Thursday, December 12, 2013

Bruce Heard's Calidar Kickstarter

Former TSR author Bruce Heard is perhaps best known for his work on the world of Mystara, during the time when he was Product Manager for TSR's Classic D&D line. He is also the author of the Voyage of the Princess Ark series which ran in Dragon Magazine in the issues #153-188 as well as a final installment in #344.

Now, however, his own Fantasy Setting is about to become a reality. Featuring gorgeous maps by Thorfinn Tait, this world is now out on Kickstarter! I am a backer and I am really excited about this. Only up for 2 days, the project has almost reached its initial goal already and we have a good chance of seeing several stretch goals being met. Go over to the kickstarter page and join the fun now!




-Havard


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

New Map of Castle Blackmoor!

This map appeared today on the new Dave Arneson Facebook Page. The map was recently discovered by Dave's daughter. It appears to be a photocopy of of the map from the First Fantasy Campaign book (JG). However, a quick comparison reveals never before seen hand written notes identifying the purpose of several of the rooms.

Given where this map was discovered, it seems likely that these notes are from Arneson himself.

Pre-production cover for Dungeons of Castle Blackmoor (2006) 

It would also be interesting to compare this map in greater detail to the floor plans of Castle Branzol which formed the inspiration for the original castle. In 2006 ZGG published Dungeons of Castle Blackmoor, but the book contained little information on the Castle itself. It has been speculated that both the Castle and the Dungeon could have been part of the never published DA5, of which there still may be a yet unrevealed manuscript out there.

In any case, this new map adds another piece to the puzzle that is Castle Blackmoor!

-Havard

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Tomb of Abysthor (Necromancer Games 2002)

This 2002 module from Necromancer Games was brought to my attention recently. Apparently, Necromancer Games' President at the time Clark Peterson, had inserted references to Dave Arneson's most famous modules:

"Anyone catch the homage to Arneson's Temple of the Frog, which just happens to be the first published adventure for D&D (I say first published adventure because it was published in the original Blackmoor supplement. The first actual module--meaning all the product contained was an adventure--was Palace of the Vampire Queen by Wee Warriors)."-Clark

Writing under the pseudonym Orcus, Peterson goes on to express his satisfaction with the module, and also reveals his high opinion of the Temple of the Frog:

"...it has a cool homage to several really cool modules in it (Lost caverns of Tsojcanth and Temple of the Frog), it has links to Rappan Athuk for those who want them, it links to Crucible in that Tavik is there (if he survived), the new monsters are cool as are the new magic items.Can you tell I am proud of this one?"



Yes Clark, we agree with you on this at least. Temple of the Frog is a really cool module! I don't have a copy of Tomb of Abysthor, but looking at some of the preview from DrivethruRPG, I came across the following excerpt from page 2 of the module, which may be the reference Peterson was talking about:

"The physical ruin of the shrines and burial halls in the Valley of the Shrines is by far the least of the corruption ofthe once-holy sanctuaries. In the great caves beneath the burial halls, the tsathar, inhuman priests of the foul god Tsathogga, long ago raised a temple to their hideous demon-frog god. The tsathar as a race are detailed in the Monster Appendix. More vile still, a contingent of priests of Orcus—the evil demon-god of the undead—recently came some ten years ago from the legendary dungeon of Rappan Athuk to corrupt the burial halls and exploit the location as a base of operations for further expansion of their evil cult. The followers of the two evil gods have reached an uneasy truce. Both, however, seek a power even darker still—the power of a legendary Black Monolithrumored to be hidden somewhere in these caverns, sealed away long ago by an ancient power"
So the Tomb of Abysthor was built by the followers of the Frog and the followers of Orcus. This would make the module ideal to place somewhere in the world of Dave Arneson's Blackmoor, right?

If any of my readers owns this module and have additional information from within the pages of the book, please let me know!

More discussion of this topic here.

Update: More on this in my latest blog update


Image Sources:
Clark Peterson Photo



-Havard

Saturday, November 23, 2013

OD&D Book V: Blackmoor back in Print!


OD&D Book V, is what used to be called OD&D Supplement II, now available with the new deluxe reprint version of Original Dungeons & Dragons releases, which includes seven booklets (the first three rules booklets and four supplements) and dice within an engraved and illustrated wooden storage case. This also means, we once again get to see a book with the Blackmoor logo and Dave Arneson's name on the covers.

Speaking of Covers, included above is the revised cover, which has this odd sort of not quite old school look to it. A new artist's impression of Blackmoor Castle however, can never be a bad thing! Here is WotC's Preview for Book V. 

WotC's preview page is also keen to note the fact that this book includes the first iteration of the Temple of the Frog. Temple of the Frog was also the first published D&D adventure ever, and it was revisited in several versions. The second version, DA2, is also available for sale through DndClassics. A third version was released for D&D3E by Zeitgeist Games. Finally, WotC also released a Return to the Temple of the Frog module which can be downloaded for free here. How much Froggie goodness do you want?

 It is interesting to read the high praise TSR gives Dave Arneson in the introduction to this book. There is no trace there of the ugly statements from TSR following the lawsuits after Arneson left the company. This book is clearly a leap back into the good old days of innocence!


