Blackmoor Week Retrospective: 1980s Products (BECMI)

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Blackmoor Week Retrospective: 1980s Products (BECMI)

Postby Havard » Tue Sep 27, 2016 5:24 pm

For my second post in the Blackmoor Week Retrospective threads about Blackmoor Products, I will look at the Blackmoor Material that came out in the 1980s. I have already talked about the books that came out in the 1970s. The ones from the 1980s are:

  • DA1 Adventures in Blackmoor
  • DA2 Temple of the Frog
  • DA3 City of the Gods
  • DA4 Duchy of Ten
  • DA5 City of Blackmoor - never published
  • Garbage Pits of Despair


DA1 Adventures in Blackmoor (1986)
This module is the first of the DA line. These modules were co-written by Dave Arneson and David Ritchie. This first module provides a really good overview of the setting in general. As with all of the DA series, the modules assume that Blackmoor exists in Mystara's past and that time travel, is necessary to reach the lands of Blackmoor. However, there is nothing preventing a DM from ignoring that section of the module and run it with PCs that are native to Blackmoor or from Greyhawk or another setting.
I have written some more thoughts on this module at the Comeback Inn here.
DA1 Adventures in Blackmoor at the Blackmoor Archives


DA2 Temple of the Frog
This module follows the same setup as DA1 and could be used as a sequel to that module or be run as its own thing. DA2 visits the classic location of the Temple of the Frog, the site of the adventure originally appearing in D&D Supplement II.
Comeback Inn discussion of this module can be found here.
In this blog article, I talk about the many different verisons of the Temple of the Frog
DA2 Temple of the Frog at the Blackmoor Archives


DA3 City of the Gods (1987)
This is the third module in the series. It visits for the first time, the location that killed off many of the characters in Dave's campaign, the dreaded City of the Gods. Gary Gygax's charcter Mordenkeinen even nearly met his doom in this place when Dave Arneson ran a game for Gary and Rob Kuntz. The odd combination of fantasy and science fiction that Dave liked so much was hinted at in the earlier modules, but in this one, that comes to full effect. Here's a Comeback Inn thread about this module.
DA3 City of the Gods at the Blackmoor Archives


DA4 Duchy of Ten (1987)
DA4 is the final module in the series. This modules takes the adventurers to the neighbouring realm of the Duchy of Ten. At the time of the adventure, those lands are under occupation by the evil race known as the Afridhi. Can the heroes survive travelling through these occupied lands and destroy the evil artifact that gives the Afridhi their power? Comeback Inn thread on this module here.
DA4 Duchy of Ten at the Blackmoor Archives

DA5 City of Blackmoor
Sadly DA5 was never published. Most likely it would have included information that is found in the First Fantasy Campaign and the d20 Dungeons of Castle Blackmoor.
DA5 City of Blackmoor at the Blackmoor Archives

Garbage Pits of Despair (1986)
This adventure was published in Different Worlds magazine #42 and #43. More details on this module at the Comeback Inn.

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Re: Blackmoor Week Retrospective: 1980s Products (BECMI)

Postby Big Mac » Tue Sep 27, 2016 7:44 pm

These products are what I originally thought were the first Blackmoor products.

I didn't realise this was the second run of Blackmoor until fairly recently. Is Blackmoor the first campaign setting to be supported by two sets of rules?

Havard wrote:DA1 Adventures in Blackmoor (1986)
This module is the first of the DA line. These modules were co-written by Dave Arneson and David Ritchie. This first module provides a really good overview of the setting in general. As with all of the DA series, the modules assume that Blackmoor exists in Mystara's past and that time travel, is necessary to reach the lands of Blackmoor. However, there is nothing preventing a DM from ignoring that section of the module and run it with PCs that are native to Blackmoor or from Greyhawk or another setting.
I have written some more thoughts on this module at the Comeback Inn here.


I don't hear too much about David Ritchie. Has he done any non-Blackmoor stuff? Did he come back and work on any of the 3rd Edition stuff?

