Friday, December 30, 2022

Crusaders: Early Paladins in Blackmoor


In the First Fantasy Campaign there are several references to individuals referred to as "Crusaders". The term Crusader has very specific real world connotations both to the events of the Crusades and to Christianity. Of course, this is no different from how early Blackmoor material refers to Vikings or other real world groups. The explanation is that Dave was developing Blackmoor from wargaming traditions and these references were mainly to be understood as units with specific stat blocks rather than all of the historic context needing to be ported over to a fantasy world. In subsequent iterations of Blackmoor, many of these real world references get replaced by other terms. 

So what about the Crusaders? In my version of Blackmoor, I have replaced them with Paladins. It should be noted that Paladins are mentioned in the First Fantasy Campaign. Paladins first appeared in published form for D&D with the Greyhawk supplement in 1975, which was available when the FFC was published (1977), but the references to Paladins in the FFC were more likely to Poul Anderson's Three Hearts and Three Lions. 

The character of Zvenzen was probably roleplayed close enough to the Paladin concept to be called the first Paladin PC in Blackmoor even though the class did not exist when Greg Svenson created his character for the game. 

But what can be gained from merging Paladins with the FFC idea of Crusaders? One thing is that when encountered these Crusaders are probably on what they see as a holy mission. In some cases they could be travelling to battle evil in the form of the Egg of Coot, the Afridhi or other monsters or demons. They could likely be in possession of Holy Swords as described in the FFC p 47. Or they could be questing for a Holy Sword, or other religious artifacts. 

On page 49, one of the events that can occur by chance in the lands controlled by a player is that Crusaders are "passing through" the lands. This presents an opportunity for the PCs to recruit the unit of Crusaders (comparable to a mercenary unity as per the FFC), but they could also cause problems for the PCs if they have allowed morally grey activities to take place on their lands. 

My impression about these travelling Crusaders is that they might likely often hail from the Great Kingdom/The Empire if Thonia and be encountered when travelling on their quests across the lands of the North. 

In later version of Blackmoor, Zeitgeist Games released a free PDF (available on my website) detailing various organizations of Paladins for Blackmoor, but this PDF was fairly barebones and an adaptation of material from D&D 3E Unearthed Arcana. Still, it might have some merit to use this material to further develop different Crusader or Paladin Orders which is something that I am currently working on. 


Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Blackmoor Player James Laferriere Has Passed

I am sad to announce that another of the original Blackmoor players has passed away from cancer. James "Jim" Laferriere joined Dave Arneson's Blackmoor group in 1973 when he enrolled as a student of  St. Thomas University in Minnesota. At this time the Blackmoor campaign had already been going on for several years, but Jim still got to experience playing with Dave Arneson long before D&D was published. He stayed in Minnesota untill 1977 when he moved to Massachuseth to study Medicine. After graduating, Jim worked for more than 35 years paediatrician operating out of Osseo, Minnesota. His passing was reported earlier today on the Secrets of Blackmoor Facebook Page.

In the original campaign, Jim played a magic user and the character of Jallapiere who appeared in DA1 Adventures in Blackmoor was likely based on Jim's character from the early days. In DA1 Jallapiere or Jal is described as a very powerful wizard, known for his kindness. He is said to be a teacher at Blackmoor University. In this video excerpt from the Secrets of Blackmoor documentary, you can see Jim and Greg Svenson talk about their early gaming experiences together in Dave Arneson's world of Blackmoor. 

My thoughts go to his friends and family. 


Sunday, November 20, 2022

Fans Demand Tonisborg PDF


Last week, I wrote about how the Tonisborg Kickstarter from The Fellowship of the Thing group had been successful. But while successful, could this project have enjoyed even more success? Several people told me that they would have supported the Kickstarter if it had offered PDF options as well. 

Over on the Kickstarter page, Fellowship of the Thing, gave the following reason why they are not doing PDFs at this point: 

"I appreciate you reaching out in regard to the PDF option. A lot of people do want to know what we will be doing in this regard. Chris and I have talked a lot about doing PDFs. We're testing the water in that regard with the 5e conversion PDF. As a small company our margins are really small if you consider that sales of physical units are in the small print run range anyway. We talk to other small houses about how their sales are and some have had horrible encounters with PDF piracy. One said his sales dropped 50% over a month and when he went on the web to see what was going on he discovered that his PDFs were being shared freely on dark sites. It has effectively killed his business. It leaves us in a quandary because we want people to use our book to run adventures and have all the tools to do so, yet, if we release digital content it could put us out of business in the next few months. The option of having a PDF is still on the table, but we really need to take a closer look and be cautious about how we do it. I hope that helps clarify why are not making PDFs right now."


Hopefully, "right now" is the key word here, meaning we can hope for PDFs at some point in the future?


Saturday, November 19, 2022

Dungeon! Created 50 Years Ago Today


Published in 1975, the board game Dungeon! shares deep historic roots that tie it to the the origin of D&D and Dave Arneson's Blackmoor Campaign. 50 years ago today, David R. Megarry sat down and created this dungeon exploration game that would allow all the players to join in on the fun without the need for a Dungeon Master.

