Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Secrets of Blackmoor Christmas Preview Reveals Importance of Braunstein

I just finished watching the 24 minute Christmas preview of the documentary Secrets of Blackmoor. This preview was streamed at Vimeo for backers of the now successful Kickstarter for the documentary. The producers, "Chris and Griff", refer to this as a "Story Cut" of the documentary.

The preview shows several of the remaining members of the gaming group in the Twin Cities that Dave Arneson was a part of. In this preview they talk about the early Braunstein Games organized by Dave Wesely. The documentary describes Braunstein as a watershed moment.

One thing I am wondering about is who this documentary is for. Readers of this blog, or the works of Jon Peterson or other gaming historians will be familiar with much of the information given in the preview. D&D fans who are just beginning to learn about the history of their hobby might find this preview confusing. What is Braunstein and why is it so significant? Who are these people? 892 backers pledged $48,097 to help bring the project to life. I doubt all of them are experts? I hope the full version will provide more context for this group of viewers.

That's not to say the preview doesn't have anything to offer those of us who are already deep into researching the hobby's history either. Hearing those involved in these stages of the development of the game is incredibly interesting. The preview also offers video material of people who have not been seen before as well as new interviews with more prominent members of the Twin City gamers. Deep analysis appears to be mostly left to the viewer, but the comments from the gamers themselves tell a fascinating story. Creativity, experimentation, imagination are key words that I am left with. And more importantly, this was a group effort. Just like Gary relied on his group of friends and family members in Lake Geneva to help develop games, the development of the Twin City games that would lead to Blackmoor was a collective effort. This is clear in the preview and really should come as no surprise to anyone who has run a D&D game. The players are just as important as the DM. That should in my opinion not take away from the importance of Dave and Gary as the creators of D&D though, but the conclusion of the documentary remains to be seen. I think Bob Meyer's comparison to Eddison is very interesting though.

 The preview promises the DVD's will be completed in March 2019. My previous experiences with D&D documentary Kickstarters have left me a bit jaded, but seeing this preview gives me hope that Secrets of Blackmoor will be the first successful D&D documentary to become widely available. Hopefully the other projects currently in production will follow. For now, I will be looking forward to the complete version of Secrets of Blackmoor!

See more discussion of this article here


Monday, December 17, 2018

X5 Temple of Death One of the Best D&D Adventures Says 5E Designer Robert J Schwalb

The classic Dungeons & Dragons adventure X5 Temple of Death is getting renewed interest. Published in 1983 for the Frank Mentzer BECMI  "Red Box" edition of the world's most famous roleplaying game and set in the world of Mystara, this adventure was written by David "Zeb" Cook as a sequel to X4 Master of the Desert Nomads (Also by Cook). The series would later be concluded in X10 Red Arrow Black Shield by Michael S. Dobson. Beautifully illustrated by Timothy Truman, the module explored a mysterious temple in the lands of Sind and also introduced new monsters such as Dusanu, Genoid, Mujina, Malfera and Spectral Hounds.

Following a reacent discussion at The Piazza, which also spun into that RPG forum's Facebook Page, Robert J. Schwalb was among those giving the adventure praise:

In addition to being one of the designers on the team that created the 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons, Schwalb is also the publishing his own RPG Shadow of the Demon Lord. Check it out! :)

As a fan of BECMI D&D and Mystara, it is always nice to see the adventures of that era get more recognition. I am looking foward to seeing X1 Isle of Dread (the original Mystara advenure) return in a collection from Goodman Games next year. Could we see the Desert Nomad Series  further down the line?


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Blackmoor Documentary Successfully Funded!

Great news! Secrets of Blackmoor, the documentary about the history of Blackmoor has been successfully funded on Kickstarter. Out of all the D&D history documentaries in the works, it looks like Secrets of Blackmoor may now be the first to see the light of day.

Griff, Chris Graves and the rest of the team are already talking about adding more Stretch Goals. The Kickstarter still as 13 days to go so it is not too late to sign up. Secrets of Blackmoor is set to be released in March 2019.

Read more here.


Monday, December 10, 2018

The Piazza is back!

The Comeback Inn was down for maintenence, but things seemed to go smoothly. Another forum that has seen some overhaul is my other favorite hangout  - The Piazza. After some bug apparently connected to moving to new servers had to be removed, The Piazza has been locked for a few days. It now appears to be back and working as normal again.

Visit The Piazza here.


Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Maintenence at The Comeback Inn and Blackmoor Archives

We expect some downtime for the forum and website tomorrow, December 5th due to server maintenance. We thank you for your patience.

on behalf of the Comeback Inn Admin Team

Monday, December 3, 2018

Blackmoor Wizard Mix Up!

In my article about the Secrets of Blackmoor documentary Kickstarter, I mistakenly said that Bob Meyer played the Wizard of the Woods.That character was of course played by Pete Gaylord. Bob Meyer played Robert the Bald. I appologize for this mistake and any confusion it may have caused!


