Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Have You Played with Dave Arneson?

I got to meet Dave Arneson back in 2003, but I never got a chance to play with him. Poster Heymikey over at the Comeback Inn is collecting reports from actual play sessions with the man himself. Besides the Original Blackmoor Players, Dave has played with hundreds if not thousands of gamers over the years.

Dave Arneson at HURRICON 2007, Orlando, FL.

Not every gaming report is full of praise. Back in 2008, the Semper Initiative Blog reposted an old magazine article written back in 1976 by a less pleased player, Bill Paley. Still, Paley's report contained alot of interesting information that I have just gone through.

Did you ever get to play in Dave's games?


Image Source

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Last Fantasy Campaign Coming to an End?

Our ongoing Blackmoor PbP Campaign, DMed by Rafael has been going on since 2005. The Last Fantasy Campaign as it has become known as, has become legendary in the realm of forum based gaming. Now it seems the grand finale is approaching. "The Promised Land and The Ghosts of Summer will be the final parts of the Last Fantasy Campaign." Rafael says. He continues:

"Furthermore, with the end of our current story arc, our ambitious project, The Last Fantasy Campaign, will achieve the goal we had set for it: To bring closure to all the main story arcs from the original Blackmoor setting, and to effectively write that epilogue that never was."

Read Rafael's full detail on his plans for the conclusion of this more than 6 year long campaign here.


Hobbit Trailer

Yep, the trailer is out. This is the best Christmas present I could get. If you havent already seen it, you can find it here.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Combining Worlds

Some like to create their own RPG settings from scratch. Others like to use premade settings. A third group likes using elements from many different settings, combining them into a campaign world of your own. A world like Dave Arneson's Blackmoor lends itself very well to combining with other settings. It has rich detail on a small region of the world, but is very vague on what lies beyond the regional map of the North.

There are different approaches to combining settings. Some try to include everything from every setting they have ever heard of. Others pick the elements they like from each setting and combine those features instead. Robert Fisher's World of Kulan is an example of this latter approach.

My own approach is slightly more complicated. I want to use settings that have a connection to oneanother. So when choosing a setting for giving my Blackmoor a framework I chose Mystara. Almost every single Mystara sourcebook refers to Blackmoor as an era long gone. The Hollow World Boxed Set (for Mystara) gives a world map of that ancient era. However, not much in the Mystara material gives detail on what is found on the continent where Blackmoor is located. This is why I looked to the Wilderlands. The Wilderlands are also connected to Blackmoor through the FFC publication and the region called the Valley of the Ancients.

So instead of just picking elements at random, there is a system at work here. Maybe I am just a complicated fellow. In any case, we have opened up a forum for discussing Mystara's Blackmoor over at the Comeback Inn. If you are interested in this topic, please come and join our discussion! The Comeback Inn is also seeing other activity these days and more MMRPG files have just been uploaded to the Coot's Nest section.

Have you incorporated Blackmoor into your campaign setting?


Monday, December 19, 2011

Thorn's Blackmoor

That Blackmoor rose to great heights and then fell in a cataclysmic Rain of Fire is about all that is remembered of the kingdom and empire from four thousand years in the Known World’s past.
To most people of the Known World, the sable on argent represents a Black Eagle of Karameikos, not the Sweeping Hawk of Andahar. That name, if it is known, is only whispered in the deepest recesses of the great libraries in Sundsvall or Glantri City. The words of that house, though, live on in toasts raised over feast day tables, spoken after oaths and handshakes sealed a treaty that ended decades of war between Thyatis and Alphatia:
“Once and Always.”
Truer words have never been spoken. While the destruction and devastation of the Great Rain of Fire caught the Immortals off guard, the men of Blackmoor saw it the more they worked on Project Valkyrie.
For hundreds of years, the Northern Marches were all that stood between Tuska Rosa and her goal in the heart of the Thonian Empire. The Afridhi, which had crushed the Vales and ground the Duchy of Ten into submission found their fury thrown back into their teeth on the lances and swords of a ragtag, patchwork army of Northern barons.
The Afridhi came, again and again, stronger every time, their numbers bolstered by demons of shadow and flame.
But Blackmoor had the wild magics of the North, and Uther’s bargain ensured that the powers of the North would fight at the side of the barons.
“Once and Always,” was the oath spoken over that covenant.
While Blackmoor perished, drowned in fire and then the cold waters of the Northern Sea, the promise— and the line that had made it— was not broken.
Uther’s daughters survive, and will do so until the threats brought into the world by the Afridhi and the Beast Men are extinguished once and always…

Rob’s blog and website chronicles a bit of a darker take on the Mystara presented in the D&D Gazetteers. Thorn's Chronicle is posted semi-regularly on the Mystara board of The Piazza.


The Above is the first blog entry on this blog written by guest blogger RobJN, who also frequents the Comeback Inn. I have for a long time been fascinated by his ongoing series Thorn's Chronicle and I am very pleased when he agreed to write this piece for us. This might not be the last we hear from him here either!


