Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Playing the Aliens

Thinking some more about the idea of a crashed space ship in the Blackmoor setting, lead me to consider what use there might be for the aliens. DA3 details Captain Bork Riesling and his crew as well as their conflict with the muntieers lead by Stephen Rocklin, introduced in the Temple of the Frog. Then it struck me: What if, instead of the players taking the role of native Blackmoorians exploring the Valley of the Ancients, they instead get to play the aliens? What perspective might this add to the game?

Actually, this might not be too different from some of the experiences Arneson had in his very early games. The first player characters in Blackmoor were 20th century time travellers.What would it be like to experience Blackmoor through the eyes of a character with a modern or even futuristic perspective?

One pit fall I could easily see is that the players would do all they could to fix the ship and get back home. Since the campaign should be about Blackmoor, this needs to be adressed. I would either make sure the players knew that there was no going back, or I might have them mind-wiped. The second option would not be unusual since we know Captain Riesling is not above mentally conditioning his crew. Also it would have the advantage of allowing the players some knowledge of modern things, but without really knowing why they were in the world of Blackmoor or where their space ship would be.

Of course, it could also be interesting to play out the factions. We know that we have Riesling and his loyal crew members on the one side and Rocklin's mutineers on the other. While Riesling wants to stay put, he will eventually have to come to terms with the fact that Rocklin needs to be dealt with. This would give even an alien PC group a reason to run through the Temple of the Frog!


Monday, February 22, 2010

Blackmoor Coat of Arms

Thanks Jeff's Gameblog, I learned about this great online program where you can make Coats of Arms. This is going to be extremely useful for Blackmoor:


For the Coat of Arms for Blackmoor, I decided to stay in line with Stefan Poang's concept with a plain tower on a black background. For Williamsfort, I wanted to use the Blue Rider. I am not sure if it has ever been stated that Williamsfort is named after Sir William of the Heath, but I always assumed it was.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Spelljammer meets Blackmoor?

The lost Spelljammer Product featuring Blackmoor has now been revealed! Okay so its fake. I made it. But it is always interesting to speculate on what such a product would have featured. We have already touched upon some references to space in the Blackmoor mythos. More theories on the Blackmoor Solar system are being discussed here.


New Releases from the Comeback Inn!

The two first major publications from the Comeback Inn were made available this weekend. They are based on the ongoing PbP game, collectively known as the Last Fantasy Campaign, and incorporate both Blackmoor and Wilderlands lore.

Both have been uploaded to the Blackmoor Archives (my website):

"A short written companion, containing information on our past games, on the concrete changes we made to our setting,  AND the big "Maiden's Timeline", the backbone of the setting we use, containing about all information about our game that we can spare."

"The complete transcript of the "campaign that started it all", from December 2005 to April 2009. Docs come in txt and rtf format."


Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Blackmoor Archives

I first set up my Blackmoor Website back in 2002. I had just heard that a new company called Zeitgeist Games had obtained the lisence to release new Blackmoor products. I really wanted the company to succeed in putting out a line of Blackmoor supplements and I wanted to to my part. The idea was to set up a website collecting various fan produced material from across the web, collecting links an so on. My initial plan was to try to have an update each month, so that it would be clear that this was a vibrant site, not just a static collection of information.

Having the site also increased my love for Blackmoor. I got a deeper understanding of the setting because I had to process all of the material I was uploading to my site. In 2003, I went to GenCon where I ran into Dustin Clingman. I was really proud when he introduced me to Dave Arneson and Joseph Goodman, stating that I was the keeper of the best Blackmoor fansite on the Internet.

This year the Fansite saw its biggest expansion to this day, with the grand opening of the Comback Inn; a forum connected to the site. This weekend I have gone over the site again, renaming it the Blackmoor Archives! Links have been updated and new articles and downloads have been added. I have many other interesting plans for the website in the coming decade.


Monday, February 15, 2010

There's a Spaceship in my Fantasy?

With all the recent talk about Traveller on Sandbox of Doom , Grognardia and other blogs this month, I return to the topic of Science Fantasy in Blackmoor.

DA3 revealed the secret of the Valley of the Ancients. A crashed space ship right there in Dave Arneson's fantasy setting! By the time that DA3 was published, this was hardly new though. Gary Gygax' S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks had been published in 1980, likely inspired at least in part by Gary Gygax' own experiences as a player exploring the City of the Gods in Arneson's game. Much later the concept of a crashed space ship in a D&D setting would return in Tales of the Comet.

