Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Joys of DMing

I don't get to play as much as I once did, as a player or as a DM. This is something that happens to us all as we grow older I guess. Due to lack of time, the Blackmoor campaign I started last November fell apart after only a few sessions. So when my old friends and I decided we'd get together for a full weekend of gaming, I saw the opportunity to revive it for a one-shot.

The premise was simple. King Uther was killed during the Afridhi War and a corrupt unsurper has overtaken the kingdom. The players took the role of conspirators, trying to find a way to get rid of the king. But how to kill a king and get away with it? I decided to leave that up to the players. What they did was to start a riot in the poor quarters of Blackmoor Town. This was an excellent diversion, allowing some of the PCs to sneak into the Castle. The King still kept a handful of extremely competent Royal Guards with him, but they were finally defeated and the king was killed. Now Blackmoor is without a King, and the Egg of Coot has launched an invasion. I look forward to getting the group toghether for a followup of this game!


Monday, November 22, 2010

A small chat with Jeff Quinn

Last week, I had a small chat with Jeff Quinn. Jeff was one of the main writers involved with the Blackmoor D20 line. He contributed to the D20 Dave Arneson’s Blackmoor Sourcebook and wrote the Redwood Scar. He is also known for his work for Goodman Games. Jeff fondly remembers the days of working with Dave Arneson:

“Dave was a great guy and was so full of ideas for everything he did. Blackmoor was the jewel in my career, and my designs and gaming life are richer for knowing both Dave and Blackmoor”

Jeff Quinn is currently the owner of Dolmen Creative, which is in the process of publishing new RPGs using the D6 Open system. One of the projects Dolmen Creative are working in is Destiny6 RPG. Previously in this blog, I have mentioned how Jeff pays homage to Blackmoor in the Destiny6 Fantasy Setting.
How much of Blackmoor’s heritage will be seen in the final Destiny6 Rulebook?

“Consider this my take on Blackmoor (though I can't use the name) after the Afridhi invasion was repelled and the Egg was defeated... close to 200 years past the d20 version “

Jeff also showed me a few pictures of from the upcoming book. One picture shows a dwarf fighting a strange dragon. The dwarf is armed with twin flint lock pistols. The other picture shows a group of adventurers sitting around a table. One of the adventurers looks like a….Panda Samurai?

“Yes, that's an oriental panda warrior. In the second picture, the dwarf is fighting an evolved dragon. i love dragons... but I wanted Destiny6 to feel unique in its take on dragons... the typical western and eastern style dragons are banished to the monster books as fire-breathing treasure vaults... these guys, on the other hand, will evoke a bit more fear... they are smaller, hunters, and can come right into your home to get you.”

Bearfolk also made a small appearance in the Blackmoor Setting. They first appeared in Rafael’s Last Fantasy Campaign where the Bearman Hrrd was played by the legendary Rizak.

 Jeff Quinn also has a Q&A thread over at the Comeback Inn Forum and drops by regularly to answer questions.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

More RJK on Arneson

Rob J Kuntz has been posting some interesting thoughts on the movies that inspired Dave Arneson on his blog. I have previously mentioned another post by RJK about Arneson's combining of science fiction and fantasy. I always love reading about RJK's memories of Dave. I think the first thing I read where he talks about the D&D co-creator is the recollections from Robilar's Journey to the City of the Gods. It is no wonder that Arneson refers in the FFC to King Robert I of Geneva as the ruler who once founded Blackmoor.

I especially liked the map Kuntz put up about where everyone lived in Lake Geneva in relation to eachother. I'm stealing it:


Monday, November 15, 2010

Jeff Berry

Also known as Chirine Ba Kal, Jeff Berry (1956-) was one of the members of MAR Barker's Tékumel group in St. Paul Minnesota around the time when Dave Arneson was running his early Blackmoor games in the same area.

Jeff Berry in Tékumel Outfit
Jeff started gaming in the Twin City area in 1975 and first met Dave Arneson at the University of Minnesota wargame club. When Dave Arneson started his own company, Adventure Games, in the early 1980s, he hired Berry to be his "Tékumel guy." I have previously mentioned how another member of Professor Barker's group, Debora Naffziger also influenced the Blackmoor Setting. 

