Monday, July 26, 2010

Inception (2010), Dreams and Blackmoor

I was watching the movie Inception (2010) the other day and really liked it. Not only did I like the action scenes, but I was fascinated by the concept of shared dreaming and delving deeper into someone's subconcious. Rob S Conley wrote a small review of the movie here.

Dragonsfoot poster Kveldulf made the following suggestions of how to adapt some of these ideas to D&D

On a side note, lots of ideas in there for both planar travel (transfer the film's idea of how things work in dream states to, say, astral travel and what happens when the silver cord is damaged or cut) and psionic combat (dreamer's subconscious projections taking on outside dreamers who intrude, and a few other ideas). 

In the Last Fantasy Campaign, we have been venturing through the Dreamscape lately as well. The characters have been visiting King Uther's subconcious in search of a way to prevent the destruction of Blackmoor and a way to get back at the Egg of Coot. I like how our DM, Rafael used this as a way to incorporate some of the more bizarre elements from Dave Arneson's original Blackmoor Campaign. We have now seemingly at last escaped the Dreamscape, so now we shall see what the real world might bring us of dangers...

Illustration: Gustave Doré's illustrations from Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Major Wesely at GenCon2010

I just found this information from the Ars Ludi site that Major David A. Wesely will be running a Braunstein game at GenCon this year.  Braunstein was the predecessor of Blackmoor. Wesely was also one of the original Blackmoor players and the inspiration for the character mentioned as "the Weasel" in the First Fantasy Campaign.

I am frustrated that I wont be able to go to GenCon this year, but that is one of the downsides to living in Europe (which I am otherwise pretty happy about). If any of the readers of this blog are going, make sure not to miss this event and send me reports, please! :)

(Picture nicked from ars ludi)


[Races] Dwarves of Blackmoor

After reading the innovative articles about Dwarves and Gnomes of the Dwimmermount Setting, over at Grognardia, I wanted to write something about the Dwarves of Blackmoor. Dwarves in the Blackmoor Campaign are perhaps of a more traditional kind, but still fairly interesting:

The Dwarves of Blackmoor are a dying race. 500 years ago things were different. Under the leadership of dwarven hero Uberstar Kazakhum, the dwarves began exploring the north in search of minerals. Was it simple green that drove them? Was it simple market economics; The Thonian Empire was in need of minerals and the dwarves sought new sources to fill that market? Or did the dwarves, like other groups after them, actively seen to leave the lands of Thonia. Regardless, it is clear that the dwarves have little love for the Empire. Oberstar has been a staunch supporter of Uther since his break with the Emperor and the current dwarven leader, Lortz Kharnundrhum, has followed the policy of his predecessor managing to overcome his people’s suspicions towards Uther’s alliance with the Elves of The Redwood.

The dwarven colonization of the North at first seemed promising. The dwarven settlement of North Delving expanded from the original settlement in the Crystal Peak Mountains to include the Black Hills, the Iron Hills, the Dragon Hills and the Stormkiller Mountains. The magically fused minerals of Blackmoor were of particular interest to the Wizards of the region, something which lead to great wealth for the dwarves. Their main competitor in providing minerals is the Duchy of the Peaks, but the unstable nature of that Duchy meant that they didn’t make for much of a financial threat to the position of the dwarves.

However, life in the North has not been kind to the dwarves. After over 500 years, the great dwarven settlement has been reduced to fewer than 10.000 individuals. 6 consecutive wars with the Orcs have taken a dramatic toll on the dwarves.  Desperation could be another reason for them deciding to ally with Blackmoor. The Empire never really cared about the North, until they realized they could not have it anymore. The realization of the fact that the dwarves are losing to the Orcs have also lead the dwarves to exploring other means of fighting. Ventures into new technology in order to create war machines are not just a curious past-time to the dwarves. It is a question of the survival of their entire race.