Megarry tells the story of how the game was created on his Facebook page:

It was 50 years ago this weekend, in a perfect storm of despair, driven by not finishing my degree; not being drafted at the last minute and thus becoming unmoored from an expected future; and breaking up with my girlfriend, I entered a 72 hour creative flow and produced Dungeon! I showed the game the following weekend to Arneson & Co. and they liked it. Dungeon! has come a long way and is now being enjoyed by yet another generation. Keep on gaming!

Back in 2011 I wrote about how David Wesely remembers Megarry showing up with the Dungeon! prototype and how Megarry and Arneson decided to go to down to Lake Geneva to demonstrate the game to Gary on a day that would change the history of gaming forever. 

Monday, November 14, 2022

Tonisborg Kickstarter Fully Funded


Last week, the Kickstarer campaign for The Lost Dungeons of Tonisborg ended. The project was successful as 709 backers pledged $71,553 to help bring the project to life.

It is wonderful to see the interest in this sourcebook from original Blackmoor Player Greg Svenson. I wonder if we get to see more from The Fellowship of the Thing group in the near future? Will we ever see a part 2 of the Secrets of Blackmoor documentary series?

In any case, congratulations to Greg and everyone involved in this Kickstarter. 


Monday, October 17, 2022

How 35 Year Old Dungeon Maps were found by David Megarry

 When preparing to take part in the documentary Secrets of Blackmoor, David Megarry, discovered another hidden gem among his old documents. David Megarry, creator of the Dungeon! board game is one of Dave Arneson's Original Blackmoor Players. I first wrote about Megarry and his contributions to our hobby back in 2011.

The treasure Megarry discovered among his documents were dungeon maps drawn up 35 years earlier by his friend and fellow Blackmoor Player, Greg Svenson. They detailed Greg's own Blackmoor based dungeon known as the Dungeons of Tonisborg. 

Yesterday, David Megarry, revealed on his Facebook page the story about how the maps were lost in the first place back in 1978:

"I have a role in this work as I am responsible for the "lost" part: I think it might be titled better "The (How Megarry) Lost Dungeons of Tonisborg" or something to that effect. Yes, dear readers, in 1978 in my attempt to preserve Greg's Tonisborg by making a copy at my workplace, I did not do a very good job of handling the originals. I put them in a magazine so they would not get bent and went to sleep. When I awoke and went to retrieve the magazine, it had been picked up by the cleaning lady and thrown in the garbage. I raced to the garbage bin in the alley, but, alas, it was also garbage day and the bin was empty! Tonisborg was irretrievably lost. It was one of the hardest days when I told Greg I had lost his only copy. 

To add insult to injury, at Arneson's funeral 21 years later, having completely forgotten the history, I asked Greg if he was going to do anything with that dungeon he had created. To his great credit, being the gentleman he is (but I could tell he was mad), he politely informed me he couldn't do anything with it because I had lost it. Chagrin doesn't begin to explain how I felt at that moment. Memory is a funny thing and can be selective. Greg and I had both forgotten he had made me a copy in 1974, which got "lost" in my files after many years of moving place to place. In getting my records in order for my part in the "Secrets of Blackmoor" movie, I found what is pictured below and couldn't remember who's dungeon it belonged to. When it was shown to Greg, he instantly recognized it as Tonisborg."

The Lost Dungeons of Tonisborg will now become available to all gaming enthusiasts in the new Kickstarter from Fellowship of the Thing. Learn more about this kickstarter here.

Buy rare art from the Tonisborg project here


Ernie Gygax Univited From DaveCon 2023


DaveCon has univited Ernie Gygax as a special guest. The first DaveCon took place earlier this year and was organized by Victor Dorso who has announced plans for a second DaveCon in April next year. Recently, several gaming conventions, including DaveCon recieved criticism for associating themselves with the son of Gary Gygax due to various controversies other sites than this one has covered in detail.

Personally, I would rather keep this blog focused on other issues connected to Dave Arneson's legacy and less about drama, but I hope that with this decision, fans of gaming will come out to support DaveCon.

Discuss this article at The Comeback Inn.


Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Tonisborg Art and Rarities Auction from Secrets of Blackmoor


Original art and maps for the Tonisborg book are now for sale at the Secrets of Blackmoor Website. Most interesting are perhaps the original David Megarry hand drawn maps. According to the website, "all preceeds go to the artists". Starting bids range from 150-300 USD.

See anything you fancy? Go here for the auction site

More discussion of this auction here.

Oh, and if you are interested in a Blackmoor map signed by Dave Arneson, this might also be of interest to you. The seller of this map is Brent Chumley who made the map for the D20 Blackmoor Softcover edition. 


Tuesday, October 11, 2022

ArneCon 2022 coming up this Weekend


The Castle Blackmoor Facebook Page shared a posted the other day with a reminder that ArneCon will be taking place this weekend. Back in September I reported that it looked like the Secrets of Blackmoor crew (Griffith Morgan and Chris Graves) would not be involved in the convention, but instead would be organized by Castle Blackmoor's Kevin McColl. Now it seems from the posted that both groups will see at least nominal involvement although it is clear that McColl is doing the heavy lifting on what he has described as a small event mostly for local gamers. It is unclear if the Secrets of Blackmoor group will have a presence at the convention, but at this point it seems less likely. 

