Thursday, May 21, 2015

Braunstein! Or Do Ethics Matter in OSR Publishing?

In the 1960s, David Wesely created a game he called Braunstein, which relied heavily on roleplaying and individual character motivations as opposed to the more commonly popular strategy miniatures games of the day. Wesely was of course part of the same group of Minnesota Gamers as Dave Arneson, and Wesely's ideas greatly influenced the Blackmoor Campaign.

So you can imagine that when I heard of a new game called Braunstein appearing at an online RPG retailer my curiousity was peaked. Furthermore the description blurb read the following:

"A Drive-Thru exclusive in digital format only! 
Role-playing began with the Braunstein games of the late 1960s. These converted war-games emphasized personal interactions and setting over complex rules and excessive mechanics... Braunstein! is written in this style, being designed for historical adventure games in the 4th through 15th centuries, but expandable through the early 16th if so desired. The judge need only choose a historical book(s) on the period they wish to chronicle and use these rules to create characters and resolve unpredictable situations using extremely simple (just 18 pages) mechanics. The rest is pure interaction! History is the best, most richly-detailed setting around, but Braunstein! also has simple rules for introducing real magic and witchcraft - perhaps the easiest ever! History or historical fantasy - it's your game now!"

The reference to the Braunstein games of the 1960s further suggested that this was the same game that Wesely used to run. The description on the cover of 1:1 Scale was slightly more confusing. Wasn't Braunstein combat typically handled through small a unit skrimish system? Was this really Wesely's game? One poster on Facebook suggested the game had little resemblence to the descriptions of the Braunsteins of the 1960s.

David Wesely created the Braunstein Games of the 1960s

Yesterday, Mr Wesely posted several places on Facebook that he had nothing to do with this ruleset. He had not been consulted for the contents and the publisher, "Olde House Rules", had never asked Wesely permission to use the name.

Critical voices were raised on various Facebook groups. Was this copyright infringement? Was it ethically right to market the game as something liked to the Braunstein's of the 1960s when the contents appear to have little to do with them? One defender suggested that it was okay because the game was dedicated to Wesely and because they only charge $1.49. 

The product has now been pulled from the online retailer. According to one source, Wesely is in talks with "Olde House Rules" to see if they can come to some sollution instead of getting into legal action. Hopefully the issue can be resolved.

I am no lawyer, but what do you think? Should this small time publisher have been left alone? Do ethics matter in OSR publishing?

More discussion of this topic.


Friday, May 15, 2015

Blackmoor Module Maps Improved by Author!

The Redwood Scar was the first published adventure set in Blackmoor in the D20 line. The plot was a continuation of Ties that Bind, an adventure included in the D20 Dave Arneson's Blackmoor Core Book. Both Ties that Bind and The Redwood Scar were authored by game designer Jeffrey Quinn and dealt among other things with the elves of Blackmoor. Recently Quinn has been revisiting the maps of his adventures:

"It has been some time since I worked on the Redwood Scar. But, as I look at it now, I can turn a sad eye to the one gaping weakness of the product... the maps. Not that I'm truly disappointed with them, after all you get an adventure module for the adventure, not the artwork. But, think of this like looking at your living room after you put wallpaper up a decade ago and think to yourself, that needs to come down and get a new coat of paint. In this thread, I revisit the maps of the Redwood Scar, tear down the decade-old wallpaper, and gussy it up with a fresh modern coat of paint."

 The result are some pretty neat maps to update your Blackmoor adventures with. You can get the maps for free here:

Ties That Bind: Jackport Sewers Map

Redwood Scar Maps



Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Blackmoor to be Revived by Vampire: The Masquerade Creator

Totally manipulated photo. :D

It has been fairly quiet on the Blackmoor front for a while, and then last night, May 11 2015, the following was announced via the Dave Arneson's Blackmoor Facebook Page:

" BREAKING NEWS: Gaming icon Mark Rein-Hagen (creator of the World of Darkness, Ars Magica) is returning to roleplaying games, and has expressed interest in putting out the first new Blackmoor material in years! "
Mark Rein-Hagen should be a well known name to anyone who is interested in the gaming industry. He started out co-designing the classic RPG Ars Magica and later went on to create Vampire the Masquerade at the World of Darkness Setting. His influence reached way beyond the  world or RPG design, with the World of Darkness influencing Tru Blood, the Underworld movies and beyond.

