Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Beyond the Skies: Bruce Heard Launching New World of Calidar Kickstarter

We all remember how TSR Product Manager Bruce Heard brought us the World of Calidar last year. This amazing fantasy world featured Sky and Space faring magical ships, epic heroes questing for Immortality and a wealth of fantastic races and cultures. I have been a fan of Bruce Heard's work since the 1980s when he gave us Dungeons & Dragons books like The Principalities of Glantri, The Orcs of Thar and of course the ongoing series The Voyage of the Princess Ark in the pages of Dragon Magazine.

I was a backer of the first Calidar Kickstarter: The World of Calidar: In Stranger Skies, so I was naturally excited when I heard that we will be getting more goodness for this setting. This new Kickstarter will give newcomers a chance to get the original book at a reduced price as well as new exclusive titles. The upcoming World of Calidar: Beyond the Skies will detail the Gods, Sprits, and other Planes of Existence in the Calidar Universe. I am also happy to see my good friend Thorfinn Tait returning as cartographer for this book as well. Thorfinn makes the most amazing RPG maps and in addition to Bruce Heard's writing, I find that the maps and floorplans he makes have really become a trademark of the World of Calidar. I can't wait to learn more about this project.

Take a sneak peak at the upcoming World of Calidar: Beyond the Skies here.

Visit the World of Calidar Forum on the Piazza.


Thursday, November 5, 2015

Bye-Bye WotC Forums

Today the forums at the Wizards of the Coast Forum were finally shut down as announced in September. Although I have not been too active on that web site for a long time, I am  sad to see all of that gone. I still do not understand why they could not simply lock the forums and keep them around as an archive, but I suspect there could be legal issues involved. The amount of fan creativity found on boards like that one are a terrible thing to loose though.

I still remember when the old Blackmoor Forums hosted by Zeitgeist Games were shut down. Fortunately we were able to preserve most of that over at The Comeback Inn. Similarly, ENWorld, The Piazza and other forums have attempted to preserve as much as possible from the old WotC boards.

A web community isn't just the information in the posts either. It is also relationships, memories and a central part of the history of our hobby. Now deleted. I have compiled a timeline of the website's history here. On a less depressing note, there are other forums out there, run by fans and amateurs doing a better job than many companies are able to. If you are into forum discussions, you can find me at The Piazza and the Comeback Inn.


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

TSR Authors Talk about Mystara and the D&D Gazetteers

Do you remember back in the first decades of Tabletop gaming? Back then, our best hope of interracting with the Dungeons & Dragons game designers was to write a letter to Dragon Magazine and maybe have someone reply. Especially for those of us living in places where the idea of going to GenCon or Origins seemed like an epic journey.

These days though with this thing called The Internet, that has all changed. Over the last couple of months, the Mystara Reborn group on Facebook has exploded. It has now reached 1195 members and keeps growing. One of the great things about this group is the participation of many of the TSR game designers who helped contribute to this classic Dungeons & Dragons Game Setting. With a history of published material dating back to 1981's X1 The Isle of Dread, the list of game designers having been involved with the World of Mystara over the years sure is a long one.

Even more amazing to me is how so many of these game designers have such fond memories of their contribution to this setting, so much that they are actively participating in discussions in the group. Current membership includes Bruce Heard, Frank Mentzer, Ed Greenwood, Scott Haring, Steve Perrin, Jim Bambra, Jennell Jaquays, Douglas Niles, Ken Rolston, Steven Schend, Lawrence Schick, Merle Rasmussen, Michael Dobson, Steven Winter and Ann Dupuis. (In random order. My appologies if I forgot anyone, it was a long list to scroll through!)

It is indeed a great time to live if you are a fan of one of the oldest Dungeons & Dragons Settings. I am looking forward to see who else will sign up to join the chat in the coming months.  Especially missed are Aaron Allston, Tom Moldvay, Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. But those esteemed gentlemen are not forgotten.

Sign up to Mystara Reborn here.


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Dave Arneson Day 2015 Across the Web

Some D&D Gamers!

Below are some comments posted on Facebook for Dave Arneson Game Day:
It's been such a long time since I last played Blackmoor... But it's like yesterday in my mind. Such a great time we had with friends. No matter how difficult it was for us to translate it from English, still we enjoyed it very much :D - Gilberto G, Italy I'm making something special. 
-Doc W

I fell in love with Blackmoor and Dave's work when I read the four DA modules, many years ago. I was so mesmerized by them, their environment, their alien feeling, their characters and villains that most of them have influenced my way to be a Dungeon Master. So great is my passion for Blackmoor that I'm (the being) behind the fan page dedicated to the Egg of Coot that, in my imagination, remain and always will be, the real nemesi of Mystara and Blackmoor. Maybe someone could say that all this stuff is good only for Jurassic players like those of the old me.. maybe.. I can only answer that, till the day that I'll have strength to thrown a dice and play this game.. well.. I will play the old, great, fantasy worlds like that imagined by Dave. 
- Giuliano M

 Whut. You know me. I am Rafe. Previously, the Last Fantasy Campaign. Now, Meleon: The Coward's Blade. I love Blackmoor. 
- Raphael, Germany

 Blackmoor has been my favorite campaign setting since I started playing back in the early 1980s. I played the MMRPG under 3.5 for quite a while and am now running a 4th ed campaign that started with the short lived 4th ed MMRPG and is now forging the history of Blackmoor in the year 1300. The PCs, having started at 1st level, are now all just about to hit 23rd level. 