Sunday, December 2, 2018

Story and Old School D&D

I once saw someone on an old school D&D forum say "My D&D games don't have a story". Many early discussions on such forums were concerned with what distinguished Old School gaming from other kinds of gaming. While these discussions sometimes had merit, they usually ran the risk of excluding things that some players would enjoy because they were as some of my friends on The Piazza say, "badwrongfun". Obviously the same thing was going on in other circles too, from the opposite angle, like the New Editions or in the case of the topic of story, fans of the World of Darkness games or the Forge would criticize (especially early) D&D for the exact things that some old school gamers would take pride in.

But what is story really? A story usually has the following elements:

  • Setting: Not necesarily a published setting with its own boxed set and colorful maps, but a an environment.
  • Characters: In RPG terms, this would be both PCs and NPCs
  • Plot: Things that happen. 
Now, the Old School fan I referred to above was probably talking about a prescripted story (who on earth enjoys that?) or the idea that a good story could trump dice rolls as has been promoted in some non-D&D games. 

But in terms of the definition above, D&D has always had stories. Players and DM's are often seem in gaming stores retelling stories of their old games if they aren't posting about them online. One of the things that always appealed to me is that D&D can be about anything you want. That was one of the great discoveries made by Dave Arneson and his friends when they decided to abandon Napoleonic War Gaming for Fantasy Roleplaying. If you read through the First Fantasy Campaign or any of the other stories from the Twin City Gamers, you will see now much they experimented. 

However, D&D still comes with a set of assumption about what the game should be about. What the story should be like. Although you don't have to play it that way, there is a reason why D&D is usually about young heroes setting into a Dungeon or other dangerous environment, killing monsters and taking their stuff. That is a story right there. 

The setting can be a desert, the elemental plane of fire, or an icy frostland. But it is most often a place with room for the traditional classes, monsters and technology (equipment) found in the rulebooks. Usually there are also some underlying concepts of Chaos vs. Law and possibly Good vs. Evil which can be a little more subtle. 

Characters in D&D are defined by class and race. In movies and novels, an important characteristic of characters is motivation. In D&D motivation is in part represented by Alignment. In addition, all PCs are by default assumed to be interested in Fortune & Glory. Now players can change this up, but the game does assume that the PCs are interested in getting gold and loot. If you decide to play a Paladin or other Lawful type, then perhaps other things are more important. 

So the above are the premises of the default D&D story. What happens if you change some of those assumptions? What if the PCs aren't looking for gold, but instead work towards overthrowing the Emperor? That is where the wonder begins. The possibilities of D&D are endless!


Saturday, December 1, 2018

35 Minute Preview of the Blackmoor Documentary - My thoughts

The Blackmoor Documentary Kickstarter just released a 35 minute preview of what will be the final product called Secrets of Blackmoor. I talked about the Kickstarter last week. This 35 minute segment was shown last year at GaryCon. The Kickstarter also has a feature with Bob Meyert, talking about how he got involved with Dave Arneson's group and how that group transitioned from Napoleonic Era War Games (Napoleonics) into Fantasy Roleplaying games. Bob Meyer was one of the early players in Dave Arneon's Blackmoor campaign where Bob played Robert The Bald

The video has a clasiscal violin piece playing in the background while Bob explains what it was like to be one of the younger members of this gaming community. For hard core fans, we have heard some of these things before, such as how Dave Arneson got fed up of the endless quarreling of war gamers over historical facts etc which was one of the reasons why Dave decided to switch to the fantasy genre. However, I think the real value of the video in this footage is hearing it from someone who was there at the time of the birth of Dungeons & Dragons. The Twin City Gamers have an important story to tell, and it is incredibly interesting to hear them talk about how they experienced those years as our hobby grew into what it is today. You can also read more discussion by original Blackmoor players at The Comeback Inn.

Edit: In the original version of this article, I mistakenly said that Bob Meyer played the Wizard of the Woods.That character was of course played by Pete Gaylord. Bob Meyer played Robert the Bald. I appologize for this mistake and any confusion it may have caused!

More discussion of the Blackmoor Documentary here.


Tuesday, November 27, 2018

First Fantasy Campaign Belongs to Arneson Estate Bledsaw Confirms

The First Fantasy Campaign (FFC) was published in 1977 by Judges Guild. It was written by Dave Arneson and edited by Bill Owen. Dave Arneson once told me that Judges Guid President and gaming legend of his own Bob Bledsaw had later transferred the rights to the FFC back to Dave. The two had apparently always been on friendly terms, ever since Dave Arneson worked for TSR as a liason to the Judges Guild.

Today, Bob Bledsaw II  was asked if he had any plans to rerelease the First Fantasy Campaign as a Print on Demand Product to which he responded:

"Not in the near future, sadly. I would love to see her in print again. Dave and I spoke about it before his passing, and he said there was some editing he wished to do to FFC, but that he wanted JG to release it. The written content is owned by his daughter now, and I put no pressure on her. It will be as she wishes."

It is a shame that Dave Arneson never got to do the editing he wanted for the FFC to share it with fans, but it is nice to see that the agreement between him and the elder Bledsaw was a formal agreement.