Several of the original Blackmoor Players are announced to attend:

  • Bob Meyer, doing a Blackmoor game, which will be a continuation of the original Blackmoor Campaign. 
  • David Wesely, doing a Braunstein. 
  • Bill Hoyt 

The event will take place at the Geek Partnership Society HQ on October 15th. 

Disclaimer: I am not associated with this event and I am also sadly unable to attend.


Monday, October 10, 2022

GoG attacks DaveCon over Ernie Gygax as Special Guest


Gamer On Gamers, a YouTube channel with more than 3000 subscribers recently called out DaveCon 2023 for bringing in Ernie Gygax as one of the Special Guests. The YouTuber referred to Ernie as a "well documented bigot".

Now, I generally don't like to get into Internet drama on this blog, but I do care about Dave Arneson's legacy. For this reason I remain supportive Victor Dorso's DaveCon, but I wonder if there could be more suitable people to invite as special guests for an event dedicated to Dave Arneson?


Greg Svenson's Lost Dungeons of Tonisborg now live in Kickstarter (and funded)


As mentioned at The Comeback Inn yesterday, the new Kickstarter for Greg Svenson's Lost Dungeons of Tonnisborg is now live on Kickstarter. Within hours of launch, the Kickstarter reached its initial goal.

Greg Svenson was one of the early members of Dave Arneson's Blackmoor Group and Dave mentions Greg's role in Blackmoor in the First Fantasy Campaign (1977). Greg originally designed this mega dungeon below the town of Tonnisborg which was placed in the Blackmoor map on the spot where Vestfold appears in later Blackmoor material. Interestingly both Vestfold and Tonisborg share real world inspirations. Greg has also been a friend and eager supporter of my work since I first started doing Blackmoor stuff on this blog and the Comeback Inn so I hope this project is highly successful!

Behind this Kickstarter is the duo known as the Fellowship of the Thing (Griffith Morgan and Chris Graves) best known as the producers of the Secrets of Blackmoor documentary. Mr Morgan recently spoke about this project in this video interview with the Wandering GM

Disclaimer: The author of this blog is in no way associated with this Kickstarter or any commercial activity connected to RPGs.

Check out the Kickstarter here.


Saturday, October 1, 2022

Dave Arneson Game Day 2022 is Today!


Today we celebrate the Co-Creator of Dungeons & Dragons on what would have been his 75th birthday. All his life, Dave Arneson loved gaming, whether it was board games, wargaming, roleplaying games or computer games. What better way to celebrate the gift that he helped give us than to run a game, play a game or tinker with some rules or a setting you are working on?

At this blog I have been celebrating Blackmoor Week. Did you miss any of the posts?

What are you doing to celebrate gaming today?

Friday, September 30, 2022

Dave Arneson Gameday is Tomorrow! (Blackmoor Week Day 7)


Tomorrow is the big day and people are already joining in with the celebrations!

Over at Thorn's Chronicle, my good friend and Co-Admin of the Comeback Inn, Rob has revealed plans for running a game on Discord. Depending on whether time differences will allow for it, I hope to join in!

Over at The Castle Blackmoor Facebook Page, we have a new confirmation that Kevin McColl and the Minnesota Gamers will indeed be running ArneCon, a convention mentioned earlier on this blog in the memory of Dave:

Mark October 15th. ArneCon 0.2 Returning since 2017 We are planning a gaming convention in October, to tie in with the Birthday of Dave Arneson celebrating Minnesota's history of the origin of Role-Playing Games. And cheer all who were involved in the early years! Emphasis on old school style gaming, its history, and how it's history evolved. 


* David Wesely doing his Braunstein - the first true Role-Playing Game. 
* Robert Meyer doing the Blackmoor game - first true Fantasy RPG. 
* And many other activities.

As noted the event will take place in a couple of weeks, but hopefully Blackmoor Week has given the gang up there the inspiration boost they need to make this as successful as previous years.

 Over at The Piazza, site founder Ashtagon is doing a close examination of the Blackmoor maps presented in the DA modules. If you are interested in maps, you might want to check out that discussion.


Thursday, September 29, 2022

Why Fantasy? (Blackmoor Week 2022 - Day 6)

 Today the fantasy genre is everywhere. Rings of Power, Game of Thrones, World of Warcraft. All the streaming shows and video games are doing it in addition to novels, comics and other media. We are surrounded by it. When D&D was published in 1974, one of the reasons for its incredible success was probably that it tapped into this almost unknown part of the zeitgeist, finding an audience whose hunger for more fantasy content would only grow. D&D not only fed on the growing popularity of this new genre, but even came to shape how audiences understood what fantasy was all about. It is not surprising that when Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movies came out, they felt as much as D&D movies as they felt like the stories told by JRR Tolkien. RPGs of other genres were soon created, but none became as popular as D&D.

Almost  decade earlier, Dave Arneson and his players had began experimenting with fantasy elements in their games. Adding laser guns into a wargame of Gauls vs. Romans back in 1969 is what Dave Arneson himself called his first venture into fantasy gaming in an interview with Space Gamer Magazine. Of course, this is a much wider definition of fantasy than we are accustomed to today, but was certainly a huge departure from the extreme focus of historical realism that was popular among many war gamers at this time.

So why did Dave Arneson select the fantasy genre when he decided to run his new Braunstein variant? David Wesely had always selected historical or contemporary real world settings for his Braunstein Games as had Duane Jenkins, running the Brownstone games for the Western setting. Was Dave simply part of the growing zeitgeist that would later project D&D into its extreme success? 

I am sure that is part of. Greg Svenson, one of Dave's players, has told me that pretty much everyone in Dave's group would read any fantasy novel they could get their hands on as such books were far between especially compared to today's situation. However, I think there is also another reason why Dave decided to use the fantasy genre. Freedom.

Dave seems to have been in search of tools that would allow him to run games where he would have complete creative freedom to run games that were all about a fun experience for his players. It is well documented that he and others in his group were frustrated with the grognard wargamers with their obsessions with historical accuracy and how such arguments would completely derail many wargaming sessions. 

With the Braunstein Games, the games were no longer confined to revolve around armed forces clashing. Shifting the focus towards individual characters meant the game could be about anything the players wanted. Merging this style of gaming with a world where anything was possible? This meant the ultimate freedom for both players and referees (or later Dungeon Masters). 


Wednesday, September 28, 2022

John Snider's Egg of Coot Campaign (Blackmoor Week 2022 - Day 5)

The Snider Brothers (usually called the Sniders) were two very important players in Dave Arneson's Camapign. In additon to being a Blackmoor player, John M. Snider also ran the Stellar IV campaign for the Blackmoor players which he eventually turned into two science fiction games which were published by TSR - Star Probe (1974) and Star Empires (1977). There were also plans for a third science ficiton game as a sequel to the two previous games. This was to be a roleplaying game that sadly never saw publication. 

Richard Snider co-authored Adventures in Fantasy (1979)  with Dave Arneson and later went on to create his own roleplaying game, Powers & Perils (1983) with its own unique world. Richard Snider was a member of the predecessor forum to The Comeback Inn until his passing.

The Egg of Coot was a nefarious villain of the original Blackmoor Campaign. In spite of the widespread myth, it was never  based on E. Gary Gygax and in fact Gary Gygax mentions the Egg of Coot in the foreword to the 1974 OD&D Ruleset. The Egg gets a rather humorous description in The First Fantasy Campaign, but the Egg and its stronghold never got to see full development. According to Dave Arneson, The Egg of Coot was never further developed because the players decided to adventure in other parts of his world. Possibly because the Egg was considered too dangerous. 

Recently, it was discovered that John Snider had taken matters into his own hands. In the 1990s, he ran a campaign referred to as the Egg of Coot campaign. It took place in John's own version of the world of Blackmoor in the lands North West of Blackmoor. John had in fact controlled the Egg of Coot's forces during the early days of Dave Arneson's Blackmoor campaign so who else to expand on this lore if Arneson did not want to do it? Few details about John Snider's Egg of Coot campaign are known, but hopefully more details can still be uncovered. You can read more about it here


Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Blackmoor Week Day 4


Some real life things got in the way today, but Blackmoor Week is still going on. We are now on day 4! The First Fantasy Campaign may be confusing to some, but it is an amazing resource as it documents the very campaign where many of the fundamental concepts of Dungeons & Dragons were developed. 

Do you have a copy?


Monday, September 26, 2022

Blackmoor For All Editions And Generations! (Blackmoor Week 2022 - Day 3)

These days, there is so much anger on the Internet it is depressing. Anger generates more clicks and range bait articles pays for advertising. People are divided into pointless camps so they can fight over pointless things.

Well, not here on the Blackmoor Blog! And definitely not during Blackmoor Week which is all about love for our hobby in all its forms and editions. Although I am a fan of the TSR editions of D&D, I am always happy to meet other D&D players even if they prefer other editions than I do. The more gamers in the world, the better! I believe this is true to the spirit of Dave Arneson who was all about enjoying every kind of game he could find. Last year I wrote about how I believe Dave Arneson would be happy as long as people find their own way to enjoy D&D. And I am sure he would like to see people run Blackmoor for any edition. 

Dave Arneson's company, Zeitgeist Games, helped bring Blackmoor to the 3rd and 4th Edition of D&D. Over at the Comeback Inn we have a section dedicated to Blackmooor 5E conversions where you can find the Shattered Empires Campaign from Phil Slama as well as conversion notes from game designer Chris Dolunt and others. Over at The Piazza, my friend Coronides has started a new 5E Blackmoor conversion project and he has told me that he really needs help from real Blackmor fans! If you can lend him a hand, please head over there and help him out even if you know nothing about 5E.

For fans of AD&D and Classic D&D, do not despair! We have lots of stuff going on for you too at The Comeback Inn. For most of my own projects, I try to keep things as rules light as possible so that it is easy to use with most editions. I will be sharing more of that over the next couple of days. 