DA3 was not the first appearance of a space ship in Arneson's game however. It is not unlikely that it all began with a board game called Star Empires.  In 2008, Dave Arneson reported:

John [Snider], the author, was another of the original [Blackmoor] group. He had outlined a whole series of books and maps.

Blackmoor was incorporated into John Snider's Science Fiction Campaign. Greg Svenson Explains:

My recollection is that it was a crossover from our parallel "Star Empires" campaign that John Snider was running (from early 1973 to late 1974 or so, when John went into the Army). There was an RPG component to "Star Empires" which we were also playing, but TSR never published it. We had several encounters with scout ships from the neighboring galactic empires before the world Blackmoor is on was quarantined by the local galactic government, I can't remember which empire controlled it.

 The spaceship from DA3 was the FSS Beagle, an exploratory vessel of the Galactic Federation, commanded by Captain Bork Riesling. DA3 revealed that St. Stephen of the Temple of the Frog hailed from this vessel, answering a question that had been asked since the publication of D&D Supplement II, where St. Stephen had first made his appearace to the common D&D fan. In Supplement II, his origins had simply been explained like this:

This fellow is not from the world of Blackmoor at all, but rather he is an intelligent humanoid from another world/dimension.

 However, Captain Riesling and St. Stephen may not have been the first aliens to visit Blackmoor. John Snider's Star Empires game quickly affected the Blackmoor campaign. Greg Svenson has the following information on the alien races involved:

 There were eight major empires. Three were humanoid empires with one each of ursoid (bears), feline (cats), avian(birds), amoboid (amobas) and icthioid (fish). There were also a variety of minor empires with just a couple of worlds inhabited by exotic races (along with the normal ones above) [...] We had encounters in Blackmoor with both human and avian scouts (Scott Belfry ran the avian empire). I remember someone getting a 'magic cape' that allowed the wearer to fly (the avians wings were no longer functional, so they created alternate ways to fly). The Blue Rider's armor was a suit of powered Battledress. I was running a galactic empire controlled by a race of ursoids


Unfortunately, Blackmoor proved to be a dangerous place for little aliens. Svenson reports that the Star System from the Star Empire's campaign in which Blackmoor had been placed was considered to be a risky place to visit:

[The Star System]was almost immediately quarrantined due to the loss of several scout ships from two empires, one human and one avian...


Saturday, February 13, 2010

Redwood Scar

Redwood Scar (2003) was the first adventure to be published for Blackmoor since 1987. Written by Jeffrey Quinn, Luke Johnson and Christopher Reed, the adventure was set in the elven realms of Redwood northwest of Blackmoor Town.

The adventure revolves around the forrest itself, along with its inhabitants being slowly corrupted by a magical abomination; a scar on reality itself. A great mystery to many Blackmoor fans was the origins and true nature of this scar. In a recent discussion over at the Comeback Inn, Jeff Quinn reveals a few new details on this matter:

What "is" the Scar? As described, it is a choke point or eruption of the fabric of magic and reality caused by the huge release of energy during the Mage Wars, the "birth" of sorcerers, and the downfall of the Westrin princess. These events culminate in "festering wounds of malice and evil" on the land itself. To use a more modern 4e approach, the Scar is to Blackmoor as the spellplague is to the Realms.
 Previous theories include some connections to the Valley of the Ancients. In my own campaign, I attributed the scar to the machinations of the Egg of Coot who has reason to bear particular grudge against the elves who contributed significantly to the Egg's forces being driven out of Blackmoor during the last invasion.

A review of the module, giving it the rating A- can be read here. 



The blog's been hit by a bit of spam lately, but this has been taken care of now. My appologies if any of you were offended by any adult type content/links you may have been exposed to as a result of this. The good thing is that I've learned a few new things about managing my blog in the process!


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

[Characters] Moorkok the Slayer

Reader 1d30 asked about this character some time ago. I figured it was time to elaborate some more. This is the fourth installment of the Realm of the Egg.

Skandaharians, warriors of the north. Not just your run of the mill noble seafaring norsemen. No these are blood-thirsty, human sacrificing killing machines. Strength and raw brutality is the way to earn respect among this people. They are feared warriors, but none were as feared as Moorkok the Slayer.

