What was DA5 City of Blackmoor? (Split from 1980s Products )

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What was DA5 City of Blackmoor? (Split from 1980s Products )

Postby Cthulhudrew » Wed Sep 28, 2016 1:05 am

Big Mac wrote: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?


It wasn't a matter of being pushed back in the schedule, it was just the order in which they were published/conceptualized- at least to the best of my knowledge. The hook of the DA series is that the PCs are in the present-day Known World and travel to the past era of Blackmoor. DA1 contains both the time travel mechanism that allows them to accomplish that, and that same MacGuffin is what sets the plot in motion that requires the assistance of the PCs and is the major location of the adventure.

The city of Blackmoor itself was never really a big part of the setting- that was the Castle (which DA5 would have gone into) and the outlying areas. As for why DA5 wasn't the first and foremost, or at least the second module, couldn't say. At a guess, I'd hazard it's because it was a megadungeon and they weren't sure about the approach they wanted to take with it? (IIRC, the Undermountain megadungeon had already come out by this time and might have set a new bar for such things.)

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?


Havard might have better info than I on this. As far as I recall, it was only ever announced, not produced. I don't recall for sure where it was done- in a catalog or just in the "previews/coming soon" section of Dragon- but it was definitely announced.

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


Different Worlds was just an rpg fanzine, essentially. Early days of D&D were very much like the homebrew computer club- a bunch of hobbyists with a new toy that they liked to play around with and share. The issue of brand names and litigiousness didn't develop until the money started rolling in (albeit there wasn't- to the best of my recollection a "Bill Gates/Microsoft" figure to be the villain. Maybe Lorraine Williams? :lol: ).

So Different Worlds could publish things like Blackmoor because there weren't a bunch of lawyers saying they couldn't unless they ponied up for the name.

Again, just my recollection of the time. But it was a much smaller world back then, no internet, the magazines didn't have nearly the widespread audience that they would later, etc.

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Re: What was DA5 City of Blackmoor?

Postby Havard » Sat Oct 01, 2016 3:35 pm

Cthulhudrew wrote:
Big Mac wrote: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?


It wasn't a matter of being pushed back in the schedule, it was just the order in which they were published/conceptualized- at least to the best of my knowledge. The hook of the DA series is that the PCs are in the present-day Known World and travel to the past era of Blackmoor. DA1 contains both the time travel mechanism that allows them to accomplish that, and that same MacGuffin is what sets the plot in motion that requires the assistance of the PCs and is the major location of the adventure.

The city of Blackmoor itself was never really a big part of the setting- that was the Castle (which DA5 would have gone into) and the outlying areas. As for why DA5 wasn't the first and foremost, or at least the second module, couldn't say. At a guess, I'd hazard it's because it was a megadungeon and they weren't sure about the approach they wanted to take with it? (IIRC, the Undermountain megadungeon had already come out by this time and might have set a new bar for such things.)


I think you are into it here. I think the main focus of the module would not have been the city, but the dungeon below it. This would have meant it would have been better suited for more powerful adventurers.

It is also quite possible that the module could have started with the City of Blackmoor being invaded either by the Egg of Coot or by forces from the dungeon itself. It makes little sense to have a city standing on top of a huge dungeon filled with monsters. Even less so if the castle on top of the dungeon is the home of the king. In the actual Dave Arneson campaign, the adventures in the dungeon mostly took place at a time when the city had to be liberated after the Coot Invasions. The DA modules (and subsequent product lines) take place at a later, more stable era, which makes the dungeon more problematic.

I actually think an adventure focusing on the town itself outside the dungeon could be very interesting as well. The First Fantasy Campaign has lots of details on the town and the Castle itself and DA1 has details on the Comeback Inn, so all of that could be used to make an adventure above ground.

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?


Havard might have better info than I on this. As far as I recall, it was only ever announced, not produced. I don't recall for sure where it was done- in a catalog or just in the "previews/coming soon" section of Dragon- but it was definitely announced.