Hope you are enjoying Blackmoor Week 2022


Sunday, September 25, 2022

ComposeDreamGames With Special Offer for Blackmoor Week 2022 (Blackmoor Week Day 2, part B)

 This is a completely non-commercial site and we are not sponsored in any way. However, ComposeDreamGames offers reduced prices for Blackmoor Week 2022:

More details about which RPG products are available can be found here.

I think this is a great way to celebrate Blackmoor Week and Dave Arneson's legacy.

Are any other publishers doing the same?


Unreasonable Dave Arneson Fans? (Blackmoor Week Day 2)

Every so often I read something on the net about Dave Arneson fans who have the most unreasonable opinions. Supposedly, there are a number of these people who insist that Dave Arneson was the sole originator of Dungeons & Dragons and that Gary merely spread the good word.

Now, I am sure that a few of these people do exist. But in my experience they are not many. Sometimes I see people praising Dave Arneson who are just using Dave's name as an excuse to attack Gary Gygax or D&D. It is often easy to see that many of them aren't real D&D fans or they have some other reason to dislike Gary or his legacy. Most of those people are clearly not real Dave Arneson fans, but people just using Arneson's name to serve their own agenda. 

As to real Dave Arneson fans, they are usually not very vocal at all. The ones who do speak out are often found at The Comeback Inn where we are all a very reasonable lot.

As more and more fans of D&D are becoming interested in the origins of the hobby, it is not surprising that many look into the role Dave Arneson and his group played in creating the game. While there are still many things that are unclear about what aspects of the game were added when and by whom, I think it is unfair to assume that one group of fans are less reasonable than another. 

This is the second day of Blackmoor Week and we are soon approaching Dave Arneson Game Day (October 1st). It is a good time to remind people of the people and the ideas that lead to the creation of the game and also of the great ideas that were lost along the way as Dave and Gary were both eventually cast aside.

More discussion of this topic here!



Saturday, September 24, 2022

Blackmoor Week Day 1: A Celebration of D&D and All things Gaming


Welcome to the first day of Blackmoor Week 2022! What is Blackmoor Week, you say? Why, it is the week leading up to October 1st, birthday of D&D Co-Creator Dave Arneson! But it is also a celebration of gaming in general and especially of course the game of Dungeons & Dragons.

October 1st is next Saturday, so we are starting the show today! Some of the most hard core fans have already been preparing for this celebration for a while now, so I am excited to see what people might come up with. 

We encourage all kinds of activities, large and small. Run a game, write something on a blog or forum, or create something. But most importantly let us know what you are doing so that we can share the joy with everyone!

Some of the main hangouts for this celebration is as always:

Got something posted already elsewhere? Share in the comments!

What do you think of this year's banner? :)


Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Second Dave Arneson Letter - Context Matters


Gaming historian ben Riggs recently revealed the second letter that Dave Arneson sent to WotC in 1997. Although Riggs' work is generally excellent, the context in which these two letters are revealed serve little more than to confirm old biases. I already talked about the first letter where Dave Asked to be made manager of TSR after WotC's acquisition of the D&D publisher. 

This letter, which clearly was not intended for public consumption, may easily be seen as clumsy. Dave's cavalier style may easily bring out laughs, especially knowing how Dave's dream of running TSR was never achieved. Those hoping that Dave would provide an impressive analysis of the state of TSR or provide grand visions for the future of the company are understandably disappointed.

While some would say that the letters speak for themselves, context is everything. Even the best gaming historians are easily caught up in an existing narrative. Riggs certainly does seem to have a great deal of sympathy for Dave. But the preexisting narrative is one that was defined largely by TSR's propaganda machine of the early days. The image of Dave as largely incompetent would ideally serve to support the claim that Dave in fact had no claims to his credits as co-author of D&D and thus having no basis for his legal actions against the company. These old falsehoods have largely been disproved, but the narrative still exists especially among those who for various reasons have decided to vocally express disdain towards the game designer even long after his passing. 

Dave Arneson was clearly not a perfect genius. His frequent spelling mistakes are well known. Although he had many good friends, he also made enemies and some describe him as socially awkward. Some of these flaws are demonstrated in his letters to WotC. Those of us who have an interest in Dave Arneson however, are also well aware of his good qualities. The games he organised for gamers in Minnesota, including Napoleonic Wargames, the Proto-D&D Blackmoor and others were cherished and he was described as an incredibly enthusiastic and innovative player. Before they worked together on D&D, Dave was a regular contributor to Gary's fanzines and together they had already published a set of naval wargaming rules, Don't Give Up The Ship. Later in his career, Dave helped form two RPG companies among his other endeavours. 

