Wednesday, August 12, 2020

New WotC Survey Has Questions About Dave Arneson

 Wizards of the Coast keep sending me these surveys and I am not sure if there is much point to me answering any of them since, even though I play 5th Edition (I play and enjoy all editions of D&D), I don't think they particularly care about my answers. 

Many of the questions this time around were, not surprisingly related to the Covid-19 situation and to virtual platforms/tools for gaming. However, I was surprised to see two questions related to famous D&D Game designers and see Dave Arneson's name listed as one of the possible answers!

The first questions was about what Game Designers you recognize and the second one was about what names would make you more likely to buy a product. 

Could this mean WotC are considering returning to Dave Arneson's Blackmoor? 

Wishful thinking for sure, but I made sure to click on Dave's name. 

The other names were a combination of current WotC designers and former WotC and TSR era designers. There were several names missing from the list than I would have liked to see on there, but I did like seeing Margaret Weis, Tracy Hickman, Jeff Grubb and David Zeb Cook on the list. Again, it would be cool if this could mean something for Dragonlance, Spelljammer or even Taladas. 

Anyway, I am probably putting too much thought into this, but since I took the time completing the survey, I do think I should be getting something out of this! :D

Take the survey here (vote for Dave!)


Monday, June 29, 2020

Jim Holloway Has Passed Away (-June 29, 2020)

I'm sad to learn that prolific RPG artist Jim Holloway has passed away. A self-taught artist, Holloway started out doing illustrations for Dragon and Dungeon Magazines since 1981 and other TSR D&D products from 1983. In addition to working on Dungeons & Dragons products, Holloway produced paintings and illustrations for a number of RPGs including Paranoia (West End Games), FASA's Battletech, Chill (Pacesetter Games) and Sovereign Stone (Sovereign Press).

His son posted the following on a Facebook group dedicated to Holloway's art:

I feel like it’s necessary to post this because of all of the support everyone has given my dad over the course of this group. Earlier today, he passed away peacefully. My brother, uncle and I were there for him, holding his hand and telling him we loved him. To everyone who reached out or commented on my post about him being sick, thank you so much. It means a lot to us, and it meant a lot to him. Afterwards, I went to his house and looked at all of his old paintings. I wanted to share this one from the ‘70s with you all — a scene from The Hobbit, a book my dad forced me to read as a kid (I’m not complainin!) it’s a picture of the painting, not a scan, so I apologize for the unlit sections. But if everyone could please continue to share his art in this group and wherever else, my family would really appreciate you helping us keep his memory alive. He was a talented man, and I love seeing the stuff everyone shares.

I personally have fond memories of his humorous interior illustrations in Mystara's Gaz10 The Orcs of Thar as well as his work in Paranoia RPG. His unique style made his art easy to recognize even for a young gamer like myself back then.

Rest in Peace.

Image: Photo taken from Jim's no longer existing website.


Friday, May 15, 2020

[Artifacts] Dave Arneson's Tome of Chaos

Note: This article was updated on May 16th to correct mistakes and add information provided by Dan Boggs and Jon Peterson. 

The Tome of Chaos

This dark artifact from the original Blackmoor setting is drawn from an adventure that Dave Arneson ran at different conventions in the 1970s. The book's cover is made from human skin and is adorned by a skull. Opening the book without speaking the proper rituals will release all kinds of evil undead spirits to destroy anyone in sight. The quest was simple. Venture into the dungeon below Castle Blackmoor and recover the book. The forces of darkness could not be permitted to have such a book in their posession. Deep within the dungeon there is a library filled with ancient tomes and scrolls. The Tome of Chaos was found on a pedistal at the center of the room. But why was the temptation to open the book so strong?

This artifact is not mentioned in any published material from Dave Arneson, but recently two separate accounts of Dave Arneson using this adventure for conventions has been discovered. The earliest account is from a convention in San Jose, California in 1976 where Dave Arneson and various other TSR personalities as accounted by in this youtube video by Jim Murphy. From Jon Peterson we learn that the same adventure involving the book was also used by Dave Arneson at Origins Game Fair at Staten Island New York in 1977. Arneson had quit TSR and TSR were boycotting Origins. 

Although the concept of an evil book is something that goes back in history, it is interesting that the Book of Vile Darkness appeared in D&D Supplement I: Greyhawk which came out in 1975, the the year before Dave used this adventure in San Jose. However, the effects of the Book of Vile Darkness are quite different from those of the Tome of Chaos so the two might be completely unrelated items. Or it is also possible that the book from Dave Arneson's campaign, which I have dubbed the Tome of Chaos was created much earlier by Arneson when he was developing the Blackmoor Dungeon. Over at the Comeback Inn, Blackmoor fans have been speculating to where in the dungeon this secret library might have been located. Right now, evidence points towards the library being found on Dungeon Level 5 even though this is not specified in either of the two published versions of the dungeon. If we learn more about the library's location or more details on the properties of the Tome of Chaos, I will make sure to share it!

