Sunday, December 11, 2016

Awesome Fantasy Maps by Thorfinn Tait Cartography

Although we have never met in person, I have known Thorfinn Tait for decades now. He is one of several people from the Mystara fan community that I consider my friends after so many years of talking online about our favorite fantasy setting.

Over the years Thorfinn has developed amazing skills as a fantasy map maker. He started out making fan maps of Mystara, but in recent years he teamed up with D&D designer and former TSR product manager Bruce Heard in order to produce maps for the World of Calidar from Calidar Publishing.

You can get tons of free maps made by Thorfinn Tait Cartography over at

Recently Thorfinn also joined Patreon so that you can now support his Calidar Maps through that program. Making maps for small fantasy RPG publishing companies is not something that typically makes you filthy rich, so it would be really cool if you went on to support Thorfinn Tait at Patreon. I hope to see many more maps from Thorfinn in the future so any small amount sent his way will probably help!


Saturday, December 10, 2016

Dan Nicholson: The Merchant of Blackmoor

The Merchant of Blackmoor was a character played by Dan Nicholson in Dave Arneson's original campaign. Dan Nicholson was one of the early members of the Midwest Military Simulation Association (MMSA) which was formed in 1964 by Ray Allard and friends. Dave Arneson joined this group when he was in high school and Dan went on to join Dave's Blackmoor game.

Untill recently, Dan's most well known character in the Blackmoor campaign was the Merchant, who would later go on to inspire the Merchant class in Zeigtgeist Games d20 Blackmoor product line. Nicholson was one of the older members of Dave's gaming group which by then had split from the MMSA.

The First Fantasy Campaign documents the game in which Dan Nicholson's Merchant tried to gain control over all the trade in Blackmoor. His organization gradually developed into a kind of mafia-like group. The Great Svenny, Mello the Halfling and the Blue Rider formed a secret organization of their own to try to counter the influence of the Merchant Mafia (FFC p 20). Although it is not mentioned by Dave Arneson, it has recently been revealed that David Megarry's Thief character, was also involved in trying to thwart Nicholson's plans.

The Merchant was apparently not the only character Nicholson played in the Blackmoor Campaign. Yesterday, the Secrets of Blackmoor documentary team revealed a character sheet provided to them by the late Nicholson's widow Helen. It details a Gnome character played by Nicholson in 1975:

It is possible that this Gnome and the Merchant are the same character, but I tend to believe they were two separate characters. This character sheet clearly uses the format of OD&D and looks a bit different from the character sheets used earlier in the campaign before ability scores and other aspects had been finalized. Also, 2000 XP does not seem like all that much if he had been playing the character from the campaigns beginning and all the way up to 1975. I do like that the Gnome character is in possession of gems though. That only seems appropriate for a Gnome character.

Dan Nicholson passed away in 2012 at the age of 72. I don't know much more about him. I do know that he was a computer programmer, working for companies called Coleco and 4D Interractive Vision. If anyone can provide me  with other details about his life and career, that would help make this article even better.

More discussion about this article here.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Blackmoor Player Duane Jenkins (1948 - 2016) RIP

Duane L. Jenkins (August 21, 1948 - October 17, 2016) just passed away. He was 68 years old. I learned recently that he was hospitalized and two days ago he passed. I am reporting this because Duane was one of the original players in Dave Arneson's group. I regret that I never managed to get into contact with him.

My impression from reading the First Fantasy Campaign is that Duane played in the early stages of the campaign when David Wesely also participated. There is a place in Blackmoor called Jenkins Hill that was named after him.  Dave Arneson once told a story about how Duane wanted to play a Vampire in the game and how they were all laughing about that. Most likely the Barony of Glendover was the realm that he founded and was later passed on to other players. I would have loved to ask Mr. Jenkins about his memories from the game.

Jenkins Hill on an early draft of Blackmoor Town

Right now though, my thoughts go to his friends and family and the remaining gamers from the old Blackmoor group.

Read more about Duane Jenkins here.


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Blackmoor Documentary Text Description

On October 1st (Dave Arneson Day) this blog revealed that the trailer for the Dave Arneson documentary, Secrets of Blackmoor, had dropped. Now the following description has been added to the trailer:

Blackmoor is the name of a fictional world created by David Arneson. It is also the prototype of a game called Dungeons and Dragons, the first published role playing game. Unlike other fantasy worlds, such as J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth, Blackmoor is a living world that is being explored to this day. Secrets of Blackmoor tells the story of the evolution of the role playing game, In 1964, David Wesely becomes a founding member of a club that includes history buffs, model makers, and miniature collectors. Hiding within the group, however, are a bunch of college students who are interested in war gaming. Within a year, the gamers meet a high school kid named Dave Arneson who is playing war games with his friends in his parents' basement.

These gamers have no idea that they will change the face of this hobby forever. Their only concern for now, is how to simulate the reality of war, and above all, they just want to have fun. Their voracious hunt for new rules and knowledge leads them to the University of Minnesota Library where they discover an old manuscript, Strategos; the American Game of War. Within the dense pages are a few sentences that inspire them.

The influence of Strategos changes how they play their war games. But are they really following these old rules, or have they stumbled onto something truly unique by misinterpreting what it says? Should a game be constrained by rules, like Monopoly, or should there be no boundaries at all, like a game of make believe? One thing is very clear--something magical was going on in the Twin Cities. Secrets of Blackmoor investigates the origins of the role playing game, through candid interviews, archival footage, and newly discovered artifacts.

A few comments of my own: Although I am very excited to learn about this documentary and really look foward to seeing the final product, I think the phrase "prototype of a game called Dungeons & Dragons" is an unfortunate choice of words. The phrase lends itself to multiple interpretations and would probably suggest to many that the documentary aims to dig into old wounds from the Dave vs. Gary debate. I am not sure that this is what we need right now.