Context is everything. Riggs article asks the question of whether Dave would have been the right person to run TSR. His conclusion is not surprisingly "no". I don't disagree with this conclusion. The point of this blog was never to present Dave Arneson as a flawless demigod. The point of this blog was to examine the actual qualities Dave did possess. Qualities that did bring him the admiration of fellow gamers and made Gary Gygax want to create D&D with him in the first place. In my opinion, these qualities had more to do with creativity and innovation than administration or writing sales pitches. Dave clearly possessed these qualities in 1974. Had he lost these qualities by 1997? While I understand that many readers were hoping for more impressive ideas for the future of D&D than the ones presented in the second letter, I am not sure we can make such a conclusion from these letters alone. The main conclusion I think we can reach from the letters is that Dave was still in love with D&D and that he still longed for involvement with the game, so many years after he had left TSR. Instead of mocking, we could take this moment to contemplate the human being of Dave at this time in his life. 

I maintain that the real tragedy for the gaming world is that Dave and Gary were both ultimately prevented from pouring as much of their creative energy into our hobby as they could have given the right circumstances. It was a tragedy for them personally, but also for us fans who were never able to enjoy what might have been. In Dave's case, he remained friends with Peter Adkison, even though Peter did not grant him the position he had asked for. He was allowed to be involved with D&D under WotC even if in a limited capacity and he was given a chance to introduce Blackmoor to fans of two editions of D&D published by WotC. So even if this story has a lot of tragedy, I think there was at least some happiness towards the end.

More discussion of this article at The Comeback Inn!


Saturday, September 3, 2022

Dave Arneson Wanted to Be in Charge of D&D in 1997

Last week, Ben Riggs, author of Slaying the Dragon: A Secret History of Dungeons & Dragons, posted an article on his blog about Dave Arneson revealing a letter that Dave Arneson sent to Peter Adkison on April 11 1997.

Adkison was at the time CEO of Wizards of the Coast, the company that had just acquired TSR and with it the game Dungeons & Dragons. Adkison did not respond to the letter and Dave wrote a second letter later that month that Riggs plans on revealing at a later point. 

What I find most interesting about all this is what it tells us about Dave Arneson at this point in his life. Dave was 49 at the time. 6 years earlier he had published his last module, The Case of the Pacific Clipper, published by Flying Buffalo Games. Riggs describes Dave's career as being left a  a minor figure in the industry after having been vital to creating D&D suggesting this and perhaps the style of the letter as a possible explanation why Adkison never responded. 

However, we also know that this was not the end of Dave's involvement. After reaching a settlement with WotC, Dave was invited to be an advisor on the D&D movie (2000) and wrote tie in articles for the WotC website before eventually co-founding Zeitgeist Games in 2003). This was the company that would return Blackmoor to published form until Dave's passing in 2009. 

What are your thoughts about the letter and the notion that Dave wanted to run TSR in 1997?

Discuss this topic at The Comeback Inn.


Friday, September 2, 2022

ArneCon 0.2 Announced for October 15 2022


As October approaches, new developments are seen in the ongoing saga of various Dave Arneson gaming conventions! 

I previously mentioned  how the team behind the excellent documentary Secrets of Blackmoor were teasing a convention for October. Now, however it looks like documentary creators Chris Graves and Griffith Mon Morgan III will not be involved in the convention. Instead, local Minnesota Blackmoor enthusiasts are taking matters into their own hands. The event will be organized by Kevin McColl, a friend of Dave Arneson and owner of the Castle Blackmoor Website and the group called United Geeks of Gaming. 

The gaming event that now has been given the official name of ArneCon 0.2 was announced at the Castle Blackmoor Facebook Page.

Mark October 15th. ArneCon 0.2 Returning since 2017 We are planning a gaming convention in October, to tie in with the Birthday of Dave Arneson celebrating Minnesota's history of the origin of Role-Playing Games. And cheer all who were involved in the early years! Emphasis on old school style gaming, its history, and how it's history evolved. More to come location: Geek Partnership Society

According to Kevin McColl, this will be a continuation of similar events run by the group before a hiatus during Covid.  

Several of the original Blackmoor Players are announced to attend:

  • Bob Meyer, doing a Blackmoor game, which will be a continuation of the original Blackmoor Campaign. 
  • David Wesely, doing a Braunstein. 
  • Bill Hoyt (yet to be confirmed)

In addition, Kevin McColl will be running games, possibly including a beta test of an upcoming RPG he is working on. Kevin stressed that this will be a smaller event with the possibility of expanding it next year. 


Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Blackmoor Convention in October teased by SoB Team

 There has been a lot of talk about  Gaming Conventions connected to Dave Arneson and Blackmoor this year. A few days ago, the idea of a Blackmoor convention in October was teased by the Secrets of Blackmoor documentary team on Twitter

This is the same convention a different source told me about back in July, but the follow up tweet reveals a bit more about what may have been planned. 

The mention of the convention being close to Dave's birthday is why I speculate that they are looking for October since Dave's birthday is October 1st which has been celebrated for years here at this blog and the main Blackmoor fan hangout at The Comeback Inn and associated social media accounts. 

Fake autographs sounds a bit strange, but having Dave Arneson's daughter as a guest of honor at such a convention would be awesome. 

My main concern about this is that October is only a little more than a month away. However, for a "small and intimate" event I am sure they can still manage to organize something, especially if many of the locals are already aware of the details.