Further discussion of this article here

Artifacts: Artifacts is a new series of articles where I write about powerful magical items and relics of the Dave Arneson's Blackmoor Campaign Setting which have appeared in any published version of the setting or in Dave Arneson's original campaign. Stay tuned for more! 

About the illustration: The hand crafted book depicted apparently exists in real life and was sold at the etsy website. Would be sweet to own one of these!


Thursday, May 14, 2020

Greg Svenson's Lost Dungeon of Tonisborg: What Can The Maps Tell Us?

The Lost Dungeons of Tonisborg is an adventure with a history going back to the Blackmoor Campaign of the 1970s. It was created by Greg Svenson, player in Dave Arneson's campaign back in 1973/1974. Greg placed the adventure in Blackmoor and the city also appeared in Dave's campaign, although when the First Fantasy Campaign was published in 1977, Dave changed the name of the city to Vestfold, which was kept in later publications of Blackmoor. The origins of Vestfold and Tonisborg are discussed in more detail in this article.

Greg's Dungeon Maps were thought lost forever untill a copy was rediscovered by another member of Dave Arneson's group, David Megarry, the designer of Dungeon! More details about the dungeon and its rediscovery can be read at Dan Bogg's blog here. A rewamped version of the dungeon is currently in the works to be published as a special stretch goal for the Secrets of Blackmoor Kickstarter. Recently many backers of the Kickstarter have joined the Comeback Inn Forum as the Secrets of Blackmoor creators have promised to share more details with Kickstarter backers there.

Recently, the Secrets of Blackmoor Facebook page shared Megarry's copies of the original dungeon maps for Dungeon Level 1 and Dungeon Level 3 of the Tonisborg Dungeon. It is interesting to see that this map shares certain features with Dave Arneson's dungeon maps that are less common in dungeon maps from later decades. We see the characteristic diagonal corridors, non-standard rooms and long corridors that seem to lead to no rooms.

David Megarry offered the following suggestion to why Dave Arneson may have used diagonal corridors in his dungeons

"My hunch is that it is a consequence of Arneson drawing the roads and streams for table top battlefield maps for the Napoleonic Campaign. Outside of urban areas, roads and streams go any which way; it is only in cities and towns you end up with grid systems (though some older east coast towns road designs may have been drawn by drunken city planners, who knows?;) He did use graph paper to draw his maps but was not bound by those grid lines. If you look at the original Blackmoor town map, you can see that a tunnel from the town to Elf home or the Freehold would follow a diagonal line.

This theory certainly makes sense, and I do agree that Dave Arneson was probably thinking in terms of what was going on above ground much more than what later dungeon mappers would have been. From the FFC we know that his maps point towards where certain corridors would connect to other dungeons (like the Glendower dungeon connecting to the Blackmoor Dungeon) and other parts of Blackmoor.

Interestingly, this might also tell us how the designers of such maps (in this case Greg) imagined the surface world above the dungeon might have appeared. Upon Greg's suggestion, I placed Tonnisborg on the small island outside of Vestfold. Do I need to revise my city plan map now? :)


Wednesday, May 13, 2020

New Blackmoor Livestreamed Campaign From Blackmoor Author Tad Kilgore and MMRPG Alumni

Live Streamed Dungeons & Dragons gaming is incredibly popular these days, so it is great seeing a live streamed game set in the first D&D campaign setting, Dave Arneson's Blackmoor.

This campaign is hosted by Tad Kilgore who has a long history with the setting. He was campaign organized for the Blackmoor MMRPG and was the author of the Riders of Hak Sourcebook for the Blackmoor d20 line. The players in this campaign are also people with a history of writing for the Blackmoor MMRPG campaign as well as being long time friends of Tad.

The players include:
  • Phil Slama, former head of Terror Inc. and MMRPG author. Phil has also released several 5E adventures which are available for free at The Comeback Inn.
  • Jenn Barth, former MMRPG author
  • Mathew Tearle, former MMPRG author and member of Terror Inc.
  • Jimmy, a newcomer to Blackmoor. Which is also awesome! 

This campaign uses the D&D 5th Edition Rules and is centered around the Dungeons of Castle Blackmoor and starts out at The Comeback Inn. It is going to be extremely interesting to follow these adventures!

The Campaign is livestreamed in Twitch and is also available on YouTube. You can also follow the campaign on Facebook via Kilgore's Lair page and the Blackmoor Fans Facebook Group.


Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Rest in Peace Brian Blume (1950- 2020)

One of the Co-founder of TSR, passed away last Friday. Brian John Blume (January 12, 1950 ~ March 27, 2020 helped found the company together with Gary Gygax and Don Kaye in 1973, just one year before the company launched Dungeons & Dragons and changed the world. 

Brian Blume co-authored Warriors of Mars and Boot Hill with Gary Gygax and created Panzer Warfare. In connection to Blackmoor, the Mon Class which appeared in Supplement II: Blackmoor is sometimes credited to Blume. The Dungeons & Dragons Companion Set was dedicated to him with the following text:

As the saying goes, 'for want of a nail, the war was lost'; and for want of a company, the D&D game might have been lost amidst the lean and turbulent years of the last decade. This set is therefore dedicated to an oft-neglected leader of TSR Inc., who with Gary Gygax founded this company and made it grow. The D&D Companion set is dedicated to BRIAN BLUME. -- foreword, D&D Companion Set 1984

His obituary reads:

Brian John Blume January 12, 1950 ~ March 27, 2020 (age 70) 

 Brian J. Blume, 70 of Lake Geneva, passed away Friday March 27, 2020 at the Lakeland Nursing Home in Elkhorn WI from Lewy Body Dementia and Parkinson's disease. 

 Brian was born January 12, 1950 in Oak Park, IL to Melvin and Kathleen Blume. He grew up in Wauconda IL, about an hour from Chicago, with 4 brothers and 3 half-brothers, and graduated as the valedictorian of his high school class. He attended Wabash College, but followed in the footsteps of his father by leaving and becoming a journeyman tool and die maker. While he excelled academically, he loved the precision and sense of exacting creation in tool making. He met and married Victoria Miller of Elkhorn WI, and they have been married for 40 years at the time of his death. They were devoted to each other throughout their marriage. Brian was also well known as the co-founder, with the late Gary Gygax, also of Lake Geneva, of TSR, the company involved in the creation and world-wide popularization of Dungeons and Dragons, the first “role playing” game to achieve national and international acclaim. 

 Brian was instrumental in the development of the company and in helping to expand the details of the Dungeons and Dragons world. He was the author of several other TSR games. His creative work at TSR built on a lifetime of interest in, and enjoyment from, games that challenge the intellect, expand the players’ horizons, interests, and understanding, and are just plain fun. He could always be found with friends and family pursuing a new, challenging, and enjoyable game. His general knowledge was encyclopedic. He is remembered in the gaming world as being one of the sharpest players of any game, who always found the best and most innovative games, and who was one of the friendliest and fairest players who ever rolled a die, moved a token, or played a card. Despite being hard to beat, he always played for simple enjoyment. 

 He is remembered by family and friends as generous, soft spoken, and always concerned about the well being of others. Even in the later stages of his disease he still had the quick wit and insight that was one of his many gifts throughout life. He is survived by his wife, Victoria Miller Blume, his brothers; Daniel, Keith, Douglas, Kevin, Gary, and Erick Blume, his brother-in-law, George Miller, and many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his brother, Bruce Blume. In keeping with his lifelong wish to help others, his body is being donated for research. Also, in keeping with Brian's wishes, there will be no memorial service. Please consider donations to the Parkinson's Foundation or Lake Geneva Public Library.

Our hobby has lost yet another figure of historic importance to the development of Dungeons & Dragons. My thoughts go to his friends and family.


Thursday, March 19, 2020

Final Blackmoor Pen and Paper MMRPG Adventure Now Available

Its been a long time since I started uploading the Blackmoor adventures from the MMRPG series to the Comeback Inn Website. While they were considered unofficial, they were organized by Dave Arneson's company while they were publishing Blackmoor for the D20 line and eventually for Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition and ran all the way untill the lisence was discontinued by Wizards of the Coast after Dave's passing.

And here we are. The final episode of the series:

 Ep. 4002 - No Evil Shall Escape My Sight

 By Robert Reed

"In 1299, a new age is dawning, and the Peshwah Nation is in need of aid. Unsure of who to blame for their horses disappearing from the Plains of Hak, they are seeking the help of outsiders. Can you discover the thieves, return the horses of the Peshwah and identify the culprits?" 
A Dave Arneson's Blackmoor adventure for heroic level characters. 

 Set in in the Age of the Wolf era of Dave Arneson's Blackmoor, this is the second adventure written for D&D 4th Edition and the final adventure ever written for the Blackmoor tabletop MMRPG line.

 Is that the end then? Have no fear. We have more MMRPG related goodness that will be revealed here at The Comeback Inn in the coming months, although we are getting close to sharing what we have uncovered from the vaults now.

Also, there will be more unofficial Blackmoor 5E adventures released as well. Make sure you have all the previous MMRPG adventures downloaded safely on your HDs.

But first, enjoy this last adventure of the ZGG/CMP era.

Download here

Image source: