Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Jean Wells (1955-2012)

I just heard of Jean Well's passing via Grognardia earlier today. I mainly associate Wells with the original orange cover B3 Palace of the Silver Princess, but she was also the original "sage" of Dragon's Sage Advice column. Zenopus Archives reports the following bibliography:

Jean Wells - TSR Bibliography
Monster Manual (1979) - Interior Art added to Aug 1979 revision (Eye of the Deep, Giant Sumatran Rat, Otyugh (with "Dave"), Violet Fungi)
S2 White Plume Mountain (1979) - Editor
Lost Tamaochan (1979) - Interior Art and other help
Rogues Gallery (1980) - Design (Co-Author), Editing and Layout; includes her character Ceatitle
B2 Keep on the Borderlands (1980) - Editor
B3 Palace of the Silver Princess (1981) - Author and Interior Art
A4: In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords (1981) - Interior Art
Polyhedron #3 (Winter 1981) - Interior Art ("Plant Creature" = Jupiter Blood Sucker from B3)
Polyhedron #4 (Jan 1982) - Interior Art (illustration of Duchess and Candella)
Sage Advice column in Dragon (years?)

Grognardia ran a two part interview with Wells here and here. Another interview is available through the Save or Die podcast here.

Rest in Peace.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

New Campaign!

I have decided to venture into a new kind of gaming. Finding players in this day and age is difficult and finding time to get together and play even more so. Over the last few years I have been enjoying Rafe's Last Fantasy Campaign PbP. So I have decided I want to try this type of gaming from the DM's side as well. A group of high quality players have agreed to join me as I take my first baby steps into a new kind of DMing. I have been getting good advice from the Comeback Inn posters and preliminary discussions about the campaign have started here.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

WotC Fails to Credit D&D Co-Creator.

While I was thrilled to see AD&D 1st Edition being brought back into print, even if just as a limited print run, exclusively to a US audience, I was rather dismayed at how the announcement was phrased:

1st Edition Premium Player's Handbook
In 1974, the world changed forever when Gary Gygax introduced the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game. The legacy of his innovative ideas and the extensive reach of his powerful influence can be seen in virtually every facet of gaming today.
To help honor his work and his memory, we created limited-edition reprints of the original 1st Edition core rulebooks: the Monster Manual, Player's Handbook, and Dungeon Master's Guide. These premium versions of the original AD&D rulebooks have been lovingly reprinted with the original art and content, but feature an attractive new cover design commemorating this re-release. Available in limited quantities as a hobby channel exclusive in North America.
Your purchase of this monumental book helps support the Gygax Memorial Fund—established to immortalize the “Father of Roleplaying Games” with a memorial statue in Lake Geneva, WI.
Item Details
Item Code: 02410000
Release Date: April 17, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Page Count: 112
Price: $34.95
ISBN: 978-0-7869-6243-3
 I think using this money to support the Gygax Memorial Fund is a great idea and a worthy cause. However, what happened to the other guy? Does he not deserve even to be mentioned even in the announcement? "the world changed forever when Gary Gygax introduced the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game"? "his innovative ideas and the extensive reach of his powerful influence can be seen in virtually every facet of gaming today?" Wasn't there another guy contributing with a couple of fairly essential ideas to this game as well? I'm not saying they have to build a statue of Dave or anything, but they could at least remember to give him credit for the game he was essential to help making 3 years after his passing. 

Thanks to the person who brought this to my attention. You know who you are.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Infernal Machines of Blackmoor

This is the painting that graced the cover of DA1 Adventures in Blackmoor. The painting is called 'the Infernal Machine' and is made by Jeff Easley, one of the artists that defined the fantasy genre for me. In addition to the machine itself and the people trying to escape its destructive path, the painting shows a dwarf who may be responsible for the whole mess.

I asked Jeff Easley what sort of direction he may have received for the painting. Jeff's memory was hazy on the subject (this was a long time ago), but here is what he said:

"I suspect it could have been no more direction than being told to paint a big nasty machine mowing people down. Art suggestions ran the full gamut of complexity, from an oral 3 line description to a number of written half page essays. "

I wonder if the editor (Deborah Ritchie) was thinking back to an obscure reference in the FFC saying that:

"[Gypsy Sayings could] allow the players a chance to get out of the steam roller's way" 
 Huge Steam Tech Machinery of dwarven make was revisited in the ZGG Blackmoor line with the Dwarven Steam Bore and other similar devices. These were first described in the Dave Arneson's Blackmoor Campaign Setting and further detailed in the supplement Clock & Steam:

The FFC also mentions a magical device called a "Borer", although the description of that item suggests a much smaller portable device. These huge hulks do seem to be doing a good job of giving the dwarves of Blackmoor some respect though!


PS: Thanks to R Scott Taylor for providing me with the Easley painting!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

My charcter just died!

Alright, nobody panic. I am not about to do anything irrational. It looks like our ongoing PbP, the "Last Fantasy Campaign" just shifted gear and is moving towards its end. Is our quest to rid the world of the Egg of Coot once and for all going to end in a TPK? We are certainly not the first to have perished at such a foolhardy task. I take comfort in the thought that my character, General Harwan, was killed in the same moment as the grandson of the Great Svenny, played by Greg Svenson from Arneson's original group.

Here is the last moment of General Harwan:

"At the same time, Harwan, around whom James' remaining soldiers have begun to return to a formation, is hit in the face, by the shaft of an Orcish axe, right in that long, painful moment when he sees his friend die... With a warrior's instinct, he rises his shield to parry another blow, but that way, gives an opening down below...He doesn't see or feel the axe, but when he sees into the eyes of his murderer, his own black sword still in hand, all he feels is the cold..."

Wait a minute. My 9th level fighter was killed by an Orc??? How embarassing is this? I am reminded of the dying words of Lindsey McDonald, a villain/hero character from Joss Whedon's Angel:
"You kill me? A flunky?! I'm not just... Angel... kills me! You don't... Angel..."
To my defense, it was an army of them, and severa of them were mounted on dragons. All in all it was a fun game. Death is part of the game and General Harwan, a military man, would not have liked to grow old. His life was dedicated to the defense of Blackmoor, a sort of analogy to my own efforts here on this blog. But dont worry, even if things look bad for our party in the PbP Campaign, I will go on promoting Blackmoor :)


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Webite overhaul and other good news!

Over the last few days I have been working on massively overhauling my website, the Blackmoor Archives. In addition to a massive facelift, I have added several new sections to the site and working to make the connections between this blog, the Archives and the Forum more seamless. I am pretty happy with the results so far, but will be fiddling with details over the next few weeks I suppose :)

In other news, new MMRPG downloadable files have been added to the forum. Also we are now 160 people reading this blog! A warm welcome to member 160. Anything you can do to spread the word is appreciated.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Piazza Member to design 5E.

Monte Cook
Although he is better known for other things such as being one of the main designers behind 3E and his previous work for TSR and ICE, Monte Cook also has a "shady" past as a member of the Piazza. ;) I remember being very happy when the designer of Glantri: Kingdom of Magic signed up to the forum to talk about Mystara with us. G:KoM was perhaps not the best recieved Mystara product, but that had more to do with excecutive decisions than with what Monte did with the assignment given to him.

Robert J Schwalb

Another excellent RPG designer on the 5E design team, Robert J Schwalb, also has a connection to the community. He has made a long list of classic D&D monster conversions to 3E which all appear on the Vaults of Pandius.

I see alot of optimism concerting 5E even on old school gamer discussion boards. Having these two excellent designers on the team definately cannot hurt! :)


Image Sources
Monte Cook
Robert Schwalb

Monday, January 9, 2012

D&D 5E Announced

Although speculations have been going on for a good while, its nice to have it confirmed:

NY Times.

Confirmed over at Wizards.com.

Announcing a new edition so early is usually a bad idea as 4E product sales will most likely go downhill from here . Is this evidence that it is impossible to keep a secret in this age of the Internet? The recent Escapist articles gave us some insight about how those inside the industry view the future of the hobby. This was also supplemented by Ryan Dancey's commentary. How will these thoughts shape a new edition?