What actually intrigues me a lot more than that is that Secrets of Blackmoor offers to tell the story of the Twin City Gamers. Just seeing the faces of the players in Dave Arneson's group live on camera was such an awesome thing to behold. I think that those of us who have been reading about Dave's campaign for decades really will get a kick out of hearing them tell new stories in their own voices.

I learned yesterday that according to the producers the film is already fully financed and that they expect to release it sometime during 2017. My hope is that the movie avoids playing up unnecessary controversy, but instead tells us the amazing story of the Twin City Gamers, an amazing group of creative gamers during a very important time in the development of our hobby. The text description is right. Something magical was going on the Twin Cities. That's something I am excited to learn more about.

How do you feel about all of this? Let me know in the comments! Your feedback means a lot to me :)


Monday, October 3, 2016

Dave Arneson Day 2016 - What did you miss?

Major David Wesely and Jeff Berry talking about past games.
Dave Arneson Day 2016 was a huge success! This year we managed to take Blackmoor Week to a new level. Spreading activities over the whole week leading up to October 1st was a good idea since it gave us more time to create contents and for others to read the different posts instead of being swamped with tons of information in a single day.

Many different bloggers and forum posters contributed both on the day itself and the Week leading up to Dave Arneson day.

Some of the websites contributing with online material included:

In addition several people across the globe were running games. Personally I had a board game session at my house. Several other gaming events are mentioned in the Dave Arneson Game Day thread. The biggest gaming event was undoubtedly the games ran at The Source where many of the players from Dave Arneson's gaming group showed up.

Dave Arneson's daughter getting a hug from the most powerful wizard in Blackmoor. Robert the Bald. 

The biggest announcement from Dave Arneson Day 2016 outside the games was undoubtedly the reveal of the trailer for a planned Dave Arneson documentary called The Secrets of Blackmoor.  You can read about that one here if I have not seen it yet.

Some lessons for the next year: Several Blackmoor enthusiasts said they had not been aware of Blackmoor Week before it came upon them. This is quite understandable as few warnings had been given in advance. I know that many would have liked to do more if they had had  more time to prepare. That is something to keep in mind.

Overall it was an amazing event though. I can't wait for next year's Dave Arneson Day! :)


Photos by Kevin McColl

Saturday, October 1, 2016

The Piazza Reach 1K Likes on Dave Arneson Day

The Worlds of Dungeons & Dragons discussion forum called The Piazza reached 1000 Facebook Likes today. The above is the image they chose to use for celebrating it! I am a junior admin at that forum so I may have helped a little with the graphics ;)

If you want to be number 1001 to like that forum, click here.

Congratulations to our friends at The Piazza and a happy Dave Arneson Game Day to everyone! :)


Friday, September 30, 2016

Dave Arneson Documentary Trailer Revealed!

Today, October 1st, is Dave Arneson's birthday. As always we celebrate  Dave Arneson Day by sharing Blackmoor related material. This year I have something very special to share. The trailer for an upcoming documentary about Dave Arneson has just dropped! The producers became aware that their trailer may have gotten leaked by accident, so they contacted me about doing an official release on my blog to counteract the leak. I suggested that they should release the trailer for Dave's birthday, and they liked that idea. I still have no information about when the movie will be released, but it looks like this is not going to be a Kickstarter project.

I am very excited to see what new light this movie will shed on the life of D&D Co-creator Dave Arneson and the role he played in shaping our hobby. This documentary is sure to create some controversy. Dave Arneson deserves a documentary about him and I can't wait to watch it!" I have known about this project for a while as production has been going on for about three years. I am not involved in the project but I did help answer some questions and connect the film makers with some of the people appearing in the documentary.

For those interested in learning more about this, updates will be released via their mailing list at and I will also post more information here on this blog as soon as I have anything to share.

The photo used in the picture above (from the movie website banner) was taken at a Blackmoor game held in may of 2016,  DMed by one of Arneson's friends and original players, Bob Meyer. Bob also ran the Blackmoor Memorial Game back in 2009. Several of the old group players took part in the game including  Greg Svenson, Ross Maker. David Wesely, Dave Belfry, Dave Megarry, Ken Shepro and James Lafferiere. Also present at this game were Dave Arneson's daughter Malia Arneson, Kevin McColl, James Gallup and others. This was the most recent Blackmoor game involving players from the original group.

Also check out the discussion thread for this article at The Comeback Inn right here.


Blackmoor Week Day 5: Bow Before Zugzul

I can't believe it is already the fifth day of Blackmoor Week. Tomorrow is Dave Arneson Game Day! We have very exciting things to share with you all tomorrow and I almost can't wait to get on with it.

First though, let us take a look at what has happened since I posted yesterday's update.

RobJN, my partner at the Comeback Inn, has two excellent articles up at the Thorn's Chronicle Blog: The first article deals with something called Dragonstone Nancelle Weapons. The second article goes specificially into weapons of this type that were used in the Blackmoor Beastman Crusades. Go and check them out!

The Gnomish Embassy has yet another Blackmoor article, this one detailing a band of adventurers called the Wild Cards ready to drop into any Blackmoor Campaign.

At the Piazza, I have written yet another Blackmoor Retrospective Article, this one taking a look at the D&D 4th Edition line for Blackmoor.

At the Comeback Inn, Tracy is adapting a classic Greyhawk module to Blackmoor.

Alright, that is it for now, but expect more posts coming up real soon now that Dave Arneson Day  approaches! It has been a fun week, but more fun is yet to come!


Thursday, September 29, 2016

Blackmoor Week Day 4: Gonzo Gaming!

Okay, so now things are really starting to take off here. I am struggling to keep up with Blackmoor Week activities, forum discussions and everything else going on.

First of all I asked my friend Brian over at the Gnomish Embassy if he would write something for Blackmoor Week. Brian was one of the first people to do Blackmoor Week that I know about. Brian didn't give me one article, but three! One article is a more personal article about how Blackmoor can be an inspiration, then there is an article about a race that developed with the fall of the Temple of the Frog and the final article is a wild alternate history Blackmoor/Mystara mash up. Read all of them here.

A Blackmoor fan named Thondor who is a member of the Comeback Inn has just started a website called the Compose Dream Games RPG Marketplace with a number of other Canadian game designers. They are selling at reduced prices with a coupon for Blackmoor Week. Find out more here.

At the Piazza's Greyhawk forum, they have joined the preparations with an Archbarony of Blackmoor Week, exploring Greyhawk's version of Blackmoor. Read more about that and enjoy some nice maps of the region here.

In other news, the release of a lost Blackmoor MMRPG adventure yesterday created quite a buzz and we have had several people sign up at the Comeback Inn discovering the MMRPG line of free adventures.

It is so much fun to see this thing explore and so many people joining in on the activities. As I said I am having a hard time trying to catch up with everything now, so I am sure there are things I have forgotten. If there are links I have missed in this post, please let me know in the comments and I will include them in tomorrow's post!

Only one more day now till Dave Arneson Game Day 2016!


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Blackmoor Week Day 3: Free Downloads, Articles and Space Adventures!

This is the third day of Blackmoor Week!

Today, we have alot of exciting things for you! More people are joining in the effort and talking about Blackmoor across the web.

Free Download: Lost MMRPG Blackmoor Adventure Returns!

Episode 61 The Siege was part of Season 3 of the Blackmoor MMRPG. For various reasons this was not made available at The Comeback Inn when the rest of Season 3 was uploaded. That has now been fixed. The adventure is brought back and is now available for registered members at The Comeback Inn. And remember, registration is free, so there is no excuse is there? This adventure can easily be played independently for any tabletop Blackmoor campaign. Go here to download the adventure!

Blackmoor in Spaace!

Diehard Spelljammer fan, Big Mac, at The Piazza has started a discussion about how to use Blackmoor in a Spelljammer campaign. Multi-setting expert Ripvanwormer and others have joined the discussion turning the thread into a rich resource of information about Blackmoor's Solar System and beyond useful both for fans of Spelljammer and those interested in a more Dave Arneson-esque approach to the Galactic Realms. Check out this discussion here.

Blackmoor Games for October 1st

Vile is running a Blackmor tribute session in his homebrew Ravenloft setting.
Yaztromo will be running a modern interpretation of Blackmoor using Advanced Fighting Fantasy 2.
Anyone else planning anything for Dave Arneson Day?

And More!

The Ruins of Murkhill Blog by Halenar Frosthammer, aka the Perlious Dreamer is joining Blackmoor Week with this article about what to take away from the old masters of our hobby.  Well worth a read!

The Crossplanes Blog has added another Blackmoor 5th Edition article, this time tackling Priests of Odir.

Information about Blackmoor's Bearfolk can be found over at the Comeback Inn where new resources have been added.

As usual, check out the Official Blackmoor Week thread at the Comeback Inn, here for all related links and information. 

Is there anything I have forgotten? Please let me know in the comments!


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Blackmoor Week: Day Two!

"As you make your way through the Dismal Swamps you see strange buildings overgrown with vines and plantlife. The architecture looks unfamiliar to you, almost alien in style... " 

Day two of Blackmoor Week 2016. Here's an update on what's been going on since I made yesterday's post.

Over at the Comeback Inn, I am taking a look at one of the more obscure Blackmoor adventures, the Garbage Pits of Despair.

More people are planning on running games for Dave Arneson Day, this Saturday. I think I may be able to run a game on Friday, but I will be busy with Internet stuff on October 1st.

At The Piazza, I have posted my second Retrospective artice, this time looking at the Blackmoor products of the 1980s. That was alot of material to cover. I will probably expand on my comments there in the days ahead.

Mark Craddock has joined the Blackmoor Week project at the Crossplanes Blog, offering a take on Blackmoor's Cyborgs converted to D&D 5th Edition. More people have said they want to write blog articles. I will post links as soon as I hear about them!

As usual, make sure to keep up with the Blackmoor Week Thread at the Comeback Inn, where every link will be posted. And as always, Blackmoor Week is not about me. Everyone can join in. Just let me know what you will be doing, whether it is a game, online activity or something else. Links or photos are always welcome! :)

Leaving you with another picture:


Monday, September 26, 2016

Blackmoor Week: Day One - Announcements, Articles and more!

As mentioned yesterday, this is Blackmoor Week 2016.

Every day this week I will be posting stuff about Blackmoor, leading up to Dave Arneson Day on Saturday.

Dave Arneson Day  2016 Planning: The Source

Already, people are telling me they plan on running games this weekend. One big gaming event is the annual Dave Arneson Day celebration at The Source. The Source was Dave Arneson's local gaming store and many of Dave Arneson's friends will be present. This year's events at The Source include:

  • Braunstein #4 run by Dave Wesely himself. 
  •  Chirine ba kal will answer questions about Dave Arneson 
  • D20 Blackmoor run by Burl Zorn 
  • FATE for Tekumel run by John Till 
  • "Daleks in the Dungeon" run by Gerald Gagel
  • And more!
More details on the events at the Source can be found here. If you have the chance, please drop by the Source. They need all the players they can get. I would love to go myself, but unfortunately I live on the other side of the Atlantic. If you do manage to go, please let me know about your experiences and take photos!

Blackmoor Week Retrospective at The Piazza

Over at The Piazza Gaming Forum, I have posted the first in a series of threads called Blackmoor Week Retrospective. This first article takes a look at the Blackmoor Gaming material from the 1970s. Check out the article here.

Blackmoor Week Planning at The Comeback Inn

My forum, the Comeback Inn is a central part of Blackmoor Week. Take a look at the activities for previous years' Dave Arneson Day arrangements here. More activities for this year's Blackmoor Week and Dave Arneson Day will be posted in this thread.

Now its Your Turn!

Dave Arneson Day and Blackmoor Week is not about me. It is about all of us gamers all around the world. Are you planning to do something for Blackmoor Week and Dave Arneson Day? Have you done something already that I have not noticed? Please let us know in the comments below! What better way to honor the D&D Game Creators than by enjoying gaming together?


Sunday, September 25, 2016

Introducing Blackmoor Week 2016

For many years now, fans all over the world have been celebrating Dave Arneson Game Day on October 1st, Dave Arneson's birthday. Some fans have been expanding this tradition to include the week leading up to October 1st as well, referring to that whole week as Blackmoor Week.

I think this is a wonderful idea and this year I will be embracing this growing tradition. Better still, this is a world wide event so all of you can join in as well! There are many ways you can take part in Blackmoor Week and it doesn't have to be all that complicated. This is all about celebrating Dave Arneson, Blackmoor, Dungeons & Dragons and gaming in general. So, do you want to write blog or forum articles, run games, make drawings, paintings or other art or find other ways to celebrate your love for gaming, that is awesome.

But make sure you share those things with us. Post about what you are doing in the comments here, over at the Comeback Inn or any of the other associated websites. I will add links to all the websites and events here on my blog so that we can share in the fun! This week, I have some special surprises in store for you guys as well, but those will have to wait a few days.

What will you be doing for Blackmoor Week this year and where can we learn more about it?

Also, if you post about your Blackmoor Week activities online, please link back to this place so that we can all share in the fun! :)

Check out the official Comeback Inn Blackmoor Week Thread for more related links and information.


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

DA4 Duchy of Ten now available on DMSGuild!

At last the final installment of the classic DA module series is available for purchase in PDF format. The Duchy of Ten was one of the realms just beyond Blackmoor's borders that date back to Dave Arneson's original campaign. This module introduces those lands, now occupied by the invading Afridhi and their evil queen Toska Rusa. In the Duchy of Ten DM's can learn about the evil deity, Zugzul and the Well of Souls.

Of the DA series, this module was the one Dave Arneson was least happy about as he was not consulted or credited for this project. Still, it does seem that David Ricthie did base parts of the module on Dave Arneson's campaign and I think it belongs on the shelves (or HDs) of any true Blackmoor fan!

Find the Duchy of Ten here on the DM's Guild.

What is your opinion on DA4 the Duchy of Ten?

See also:

Discussion about this module at The Comeback Inn


Saturday, September 10, 2016

Dykstra: Her Quest for Immortality

I have to admit, I wasn't a huge fan of Terry Dykstra's art when I first came across it in the Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia. As many of you will know, my favourite edition of D&D is the version popularly known as BECMI written by Frank Mentzer between 1983-83. The 1991 Rules Cyclopedia collected most of the rules from the BECMI boxed sets, but replaced the interior illustrations by masters like Larry Elmore and Jeff Easley with those of Dystra. Now that is a tough act to follow and it was hard for me to look at them without comparing them to what had come before. Later I have come to appreciate Dykstra's art more though, not only in the Rules Cyclopedia, but also in the follow-up product, the Wrath of the Immortals Boxed set which revised the most innovative part of Frank Mentzer's rules: Rules for playing the godlike Immortals.

One thing I really do like about Dykstra's art is that he uses the illustrations to tell stories. One such example is the Quest for Immortality that appears in the Wrath of the Immortals: Codex I:
The first image shows a young female heroine's first encounter with one of the Immortals. This is the one who will become her sponsor and she encounters him in a dream. I am not sure if this is supposed to be a specific Immortal. It could be Ixion, but artist Paul Abrams made Ixion look very different in Codex II. I think the glowy effect is simply the Aura Ability possessed by all Immortals. 
This second image shows the young heroine finally embarking on the quest to become an Immortal. This illustration shows the part of the quest called the Petition, where the PC must travel alone to formally seek out an Immortal to become her sponsor. Most likely she is seeking out the site revealed to her by the Immortal in her dream earlier. 
The third image shows the heroine continuing her quest. She is in battle with Orcs or goblins. If this is supposed to take place after she is already on her quest for Immortality, such opponents should be no problem for her. The illustration shows that her sponsor is watching her progress however. 
The fourth image has the heroine back with her adventurer group. This image also shows our heroine with a mace suggesting that she is likely the group's cleric.Here they are in some dungeon, having discovered a powerful artifact; a crown of some sorts. This item could be an important part of her quest. Is this an item she has to destory, or something she needs to use to continue her quest? 

The fifth and last image shows the party, still in the same(?) dungeon. The windows behind them suggest that this could be in a castle above the dungeon from the above dungeon. It seems that they have defeated all the monsters and are trying to figure out what to do with a mysterious portal they have discovered. Will the quest for Immortality take the group to other planes?

This last image is from the Rules Cyclopedia, also by Dykstra. For a long time I thought this was the same character as the Cleric from the images above. However, she carries a different symbol at this time so this could be a different character. What do you think?


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Mystara Guide to the Multiverse in the works!

As some of you will know, I have been working on making maps for the Inner and Outer Planes of Mystara these last couple of months and posting them on The Piazza.

Paul over at the Mystara Cartography Group on Facebook asked me if I had any reference documents with all the planes listed. That gave me the idea I could do better. What about a full guide to Mystara's Multiverse?

At this point, this is just a draft containing a list of all the planes, dimensions and planar locations that I could find in the published material as well as a few fan created ones.

Check out the first draft here!


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Happy Gary Gygax Day 2016

The birthday of Gary Gygax: July 27, 1938 has since been known as Gary Gygax Day. Although this blog has been dedicated to the other D&D co-creator, Dave Arneson, I have always said that I am a fan of both Dave and Gary. Without the both of them, the world would never have seen this wonderful game that changed my life.

We plan on celebrating Dave Arneson Day later this year, on October 1st, but this day belongs to Gary. D&D was such an important part of my childhood and continues to be an important thing in my life today as an adult. Through this game I have had so much fun, learned so much and most importantly met so many great and interesting people.

The early gamers understood that tabletop gaming brings people together. It is a social activity in a face to face environment. In today's age when we all bury our faces into the screens, we might just need this more than ever.

Thank you Gary. Happy birthday.


Saturday, July 9, 2016

RJK to Publish Book on Dave Arneson!

A bit late to this party as I have been travelling, but just a few days ago Robert J Kuntz announced that he is planning to publish a book titled Dave Arneson's True Genius. According to Kuntz' blog, the book has already been written and contains three essays totalling 20.000 words. The book will be published by Black Blade Publishing and is planned for release by the end of the year.

Robert J Kuntz should need no introduction to the readers of this blog, but in addition to being one of Gary's Lake Geneva Group Players, and contributor to several early day D&D publications, Kuntz has also always shown a great deal of respect towards Dave Arneson. From personal experience, Kuntz has been extremely helpful in sharing his knowledge about Dave Arneson and early gaming history. This was really useful when I was doing my research on Dave's life and game design exploits, so I am all the more curious to get to read this book!

Robert J Kuntz also has alot of other plans in the works, including future books on gaming, a DVD Collection and more! I will report more when I learn more about this project.

So, gentle readers: are you as excited as me about this? Do you think this is the book that will finally treat Dave Arneson fairly?

Huge thank you to my friend Big Mac from The Piazza D&D Forum for pointing me to this bit of news.

More discussion of this article here.


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Megarry's Dungeon for Sale

To be honest I have mixed feelings about these collectors markets, but Dungeon! was designed by Dave Megarry, one of the original Blackmoor players, which makes it part of Blackmoor history. Note that this is a published copy, not the handmade version Megarry made himself. I wrote more about David Megarry and his Dungeon! game here.

Here is what the Collector's Trove posted on Facebook:
The Collector's Trove Presents: Designer's Copy of Dungeon!
The Collector's Trove is proud to bring you David R. Megarry's own designer's copy of the Dungeon! boardgame still in its original shrinkwrap!
In addition to David's comp copies he received as the designer of Dungeon! he also purchased several lots of 50 sets at a time from TSR and either sold them to retailers or gave them away as giftss. He now only has a half-dozen or so left to give as gifts or to sell and this is one.

As you know, David was a member of the Midwest Military Simulation Association (MMSA), a group of wargamers and friends based in St. Paul, MN, that included Dave Arneson, Mike Carr, Maj. David Wesley, and several others that would go on to design a number of popular wargames.

David took part in playing fantasy adventures in Dave Arneson’s original Blackmoor, a game that incorporated much of the Fantasy Supplement of Gary Gygax and Jeff Perren’s Chainmail Medieval miniature warfare game but innovated with concepts of roleplaying individual characters, experience gains, levels, and most importantly the fantasy dungeon adventure. David Megarry took these experiences and codified them in to a much more regular, but still dynamic, board game, Dungeon! in 1973.

Dungeon! is the fantastic board game that is an ancestor of Dungeons & Dragons and represents the roleplaying game in its purest form – the dungeon delve! Players take on the role of a Hero, Elf, Wizard, or Superhero and play their way across the dungeon-themed gameboard. In their explorations they fight monsters, avoid traps, and find fabulous treasures!

Gary Gygax was the biggest proponent of the game, playtesting, making modifications, creating variants, and shopping it around to various game publishers. At one point, Gary and David made an offering of the game, titled Dungeons of Pasha Cada, to Don Lowry of Guidon Games but it was ultimately decided that it would be too expensive to print the maps. Finally, the game was picked up by TSR who put it into production in 1975.

Since then, Dungeon! has been the most successful board game ever produced by TSR and is still being published to this day! It has gone through dozens of reprintings and new editions, has been translated into a computer game, and even had a line of miniatures marketed for use as pawns. In fact, in August 2012, the game’s current owner, Hasbro, put out a brand new edition of the game and in 2014 revised the game’s presentation to appeal to younger players in yet another release!

Quite the legacy indeed! Now you have a chance to be a curator of a portion of this legacy, care for it well and enjoy!

Item Starts Sunday, June 12th, 2016 at 7:25 p.m. CST/MEX

Item Ends Sunday, June 19th, 2016 at 7:25 p.m. CST/MEX

Here is the link to place your bids:

Although it should be clear from this article, I am not the seller and am in no way associated with the Collector's Trove.

More discussion of this article.


Saturday, June 11, 2016

TSR vs. Arduin

Yesterday, Andy Markham shared the above document on Facebook titled "David A Hargrave - The Arduin Chronicles #2, from Alarums & Excursions #26 (Aug. 1977)" As you can see above, David Hargrave, creator of Arduin, had recieved a letter from TSR objecting to some things in his game and apparently threatening to sue.

 Tim Kask who was at TSR at the time offered the following explanation:

 In 1977, TSR began aggressively pursuing folks and companies that we thought were infringing on our IP or trademarks and copyrights. We reached out to several and advised them of the legal shit-storm that might befall them if they didn’t knock it off. They were legion, and Arduin Grimoire was just one of many that fell afoul of Brian and Gary’s watchful eye. The bit about the spell is easy enough to deduce-they lifted ours verbatim. Their foreword may have been one of the anarchist genre prevalent in California then; they mostly said make copies, make your own books, screw the publisher’s rights, and so on.
 It is interesting in this time when IP discussions are all over the internet in this day of self-publishing and arguments on what can be shared and not etc. This is a good reminder that these discussions have been tied to the hobby since the beginning. TSR themselves were sued by Dave Arneson, the Tolkien Estate and others, but they were also fierce in defending their IP against others. Hargrave being more well known example.

Kask also went into some detail on how times have changed:
By the great stench-laden hairy armpits of Groo, man, it has been 39 years! While it may have been a big deal to them, it was just one of many we fought off. Also consider this, all of you younger folks. We wrote letters and used snail mail: 3 days to get about anywhere in the US; if they wrote back that day and mailed it the next, a week is gone when you get your answer. Long Distance telephone calls on land lines cost big money during the day, lesser money at night. We sent the mag to the printer with a week of advance time; that meant what we wrote in it was a month old when it came off of the presses. A&E had an erratic publishing schedule, anywhere from 3 to 7 weeks. It is most likely that a settlement was reached after something else had gone to press.

So while some things are very different today, it is also interesting to see how some things are indeed the same.


Thursday, June 9, 2016

Blackmoor's "Wizard of the Wood" Peter Michael Gaylord (1943-2016) has passed away at the age of 73

Photo by Kevin McColl

I just got the sad news via the Castle Blackmoor page that Peter Michael Gaylord has passed away. Pete Gaylord played the Wizard of the Woods, a legendary character in the original Blackmoor Campaign that was organized by Dave Arneson in Minnesota in the early 1970s, a precursor to Dungeons & Dragons. In addition to being the first Wizard character in the game, he was the source of the super berry magic concept. His character was also known for keeping dragon pets (one named after Pete's cat) and being a  friend of Pixies and other woodland creatures. I wrote about the Wizard of the Wood back in 2010. It is clear to me that Pete Gaylord, like many of Dave Arneson's players made important contributions to what would one day become D&D.

"Always quick to give advice and always A friend to those he played with." says friend and fellow gamer Kevin McColl. Gaming seems to have been a big part of Gaylord's life through his life. He took part in the 2009 memorial gave held for Dave Arneson by Bob Meyer.  Friend's report that Gaylord was gaming untill May 11th this year as part of David Wesely's group. From what I understand, he was hospitalized for some time prior to his death.

My thoughts go to his friends and family.


More on this article:

Monday, June 6, 2016

DA3 City of the Gods

Finally DA3 City of the Gods is available at DrivethruRPG. Third in the series of DA modules, DA3 was that last in the series where Dave Arneson had much actual input. The final module, DA4 didn't even have Dave's name on the cover, although some things in that module must have come from Dave as well. When the module came out in 1987, many people must have been surprised to see the amazing cover by Douglas Chafee, showing a fabulous futuristic city that really sparked one's imagination of what a D&D module could be. The idea of fantasy heroes discovering a crashed spaceship had been explored in S1 Expedition to Barrier Peaks, but Dave Arneson had been matching science fiction and fantasy tropes in his games even before Blackmoor was invented. Stephen Rocheford's character had become central in what would become the Temple of the Frog adventure and the hints provided already in the first published version of that adventure (D&D Supplement II) would finally be revealed in this module.

I was really happy to see DA1 Adventures in Blackmoor become available again because that is such a great introduction to the setting. DA2 Temple of the Frog gave us the most iconic adventure location from Dave Arneson's imagination. Now DA3 City of the Gods really shows us the extremes of the Minnesota gamer's experimentation with the genre. Hopefully it won't be long untill DA4 Duchy of Ten becomes available so that we can have the complete series on PDF format.

More discussion of this article:


Thursday, April 21, 2016

DA1 Adventures in Blackmoor Finally Gets PDF Release!

DA1 Adventures in Blackmoor was the module that brought Blackmoor back to TSR and D&D. Supplement II: Blackmoor and the Judges Guild booklet the First Fantasy Campaign were the Blackmoor releases available to gamers in the 1970s, but in the following decade, gamers would be treated with four high production value modules that Dave Arneson co wrote with SPI designer David J. Ritchie.

DA1 was the first in the new series and gives a great overview of the setting that can be used as a toolkit to run sandbox style adventures in Dave Arneson's original setting. In addition it features an adventure revolving around King Uther being kidnapped. This adventure also has information for bringing AC1000 Known World /Mystara characters back to the era of Blackmoor.

After a long wait, this module is now available as a PDF release at Drivethru. DA2 Temple of the Frog and Supplement II: Blackmoor have been available for a while now, but it is great seeing DA1 finally available for fans of Blackmoor. Let us hope we don't have to wait this long to get the last two modules in the DA series. This is a must-have for any true Blackmoor fan.

Further discussion at the Comeback Inn,


Friday, March 4, 2016

GM's Day!

So March 4th, the day Gary Gygax passed away has become known as GM's Day. Since I am a fan of both D&D creators, I started thinking about the time back in 1972 when Dave Arneson first sat down and Game Mastered a game of Blackmoor for David Megarry, Rob Kuntz, Terry Kuntz and Gary Gygax.

Later, Gary would say the following about what Dave was like as a Dungeon Master:

"I can not recommend him more highly than simply saying that I would rather play in his campaign than any other"
-D&D Supplement II Blackmoor

So to all the D&D fans out there. Happy GM's day! :)


Thursday, March 3, 2016

Being a Fan of Both Dave and Gary

The two creators of Dungeons & Dragons

As mentioned the other day, it is difficult to talk about Dave Arneson without getting into his troubled relationship with Gary Gygax. This is the creative relationship that resulted in the creation of Dungeons & Dragons and the invention of the RPG hobby. But it is also a story of much grief and words and actions that both men would have been better without.

Early on in my gaming career I learned about Blackmoor. It was Blackmoor that made me curious about its creator, Dave Arneson, whom I only knew as the lesser known of the two D&D creators. The age of the Intenet opened up to new opportunities for learning about authors and game designers that I only knew from the covers of the books and games that my friends and I had so much fun with. With mailing lists and internet forums it  even became possible to interract with people like Frank Mentzer, Bruce Heard, Rob Kuntz, Colin McComb, Ed Greenwood, David Zeb Cook, Aaron Allston, Allen Varney and all the others. It was heaven for us fans.

The internet forums was where I first learned about the ugly side of fandom though. The lawsuits and falling out between Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax was not only the source of grief for those two men and their friends and associates. Long after Dave and Gary had seemingly put the conflict behind them, fans associated so strongly with their heroes that they continued the fight.
People arguing on the Internet

Gary Gygax has always had a huge following. Most of them are great people. But among them I also encountered quite a few people saying pretty nasty things about Dave Arneson. Claims that he had not really contributed to the creation of D&D at all. Blackmoor was just a variant of Chainmail. And what an evil man he had been to dare sue TSR and Gary. I didn't really know what to think about that at first. But these claims made me wonder. Could this really be true? Is the world really made up of good guys and bad guys like in the movies? Or could there be more than one side to the story? That was the beginning of a story that lead to this blog, a website and a forum. I have learned alot about the history of D&D since then.

So who is the good guy and who is the bad guy of the story? Ultimately I don't know. I never knew either Dave nor Gary. I never had a chance to speak to Gary. I met Dave once and corresponded briefly with him. But I cannot say I knew him. I think they were just two human beings who had some brilliant ideas and also made some mistakes in their lives, just like everybody else.

In 1974 both men agreed to put both names on the cover of Dungeons & Dragons. They were both willing to sign a contract that recognized both men as creators of the game. I am thankful to both men for the game they made and this is why I am a fan of both Dave and Gary. Fan theories, whether posted online or published in books is not going to change that.

 So thank you Gary. Thank you Dave. Your game brought alot of joy in my life.


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The "Blackmoor is Just a Chainmail Variant" Fallacy

The "Blackmoor is Just a Chainmail Variant" Fallacy

This is something I have been planning to write about for a while, but a recent discussion with my friend Brynjar and others on Facebook inspired me to finally get to writing. I am not really sure anyone has ever actually made the ridiculous claim that Blackmoor was nothing more than a variant of Chainmail, the miniature skirmish game by Gary Gygax and Jeff Perren. On the other hand, gaming amateur historians, Wikipedia contributors and other fans have in recent years seemed obsessed with proving Dave Arneson wrong, when he claimed that he only used the Chainmail combat system during a few sessions and then pretty much discarded it completely.

It is true that we need to to be critical to claims made by Dave Arneson when the process leading up to the creation of D&D involved if we wish to know the truth. It is clear that he had stakes involved in this debate. But am I the only one with the impression that people aren't giving Dave the same benefit of doubt that we are giving the other side? The most common argument used to defend this line of thoughts is that we can find the truth based on written documentation. However, Gary Gygax had the full resources of TSR on his side. He was also active in publishing various fanzines in the decades before D&D was published. The fact that there is alot of documentation supporting the claims he made does not equal the truth however.

Ultimately we will never know how much of Chainmail Dave Arneson used. In the First Fantasy Campaign there are many references to creatures and units from Chainmail, so he clearly borrowed those. As to the rules themselves, Dave kept most of those secret even from the players, so that part will boil down to whether you trust his word or whether you don't.

However, I think this whole discussion misses some central points. What we should really talk about is the very nature of these games and how different they are from eachother. Chainmail (by Gygax and Perren) is a miniatures game for running skirmish battles between small units. It was also not primarily a fantasy game, the few pages dedicated to fantasy at the end were added as an afterthought. Blackmoor on the other hand was a game that featured single character roleplaying, a Game Master running the monsters (somewhat later in the campaign), dungeon exploration and level advancement. All in a living fantasy environment. Dave Arneson may have borrowed ideas from Gygax and Perren, but he also borrowed ideas from Dave Wesely's Braunstein games, his own long experience in Napoleonic Wargaming, various board games and many other sources. And, just like Gary did his game design, Dave used input and ideas from his players, many of whom went on to become prominent game designers themselves.

While there might be similarities between what Dave did and those other games he looked at did, it seems clear to me that he was very much doing his own thing with Blackmoor. Not only was Blackmoor a different game, but it was also a different genre of game. When Dave Arneson demonstrated Blackmoor to Gary Gygax in 1972, Gary was already looking for a new game to publish. After having played with Dave as a Dungeon Master, Gary was convinced that he had found what he was looking for. Dave and Gary proceeded to sit down and design a new game that they would call Dungeons and Dragons. They did not sit down to design Chainmail 3rd edition. Both men realized that they had something new on their hands, though I doubt either man realized how revolutionary that game would truly become.