Blackmoor is a registered trademark that belongs to Wizards of the Coast.


Monday, November 26, 2018

5 Reasons Why Building a Blackmoor Community is Hard

Its been more than 16 years since I  first set up a website dedicated to Blackmoor. Later I also started this blog and with the help of several friends we started the Comeback Inn Forum. It has been an amazing journey, but not without some frustration along the way. It is impressive to see how forums like Canonfire, The Piazza, Dragonsfoot or OD&D74 have grown into such vibrant communties. Sometimes it makes me a little disappointed that there is so little activity in the community we have tried to build for Blackmoor.

Building any fan community online can be very difficult. The Golden Days of Forums may (or may not) be over and even D&D fandom might not be in the same position we were during the 3E/OSR heydays of the early 2000s. However, I want to look at some things that present unique challenges for building a Blackmoor community

Blackmoor is an extremely important phenomenon and its ties to D&D history is unique. However, very few people ever used Blackmoor in their games or if they did it was just for a brief period of time. There are many reasons for this, but one of them is that Blackmoor never had that many products linked to it before Zeitgeist Games started publishing the D20 Blackmoor line. This means that even though Blackmoor predates most other D&D Worlds, it lacks the long history of fandom that worlds like Greyhawk, Forgotten Realms or even Mystara possess.

I am super happy when people take the time to comment on this blog or post on our forums. That is really something that keeps giving me inspiration and also helps me know if I am moving in the right direction or if I'm posting things people aren't interested in. But even when people don't comment, I notice that alot of people are reading my stuff. So even though you have to take into account that there are bots and other things that might inflate statistics, there are apparently people who find these things interesting without ever letting me know about it. That is okay too. But if you have the time to leave a comment ever once in a while, know that it will put a smile on my face.

I have also been made aware of the fact that some people are mainly out there to steal research and ideas and put them into their own published material for profit. For a while this almost made me stop posting. It is extremely frustrating knowing that people will do something like that, especially when I am usually willing to allow people to use most of my material just as long as they give me credit. That's not alot to ask is it?

Ultimately though, I realized that I can't have this annoyance at content thieves prevent me from writing about the things I love. I love doing the research, coming up with ideas and sharing these things with others who love the same thing. Lets just hope Karma comes along and kicks those thief butts.

I don't own Blackmoor, or the history of Dave Arneson's Legacy. But we have been working our butts off for this for a long time. If people want to set up their own forums, groups, blogs etc for Blackmoor, that is great too. I will usually join those places and see if anyone wants to talk to me there. However, when people invite me to their places to talk about Blackmoor, I do think to myself: Hey, sure I can join YOUR place, but maybe you do me the courtesy of joining MY place too? And for more than a single post with a link to YOUR place?

So, please create your own places and show your dedication to our shared fandom, but if we all sit in our own houses, that's not much of a community. If you join us, we will join you too!

We have Old School Blackmoor Fans, Mystara Blackmoor Fans, Greyhawk Blackmoor Fans, D20 Blackmoor fans and many others. My dream was always to get these different groups to get together and talk about our common love. But this proved to be incredibly difficult from the start. Many old school fans didn't even want to look at the D20 line due to it being associated with that specific ruleset. Many D20 Blackmoor fans, the ones who learned about Blackmoor during the d20 Era, ended up being a less loyal fanbase, being more fans of the system than the world itself.

This isn't true about al of them though, and we do have fans from all corners of Blackmoor interracting now at The Comeback Inn and other places.

To some people the main interest in Blackmoor and Dave Arneson is to dig up dirt from the old Gary vs. Dave debate. Some support one or the other. Others again are just looking for a fight. We need to move away from that. Both men have passed away. The truth of what really happened is complicated. It requires careful examiniation, not people shouting at eachother. It also makes some people so uncomfortable they rather stay away or stay silent. That's not what we need!

But more importantly, Blackmoor fandom has so much more to offer! Our examinations of what Dave Arneson did in his campaign should not always be about what he did before or after Gary. Let us look at Dave Arneson's world out of its own wealth of ideas for the sake of getting inspiration from those ideas. Not everything needs to be a competition. What can Blackmoor offer your games today? THAT is what we should get together and build our community on.

Building a community is always hard. That doesn't mean we stop doing it. We are here because we have a common passion. Come and join us! We have some amazing people with us already. Some who have played with and known Dave Arneson. Others are just fans like you.  Speak up. Ask questions. Don't be afraid to ask stupid ones. Share your ideas. We can only build this together!


See more discussion of this article here.


Sunday, November 25, 2018

Secrets of Blackmoor Documentary Now on Kickstarter

It seems to be the season for D&D history Kickstarters. Yesterday the Kickstarter documentary Secrets of Blackmoor was launched. The trailer for this project was announced back in 2016. The team has made interviews with a long list of people who knew and played in Dave Arneson's Campaign. That alone is worth my interest. 

DISCLAIMER: I am not in any way involved with this documentary or Kickstarter. They do list my name under "Research and Peer Review", but I assume that is mostly due to the material I have made available on this blog and at The Comeback Inn over the years.

More details and discussion about this topic in this thread at the Comeback Inn.


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Great Kingdom Documentary is Back

Remember the Kickstarter for the D&D Documentary called the Great Kingdom from 2014? Well, it is back.  This documentary promised to tell the story about Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson:

"In 1969, GARY GYGAX, a family man and an insurance underwriter with an entrepreneurial mind meets DAVE ARNESON, an idle, yet brilliant game designer. Their collaboration would change the world, their families and themselves. This is the remarkable true life story of the rise and fall of Gary Gygax, Dave Arneson and the people behind the creation of the epic role-playing game, Dungeons & Dragons."

  "THE GREAT KINGDOM explores the personalities behind the game and the families they engendered. This is the saga of the people who brought a company from its humble basement beginnings and transformed it to a multi-million dollar corporation. A story for our time that parallels the rise, fall and redemption of Steve Jobs and echoes the who-invented-what question of the creation of Facebook."

So why haven't we heard from this Kickstarter for the last three years? Well, originally there was another documentary back in 2012 called Dungeons & Dragons: A Documentary. The Kickstarter for this documentary was launched by Andrew Pascal, Anthony Savini, and James Sprattley of Westpaw Productions. About 4000 people backed this Kickstarter.

When Andrew Pascal and James Sprattley left Westpaw to produce the Great Kingdom documentary, Savini of Westpaw took the new Kickstarter to court, the result being both Kickstarters ending up in legal Limbo. Now, however,  the legal issues appear to have been resolved and the documentary is back on track as it was announced yesterday:

"hi everybody.  we are back and we are excited to move forward with THE GREAT KINGDOM. we obviously have had some setbacks, the most important of which is losing CHRIS HAIFLEY as our director. he has moved on to other projects. however, we have put together a great team to get us to the finish line. it’s also safe to say that it will NOT be the film that we had first envisioned. this has more to do with the evolution of any documentary film. stories evolve and take on a life of their own or the original intent pivots for something even more interesting. our team believes we have something special that is uniquely focused on the history of DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS and we are lucky enough to have talented storytellers to tell you the story. we will be making more announcements in the coming months when we will be introducing everyone to the team. for now though, THE GREAT KINGDOM (title may also be changed) is moving forward. 
- james and andrew

ps. some folks have already written to us, congratulating us and also asking for a link or copy to the completed film. to those folks, we still do need to finish and release the film for their copy to be (e)mailed to them. thanks for being patient."

As I once invested 10$  in this Kickstarter, I am happy to see it back on track. There is still a great interest in the history of our hobby of Dungeons & Dragons. I really don't know much about the people involved in making this documentary, but I know that there are very important people that were interviewed for the film. I don't know how much of this has been changed at this point, but the announcement does say there is going to be changes.

Andrew Pascal, Jim Gavin, Chris Haifley and James Sprattley

What will this mean for the Dave Arneson documentary, Secrets of Blackmoor? This is yet another completely separate project with a different focus. Recently there has been talk about a Kickstarter for an early release of this film, but nothing official has been announced. Will the return of the Great Kingdom Documentary result in speeding up this process?

Meanwhile, there has not yet been any announcement with regards to Savini and Westpaw Film's 2012 Kickstarter for Dungeons & Dragons: A Documentary.

More discussion about this topic at The Comeback Inn, in this thread.


Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Carl L. Sargent (1952-2018)

Matt Forbeck posted the following sad news on Facebook yesterday:

" Word is that Carl Sargent of Games Workshop and TSR fame has passed away. I never met Carl, but we had many mutual friends, and I loved his work. It's been a hard year for RPG legends."

Carl Sargent is perhaps best known for his work on Warhammer for GW and Greyhawk for TSR. This British game designer also wrote Fighting Fantasy game books under the name Keith Martin.

I knew him best for his Mystara RPG products; Gaz 13 The Shadowelves (co-authored with Gary Thomas), PC2 Top Balista and  B11 Kings Festival. B11 formed the basis for one of my most succesful Mystara campaigns based around the Grand Duchy of Karameikos.

Rest in Peace.


Saturday, November 10, 2018

Bishop Carr of Blackmoor goes to Gary Con XI

Mike Carr is a name that should be familiar to most Blackmoor fans for a number of reasons. The Gary Con Page on Facebook just posted the following:
"Mike Carr is a member of the Gary Con Old Guard and we are happy to have him and his lovely wife Pat back for GC XI. In case you don’t know Mike’s pedigree; he was a member of the international federation of war gamers (IFW) in 1960’s as a teenager. He created the game “Fight In The Skies” (aka Dawn Patrol) and self-published it at the recommendation of Gary Gygax in 1968. He also co-authored “Don’t Give Up The Ship” with Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax in 1971. He joined the ranks of TSR, Inc. in 1976 at the invitation of Gary Gygax. While at TSR, Mike authored the D&D module, In Search of the Unknown, served as editor for the Monster Manual, Player’s Handbook and Dungeon Master’s Guide and wrote three children’s novels. #garyconxi #dungeonsanddragons #lowg #legendsofwargaming #garycon #mikecarr #FITS #dawnpatrol"

Mike Carr's B1 In Search of the Unknown was TSR's first attempt at publishing adventure modules. It is still surprising to me that early day TSR was reluctant to publish adventures, the notable exception being the Temple of From from D&D Supplement II: Blackmoor.

Mike is also counted among the original Blackmoor players and although his Fight in the Skies group seems to have been somewhat separate from Dave Arneson's group, Mike and his crew were great friends with the Minnesota gamers. Mike created the settings first cleric and is remembered in Blackmoor lore as Bishop Carr. I was lucky enough to get an interview with Mike Carr back in 2010 which you can read here.

Discussion of this topic at The Comeback Inn


Monday, November 5, 2018

Blog gets an overhaul

I haven't been fully happy with the layout of this blog since its last revision a few years ago. I finally had some time to sit down and revise the logo and overall design of the blog. There are still a few things that need to be tweaked, but this is a start:

What do you think? Let me know! Your input is much appreciated!


Saturday, November 3, 2018

Red Ice on Black Sea: New Fan Created Blackmoor Adventure explores The Northern Shores

Earlier this year, on Dave Arneson Day 2018, Yaztromo, a regular at the Comeback Inn announced that a group of European Blackmoor fans have been working to create a Blackmoor Fan Guide for Advanced Fighting Fantasy the Roleplaying Game (AFF). I didn't know much about AFF, but it is a roleplaying game based on the old Advanced Fighting Fantasy Game books from the 1980s. 

Now, I was amazed at the production value of this Blackmoor adaptation, both in terms of layout and design, but also that this was written by people who clearly are very familiar with Blackmoor ranging from the older material by Dave Arneson and TSR, but also the material created by Dave Arneson's company Zeitgeistgames in the mid 2000s. 

Now, a new adventure has been created for Living Blackmoor, which is the name adopted by the AFF version of Blackmoor. This adventure explores the northern shores of Blackmoor's world and beyond to the realm of Frisia.

Get this fan adventure for free at The Comeback Inn!


Friday, November 2, 2018

Blackmoor Artists: Allen Alegado

One of the things I have wanted to do is to take a look at the artists who have been involved in illustrating Blackmoor over the year. One of the artists who was involved during the time when Zeitgeist Games was publishing Blackmoor was Allen Alegado. This artist based on Orlando, Florida has been working with illustrations for more than 15 years. I think some of these illustrations are really great and help bring to life aspects of the world of Dave Arneson that we have never seen before.

Allan created interior illustrations for several Blackmoor products, including the Dave Arneson's Blackmoor Campaign Guide and also the cover art for Dungeons of Castle Blackmoor.

If you like Alegado's art, visit his website here.

Who is your favorite Blackmoor artist across the eras?

More discussion of this article.


Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Greg Svenson's Tonisborg to be published as part of Blackmoor Documentary Kickstarter

The City and Dungeon of Tonisborg has long historic ties to Dave Arneson's Blackmoor. Greg Svenson, whom Dave has described as one of his most enthustiastic players, developed this area of map in Dave Arneson's Campain. When Dave added the city of Vestfold, named after a region in Norway, Greg made adjustments so that Tonnisborg became relocated on a small island that is part of the greater City of Vestfold, the largest city in the Kingdom of Blackmoor.

 People who want to learn more about Tonisborg are now in for a treat. As reported by the Secrets of Blackmoor Website, Greg Svenson is working with the producers of the documentary project "Secrets of Blackmoor". The plan seems to be that Tonninsborg will be a published adventure which will be a "thank you gift" to those who invest in the Kickstarter for the Documentary. Also involved with the Tonnisborg module are Dan Boggs (aka Aldarron), publisher of Champions of ZED and Dragons at Dawn and Bob Bledsaw II of Judges Guild.

 The whole "invest in Kickstarter for documentary to get a module" sounds a bit complicated to me and I think I would have preferred to have a separate Kickstarter for the Tonisborg project, but in any case I am really curious to see what this module will be all about. Having Aldarron on board with this project makes me even more optimistic as he is a talented game designer and someone with intimate knowledge of Blackmoor. If you are curious to see more of Greg Svenson's ideas for Blackmoor, make sure you get the free PDF booklets by Greg hosted at The Comeback Inn.

See more discussion of this article at the Comeback Inn here.


Monday, October 22, 2018

Happy Birthday Keith Parkinson

"Today would have been Keith's 60th Birthday! Let's all take a moment today to raise a glass and toast to Keith and wish him a Happy 60th! Thank you all for your continued love and support." (post by-Donna Parkinson) 


 Parkinson was one of the great Fantasy artists. Today is a good day to appreciate his art. :)


Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Dave Arneson Game Day 2018 Highlights!

Painting by Viktor Mukhin 

Dave Arneson Game Day 2018 was a great success! Many people all over the world participated and contributed in various ways. Some simply ran or played games, which is afterall the heart of the hobby. Others shared ideas, material and greetings on the Internet. I cannot cover everything in this blog post and I ask that you please add things in the comments that I have not included. I will edit this post to include more. However, some highlights include:

Original Blackmoor Player and Comeback Inn Alumni

  • Greg Svenson's sourcebook: GS3 Newgate Castle Gazetteer, with foreword by Dave Arneson.
  • Interview with David Fant, the first baron of Blackmoor, at Dan Bogg's blog

Corporations and Game Designers
  • Goodman Games two-part article on Dave Arneson by James Maliszewski
  • TSR alumni and Calidar Creator Bruce Heard's tribute to Dave Arneson

Fan Created Game Materials for Blackmoor
  • Living Blackmoor - Campaign and Adventure Collection for Advanced Fighting Fantasy by Yaztromo
  • Spooky Blackmoor - Gaming material for Savage Worlds by Boddynock at the Gnomish Embassy Blog

And More!
Many people left comments, on the Facebook event group, in the Facebook Group Blackmoor Fans, at The Comeback Inn, on The Piazza, ENWorld, Dragonsfoot, OD&D74 and other forums. 

Remembering Uncle Duke
Duke "Uncle Duke" Seifried passed away ony two days prior to this year's Dave Arneson Day. Not only an important figure in our hobby, but also someone who was important to Dave Arneson and his circle. This left a definite mark on this year's event. Our thoughts go to Duke's family and friends. 

Final words
Thank you so much to everyone for participating. Some of us are doing Blackmoor Week all of this week so more Blackmoor related material will be appearing in the coming days, so stay tuned!

If you want to read more about Dave Arneson Day 2018 or want links to the free downloads and other items mentioned above, visit the Comeback Inn for this link:

Official Dave Arneson Game Day 2018 Thread at The Comeback Inn

See you next year!


Sunday, September 30, 2018

Duke Seifried (1935-2018) Rest in Peace

Duke "Uncle Duke" Seifried (Aug 19 1935-Sept 29 2018) passed away today. He was the first executive vice president of TSR. He was also an artist, game designer, writer, musician, music composer, and public speaker who is probably best known as the legendary artist who has sculpted over 10,000 miniatures.He has lived in Madison, Wisconsin, where he has is known as a guitar player. His ancestors are from Austria.

 In 1957, he graduated from Miami University at Oxford, Ohio, with a degree in speech/radio-television. Seifried helped bring polyhedral dice and miniatures into the gaming hobby. He claims that his depiction of Helm's Deep was the most accurate as he'd visited with Professor Tolkien and made sketches with him before designing it.

In 2008, he attended Gary Gygax's funeral. A week before Gygax died, Seifried stumbled upon a one-of-a-kind metal miniature he'd made specifically for Gary many years ago. He had set it aside, intending to give it back to Gary. As a result, the miniature wound up in the pocket of Gary's suit, and he was buried with it. The following year also spoke at Dave Arneson's memorial at Full Sail University.

Rest in Peace.


Edit: Dates fixed. Thanks Amanda!

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Are You Caught Up on Blackmoor The MMRPG?

Blackmoor the MMRPG was a Living Campaign for Blackmoor that offered free PDF adventures in Dave Arneson's setting. These adventures are now gradually becoming available at The Comeback Inn. Check out the latest installment, The Coming Storm. This episode also offers new monsters and a new town. Let me know what you think?


Tuesday, September 25, 2018

93K+ Follower YouTube Show attempts to Erase Dave Arneson from D&D History. Then Censors Comments.

A friend of mine pointed me to a video about the history of RPGs. The video is released by Toy Galaxy, a YouTube channel with more than 93000 subscribers. While the video appeared to be well researched, going into great detail about the life of Gary Gygax and the things he did with gaming before the creation of D&D, the show goes into great lenght to downplay the key role played in the creation of the world's most famous tabletop roleplaying game of the other co-creator; Dave Arneson.

While this is not the first time a wanna-be gaming historian gives Dave Arneson less credit than this blog author believes he deserves, I think this video takes this unjust trend to a new height. According to the video, many people contributed to the creation of D&D, but "ultimately Dungeons & Dragons as published by TSR was credited to Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson." While I think it is admirable that other influential figures of the time get credit for their contributions to the hobby, I don't think that was the intent of the video. Neither David Wesely, Gary Switzer, MAR Barker nor others are mentioned by name. The point of this sentence seems only to be reducing the importance of Dave Arneson who is never mentioned again in the video after that single sentence.

To make matters worse, I have gotten reports that people who have tried to correct this misinformation have had their comments removed from the feed. To confirm this, I added a comment of my own, but this comment does also appear to have been removed except from my own feed. I'm not an expert with how YouTube works, but apparently this sort of censorship is often done manually. If anyone else reading this can see my comments, please let me know. This is pretty disturbing.

Now, gaming historians will disagree about who was most influential in the creation of D&D and who contributed what of Gary and Dave. But I have never seen any even semi-serious gaming historian give Dave as little credit as this video does. You can watch the video here. Let me know if you think I am being unfair.


Saturday, September 22, 2018

Dave Arneson Game Day 2018 Coming Up!

Dave Arneson was born on October 1st 2018 1947. For many years now, we have been using this day to honor the co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons and the creator of Blackmoor. The day has been spent playing RPGs and other games, talking about games and gaming history. To read more about previous year's events, go here.

As you can see, several people are already making plans for Dave Arneson Game Day 2018. Do you plan on participating? What would you like to see from the author of this blog, the people of the Comeback Inn and other participants?

Sign up for Dave Arneson Game Day on Facebook here.

Or join us at the Comeback Inn! 


Monday, August 27, 2018

European D&D/MtG handcuffed and denied entry to the USA

Anna Steinbauer, Magali Villenue and Titus Lunter were travelling to the USA  on the ESTA visa-waiver. The three artists known for their work on D&D and Magic The Gathering were denied entry and instead hand-cuffed and detained for 11 hours. Their ESTAs appear to be permanently cancelled.

Titus Lunter reports the following via Twitter:

Please help me understand how this happened. :(


Andahar Coat of Arms

Years ago, I was working on coats of arms for various noble houses of Blackmoor. I guess I never got around to sharing all of them. Here's one I found on my hard disc. The bird on the crest should ideally be a swooping hawk as depicted in DA1 p 18, but this was the closest thing I could find. 

Maybe someone has a better depiction out there?

PS: Thanks to my friend Yaztromo for bugging me enough to dig this one out!  :)


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

No, Bruce Heard did not get involved with The Known World/Mystara towards the end of its run.

Replica of a map appearing in Dragon #155. Replica by Thorfinn Tait.
Mystara first appeared in published form in 1981 and even existed before that as the home campaign of Tom Moldvay and Lawrence Schick in Ohio. Of course, it would take years before it got the name Mystara. While most fantasy worlds evolve over time, this is especially true for Mystara which saw significant changes over the decades when it was published by TSR. The incorporation of Blackmoor into Mystara's past is one such major evoltionary step of the setting.

There seems to be a common misconception that you can divide the evolution of Mystara into two stages:
1) The Known World
2) Mystara under Bruce Heard.

While Bruce Heard is probaly the single person who had the most influence over the development of Mystara (no disrespect to Aaron Allston, Frank Mentzer, Tom Moldvay, David Zeb Cook and others), it should be noted that Bruce did not join the development of Mystara late in the process. Bruce Heard became Product Manager of the Classic D&D line (and by extension the Classic D&D Setting, later known as Mystara) no later than 1987 with the release of Gaz 1 The Grand Duchy of Karameikos. By that time he had already published several adventures for the setting, including M1 Into the Maelstrom (1985) and CM7 Quest for the Tree of Life (1986). He also wrote Gaz3 the Principalities of Glantri that was published in 1987.

Sadly, Bruce Heard was not able to work with Mystara anymore when TSR decided to dump Classic D&D and turn Mystara into an AD&D setting in a process which lead to Jeff Grubb leaving TSR.
Bruce did continue supporting Mystara in the ways he could and did return with articles in Dragon even after the setting was effectively discontinued in 1995  with articles such as the Rakasta article in Dragon Magazine 247 in 1998. He also returned with a final installment of the Voyage of the Princess Ark in Dragon #344 in 2006.

So while an important framework for the setting was laid down with the description in X1 the Isle of Dread (1981) and with the B/X and BECMI D&D rulesets between 1981-1986, it is difficult to divide the history of Mystara as before and after Bruce Heard. Bruce Heard's influence of the setting increased gradually, just as the development of the setting itself happened as a process of gradual evolution rather than as stages of revisions under different management.


Saturday, May 26, 2018

Happy 10th Anniversary to The Piazza - D&D Worlds Discussion Forum!

I can't believe 10 years have passed since fans began abandoning the D&D message board forums at Wizards of the Coast. A series of attempts at upgrading the site had been highly unpopular with fans. WotC's decision to eventually shut down the forums a few years later came as no surprise. At the time I had tons of posts there and it was a vast source of resources for D&D fans. More importantly it was a community where friendships were being made and ideas exchanged. Many were worried that all this would be lost.

Fortunately Ashtagon came along and set up The Piazza to be a home for fans of all the D&D Worlds. I wrote more about the Piazza Phenomenon back in 2009. The Piazza is still alive and kicking today!

Happy 10th Anniversary! I hope to see more of you joining us in the future as well!

Oh, and if you want to join the party, check out this information here:

The Piazza's 10th Birthday Chat (May 26th)

The Piazza's 10th Birthday London Party (May 27th)


Thursday, May 24, 2018

Mystara, The Known World, The Continent or the D&D Game World?

Mystara is one of the most underrated of the D&D Game Worlds. The sheer number of game material produced for this setting might surprise people. During the TSR era, it was one of the best supported settings.

Unfortunately, this is not something most people are aware of today. One of the reasons for this is that the vast majority of the Mystara products did not carry a Mystara logo.