Tuesday, December 13, 2011 gives Arneson Credit

Forum poster Mr_Roboto pointed out to me an interesting article over at which talks about the less known people behind pop culture icons. says the following about Dave Arneson:

With Arneson's influence, Chainmail was adapted to include:

- Exploring dungeons

- Using a neutral judge/dungeon master

- Conversations with imaginary characters (NPCs) to develop the storyline

- Hit points

- Experience points

- The concept of role-playing an individual character rather than just rolling dice

So, basically, he put the "R" in RPG.

While it is not the intention of this blogger to try to undermine the legacy of Gary Gygax (I also dont think that was the point of the Cracked article), it is nice to see Arneson get the credit he deserves. 


We Are On Facebook!

You can now "Like" my blog on Facebook. Click on the Like button to the right, or visit the Facebook page here. This is all part of my plan to spread the word of Blackmoor to an even wider audience. What experience do you other bloggers have with using social media for pushing your blogs?


Monday, December 12, 2011

MMRPG Season 2 Premiere!

This is the latest update from the Comeback Inn, the Forum for Dave Arneson's Blackmor. I just uploaded the first episodes of Season 2 of the MMRPG. These free to download episodes are short adventure modules, easy to adapt to any edition. In addition I have uploaded two new Meta Organizations: The Eldritch Underground and the Topaz Eye as well as a few more MMRPG goodies. The Eldritch Underground is an organization of rogue arcane spellcasters fighting the dominance of the Wizards Cabal. The Topaz Eye is an organization of wizardly Diviners.

You find all your MMRPG downloads at the Coot's Watch section of the Comeback Inn. 


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Mike Carr's Quasqueton

I have previously talked about game designer Mike Carr on this blog, as he is one of the people who played in Dave Arneson's original Blackmoor group. I did an interview with Mike Carr last year which is available here. When it comes to D&D, Mike Carr is perhaps most famous for B1 In Search of the Unknown.
Just the other day, the Grognardia Blog revealed that there's a 1904 novel called In Search of the Unknown by Robert Chambers, who also wrote proto-Cthulhu stories in the King in Yellow.

 As most of you will know this legendary adventure module tells the tales of the dubious characters Roghan and Zelligar and is set in a place called Quasqueton. Quasqueton, as it turns out is also a place in Iowa:

This factoid and more lore that has appeared on the internet over the years has just been collected by D&D researcher Paleologos in a pdf document called the B1 In Search of the Unknown Sourcebook. The pdf also contains new material by Paleologos and is available through the Zenopus Archives.

If you take another look at the map above, consider the fact that the original C&C Society World was based on a map of North America. Blackmoor was located somewhere in Minnesota. Greyhawk was the equivalent of Chicago. It would not be unreasonable to assume that Quasqueton would exist as Mike Carr's realm in this proto-setting? According to Carr himself, the module is not based on any actual campaign however. Further speculations of B1's connections to Blackmoor may be found here.

It was recently revealed that The Tomb of Horrors was written with both Greyhawk and Blackmoor in mind as possible locations for that adventure. It is now accompanied by B1 as two early era adventures not written by Dave Arneson with close ties to Blackmoor.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Nystul and the Duchy of Ten

Many of you will know the story of the player and game designer Mike Nysul who gave his name to the spell Nystul's Magic Aura. Eventually Nystul also became a character in the Greyhawk setting. Later Greyhawk products describe Nystul as a citizen of Greyhawk's Duchy of Tehn where he, during the Greyhawk Wars, was active in evacuating refugees from the realm, as it was being invaded by outside forces.

Time to put on my Blackmoor glasses. Blackmoor's Duchy of Ten and Greyhawk's Duchy of Tehn both come from a realm in the C&C Society Setting. Blackmoor's Duchy of Ten also suffered from invading forces, which we know as the Afridhi under the leadership of Toska Rusa, Bride of Zugzul. Could not Blackmoor also have a Nystul the Wizard? The Tenians sure could use all the help they can get.

This got even more fun when I learned that Nystul also is a wizard in the Ultima games, which is where the image above is borrowed from.

More discussion of Nystul and Blackmoor's Duchy of Ten here!


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

MMRPG Complete Season 1

All of the episodes of season 1 of the Blackmoor MMRPG have now been uploaded to the Comeback Inn. In addition, you can now also download 5 other MMRPG documents, including the character creation rules and the two first Meta Organizations. 

This inspired me to create this fake cover for Season 1. Hope you like it :)


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Latest Blackmoor Stuff

So what's been happening in the world of Blackmoor fandom over the last few days? The Piazza is still on its temporary server. Over at the Comeback Inn, I have just uploaded another batch of Season 1 MMRPG episodes. I am trying to get an overview of how many different documents that were released in association with the MMRPG to see if I am missing any.