See also:
More discussion of this news
Discussion of Supplement II






 -Havard

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Eastern Marshes of Thonia Revealed!

A new region in the world of Dave Arneson's Blackmoor is being explored in detail for the very first time. The Empire of Thonia, also known as the Great Kingdom, consists of ten provinces. The Eastern Marshes is one of the more traditional of the Thonian Provinces.

Get your free fan-created PDF booklet today!

Also, read more about Thonia here.

-Havard

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Bruce Heard's New Fantasy Setting Revealed!

Back in April, I mentioned on this blog that former TSR designer, Mystara Guru and author of the Voyage of the Princess Ark, Bruce Heard had decided to create his own fantasy world for publishing. Bruce Heard has often been described as to Mystara what Ed Greenwood is to the Forgotten Realms. He originally intended to return to writing new stories for the ever popular Voyage of the Princess Ark series which were published in Dragon Magazine from #153-188, with a final installment in #344. However, since this option was not something WotC were interested in at this time, Bruce instead decided he would move towards creating a brand new world via kickstarter:


"Time has come for me to set sail across stranger skies. I think there's plenty of room out there for another ship, another crew, and new adventures unbound by darkness. Although stories would take place in another world, in spirit one might think this is the Princess Ark reborn. "


Although not much of this project remains a mystery, new clues appeared in the new Mystara fanzine, Threshold, discussed on this blog earlier this week. In the exclusive interview in Threshold #1 Bruce Heard revealed the name of the setting the first time: Calidar.

Threshold #1 reveals exclusive news on the new fantasy setting.


Fans of Mystara, BECMI D&D and the Voyage of the Princess Ark are already getting excited about this. A recent discussion at The Piazza seems to be the place to go for whatever other information on the World of Calidar may exist so far.

Stay tuned for more updates!

-Havard

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Arneson Gameday: "Threshold": New Mystara Fan Magazine!

Arneson Gameday appears to be full of game related news this year!

Earlier today, the following was reported on The Piazza by my good friend Agathokles:


Dear all, I'm glad to announce the release of the first issue of Threshold, the new magazine for Mystara! I must say it has been a great time editing this issue, and I hope you'll enjoy our magazine, and I look forward to see your comments, as well as to Issue 2, Vaults of Pandius special, which will be shepherded by Cthulhudrew. Thanks to everybody who participated in this effort, which led to 180 pages of pure Mystara goodness! So, without further ado, here is the first issue of Threshold!

Within you will find a large collection of Mystara related articles as well as an exclusive interview with Bruce Heard. I will have to admit that I have also contributed to a couple of the articles. Blackmoor fans, keep an eye out for future issues of Threshold. I will not be surprised if Blackmoor related articles will appear in future installments!



-Havard

Monday, September 30, 2013

Arneson Gameday: LFC Blackmoor Campaign Returns!

Today is Arneson Game Day, commemorating the birthday of Dave Arneson and we have some exciting news: The Last Fantasy Campaign, or LFC, is the longest running online Pen & Paper RPG Campaign set in Blackmoor. Today, the following announcement was posted in the LFC section of the Comeback Inn:



 The year 359 of the Reunited Kingdom, or Year 1398 of the Northern Calendar. 

Theodore Zvenzen, last descendant of both the Ithamis and the Andahar bloodlines, is banned from the royal court for a crime he did not commit. Together with his friends and allies, among them Sumerset, the latest Black Prince of Naelax, and Oliver Pren, the twenty-third Blue Rider, he turns his sight northwards: To the home of his ancestors, to the ruins of old, abandoned Castle Blackmoor… The Ruins of Castle Blackmoor,

Part One: Reprise While I will have to explain this to a greater degree later on, these are the basic ramifications under which the first chapter of The Ruins of Castle Blackmoor will take place.

 DATE: (Tentatively) December 25th, or, depending on agreements between The Company of the Maiden, one of the other dates between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

FORM: Open chat, likely at the Last Fantasy Campaign’s gaming room at http://www.dragonsfoot.org. Details on the adventuring scenario in question will follow.

 DURATION: Because this will likely happen on the same day I do my yearly database backup, I will stay logged in from 1200 to 2400 GMT+1. Since it’s the holiday season, I don’t expect everybody to stay for ALL the time. But whoever drops in will immediately get the chance to play in a new adventure that should get a smirk on the face of even the grimmest grognard… ;) Hide all the pies, and all the pipeweed, and that’s all I am going to say.

 SYSTEM: Still up for discussion, but most likely d20, as per the Blackmoor gaming books by Zeitgeist Games, and Code Monkey Publishing. Rules contained in those books supersede all variant rules of d20, unless explicitly allowed.

 REQUIREMENTS: As a principle, all those who send a full character sheet to daysofrain@email.de as late as one week before the start of the game (approx. December 17th) are allowed to join. The duration and the form of the game are specifically designed to give as many people as possible the opportunity to play, even for a little while only.

***



-Havard

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Piazza is back!

The Piazza went down this Weekend, and for a while it looked like the site had run into some serious problems. Fortunately, due to swift action from its webmaster, the site is back up again fully intact today.

Although there are many great web forums for D&D fans, The Piazza is still the best forum focusing on multiple D&D settings. The Mystara and Spelljammer communities are the most active there, but many other worlds are also being discussed. The list of settings with their own forum there was greatly expanded for the 5 year anniversary earlier this year. Thanks to Ashtagon for the hard work in maintaining this site over so many years now.

Go over there now! :)



-Havard

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

D&D Cartoon is 30 Years Old!

Came across this via Geekdad. Thanks to Luke Gygax for pointing me in that direction. The cartoon was loved and hated by D&D fans, but it is now 30 years since it first came out. According to some, it is still the best filmatization of D&D ever produced by TSR & WotC.

One thing I always wondered about was which setting the kids from the cartoon visited. Referred to only as The Realm, I wondered if it corresponded to one of the published settings? I once argued that The Realm would be best fitted into Mystara, but I have since changed my mind. Check out some more details on The Realm of the D&D Cartoon here. A later article by WotC had the kids from the Cartoons come back as adults and visit the Forgotten Realms.

However, I think The Realm could be more interesting if it was actually multiple realms. Perhaps the kids visited new settings in each episode? Greyhawk, Blackmoor, Mystara and Dragonlance were available when the Cartoons were running (1983-1985). Could the Dungeon Master have transported the kids to all those worlds? Tiamat is strongly tied to Greyhawk, yet Strongheart the Paladin, Warduke and Kelek appear both in Greyhawk and Mystara products.

In any case, the cartoon is a classic, for many helping to share the perception of D&D for better or worse! :)



-Havard

Monday, September 9, 2013

The FFC Coming Back in Print?

The First Fantasy Campaign (FFC), published in 1975 by the Judges Guild Chronicles Dave Arneson's original Blackmoor campaign from the years 1971-1975.

Over the last few years, reprinting old gaming material has become increasingly popular among publishers. Recently, Robert Bledsaw III asked over at the Wilderlands Fans Facebook Group which old JG modules people would be interested in seeing reprinted and updated to Pathfinder or universal systems.

Not surprisingly, several people requested that the First Fantasy Campaign by Dave Arneson would be among the books reprinted. Now the question is, should JG be interested, would it be possible for them to reprint the FFC?

From what I understand, the IP to the FFC is owned by the Arneson family. Bob Bledsaw reverted the ownership of the FFC to Dave before Bledsaw passed away. When it comes to Blackmoor, that IP is owned by Wizards of the Coast. ZGG was operating under a lisence from WotC to publish Blackmoor material, but that lisence expired in 2008. It is possible that the FFC could be published without a lisence from WotC, but it is probably a good idea to check with them to avoid complications.

It should be noted that I am in no way a lawyer and do not posess any inside knowledge of any of this. The above is based on information that should be available online.

I think it would be amazing to have the FFC return in print or even as a PDF. To be the FFC does not need to be updated to have value for gamers today. OTOH, Dave Arneson did make a request if the FFC was to be reprinted, Robert Bledsaw III says (on FB, August 21st 2013):

"As for First Fantasy Campaign, Arneson offered to let us reprint FFC so long as some typos were corrected in a phone conversation with my dad. However, he passed away unexpectedly so we have no clue what typos he was referring to."
When original FFC manuscript fell into the lap of Judges Guild editor, Bill Owen back in 1977,  he decided not to make heavy alterations to the "somewhat disorganized" manuscript. Perhaps Dave Arneson would have liked to see a reprint that, while not neccessarily updated, might be edited in a way to make it organized in a way to make it more accessible to new audiences?



-Havard

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Mohacs - Imperial Capital of Thonia


Capital of the Thonian Empire, Mohacs is the largest metropolis on the continent. Built on the ruins of Old Geneva, the City of Mohacs is both seat to Emperor Iyx I and home to the High Patriarch of the Holy Thonian Church. Located in the Imperial Province, in the shadow of Mount Mohacs, the city is home to a wide range of peoples from all over the Empire. Walking through the city, you will meet Cirkhosian Merchants, dark skinned Bolger warriors, Synobian Monks, Mirakosian mercenaries, Salikar Nomads, Savages from the Jungle Realm, Skandaharian explorers and Thonian bureaucrats.

Once the shining center of a rising empire, the decline and corruption of Emperor Iyx' reign can be felt through the city. Arrogant officials, corrupt city guards, dogmatic scholars and dark alley muggings can easily leave a visitor disappointed at best. The River Thonia running through the city has become dirty with sewage, its smell can be noticed even in the better parts of town.



 Emperor Iyx is a true tyrant who ascended to the Throne when he was but a child, about 30 years ago. While he is the undisputed ruler of both the City and the Empire, Thonian society is always home to intrigue and scheming. Duke Taha Marcovic has married into one of the most powerful families of the empire and some say he has his eyes on the throne himself. Perhaps this is why the Emperor has sent Marcovic to the North far away from the capital. With him, the Iron Duke has brought his spymaster, Skandros. Even if Skandros and Marcovic are no longer in Mohacs, both men have the ability to pull strings back home.