Do you know where the idea to retcon Blackmoor into Mystara's history for the DA products came from? Was this an attempt to sell Blackmoor to Mystara fans? Was it an attempt to sell Mystara to Blackmoor fans? Or was something like BECMI always intended to be built around Dave Arneson's side of D&D from the word go? If you cut out the time-travel stuff, and assume DA1 is used as a continuation of an existing 1970s Blackmoor campaign, do you loose a large section of the book?

Aside from the Mystara connection, what's the deal with the "Adventures in Blackmoor" concept? Is this literally a collection of mini adventures?

How well does DA1 work with the earlier Blackmoor products? Is there anything in them that is not in this book?

Havard wrote:DA2 Temple of the Frog
This module follows the same setup as DA1 and could be used as a sequel to that module or be run as its own thing. DA2 visits the classic location of the Temple of the Frog, the site of the adventure originally appearing in D&D Supplement II.
Comeback Inn discussion of this module can be found here.
In this blog article, I talk about the many different verisons of the Temple of the Frog


How does well does DA2 work for anyone who skipped DA1? Would they have a version of Blackmoor that does not include that time-travel concept? Or is that concept continued in DA2?

Is there any reason why you think DA2 comes second, rather than being the first Blackmoor product from this era? Do you think that Dave Arneson wanted to give fans something new, before he went back and expanded an existing thing?

Havard wrote:DA3 City of the Gods (1987)
This is the third module in the series. It visits for the first time, the location that killed off many of the characters in Dave's campaign, the dreaded City of the Gods. Gary Gygax's charcter Mordenkeinen even nearly met his doom in this place when Dave Arneson ran a game for Gary and Rob Kuntz. The odd combination of fantasy and science fiction that Dave liked so much was hinted at in the earlier modules, but in this one, that comes to full effect. Here's a Comeback Inn thread about this module.


I used to think that Blackmoor was a campaign set in and around a single city. Is this City of the Gods a second city?

How does the science fiction + fantasy approach of Dave Arneson compare with later D&D campaign settings, where science fiction elements got played down more and more?

Do you think that Eberron is a return to the sort of feel that Dave Arneson was going for with the 1970s and 80s products? Could some of the things like the Warforged and artificers fit in with Dave Arneson's vibe better than things from most of the 2nd Edition era settings?

Havard wrote:DA4 Duchy of Ten (1987)
DA4 is the final module in the series. This modules takes the adventurers to the neighbouring realm of the Duchy of Ten. At the time of the adventure, those lands are under occupation by the evil race known as the Afridhi. Can the heroes survive travelling through these occupied lands and destroy the evil artifact that gives the Afridhi their power? Comeback Inn thread on this module here.


I've heard that Greyhawk has a similar location to this. Did that get used as an excuse for designers to support this location after Blackmoor was out of print?

Havard wrote:DA5 City of Blackmoor
Sadly DA5 was never published. Most likely it would have included information that is found in the First Fantasy Campaign and the d20 Dungeons of Castle Blackmoor.


Why do you think that the City of Blackmoor (which would seem to be the main area) was pushed back to DA5 in the schedule? Does DA1 give you an overview of the city that DA5 would have expanded on?

Have you ever seen an outline for DA5 in a 1980s TSR catalogue? Do you know if they actually started work on this (or finished it and abandoned it just before it was due to be printed?

Did DA1-DA4 have an unexpectedly low number of sales? Or was there some of that weird internal D&D politics going on here?

Havard wrote:Garbage Pits of Despair (1986)
This adventure was published in Different Worlds magazine #42 and #43. More details on this module at the Comeback Inn.


Different Worlds is a non-TSR thing, right? That would make this the second time that Blackmoor left TSR and went to another company.

Was Different Worlds a Judges Guild thing or is this the third Blackmoor publisher?

What's the deal with this? Was this licensed by TSR to whoever owned Different Worlds? Or did Dave Arneson have some sort of "first refusal" deal with TSR that meant he could sell Blackmoor products to anyone he wanted to if TSR didn't want to buy them?
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Re: Blackmoor Week Retrospective: 1980s Products (BECMI)

Postby Havard » Tue Sep 27, 2016 10:09 pm

Big Mac wrote:These products are what I originally thought were the first Blackmoor products.