 Well, I didn't get to play today but I did get to go to the wedding of two D&D buddies in the company of two other D&D buddies, so I guess that's something. Hopefully they'll never forget their anniversary! 
- Michael T

 Without Dave Arneson's Blackmoor, I never would have asked the question "Did Uther ever have kids?" I never would have filled in that blank myself and launched a writing project that has spanned nearly six years in the telling (with many, many more to come). One piece of that story is unfolding in the Throne of Stars campaign in the Thorn's World That Was sub-forum at the Comeback Inn: 
 And yes, seats are still available if you'd like to play :D 

 My Thursday group IS presently playing D&D (Rules Cyclopedia version). Blackmoor even features in the campaign, (The game will continue through October, at which point we'll rotate GMs and game systems/campaigns again.)

- Steve Miller (Former TSR staffer) 

 [Dave Arneson Day is a] Great idea! 
 -CA Suleiman, Game Designer (Mummy, Blackmoor 4e)

Image Source:


Dave Arneson Game Day 2015

Here's my banner for Dave Arneson Game Day 2015, celebrated on the birthday of D&D Co-Creator Dave Arneson! A legend in gaming. Let us celebrate this today by playing games, talking about games and posting about games.

Visit our Facebook Event

These are some places where Dave Arneson Game Day is being honored:

Havards Blackmoor Blog
The Gnomish Embassy
The Comeback Inn - Official Dave Arneson Game Day Thread
The Piazza 
Blackmoor Fans Facebook Group

Help me add more to the list!

Also, introducing Blackmoor Week! Starting from today and one week onwards, many of the supporters of Dave Arneson Game Day will be posting Blackmoor and Dave Arneson related material on their websites every day. Join in the celebrations and show your love for gaming! :)

Also, take a look at last year's Dave Arneson Game Day.

And here is an overview of Dave Arneson Game Day Events since 2010.


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Jim Bambra and B10 Night's Dark Terror

B10 Night's Dark  Terror is recognized by fans as one of the best adventure modules for the classic (BECMI) edition of the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game and is a fan favorite module for the World of Mystara. Set in the Grand Duchy of Karameikos, the adventure features a combination of dungeon crawling and wilderness exploration. For a long time it was seen as the conclusion of the B series of modules that began with B1 In Seach of the Unknown by Dave Arneson player Mike Carr and B2 Keep on the Borderlands by Gary Gygax.

B10 Night's Dark Terror was published by TSR UK and written by three British game designers Jim Bambra, Graeme Morris, and Phil Gallagher. Today, at the Facebook BECMI group Jim Bambra revealed the story of how the module was written and the module's overall design goals:

"Night's Dark Terror was designed to bridge the transition of the Basic Set to the Expert Set. It's goal was to introduce wilderness adventuring in an easy and fun way that would lead players on a clear quest without forcing them down pre-defined paths. The story would drive the players forward as they followed the clues that eventually leads them to the Lost Valley. "

Unlike most D&D adventure modules of the time, this one was written by a team of three experienced designers. So how did they work together as a team and who brought what to the table?

"At TSR UK we'd already written adventures for the D&D game. Graeme Morris had designed X8 Drums on Fire Mountain and CM6 Where Chaos Reigns. I'd cut my teeth on O2 Blade of Vengeance. All three games featured wilderness exploration, so we were well versed in what we needed to do. “Design a great adventure that players would love.” Little did I think that gamers would still be playing it almost 30 years later! Design work was shared between Graeme and myself, with Phil Gallagher involved in many of the brainstorming sessions. I can't exactly remember who did what, but Graeme designed Sukiskyn and the goblin siege; I worked on the Iron Ring and the wilderness encounters, as well as the journey up to Hutaaka and the Lost Valley itself. Having said that it was not that clearly demarcated. Graeme's and my design work is pretty much intermingled throughout. As ideas were shared on this project, the text wasn't always written by the person who had the original idea. Overall, B10 was a collaborative project that was great fun to work on."

Jim Bambra in the couch, middle

The module also included some additional features that were uncommon back then. An early scene in the module is a fairly epic battle of Sukiskyn, where the homestead is being attacked by goblin tribes:

" We also had the opportunity to add the large-scale map of Sukiskyn and the cardboard counters. I was particularly pleased with this as it matches my style of play of using maps and miniatures to keep track of the players and NPCs."

Design by committee is not usually something that comes with positive connotations, but in this case it clearly did work. The TSR UK branch had delivered yet another excellent game product. And yes Jim, we are still playing it all these decades later. Thank you!


Image Source:
Jim Bambra (Pumpkin Studios):

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Threshold #9 Mystara Fanzine, Now Available as Free Download!

Threshold #9 is out! The latest issue of the Mystara fanzine  covers the Hollow World. This 200 page PDF continues the surprisingly professional lookin style that we have come to expect from Threshold, a magazine co produced by the people of The Piazza and the Vaults of Pandius.

This issue even covers a small article by the author of this blog. In addition you get Icevale Elves,Azcans, the Ecology of Megaliths, Koskatep Megadungeon Level 7, 5th Edition adaptations of Rahasia and much more! Complete with a combination of color and black & white interior illustrations and superb color maps. A must have for Mystara fans and D&D fans in general!

See the official announcement thread here for how to download this free fanzine!