Saturday, December 10, 2016

Dan Nicholson: The Merchant of Blackmoor


The Merchant of Blackmoor was a character played by Dan Nicholson in Dave Arneson's original campaign. Dan Nicholson was one of the early members of the Midwest Military Simulation Association (MMSA) which was formed in 1964 by Ray Allard and friends. Dave Arneson joined this group when he was in high school and Dan went on to join Dave's Blackmoor game.

Untill recently, Dan's most well known character in the Blackmoor campaign was the Merchant, who would later go on to inspire the Merchant class in Zeigtgeist Games d20 Blackmoor product line. Nicholson was one of the older members of Dave's gaming group which by then had split from the MMSA.

The First Fantasy Campaign documents the game in which Dan Nicholson's Merchant tried to gain control over all the trade in Blackmoor. His organization gradually developed into a kind of mafia-like group. The Great Svenny, Mello the Halfling and the Blue Rider formed a secret organization of their own to try to counter the influence of the Merchant Mafia (FFC p 20). Although it is not mentioned by Dave Arneson, it has recently been revealed that David Megarry's Thief character, was also involved in trying to thwart Nicholson's plans.

The Merchant was apparently not the only character Nicholson played in the Blackmoor Campaign. Yesterday, the Secrets of Blackmoor documentary team revealed a character sheet provided to them by the late Nicholson's widow Helen. It details a Gnome character played by Nicholson in 1975:



It is possible that this Gnome and the Merchant are the same character, but I tend to believe they were two separate characters. This character sheet clearly uses the format of OD&D and looks a bit different from the character sheets used earlier in the campaign before ability scores and other aspects had been finalized. Also, 2000 XP does not seem like all that much if he had been playing the character from the campaigns beginning and all the way up to 1975. I do like that the Gnome character is in possession of gems though. That only seems appropriate for a Gnome character.


Dan Nicholson passed away in 2012 at the age of 72. I don't know much more about him. I do know that he was a computer programmer, working for companies called Coleco and 4D Interractive Vision. If anyone can provide me  with other details about his life and career, that would help make this article even better.


More discussion about this article here.

-Havard

1 comment:

  1. $D was an Arneson spin-off company, doing programming work for Coleco and Atari; it was based in Rochester, Minnesota. Ross Maker and Dave Wesely also worked for 4D for a time. Dan was Dave's business partner in on the computer side of the house, and was not associated with AGI.

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