While most of his kin are gray or blue eyed with hair ranging from dark to light blonde, Moorkok would stand out with his reddish hair and sparkling green eyes. These features betrayed a foreign origin, but no Skandaharian dared speak ill of his parentage. Or those that did do not live to tell the tale. Rumors circulate even today though that demonic blood runs through his veins. Other say he stems from the mysterious realm of Rhun. The Warrior is tall and powerfully built. In battle, he wears metal armor and a deadly mace. He rides a white war horse.

Through battle, Moorkok rose in the ranks of the Skandaharians, until he became one of the champions to join the Hirdr; Jarl Thorsen’s personal guard.

In the Year 998, the Northern Lords fully understood the threat that was known as the Egg of Coot. They decided to join with the Baron of Blackmoor. Moorkok personally led an attack against the Coot stronghold of Trollgate. Something happened there at Trollgate. The Skandaharian army was wiped out. Their leader was not slain however. In the midst of battle, he heard a voice calling his name. As if entranced, he abandoned his men and left the battlefield.

Since that day, Moorkok has served the Egg. He has done this so successfully, that the Egg has named him Prince of the Realm and has decided that Moorkok will be the one to lead the next invasion against Blackmoor. This is the day Moorkok waits for. He also hopes to get a chance to test his mettle against Marfeldt the Barbarian, the only one he considers an equal.

(More information about Moorkok may be found in DA1. Much of the above are my own inventions. Some additional information and discussion about this character can be found here.)


Monday, February 8, 2010

A bit of TSR History

The more I dig into the older D&D material, the more interested I get in getting to know the people behind the game products that form the basis of our beloved hoby. Fortunately, I don't have to do all the research myself.
Grognardia is running an interview with Jean Wells, the original author of B3: Palace of the Silver Princess (Read part II of the interview here). A few weeks back, Steve Winter also wrote an interesting article on his blog with pictures of the old days at TSR. Both are recommended reading if you are interested in these things, just as I am!

(Mark Acres, Harold Johnson, Tom Moldvay and Mike Price)
(Picture shamelessly stolen from Steve Winter)


Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Last Fantasy Campaign

"The skies of the world were always meant to have dragons.
When they are not there, humans miss them.

Some never think of them, of course.

But some children, from the time they are small,
they look up at a blue summer sky and watch for something that never comes.

Because they know.

Something that was supposed to be there faded and vanished.

Something that we must bring back, you and I."

WHAT BE... "The Last Fantasy Campaign"?

"The Last Fantasy Campaign", dedicated to the memory of Dave Arneson and Richard Snider, and consisting so far of "The Grim Winter", "The War of the Thieves", "The Road", and "The Promised Land" aims at bringing the tale of Blackmoor's struggle against it's many enemy, as begun by Dave Arneson and continued by many others, to a coherent ending. By the end of "The Company of the Maiden's" and their companions' adventures, the Blackmoor we have known for forty years will cease to exist. - At least in our campaign's own continuity... Wink

HOW TO... Join campaign?

An invitation to join "The Last Fantasy Campaign" and "The Company of the Maiden" comes by personal invitation only. This is not because we would be a bunch of arrogant bastards, but because our group was established in 2005/2006, and the players have the same right as the DM to decide if someone new will join us, or who in particular. If there ever are free spots and we don't know whom to offer membership we will make a public rolecall.

HOW TO... Create character?

In 2005, this started as a d20 game, and remains so until today. Base for character creation is, essentially, everything ever published for D&D 3.5, by any company, as long as the character makes sense in our campaign environment. - Though I, as the DM, specifically encourage players to use either the material put out by Zeitgeist Games for Blackmoor, or by Necromancer Games, for Wilderlands of High Fantasy, for the creation and later, advancement of their PCs.

WHAT BE... "The Grim Winter"?

Started in December of 2005, and ended in March of 2009, "The Grim Winter" was the Company of the Maiden's first adventure and told the story of the Third War of Ten.
By the end of the campaign, the forces of Blackmoor had overthrown the evil Afridhi, albeit suffering great losses due to the treachery of the dread Bascom Ungulian. On the climax of the campaign, that later would have been called "The Battle of the Longest Day" by northern historians, King Uther, who had ruled and defended the Kingdom of Blackmoor since the days of the first war with the Egg of Coot, was said to have been severely wounded and to have later been abducted by the infamous lich-wizard Ran. The Company of the Maiden is said to have been among the last ones who saw Uther alive.