Ever since Dave Arneson passed away 2008, there has been alot of speculation on the possibilities of seeing Blackmoor back in print. Many have suggested that it would be legally difficult to make this happen. However, Rein-Hagen is certainly serious about his intent to get Blackmoor back into published form as he made this comment for the Blackmoor Blog:

"I am a huge fan [of Blackmoor] and always have been. Was fortunate enough to meet him when I was a kid. We are going to do everything we can to bring his world back into publication."
Also involved in the project is CA Suleiman and the rest of the team at Mark Rein-Hagen's company Make-Believe Games. In addition to being a well-known game designer for White Wolf's World of Darkness games and the Scarred Lands (Sword & Sorcery Imprint), Suleiman was also heavily involved in the design of the previous iteration of Blackmoor, including the never released Age of the Wolf subsetting.

More details here.


Monday, February 23, 2015

TSR Artist Fred Fields Defends Karameikos (in Jacqays Painting)

Fantasy illustrator and artist, Fred Fields, worked for TSR for 10 years and has later worked for Wizards of the Coast as well as on the D&D Online Game and Lord of the Rings Online Games. Mystara fans will know him for his work on the Hollow World product line. This is where I first noticed his work. However, I had no idea that he also had to don armor and sword to defend Mystara's Kingdom of Karameikos.

Jenell Jacqays revealed the following in the Mystara Reborn group on Facebook yesterday:
"My fellow TSR artist Fred Fields donned the armor and posed as the body model for this cover. When we needed models, we usually grabbed a co-worker, put a costume on them and posed them. The face is a composite of Fred and one of the graphic designers from advertising."

The final painting was used on the cover of the boxed set Karameikos: Kingdom of Adventure as well as one of the booklets contained within as well as the cover of the novel Dark Knight of Karameikos.

Jacqays worked on several projects for the Mystara line, both as an artist, writer and as an an editor. You can read more about her involvement with Mystara and her fond memories from those projects in this piece I did on this blog back in 2012.

Check out the art of Jenell Jacquays at her gallery. Learn more about the art of Fred Fields here.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Mystara Mailinglist (1995-2015) Shutting Down - End of an Era

20 years ago the Mystara Mailinglist was set up by Leroy Van Camp. In many ways this marked the beginning of the Mystara online fan community, a community which is still strong today even though most of its activity has moved onto other platforms such as The Piazza and the Mystara Reborn group on Facebook.

WotC announced that they will be shutting down all of their mailinglists on February 15th:


On February 15, 2015, Wizards of the Coast will terminate our LISTSERV 
system that manages this (and other) mailing lists. We've watched the usage 
of these mailing lists dwindle due to the rise of other communication 
platforms, such as forums and social media. Given this decreased usage, we 
have made the decision that it was time to turn them off.

Please take these two weeks to back up or archive any emails you wish to 
keep. After February 15, 2015, they will no longer be available and these 
lists will cease to function.

—Wizards of the Coast

It is a god thing that they are giving us at least a few weeks notice before the lists are shut down. Although there hasn't been much activity on the list in recent years, it is disappointing that the list archive is also being deleted. Fans are currently discussing options for preserving the archived email exchanges on other websites.

In any case, this marks the end of an era. The MML was the arena where many friendships were formed. It was also a list where TSR alumni such as Bruce Heard, Frank Mentzer and Harold Johnson participated. Fan undertakings such as the Mystara Net Almanacs, the Tome of Mystara, the M3E Project and many other projects were initiated.


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Threshold #5 Mystara Fan Magazine is Out: Focus on Davania

Another great thing that happened on Dave Arneson Game Day yesterday was the release of the 5th issue of Threshold, the fan magazine for the D&D World of Mystara. With an editorial group working out of The Piazza and working with the Vaults of Pandius, this fan project has moved from being a great idea to proving to the gamer community that this is a magazine that has come to stay.

As in the past, the current issue is professionally laid out with high quality illustrations and well written articles and beautiful maps. #5 focuses on Mystara's southern continent of Davania, a place that never got much detailed coverage in official material.

Go here to download!


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Dave Arneson Game Day 2014

Today is Dave Arneson's Anniversary. Join us in this annual celebration of D&D's co-creator and one of the founders of the RPG hobby.

Places to visit on this day:
This Blog!

The Comeback Inn - The Forum for Dave Arneson's Blackmoor:

Blackmoor Fans Facebook Group:

Blackmoor Forum at The Piazza:

Blackmoor Forum at OD&D74:

Gnomish Embassy:

Let me know what else you are doing in gaming today!