Yesterday, at the Hill Cantons blog, ckutalik has posted an interesting interview with Jeff, where he among other things talks about his gaming experiences with Dave Arneson:

"Dave was really one of the most creative people I'd ever met, and genuinely the most fun to play with. He was very nice, very genial, and would do his very best to rip your liver out and feed it to you with Tabasco sauce on it. "

Read the entire interview here. Jeff Berry also has his own Q&A thread over at the Comeback Inn Forum where he talks about Tékumel, Dave Arneson, Blackmoor and many other things. He has been a fantastic source of information about the early days of gaming.

Jeff Berry i 2009

Image source: Der Spiegel


Sunday, November 14, 2010

James Ward on the way to recovery

 Recently, it was reported that Jim Ward, creator of Metamorphosis Alpha, has been seriously ill. Therefore I was happy to see him back to posting again on Dragonsfoot:

Thanks again to everyone who has wished me well. I'm still very sick, but I drag my sorry body to the computer has much as possible. I have had some great news in being accepted into the Eldritch Enterprises company. I can't think of better people to work with than Frank and the others. We've just started planning and the projects we are working on are wonderful. You readers will be among the first to find out about them as time goes on. I think of myself as rising out of the ashes of one fantastic company to help make another. James M. Ward

As he mentions, he is part of the newly formed Eldritch Enterprises, which  I wrote about yesterday.

James Ward in the early days of TSR, courtesy of Steve Winter


[Mystara] History of Dragonkind available!

The Mystara Community is one of the most creative D&D communities that I know of, which can be seen from the vast amount of high quality material available at the Vaults of Pandius, the official Mystara fansite. I have compiled a list of the most comprehensive of these fan productions here.

This week, a new community release was announced at the Piazza. This is the History of Dragonkind, by Simone Neri. Over the years alot of material on Mystara's dragons and what makes them different from the dragons of other D&D settings. Neri has been able to combine all of these sources presenting a great overview of the history of dragons from before the Blackmoor Era, through the events from the Dragonlord Trilogy and up to the modern Mystaran Era.

You can download this excellent fan sourcebook here.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Eldritch Enterprises

Tim Kask (left) and Frank Mentzer

Earlier this month, an announcement was made at the KC Game Fair that a new RPG company had been founded by Frank Mentzer, Tim Kask, Jim Ward and Chistopher Clarke. The name of the company is Eldritch Enterprises and will work to publish projects by each of the founding authors. Jim Ward has been suffering from health problems lately, but hopefully he will recover soon.

The project that we have heard most about so far, and which is what I am most excited about is Frank Mentzer's Aquaria Campaign, which I at some point hope to incorporate into my Blackmoor campaign. Currently Eldritch Enterprises are working to set up a new website for the company. Before even having a name, the company was criticized in the Grognardia blog for possibly not being Old School enough. Let's give the guys a chance before we shoot them down shall we? To find out more about what Eldritch Enterprises are up to, feel free to visit the Aquaria Forum over at the Piazza.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Real Comeback Inn

Any self-respecting fantasy campaign needs to have an Inn where the adventurers can meet up, have a few ales and receive their missions from a dark robed mysterious stranger. The first fantasy campaign had an inn, named the Comeback Inn. It was apparently based on an actual pub carrying the same name in Melrose Park. Dave Arneson used to visit this pub and borrowed the name to be used in his game. This is also why we chose this name for our Blackmoor Forum of course! Sadly, the pub seems to have been shut down back in 2004. I would have liked to have the chance, just once, to have a beer there with some friends, if only to see if some mysterious stranger would walk up to us and ask if we could help him out.


Monday, November 8, 2010

Immortals coming to life

Brendan Corliss over at the Piazza has just begun a project of creating 3D images of all of the Immortals of Mystara. First one up is Valerias.

Find out more about this here.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Interesting thoughts from RJK

Robert J. Kuntz has an interesting article over at his Lord of the Green Dragons blog where he is talking about his upcoming project, the Machine Level. In the article mr Kuntz suggests that Arneson was likely the first DM to blend the elements of science fiction and fantasy in his City of the Gods adventures. According to Kuntz, this was something that Gygax, Arneson and Kuntz himself were all interested in at the time. Kuntz goes on to mention various interesting examples of this in the early days of D&D.

He also goes on to credit the creation of the Shambling Mound to Arneson, a creature Gygax and Kuntz first encountered when they journeyed to the fabled City of the Gods with Arneson behind the DM screen, as chronicled in Oerth Journal#6.

I am looking forward to seeing RJK's Machine Level!


