Thursday, October 2, 2014

Threshold #5 Mystara Fan Magazine is Out: Focus on Davania

Another great thing that happened on Dave Arneson Game Day yesterday was the release of the 5th issue of Threshold, the fan magazine for the D&D World of Mystara. With an editorial group working out of The Piazza and working with the Vaults of Pandius, this fan project has moved from being a great idea to proving to the gamer community that this is a magazine that has come to stay.

As in the past, the current issue is professionally laid out with high quality illustrations and well written articles and beautiful maps. #5 focuses on Mystara's southern continent of Davania, a place that never got much detailed coverage in official material.

Go here to download!


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Dave Arneson Game Day 2014

Today is Dave Arneson's Anniversary. Join us in this annual celebration of D&D's co-creator and one of the founders of the RPG hobby.

Places to visit on this day:
This Blog!

The Comeback Inn - The Forum for Dave Arneson's Blackmoor:

Blackmoor Fans Facebook Group:

Blackmoor Forum at The Piazza:

Blackmoor Forum at OD&D74:

Gnomish Embassy:

Let me know what else you are doing in gaming today!

Here is an overview of Dave Arneson Game Days since 2010.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Orc King of Blackmoor

The realm of Blackmoor has many enemies. Four major Orc Tribes each control their own corner of the North. The rise of the Orcs followed the destruction of the Temple of Id. Although chaotic in nature, all Orcs follow a single king. King Funk III. Plotting the destruction of Uther's Realm from the depth of the 10th level of the dungeons below Blackmoor, the Orc King is an ally of the Egg of Coot. Although Blackmoor is an important enemy, the Orc King also displays particular hatred towards the race of Dwarves. Through their history, six wars have been fought between Orcs and Dwarves, the sixth is still ongoing.

Under King Funk's rule, the Orcs have greatly expanded on the Blackmoor Dungeon, creating the dangerous path called the Orcian Way. Unfortunately, the Orc population of the Dungeon has taken a heavy toll against adventurers from Blackmoor. One such hero who has caused severe annoyance to the Orcs is the Great Svenny who gained the name Orcsbane from his heroic battles in the dungeons. This has resulted in King Funk placing a a hefty ransom on Svenny's head, though none have yet to collect this reward.

In the original campaign, the Orc King was played by Frederick (Freddy) Funk who sadly passed away in 2011. As with many of his players, Dave allowed Freddy to bring his creativity to the world of Blackmoor. He expanded the dungeon with areas such as the Orcian Way where one could hear God Save the Queen played backwards. Freddy also created his own fantasy world known now as Fred's World sharing some traits with Blackmoor.

What is more formidable than an Orc King with ideas?

Thanks to purple purple purple purple for reminding me of the music heard in the Orcian Way.

Image Source
Forum discussion of this article


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Young Dave Arneson

Young Dave Arneson. Picture released via the Great Kingdom Documentary

Before he went on to become Co-Designer of Dungeons & Dragons, Dave Arneson was a kid just like everyone else. This picture surfaced earlier this year via the now frozen Great Kingdom documentary project. Dave was born in Hennepin County, Minnesota on October 1st 1947. As a teenager in the 1960s he discovered board and war gaming with favorites such as Avalon Hill's Gettysburg.

Arneson Estate. Picture capture from the Great Kingdom Trailer.

In 1964 a gaming organization called the The Midwest Military Simulation Association (MMSA) was founded. Dave Arneson was a student at Park Sr High School in St Paul Minnesota at the time and joined the MMSA soon after it was founded. It was there that he met people such as Dave Wesely whose ideas would become incredibly influential on Dave's later views on gaming as well as many of the other original Blackmoor players.

It was the basement of his childhood home (seen in the picture above) that became the base of operations for the gaming events that would develop into the first fantasy roleplaying game. This is where one would find the bar counter that Dave used as what may have been the first DM's screen and the Ping Pong Table where much of the gaming took place.

Greg Svenson describes the basement as follows:

When you went down the stairs to the basement of Dave's house there were doors to the right and to the left. The right hand door went to the laundry room (where we met the first black pudding on the first dungeon dive). The door to the left led to the room where we did most of the gaming. When you walked in to the room the bar was to your immediate right and the ping pong table (a pretty ordinary one) was on the left, with a couch against the wall on the far left.

Who would have guessed that an ordinary Minnesota kid with a fascination for board games would help change the world?

Further discussion of this article


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Arneson Gameday 2014 Preparations

Friends, Blackmoorians!

The preparations have begun for Dave Arneson Game Day 2014. The main idea is to have a World Wide event on the Birthday of Dave Arneson. I have set up a Facebook Event for the Game Day via the Blackmoor Fans page.

Is anyone else doing anything for Dave Arneson Game day this year?

Read more in this thread at The Comeback Inn!


Monday, June 2, 2014

The 1985 Mayfair Games Blackmoor Modules!

Totally fake cover imagining what a Mayfair games Blackmoor module may have looked like.
A previously unknown chapter in the history of Blackmoor publications has just come to life thanks to my friend NPCDave at The Piazza. Reading an old interview with Dave Arneson from Space Gamer Magazine, I learned that Dave had planned many more Blackmoor modules than the four from the DA series published by TSR. It has long been rumoured that DA5 City of Blackmoor was completed, but never published.

In Space Gamer #85 (1986) Dave talked about a total of eight modules and a novel to be published by TSR for the Blackmoor Campaign. Was this just Dave Arneson bragging? The most recent information reveals a hidden chapter in the story of the DA Blackmoor modules. Before they were published by TSR, it was another company, Mayfair Games that intended to publish a total of twelve modules based on Dave Arneson's Campaign in 1985 for their Role Aids RPG line famous for their "For use with Advanced Dungeons & Dragons" label (which would get Mayfair Games into trouble with TSR in 1993). This information can be learned from an advert in TSR UK's Imagine Magazine #26 (published in early 1985).

Advert from Imagine Magazine #26 announcing Mayfair Games' Blackmoor Chronicles

So what happened through the course of 1985 that lead to the Blackmoor material being transferred from Mayfair Games to TSR? Gary Gygax was still with TSR untill December that year. Apparently he was interested in more cooperation between Mayfair Games and TSR, but was voted down on this issue. There have also been some rumors about Gygax being involved in TSR to publish the DA modules, but the details of this is unknown to me at this point. If anyone knows more about the relations between Mayfair Games and TSR in the mid 1980s let me know!

More discussion of this article.


Monday, May 19, 2014

D&D Next Covers Revealed!

Over at WotC's website the covers for D&D Next have been revealed. As XStarkillerX notes at The Piazza, the announcement also includes release dates for the three core books, the starter set and new adventures. It is surprising that so little bravado accompanies this announcement. Perhaps they are assuming that bloggers and forum posters will do the job for them? :D

Although the images are fairly small, I dont see any mention of "5th Edition" or "Next" on the covers. The new style should ensure that these books are not confused with previous edition products however.

ENWorld also reveals this logo:

And this one:

What do you think of the art?


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

TSR Veteran Jeff Grubb Blogs On Blackmoor

"[Blackmoor] was the cauldron of creativity where [Dave Arneson] fully distilled a game featuring individual characters as opposed to battling armies. Many of the features that would become Dungeons & Dragons began in the Blackmoor campaign."
You are reading the words of game designer Jeff Grubb, whose name should be known to any D&D fan. Jeff worked for over a decade at TSR and has continued to design RPG products since then.

As part of the A-Z 2014 Challenge, Jeff Grubb decided to write about Blackmoor for his second day entry on the letter B. I am also quite honored that he has included a link to my website, the Blackmoor Archives, for those interested in "a lot more backstory than I can give here". Thanks to my friend Big Mac at The Piazza for bringing this to my attention!


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Dave Arneson as inspiration for King Uther

Over at the Comeback Inn we have been discussing whether some of the characters in Blackmoor were based on Dave Arneson himself. Jim Holloway who illustrated the DA modules certainly seems to agree with us that King Uther was in fact a personification of Dave.

In the later d20 line his appearance was changed however:


Friday, February 28, 2014

Aaron Allston (December 8, 1960 – February 27, 2014)

I just found out via this thread in the The Piazza Mystara Forum this morning that Aaron Allston had passed away. Although he was probably best known as a novelist, especially for his Star Wars novels, he was also a great game designer.

Allston had a great impact on my childhood due to his works on Dungeons & Dragons (the BECMI edition), in particular the role he played in writing defining supplements and sourcebooks for the World of Mystara.

In an interview in the Tome of Mystara fanzine he is introduced in this way:

To Mystara fans, the mention of the name "Aaron Allston" brings to mind gaming on a grand scale, world-shattering events, empires of staggering power. As well it should: Austin, Texas-based Allston can be considered the "Father of Mystara." His contributions include: 

 Skarda's Mirror
Grand Duchy of Karameikos
The Dwarves of Rockhome
Dawn of the Emperors
The Hollow World
Wrath of the Immortals
Poor Wizard's Almanac (I)
Karameikos: Kingdom of Adventure
Mark of Amber
D&D Rules Cyclopedia
Bruce Heard, who was Product Manager for the "Classic" D&D (And Mystara) line at the time worked closely with Allston. Bruce also writes about his friend Allston on his blog today.

Rest In Peace. And thank you so much for the work that has given me so much joy and inspiration!

Image Source: Wikipedia.


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Greyhawk and Michigan

This map was just posted in the Flanaess Geographical Society group on Facebook. Although this should be well known by most readers of this blog, I think it illustrates well the fact that the C&C Society World Map was based on central parts of the USA.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

First Fantasy Campaign at Comeback Inn!

If you haven't visited The Comeback Inn Boards lately, you've been missing out. A new forum has just been opened for discussions about Dave Arneson's Original Blackmoor Campaign. This is the place to talk about the original Twin Cities Gaming group and the 1971(?)-1975 campaign that was later documented in the Judges Guild publshed book, the First Fantasy Campaign (FFC) by Dave Arneson.

If you are interested in the FFC, Supplement II: Blackmoor or the stories from the Original Blackmoor players, you should check out the forum. More importantly, join the discussion! The more people we have asking questions or showing interest in Blackmoor related topics, the more reason the rest of us feel we have to keep up our work.

Come join us! :)


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Return to the Vales of Blackmoor

This week, my PbP campaign started up again this week after a long break. We are now on the third chapter of the Vales Saga. Set in the lands to the west of the Duchy of Ten, Chapter 3 is called Legends of the Vales.

 After such a long break, I was really happy to see that so many from the old group of players were excited to rejoin the campaign. In addition, this chapter sees two new participants as well, making a total of nine players. When I started chapter 1, I was worried about how many players I could handle, but I have found that it is much easier to handle a large number of players in this type of game than say if we were sitting around the same table. For my face-to-face campaigns these days I prefer four players and one Dungeon Master.

 In this chapter, the PCs have been asked to investigate closer the curse that has been placed on the forests of the region. The curse was put there by cultists of the Frog God, and the ritual they used involved the ritual sacrifice of a local druid. In addition to looking for a way to finally rid the Vales of this curse, a powerful rogue magic-user is at large. Will they encounter him again? Well don't ask me what happens next. My players have been known to surprise me, so how this chapter will evolve from here is far too early to even ponder on at this point!


Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Great Kingdom (Documentary)

The Great Kingdom (Trailer) from The Great Kingdom on Vimeo.

Check out this trailer! The Great Kingdom is a documentary put together by Chris Haifley, James Sprattley and Andrew Pascal depicting the origins of D&D and the early days of TSR. Jon Peterson (Playing at the World), Paul Stormberg (The Treasure Trove) and Michael Mornard are also among those involved.

One thing I liked about the trailer is the point made by Stormberg that the real tragedy of the history of TSR is that both Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax ended up on the outside and their creation, Dungeons & Dragons was left in the hands of others.

For those wanting to find out more, the Great Kingdom Facebook Page is a good place to stay updated on this project. I am certainly looking forward to seeing the completed film!


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Arneson's 1970 Medieval Braunstein

Dave Wesely's Braunstein games were among the first to introduce roleplaying methods into the wargaming hobby. Dave Arneson and Dave Wesely belonged to the same group and Blackmoor is said to have started out as a Medieval Braunstein run by Arneson.

Dave Arneson had played in the original Braunstein Game, another Braunstein game (Brainstein 4) set in a Central American Republic (where he won). In yesterday's Q&A session, Jon Peterson revealed some more details on another Braunstein Game set in the Old West:

"Well, don't sell short Duane Jenkin's "Brownstone," the pre-D&D Western RPG were Arneson played the evil bandit "El Pauncho," and Dave Fant was the lawman "Marshall Fant." All of these activities informed the development of role-playing and the idea of simulating people."

In Blackmoor, Dave Wesely played the treacherous "Weasel", David Fant controlled Blackmoor and Duane Jenkins eventually became a Vampire Knight. I originally believed that Blackmoor was Dave Arneson's first medieval Braunstein. However, in his History of D&D in 12 Treasures Video, Peterson mentions several medieval Braunsteins run by Arneson. The first such game was run as early as 1970.

Dave Arneson Started Experimenting with a Medieval Braunstein as early as 1970 Jon Peterson says.

Peterson describes how this game dealt with a battle between one player controlling a defending Castle and two players controlling an invading army. In addition there are other players controlling rebellious peasants, a band of vikings looking for plunder and two mercenary bands.

Arneson's Medieval Braunstein featured invading forces attacking a Castle. Sounds familiar FFC readers?

Peasant Forces also took part in the battle.

Although Peterson makes it clear that this is a different game than Blackmoor, it is hard not to notice the Blackmoor-like elements. A Castle being invaded by attacking forces sounds like it comes straight out of the First Fantasy Campaign (FFC). The FFC also has peasant rebellions, of course. And Vikings, though they were later referred to as Skandaharians, as more layers of mythology were added to those. Summing up things, it would, in my opinion, be difficult to argue that the 1970 Medieval Braunstein was anything but a first step towards Blackmoor.

Its a bit difficult to read...does this one say Rescue Forces?

Image Source: Beowulf, by Marcgabbana


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Happy 40th birthday D&D!

2014 marks 40 years of Dungeons and Dragons. As pointed out by the author of Playing at the World, today could very well be considered the birthday of D&D. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson created a game that changed the world in more ways than we can grasp.

Most importantly, the game has given countless hours of joy to us all.

Happy Birthday Dungeons & Dragons!

Image Source


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Gaz 3 The Principalities of Glantri is back!

In case you haven't heard it, Gaz3 The Principalities of Glantri is now available for sale through the DNDClassics store. Two weeks ago, I talked about how Gaz 1 Grand Duchy of Karameikos became the first of the classic D&D Gazetteer series to return in PDF format. Gaz 2 Emirates of Ylaruam has also been made available so it looks like they are uploading them on a weekly basis.

My friend Tim Brannan posted this news on the BECMI Facebook Group with the following comment: "My favorite Bruce Heard book of all time. I know the waterways and streets of Glantri well! LOVE this book and so happy to see it out on PDF."

Written by Bruce Heard, The Principalities of Glantri is generally considered one of the best of the series. While The Grand Duchy of Karameikos probably is the most popular. I personally like Gaz3  even better because it introduced so many new ideas and concepts. Also, the NPC gallery is incredibly fascinating! The style of Gaz3 is more light-hearted than Gaz1, but without taking the humorous elements to extremes such as in the Orcs of Thar. Glantri also interestly enough lends itself very well to a quite dark style of play.

Not taken from the gazetteer, but definitely Glantri!

Gaz 3 is the first in the Gazetteer Series to make strong connections to the Blackmoor modules (DA-series). The incredibly powerful artifact known as the Radience has ties back to the City of the Gods. One of the nobles, Prince Jaggar von Drachenfels claims Blackmoorian ancestry and carries a weapon of Blackmoor Era origins. The module even includes an adventure outline allowing PCs from Mystara to travel back in time to Blackmoor and excecute events that would permanently change the face of the Known World.

Although I only have the hard copy of this book myself, reports say that the quality of the scan is very good. With 3 gazetteers out and more around the corner I think we can truly say that Mystara is back! I heartily recommend this book for any D&D fan. Enjoy!

Image source

More discussion of this article


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Threshold # 2

So, the second issue of Threshold: The Mystara Magazine is out this week. This is not the first time I mention this fan magazine on this blog. Although my name is listed in the credits, I'm not really sure there is much there I could take credit for. The end result however is terriffic! Even better for you Blackmoor fans, there is indeed a Blackmoor article by Francesco Defferrari (Sturm) in the magazine.

As with the 1st issue, Threshold #2 follows up with a classy cover, professional layout and editing and 182 pages of high quality fan material. The articles are well written and illustrated by a combination of commons lisence illustrations and art contributions. I really liked seeing the illustrations by I "Meandrathel" Calvin, both in the Hollow Moon and Lupin articles.

With the second issue of Threshold out, the editorial team has proven that they are able to deliver what looks like it will be a regular series of fan magazines for Mystara fans. Issues #3 and #4 are already in the works.

If you are still wondering how to get Threshold #2, simply click on this link. Also, the Magazine has a Facebook Page, so you can "like" Threshold here.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Karameikos Gazetter ranked DND Classics Hottest Item!

Gaz 1: The Grand Duchy of Karameikos. Iconic cover by Clyde Caldwell. 

The most popular in the excellent D&D Gazetteer Series for BECMI D&D (aka Classic D&D), Gaz1 The Grand Duchy of Karameikos, by Aaron Allston, has returned for sale in PDF format. It is now available on the DND Classics Site, where it is listed as their "hottest item"! It is annoying that it cannot be found under the B/X Label, and that there is still no Mystara label there, but at least the book is available to new and old fans. I hope this means we will get to see the rest of the Gazeteer series there soon.

This is not the first time I mention the Gazetteer line on this blog. I consider it one of the best D&D product lines ever produced, and it formed the backbone of what would later become the World of Mystara. Coordinated by Bruce Heard and featuring iconic covers by Clyde Caldwell, the Gazetteer Line involved a great number of game designers who would gain fame through other works, including Aaron Allston (Star Wars), Bruce Heard, Ed Greenwood (Forgotten Realms), Ken Rollston (Kingdoms of Amalur), Steve Perrin (RuneQuest), Jenell Jaquays, Anne Gray McCready, Deborah Teramis Christian, Scott Haring, Jim Bambra, Carl Sargent (Greyhawk), Williamm Connors (Ravenloft) and many others.

Gaz1 Grand Duchy of Karameikos Map Replica by Thorfinn Tait

The Grand Duchy of Karameikos was Aaron Allston's first venture into Mystara, but not his last. An interview with Allston for the Tome of Mystara,
explains that "No other writer has developed Mystara as much as [him]", listing his Mystara credits as:

Skarda's Mirror
The Grand Duchy of Karameikos
The Dwarves of Rockhome
Dawn of the Emperors
The Hollow World
Wrath of the Immortals
Poor Wizard's Almanac (I)
Karameikos: Kingdom of Adventure
Mark of Amber
D&D Rules Cyclopedia

The Grand Duchy is where it all began, and now it can be yours :)


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Bruce Heard's Calidar: Are You Backing This?

I talked about Bruce Heard's World of Calidar when the kickstarter was launched back in December. Being a huge fan of Mystara, the Principalities of Glantri, The Voyage of the Princess Ark and Bruce Heard's work in general, I was already excited about it back then. Now, the project has not only been funded, but has reached 3 Stretch Goals, making it look even better! If I hadn't wanted it before, upgraded art, maps and Pathfinder Rules adaptation really makes me want to get this. More details Bruce Heard has revealed at the Piazza Calidar Forum also helps confirm my suspicion that this is going to be one of the best things to come out of 2014. I just upgraded my pledge to the top level.

There are only about 70 hours left of the Kickstarter, but I am really hoping more people will join in because the next stretch goal sounds like its going to be really cool too!


Saturday, January 4, 2014

Necromancer Games Modules + Blackmoor?

Over at the Comeback Inn, there has been some discussion about using Necromancer Games modules in Dave Arneson's Blackmoor, including The Lost City of Barakus (2002).

Whenever I adapt other published material to Blackmoor, I like to incorporate some elements that ensure a Blackmooreque atmosphere. For instance, in the Vales Campaign, I used Frog Cultists and Cabal Wizards as recurring elements to emphasize the connection to Arneson's setting.

I have very little experience with Necromancer Games Products except for the excellent Wilderlands of High Fantasy Boxed Set and Player's Guide to the Wilderlands. Although not a NG product, I recently ordered City State of the Sea Kings by two prominent NG authors, Chris Bernhardt and Rob S. Conley.

Last year on this blog, I mentioned another module, the Tomb of Abysthor.I finally got my hands on this module. Turns out there is more Blackmoor related material here than I first assumed. An entire dungeon level is dedicated to the Frog God. In addition there is the new monster race, the Tsathar (pronounced "su-Thar"). Although similar to Blackmoor's Froglin, they are sexless and their origins suggest they are related to the Outer Planar Slaad.If anything they could be used as a Deep Froglin type race.

There are also a couple of references to Hel in the module, including with a magic item. The Goddess Hel is of course known as Hella in the D20 Blackmoor line. Overall, much goodness for Blackmoor fans in this 2002 module!


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Have a Harpy 2014!

2013 is over and I wish all you Blackmoor fans and readers in general all the best for the new year! Excuse my pun, but this allowed me to post this classic picture of the Harpy from Supplement II: Blackmoor.

What are your plans in gaming for 2014? :)


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

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