Harley Stroh just signed up to the forum which is cool, since in addition to him being a great game designer, he did the fiction work for the D20 Era Blackmoor books. I am hoping to get a chance to ask him more questions about his involvement with ZGG over the coming days and weeks.

Another interesting discussion that has come up is that of using Goodman Games' DCCRPG with Blackmoor. This is not something I would have thought of myself, but perhaps I should give this game another look?


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Pandius is not dead!

Some of us recieved this message from Shawn at the Vaults of Pandius last week: 

The following files have been loaded or updated on the Vaults of Pandius:
  Several historic records relating to discussion on the MOrient team have been loaded.
  Story: Sulescu: The Warding Stone. Book 1 - The Warding Stone.pdf
  Bel Lendh Monandry: Subterranean realms below the Altan Tepes. Lendh Monandry.pdf
  Maps of The Ghost of Lion Castle.
  Rules Cyclopedia NPC Generator version 1.3.

 Dare we hope this means the Vaults are truly back? :)


Friday, November 25, 2011

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Whither the Piazza?

Looking for the Piazza? Cannot find it at its usual web location? Have no fear. The Piazza has just been moved to a temporary location while some maintainence is being performed. Until its return, you can find it here:

The Piazza - Old D&D Worlds Discussion!


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Home of the Ancients

Blackmoor - Home of the Ancients was the first Blackmoor fan website I used to visit. It hosted the legendary Blackmoor fan gazetteer. A fairly thorough analysis of the DA modules supplemented with information drawn from the FFC. I was sad to learn that the website had been taken down, but equally happy when the site's creator, David Ross, said I could put those files up at my own website. So here it is, preserved for the future, the Home of the Ancients.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Tell Me About Your Character

Dave Arneson's legacy lives on as Blackmoor is being played in numerous campaigns over the world even today. I'd love to hear more about those stories from games played by other Blackmoor groups out there, from the 1970s and up to today. Not just those lucky enought to have played with Dave Arneson himself, but anyone having played in Blackmoor. What were your experiences?

In Rafe's campaign I play this guy:

General Harwan of Starmorgan

He wasn't always a General of course. Young Harwan grew up in Newgate. His father died when he was quite young, and the boy was drawn to the legends of the towns own hero ruler, the Great Svenny, as a kind of replacement father figure. His real father was also a fighting man, leaving his son a family heirloom: The Sword Grief, said to have once been the weapon of King Robert's son. This might be the reason why he at a young age joined the Blackmoor Military. Being a disciplined and determined young man, he quickly rose to the rank of Sergeant.

It was while serving as a Sergeant that Harwan first encountered the Company of the Maiden. As Blackmoor's forces attacked the Afridhi occupied Duchy of Ten, Harwan's unit was all but wiped out. Joining forces with the Company of the Maiden, they defeated Toska Rusa and destroyed the Well of Souls, liberating what was left of the Duchy of Ten. In the years that passed, Harwan was promoted General and placed in charge of the New Duchy.

He is now approaching 40 and is of mixed Thonian and Skandaharian stock. The years have placed some heavy burdens on his shoulders, perhaps the reason for his now more confident bearing. Life in the court of the New Duchy has not made him soft however. He has preserved his powerful build and imposing stature. Harwan wears a heavy blue cloak, indicating lordhood, and dons Full Plate Armor when riding into battle. 


Do you have any tales of heroics in Dave Arneson's setting? I would love to hear about them. Post in this thread, or in the comments section here!

Image Source


Friday, November 18, 2011

More Blackmoor Blogs!

More people are writing about Blackmoor! Tim Bannock is exploring the Dungeons of Castle Blackmoor over at the Dungeon Crawl blog. Most recently, Dork Lord Dungeon Master has set up his own blog called Adventures in Blackmoor. Only a few entires have yet been posted, but Dork Lord's ideas about a Blackmoor campaign with the Pathfinder system did catch my attention. I am looking forward to seeing how that goes. Is this the beginning of a new wave of Blackmoor blogs? :)

Image Source


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Blackmoor at UCON 2011

It pleases me to learn that Blackmoor is still being played at conventions. Not only at the Dave Arneson Memorial events, but also regular gaming convetions feature Blackmoor play in 2011. Last weekend, Blackmoor MMRPG episode modules were being run at UCON in Michigan. This is particularly pleasing to hear with the recent announcement that the MMRPG episodes are once again becoming available at the Comeback Inn.

The UCON session seems to have been a success. In spite of little ahead planning or marketing, the group had no trouble finding players, one UCON participant tells me. If you have more information about the UCON games, or other convetions running Blackmoor, I am interested in hearing about it! :)


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Experimental Play in the Last Fantasy Campaig PbP

In the ongoing Play by Forum game, my DM Rafe just posted the following:

My dear friends of the "Company of the Maiden",
and all those others who come here to read of your adventures!

For the fourth Episode in our sequence of scenarios and adventures,
we will deviate from the usual format:

Instead of presenting you a number of cutscenes, we will do a little bit of "meta".