Thursday, November 4, 2010

[Races] Kurgans

Two centuries ago, Calelrin, God of Murder and Deceit lead a tribe of Peshwa out of the Plains of Hak, on a long journey south. Over the years, the Krugel tribe became very different from their Peshwa cousins. Under Calelrin’s influence they became a cruel warrior people, strangers to words like mercy or kindness. They are horseman nomads living on grassland steppes in distant lands south of Blackmoor. These days they are sometimes used as elite cavalry by the Thonian Empire.

Kurgans are a brutal people, their personality shaped by the harsh life on the steppes. They are infamous for their cruelty and reputed to toss children into pits full of starved dogs, and watch them fight for the meat for amusement. They practice animal husbandry, keeping horses, cattle, pigs, sheep and goats. They prefer to ride geldings, their main herds being kept wild under stallions, and controlled through the mares which were hobbled near the settlements and milked regularly

Physical Description
Kurgans are taller than average humans. They have gray eyes and dark hair and hard features. Unlike their browned skinned Peshwa cousins, their skin is pale. They often dress in dark colors and often decorate their armor with the bones of horses, including the characteristic jaw bones attached to their helmets.

Kurgans are usually Neutral Evil. Good Kurgans will be outcasts from their people, and will be viewed with suspicion in other lands. Few live very long.

The realms of the Kurgans are now part of the Thonian Empire. Their lands are typically flat steppe grasslands, near wooded areas and watercourses. There are mixed forests of oak, birch, fir, beech, elder, elm, ash, aspen, apple, cherry and willow. Wildlife in these lands include aurochs, elk, boar, wild horses, wolves, fox, beaver, squirrels, badgers, hare and roe deer. These lands are also known to be home to a large lizard known as the Sheltopufik. It is not venomous, is often six feet long; it moves about with erect head and breast, and when pursued defends itself by darting against the horse and his rider. The Kurgans live semi-nomadic lives, but the occasional hill-fort and village can be seen when travelling through these lands.

The Kurgans have become subjugated by the Thonian Emperor, but enjoy relative freedom within the Empire. The Kurgans found that they were soon gaining a reputation for being great mercenaries. They are frequently employed as elite Cavalry by the Thonians. Some are even deployed on the Thonian Rand near Blackmoor. The Peshwa view the Kurgans as an abomination and fear them as do most others who have heard of this people.

Kurgans follow the Peshwa pantheon, but hold Calelrin the God of Murder Deceit above the other gods. Calelrin’s murder of his brother Hadeen is seen as a holy act to the Kurgans and many Kurgan warriors have tried to seek out the place where Hadeens body fell to worship the cruelty of their God.

Kurgans speak a dialect of the Peshwa language. Most also speak Thonian.

Kurgans go by their first name and a clan name.

Male Names
Agah, Akhun, Bahri, Cengiz, Duyal, Firat, Haldun

Female Names
Asu, Ayfer, Berfu, Cennet, Desen, Esma, Izel

Kurgans who travel the world are often mercenaries. Most adventurers are Fighters or Barbarians. High level Kurgans can become Dragon Knights, in spite of their evil alignment.

Discussions on this topic


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Blackmoor Reference in the Tomb of Horror Prime

Stormcrow over at the Tombs of Horror Blog, made a pretty interesting discovery the other day. When the original Origins I Tomb of Horrors was sold on eBay, the neat sum of $1526.01 was more than the blogger could afford. The packaged included 1 cover page, 1 map page, 1 character list, 9 pages on the tomb contents and 24 pages of drawings. Fortunately, Stormcrow began to examine the pictures distributed for the auction. They were blurry, but he made out the following:

Click on image to enlarge

 Talking to Stormcrow and Grodog about this, we have become fascinated with the references to Blackmoor and the Egg of Coot. Also, as Grodog pointed out, it is interesting that the Egg of Coot was replaced by Iuz in later versions, perhaps suggesting a link between the Egg and Iuz?

The Highest Hill in the Egg of Coot, most likely means the Highest Hill in the Realm of the Egg of Coot. This would probably be somewhere in the Trolltop Peaks or the Locust Hills. The island east of Blackmoor is also interesting. Could it be a reference to the Isle of Dragons? Possibly linking the Tomb to the City of Father Dragon?


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

[Races] Valemen

Valemen are a race of humans living to the west of Blackmoor, beyond the Duchy of Ten and the Eaves. They are believed to be related to the Skandaharians, possibly mixed with Peshwa blood. They are a warrior culture based around agriculture and viewed by Thonians as barbaric. Halgred Forestwalker, believed to be the first druid in the north, was a Valeman and it is his ways that are still being taught in this part of the world. Magic is left to druids and rangers to understand. A Valeman simply accepts the situation he is placed in. 

