Saturday, June 26, 2010

Outlander (2008)

I finally got around to watching this film. The reason why I waited so long before watching it was mostly that I expected it to suck. A guy from a space ship crashes in Norway in the Viking Age? Can this concept produce a high quality movie? Of course not. Then again, it is cheesy, and I do love cheese. And to be honest, the movie was a lot better than expected. What does this have to do with Blackmoor? Look at it! This is exactly what the Blackmoor movie should be like! As my friend Rafael once put it, the story of Blackmoor is at its core the story of fantasy world where a space ship crashes. Although Outlander doesn't have elves or dwarves, it comes fairly close.

One thing that drew me to this movie is that it is set in Norway. Being Norwegian, I am a sucker for any reference to my country in International Media, however bad it might be. Secondly, I love the idea of Viking movies, even though most of the ones actually made arent all that good.

Outlander does a pretty good job of potraying the Vikings, even though there's no sign of the produces actually being interested in exploring the deeper tradtitions and customs of the norsemen. Still, the Viking village looks fairly historically correct. The film makes one mistake, that I believe many Blackmoor campaigns also risk making. If you are going to introduce a sci fi element into all of this, make damn sure you use it! So they have access to a, granted submerged, spaceship. What do they do with it? Forge the metal into better swords! Whatever happened to those laser rifles? Were they ruined by water? What kind of crappy sci fi world is that? How awesome would it not have been to see the entire band of Vikings, armed with laser rifles, going up against the Dragon-like aliens? Cheesy as heck, but once you have Vikings and a Space Ship, there is no way around that. Might as well take it all the way, eh?

I think this is one reason why the science fantasy elements in many Blackmoor campaigns are left alone, and wisely so. If you introduce, then you should be prepared to have them leave a mark on the campaign, rather than just have the space ship be a kind of side trek. David Ritchie made a good decision in this respect. He postulated that the discovery of the FSS Beagle would eventually completely change the face of Blackmoor. This is one of the most interesting themes of the setting in my opinion.

Back to the movie Outlander, I found it quite enjoyable. It has an interesting story and throws in alot of elements that dont usually mash well, but still manages to pull it off. And flaws aside, it is probably the best Hollywood portrayal of my ancestors since Kirk Douglas' The Vikings (1958).


Monday, June 21, 2010

A Miniature of Dave Arneson

Some people get a statue in their honor. How should we best commemorate Dave Arneson? At the Maritime Mayhem event back in April, some of the attendees were discussing the matter with Dave's Daughter, Malia Arneson Weinhagen .

The idea of erecting a statue in Dave's memory might not have been something this modest man would have been comfortable with, Jeff Berry stated afterwards:

"we all agreed that if somebody had suggested this idea to Dave, he would have laughed his head off and very kindly told you that you needed to go soak your head in a bucket of water as your brain was obviously overheating; statues in the town square seemed silly to him. "

If not a statue, then what kind of a token could be made so that Arneson's many fans could remember him? Jeff continues:

I thought that running games for people to have fun with and at would be a more fitting tribute, and Malia [Arneson Weinhagen] agreed with me as she watched the mayhem and happiness unfold around the game table. We also talked about a Dave Arneson figure for people to have for games, and I'm going to see what I can do about that. Glasses, beard, and that Cheshire Cat grin; what more do you want in a wandering monster, eh?
 A miniature then, in the shape of the game designer himself to be used on every gaming table? This is something I would love to get my hands on.

(The fake miniature illustration was made using the software on this site) 


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Code Monkey Press Forum is back up

But the Monkeys weren't dead. Code Monkey Publishing suffered some hard blows at the end of 2009, with both the Blackmoor lisence expiring, and the announcement that their cooperation with Zeitgeist Games was coming to an end in early 2010.

At this time, the CMP forum had been down even longer, since being attacked by hackers, apparently.

However, now the forum is back up and it looks like they have plans to get back to business as usual. It is unclear whether this will have any relevance for fans of Dave Arneson's Blackmoor, now that the lisence from WotC is ancient history, but it seems like CMP executive Robert Reed has not given up his plans for a New Lands Setting.

We are discussing this development in greater detail over at the Comeback Inn.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

DA5 City of Blackmoor

Over at the Comeback Inn, we have been discussing vapourware products for Dave Arneson's Blackmoor. That is, products which were planned, or even written, but never published. Most famous of these is DA5 City of Blackmoor. Supposedly, it was completed, but for various reasons never published back when TSR were doing the DA series. 

Although we will probably never get to see DA5 City of Blackmoor, it can be intersting to speculate to what that product may have contained. We do know that it was written by David Ritchie as part of the DA series and that Ritchie used Arneson's notes as a basis.

The title City of Blackmoor is what tells us the most of what this product is about. This would have been an adventure set in Blackmoor Town itself. Looking at the style of the other DA modules, there may likely have been room for more than just an adventure. The other DA modules have plenty of room for backstory, NPCs and additional setting material.

Since Ritchie was working from Arneson's notes, it would make sense to look at items like the FFC which would have been available to Ritchie. As mentioned elsewhere, it is likely that the map of Blackmoor town from the FFC would have been included. Most likely this would have been expanded upon, with more information about the different buildings than what the FFC provides.

The next part from the FFC which might be useful is the description of Castle Blackmoor. The Castle itself is a wonderful opportunity for adventure and the FFC provides alot of information about the different parts of the castle and its inhabitants.

From the castle, the next step would be the dungeons themselves. Dungeons of Castle Blackmoor and the FFC might both include hints on what DA5 may have contained. Most likely, this would have been the main focus of the adventure.

Finally, there is the metaplot. The entire DA series was written to allow PCs from the Known World to travel back in time and adventure in Blackmoor. It seems very likely that the same would be true for DA5. DA5 would also have to take into account that events of the previous DA modules, with the Afridhi having been defeated in DA4 etc. ZG's Dungeons of Castle Blackmoor has one big problem. The idea of a castle in the middle of Blackmoor, the royal residence, sitting on top of a 20 layered dungeon, home of demons and whatnot just does not make sense, does it? However, this was not so problematic in Arneson's own campaign. In his campaign, the forces of good were repeatedly driven out of Blackmoor town by the forces of the Egg of Coot. In this context, it made perfect sense to run a campaign where you were fighting to reclaim the city and the castle.

It is not unlikely that Ritchie would have deviced a similar storyline for DA5. Perhaps, after the Afridhi invasions, you would have a new invasion of the Egg's forces, lead by King Funk. This would basically repeat events from the original campaign, but allow the PCs to venture into the dungeons and defeat the Orc King once and for all. Leaving room to take the battle to the Realm of the Egg in a later DA module? 

Click here for more discussion of this product.