As of the time I write this text, the game that has become "The Last Fantasy Campaign"
is about to enter its seventh year of consecutive action.

Now, before we enter the last battle, the "hour of woes and shattered shields, when the age of men comes crashing down"...

Let's take a moment and look back at those many years of gaming.

One pretty unique aspect of our game is that we have basically followed the same plots since the beginning;
before we enter the final stage of the game, I would like to shed some light onto them,
so my players and eventual lurkers know what has been going so far:

The First Part of the "Last Fantasy Campaign": The Grim Winter Cycle

In an earlier commentary on the series, I defined four basic plotlines:

The Egg Arc, The Thonian Arc, The Westryn Arc, and The Veil Arc; all of them developed by the players' actions,
mainly over the course of "The Grim Winter" and its companion games, which would be "The War of the Thieves",
and "The Road".

For me, as a DM, the Grim Winter was storyboard HELL, mainly because I had to make up most of the stories on the spot;
and while I now arrogantly boast that there are very few people other than Havard and me that know the setting
as thoroughly as we do, this was certainly not the case in 2005, when I started our campaign.

"The Grim Winter, Episode I" was just a random title I chose for its epicness, after a rather unpleasant experience
in my text production class in English, when my professor very strongly suggested that I should expand my vocabulary.

This was really the reason I got into PBP games first and foremost. To become a better teacher, GAAAH.

The game I started was really just a mix of two already published scenarios - one created by the good people at,
another by a Polish D20-producer, "The Forge", that later on would become famous as an illustration studio.

At that point, while I had a lot of fun charging the initial members of the party
(of which only the characters Erdath and Sven remain in the game today)
through an inn haunted by a ridiculously-hard-to-kill demon girl (our "Maiden"),
I never entertained the idea to make the game more than a one-shot.

My change of heart was really most caused by Greg, who plays the character Sven Ithamis in our game:

He told me his character's family history to such a detail that I couldn't but get hooked on it;
so emerged the idea of putting Sven and his companions against the other noble of note (to me) that Blackmoor
could muster, Bascom Ungulian.

In my version of the story, the baron of Glendower had been enthralled by the infamous Egg of Coot,
during his (canonical) rescue of his wife from the Orcish realm of Ohmfet;
you can read about this in some of the earlier cutscenes.

It would have been a f-a-b-u-l-o-u-s story, about how "The Company of the Maiden",
bearing now the curse of the epinomous demon-child,
hunted down the mad baron, twarted his murder attempt of King Uther, and finally fought him in the
famous dungeons of Glendower.

Alas, what happened? :) GAME happened; rarely did players in any of my games ever miss a plot so hard as
our group did with the Ungulian arc. :D ...And so, we kind of moved our focus.

Frankly, I am glad: My first attempt at the story was not even half as entertaining as what we later created together.
Also, the real reason for the party essentially failing the Ungulian arc was really nobody's fault:

The main reason for the many inconsistencies that an interested reader will find in our game logs was that the party roster
changed continuously within the first four Episodes of The Grim Winter.
In a party of eight, we had about fifteen people enter and leave within a year and a half,
until the group that we have today started to form. That made it virtually impossible to keep a consistent story:

From the assassin sent out to kill Sven (Mandle), to the magician unknowingly transporting Ran's phylactery (Morghrum),
well, you see: Dozens of story threads that would later prove an effort to weave together again in "The Promised Land"...

In retrospect, I wonder if I could have done this better, but then again,
who would have thought that this turned into the huge thing... :)

What remained about the story about Ungulian was really Ran,
who would turn into the party's major tormentor, and ultimately, the evil mastermind of all bad things.

I took Ran, word by word, from "The First Fantasy Campaign", where he is described as an android.

(If you follow the game, this just should explain SO MUCH.)

How sketchy my idea of him was, though, you can see in "The War of the Thieves":

If that game had gone at a faster pace, it would likely have been him that the party fought at the end of that game.

("The War of the Thieves" was very closely modelled after the mega-adventure "The Lost City of Gaxmoor",
by Troll Lord Games. If youwant to get an idea how the action would have developed, had we sticked to our
initial plan, take a look at that book, if you want.)

The last two episodes, that would detail the war between the Afridhi and the Blackmoorian army,
they were really just a bonus, because I enjoyed the game so much.

That we left the game open ended was really not so much planned;
had the party killed Ran during the Battle of the Longest Day, that would have been about it.

But they didn't.

...And so, a sequel.

...To be continued.

This looks like its going to be an interesting experience. More details here.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Blackmoor MMRPG Season 1 Available

I am working to make the episodes of the Blackmoor MMRPG available again. No, we are not talking about an interractive video game, but the Living Blackmoor campaign. To find out how you can get your hands on these free downloads, click here.

Note that only the first five episodes are currently available. I will keep you posted as more are uploaded. Eventually I hope to have all 4 seasons available, and more!

