Sunday, January 1, 2023

Friday, December 30, 2022

Crusaders: Early Paladins in Blackmoor


In the First Fantasy Campaign there are several references to individuals referred to as "Crusaders". The term Crusader has very specific real world connotations both to the events of the Crusades and to Christianity. Of course, this is no different from how early Blackmoor material refers to Vikings or other real world groups. The explanation is that Dave was developing Blackmoor from wargaming traditions and these references were mainly to be understood as units with specific stat blocks rather than all of the historic context needing to be ported over to a fantasy world. In subsequent iterations of Blackmoor, many of these real world references get replaced by other terms. 

So what about the Crusaders? In my version of Blackmoor, I have replaced them with Paladins. It should be noted that Paladins are mentioned in the First Fantasy Campaign. Paladins first appeared in published form for D&D with the Greyhawk supplement in 1975, which was available when the FFC was published (1977), but the references to Paladins in the FFC were more likely to Poul Anderson's Three Hearts and Three Lions. 

The character of Zvenzen was probably roleplayed close enough to the Paladin concept to be called the first Paladin PC in Blackmoor even though the class did not exist when Greg Svenson created his character for the game. 

But what can be gained from merging Paladins with the FFC idea of Crusaders? One thing is that when encountered these Crusaders are probably on what they see as a holy mission. In some cases they could be travelling to battle evil in the form of the Egg of Coot, the Afridhi or other monsters or demons. They could likely be in possession of Holy Swords as described in the FFC p 47. Or they could be questing for a Holy Sword, or other religious artifacts. 

On page 49, one of the events that can occur by chance in the lands controlled by a player is that Crusaders are "passing through" the lands. This presents an opportunity for the PCs to recruit the unit of Crusaders (comparable to a mercenary unity as per the FFC), but they could also cause problems for the PCs if they have allowed morally grey activities to take place on their lands. 

My impression about these travelling Crusaders is that they might likely often hail from the Great Kingdom/The Empire if Thonia and be encountered when travelling on their quests across the lands of the North. 

In later version of Blackmoor, Zeitgeist Games released a free PDF (available on my website) detailing various organizations of Paladins for Blackmoor, but this PDF was fairly barebones and an adaptation of material from D&D 3E Unearthed Arcana. Still, it might have some merit to use this material to further develop different Crusader or Paladin Orders which is something that I am currently working on. 


Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Blackmoor Player James Laferriere Has Passed

I am sad to announce that another of the original Blackmoor players has passed away from cancer. James "Jim" Laferriere joined Dave Arneson's Blackmoor group in 1973 when he enrolled as a student of  St. Thomas University in Minnesota. At this time the Blackmoor campaign had already been going on for several years, but Jim still got to experience playing with Dave Arneson long before D&D was published. He stayed in Minnesota untill 1977 when he moved to Massachuseth to study Medicine. After graduating, Jim worked for more than 35 years paediatrician operating out of Osseo, Minnesota. His passing was reported earlier today on the Secrets of Blackmoor Facebook Page.

In the original campaign, Jim played a magic user and the character of Jallapiere who appeared in DA1 Adventures in Blackmoor was likely based on Jim's character from the early days. In DA1 Jallapiere or Jal is described as a very powerful wizard, known for his kindness. He is said to be a teacher at Blackmoor University. In this video excerpt from the Secrets of Blackmoor documentary, you can see Jim and Greg Svenson talk about their early gaming experiences together in Dave Arneson's world of Blackmoor. 

My thoughts go to his friends and family. 


Sunday, November 20, 2022

Fans Demand Tonisborg PDF


Last week, I wrote about how the Tonisborg Kickstarter from The Fellowship of the Thing group had been successful. But while successful, could this project have enjoyed even more success? Several people told me that they would have supported the Kickstarter if it had offered PDF options as well. 

Over on the Kickstarter page, Fellowship of the Thing, gave the following reason why they are not doing PDFs at this point: 

"I appreciate you reaching out in regard to the PDF option. A lot of people do want to know what we will be doing in this regard. Chris and I have talked a lot about doing PDFs. We're testing the water in that regard with the 5e conversion PDF. As a small company our margins are really small if you consider that sales of physical units are in the small print run range anyway. We talk to other small houses about how their sales are and some have had horrible encounters with PDF piracy. One said his sales dropped 50% over a month and when he went on the web to see what was going on he discovered that his PDFs were being shared freely on dark sites. It has effectively killed his business. It leaves us in a quandary because we want people to use our book to run adventures and have all the tools to do so, yet, if we release digital content it could put us out of business in the next few months. The option of having a PDF is still on the table, but we really need to take a closer look and be cautious about how we do it. I hope that helps clarify why are not making PDFs right now."


