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.


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...