Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Vaults of Pandius 15 Year Anniversary

In June 1996, Shawn Stanley set up a website he called the Vaults of Pandius. Ever since this has been a focal point for the Mystara Fan Community. That is 15 years ago, this month. I joined the Mystara Mailinglist later that same year. The mailinglist hadn't been around very long at that time, but already at this point there was a vibrant community talking about this setting which had been created as the default world for the Classic D&D game. From the very beginning I was overwhelmed by the friendliness and creativity that characterized this community.

Many of the results of this creativity can be seen at the Vaults of Pandius, including some of my own humble writings. The Mystara Mailinglist still exists, but the center of the community's activities are now centered arount the Mystara forum at the Piazza. Interestingly many of the people I first met on the mainlinglist back in the 90s are still there, along with many others who joined over the years. This community remains a stimulation for my creativity.

Happy Anniversary Pandius!


Monday, June 27, 2011

Earl of Walworth

In the third year of his reign King Robert I of Thonia established the Northern Marshes as an outpost of his realm. To secure those lands, he ordered the construction of fortifactions there, which would later become the foundations of Blackmoor Castle. One of King Robert's staunchest supporters and an eager advocate for expanding the kingdom was the Earl of Walworth. For his efforts for the realm, Walworth was awarded with the Order of the Morningstar, one of the highest orders of the Empire. However, relations between the Walworths and the Royal Family were not always amicable. At one point Walworth even attempted to assume the throne himself! However, once Robert I had reclaimed the throne with the support from the lord of Blackmoor, Walworth explained that his actions were based on the rumour that the king had perished. Because of this, Walworth was able to avoid disgrace and his line remains strong among Thonian nobility even today.

Behind the Curtains:
Earl of Walworth was Gary Gygax' title in the Castle & Crusade Society. The story about his attempt to assume the throne is based on the fact that #10 of the Domesday Book lists Gygax as King rather than Kuntz. Other details of Walworth's story are also derived from notes from the C&C Society. While Walworth is never mentioned in any Blackmoor material, we know that Dave Arneson did incorporate much of the structure from the C&C Society as background for his campaign.

Image Source


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Jesters of Blackmoor

With Dragon magazine's 35th Anniversary (and issue 400 being published) this month, Roger Moore apparently revised his old article about the Jester Class from issue #60 of the magazine and is now presenting it for the current edition, available to DDI subscribers. While I am not a DDI subscriber myself, I am a fan of the old Dragon magazine.

In Dragon #65 Gary Gygax wrote the following in the Jester:

JESTER -- Rob Kuntz, in his currently unpublished module, The Tower of Zaeen, has included a jester. A recent DRAGON Magazine (issue #60) also included the Jester as an NPC class. Because I have also considered the jester as an actual class for the game, I have not as yet read either description. Jesters, as I envision them, can be of human, gnome, or halfling race. (Elves could never permit themselves to be so debased; dwarves are far too serious and just plain humourless.) Alignment is as desired by the player. A jester would have a combination of verbal, magical, and acrobatic skills which allow the class to be viable even though there is no great power. Verbal skills would enable the character to influence many creatures toward kindliness, humor, forgetfulness, thoughtful consideration, irritation, anger, or even rage. Magical skills would have to do with jokes and tricks -- sort of a directed wand of wonder with some magic-user spells and illusionist magic tossed in. Acrobatic skills would be mainly tumbling and juggling, with some magic tossed in there as well. Level titles are: Wag, Punster, Masquer, Harlequin, Clown, Juggler, Buffoon, Fool, Joker, Jester. Powerful at its upper levels, the class will be less than popular with fellow adventurers, I suspect, so that jesters will frequently have enemies and travel alone....

I was a little surprised to see the Jester appear as a Prestige Class in the Players Guide to Blackmoor (3.5E), but it may have been a nod to the original Roger Moore article. Entertainers have always existed in Blackmoor of course, ever since the heroes allowed a circus to perform in the courtyard of Castle Blackmoor. More ideas on the Jesters of Blackmoor can be found here.