Yes, there was an announcement somewhere. I thought it was Dragon. I cannot be sure about that, but it even contained a pre production cover using the art from Dragonlance's Time of the Dragon. Several people "in the know" have claimed that the module was completed, but just never published. I guess we will never know for sure.

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Re: What was DA5 City of Blackmoor? (Split from 1980s Produc

Postby Big Mac » Sun Oct 02, 2016 8:33 am

Cthulhudrew wrote:
Big Mac wrote: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?


It wasn't a matter of being pushed back in the schedule, it was just the order in which they were published/conceptualized- at least to the best of my knowledge. The hook of the DA series is that the PCs are in the present-day Known World and travel to the past era of Blackmoor. DA1 contains both the time travel mechanism that allows them to accomplish that, and that same MacGuffin is what sets the plot in motion that requires the assistance of the PCs and is the major location of the adventure.


How much of this Mystara-influenced plotline follows through DA2, DA3 and DA4? Is there a natural story arc that builds up to some plot hooks that would need to be incorporated into DA5 (to continue the time travel story)?

Cthulhudrew wrote:The city of Blackmoor itself was never really a big part of the setting- that was the Castle (which DA5 would have gone into) and the outlying areas. As for why DA5 wasn't the first and foremost, or at least the second module, couldn't say. At a guess, I'd hazard it's because it was a megadungeon and they weren't sure about the approach they wanted to take with it? (IIRC, the Undermountain megadungeon had already come out by this time and might have set a new bar for such things.)


I think the thing with campaign settings borrowing ideas (like megadungeons) from each other is that a later campaign setting designer can look at the pros and cons of something built for a pioneering campaign setting and then make tweaks to make it a lot easier (logistically) to sell the same sort of concept. So I won't say that "Undermountain is better" (as all that stuff is subjective opinion anyway) but I would say that someone could sit at Dave Arneson's table and see Blackmoor's dungeon and sit at Gary Gygax's table and see the dungeon below Castle Greyhawk and then use their experiences there to take short cuts.

Having said this, they could easily have called this DA5 The Dungeons of Blackmoor as that's a pretty sexy name. So I would have thought there would be some significant level of development of the surface.

Cthulhudrew wrote:
Big Mac wrote: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?


Havard might have better info than I on this. As far as I recall, it was only ever announced, not produced. I don't recall for sure where it was done- in a catalog or just in the "previews/coming soon" section of Dragon- but it was definitely announced.


Maybe Havard can find the exact wording of the announcement.

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


Different Worlds was just an rpg fanzine, essentially. Early days of D&D were very much like the homebrew computer club- a bunch of hobbyists with a new toy that they liked to play around with and share. The issue of brand names and litigiousness didn't develop until the money started rolling in (albeit there wasn't- to the best of my recollection a "Bill Gates/Microsoft" figure to be the villain. Maybe Lorraine Williams? :lol: ).

So Different Worlds could publish things like Blackmoor because there weren't a bunch of lawyers saying they couldn't unless they ponied up for the name.

Again, just my recollection of the time. But it was a much smaller world back then, no internet, the magazines didn't have nearly the widespread audience that they would later,


Ah, right. So that would just put Different Worlds content on the same level as a new Blackmoor fanzine that was put together in association with The Piazza, The Comeback Inn and Havard's Blackmoor Blog.

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Re: What was DA5 City of Blackmoor?

Postby Big Mac » Sun Oct 02, 2016 9:04 am

Havard wrote:
Cthulhudrew wrote:
Big Mac wrote: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?


It wasn't a matter of being pushed back in the schedule, it was just the order in which they were published/conceptualized- at least to the best of my knowledge. The hook of the DA series is that the PCs are in the present-day Known World and travel to the past era of Blackmoor. DA1 contains both the time travel mechanism that allows them to accomplish that, and that same MacGuffin is what sets the plot in motion that requires the assistance of the PCs and is the major location of the adventure.

The city of Blackmoor itself was never really a big part of the setting- that was the Castle (which DA5 would have gone into) and the outlying areas. As for why DA5 wasn't the first and foremost, or at least the second module, couldn't say. At a guess, I'd hazard it's because it was a megadungeon and they weren't sure about the approach they wanted to take with it? (IIRC, the Undermountain megadungeon had already come out by this time and might have set a new bar for such things.)