WHAT BE... "The War Of The Thieves"?

Starting in summer of 2006, and ending in spring of 2008, this was a side campaign to The Grim Winter, but advancing more slowly than the main game so players who couldn’t post as regularly as the rest didn’t have to quit our game. The War of the Thieves essentially told the further adventures of the thief Rowell and his companions, a group of NPCs the party had met during the first chapters of The Grim Winter, and featured an adventuring party participating in the Coven’s (the Blackmoorian Thieves Guild’s) conquest of the abandoned city of Mondburgh (based on Ernie and Luke Gygax’ lost city of Gaxmoor for Troll Lord Games’ setting of Erde). Though relatively short and admittedly not very coherent, the game had a huge impact on the development of our campaign and touched some of the topics that will alter be detailed in The Promised Land.

WHAT BE... "The Road"?

No relation to the famous book and movie. Running from March 2009 until December of the same year, "The Road", previously called "The Road to the Promised Land", was a collaborative writing effort by the players of "The Company of the Maiden" and chronicled the years after the Third War of Ten, and until six months before the beginning of "The Promised Land". On their quest to rebuild the war-ravaged lands of the Northern Marches, the split-up members of the "Maiden" survived a multitude of adventures, but ultimately could not prevent the second, and successful invasion by the Egg of Coot. By the end of this tale, many Blackmoorian cities had fallen to the enemy, while the Free People, led by Uther's and Risa Aleford's illegitimate son Mordred, had established to bring the front line to halt between Newgate and Vestfold.

WHAT BE... "The Promised Land"?

Our upcoming campaign, starting in February 2010, reuniting the old cast of characters, and set shortly after the events of The Road…, beginning with “the day on which Vestfold felll”… Word is that this will be the final stage, the last battle, and the end of days for the Kingdom of Blackmoor, as we know it…

Posted by Rafael 
(Edited by Havard)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Deities: Known by many names

One of the things I liked with the Mystara setting was how different Immortals (as the deities there are known) will have one name that they are called by one culture, but will go by another name in another culture. Comparing Real World mythologies we find that many concepts occur in multiple mythologies. Many cultures have a Trickster, a King of Gods, a God of War, Fertility etc etc.This has led some to speculate whether there could be some truth behind these mythologies or whether they could hide some secrets of the deeper nature of humanity. I'm not so concerned with such speculations however.

From a gaming perspective, stating that the Elven God of War and the Human God of War is the same guy does have its advantages. KenzerCo's wonderful Kingdoms of Kalamar setting used this model extensively. It allowed them to have a shorter list of Deities which could then be applied to all cultures, with modifications. In a world where gods are real, doesn't it make sense that a god will have tried to gain followers among more than one culture?

Looking at the D20 Campaign Guide for Blackmoor, I found that many of the deities there were quite similar to one another. I asked myself what I would loose if I assumed that these were simply multiple identities of the same deity? For instance, Elgath, Faunus, Ordana, Terra and Sylvain are all Gods of nature. I can see the reason for having more than one God of nature, but five seems high. I decided for my campaign that Elgath, Faunus and Sylvain are the same guy, known to different followers by different names.The most controversial decision I made was probably to make Odir, Hak, Aeros, Charis and Dhummon the same entity. These five arent exactly identical, but do have many shared traits. The campaign sourcebook seems to suggest that Odir is actually followed by that name in multiple cultures, but I preferred to have different names for him depending on which culture you ask.

For the complete condensed list of  deities, click here.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Denizens of the Black Sea

The Black Sea is the sea to the north of Blackmoor. Until about a century ago, it was merely a great lake surrounded by land on all sides, and connected to the Skandaharian Sea to the north by the enormous Firefrost Canal. In the years that followed, the land began to change. The Black Sea grew as some of the lands surrounding it began to sink, creating disastrous floods across the northern Redwood. Unknown to all at the time, this was the Egg of Coot preparing for its ascension to the surface. As the realm of the Egg rose from the Sea, other lands around the Black Sea began to sink, wrecking havoc in the lands of humans and elves. This altering of the landscape caused the Black Sea to join with the Great Ocean (North Sea), changing the water in the Black Sea from fresh water to brackish water.