Image Source


Friday, June 24, 2011

More word from Eldritch Enterprises

I was meaning to comment on this sooner, but I have been a bit busy. Not to busy to be pleased however of word from Eldritch Enterprises, the company formed by Frank Mentzer and friends. Apparently they are planning quite a wide range of products:

Eldritch Ent. plans to publish for both the mass and game hobby markets. Current projects include a childrens' book series, a work on baking techniques, recipes, and anecdotes (penned by Frank's wife Debbie, based on their time at The Baker's House), and a series of religious studies by Frank's late father (Rev. Frank Mentzer II, a Methodist minister). The hobby game line includes various works for the "Old School Renaissance" movement as well as Mr. Ward's seminal Science Fantasy game "Metamorphosis Alpha."

 There will also be possibilties to invest in the company as announced here. My main interest is in the gaming side of the product line of course, but I could certainly see the sense in aiming for a broader market. It will be great seeing Metamorphosis Alpha again and I am hoping Aquaria will follow. Rumour is that Frank will be in Europe this summer, and I hope to catch up with him during that time so that I can squeeze him for more information on these projects... 

Picture source


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Did nothing good come out of the D&D movies?

We all know the story. In 2000, Dungeons & Dragons the movie was released, directed by Courtney "Corey" Solomon. The movie suffered from a very poor reception, perhaps especially among D&D fans. Dave Arneson was also to some extent involved with this project. Not that I suggest that the movie's failure had anything to do with him, ofcourse. His role was far too minor to have much impact either way.

I have previously mentioned how Arneson was supposed to have a cameo role in the film.  His main role seems to have been a kind of technical advisor as well as being supposed to write a module based on the film:
"[We]evaluated the scenes in D&D-specific terms. After all, we are doing the module! Many D&D elements are not obvious in the movie, but they ARE there. Short of having a technical readout for each rule along the side of the screen, it was seldom possible to stop and explain what is going on, rulewise. After all, this is a movie, not a documentary." (-On the Set of the D&D Movie, by Dave Arneson)

 In retrospect, it seems like this was a poor use of having a man like Arneson on the set. Perhaps instead of consulting him on rules, the director could have asked for creative input? Based on his descriptions from the set Arneson seems to really have enjoyed himself though, spending time with the actors and being given a chance to talk about D&D to both cast and crew.

As mentioned, Arneson was originally asked to make a module based on the movie. While this project was cancelled by WotC before the movie was released, private correspondance between Arneson and fan Robert Blezard suggests that Arneson loved the opportunity to be able to work with D&D again. It is not unlikely that this was one of the things that made him want to bring back Blackmoor again, which was released only a few years later (2004). So perhaps something good came out of the D&D movie afterall? Besides Thora Birch of course! :)


Friday, June 17, 2011

Old School vs. Fun

One of the great things about the OSR is how it has created a sense of newfound appreciation of older edition books and writers. I am drawn to the works of the early masters of the hobby because of the creativity found within them and the value of taking a second look at these works, discovering great ideas that for various reasons seems to have been lost along the way.

What I don't appreciate are people who worry too much about what is old school and what is not. Especially the latter part. Trying to define how Old School ended in 1981, or 1989 or in 2000, or with person X being kicked out of TSR and excluding everything after that point seems like a pointless exercise. I am also saddened by people telling others that you're not old school enough or you cannot use book X because that's not an old school book.

Interestingly, the most creative individuals from the OSR don't really seem to spend much time with this sort of exclusivist attitude though. They are instead simply driven by their enthusiasm. This positive attitude is what appeals to me about the OSR; not the people who will spend time telling you that you are playing it wrong.

To me old school is more about attitude and spirit, than about anything else. If my choice is between someone else's definition of what is old school and what I think is fun, I will go with fun. And lets face it, this was what the old school masters were about too, wasnt it? If there is one thing I have learned about the Old School masters is that they were willing to include just about anything they could get their hands on into their games. As long as it seeemed like a good idea at the time. So if you want to include Monte Cook's Ptolus, or the latest sourcebook for 4E in your Old School game, who am I to tell you that you arent good enough for the movement? Ultimately, there is no choosing between Old School and fun. If youre not having fun, it sure isn't Old School.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Get Blackmoor to your Inbox!

It is now possible to follow this blog by email. I have added the "Follow by Email" gadget which you can find on the right. 

Also, in the news, we have been making some changes to the Comeback Inn. Most are behind the scenes things so they may not be noticed by the casual visitor, but we are doing what we can to keep our favorite Blackmoor forum running as smoothly as possible.


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