I didn't realise this was the second run of Blackmoor until fairly recently. Is Blackmoor the first campaign setting to be supported by two sets of rules?

Havard wrote:DA1 Adventures in Blackmoor (1986)
This module is the first of the DA line. These modules were co-written by Dave Arneson and David Ritchie. This first module provides a really good overview of the setting in general. As with all of the DA series, the modules assume that Blackmoor exists in Mystara's past and that time travel, is necessary to reach the lands of Blackmoor. However, there is nothing preventing a DM from ignoring that section of the module and run it with PCs that are native to Blackmoor or from Greyhawk or another setting.
I have written some more thoughts on this module at the Comeback Inn here.


I don't hear too much about David Ritchie. Has he done any non-Blackmoor stuff? Did he come back and work on any of the 3rd Edition stuff?


David Ritchie did alot of board game design. He also did DragonQuest (The RPG from the early 1980s, not the 1992 Dragon Quest Board Game. Ritchie never returned to Blackmoor in the d20 era. He passed away in 2009 so his health may have had something to do with that. More details about David Ritchie, including a complete list of his RPG design credits, can be found here.

Do you know where the idea to retcon Blackmoor into Mystara's history for the DA products came from? Was this an attempt to sell Blackmoor to Mystara fans? Was it an attempt to sell Mystara to Blackmoor fans? Or was something like BECMI always intended to be built around Dave Arneson's side of D&D from the word go? If you cut out the time-travel stuff, and assume DA1 is used as a continuation of an existing 1970s Blackmoor campaign, do you loose a large section of the book?


Remember that Mystara was not called Mystara at the time, it was only called the D&D Game World. I guess the idea was that all adventure modules for the Classic D&D line (Non-Advanved) was supposed to be placed in the same universe. With the organic development of Mystara, I don't even know if the term retcon applies. But the idea of placing it into the setting's past is an interesting one. It is also something that Bruce Heard really followed up on, including references to Blackmoor in almost every subsequent product.

Aside from the Mystara connection, what's the deal with the "Adventures in Blackmoor" concept? Is this literally a collection of mini adventures?


I think it is more of a typical TSR title. You have Greyhawk Adventures, Dragonlance Adventures and Adventures in Blackmoor. The adventures were originally intended to be called the Blackmoor Chronicles actually. I dont know why they changed that.

Back to the actual contents of the module. I don't know how familar you are with the terms Sandbox and Railroad? The DA modules are in a way an attempt to do both. While each module contains a fairly streamlined adventure, there is tons of additional information about what to do in this or that area, NPCs that could show up, but don't have to etc. So you could actually ignore the main story adventure and still have many hours of gameplay.

It should also be noted that these modules are for fairly high level play. DA1 is for levels 10-14, which means it takes advantage of many of the special adventure concepts from the Companion Set. This is a pretty good fit for Blackmoor since Dave Arneson's campaign would often involve controlling armies and baronies (Dominons) etc.

The module can be adapted to lower level play though, especially if you ignore the main storyline and simply use the module to explore the lands of Blackmoor. Beware of some really powerful monsters and NPCs though!


How well does DA1 work with the earlier Blackmoor products? Is there anything in them that is not in this book?


These adventures are set 30 years after the First Fantasy Campaign and the 1970s Blackmoor products. And yes, there are lots of things from the older material that was not included in DA1. I think DA1 is a great introduction to the setting of Blackmoor however.

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Re: Blackmoor Week Retrospective: 1980s Products (BECMI)

Postby Havard » Tue Sep 27, 2016 10:25 pm

Big Mac wrote:
Havard wrote:DA2 Temple of the Frog
This module follows the same setup as DA1 and could be used as a sequel to that module or be run as its own thing. DA2 visits the classic location of the Temple of the Frog, the site of the adventure originally appearing in D&D Supplement II.
Comeback Inn discussion of this module can be found here.
In this blog article, I talk about the many different verisons of the Temple of the Frog


How does well does DA2 work for anyone who skipped DA1?