I think you are into it here. I think the main focus of the module would not have been the city, but the dungeon below it. This would have meant it would have been better suited for more powerful adventurers.


I guess an increase in power level would make it logical to get the DA5 slot.

But they could just as easily have done DA5 as the story of the city above the dungeon and then DA6 as the story of Dave's megadungeon itself. :)

Havard wrote:It is also quite possible that the module could have started with the City of Blackmoor being invaded either by the Egg of Coot or by forces from the dungeon itself. It makes little sense to have a city standing on top of a huge dungeon filled with monsters. Even less so if the castle on top of the dungeon is the home of the king. In the actual Dave Arneson campaign, the adventures in the dungeon mostly took place at a time when the city had to be liberated after the Coot Invasions. The DA modules (and subsequent product lines) take place at a later, more stable era, which makes the dungeon more problematic.


To be fair, the game is called "Dungeons & Dragons". I think there is a level of assumption in most campaign settings that there are dangerous things below the ground. Waterdeep (from Forgotten Realms) and Manifest (from Ghostwalk) are both cities built smack on top of dangerous dungeons. Chainmail (the 3e Greyhawk subsettings) has elves moving out of mountain cities to build new cities right on top of portals to dangerous Outer Planes (so they can close them down and keep an eye on them).

I think there is some logical reason for the City of Blackmoor to be built on top of a dungeon. It probably feeds into the local economy. There are probably strategic advantags to controlling access. (It's probably better to control access than to allow Egg of Coot to take over the dungeons.)

I wonder if any of this DA5 stuff can be inferred from the things that were set up in earlier Blackmoor products.

Havard wrote:I actually think an adventure focusing on the town itself outside the dungeon could be very interesting as well. The First Fantasy Campaign has lots of details on the town and the Castle itself and DA1 has details on the Comeback Inn, so all of that could be used to make an adventure above ground.


How many pages does The First Fantasy Campaign have on the city?

I know from my SJ knowledge of the AD&D Adventures in Space boxed set that it gives some details about Realmspace, Greyspace, Krynnspace, the Rock of Bral and The Spelljammer and that four books and one boxed set come along to expand those details into standalone products.

If the same sort of thing was done in a The First Fantasy Campaign to DA5 City of Blackmoor progression, by how much would DA5 need to "expand" the existing canon? (The SJR products take one to three paragraph descriptions of planets and expand them to entire chapters, for example.) Would DA5 have doubled, tripled or quadrupled the detail on the city? Or are we looking on a much much larger level of expansion than that.

Havard wrote:
Cthulhudrew wrote:
Big Mac wrote: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?


Havard might have better info than I on this. As far as I recall, it was only ever announced, not produced. I don't recall for sure where it was done- in a catalog or just in the "previews/coming soon" section of Dragon- but it was definitely announced.


Yes, there was an announcement somewhere. I thought it was Dragon. I cannot be sure about that, but it even contained a pre production cover using the art from Dragonlance's Time of the Dragon. Several people "in the know" have claimed that the module was completed, but just never published. I guess we will never know for sure.


I guess we need to find that announcement of DA5 and see if there is any marketing blurb to go with the picture. (You usually can't trust marketing blurb, but it might tell us something.)

If Bruce Heard was in charge of the schedule back then, he might be able to tell you how far ahead of publication date DA5 would have needed to be handed in for editing. And how far ahead of publication the designers would have had to start writing it. That would give you a window when DA5 would be a concept, a work in progress and a finalised document passed over to the editing team.

If the rest of the DA products were edited by the same people, you might be able to contact them and ask them if DA5 was handed over for editing. That might give you an absolute "no" that tells you it was not finished.