Image Source


Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Part-Time Adventurer

Here's a concept I have been thinking about for a while now. Most D&D campaigns are centered around PCs who are full time adventurers. After having explored their first dungeon, they will go on to their next adventure, and from there on future exploration and battles await. Time between adventures are often spent carousing, training, doing research or hanging out at the Adventurers Guild.

The Part-Time Adventurer Campaign Concept is a somewhat different approach. I think I first thought about it when playing Greg Stafford's Pendragon RPG. In this game, the PCs who are usually all knights, will go on a quest or two, usually during the Summer season. The rest of the year is most commonly spent doing other knightly duties, holding tourneys, persuing romances or administering your stronghold.

This made me think of one of my other big inspirations for gaming: Super hero comics. I always liked Spider-Man. Not just because of the big fights with criminals and super villains. Large parts of those comics also dealt with the other parts of Peter Parker's life. Did he get enough money to pay for his rent? Would he ever sort out those complicated romances of his? Would he finally be permanently fired from the Daily Bugle? Those were the things that made us care about the character.

My idea is that a campaign which deals not with PCs who are primarily adventurers, will make us care more about them. Instead of being full time adventurers, they would more be more integrated in the society they live in, and would be called to do heroics only when needed.

The main criticism I have met so far when I have talked about this is that people think we are going to spent a lot of time playing out non-adventuring stuff. That is not my point. Much of that stuff can be fast forwarded through, to get to the adventuring stuff. But having PCs who are real people with real cares and worries might make both the PCs and the DM feel like its worth investing more than if their whole lives are spent decapitating orcs for money.



Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Adventures YES, setting NO?

The DIY attitude is something that old schoolers often talk about. Building your own campaign world is often part of what many old school DMs write about. Creating your own world like Gygax, Arneson or even Tolkien himself. Interestingly, the same Old Schoolers will often praise many of the old adventure modules.

My preferences are a little different. I love the published settings. Blackmoor and Mystara in particular, but also many of the other D&D worlds. On the other hand, I have very rarely used modules. Back in my early days of gaming we never used them. We loved drawing up dungeons and populating them with monsters. Since we didnt have much money back then, it seemed like a waste to buy something that we could easily make ourselves. Later I have gotten to appreciate modules more, but I rarely run them as is, but rather use the elements I like and tweak and warp them as to fit my tastes and the needs of the campaign.

Are there two schools of DIY? The Setting way and the dungeon way? If so, which one do you belong to?

Image Source


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Norwegian King in St. Paul MN

Some day I hope to make a pilgrimage to St. Paul and Lake Geneva to see the places that gave birth to D&D and maybe even knock on the doors of a few of the original Blackmoor players. Although that may not happen this year, another fellow countryman of mine, my own king is just wrapping up his latest trip to the US, which a visit to St. Paul. Not sure if he ever heard of Dave Arneson or D&D, but I think it is something he would have enjoyed. Although he would probably have to get to play Uther ;)


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Jim Ward back from the hospital

About a year ago, I reported that Jim Ward was recovering. I was sad to learn through Dragonsfoot that he was hospitalized again a few days ago. Fortunately, he is back at work again as of today. I wish him a speedy recovery.


Saturday, October 1, 2011

Friday, September 30, 2011

[Inspiration] Nomad: The Warrior (2005)

Just watched the movie Nomad: The Warrior (2005), a historical epic type movie set in 18th Century Kazakhstan. While the acting and screenplay does have room for improvement, the movie had some pretty interesting action scenes and the story was not too bad.

I think the movie can provide some good inspiration for the Peshwah. Although I see them closer to Scythians or perhaps middle eastern horseman cultures, the movie portrays a horseman culture as good as any with unusually shaped swords, strange rituals and brutality that would exist among any nomadic tribe.

I particularly enjoyed the part of the movie where the hero is taken into captivity and forced to go through a series of trials in order to win his freedom. This is something I could be tempted to copy and paste into my Blackmoor campaign, where the PCs are currently travelling through Peshwah lands looking for King Uther's heir.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Codex Immortalis, now in English!

The Codex Immortalis is the definite collection of Mystara's Immortals. My friend Marco wrote these years ago in Italian, but thanks to Mystara enthusiast and Piazza member, Mortis, this two volume pdf is now available for free download for the first time in English.

Not only are these books packed with information, but they are also beautifully presented. Now I know what I will be reading this weekend! Go here to see how you can download them for free.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Greg Stoltze's SPAAACE!

Greg Stoltze's latest project has caught my interest. Mr Stoltze has decided to make a game that includes everything he thinks is cool. What could be more in the spirit of Blackmoor than that? In the video he says that it is a game that combines time travel, rocket ships, mad scientists, Aztecs, alients and much more.

Find out more about the game here. This was just too cool an idea not to share. :)


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Empire of Owls

The Empire of Owls is a new game opening up at the Comeback Inn. This game promises to explore the southern parts of the world of Blackmoor's Great Kingdom.