Some famous locations in the Imperial Capital are the Imperial Palace, Imperial Square, the University of Mohacs and the High Cathedral.Visitors are well adviced to avoid the east side of the River Thonia, where the darker elements of the city may be encountered...

Read more on Mohacs here.



Image sources:
Fantasy City  by Robert D. Brown
Ship Street Tavern by Rico Holmes



-Havard

D&D at GenCon 2013

Unlike previous years, I havent heard much exciting news from this year's GenCon. At least not for D&D. Since I wasn't able to go there myself, I started a thread at The Piazza, which provided me with some details and links at least. All the new Pathfinder material, Shadowrun 5th Edition, Monte Cook's Numenera and 13th Age are all things I want to check out eventually, but what about D&D?

Obviously the main reason why D&D got such small exposure on GenCon this year is because they are holding off D&DNext for next year. My friend Adrian (aka True Atlantean) pointed me to this GenCon video of a presentation with Mike Mearls where he is talking about D&DNext, The Sundering, iOS Waterdeep, Kree-O D&D and more.

My favorite bit from the video was where he talks about Chronicles of Mystara. "This is actually a personal favorite of mine" says Mearls. "The Chronicles of Mystara from Capcom. These are two games, Tower of Doom and Shadow over Mystara. This is a classic 90s 2d beat-em-up. [...] I am personally very excited about that."

I also came across this GenCon2013 Interview with Will Wheaton, where he again mentions getting into gaming with the Mentzer Red Box. I wrote about Wheaton's adventures in Mystara back in May. The Red Box is 30 years this year, so it was nice of Wheaton to mention it, even if WotC seem to have missed the opportunity of making an event out of this on GenCon.

Was there anything coming out of GenCon that made you guys excited?



-Havard

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Monday, August 19, 2013

Hackmoor: Blackmoor meets Hackmaster!

Totally fake cover!
I finally got around to picking up Hackmaster 4th edition last week. I never bought the game when it first came out because I thought it was just a funny, but expensive joke. I later realized that it is a well designed fully functional AD&D-like RPG, but it was not untill reading though the Players Guide that I realized how many cool ideas can be found within its pages.

One of the reasons my interest in Hackmaster was rekindled was the Hackmaster Blackmoor Game, dubbed Tracy's Hackmoor that poster Tracy has been writing about at the Comeback Inn. The campaign is set in the Duchy of Ten and based on the module DA4.

If you are interested, check out the Campaign Journal and Story Hour forum (at the CBI) where you can read about Weasel, Snizzlephish, Elefus and the rest of the gang as they take on the Afridhi Empire!



 -Havard

Saturday, August 10, 2013

D&D Rules Cyclopedia Advert

Kyrel posted this picture over at Dragonsfoot and I just had to share it. Dave Arneson himself apparently even admitted to loving this particular version of D&D. Note the pre-production cover of the Rules Cycøopedia up there in the left corner.

Anyway, there is a call to reprint the RC over at wizards.com, so go ahead and sign the petition. Rumour has it that this is the only edition of D&D that is so good that WotC doesn't risk reprinting it. We shall see!





-Havard

Friday, August 9, 2013

Frog Man Tee Shirt!


How about this? This company Mintees.com apparently sells this t shirt called the Frog Man Cometh! If you know about a more Blackmoor-esque t-shirt than that, let me know!


-Havard

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Dave who?

Just cause... :)

-Havard

Monday, August 5, 2013

Larry Elmore

I can still remember my first encounter with the art of Larry Elmore. The 1983 D&D "Red Box" Basic Set. It was love at first sight. Although TSR had many amazing artists including great ones like Jeff Easley, Brom, Clyde Caldwell, Stephen Fabian and others, there were few who to such a degree defined the D&D experience as Larry Elmore. I am happy that Dave Arneson's company chose this artist for the D20 version of Blackmoor.

Happy birthday Larry Elmore!

-Havard

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Happy Gygax Day!

Today is Gygax Day! What are you planning on doing in gaming on this day? Thanks to Christopher Chance for making this graphics and posting them on the Old School Gamer Facebook Group.

People are posting more of their gaming plans for the day here.

Dave Arneson Day is on October 1st, so untill then, Enjoy! :)


-Havard

Monday, July 22, 2013

More Blackmoor from Anna Meyer!

Gotta love Anna Meyer and her spectacular maps of the World of Greyhawk. I have talked about Anna's maps before. Once again she turns to the Blackmoor region. Here is the latest sample of her work in progress:

Watch how this develops in the Facebook group here.Thanks to my friend, Big Mac from The Piazza for bringing Anna's latest map to my attention.

As I said, this is a work in progress. More locations will presumably be added later on, perhaps including the ones from the map below:





-Havard

Friday, July 19, 2013

RedBox30: WotC are reading my blog!



So last month, I started posting about how the Red Box, the best selling product in the history was published 30 years ago.  Yesterday I reported that the Frank Mentzer Basic Set (Red Box) was finally available as a PDF.

Today, WotC responds: The now have a 30 year anniversary offer at dndclassics.com for various classic era products along with the basic set.

Have they been reading my blog, or what? :D

Some more discussion about this special anniversary offer over at The Piazza.

Also, check out this 1984 vintage TV commercial for the Red Box and other TSR Games at the time.



