Friday, January 22, 2016

No More Gygax Magazine.

I was excited from the moment I first heard of Gygax Magazine. Sadly, it was recently reported that Gary Gygax' sons were forced to leave Gygax Magazine due to legal action by Gail Carpenter Gygax, Gary's widow from his second marriage. Now Erik, over at Tenkar's Tavern reports that Gygax Magazine will no longer be published. TSR (The publisher of the magazine, not the original TSR) have stated that they will be focusing on publishing modules instead.

As I have mentioned in the past, I am very sad to see this happen. The Gygax brothers seem like excellent people and the way they and the people at GaryCon have been making an effort to involve everyone in the Old School Gaming movement, including Dave Arneson's original players and many others. It would be a shame if the Gygax brothers were prevented from contributing to the world of Dungeons & Dragons. I am glad we are still seeing the Hobby Shop Dungeon happening.

I am also interested in seeing what TSR is up to next. Apparently they plan on releasing a series of modules by Frank Mentzer and Merle Rasmussen. This is something I would love to see, being the huge BECMI fan that I am. At least there is some good news amidst all the sad news. I wish Luke and Ernie Gygax all the best and hope that there is some way to find a sollution that would allow them to participate in publishing game material as long as they want to. They deserve it and I'd like to think the gamers in this world deserves that too. :)


Sunday, January 17, 2016

GenCon II: When Dave Met Gary (1969)

21 Year Old Dave Arneson at GenCon II.

August 23rd-24th 1969 marked the third gaming convention arranged by Gary Gygax and his Lake Geneva Group. As the first convention was a much less formal gathering in Gygax' own home with only 12 participants back in 1967, the 1969 convention was called GenCon II. It was here that a meeting would take place between two men who could change the course of history together. Held in Horticulture Hall in Lake Geneva, this was the first time GenCon would run for two whole days and 187 guests would attend.

Gary Gygax at GenConII

Dave Arneson would later remember this convention very fondly. The 21 year old Dave was already passionate about gaming. 31 year old Gary Gygax had not yet begun his career in games publishing, but he had already made a name for himself in war gaming circles with being one of the founders of the International Federation of Wargaming.The two would later work together on Don't Give Up The Ship (1972) and Dungeons & Dragons (1974).  In the early 1970s, Dave Arneson also contributed several articles to the Domesday Book fanzine distributed by Gary Gygax and Rob Kunt'z Castle & Crusades Society. Dave Arneson also helped introduce David Megarry to Gary Gygax for the possibility of getting Megarry's Dungeon! Boardgame published. With all the amazing creative collaboration between the two in the years that followed, what could this first meeting between Gary and Dave have been like? This is some of Dave's recollection:

"It was the first time we really got to network with each other. Mostly you would talk on the phone with local guys. We got to meet [people from] as far away as Chicago — and from Minneapolis, that’s pretty good. I was excited to meet people you only read about in magazines. The only person I remember specifically is Gygax. That’s when he and I started to work out our collaboration for future game projects. He was just another gamer, full of gamer ideas." 

From the sound of it, the creative juices started flowing immediately when they met. Dave was not used to meeting gamers from out of town and it seems clear from all of this that it must have been very exciting for him. It also sounds like he did not expect the host of GenCon and co-founder of the IFW to be such a down to earth person and how easy it was for them to talk about their gaming ideas. Can you imagine sitting in on THAT conversation?

Horticultural Hall in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. The site of the early GenCon conventions.

It was, not surprisinly, meeting Gary Gygax that later stood out the most for Dave Arneson at GenCon II. A 13 year old Rob Kuntz was also present as were many others. However, Dave also mentions, in his quote, meeting gamers from Minneapolis that he did not know about. In a comment to the Castle Blackmoor Facebook Page, David Wesely shed some light on this:

Dave's ironic comment above about meeting people from Minneapolis is because we first met Mike Carr and his gaming group at Gen Con II, which was surprising because we and they were all from the same cities and had no idea that the other group existed until we met at Gary's house!
This is pretty funny. Mike Carr, perhaps best known for his Fights in the Sky game and B1 Quest for the Unknown, is someone I had always thought of as part of Dave's gaming group, so it is interesting that both of them had to go to Wisconsin to meet. Mike would late be remembered as Bishop Carr in the Blackmoor stories. I made an interview with Mike which you can read here.

As we all know, the friendship and good professional relationship between Dave and Gary would not last forever. But in the time from that GenCon and for the first half of the 1970s it would be a source of magic!

Image Sources: Wargamer #204


Sunday, January 10, 2016

[Mystara] Tom Moldvay's Lost Known World Modules?

Back in December I was talking about the origins of the Known World (later Mystara) Setting that grew out of the Akron, Ohio based home campaign of TSR game designers Tom Moldvay and Lawrence Schick. Tom Moldvay wrote many rulebooks and modules that would be associated with TSR's Known World:

  •  X1 - Isle of Dread (with David Cook), 1980 
  •  X2 - Castle Amber, 1981 
  •  Dungeons & Dragons Basic Rules, 1981 
  •  B3 - Palace of the Silver Princess (with Jean Wells), 1981 
  • B4 - The Lost City, 1982 
  • M3 - Twilight calling, 1986 B1-9: 
  • In Search of Adventure, (contributor), 1987
  • "The Keep on the Borderlands", 1981 (sub-editor )
  • Dungeons & Dragons Expert  (Cook/Marsh), 1981   (sub-editor )
  • AD&D Mystara: Mark of Amber (credited for the X2 Castle Amber material), 1995
It has long been believed that the short story Black Lotus Moon that Moldvay wrote for Dragontales (1980 TSR) is also based in that same world.

A few days ago, my friend and fellow blogger Grodog  told me about some other lost modules that could be connected to this setting. C-2 Seren Ironhand (AD&D) was a module written by Tom Moldvay, published in Challenges magazine in 1986.

In Heroic Challenges, Lawrence Schick reported about this adventure module for 6-9 characters of levels 4-6 :
"The heroes root out a band of river-pirates, deal with an ancient race of cat-people, then explore the ancient dwarven mines of Morindar. Includes a 'Royal Commision' sheet empowering the adventurers to wipe out the pirates and reclaim wilderness land."
Originally planned as a trilogy, CH-1 The Morandir Company and CH-3 The Mountain King were never published. However, Grodog has apparently come across these unpublished modules and is planning to run the whole trilogy at GaryCon 2016. How I would love to go there!

Could these modules reveal more about the original Known World Campaign or are they a completely separate thing? That is hard to say. Tomas Steven Moldvay (born Nov. 5, 1948) passed away on March 9, 2007.


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: