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? :)


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...