Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Continuing Nightmare Blackness of Blackmoor Within - An OSR Campaign Commentary

The fact is that sometimes you have to go back to the well to figure out some interesting problems in OSR campaigns. How does a chaotic foaming universe or dimensional material take over another world? The answer comes in the form of  D&D Supplement II: Blackmoor (1975) book.There are vital clues to both Fairyland in Dark Albion & within the Lion & Dragon retroclone system. "D&D Supplement II: Blackmoor (1975), by Dave Arneson, is the second of four supplements for the OD&D game. It was published around November 1975." I'm not going to go into a big song & dance about the publication history of Blackmoor, you can read that right over on the DM Guild or Drivethrurpg add.
What does concern me is how the Blackmoor is an 'aggressive closed universe' & its Temple of The Frog is a pivot point for taking over other dimensions,planes, & universes.

I've played through the  Temple of the Frog adventure from the D&D Supplement II: Blackmoor (1975) book at a sand table back in 99 or so. Fact is the adventure can be played out using Chainmail rules but I came away with understanding that the temple was huge power block in the world of  Blackmoor. Here's that Blackmoor DM's Guild add piece to prove my point;"First, the Temple has armies of defenders. There are "100 or more" Brothers of the Swamp and rooms with tens of guards. It's really not clear how an adventuring party could assault the Temple … until you remember that OD&D suggested that there might be up to 50 players in a game and that the Temple was probably originally played with the Chainmail mass-combat rules.
Second, the Temple is surprisingly well-detailed. It's got an extensive background and the rooms each get a long paragraph of description. This is an adventure that was meant to reveal an evocative locale."
It doesn't simply reveal an evocative adventure location but a major army by a villain whose hell bent on take over swaths of universes for his own power block's benefit & for the 'holy cause'.
The fact is that there are little differences between the character classes, animals, & monsters of both Blackmoor & Greyhawk were minimal these are Havard's word & not mine from The Piazza where from time to time I do research;
"You should note that the old school mindset is fairly different from what people who started gaming in the mid 1980s and later when it comes to the amount of setting material they require. Most old school gamers prefer simple bare bones settings with only a few limited details and being allowed to flesh things out themselves. However, OD&D probably doesn't include enough to run a Blackmoor campaign. I would at least recomment having a map of the lands of Blackmoor or the Blackmoor Dungeon. Alot of information about Blackmoor can be found online though so in that respect you could probably find what you need without tracking down every book.

In the case of references to The Great Kingdom, the Egg of Coot etc these are just name checked in OD&D however. Some locations, most specifically the Temple of the Frog and surrounding lands are expanded upon in Supplement II. The idea of true setting books had not yet been conceived however. Each DM was expected to flesh out most of these things himself.

Back to your question about how much of a Blackmoor game you could get out of these books:
I think it is easy to overlook how closely tied OD&D is to the worlds of Greyhawk and Blackmoor. All of the creatures in the monster section first appeared in these campaign as did many of the magical items. Most of the character classes, spells and abilities were developed for the players in the campaign. The difference between core D&D, Blackmoor and Greyhawk were minimal.

The problem is that many of these things have later become associated with every campaign world and not these two worlds that formed the D&D experience from the beginning. For someone more familiar with later editions though, it might be refreshing to see what elements actually appeared in the D&D rules back then and what has been added later. I was myself quite surprised when I first learned how much of D&D had been unchanged across all the editions from 1974-2016. But still, getting the atmosphere of the original edition could help form a better understanding of the original campaigns.

I talk about Blackmoor and Greyhawk as two separate worlds. Both Gary and Dave assumed that the other's campaign setting existed in the same world. But since their knowledge of what went on in the games of the other was limited, I think it makes sense to consider them two separate settings, even though they were closely connected, at least originally."
The opinion that both Greyhawk & Blackmoor were assumed to be on the same world or setting  is key here. Things get very fuzzy when it comes to connecting campaign worlds & that's where the Temple of the Frog's villain comes in; "The villain Stephen the Rock "is an intelligent humanoid from another world/dimension". There's mention of a "hovering satellite station" and Stephen has "battle armour" and a variety of other technological items." But what does this have to do with Fairyland, Dark Albion, & Lion & Dragon? Quite a bit actually. The fact that Stephen the Rock appears in both Greyhawk & Blackmoor is significant.