Is Monte Cook's involvement a sign that 4E stepped too far from the roots and that 5E will be an attempt to bring the game back?


Found this image here. 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

[Race] Ursai, the Bearfolk

One of the iconic elements of the Last Fantasy Campaign has been the race of the Ursai. Created by Rizak the Really Horrible and Rafael, this race of Bearmen has become so prominent that even I now associate it with Blackmoor. Finally I managed to trick Rizak into doing a writeup of the Ursai today which he has posted here.


Img Source

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Thorn's Blackmoor: Wild Magic of the North

Here's the second installment from guest blogger RobJN. Read his first entry here. Rob is also a regular at the Comeback Inn Forum.

After a thousand years, the last thing the Great Thonian Republic wanted was disorder creeping into the cogs of its structured and ordered society. They were content to let the lawless barbarians have the lands to the North, with their swamps and endless lakes and forbidding mountains.
The North was the last refuge of natural chaos on Skothar — its forests and rivers and lakes were home to ever increasing numbers of dryads, nymphs, and sylphs driven from their ancestral lands by men from the South and their farmland and cultivation. 
Like the moon and the oceans, the magics of the North ebbed and flowed, waxed and waned. At the center, as awash in magic as it was the waters of the Black Sea from which it rose, was the spire of black stone, at once natural and unnatural. 
While some magical effects could be guessed due to the phase of the moons, or the stage of the oceans’ tides, more often than not mages were as surprised as their opponents when any given spell was cast to disastrous effect.
It was found, though, that in successive generations born in the North, those who had the ability to use magic suffered fewer and fewer mishaps. Some few were said to be able to use the North’s unpredictability to their own advantage, empowering their own spells while their opponent’s spells failed, misfired, or ran wild. It was unknown whether or not this ability was something inborn, or was something men of magic could learn.
Elves and the fey, of course, found Men’s blunderings with the wrinkled fabric of magics of the North rather amusing. Several Wizards of the Woods write of fortunes won and lost among the sidhe, who watched the wars of men from behind their Veils, wagering on the effect of this or that spell on the battlefield…
Some historians have guessed that it was the exposure to the “wild magics” that tamed the Beast Men, causing their stock to stabilize into the “common” goblinoid species men know of today. Some might go so far as to surmise that Blackmoor’s crusades against the Beast Men were as much in retaliation against their demon-worshipping ways as it was backlash against the growing incursions into the lands of men. Were the Beast Man invasions their attempt to reach and put an end to the source of energy that caused the steady decline in their own chaotic influence?
Given the effect tampering with those powers had in purging the planet of the scourge of demon kind, one shudders to think what could have happened with that kind of power bent to the will of the Beast Men and their Immortal patroness.

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.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

First Expedition to the City of the Gods

In 1980 TSR published Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, possibly inspired by Gygax' experiences in the City of the Gods in 1976. Last year I talked about how the two Greyhawk heroes, Robilar and Mordenkainen almost lost their lives in this deadly place. It wasn't until 1987 that the City of the Gods became accessible to the general D&D fans in module DA3.  However, Dave Arneson had been sending his players to the area since 1974. Dave Arneson's company Zeitgeist Games revisited the location in 2008 as part of their D20 line.

The first expedition to the City of the Gods is mentioned in JG's First Fantasy Campaign. Was the City always a space ship? Visitors from futuristic interstellar civilizations had been visiting Blackmoor since John Snider started his Star Empires campaign in early 1973 placing Blackmoor on his star map. This may have been what first brought the science fantasy twist to Arneson's campaign and may have been the direct inspiration for the City of the Gods.

What we do know is that the City of the Gods was a deadly place. Mordenkainen and Robilar were lucky enough to escape the City alive. The first group exploring the area were not so lucky. The Wizard of the Woods (Pete Gaylord) and a Peshwa Nomad Hero (Dale Norman) lost their lives on this expedition.  Those who did return did not look back.


Discussion of this article.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


Just had to share this picture that I found here. Does anyone know the story behind it? All the best wishes for 2012. With the Hobbit, Prometheus and the Avengers movies coming out, I know it will be a pretty good movie year. I think it will be a pretty good year or Blackmoor too! :)


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