The strange inventions which have appeared over the recent decades in Northern Delving have lead to speculation of some unknown source of technological lore hidden deep in the dwarven lands (As discussed in this blog article). The infusion of Gnomes into the dwarven population about 200 years ago also lead to great progress in the field of technology. The dwarves had the resources and much of the base technology in place, but the Gnomes could provide precision, given their long tradition as clockmakers. Finally, Uthers establishing of the University of Blackmoor could lend the dwarves the expertise they would need In order to take their knowledge to a whole new level. However, the latest war with the Orcs is going in the wrong direction and prevents further cooperation with the humans until it is resolved. Heroes are needed!

My Dwarven Timeline can be found at the Comeback Inn:

Image source:


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Dave Arneson's Adventures in Fantasy (1979)

In 1979, Dave Arneson and Richard Snider created an RPG called Adventures in Fantasy. Two versions of the game were published that year, one by Excalibur Games and the second by Arneson's company, Adventure Games. The game consists of three books -- Book of Adventure, Book of Faerry and Magic, and Book of Creatures and Treasure. A good review of the game appeared on Grognardia earlier this year. DH Bogg's "arnesonian" RPG , Dragons at Dawn, is said to have drawn heavily on Adventures in Fantasy.

Jeff Berry worked for Dave Arneson in 1979 and could reveal the following about the life at Adventure Games (AGI):

I was working for Dave at the time at Adventure Games, as the chief 'Tekumel Boat Person' (as he described us); the staff at AGI was made up of Dave's friends from the First Minnesota ACW reenactment group, and none of them were fantasy gamers of any type. Ken Fletcher and I were the only people there with any fantasy gaming experience; Richard was a free-lance author, and rarely in the shop.
Why didn't the game do better? At this time, D&D was still a young game and it would seem that the market was hungry for fantasy RPGs. If RuneQuest could coexist with D&D, why not AiF? Was it simply not good enough? Jeff Berry has the following explanation:
The problem with AiF wasn't that is was a bad game or anything, it was simply one of no marketing. Dave had bought it back from Excalibur with the money that the first of his settlements with TSR, and like many other of the AGI product line was more or less just there because Dave or one of his friends had done the game. There was no real 'in-house' support for this game like there was for, say, "Compleat Brigadier", and it has to be said that there wasn't much support for fantasy gaming of any kind in house. AGI's Tekumel line existed because of Dave's personal friendship with Phil, and my presence at AGI was a direct consequence of that. It always amazed the AGI staff that we 'boat people', so-called because we lived on pallets in AGI's basement under tarps (it was a very wet basement!) could sell our rather recondite products and the main AGI line never seemed to sell at all; I kept pointing out that one needed to run games at conventions and advertise the heck out of a game, otherwise it'd never sell to anyone.

Recently there has been speculations to whether it would be possible to get ahold of the lisence to the game so it could be published again. Unfortunately, Rafael just shared the following on Dragonsfoot today:

The news back then were, as the admin staff over at the CI discussed in various threads, that with Dave Arneson's death, apparently all of his rpg-related IP reverted to WotC. INCLUDING AiF. - This was apparently part of the agreement that allowed the licensing of the BM d20 line through several companies associated with Arneson. A dead end, it seems.Though IANAL, as to the Comeback Inn crew, things so far look far more like we will go on an produce our own setting some day instead of continuing DA's work.

So, the chances of seeing Adventures in Fantasy back in print seem very low indeed. Thankfully there are other things happening in the Old School community and many out there who are interested in honoring Dave's legacy in any way they can.


Monday, July 19, 2010

Dark Dungeons RPG is getting attention!

I first mentioned the BECMI inspired Dark Dungeons RPG back in April. Last week the Author posted on the Piazza D&D Forum and reported 100 print copies sold and 4000 pdf downloads! On Thursday, an article about the RPG was posted in the Escapist. The Escapist article focuses mainly on its connection to the infamous Jack Chic Tract and less on the games connection to Frank Mentzer's D&D rules. Unlike the legendary Rules Cyclopedia, Dark Dungeons even manages to include rules for Immortals. Its great to see this game get the attention it deserves. Find out how to get your copy here.