-Havard

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Red Box Basic Set Available!


As I was talking about a few weeks ago, this year marks the 30th Anniversary of the Mentzer Red Box Basic Set, the edition that made D&D into a world wide hobby. It has been surprisingly quiet from WotC over this occasion, but my friend TAD just made me aware of the fact that DriveThru has finally released the Basic Set (Red Box version) for sale in the PDF format.

I think it is awesome that new fans can finally get to experience this edition of D&D and play through the beginner adventure featuring the legendary Bargle and Aleena. Also, this is a great chance to pick up the BECMI rules for your tablet. Money-wise it may be cheaper just to get the RC pdf, but it depends on your preferences.

Some more concerned voices have mentioned that this could mean that the chances of seeing a BECMI/RC reprinted version (as they have now done with AD&D 1&2 and 3E). I hope this is not the case. BECMI deserves to get its reprinted edition and it is one D&D product that I will buy in a heartbeat, either in the RC version or in a different collected version of the BECMI boxes.

-Havard

Sunday, June 30, 2013

How the Paynim became the Afridhi

I have previously looked at how Dave Arneson picked up the bare bones setting presented by Gary Gygax in the Domesday Book fanzine and turned it into a full roleplaying world for his Blackmoor Campaign. Over at the Comeback Inn we have been discussing whether some of the antagonists of Dave Arneson's Campaign could have had their roots in the C&C Setting as well?

The main enemies of Blackmoor were the Egg of Coot and the Temple of the Frog, creations of Arneson and his players alone. But there was another group that could go back to the Domesday Book. Domesday Book #9 establishes an enemy of the Great Kingdom called the Paynim Kingdom. Few details are given on the Paynim Kingdom except that they have a strength of 150% of any of the other kings of the Great Kingdom. Paynim, apparently is a term used in medieval literature to describe Islamic antagonists during the Crusades.

Originally, I thought that references to the Paynim could also include the Peshwa, but I now suspect this is not the case. Greyhawk still has its Plains of the Paymin, but in Blackmoor I suspect that the Paynim evolved into the Afridhi. The FFC mentions The Treasure of the Paynim Princess*. I now believe that the Paynim Princess could be no other than Toska Rusa.

 *=Actually the text in the FFC says "Treasure of the Payme Princess" which could be either a typo or a pun.

How I imagine Toska Rusa, Queen of Afridhi, Mistress of Zugzul.


I have previously discussed how the Afridhi as they became known were further fleshed out when one of MAR Barker's friends took on the role as the Afridhi Queen. This could have been the time when Dave Arneson invented the God Zugzul, patron of the Afridhi. These nomadic invaders were even further fleshed out in DA4 where they are the main antagonists of the adventure, seeking the mysterious Well of Souls. David Ritchie's wife is attributed to providing more detail on Afridhi culture. So even though alot was changed over the years, the Afridhi could have seen their first little spark in the Domesday Book.



Image Source: Nomad Warrior, by N*Deed
Image Source: Barbarian Chick, by Maciej Kuciara

-Havard

30 Years of Red Box D&D!

While there hasn't been much talk about it over at wizards.com, this year marks 30 years of gaming with the legendary Red Box Basic Set! The red box with the iconic Larry Elmore Dragon was first published in May 1983. This was also the edition that marked the international launch of D&D, turning the game into a worldwide hobby with the box being translated to 44 different languages. With tens of millions of copies sold, the Red Box basic set marked what undoubtedly the best selling product throughout the history of TSR.



Written by Frank Mentzer (credited as editor, as policy was back then), this was the edition that included the legendary intro adventure featuring the tragic death of Aleena the Cleric at the hands of the evil Wizard Bargle. The Red Box was the first in a line of five boxes which would take characters from 1st level to 36th and beyond that into further adventures as Immortals.  Known later by hard core fans as the BECMI edition (Basic - Expert - Companion - Master - Immortals), this edition took the classic line of D&D (as opposed to the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons line) to its full potential. The first two boxed sets, Basic and Expert, built heavily on the works of Gary Gygax, Dave Arneson, John Eric Holmes, Tom Moldvay and David Cook. From the Companion Rules and onwards, the series began to explore unknown territory allowing not only the traditional exploration of dungeons and wilderness, but also having your characters become rulers of kingdoms, control armies, explore the Outer Planes and eventually become god-like beings of legend.




Sometimes mistakenly  believed to be a "kids version" of  the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game, the BECMI series in fact created an elegant balance between a ruleset that was easy to get into with the Red Box, but with an increasing complexity to rival that of AD&D as you progressed through the series. The series also offered a return to the Known World, previously introduced in the Moldvay/Cook B/X ruleset of 1981, which would eventually develop into the World of Mystara. BECMI would also later become the rule framework that would allow Blackmoor's return with the DA modules (Dave Arneson Series).

With the vast number of gamers introduced to the hobby of Roleplaying Games through the Red Box, 1983 was clearly a significant year in the history of gaming. Time to celebrate!