While technically a sequel, you can easily run DA2 without having run DA1. The module even adresses this issue.

Would they have a version of Blackmoor that does not include that time-travel concept? Or is that concept continued in DA2?


It continues with the same assumption. It is fairly easy to ignore these bits, but the first part of the module assumes that the PCs are from the future. This has no effect on the main part of the module though, so removing it is really easy.

Is there any reason why you think DA2 comes second, rather than being the first Blackmoor product from this era? Do you think that Dave Arneson wanted to give fans something new, before he went back and expanded an existing thing?


Actually, I think this is just more in line with Dave Arneson's original campaign. The Blackmoor Campaign was already in its third year when the group began exploring the swamps. So I think this is what was going on in Dave's mind. DA2 is also where the science fiction elements of the setting become more apparent and thus has a nice lead in towards DA3 City of the Gods.

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Re: Blackmoor Week Retrospective: 1980s Products (BECMI)

Postby Havard » Tue Sep 27, 2016 10:58 pm

Big Mac wrote:
Havard wrote:DA3 City of the Gods (1987)
This is the third module in the series. It visits for the first time, the location that killed off many of the characters in Dave's campaign, the dreaded City of the Gods. Gary Gygax's charcter Mordenkeinen even nearly met his doom in this place when Dave Arneson ran a game for Gary and Rob Kuntz. The odd combination of fantasy and science fiction that Dave liked so much was hinted at in the earlier modules, but in this one, that comes to full effect. Here's a Comeback Inn thread about this module.


I used to think that Blackmoor was a campaign set in and around a single city. Is this City of the Gods a second city?


The City of the Gods is not a city, it is a huge space ship half buried in the sands of the Valley of the Ancients.

How does the science fiction + fantasy approach of Dave Arneson compare with later D&D campaign settings, where science fiction elements got played down more and more?


Dave Arneson took his inspiration from early fantasy and sci fi novels which often blurred the lines themselves. It was not until later that these became seen as clearly separate genres. I am not sure what you mean by "compare to"? Mystara continues the legacy of Blackmoor and also deals with science and advanced technology existing in a D&D universe.


Do you think that Eberron is a return to the sort of feel that Dave Arneson was going for with the 1970s and 80s products?


Interesting question. I think Eberron has a very different starting point, but produces some of the same results. Eberron experts may disagree with me on this though :)

Could some of the things like the Warforged and artificers fit in with Dave Arneson's vibe better than things from most of the 2nd Edition era settings?


I would definitely allow something like Warforged in a Blackmoor Campaign, though I would call them Robots. :)

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Re: Blackmoor Week Retrospective: 1980s Products (BECMI)

Postby Cthulhudrew » Wed Sep 28, 2016 1:13 am

Havard wrote:
Big Mac wrote:
How does the science fiction + fantasy approach of Dave Arneson compare with later D&D campaign settings, where science fiction elements got played down more and more?


Dave Arneson took his inspiration from early fantasy and sci fi novels which often blurred the lines themselves. It was not until later that these became seen as clearly separate genres. I am not sure what you mean by "compare to"? Mystara continues the legacy of Blackmoor and also deals with science and advanced technology existing in a D&D universe.


I'd add to this that- at least among the early hobbyists (Gygaz, Arneson, et al)- there didn't seem to be quite the "Keep your sci-fi out of my fantasy!" approach that kind of came with more widespread adoption of the game. If you look back at the early days of the hobby and TSR, there were all kinds of crossovers of genres- lasers and spaceships turned up in Gygax' Greyhawk games as well as Arneson's Blackmoor. TSR itself published a lot of both types of games and made allowances here and there for crossovers: witness such items as the Alternate World Gate in the D&D accessory Book of Marvelous Magic, or numerous articles in Dragon that posited crossovers (one of the very early Dragon magazine articles was about WWII era tanks in D&D- this was the original D&D pre-AD&D or BECMI).