Another dicussion that often comes up that I wanted to look at here is the origins of the name Mystara and the other names used over the years to describe this setting. Some fans of the setting don't like the name Mystara. This is perhaps understandable since it was a name that was added late during the publication era of the setting.

Mystara started out as a home campaign in Akron, Ohio. But in published form it first saw the light of day in 1981 in the module X1 The Isle of Dread. This means Mystara was TSR's third oldest setting, predated only by Blackmoor and Greyhawk. I wrote in more detail on the origins of this setting here.  When it first appeared in X1, this world was simply referred to as The Continent. Later the names The Known World and the D&D Game World were used for the most part of the settings history.

The name The Known World gradually became associated with a single part of the setting; the region featured on the map from X1 where it had first appeared. For most of the settings history it didn't really need a name. The D&D Game World was sufficient because unlike AD&D, every book published for D&D was assumed to take place in this world. However, as the game world expanded a need for a name appeared.

A few common misconceptions about the name Mystara should be cleared up first:

1) The BECMI D&D Setting had grown beyond the Known World/X1 area long before the Mystara name was used in print.

2) The name Mystara appeared in print in several BECMI products before the AD&D Mystara line was launched, most notably in the Champions of Mystara Boxed set.

So what exactly caused the folks at TSR to feel that the world needed a name? Bruce Heard, Product Manager of the BECMI line since the publication of Gaz 1, offered the following:

"....there was no way to equate the Known World with Blackmoor, the Hollow World, and the Voyage of the Princess Ark, which all concerned areas outside the Known World."
Over the years the world presented in X1 had grown. Blackmoor had been incorporated into the world's past with the DA modules. The Hollow World and the Voyage of the Princess Ark were massive expansions to the setting.

The name Mystara first appeared in print in 1991 with Dragon #172. AD&D Mystara did not appear untill 1994 so it seems unlikely that this was simply a name invented to prepare for taking the line into AD&D, even if Bruce Heard or others at TSR may have considered that as an option early on.

Love it or hate it, the name Mystara stuck. It is also a name that has been adapted by the Mystara fan community and having a common name for the setting we all are fans of is important in preserving that identiy.


WotC Spokesperson Apologizes to Mystara fans

The following was posted at The Piazza on May 13th:

If you have missed the drama today, it started when a Mystara fan discovered a WotC produced video from january this year where the hosts answer a question about what happened to Mystara. A link to the video was posted on the Mystara Reborn group on Facebook. The response given in the interview angered many Mystara and Spelljammer fans, as well as Mystara Godfather, Bruce Heard, who wrote an article about it on his blog pointing out the problems with the video with regards to Mystara.

 Anyway, Matt Sernett of WotC did appologize both to Bruce Heard and Mystara fans out there. We all make mistakes and it does show character to admit it and appologize. Did Mystara fans overreact to comments made in the video? I think it would have been easier to accept this type of comments if Mystara had not been mostly overlooked for more than 20 years. Many Mystara fans still remember when bringing back the Hollow World was presented as an April's Fool's Joke on WotC's website many years ago.

Most of us dream of Mystara being brought back to life. While that might never happen, it would be nice if the reason for it being ignored for another 20 years is that the people at WotC really haven't bothered to understand what Mystara was about beyond not liking the CDs and the art in the 2nd Ed Mystara Monstrous Manual. Let's hope that at least one person at WotC now sits down and reads some gazetteers! :)


Thursday, May 10, 2018

Mystara Monster Nightwalker returns to 5E in Mordenkeinen's Tome of Foes

Art by Ben Wootten
These appear in the upcoming Mordenkeinen's Tome of Foes according to this Dragon +video. I am not sure that Mystara or BECMI will be referenced in the 5E book, but this was one of the Nightshade monsters that originally appeared in the BECMI Master Set, by Frank Mentzer. These are some of the most terrifying creatures that existed in that edition. There were three types of Nightshade. Nightwing and Nightcrawlers were the two others. The Nightwing appeared the Immortals Triad novels by Douglas Niles.

Sea Elves is another Monster with long ties to Mystara and Classic D&D that also is said to appear in Mordenkeinen's Tome of Foes as are Nagpa.

Thanks to zontoxira at the Piazza for pointing me to the video.


Thursday, January 11, 2018

Great Red Dragon of Mystara Limited Edition Miniature

This Ral Partha miniature was a limited edition production with 5300 copies made. The miniature was fashioned after the Great Red Dragon painting by Jeff Easley, used on the cover of the D&D "Black Box" intro set for the D&D Rules Cyclopedia (BECMI). Since Mystara was the default setting of the Rules Cyclopedia, I call this miniature The Great Red Dragon of Mystara. And now it is finally mine. I hope to get around to painting it at some point, though I am a little nervous about ruining it!

The "Black Box" was an intro set to the D&D Rules Cyclopedia, which collected most of the previous "BECMI" D&D rules, except the Immotal Set. 


The Piazza - D&D Worlds Forum Celebrates 16 Years!

  One of my favourite places to talk about D&D is The  Piazza . I can't belive its been 16 years since fans created that forum. Peop...