As I have stated in the past, I will support any project that seeks to honor Dave Arneson's legacy and I hope this convention will come to pass. If not this year, perhaps next year can be an option? Joining forces with DaveCon might help give that convention a boost, but two conventions could also mean twice the fun!


Friday, July 15, 2022

Minnesota Team Plan Dave Arneson Convention in October 2022

 As a response to the post I made yesterday about DaveCon 2023, one of the members of the Minnesota Team of gamers reached out to me and told me a bit more about their plans for a separate convention in October this year. 

The Minnesota Team told me they do not wish to be seen as working against DaveCon. The original Blackmoor players have been meeting for gaming each year for as long as Dave Arneson was alive. When Dave passed away, Bob Meyer took over responsibilities as the Dungeon Master of the group starting with the memorial game in 2010 that Dave's daughter also mentions in Secrets of Blackmoor. The planned convention in October is to be a continuation of these annual conventions. While no official announcement has yet been made, I was told that David Wesely will be present running Braunstein Games as will Bill Hoyt. Most likely other members of the original group and their friends will also attend. 

What this means to me is that fans of Blackmoor, Dave Arneson and gaming in general get two conventions instead of one. And there seems to be enough of an interest to support both conventions. That is a very good thing. I hope as many as possible support all of these projects to commemorate the legacy of Dave Arneson and celebrate gaming in all its forms.


Thursday, July 14, 2022

DaveCon 2023 in the works

 The convention known as DaveCon will return for 2023. The convention named after Dave Arneson will take place in Minnesota in April of next year according to organizer Victor Dorso. Special guests for next years convention will include Blackmoor alumni David Wesely, Mike Carr and Bill Hoyt.

In a recent interview at Tabletop Taproom, Dorso talked about his plans for next year's convention with host Tom /Jedion. In the interview, Dorso says that he sees DaveCon as a continuation of the annual Blackmoor games, that the original Blackmoor players held at the gaming store known as The Source following Arneson's passing in 2009. Dorso also talked about how last year's convention with the theme of unification was met with some negativity from various individuals both from Minnesota and others wanting to start a rival convention. He also admits that controversy surrounding Ernie Gygax Jr. may have contributed to these reactions. However, Dorso is optimistic about nex year's convention that will take place at a larger venue. 

Dorso has a great deal of plans for next year's convention and plans on making the event much larger than last years with gaming events, food, beer and other activities, including an app that will let gamers order food and have it brought to their tables. He also stressed that both men and women are welcome at the convention and should feel safe to attend. Children are also welcome as long as they are there in the company of an adult. 

Highlights for next year's convention include Braunstein games with David Wesely and Mike Carr running the classic adventure B1 In Search of Unknown, written by Carr and published by TSR in 1978. Bill Hoyt's Blackmoor Castle model that Dave Arneson used for his games will also be on display at the convention. Many old and new RPGs will be played at Dave Con 2023.

A separate Dave Arneson convention organised by others has been discussed for later this year, but nothing formal has been announced yet. Dave Wesely spoke fondly about his experiences at DaveCon 2022 and says he would gladly participate at both conventions, suggesting that there would be enough interest for two such conventions to the Co-Creator of D&D. 

It has always been the idea of this author to support all things that would honor the gaming legacy of Dave Arneson and the Minnesota Gamers. I think having Mike Carr as a guest of honor along with Wesely and Hoyt puts a much needed emphasis of next years DaveCon as an event in that tradition. 

Further discussion of this article here.


Friday, July 1, 2022

DA4 Duchy of Ten back in Print!

 The Complete DA module series is now available as Print on Demand from DrivethruRPG. The final module, DA4 Duchy of Ten just became available in this format. It had previously only been available as a PDF.

DA4 notably is the only module in the series that was not credited to Dave Arneson, but only to Dave Ritchie who had been credited as co-author of the previous three modules. Arneson later said that, unlike with the previous three adventures, he had not been consulted for this one. On the other hand, much of the adventure background repeats and expands upon elements that can be found in earlier instalments of the series. When Arneson's company Zeitgeist Games detailed these lands, they stayed fairly close to the descriptions of the Duchy as shown in DA4. 

Read my review of DA4 from a few years back here

Get your copy of Duchy of Ten here  (Non-affiliate link)


Friday, June 17, 2022

DA1 Adventures in Blackmoor - Once again in print format!

 As I reported a few days ago, Drivetrhu RPG is now offering some of the old WotC owned TSR modules of the DA series as Print on Demand products.

DA2 Temple of the Frog and DA3 City of the Gods were mentioned in my previous article, but now the time has come for DA1 Adventures in Blackmoor!

Back in 2016 I reported that DA1 had been made available for sale as a PDF from DrivethruRPG.  Adventures in Blackmoor is backed with information about the world of Blackmoor. I wrote a review of it back in 2009 that you can read here. 


(Non-affiliate link)

Thanks to Morfie at The Piazza for letting me know about this release. Thanks to Dartamian and Night Druid for letting me know about the other DA modules!

Are you going to get a copy of DA1 Adventures in Blackmoor to add to your collection? Please let me know :)


Monday, June 13, 2022

Blackmoor is back in print!