Dave Arneson in the D&D movie

Unfortunately, Courtney Solomon's Dungeons & Dragons movie(2000) did not turn out to be as popular as many had hoped for in advance.

Dave Arneson was brought in as a consultant for the movie, but from what I have heard, he was mostly consulted on rules questions (how much damage does this spell do etc?), which in my opinion should not have been the main focus of the movie makers.

Dave was also supposed to appear in a cameo, in the movie, though that scene was cut from the final version of the movie. Thanks to Piper over at the OD&D Forum, I was able to get ahold of these photos from the uncut version of the film.

The same scene, with everything but Dave edited out:

Its nice to see this picture of Dave as a mage. Afterall, both he and Gary did create magic in their time. At least the D&D movie managed to get that right :)


Thursday, July 15, 2010

[Characters] Captain Krey – First Dark Wizard

I have earlied brushed upon the subject of evil player characters in Dave Arneson's Blackmoor campaign. The first evil wizard in the Blackmoor game and this the first evil wizard in roleplaying history was played by one of the original Blackmoor players, a young man named Kurt Krey. His character was known as Captain Krey.Captain Krey started out as one of The Fant’s allies, helping his friends take back Blackmoor after Baron Wesely ("The Weasel") had sold them out to the Egg’s forces. However, as most Wizards, Krey sought magical power. One person could offer him this: Soukup the Balrog. Soukup was none other than the Egg’s lieutenant and Krey betrayed Fant for the magic offered by Soukup.

Unfortunately, Soukup’s plan to overtake Blackmoor failed and Krey had to flee the realm. At first he sought refuge in the Realm of the Egg, but found that he was not welcome there. He wandered into the cold realm of the Skandaharians. On the Skandaharian Coast, he boarded a ship and recognized a southerner travelling with the norsemen. He was one of the Fant’s allies, Robert the Bald:

“Like David, I am a big fan of anything naval, and I knew that if I went through the woods I would reach the coast and could run into the Skandaharians. David thougt I was crazy, but he could not talk me out of trying. My dice rolling was fantastically lucky, and I made it through the woods to the coast. I joined the Skandaharians and went on several voyages with them.”-Bob Meyer

On the ship, Krey kept his identity secret from Robert, but the two gradually became friends. As they journeyed the two were also united by their common dislike of the brutal Skandaharian captain. Robert challenged the captain to a duel and defeated him, with Krey keeping the crew at bay. Robert now assumed command of the vessel. Together they travelled through the Firefrost Canal and into the Black Swamps, making their way to Blackmoor:

“…the journey up the river back to Blackmoor was so hazardous that I lost most of the crew before reaching Blackmoor bay, and Gertie (the dragon in the bay) soon took care of the ship. The wizard managed to drag me to shore, along with a couple of the men. He then disappeared to where he really wanted to go. All of this adventuring was over a period of time of a couple of months, and Greg was actually the Gamemaster for the trip up the river. “-Bob Meyer

What happened to Captain Krey after this remains a mystery…

More about Captain Krey at the Comeback Inn Forum

Image source:


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Original Blackmoor Players

I will not claim to be a great DM. Some of my campaigns have been hugely successful. Others have been total disasters. When I do succeed, I suppose I can take some credit for the result, but largely it is also due to the players. Roleplaying is a collaborative effort and a campaign is developed by the group rather than a single individual.

Dave Arneson recognized this. As early as in the First Fantasy campaign, he credits players such as Greg Svenson and Richard Snider as having had a heavy impact on Blackmoor. Others are also mentioned, scattered around in the text. As Dave's 30 year spanning campaign developed, he allowed other players to have their input on how the campaign evolved. When ZGG published the D20 Dave Arneson's Blackmoor Sourcebook in 2003, Dave also credited the players he considered the Original Blackmoor Players.