Around the time of the Thirty Years War there was an uptick in UFO & Celestial phenomena including a mass sighting of a UFO battle & possible crash in 1561.

"In the morning of April 14, 1561, at daybreak, between 4 and 5 a.m., a dreadful apparition occurred on the sun, and then this was seen in Nuremberg in the city, before the gates and in the country – by many men and women. At first there appeared in the middle of the sun two blood-red semi-circular arcs, just like the moon in its last quarter. And in the sun, above and below and on both sides, the color was blood, there stood a round ball of partly dull, partly black ferrous color. Likewise there stood on both sides and as a torus about the sun such blood-red ones and other balls in large number, about three in a line and four in a square, also some alone. In between these globes there were visible a few blood-red crosses, between which there were blood-red strips, becoming thicker to the rear and in the front malleable like the rods of reed-grass, which were intermingled, among them two big rods, one on the right, the other to the left, and within the small and big rods there were three, also four and more globes. These all started to fight among themselves, so that the globes, which were first in the sun, flew out to the ones standing on both sides, thereafter, the globes standing outside the sun, in the small and large rods, flew into the sun. Besides the globes flew back and forth among themselves and fought vehemently with each other for over an hour. And when the conflict in and again out of the sun was most intense, they became fatigued to such an extent that they all, as said above, fell from the sun down upon the earth ‘as if they all burned’ and they then wasted away on the earth with immense smoke. After all this there was something like a black spear, very long and thick, sighted; the shaft pointed to the east, the point pointed west. Whatever such signs mean, God alone knows. Although we have seen, shortly one after another, many kinds of signs on the heaven, which are sent to us by the almighty God, to bring us to repentance, we still are, unfortunately, so ungrateful that we despise such high signs and miracles of God. Or we speak of them with ridicule and discard them to the wind, in order that God may send us a frightening punishment on account of our ungratefulness. After all, the God-fearing will by no means discard these signs, but will take it to heart as a warning of their merciful Father in heaven, will mend their lives and faithfully beg God, that He may avert His wrath, including the well-deserved punishment, on us, so that we may temporarily here and perpetually there, live as his children. For it, may God grant us his help, Amen. By Hanns Glaser, letter-painter of Nurnberg."
Simply put the villain Stephen the Rock is expanding his forces into other universes & setting up other Temples of The Frog ala an ever expanding chain of franchises. And he's doing it by using the old Fairyland other dimensional corridors! What does this have do with the Frogmen around the swamps of Paris?! Well a lot & for that we turn to Clark Ashton Smith's Mother of Toads in Averoigne.
"PIERRE AWOKE in the ashy dawn, when the tall black tapers had dwindled down and had melted limply in their sockets. Sick and confused, he sought vainly to remember where he was or what he had done. Then, turning a little, he saw beside him on the couch a thing that was like some impossible monster of ill dreams; a toadlike form, large as a fat woman. Its limbs were somehow like a woman's arms and legs. Its pale, warty body pressed and bulged against him, and he felt the rounded softness of something that resembled a breast.
Nausea rose within him as memory of that delirious night returned; Most foully he had been beguiled by the witch, and had succumbed to her evil enchantments."

The fact is that all of these encounters begin inside of the body of Europe & the infection of chaos spreads outwards. The culpurt of the chaos is the Great Old One's Tsathoggua whose aggressive worshipers spread his horror across time & space. The end results can be seen in the Arthurian wastelands of Zothique whose very inhabitants are completely feckless to stop their march towards doom. A metaphor of our own times?! Perhaps not because these are places that need heroes & PC's to stop the march towards doom & extinction. This spread of chaos & corruption is illustrated even more violently in Smith's short story "The Tale of Satampra Zeiros", written in 1929 and published in the November 1931 issue of Weird Tales.
"The basin ... was filled with a sort of viscous and semi-liquescent substance, quite opaque and of a sooty color.... [T]he center swelled as if with the action of some powerful yeast [and] an uncouth amorphous head with dull and bulging eyes arose gradually on an ever-lengthening neck ... Then two arms—if one could call them arms—likewise arose inch by inch, and we saw that the thing was not ... a creature immersed in the liquid, but that the liquid itself had put forth this hideous neck and head, and [it was now forming arms] that groped toward us with tentacle-like appendages in lieu of claws or hands! ... Then the whole mass of the dark fluid began to rise [and] poured over the rim of the basin like a torrent of black quicksilver, taking as it reached the floor an undulant ophidian form which immediately developed more than a dozen short legs.
Clark Ashton Smith, "The Tale of Satampra Zeiros""

We get an even deeper look into the end results of this sort of slow & yet violent corruption within Dark Albion's setting with France completely under the domination of the demonic frogmen.