-Havard

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Another Blackmoor Player Passes: Terry Skeie

We are sad to learn that another Blackmoor Gamer passed away on June 23rd:

Skeie, Terry R. age 67, of Robbinsdale, MN. Preceded in death by parents, Romeo and Crystal; and brother-in-law, John Smithson. Survived by wife, Linda; sons, Steven and Paul; brother, Wayne (Rhoda); sister, Marilyn; Aunt, Vivian; many nieces and nephews.

In lieu of flowers, contribute to your favorite charity.

Memorial service Sat., 6/29, 2:00 PM with visitation one hour prior to the service at: www.Washburn-McReavy.com Robbinsdale Chapel 763-537-2333 4239 West Broadway

On his memorial guestbook, David Wesely writes:
 I gamed with Terry many years ago, when both of us were young men. He was a challenging opponent and good man to have on your team.

Thanks to Bob Meyer of Arneson's original group for bringing this to my attention. Our thoughts and prayers go to his friends and family.



-Havard

Saturday, June 22, 2013

This Way to Blackmoor!

Thanks to my friend Jesper, I found this awesome sculpture by Kendall Hart of Grimstone Studios. Actually this is just a detail of a larger sculpture of a Wolfman/Werewolf,  but it was the detail that caught my attention! If there was any way I could buy just the road stone marker, I would love to have this on my shelf. It shows Blackmoor at 16 miles away, or 2 hexes as I prefer to call it!

So, if you are wondering what to get me for my birthday, now you know! :)



-Havard

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Blackmoor Appears in Shadowrun Module

Dave Arneson may not have written a large body of RPG sourcebooks and supplements, but while he is best known for the Blackmoor modules, he also authored an adventure module for FASA's Shadowrun RPG in 1989 called DNA/DOA.

The adventure involves the PCs being hired by a biotechnology company. They are hired to break into an Aztechnology lab and steal a kind of virus that affects human DNA. Further complications eventually lead the group into the sewers below Tacoma, Washington, where they have to deal with a tribe of Orks.

The Blackmoor fan that I am was overjoyed to notice that the establishment where the adventure begins is called Corporate Bums and Indigents Club often shortened to CBI, undoubtedly a reference to Blackmoor's own tavern of fame, the Comeback Inn. Seems like even at this time when he was prevented to publish his own fantasy setting, Blackmoor was always close to Dave Arneson's heart.

More discussion of this topic here. 





-Havard

Saturday, June 15, 2013

How Not to Sell Fanfiction

The Witchcraft Wars Trilogy, a series of novels by a little known Australian author, have recieved quite a bit of attention on forums and social medial recently as it turns out that many of the names used in the series are IP owned by Wizards of the Coast. Early speculation that the author had obtained legal permission to place her novels in the Mystara Setting was rejected when the author herself claimed never even having heard of Mystara.

Although the setting of this series of novels is called the Kingdoms of Kaynos and feature an original story by the author, realms in this world are called things like: Glantri, The Heldann Freeholds, The Duchy of Karameikos and Vestland. Furthermore there is a city called Zeaburg and another character called Thincol Torion. Many of these names date back to the first appearance of the Mystara setting back in 1981. Furthermore art work and maps appearing in the novels replicate that from published RPG books as demonstrated on Tim Brannan's Blog.

Understandably this has upset authors who worked with the setting for TSR over the years, including Mystara Guru Bruce Heard, as well as Dragonlance creator Tracy Hickman who adressed the issue over at his blog, explaining why even he is now no longer allowed to publish new Dragonlance fiction. Paying homage is one thing, but at one point  the line is crossed.

The situation has been reported to WotC, so presumably the matter will be resolved soon.






-Havard


Illustration by Bruce Heard.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Piazza is 5 Years!

On this day, 5 years ago my friend Ashtagon, set up The Piazza. It immediately became the home of hundreds of D&D fans. Now the site has more than 1300 members including legendary game designers like Bruce Heard, Frank Mentzer, Monte Cook, Tim Beach, Allen Varney and many others.

Unlike many other D&D forums out there, the focus of The Piazza was alwas Campaign Worlds.The fan communities of Mystara and Spelljammer are particularly active on the forum, but also fans of Dragonlance, the Forgotten Realms, Blackmoor and all the other D&D Worlds are present as well as other Campaign Worlds such as Talislanta and the Traveller Universe.

For many of us, the friendly atmosphere of The Piazza has made us feel so much at home there that we visit several times a day. I can't believe that the last 5 years have passed so quickly. I hope that the next 5 years will be as much fun as the past ones have been!

While the birthday is today, the party will be this weekend, so stay tuned for more info on that! :)



-Havard

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Wil Wheaton vs. Bargle!

D&D fans love hearing about famous people who have played our hobby. Joss Whedon, Vin Diesel, Kevin Smith, Metallica, My Chemical Romance, the list is too long to mention everyone here. We all know Wil Wheaton was a D&D player of course, but I did not know that he had journeyed to Mystara. "I started playing with the 1981 Red box" Wheaton says and goes on to mention having throughly explored the Caves of Chaos (B2 - Keep on the Borderlands) and many other known D&D locations.


Wheaton then goes on to mention what may have been the peak of his D&D career "One time, I even talked to a wizard named Bargle." What happened when Wheaton explored the caves north of Threshold in the world of Mystara? Was he magically ensnared by Bargle, like the rest of us, or did he manage to talk himself out of it?