Blackmoor fan, Finarvyn, made a compilation of the players known to have taken part in Arneson's campaign over the years, confirmed by Dave Arneson himself:

Dave Arneson – Referee
Malia Arneson-Weinhagen– Thief/Monk
Jim Abler – Mage (Evil)
Jim Barber – Elf
Dave Belfry – Dwarf
Scott Belfry
Blue Petal – Pre-Blackmoor
Mike Carr – Cleric; Bishop Carr; Mi-Kar
Larry Bond
Steve Dabenspeck
Dave Fant – Baron of Blackmoor
Kletcher Fletcher – Ranger
Giovanna Frengi – Dwarven Battle maid
Frederick Paul Funk III – Orc; Funk I King of All Orcs
Pete Gaylord – Mage; Wizard of the Woods
Phil Grant – Elf
Bill Heaton – The Blue Rider; Paladin
Harry Holman – Dwarf
Duane Jenkins – Vampire-Knight; Sir Jenkins (Dave says: “He wanted to be a vampire, but I kept frustrating him. Hee, hee.”)
Rick (Mel) Johnson – Mello; Halfling
Tony Kellen
Tim Kirkpatrick – Halfling
Kurt Krey – First ever Evil Wizard PC of Blackmoor
Jim Lafferie – Mage
Steve Lortz – Lortz the Dwarf
Ross Maker – Dwarf
David Megarry
Bob Meyer – Robert the Bald
Mike Mornard (Dave says: “Mike was actually in my campaign, Gary’s campaign, and Phil Barker’s.”)
Chuck Munson
Dale Nelson
Dan Nicholson– Merchant
Martin Noetzel – Elf
Walter Oberstar – Oberstar the Dwarf
Cliff Olilla – Pre-Blackmoor
John Snider – Fighter
Richard Snider – Cleric; The Flying Monk
* Chuck Soukup: (Dave says: “Nah, just one of the first bad guys.”)
* John Soukup – Balrog (Dave says: “Nah, just one of the first bad guys.”)
Greg Svenson – Great Svenny; Swenny I, King of All Good; Zvenzon (Dave says: “King?? Certainly the leader of all the good guys.”)
Dave Wesley – Half-elf

* The Soukup brothers were added again as per Svenny's comments.

These names were removed from the original list, based on Dave Arneson’s comments!
Mike Belfry (Dave says: “Mike?”)
Mike Norman (Dave says: “Mike never played, although he was in the group.”)
Greg Scott -- Egg of Coot (Dave says: “No, he never played, just a local character I used.”)

Internet claim (can someone confirm this?)
Joe Vail – Dwarves Frick & Frack; vampire-dwarf slaves the "Fang-ettes"
Note: This name was NOT on Dave’s list, either.

Edit: See this updated list of Original Blackmoor Players at the Comeback Inn Forum (Registry required)

image source:


Sunday, July 4, 2010

Nostalgia Part II

Here's some more nostaligia from the beginning of the ZG era. In March, I posted the original promo poster from the ZG site. After a while it was replaced with this one:

The first poster featured a Gnoll or Beastman. Although it was never confirmed, my theory from when it first appeared was that this is Toska Rusa, Queen of the Afridhi.

Supposedly, there was a limited edition Blackmoor miniature of Tuska Rusa made at the onset of the ZG era, but I have never seen it. I wonder if it was made to resemble the illustration on this poster or not. I loved the style of these illustrations right away and I was surprised that they were never used again.


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Shaerdraeth: The New Lands

On June 20th, I discovered that Code Monkey Publishing wasn't dead afterall. Finally having re-registered on their forums, I learned that they are still planning on releasing their New Lands Setting. To recap, the New Lands was an idea announced last year when CMP realized WotC weren't likely to renew the Blackmoor lisence. Rather than scrap all the ideas for what they were planning to do with Blackmoor, the idea was to use that in a new setting called the New Lands. Now the project has been named Shaedraeth. From the CMP forum, I was able to learn the following:

"Blackmoor: We've shifted from the lands of Blackmoor itself to the 'New Lands': Shaedraeth. To avoid licensing issues down the road, we're making this move now rather than later. Integrating those items that are NOT WotC IP from Blackmoor to Shaedraeth requires a bit of care to make sure things mesh smoothly and aren't shoehorned in.