"The Empire of the Owls" is set in the utmost southern province of Blackmoor's great Kingdom, in the lands of Ravilla, the ancient home of the Gray Elves, somewhat east the Wilderlands, and south of Blackmoor. This is not a canonical setting, so you won't find it on any map. "
Not only will the game take steps into yet unmapped territory, but it will also explore a new era in the world of Blackmoor, being set 90 years after the D20 line products.

"The game is set in the year 1120 of the Northern Calendar, as per the Blackmoor counting of years, or in the year 4522, as per Balozkinar's Corrected Commoner's Calendar from the Wilderlands. The wars in Blackmoor are long over, and the Empire of Thonia is history."

Another interesting feature is that it will involve dominion style play, perhaps resembling the companion rules from BECMI or the style of play seen in the Birthright setting. It seems like this game will be chat based rather than a regular PbP. My buddy Rafael is the DM, and at least one original Blackmoor player is among the participants!

More information on the game, and how YOU can join here.

 Image Source.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Complete Classic

Over the last couple of weeks I have finally gotten my hands on Holmes Basic, Cook/Marsh Basic and Moldvay/Cook Expert. Since the 1980s I have owned the complete BECMI D&D (along with the RC in the 90s), but it has been nice to add the other versions of Classic D&D to my collection. Frank Mentzer's BECMI remains my favorite version of D&D, but it is interesting to see the little variations in the previous versions. In general I prefer looking at all of these as pretty much the same game. Modules, supplements and other elements are easily used between all of them so having the whole collection really makes me feel proud to say that I am a fan of classic D&D.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Obey the Rules!

This summer I had an interesting discussion with a poster on one of the more grognardy D&D forums out there. The poster seemed shocked that I suggest he change certain rules in his AD&D 1st edition game. I argued that he should change that particular rule because I thought the rule in question was stupid. Interestingly, he did not do what I thought he was going to do, which would have been to argue that the rule was not stupd. In fact he seemed to admit that it was a rather silly rule. However, he protested wildly against changing it. Why? Because it was written in the rules. And he assumed that since the rules then must have come from Gary or possibly one of Gary's friends or even Dave Arneson, it would be wrong to change the rule.

The idea that he could be trolling did occur to me, but he did seem genuine about it, and the fact that there are entire forums dedicated to By The Book play means that there are probably more people in the Old School community sharing that opinion.

But what could be less Old School than By The Book play? Dave and Gary were both constantly changing the rules when they were DMing their early games. Many times suggestions about which rules needed to change would come from players. Like the time when the players suggested to Dave that their characters could maybe survive more than one hit, thus resulting in the creation of hit points. Other times, the DMs would figure out these things on their own.

Not that constantly changing the rules is a good idea. I often argue for sticking to the rules as written, especially before you know the game well enough. Some of the GMs I play with using non-D&D systems often seem eager to fiddle with the rules after a few sessions. I have found that this is often a bad idea since changing a tiny thing can have greater consequences than you know if you dont really understand the ideas behind the game. But after having played D&D for decades, I feel like I can do whatever I want with it.

Are you a BTB man?


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Arneson Gameday Poster

As mentioned the 3rd Arneson Gameday hosted in New York City is being arranged on October 1st this year. The Mule Abides recently posted this fantastic looking poster by Scott LeMien for the event. I love castle Blackmoor in the background and the interesting looking hands/weapons thrust into the air in homage to Dave Arneson.

Here are some of the games announced for this year's event:
  • Luke Crane will be running games of Arneson’s adventure DNA/DOA using a hack of Burning Wheel Gold
  • Darren Watts will be running games of Lucha Libre for the HERO System
  • Michael Curtis will be running games of Stonehell Dungeon
  • Joseph Bloch will be running games of Adventures Dark & Deep, and will have a new version of the Bestiary
  • Paul Hughes will be running games of 4E Dungeons & Dragons using his poster of the OD&D random monster charts
  • Tavis Allison will be running games of Adventurer Conqueror King
More details at the Comeback Inn. Are you doing anything for Arneson Game Day?


Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Divinity of Dragons

While D&D Dragons often are just big monsters to be killed in the last room of the dungeon, many mythologies connect dragons with the Gods. But Divine Dragons have always been a part of the game as well. OD&D had Tiamat and Bamut as Divine Dragons and BECMI D&D had the Dragon Rulers.  Dragonlance took the concept even further with having both Draconic Gods, but also mortal dragons as messengers of the Gods.

In my Blackmoor campaign I decided I wanted to explore this idea of humans viewing dragons as part of the divine. In this case, I decided to use the Peshwah Horsemen. Since I take some inspiration for the Peshwah from the Fremen in Frank Herbert's Dune series, I thought of the idea of using Dragons as a parallell to the Sand Worms of that series. The Fremen view the Sand Worms or Shai Hulud, as the manifestations of God; their actions being those of reverence, no matter how destructive. My idea was to make the Peshwah feel the same way about Dragons. Additionally I decided that the Peshwah would not distinquish between Good and Evil dragons. All dragons to them are sacred.

