Photo from Madeline Ferwerda from
Dming Blackmoor at ConQuesT 2006
Yesterday was David Lance "Dave" Arneson birthday, he's the co creator of original Dungeons & Dragons. He's also the gentleman who was responsible for the creation of Blackmoor from the ground up. Wiki has a breakdown of the where & when of Blackmoor;"Following the departure of David Wesely to armed service duty in October 1970, Arneson began to imagine a medieval fantasy style Braunstein wherein the players explored the dungeons of a castle inhabited by fantastic monsters. Arneson adjusted his Braunsteins to allow players to play themselves in the Barony of Blackmoor, where they would escort caravans, fight against the forces of evil, and delve into the sewers beneath Castle Blackmoor - which originated in a plastic kit that Arneson had of a Sicilian castle.:6 Originally Arneson played his own mix of rules and used rock, paper, scissors to resolve combat, but later adapted elements from his naval wargame rules which had an armor class system like that later used in D&D. "I had spent the previous two days watching about five monster movies on channel 5's 'Creature Feature' weekend, reading several Conan books (I cannot recall which ones, but I always thought they were all pretty much the same), and stuffing myself with popcorn, doodling on a piece of graph paper. At the time, I was quite tired of my Nappy (Napoleonic) campaign with all its rigid rules and was rebelling against it." The Fantasy combat system appearing in the Chainmail rules, written by Gygax and Jeff Perren and published in the spring of 1971, were also applied for a short time. Finding those lacking, Arneson wrote modified rules to apply to his role-playing game scenarios. The game that evolved from those modifications to Chainmail was the game Blackmoor, which modern players of D&D would describe as a campaign setting rather than a "complete game." The gameplay would be recognizable to modern D&D players, featuring the use of fixed hit points, armor class, character development, and dungeon crawls. This setting was fleshed out over time and continues to be played to the present day. Arneson described Blackmoor as "roleplaying in a non-traditional medieval setting. I have such things as steam power, gunpowder, and submarines in limited numbers. There was even a tank running around for a while. The emphasis is on the story and the roleplaying." Details of Blackmoor and the original campaign, which was by then established on the map of the Castle & Crusade Society's "Great Kingdom", were first brought to print briefly in issue #13 of the Domesday Book, the newsletter of the Castle & Crusade Society in July 1972, and later in much-expanded form as The First Fantasy Campaign, published by Judges Guild in 1977."
Seventy seven is where I where I come in & heard about Blackmoor in whispered tones around the 1970's kitchen table top where we played Metamorphosis Alpha first edition & Gamma World. Blackmoor was a mysterious and legendary place told about around campfires. But what Blackmoor really meant to us players & DM's was a blending of science fiction & fantasy, this happens quite often in war game campaigns of the science fantasy variety but not in early in TSR era D&D. Oh it wasn't until much later that I would crack that particular puzzle when I got introduced the laid back world of flats war games and minis.
So you see in a way Black Moor introduced me to Judge's Guild and not the other way around. It wasn't until much later on that the The First Fantasy Campaign, published by Judges Guild in 1977. At this point I don't really care what the falling out was between Gary Gygax & Dave Arneson, there are some excellent articles out there that outline that including PAUL LA FARGE Destroy All Monsters & this thread on rpgstackexchange.com. Since everyone has an opinion about the subject here's mine, I think that these were two guys who loved war games and ultimately they had very different approaches to life. Those differences caused a rift that grew into a fractured split right down the middle of life. But I'm not here to stoke those fires and instead I'm here to celebrate the life of this co father of Dungeons & Dragons. As his daughter said in the past , Malia Weinhagen, "The biggest thing about my dad's world is he wanted people to have fun in life ... I think we get distracted by the everyday things you have to do in life and we forget to enjoy life and have fun."
So let's talk about Blackmoor and the First Fantasy from Judge's Guild,it has all of the gonzo fantastic elements that I've come to love about that era of gaming. "
Written by Dave Arneson and published by Judges Guild in 1977, First Fantasy Campaign added information on the actual Blackmoor campaign setting. It included baronies, citadels, history of leaders and details on the Blackmoor dungeon. It also contained additional rules for creating lairs, character interests and vocations.
The First Fantasy Campaign anthologizes material produced at various stages of the Blackmoor campaign, from Scenario 3 (1972) up to the Blackmoor dungeons Arneson commonly ran at conventions in 1976. Only a relatively small amount of original material, primarily link text, was written specifically for the First Fantasy Campaign, though all maps and some connected illustrations were redrawn and relettered by the Judges Guild's Bob Bledsaw. Thus, the First Fantasy Campaign is a rich repository of pre-Dungeons & Dragons material which preserves original rules and campaign events. For example, it contains the entirety of the "Facts about Black Moor" article from Domesday Book #13. It also contains circa-1972 price lists as well as rules dating from the exile of the Blackmoor Bunch to Loch Gloomen late in 1972"
Blackmoor is still one of my favorite worlds to pull the trigger on and dust off to use bits & pieces in campaign worlds. Even today I love to grab a retroclone system and cross compare Blackmoor. The gonzo weirdness of Darkmoor still resonates with me today and in that regard Dave Arneson still lives on at my and many others table.
So grab some dice and some friends, raise a glass of Mountain Dew or your favorite mead and give a toast to Dave Arneson's Birthday this weekend!