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


Sunday, January 10, 2016

[Mystara] Tom Moldvay's Lost Known World Modules?

Back in December I was talking about the origins of the Known World (later Mystara) Setting that grew out of the Akron, Ohio based home campaign of TSR game designers Tom Moldvay and Lawrence Schick. Tom Moldvay wrote many rulebooks and modules that would be associated with TSR's Known World:

  •  X1 - Isle of Dread (with David Cook), 1980 
  •  X2 - Castle Amber, 1981 
  •  Dungeons & Dragons Basic Rules, 1981 
  •  B3 - Palace of the Silver Princess (with Jean Wells), 1981 
  • B4 - The Lost City, 1982 
  • M3 - Twilight calling, 1986 B1-9: 
  • In Search of Adventure, (contributor), 1987
  • "The Keep on the Borderlands", 1981 (sub-editor )
  • Dungeons & Dragons Expert  (Cook/Marsh), 1981   (sub-editor )
  • AD&D Mystara: Mark of Amber (credited for the X2 Castle Amber material), 1995
It has long been believed that the short story Black Lotus Moon that Moldvay wrote for Dragontales (1980 TSR) is also based in that same world.

A few days ago, my friend and fellow blogger Grodog  told me about some other lost modules that could be connected to this setting. C-2 Seren Ironhand (AD&D) was a module written by Tom Moldvay, published in Challenges magazine in 1986.

In Heroic Challenges, Lawrence Schick reported about this adventure module for 6-9 characters of levels 4-6 :
"The heroes root out a band of river-pirates, deal with an ancient race of cat-people, then explore the ancient dwarven mines of Morindar. Includes a 'Royal Commision' sheet empowering the adventurers to wipe out the pirates and reclaim wilderness land."
Originally planned as a trilogy, CH-1 The Morandir Company and CH-3 The Mountain King were never published. However, Grodog has apparently come across these unpublished modules and is planning to run the whole trilogy at GaryCon 2016. How I would love to go there!

Could these modules reveal more about the original Known World Campaign or are they a completely separate thing? That is hard to say. Tomas Steven Moldvay (born Nov. 5, 1948) passed away on March 9, 2007.


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...