The other clues might be in the 3rd Edition products. If Dave Arneson had a partially complete DA5 script he would surly have given copies to anyone creating a 3e City of Blackmoor (if he had them).
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Re: What was DA5 City of Blackmoor? (Split from 1980s Produc

Postby Cthulhudrew » Sun Oct 02, 2016 10:25 am

Big Mac wrote:How much of this Mystara-influenced plotline follows through DA2, DA3 and DA4? Is there a natural story arc that builds up to some plot hooks that would need to be incorporated into DA5 (to continue the time travel story)?


It is still the fundamental basis of the intro hook to all the modules, that the PCs are coming from the present-day Mystara via the time travel device (the Comeback Inn). All four modules discuss ways of bringing the PCs in that way, whether they were involved from the beginning (DA1) or are just starting in Blackmoor. None of them really begin with the point of view of being players who start out in Blackmoor and have no knowledge of their place in the past of the timestream.

(As a side note, it actually becomes a bit clunky, I think, having all these multiple methods of introducing the PCs in each module. It was a little bit too hand-holdy to me, coming from that era of gaming.)

In any event, I suspect they'd have used the same sort of methods for DA5. (There were fundamentally 3 methods: 1) PCs who played DA1 and stayed in the past, 2) PCs who played in prior module(s) and went back home at the end and needed to be brought back, and 3) PCs for whom this was the first experience with Blackmoor.)

Having said this, they could easily have called this DA5 The Dungeons of Blackmoor as that's a pretty sexy name. So I would have thought there would be some significant level of development of the surface.


Dungeons of Blackmoor would have been a cool name, actually. In any regard, the impression I've gotten from what I know, is that the city of Blackmoor itself was always pretty much just the place the PCs rested between adventures beneath the Castle, and where they restocked on supplies. There wasn't much on it in First Fantasy Campaign (though I haven't looked at it in a while to say for sure). IIRC, those early Arneson D&D/Blackmoor campaigns were pretty much just dungeon crawls and not much else.

Maybe Havard can find the exact wording of the announcement.


So, according to the Acaeum, it was announced in the '87 TSR fall catalog, as well as indicated in an ad for a UK gaming shop in Dragon #131. I can confirm the ad in Dragon mentioning it (it was available for order- presumably pre-order- for 5 1/2 pounds). I don't own any of those old TSR catalogs though, so can't confirm the other.
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Re: What was DA5 City of Blackmoor?

Postby Cthulhudrew » Sun Oct 02, 2016 10:37 am

Big Mac wrote:I think there is some logical reason for the City of Blackmoor to be built on top of a dungeon. It probably feeds into the local economy. There are probably strategic advantags to controlling access. (It's probably better to control access than to allow Egg of Coot to take over the dungeons.)


I would have to double check First Fantasy Campaign (FFC), but as I recall, you have the right of it there. The Castle was built atop the dungeon as a sort of bottleneck/safeguard to keep the things below from getting out.

I wonder if any of this DA5 stuff can be inferred from the things that were set up in earlier Blackmoor products.


There is actually quite a bit about Arneson's dungeons of Castle Blackmoor and the campaign he ran in FFC, but I'm not sure how much of it would have made the cut. The impression I got of it is that it was all kind of made up before each new campaign session, and there wasn't any real sense of an overall pattern or layout to it. Maybe it just seemed that way because that's how my brother and friends and I used to DM and play back in the days sometimes when we didn't feel like using published modules.

Plus some of it seemed kind of wacky, in the way I was mentioning earlier, about how some of those early campaigns would pull in random things like laser guns or WWII era tanks and things and just drop them into a game session.

(Now I feel like pulling out FFC to reread and see why and where I got that impression. It has been a while since I last read it.)

If Bruce Heard was in charge of the schedule back then, he might be able to tell you how far ahead of publication date DA5 would have needed to be handed in for editing. And how far ahead of publication the designers would have had to start writing it. That would give you a window when DA5 would be a concept, a work in progress and a finalised document passed over to the editing team.


Bruce actually did address this in a question to his Known World Grimoire/Princess Ark column (issue #161) where he noted that it was never published.
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Re: What was DA5 City of Blackmoor?