The Sar-Aigu
The oldest known civilization to have existed beneath the water of the Black Sea was the race of the Sar-Aigu. These mysterious Sea Devils share their origin with that of the Temple of the Frog, but soon found their way from the swamps and into the Black Sea. Eventually they gained the courage to rise from beneath the waves and build their stronghold on land, on the peninsula which would later be the site of Castle Blackmoor. They remained there until driven back into the sea by a greater evil. They were never heard from again, though they may still be lurking down there in the deep.

The Black Sea is also home to other intelligent life. The Merfolk of the Black Sea are said to have a civilization which “rivals that of humans” (Supplement II). They use Giant Seahorses (Hippocampi) as mounts and their warriors favor the trident.  Rumours speak of great Merfolk cities on the bottom of the sea. They maintain regular underwater communities where schools of fish are kept penned in with nets for food. Dolphins are allies of the Merfolk and the two races often work together.

It is difficult to say how the Egg’s devastating alteration of the seas affected the Merfolk. They seem to have been able to adapt from living in a fresh water environment to living in a saltier one.  The joining of the Black Sea and the North Sea allowed more clans of Skandaharians to get access to the Black Sea and the Merfolk quickly learned of the ruthlessness of the Northmen (See DA4 for details). Some speculate that it was in fact the Merfolk who accidentally awakened the Egg of Coot from its long slumber.

Sea Monsters
Both the Black Sea and the rivers that run through the Dismal Swamp are filled with various Sea Monsters. Many of these are believed to be spawned by the Egg of Coot. This is true in the case of the dreaded Sea Serpents known as Naliseth whose blood can turn drowning men into zombie like creatures. The Egg of Coot has used Sea Monsters in its attacks on Blackmoor, something that has proved to be quite successful against Blackmoor’s navy (See the FFC)

More ideas for underwater adventures in the Black Sea can be found here.


Monday, February 1, 2010

New Blackmoor Forum Opening

Here's the big announcement I've been dying to share with you: 

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my special pleasure to announce the grand opening of "The Comeback Inn", the new home of Dave Arneson's Blackmoor on the internet!
As some of you might already know, Blackmoor was one of the last "Golden Age" D&D settings that was officially supported by WotC,
through license holders Zeitgeist Games and Code Monkey Publishing.

When WotC didn't renew the license last autumn, our little group, tentatively called "The Regency Council", decided it was time to step up and do something to save our favorite setting from falling into oblivion.

The result is our little message board, which we now humbly present to the public:


What are we?!

"The Comeback Inn", called so in reference to the first D&D in-game tavern of all time, is already the biggest database
for Blackmoor lore on the internet, and also home to the "Company of the Maiden"
and the latest installment of their long-running PbP campaign "The Promised Land".

We have prepared a small line of fan publications that we will present to the public in the next few months,
starting with a rules-free 30-page companion to the "Company of the Maiden's" take on Blackmoor.

Also, expect all kind of supplementing articles on gaming in Blackmoor for all editions,
investigative articles on the history of the setting, interviews with some of the icons of D&D's earliest days,
reviews on old and current gaming items of interest, and many more things that will help you to run a campaign
in Blackmoor, in a time were it is increasingly harder to get one's hands on out-of-print books.

What is that "Blackmoor" thingy we are talking about?!

Ugh... I know there might be some among you who don't know what I am talking about... Wink

So, let's check Wikipedia's article on Blackmoor:

Blackmoor is a fantasy role-playing game campaign setting generally associated with the game Dungeons & Dragons. It originally evolved in the early 1970s as the personal setting of Dave Arneson, the co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons, first as a setting for Arneson's miniature wargames, then as an early testing ground for what would become D&D. Blackmoor is the longest continuously played fantasy role-playing campaign in existence.

Yeah, Blackmoor is arguably the mother of all D&D settings, and in great part responsible for the birth of the original (White Box) D&D game!

So, that's all pretty nice, but why should YOU go there and register?!

The idea of the "Regency Council" is to give Blackmoor what it has lacked all the way through its forty-year long history:
A place for the community to grow and to exchange ideas, and a place to discuss the many aspects and elements of the setting,
while staying accessible and open to n00bs.

In short, if you are or ever were interested in Dave Arneson's World of Blackmoor, this is the place to go!

Hoping to see you soon over at the Comeback Inn,

Rafael, speaking for the Regency Council


Melissakainen is running Castle Blackmoor for 10$

  Melissakainen is running an online Castle Blackmoor oneshot game. She will be using the OD&D rules. The event costs 10$ for those inte...