Hopefully, "right now" is the key word here, meaning we can hope for PDFs at some point in the future?


Saturday, November 19, 2022

Dungeon! Created 50 Years Ago Today


Published in 1975, the board game Dungeon! shares deep historic roots that tie it to the the origin of D&D and Dave Arneson's Blackmoor Campaign. 50 years ago today, David R. Megarry sat down and created this dungeon exploration game that would allow all the players to join in on the fun without the need for a Dungeon Master.

Megarry tells the story of how the game was created on his Facebook page:

It was 50 years ago this weekend, in a perfect storm of despair, driven by not finishing my degree; not being drafted at the last minute and thus becoming unmoored from an expected future; and breaking up with my girlfriend, I entered a 72 hour creative flow and produced Dungeon! I showed the game the following weekend to Arneson & Co. and they liked it. Dungeon! has come a long way and is now being enjoyed by yet another generation. Keep on gaming!

Back in 2011 I wrote about how David Wesely remembers Megarry showing up with the Dungeon! prototype and how Megarry and Arneson decided to go to down to Lake Geneva to demonstrate the game to Gary on a day that would change the history of gaming forever. 

Monday, November 14, 2022

Tonisborg Kickstarter Fully Funded


Last week, the Kickstarer campaign for The Lost Dungeons of Tonisborg ended. The project was successful as 709 backers pledged $71,553 to help bring the project to life.

It is wonderful to see the interest in this sourcebook from original Blackmoor Player Greg Svenson. I wonder if we get to see more from The Fellowship of the Thing group in the near future? Will we ever see a part 2 of the Secrets of Blackmoor documentary series?

In any case, congratulations to Greg and everyone involved in this Kickstarter. 


Monday, October 17, 2022

How 35 Year Old Dungeon Maps were found by David Megarry

 When preparing to take part in the documentary Secrets of Blackmoor, David Megarry, discovered another hidden gem among his old documents. David Megarry, creator of the Dungeon! board game is one of Dave Arneson's Original Blackmoor Players. I first wrote about Megarry and his contributions to our hobby back in 2011.

The treasure Megarry discovered among his documents were dungeon maps drawn up 35 years earlier by his friend and fellow Blackmoor Player, Greg Svenson. They detailed Greg's own Blackmoor based dungeon known as the Dungeons of Tonisborg. 

Yesterday, David Megarry, revealed on his Facebook page the story about how the maps were lost in the first place back in 1978:

"I have a role in this work as I am responsible for the "lost" part: I think it might be titled better "The (How Megarry) Lost Dungeons of Tonisborg" or something to that effect. Yes, dear readers, in 1978 in my attempt to preserve Greg's Tonisborg by making a copy at my workplace, I did not do a very good job of handling the originals. I put them in a magazine so they would not get bent and went to sleep. When I awoke and went to retrieve the magazine, it had been picked up by the cleaning lady and thrown in the garbage. I raced to the garbage bin in the alley, but, alas, it was also garbage day and the bin was empty! Tonisborg was irretrievably lost. It was one of the hardest days when I told Greg I had lost his only copy. 

To add insult to injury, at Arneson's funeral 21 years later, having completely forgotten the history, I asked Greg if he was going to do anything with that dungeon he had created. To his great credit, being the gentleman he is (but I could tell he was mad), he politely informed me he couldn't do anything with it because I had lost it. Chagrin doesn't begin to explain how I felt at that moment. Memory is a funny thing and can be selective. Greg and I had both forgotten he had made me a copy in 1974, which got "lost" in my files after many years of moving place to place. In getting my records in order for my part in the "Secrets of Blackmoor" movie, I found what is pictured below and couldn't remember who's dungeon it belonged to. When it was shown to Greg, he instantly recognized it as Tonisborg."

The Lost Dungeons of Tonisborg will now become available to all gaming enthusiasts in the new Kickstarter from Fellowship of the Thing. Learn more about this kickstarter here.

Buy rare art from the Tonisborg project here


Happy New Year 2023

  Best wishes to all of the readers of this blog for the new year! -Havard