You can listen to Wheaton talk about his early D&D memories at the video recording of the PAX 2012 Penny Arcade DND Celebrity Game (Not Safe For Work: Strong language). Thanks to my friend David Fryer at The Piazza for pointing me in this direction.

Another celebrity D&D player, Hulk Hogan, displaying his favorite miniature.





-Havard



Monday, May 20, 2013

Afridhi Queen Miniature is Mine!

As I reported back in January, the miniatures made by Lance & Laser for the Dave Arneson's Blackmoor line are now once again available from Armorcast! I recieved my first batch of miniatures a few days ago and they are awesome!

The piece I really wanted to get was the miniature of Toska Rusa, the Afridhi Queen. Sculpted by Kevin Contos, this miniature was originally only a limited print item so I was pretty excited about picking it up.

Along with this miniature, I also got the Thouls, Afridhi Scouts, and I also picked up a miniature called Frogman Scout, which although I cannot confirm that it was originally part of the Blackmoor line, it just felt like it would feel very well at home in Dave Arneson's Temple of the Frog! 

For some reason I always imagined the Afridhi to look more middle eastern or asian rather than the "human-sized Frost Giant" types that these miniatures look like, but they are based on how they were presented in the D20 Blackmoor line so I cannot really complain about that. The Thouls look a little big (labelled Half-Trolls), but very nice with the archer one somewhat resembling the Thoul from the Mystara Monstrous Compendium Appenix. 

In any case I am happy about having these in my collection and will be getting the rest of the line as soon as I can :)


-Havard

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Supplement II: Blackmoor on Save or Die Podcast



I was excited to learn that in the latest Save or Die Podcast they talk about Supplement II: Blackmoor! I was a bit surprised at how critical they are when they first approach the various sections of the booklet, though some of the criticism is fair and they do offer some good analsysis of the product. I do think they forget at times to compare this booklet to the standards of the time it was written although to be fair they do mention that at one point.


What I like about the SoD gang is that they have stated that they do not claim to be experts on gaming, but rather are honest about being average gamers talking about games. This causes me to forgive the mistakes in the podcast such as (Braunstein was created by Dave Wesely, Temple of the Frog was not written for Chainmail, Monks are in fact mentioned in the FFC etc). Although some additonal information about Blackmoor and Dave Arneson's work outside Supplement II would have improved the podcast, the group have at least read the Supplement and the FFC in advance and even make references to Jon Peterson's Playing The Game.


I was a bit worried early on because it sounded like they were going to make a big deal out of "who wrote what" in Supplement II, but although they do repeat that question several times, they thankfully avoid this done to death topic for the most part. I wonder if anyone could mention any other gaming product where the credited author has undergone as much scrutiny as Dave Arneson has had to suffer. I was relieved to learn that the podcasters at least distance themselves a bit from the most vehement attackers on Dave in this respect.

The biggest disservice in the podcast, I feel is the lack of appreciating for the Temple of the Frog adventure, which was the first published adventure for D&D ever, and arguably also contains the first setting material in any D&D product. The fact that it is structurally different from most adventures that followed it, still is a pretty awesome adventure. I am also a bit surprised at the rejection of the Monk and Assassin classes. Not that the classes do not have flaws in their excecution, but to me it seems like the podcasters disliked the concepts more than their actual class features. Given the success of the Assassin's Creed game series, you would at least think that the potential assassin class would be recognized?

Having said that, I did enjoy the SoD gang chatting about this historical roleplaying supplement. It is fun to listen to them talk about the various monsters, how the illustrations (although they do like them!) seem out of place, and the connection between Blackmoor and Mystara. One of my favorite bits is towards the end when the group apparently feel bad about how hashly they have judged the booklet, go on to express their respect for Dave Arneson.

If you, like me, enjoy listening to gamers talk about Blackmoor stuff, the podcast is worth listening to.



More discussion of this article



-Havard

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The New Adventures of Bruce Heard

Well, in case you havent heard it yet, there's bad news and there's good news. Bad news is WotC has given their thumbs down to Bruce Heard's request at writing new stories for the Voyage of the Princess Ark. Although not surprising given WotC's position on lisencing out their IP since 2008, I think Bruce really wanted to do this and I know it would have been great to read more stories about Prince Haldemar of Haaken and his Skyship flying over Mystara, just like in all of those installments back in TSR Era Dragon Magazine.

Good news is, Bruce Heard will be continuing writing Mystara material on his fantastic blog. Even more good news is, Bruce will go on to publish fiction. It will be set in a world of his own creation rather than Mystara, but this may actually be a good thing too. I know I am excited about it!


Image Source

More discussion on this article

-Havard

Friday, April 26, 2013

Lorraine Williams killed the DA line?

Still hoping that Wizards of the Coast will get around to releasing more TSR era Blackmoor modules beyond the DA2 PDF I wrote about back in February, I was reading through product descriptons of modules from the dndclassics.com PDF store:
"Following the 1985 departure of Gary Gygax, Lorraine Williams is said to have purposefully cut out Gygax's friends and supporters. Thus Dave Arneson's Blackmoor adventures came to an end, and the third Lendore Isle adventure was never published by TSR."
I generally try to stay away from the feuds and disagreements happening decades ago in TSR, especially since I wasn't there at the time, but this statement struck me as quite odd with regards to the Blackmoor modules.