 Last week two classic Blacmoor adventures once again became available as print on demand releases from Wizards of the Coast. 

The two adventures in question are part of the series of modules published by TSR between 1986-1987. Labelled the DA series or Dave Arneson series, the adventures were written by Dave Arneson and David Ritchie for the BECMI edition of D&D. Four DA modules were published and it is interesting to see that the two first to make it back to Print on Demand format from DrivethruRPG are two that focus on some of the most iconic adventure locations of Dave Arneson's setting.

You can get both modules as PDF or in Print Format from DrivethruRPG by following these links:

DA2 Temple of the Frog

DA3 City of the Gods

I also hope that WotC will release DA1 Adventures in Blackmoor soon. Not only was this the first module in the series, but it also serves as a great introduction to the setting. 

In any case, it is really cool to see these adventures back in print. Are you planning to pick them up, dear readers? 


Saturday, April 16, 2022

Was DaveCon 2022 a Failure?

 As mentioned earlier on this blog, DaveCon 2022, a convention taking place on April 8.-11 2022 in Minneapolis Minnesota, was an event to commemorate the legacy of Dave Arneson. In the days following the convention, there have been surprisingly few reports or photos coming out of the event and for the most part the social media connected to the organisers, the event itself and guests of honor were pretty much silent. This struck me as a bad sign. 

Ernie Gygax and David Wesely

However, some reports are now coming out, suggesting that DaveCon was a a great time for those who were there, although a much smaller event than many of the participants were hoping for. In a video by TSR alumni Tim Kask, the former Dragon Magazine editor suggested that the reasons for the convention not being more successful was a schism formed in Minneapolis caused by "colossal egos" and negativity from the Arneson Estate

As a long time fan of Dave Arneson, I would have liked to see this event be an amazing success. It is great that we have finally reached a point in history where people from all corners of the hobby would like to recognise the importance of the legacy of Dave Arneson and his Minnesota group of gamers. As Tim Kask says, it was the meeting between this tradition of gaming and the Lake Geneva group of gamers that gave rise to Dungeons & Dragons. As I have mentioned before, I think it is admirable of Tim Kask, who had a big falling out with Dave Arneson, to be willing to participate in a convention that honored this legacy.

While I am not subject to all on goings over there from where I sit on the other side of the Atlantic, I think Kask is wrong about the Arneson Estate having any blame for what happened to this convention. DaveCon organizer Vic Dorso has previously claimed that he was told not to contact the Estate which seems very strange to me and makes me suspect that this would have been a misunderstanding. 

As to the reasons why the convention was not met with more enthusiasm, I think the answer is a little more complicated than how Kask relates it. Here are a few things:

1) Unfortunate associations with Ernie's other endeavours. While DaveCon apparently has no connections to Ernie Gygax' other gaming industry ventures, having Ernie  as one of the first announced guests of honor was not just an odd choice for a convention dedicated to Dave Arneson, but it also made the bad reputation of Ernie's other involvements bleed over onto DaveCon in the eyes of many fans. It did not help that the DaveCon organiser was observed on social media joking with one of Ernie's less reputable partners about not needing to respect the Arneson Estate. (Note: This blog is not taking an anti Ernie stance or suggesting that Ernie should not have been invited, but given the current atmosphere in many corners of our hobby, perhaps including his name as one of the main headliners was a poor decision from a PR perspective).

2) Although Blackmoor Alumni such as David Wesely and Bill Hoyt were brought on board as guests of honor, there was very little about the convention that brought associations to Dave Arneson or Blackmoor. No photos of Dave were used, no Blackmoor imagery or even much textual description of the importance of Dave's legacy in the promo material. 

3) Failure to involve Blackmoor alumni or hardcore fans. I am not subject to the organiser's efforts to engage the Minnesota gamers, but I know that some discussions on closed forums blew up. On the other hand, The Comeback Inn or the Blackmoor related Facebook groups that I organise saw close to zero engagement. There are many other Blackmoor players from the original campaign still around. The Arneson Estate could have been contacted. What about Dustin Clingman who published Blackmoor with Dave for the 3rd and 4th edition of Blackmoor? Or the producers of the Secrets of Blackmoor Documentary? Now, it is possible that all of these people were being difficult, but that is not my experiene with any of them, especially when it comes to an effort to honor Dave's legacy. 

I would like to stress that I am not saying any of this to gloat. I would like to see a convention in Dave's name be as successful as it has the potential to be. Maybe it could become something like GaryCon was in its early days which I hear was a small, but extremely cool convention. Victor Dorso has already announced that he is planning a new DaveCon in April next year, so hopefully some of the issues with this year's convention can be worked out by then. 

If anyone should want to organise future Dave Arneson related events, I can offer free advice to those who ask! :)


Monday, March 28, 2022

Comeback Inn Forum is Back!

 After a period of downtime, we are happy to announce that the Comeback Inn Forum is once again up and running! We have updated the forum software and hopefully we are back better than ever before. We really appreciate your patience during our downtime and we really look forward to seeing everyone back at the ultimate fansite for Dave Arneson's Blackmoor!

Click here to return to Blackmoor!


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...