This article isn't written as an attack on Gary Gygax' legacy. But I think we are doing both men a disservice if we ignore the radically new ideas that arose with Blackmoor and was brought into the world's very first published roleplaying game: Dungeons & Dragons.

More on this discussion here.


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Blackmoor on!

It has been all over the social media today: Supplement II Blackmoor for Original Edition Dungeons & Dragons (OD&D) has been made available for PDF sale on the website! Unlike the Greyhawk Supplement which appeared on the site yesterday, they have kept the original cover illustration for Supplement II rather than the revised art used in the 2013 reprint.

This is not the first Blackmoor PDF to be offered for sale from WotC though. DA2 Temple of the Frog has been out for quite a while. Now is the chance to get the original version of the Temple of the Frog it appeared in Supplement II back in 1975 though! You might need both of these modules if you hope to properly defeat D&D's first true Arch Villain, St. Stephen!

It would be nice if Blackmoor could be made to appear among the setting filters on the DMsGuild Website though. Even more frustrating is it that a search for "Blackmoor" does not give you DA2! I hope the fine folks at get both of those things sorted out as soon as possible.


Friday, January 22, 2016

No More Gygax Magazine.

I was excited from the moment I first heard of Gygax Magazine. Sadly, it was recently reported that Gary Gygax' sons were forced to leave Gygax Magazine due to legal action by Gail Carpenter Gygax, Gary's widow from his second marriage. Now Erik, over at Tenkar's Tavern reports that Gygax Magazine will no longer be published. TSR (The publisher of the magazine, not the original TSR) have stated that they will be focusing on publishing modules instead.

As I have mentioned in the past, I am very sad to see this happen. The Gygax brothers seem like excellent people and the way they and the people at GaryCon have been making an effort to involve everyone in the Old School Gaming movement, including Dave Arneson's original players and many others. It would be a shame if the Gygax brothers were prevented from contributing to the world of Dungeons & Dragons. I am glad we are still seeing the Hobby Shop Dungeon happening.

I am also interested in seeing what TSR is up to next. Apparently they plan on releasing a series of modules by Frank Mentzer and Merle Rasmussen. This is something I would love to see, being the huge BECMI fan that I am. At least there is some good news amidst all the sad news. I wish Luke and Ernie Gygax all the best and hope that there is some way to find a sollution that would allow them to participate in publishing game material as long as they want to. They deserve it and I'd like to think the gamers in this world deserves that too. :)


Sunday, January 17, 2016

GenCon II: When Dave Met Gary (1969)

21 Year Old Dave Arneson at GenCon II.

August 23rd-24th 1969 marked the third gaming convention arranged by Gary Gygax and his Lake Geneva Group. As the first convention was a much less formal gathering in Gygax' own home with only 12 participants back in 1967, the 1969 convention was called GenCon II. It was here that a meeting would take place between two men who could change the course of history together. Held in Horticulture Hall in Lake Geneva, this was the first time GenCon would run for two whole days and 187 guests would attend.

Gary Gygax at GenConII

Dave Arneson would later remember this convention very fondly. The 21 year old Dave was already passionate about gaming. 31 year old Gary Gygax had not yet begun his career in games publishing, but he had already made a name for himself in war gaming circles with being one of the founders of the International Federation of Wargaming.The two would later work together on Don't Give Up The Ship (1972) and Dungeons & Dragons (1974).  In the early 1970s, Dave Arneson also contributed several articles to the Domesday Book fanzine distributed by Gary Gygax and Rob Kunt'z Castle & Crusades Society. Dave Arneson also helped introduce David Megarry to Gary Gygax for the possibility of getting Megarry's Dungeon! Boardgame published. With all the amazing creative collaboration between the two in the years that followed, what could this first meeting between Gary and Dave have been like? This is some of Dave's recollection:

"It was the first time we really got to network with each other. Mostly you would talk on the phone with local guys. We got to meet [people from] as far away as Chicago — and from Minneapolis, that’s pretty good. I was excited to meet people you only read about in magazines. The only person I remember specifically is Gygax. That’s when he and I started to work out our collaboration for future game projects. He was just another gamer, full of gamer ideas." 

From the sound of it, the creative juices started flowing immediately when they met. Dave was not used to meeting gamers from out of town and it seems clear from all of this that it must have been very exciting for him. It also sounds like he did not expect the host of GenCon and co-founder of the IFW to be such a down to earth person and how easy it was for them to talk about their gaming ideas. Can you imagine sitting in on THAT conversation?

Horticultural Hall in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. The site of the early GenCon conventions.

It was, not surprisinly, meeting Gary Gygax that later stood out the most for Dave Arneson at GenCon II. A 13 year old Rob Kuntz was also present as were many others. However, Dave also mentions, in his quote, meeting gamers from Minneapolis that he did not know about. In a comment to the Castle Blackmoor Facebook Page, David Wesely shed some light on this:

Dave's ironic comment above about meeting people from Minneapolis is because we first met Mike Carr and his gaming group at Gen Con II, which was surprising because we and they were all from the same cities and had no idea that the other group existed until we met at Gary's house!
This is pretty funny. Mike Carr, perhaps best known for his Fights in the Sky game and B1 Quest for the Unknown, is someone I had always thought of as part of Dave's gaming group, so it is interesting that both of them had to go to Wisconsin to meet. Mike would late be remembered as Bishop Carr in the Blackmoor stories. I made an interview with Mike which you can read here.

As we all know, the friendship and good professional relationship between Dave and Gary would not last forever. But in the time from that GenCon and for the first half of the 1970s it would be a source of magic!

Image Sources: Wargamer #204


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...