOOK. Illustrations by David C Sutherland III, D.A. Trampier Cover by D. A. Trampier.  Lake Geneva, WI: TSR Games, 1980 6th printing. (1978 is original copyright.) ISBN 0-935696-01-6. 128 pages.

Top center.   Gygax, Gary. ADVANCED DUNGONS & DRAGONS Special Reference Work PLAYERS HANDBOOK. Illustrations by David C Sutherland III, D.A. Trampier Cover by D. A. Trampier.  Lake Geneva, WI: TSR Games, 1980 6th printing. (1978 is original copyright.) ISBN 0-935696-01-6. 128 pages.

Top right.  Cook, David Zeb. Steve Winter and Jon Pickens... Edited by Mike Breault. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition Player's Handbook. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, Inc, 1989. ISBN: 0-88038-716-5. 256 pages. Printed price on back cover: $20.00 US.

Bottom left:  Two each: Gygax, Gary. ADVANCED DUNGONS & DRAGONS Special Reference Work PLAYERS HANDBOOK. Illustrations by David C Sutherland III, D.A. Trampier Cover by D. A. Trampier.  Lake Geneva, WI: TSR Games, 1980 6th printing. (1978 is original copyright.) ISBN 0-935696-01-6. 128 pages.

Bottom center:  Tweet, Jonathan. Monte Cook and Skip Williams... Edited by Julia Martin and John Rateliff. Dungeons & Dragons Player's Handbook Core Rulebook I v 3.5. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, Inc, Special Edition October 2004, 5th printing. ISBN: 978-0-7869-2886-6. 320 pages. Suggested Retail Price on back cover: U.S. $29.95

Bottom right:  Crawford, Jeremy. Mike Mearls... Editors Michele Carter, Chris Sims, Scott Fitzgerald Gray, Christopher Perkins. Player's Handbook. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2014, 4th printing. (August 2014 First Printing). ISBN 978-0-7869-6560-1. 320 pages. Suggested Retail Price back cover: US $49.95

Concise article about Nimoy as cab driver and JFK. Spock once picked up JFK in his cab ( (Accessed Feb 21, 2024)

Video of Nimoy telling about cab driving. (48) When Leonard Nimoy Met Jack Kennedy - DailyComedy's LateNet - YouTube  (Accessed Feb 21, 2024).

Article about Nimoy as cab driver and U.S. Army Soldier. Famous Veteran: Leonard Nimoy | (Accessed Feb 21, 2024)

Additional Cabby References:

Trampier, David A. Yellow Cab: [cabby] Coffee, Cigarettes and Speed Bumps, A Night with a Carbondale Cabby. Friday, February 22, 2022. South Illinois University SIU Daily Egyptian.  (Accessed Feb 20, 2024)

[3] The not so secret, secret Gnome Soup Recipe.

Gnome Soup

February 17, 2024

Also known as:

Gluten-free Minestrone Soup Recipe

  • AUTHOR: Katie Webster  (No relation to the Manticore Inn artist Kate)

  • TOTAL TIME: 35 minutes

  • 1 cup uncooked macaroni, gluten-free if desired

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish

  • 3 cups diced onion

  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic

  • 1 cup diced carrots

  • 1 cup diced celery

  • 1 tablespoon dry Italian seasoning

  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 cup dry white wine

  • 6 cups vegetable broth

  • 1 small zucchini, diced

  • 1 28–ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, preferably Italian plum tomatoes

  • 1 14–ounce can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

  • Grated Parmesan cheese for serving, optional


  1. Cook Pasta: Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Add macaroni and cook according to package instructions. Drain.

  2. Sauté The Vegetables: Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring often until the onion is starting to brown slightly, about 3 minutes. Add in in carrots, celery, Italian seasoning and salt, and stir to combine. Continue cooking, stirring often, until the vegetables are softened and the pan has a little fond along the bottom, 3 to 5 minutes.

  3. Make The Soup: Pour in wine and cook, stirring until most of the wine is evaporated, 1 to 3 minutes. Add in broth and zucchini, increase heat to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer, and cook until the vegetables are tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Crush tomatoes into the soup and add any tomato sauce from the can. Stir in beans and the cooked macaroni and cook, stirring often until heated through, about 4 minutes.

  4. To Finish and Serve: Remove from heat. Stir in basil. Serve in bowls topped with Parmesan and additional olive oil if desired.


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