If you think about it, it makes sense; most of these guys came into the hobby (the ones that didn't create it) via tabletop wargaming, which was very much more WWII/military oriented. They read pulp fiction which was written by folks who dabbled in both sci-fi and fantasy (when they weren't mashing them together themselves). So the technology of Blackmoor wasn't really as big a thing, I think, as perhaps it became later on.

In any event, as to the DA series itself, aside from module DA3 City of the Gods, there isn't a big emphasis at all on sci-fi/technology. Even DA2 doesn't really have a lot of it. The main emphasis is just on the setting, which is otherwise traditional high-fantasy. Even the technology is really presented in magical terminology/mechanics (sometimes with non-tech sounding names).
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Re: Blackmoor Week Retrospective: 1980s Products (BECMI)

Postby RobJN » Wed Sep 28, 2016 6:46 am

Big Mac wrote:
Havard wrote:DA1 Adventures in Blackmoor (1986)
This module is the first of the DA line. These modules were co-written by Dave Arneson and David Ritchie. This first module provides a really good overview of the setting in general. As with all of the DA series, the modules assume that Blackmoor exists in Mystara's past and that time travel, is necessary to reach the lands of Blackmoor. However, there is nothing preventing a DM from ignoring that section of the module and run it with PCs that are native to Blackmoor or from Greyhawk or another setting.
I have written some more thoughts on this module at the Comeback Inn here.


Do you know where the idea to retcon Blackmoor into Mystara's history for the DA products came from? Was this an attempt to sell Blackmoor to Mystara fans? Was it an attempt to sell Mystara to Blackmoor fans? Or was something like BECMI always intended to be built around Dave Arneson's side of D&D from the word go? If you cut out the time-travel stuff, and assume DA1 is used as a continuation of an existing 1970s Blackmoor campaign, do you loose a large section of the book?


The information at the DM's Guild pretty much covers your first question there, Big Mac. I would agree with Applecline's supposition that the move to produce the DA series was very likely something that shook out in the settlement of the various lawsuits, as the DAs were produced for the "basic" version of the game, rather than flying under Gary's "Advanced" banner. Rather than come up with another world whole cloth on which to plop Blackmoor, I think the idea to place it in the Known World's past as a great lost empire was a stroke of genius.

As far as cross-marketing goes, Mystara was very much a small slice of the D&D audience, and Blackmoor an even smaller slice. For many of us in the late 80s, who had no idea about the machinations at the TSR offices, the DA series was just another batch of cool, new adventures for the Expert and Companion rule sets. And -- Ooh! Laser guns!

The timey-wimey stuff in DA1 is sort of intrinsic to the overall plot of that adventure, but the links between the Kingdom of Blackmoor and the Known World can easily be severed -- the module addresses this. Cutting out the KW/Blackmoor link maybe trims a full page of boxed text from the module.

Big Mac wrote:Aside from the Mystara connection, what's the deal with the "Adventures in Blackmoor" concept? Is this literally a collection of mini adventures?

The module only contains one scenario, a kidnapping plot which the PCs are contracted to unravel. It describes the Comeback Inn across three separate timestreams. This takes up perhaps 1/2 of the page count. The rest is devoted to outlining the Kingdom of Blackmoor, giving thumbnail history, describing the rogues, regents, and rascals, and dangling adventure idea after adventure idea for the DM to grab onto and run with at his or her leisure.

Some of us have kept the timey-wimey elements of the module in only as flavor, trapping the PCs in the Inn, which is under assault from a demonic infection that is fast spreading through the Inn's staff and patrons -- some of which include the King's Companions! :evil:
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Re: Blackmoor Week Retrospective: 1980s Products (BECMI)

Postby Havard » Fri Sep 30, 2016 7:12 pm

Big Mac wrote:
Havard wrote:Garbage Pits of Despair (1986)
This adventure was published in Different Worlds magazine #42 and #43. More details on this module at the Comeback Inn.


Different Worlds is a non-TSR thing, right? That would make this the second time that Blackmoor left TSR and went to another company.

Was Different Worlds a Judges Guild thing or is this the third Blackmoor publisher?