In the last session, my players took the concept even further than I had anticipated. One of the player characters had his arm destroyed by dragonfire, only to have it replaced by a clockwork arm. Upon learning this, another player, playing a Peshwah Monk of the Fallen Star (See Dave Arneson's Blackmoor D20 for details), declared that the fact that the character had his arm destroyed by a dragon was a mark of the divine. He believed that the character was Dragontouched, an individual meant for a greater purpose. Introducing the Dragontouched to the Peshwah clan of the Adiel, this character was met with reverence. This could be the thing that could help the PCs convince the Peshwah to join with Blackmoor in the ongoing War against the Egg of Coot. And the war is not looking good for Blackmoor right now. 

Image Source


Monday, September 5, 2011

Playing Blackmoor in the real Vestfold

Slottsfjell, in Vesfold, Norway

Like many Minnesotans, Dave Arneson and several of his players were of Scandinavian ancestry. As I have mentioned previously, the origin of the name of Blackmoor's city of Vestfold, is probably the Vesfold region of Norway, rather than the Tolkien version. Tolkien most likely got the name for his Vestfold from the same source. It is also interesting that the recent Thor and Captain American movies both have their opening scenes in this area, a fact well appreciated by the locals.

In any case, it was quite cool to be able to go to the real Vestfold this weekend and DM a game of Blackmoor. A member of my original gaming group lives in the region and invited me and other friends from the good old days for a weekend of gaming. We each ran one game, and I chose (surprisingly?) to run Blackmoor.

The game involved exploring the town of Newgate, getting to know a Peshwah Monk, and the quest to find King Uther's lost son. The game was a great success. One of the best games I have run in a while. My players did a great job getting into roleplaying their characters and had alot of fun just talking to NPCs, getting into an epic bar brawl and enduring a petty quarrel with an officer of the city guards. All in all a fun weekend!


Monday, August 29, 2011

3rd Annual NYC Arneson Memorial Gameday: October 1

A little over a month to go to the 3rd Annual NYC Arneson Memorial Gameday! Previously this New York City based event was held in March, but has now been moved to October 1st which is Dave Arneson's birthday. Although I have yet to get it confirmed, it is believed that it will be held at the Brooklyn Strategist. This year's events include:

  • Michael Curtis will be running games of Stonehell Dungeon
  • Joseph Bloch will be running games of Adventures Dark & Deep, and will have a new version of the Bestiary
  • Luke Crane will be running games of DNA/DOA using a hack of Burning Wheel Gold
  • Darren Watts will be running games of Lucha Libre for the HERO System
  • Tavis Allison and others will be running games of the soon to be published Adventurer Conqueror King
  • Paul Hughes will be running 4E using his poster of the OD&D random monster charts
  • Daniel Boggs can't make it, but will be writing a piece for the program book and sending a single-volume collection of Dragons at Dawn & its first sequel
  • Panel discussion about Arneson's legacy and how it's shaped modern culture; panelists will include journalists Ethan Gilsdorf (Wired, Salon) and David Ewalt (Forbes) .
More information can be found here. If you are going, make sure to send me the reports, pictures, videos or sound recordings. I want them :)

Image Source


Sunday, August 28, 2011

What I did in Blackmoor this summer

Nah, I did not participate in any pagan summer solistice rituals, but I have taken the last month off from postig here, feeling that I deserved a break to recharge the batteries and spend some time on real life things. I did to some pretty exciting things in gaming this summer however, that I will be sharing with you in the coming posts. Some highlights include:

  • Going to Scandinavia's largest gaming convention, RopeCon in Finland.
  • Meeting some of my heroes in game design including Frank Mentzer, Erik Mona, James Raggi and others.
  • Meeting several friends from the Piazza, the Comeback Inn and Dragonsfoot in real life for the first time. And finding out that they are very cool people in real life as well as online!
  • Playing an amazing Blackmoor adventure face to face with Rafael and Saunattonttu. 
  • Picking up some very cool RPG items, including Lamentations of the Flame Princess (at last!), Dark Chataeu and many others. 
  • Finally getting my hands on Adventures in Fantasy and some other rare Dave Arneson items. 
  • And much more... 
I will leave you with just that teaser for now, but expect more detailed reports to be coming up on many of these items.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Gygax Memorial Fund

Since today is Gary's birthday, I think it is appropriate to take a look at the Gygax Memorial Fund and their goal to build a monument in his honor.

From what I have learned, the Fund will have an exibit at Gen Con on this August 4th-7th. At the Old School Renaissance Group booth (#1541), Gail Gygax will be talking about conversations she had with her husband before his passing about how he wanted to be remembered, the resulting vision for the statue, and the goals of the Memorial Fund.