Now assuming that the description is true and that Lorraine Williams, CEO of TSR since 1985, did let such personal feelings affect business decisions, why would the Blackmoor modules become a target? It is well known that after Dave Arneson took TSR to court in the late 1970s, Arneson and Gygax never again were fully reconciled. On the other hand, Gygax did reach out to Arneson about getting the Blackmoor modules published. Gary would have recognized the historical value of the Blackmoor Campaign within the RPG hobby and probably also saw the business potential in having the modules published.

This seems to have been one of the last things Gary did for TSR, as the DA modules were published the year after Gary had been forced to leave the company. So, while it seems unlikely that Williams saw Dave as one of Gary's "friends and supporters", perhaps she still considered this to be one of Gary's projects? In any case  the last modules in the series; DA5 City of Blackmoor was never published, even though it had reputedly been completed by Arneson's co-author on the series, David Ritchie.






Image source: Masters of Fantasy Documentary, by Sci Fi channel.

-Havard


Monday, April 22, 2013

[characters] The Blue Rider

The Blue Rider is yet another of Blackmoor's legendary characters, just like the Wizard of the Woods or the Great Svenny. He appeared in Dave Arneson's campaign where the character was played by original group member, Bill Heaton. Bill's character was originally only known as William of the Heath and seems to have been a rather rougeish character, at first.

According to Greg Svenson, it was back in 1972 that Bill's character made the discovery what would turn him into the Blue Rider while the group was exploring the deepest levels of the Blackmoor Dungeon. There they came across an island surrounded by lava:

"William wanted to jump down to the island. Svenny was opposed, mostly ss self preservation thing. I couldn't see how we would ever get off the island if we managed to get there. William jumped anyway and managed to land on the island. The rest of us stayed on the ledge and watched. Mello took some chalk and wrote "Kilroy was here" along with the famous sketch of the head peering over a wall on the wall of the ledge. 
The dragon posed a puzzle for William. I don't recall the details, but he solved it and was was rewarded with a blue suit of magic armor and mechanical horse. I have always thought of the armor as a dark metalic blue, but the description was just blue. The armor was more like powered battledress then a suit of plate armor, for Sci-Fi fans. William doned the armor and somehow was back with us on the ledge. We all traveled back out of the dungeon."

Mello the Halfling (Played by Mel Johnson) was one of the Blue Rider's steady companions. The FFC relates how it was the armor that changed the Blue Rider's demeanor into that of a selfless hero turning him perhaps into the first Paladin or Cavalier type character in the history of D&D. After performing many heroics in the Blackmoor campaign, the Blue Rider was eventually made town constable of Blackmoor Town.

More discussion of the origins of the Blue Rider's Armor.
More discussion of this article.

Image Source

-Havard

Monday, April 15, 2013

Win Stuff!

There is a contest at The Piazza. TAD is giving away modules. All you have to do is follow some simple rules and you may win 3E modules, such as the Sunless Citadel. TAD is even willing to ship internationally.

The modules include:
- The Sunless Citadel
- The Forge of Fury
- The Speaker in Dreams
- The Standing Stone
- Heart of the Nightfang Spire
- Deep Horizon
- Lord of the Iron Fortress
- Bastion of Broken Souls


Find out how here!



-Havard

Sunday, April 7, 2013

We Remember - 4 Years

Arneson Gameday has been changed to October 1st, Dave's date of birth, rather than his day of passing which was today 4 years ago. I still think it feels right to post a picture of him today. Also, it provides me with the opportunity of sharing this little used picture of Dave from 1979. He is holding up the painting that was used as the cover art for Adventures in Fantasy, the fantasy Roleplaying Game he wrote with Richard Snider that was published by Dave's own company.



Img source: http://www.twincities.com/ci_12112297 (Pioneer Press Photo)


-Havard

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Blackmoor Frog Monsters in the DDI?

Since they went electronic, I have stopped following the Dragon and Dungeon magazines. As I never got into 4E much, I don't subscribe to the DDI. However, I occationally browse those parts of the Wizards of the Coast Website that are accessible to everyone.

The cover of Dungeon #212 caught my attention! Could there be a Blackmoor article in an issue with a huge cool looking frog monster on the cover? Sadly we're not that lucky this time around. Undoubtedly the frog on the cover is a reference to the article The Village of Hommlet and the deadly Giant Frog encounter from Gary Gygax and Frank Mentzer's module Temple of Elemental Evil.

This got me wondering if Gary got the idea of this particular encounter from Dave Arneson's Temple of the Frog. It seems very likely that this was a nod to Dave from Gygax. I was lucky enough to chat with Frank Mentzer about this module a couple of years ago, and he even brought up the Moathouse and the Frog Encounter, but for some reason I forgot to ask him about a connection between the two classic modules. In any case, the Dungeon #212 cover has a sweet Blackmoor wibe!




More discussion of this article at The Comeback Inn.


-Havard