Make no mistake these various factions of chaos are going to be working against one another for that is the very nature of chaos itself. But for the Temple of Toad to be pivotal in Europe during the Thirty Years War its going to be during the Huguenot rebellions when France is vulnerable.

"Following the Wars of Religion of 1562–1598, the Protestant Huguenots of France (mainly located in the northwestern provinces) had enjoyed two decades of internal peace under Henry IV, who was originally a Huguenot before converting to Catholicism, and had protected Protestants through the Edict of Nantes. His successor, Louis XIII, under the regency of his Italian Catholic mother, Marie de' Medici, was much less tolerant. The Huguenots responded to increasing persecution by arming themselves, forming independent political and military structures, establishing diplomatic contacts with foreign powers, and finally, openly revolting against the central power. The revolt became an international conflict with the involvement of England in the Anglo-French War (1627–29). The House of Stuart in England had been involved in attempts to secure peace in Europe (through the Spanish Match), and had intervened in the war against both Spain and France. However, defeat by the French (which indirectly led to the assassination of the English leader the Duke of Buckingham), lack of funds for war, and internal conflict between Charles I and his Parliament led to a redirection of English involvement in European affairs – much to the dismay of Protestant forces on the continent. This had the continued reliance on the Anglo-Dutch brigade as the main agency of English military participation against the Habsburgs, though regiments also fought for Sweden thereafter.[43] France remained the largest Catholic kingdom unaligned with the Habsburg powers, and would later actively wage war against Spain. The French Crown's response to the Huguenot rebellion was not so much a representation of the typical religious polarization of the Thirty Years' War, but rather of an attempt at achieving national hegemony by an absolutist monarchy."
The villain Stephen the Rock is carrying out his master the Great Old One's Tsathoggua whose ironic sense of humor is to use the old dimensional pathways created by the Elves.
Rackham elves

Now surly there's not a single Arthurian literature or mythological angle here? Yes there is in the form of  the early appearances of Sir Lancelot du Lac (meaning Lancelot of the Lake), alternatively also written as Launcelot and other spellings, is one of the Knights of the Round Table in the Arthurian legend.

"Scholar Roger Sherman Loomis suggested that Lancelot is related to either the character Llenlleog (Llenlleawg) the Irishman from Culhwch and Olwen (which associates him with the "headland of Gan(i)on") or the Welsh hero Llwch Llawwynnauc (probably a version of the euhemerized Irish deity Lugh Lonbemnech), possibly via a now-forgotten epithet like "Lamhcalad".[1][2] Traditional scholars thought that they are the same figure due to the fact that their names are similar and that they both wield a sword and fight for a cauldron in Preiddeu Annwn and Culhwch.
Modern scholars are less certain. One suggestion has been that the name may have been an invention by Chrétien de Troyes, given the manuscript evidence of L'Ancelot[citation needed], since ancelot means "servant." Another suggestion is that the name may have been derived from Geoffrey of Monmouth's Anguselaus. However, one scholar has suggested that Lancelot may be a variant of the name Lancelin.[3] Lancelot or Lancelin may instead have been the hero of an independent folk-tale which had contact with and was ultimately absorbed into the Arthurian tradition.
The theft of an infant by a water-fairy, the appearance of the hero at a tournament on three consecutive days in three different disguises, and the rescue of a queen or princess from an Otherworld prison are all features of a well-known and widespread tale, variants of which are found in almost every land and numerous examples of which have been collected by Theodore Hersart de la Villemarqué in his Barzaz Breiz, by Emmanuel Cosquin in his Contes Lorrains, and by J. F. Campbell in his Tales of the West Highlands."
The theft by a 'water fairy' suggests a nasty set up and kidnapping by Deep One forces but the family of du Lac have been fighting chaos for centuries even into the Thirty Years War. The Camelot schism  of the obvious adultery with King Arthur's wife Queen Guinevere  might in fact be an entirely different branch of the du Lac family.