At the booth, they will be taking contributions and offering donor rewards including T-shirts with the Gygax Memorial logo -  Argent, a Bar Azure, Three Lozenges Gules  - and a book called "Cheers, Gary" which selects the best of his correspondence with fans at the EN World Q&A threads. Editor Paul Hughes will also be at the booth with Gail signing copies of "Cheers, Gary" and discussing plans for another volume based on the Dragonsfoot Q&A. Although all of this is available online, it would sure be nice to have Gary's wisdom collected in print.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Piazza URL returns

Just a quick message to let you know that the Piazza is back at its original web adress.  As I reported a few weeks back, it was only accessible through a temporary URL for a limited period, while the site was being moved to a new host. The reason for the move was the security problems believed connected to the previous web provider. Good to have the old adress back. :)


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A different take on alignments

An interesting discussion over at the Piazza's Dark Dungeon forum, made me think about alignments again. I am wondering if the original OD&D system of only the Law - Chaos axis might not be more suitable for what I am about to present than the more complex double axis system introduced in AD&D. I believe the Law/Chaos duality came from Michael Moorcock's fiction, and before that from Babylonian mythology. This could lead to endless philosophical discussions. However, playing Red Dead Redemption on my XBox 360 the other day, I was wondering if the Old West analogies might not work just as well. The question would then become whether you operate within the law (Lawful) or outside the law (Chaotic).

This is quite different from the early Arnesonian concept of Good Guys vs. Bad Guys. We know that in Western movies, the good guy can sometimes be the Sherrif, but just as often he will be the Outlaw working to bring down corrupt officials. So lets be clear that Chaotic does not mean evil, even if there in many scenarios will be more villainous elements working outside the law.

This take on alignments is linked to the idea of reputation. Many different systems of reputation have been invented for D&D, but to keep it simple, lets say that reputation equals your character's level. 9th level represents the point where you have truly carved out a name for yourself that is, reached Name Level. Reputation is based on level, but is also linked to alignment. At first level, nobody cares who you are or what kind of person you are, but as you gain levels, people will have heard of you and your exploits. This is different from many D&D games where alignment is secret. Using this model, a high level character is pretty much a celebrity. People you meet will know who you are and what you have done, good or bad. More importantly, their reactions will depend on your reputation. A reputation as a Chaotic will gain you respect among criminals, orcs and evil wizards, but most cityfolk will react negatively towards you. Borrowing ideas from The Dark Dungeons discussion, a +4 bonus to charisma (or a -4 penalty) might be appropriate. Prices for weapons, equipment and lodging in towns will normally be higher for a chaotic. OTOH, buying shady goods from smugglers will probably not be an option for a Lawful character. (Note: I would also charge higher prices to characters using Cha as a dump stat regardless of reputation).

Chaotic Realms
While most civilized places will favor lawfuls, there will be regions, city districts, or even kingdoms where the situation is reversed. In a Pirate City, a known lawman will be viewed with suspicion if not outright attacked. A Champion of Chaos may find that the Black Gates of Mordor will open for him.

In general, it is more tempting to play an unscrupulous character. Because of this, I do suggest making it harder for these guys and rewarding those who play lawful characters and act according to their alignment.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Dragons at Dawn Supplement I is out!

DHBogg's just announced the release of the first supplement for his Dave Arneson inspired game Dragons at Dawn. Named Supplement I: Twighlight, the description at Lulu reads:

Supplement 1 is a broad ranging expansion of the Dragons at Dawn retro-tribute fantasy role playing game honoring the first years of adventure role playing as envisioned by gaming pioneer Dave Arneson. The contents include character class variations, alternate combat tables, new spells and rules for governing magic, expanded information on skills, morale, wilderness adventuring and a whole lot more!
 Click here to order a hard copy or buy the pdf. You can talk about supplement I with other fans as well as the author at the Dragons at Dawn section of the OD&D74 forum, or at the new Arnesonian Rules Section of the Comeback Inn.


Friday, July 15, 2011

Individualizing dwarves

Alright, they have already been all over the blogosphere and forums, but I wanted to have the dwarves on my blog as well. Is that too selfish? While some have expressed worries about the length of beards or that these dwarves somehow don't look right, I actually like that Jackson is individualizing the dwarves. It may even be good for the hobby that these films are challenging our often stereotyped views of demihumans. How many battle axe wielding Gimli copies have not appeared in your D&D games? How many Elven archers?

Kili and Fili

Oin and Gloin

Nori, Ori and Dori

Bofur, Bombur and Bifur

One of the things done to differentiate the dwarves seems to have been the emphasis on the difference between noble born dwarves and those bred in the west:

"While most of the Company of Thorin Oakensheild is related to the royal and noble line of Durin, Bofur, his brother Bombur and their cousin Bifur most definitely are … not. Born and bred in the West, descendants of coal miners and iron workers, they have joined the Quest for the Lonely Mountain partly to seek their fortune and partly because they were told the beer was free."

 Back to Blackmoor.


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...