What's the deal with this? Was this licensed by TSR to whoever owned Different Worlds? Or did Dave Arneson have some sort of "first refusal" deal with TSR that meant he could sell Blackmoor products to anyone he wanted to if TSR didn't want to buy them?


Different Worlds was in fact published by Chaosium (The company behind Call of Cthulhu, Runequest etc), but covered all games, not just Chaosium's. I don't know what the specifics with the Blackmoor lisence for this adventure, but it could have been part of Dave Arneson's deal with TSR that he would be allowed to publish some adventures in 3rd party magazines to help promote the DA modules which were being published at the time. I believe this was also the time when Dave Arneson was actually working for Different Worlds, during the time he was living in California, so that could be another reason why the adventure appeared there.

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Re: Blackmoor Week Retrospective: 1980s Products (BECMI)

Postby Dragon Turtle » Sat Oct 01, 2016 3:42 pm

Discussion of DA5 City of Blackmoor has been split off into a separate thread here: viewtopic.php?f=24&t=16541

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Re: Blackmoor Week Retrospective: 1980s Products (BECMI)

Postby Havard » Sun Oct 02, 2016 8:23 pm

Cthulhudrew wrote:
Havard wrote:
Big Mac wrote:
How does the science fiction + fantasy approach of Dave Arneson compare with later D&D campaign settings, where science fiction elements got played down more and more?


Dave Arneson took his inspiration from early fantasy and sci fi novels which often blurred the lines themselves. It was not until later that these became seen as clearly separate genres. I am not sure what you mean by "compare to"? Mystara continues the legacy of Blackmoor and also deals with science and advanced technology existing in a D&D universe.


I'd add to this that- at least among the early hobbyists (Gygaz, Arneson, et al)- there didn't seem to be quite the "Keep your sci-fi out of my fantasy!" approach that kind of came with more widespread adoption of the game. If you look back at the early days of the hobby and TSR, there were all kinds of crossovers of genres- lasers and spaceships turned up in Gygax' Greyhawk games as well as Arneson's Blackmoor. TSR itself published a lot of both types of games and made allowances here and there for crossovers: witness such items as the Alternate World Gate in the D&D accessory Book of Marvelous Magic, or numerous articles in Dragon that posited crossovers (one of the very early Dragon magazine articles was about WWII era tanks in D&D- this was the original D&D pre-AD&D or BECMI).

If you think about it, it makes sense; most of these guys came into the hobby (the ones that didn't create it) via tabletop wargaming, which was very much more WWII/military oriented. They read pulp fiction which was written by folks who dabbled in both sci-fi and fantasy (when they weren't mashing them together themselves). So the technology of Blackmoor wasn't really as big a thing, I think, as perhaps it became later on.


You are making some very good points here. It seems it became a big thing simply because later settings didnt have or severely played down these concepts. Alot of early fantasy RPG worlds have sci fi elements though: Tekumel, Talislanta, Mystara and even Greyhawk.


In any event, as to the DA series itself, aside from module DA3 City of the Gods, there isn't a big emphasis at all on sci-fi/technology. Even DA2 doesn't really have a lot of it. The main emphasis is just on the setting, which is otherwise traditional high-fantasy. Even the technology is really presented in magical terminology/mechanics (sometimes with non-tech sounding names).


True. In the original campaign it was always there, but Blackmoor was still primarily a fantasy world similar to Sword & Sorcery and Tolkienesque Fantasy.

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Re: Blackmoor Week Retrospective: 1980s Products (BECMI)

Postby Havard » Sun Oct 09, 2016 9:01 pm

I have now set up pages for the DA modules at the Blackmoor Archives (my website):

DA1 Adventures in Blackmoor at the Blackmoor Archives
DA2 Temple of the Frog at the Blackmoor Archives
DA3 City of the Gods at the Blackmoor Archives
DA4 Duchy of Ten at the Blackmoor Archives
DA5 City of Blackmoor at the Blackmoor Archives

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Havard
Dragon Turtle
 
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Joined: Thu May 22, 2008 7:32 pm
Location: Norway


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