It is worthy of note that the theme of Lancelot's adulterous passion for Guinevere is entirely absent from another early work, namely the Lanzelet of Ulrich von Zatzikhoven, a Middle High German epic poem dating from the very end of the 12th century ( no earlier than 1194 ). Ulrich asserts that his poem is a translation from an earlier French work, the provenance of which is given and which must have differed markedly in several points from Chretien's Le Chevalier de la Charrette. In Lanzelet the abductor of Ginover ( Guinevere ) is named as King Valerin, whose name ( unlike that of Chrétien's Meleagant ) does not appear to derive from the Welsh Melwas. Furthermore, her rescuer is not Lanzelet, who, instead, ends by finding happiness in marriage with the curiously-named princess Iblis ( whose name will be more generally familiar as one of those applied to the Devil in the Quran ). It has been suggested that Lancelot, who is mentioned for the first time by Chrétien de Troyes in his first romance Erec and Enide, was originally the hero of a story independent of the adulterous love triangle and perhaps very similar to Ulrich's version. If this is true, then the adultery motif might either have been invented by Chrétien for his Chevalier de la Charrette or been present in the ( now lost ) source provided him by his patroness, Marie de Champagne ( a lady well known for her keen interest in matters relating to Courtly Love).

We know that
King Arthur's wife Queen Guinevere  had deep ties to Avalon & perhaps its witch queen families.  So there is a tie here deeply to the Elven agenda.
"In one of the Welsh Triads (Trioedd Ynys Prydein, no. 56), there are three Gwenhwyfars married to King Arthur; the first is the daughter of Cywryd of Gwent, the second of Gwythyr ap Greidawl, and the third of (G)ogrfan Gawr ("the Giant").[8] In a variant of another Welsh Triad (Trioedd Ynys Prydein, no. 54), only the daughter of Gogfran Gawr is mentioned. Two other Triads (Trioedd Ynys Prydein, no. 53, 84) mention Gwenhwyfar's contention with her sister Gwenhwyfach, which was believed to be the cause of the Battle of Camlann. In the Welsh folktale Culhwch and Olwen, she is mentioned alongside her sister, Gwenhwyfach. In Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae, she is described as one of the great beauties of Britain, descended from a noble Roman family and educated under Cador, Duke of Cornwall.

Guinevere is childless in most stories,[9] two exceptions being the Perlesvaus and the Alliterative Morte Arthure.[10] In Alliterative Morte Arthure, Guinevere willingly becomes Mordred's consort and bears him two sons, though this is implied rather than stated in the text. There were mentions of Arthur's sons in the Welsh Triads, though their exact parentage is not clear.
Other family relations are equally obscure. A half-sister and a brother play the antagonists in the Lancelot–Grail and the German romance Diu Crône respectively, but neither character is mentioned elsewhere. Welsh tradition remembers the queen's sister Gwenhyvach and records the enmity between them. While later literature almost always named Leodegrance as Guinevere's father, her mother was usually unmentioned, although she was sometimes said to be dead; this is the case in the Middle English romance The Awntyrs off Arthure (The Adventures of Arthur), in which the ghost of Guinevere's mother appears to her daughter and Gawain in Inglewood Forest. Other works name cousins of note, though these do not usually appear in more than one place."

All of these up point the fact that forgotten kingdoms & half remembered lands have been taken by Fairyland for generations. These places want their place in the world back & across time & space the playing pieces are being moved in the form of cults of chaos.

This might also up point some of the background of future events that we see within CAS's Zothique series especially within;
  • In the Book of Vergama (1934)
  • Isle of the Torturers, The (1933)
  • Last Hieroglyph, The (1935)

    Blackmoor's Egg of Coot itself operates in a similar fashion using its own cults throughout the universe of Blackmoor. It spreads its corruption and moves on with its own bio mechanical horror. Very dangerous and nasty unto itself especially for adventurers who run afoul of it.
    I have a far more Lovecraftian take on the Egg & after numerous interactions with players having interactions with it across time & space its name isn't well liked.
    Blackmoor's & original Dungeons & Dragons power block factions continue to play their part within my home campaigns.

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