Valemen are a proud people who live life to the fullest. They do not expect the world to be completely predictable nor seek explanations for everything that happens. They care about their clan, their family and their honor. One important aspect of Valeman life is their closeness to nature. A Valeman will know every hill and mountaintop far beyond his village.

Physical Description
Most Valemen are short and stocky. They have fair skin and their hair ranges from blonde to brown to red with eye color from gray to green to brown. Blonde hair and blue eyes is seen as particularly attractive and many Valemen dye their hair with lime to make it lighter in color. Valemen often dress in Tartans showing clan affiliations and status. They are known to wield massive Claymores as their favored weapon. That said, Valemen also have knights and nobles not unlike the Thonians, even though the most expensive forms of armor are rare.

Honor and tradition is important to these people. Abstract laws are less important and they care more about personal integrity. Valemen lean towards a neutral good alignment, though can be of any. Deception and lies are frowned upon.

The Vales is the name of the region stretching from the Eaves of Ten in the east to the foothills of Goblin Kush Mountain in the west. These lands are filled with green valleys and rich agricultural fields.

Valemen have had some trade with the Duchy of Ten in the past and are on relatively good relations with those people. Many Valemen have suffered from slaver raids directed from the Duchy of the Peaks and hold a grudge against the people of those lands. Lately, the Valemen have become overrun with the Afridhi invasions and most of their time is spent fighting those occupying forces. Another important relationship for the Valemen people is that with the Fey. Ever since the days of Halgred Forestwalker, the Valemen have been close to elves and Fey. In particular a Fey race known as the Sidhe have been close to Valeman communities, many Sidhe living among the Valemen and becoming heroes to the humans, even intermarrying with them. Many of the Valeman noble families can trace their blood lines back to a Sidhe hero.
The center of Valeman belief is the druids. Valemen follow druidic patrons like Elgath, Faunus, Sylvain, Ordana and Terra.

Valemen have their own language known as Valespeech. There is no written form of this language. Most Valemen also speak Thonian.

Valeman names are formed with a first name and the word “ap” (meaning son of) added before the father’s name. Nicknames are also very popular among the Valemen, both positive and negative ones. Someone with a positive nickname will find that they are expected to live up to it.

Male Names
Casnar, Gwyn, Gwyddno, Hywel, Ifor, Syfwlch, Wledig

Female Names
Angharad, Ceri, Cerridwen, Eirwen, Elen, Heledd, Luned, Rhian, Sian.

Heroes are extremely important in Valeman Society. Valemen celebrate these in songs and tales as individuals who embodied all of the values Valeman culture. Their closeness to nature gives them a particular knack for exploring wilderness and underground locations or even other planes of existence.

D20 Abilties
•    Medium: As Medium creatures, Valemen have no special bonuses or penalties due to their size.
•    Valeman base land speed is 30 feet.
•    1 extra feat at 1st level.
•    4 extra skill points at 1st level and 1 extra skill point at each additional level. Valemen are versatile and capable. These skills points are often used to reflect the Valeman experience with wilderness exploration.
•    Automatic Language: Valespeech. Bonus Languages: Any (other than secret languages, such as Druidic).
•    Favored Class: Any. When determining whether a multiclass Valeman takes an experience point penalty, his or her highest-level class does not count. Rangers and Druids are popular classes among Valeman adventurers as are Bards.

Image Source:
•    http://getasword.com/blog/391-celtic-gods-list-of-celtic-gods-and-goddesses/


Monday, November 1, 2010

Shaedraeth Update

Yesterday I mentioned the homage paid to Blackmoor in the Destiny6 RPG, but this is not the only project associating itself with Dave Arneson's setting. After dealing with personal tragedy and failed negotiations with RPG companies, there is new word from Code Monkey Publishing on their Blackmoor derived Shaedraeth Setting.

It seems that there are now two products planned for release, possibly as soon as the end of the year. One is a book featuring over 30 deities of the setting. The other is a mega dungeon adventure called Dungeons of the Lost Moorlands. The latter should sound familiar to most of you. There is also talk of a Timeline for the setting which could be included in one of the products.

More details on this project can be found here.

Image: The Blackmoor Dungeon


New Maps and More details on Blackmoor Foundations Book

More is being revealed about the Blackmoor Foundations book coming from the Secrets of Blackmoor crew. I mentioned the other day that the b...