Postby Havard » Sun Oct 09, 2016 11:07 pm

Cthulhudrew wrote:
Big Mac wrote:I think there is some logical reason for the City of Blackmoor to be built on top of a dungeon. It probably feeds into the local economy. There are probably strategic advantags to controlling access. (It's probably better to control access than to allow Egg of Coot to take over the dungeons.)


I would have to double check First Fantasy Campaign (FFC), but as I recall, you have the right of it there. The Castle was built atop the dungeon as a sort of bottleneck/safeguard to keep the things below from getting out.


Yes, you may be right about that. The Dungeon was always there. It is a little weird that the ruler of Blackmoor would use that same place as his residence though, but I guess that doesn't become a huge issue untill the DA modules when Blackmoor is also an independent nation, not just a barony.


There is actually quite a bit about Arneson's dungeons of Castle Blackmoor and the campaign he ran in FFC, but I'm not sure how much of it would have made the cut. The impression I got of it is that it was all kind of made up before each new campaign session, and there wasn't any real sense of an overall pattern or layout to it. Maybe it just seemed that way because that's how my brother and friends and I used to DM and play back in the days sometimes when we didn't feel like using published modules.


It is really hard to say. One thing with these old war gamers like Dave Arneson though was that they were very meticulous about their record keeping. So even though Dave Arneson would have improvised alot, I do believe he kept notes from each session into the dungeon and expanded its maps accordingly.

Of course, not all of DA5 may have been about the dungeon itself. The FFC also gives quite a bit of detail on the Castle and surrounding town and their history. All of this could have been used for an adventure. When ZGG published Dungeons of Castle Blackmoor for their d20 line I remember wishing that they had also released a companion book for the city itself.

Plus some of it seemed kind of wacky, in the way I was mentioning earlier, about how some of those early campaigns would pull in random things like laser guns or WWII era tanks and things and just drop them into a game session.


Indeed it could be wacky. :) I am not sure all of the wackiness came from random whims though. The thing about Blackmoor was that the conventions for what the game should be about had not been established yet, so they were experimenting with the very framework of the concept of RPGs. The session with WWII era tanks for instance is something that may well have been planned in advance just to see how the rules could handle such things.

(Now I feel like pulling out FFC to reread and see why and where I got that impression. It has been a while since I last read it.)


Always worth a reread! :)

[
quote]If Bruce Heard was in charge of the schedule back then, he might be able to tell you how far ahead of publication date DA5 would have needed to be handed in for editing. And how far ahead of publication the designers would have had to start writing it. That would give you a window when DA5 would be a concept, a work in progress and a finalised document passed over to the editing team.


Bruce actually did address this in a question to his Known World Grimoire/Princess Ark column (issue #161) where he noted that it was never published.[/quote][/quote]

Thanks for mentioning this. There seems to be contradictory sources to what stage DA5 reached. The designers at ZGG claimed to have a completed copy of this module, though they may have been confusing it with other notes from Dave.

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Re: What was DA5 City of Blackmoor?

Postby Cthulhudrew » Mon Oct 24, 2016 9:29 pm

Havard wrote:
Cthulhudrew wrote:Bruce actually did address this in a question to his Known World Grimoire/Princess Ark column (issue #161) where he noted that it was never published.


Thanks for mentioning this. There seems to be contradictory sources to what stage DA5 reached. The designers at ZGG claimed to have a completed copy of this module, though they may have been confusing it with other notes from Dave.[/quote]

On reflection, it occurs to me that Bruce's "never published" comment could mean just that; there may have been a product in some stage of completion (even complete) but that it never was officially put into published condition. So they might indeed have it, which would be awesome to see if so!
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Re: What was DA5 City of Blackmoor?

Postby Havard » Tue Oct 25, 2016 5:10 pm

Cthulhudrew wrote:On reflection, it occurs to me that Bruce's "never published" comment could mean just that; there may have been a product in some stage of completion (even complete) but that it never was officially put into published condition. So they might indeed have it, which would be awesome to see if so!


Yeah that seems likely. One more clue on this. a 250 page unpublished document called the Chronicles of Thonia was auctioned off some years ago. It is likely that parts of this document made its way into the four DA modules. Perhaps also enough material there for a fifth module?

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