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. 


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...