Shaedraeth: Related to the above, the first product is "Dungeons of the Lost Moorlands". It is a massive dungeon crawl, give some hints to what happened to Blackmoor, and set part of the stage of the New Lands. It will be a PDF only product, simply because of the massive size of it. We're talking an outside area leading to the dungeons and then 21 levels with 81 maps of dungeon-y, deadly, tastiness!"

The quote above suggests it would only be a pdf product, but recently the relevant forum has been renamed Print Products.Thanks to Dave L at the Comeback Inn forum, I was able to learn a few more details:

Maps for the WelComeback Inn and the first 4 levels of the dungeons themselves are drawn and ready for computerization

Also coming real soon; the Calendar of Shaedraeth - This will include plantary information, moons (yes I meant that to be plural) and their cycles, the seasons, and of course the actual hours, days, weeks, months of each year and their 'common' naming conventions (most normal folk don't call it year 2012, they call it the year of the monkey - education!)
Suggested release date for the product has been rumoured to be around GenCon this year. Only time will tell how this will develop!

(Image: Columbus discovering the New World, used for illustration purposes only)


The Dwarven Area 51

Reading some of the interesting stuff about the dwarves and gnomes of the Dwimmermount campaign posted on Grognardia a few weeks back made me want to write something similar for Blackmoor. However, I then realized that something has has been bothering me for a while.

While the Dwarves of Blackmoor are mostly standard dwarves with not much to differentiate them from dwarves of any other D&D setting, the one thing that perhaps makes them stand out a little is their creation of huge mechanical devices. Not that this doesnt occur in other settings too of course, but since technology is such an important theme in the Blackmoor setting, the fact that dwarves are building such equipment suggests that it is a more prominent feature for the dwarves too, than in other worlds where it could be just one of many schticks.

But yeah, something has been bothering me about all of this. As I mentioned in the article about the movie Outlander; once you introduce a Space Ship into the campaign, it ought to mean something. In my opinion, the origin of all technology (beyond medieval level) should be the City of the Gods.

I was hoping that ZG would follow this pattern and was a little disappointed when, looking through the Clock & Steam has no mention of City of the Gods, but rather traces Clockwork technology back to Gnome inventors like Galen Lato (inventor of the first telescope) and Artigan (Inventor of the first clockwork construct). A dwarf, Borgrim Stonehammer, was responsible for the first use of  Steam Power.

However, the question that remains unanswered is; what triggered the whole thing? Perhaps Gnome clock makers had been experimenting a little on their own for centuries, but something must have sparked ideas that triggered a sort of Industrial Revolution? It then occurred to me; the dwarves must have had access to a major find from the City of the Gods. Some sort of Area 51. I could see the dwarves, taking in a few selected gnome Alchemists into the deepest of caves under Mount Uberstar. What does this dwarven Area 51 contain? Perhaps an explorer type vessel used by one of of St. Stephen's allies, possibly even a kidnapped alien? Or simply various technological artifacts stolen from the Temple of the Frog, and collected for studies? Whatever it is, it must be something that had a serious impact on Dwarven society. Something that made the Dwarven and Gnomish sages make leaps in their technological advances that they would never have without it.

Recently, the Dwarven alliance between King Uther and Regent Oberstar Kazakhum (played by Walter Oberstar) meant that the clever minds of the Blackmoor University got some insight into dwarven secrets. While the Dwarves undoubtedly still keep some things to themselves, this cooperation holds promises of an even more incredible development for the future.


Blackmoor Like Map Used for Runehammer's Crown & Skull RPG?

  Crown & Skull is a new TTRPG created by  Brandish Gilhelm, Hankerin Ferninale and Ingrid Burnall and published by Runehammer Games. T...