Saturday, May 30, 2020

2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary - Day One Hundred and Fifty-One

Celebrating 2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary of Blackmoor and of Role-Playing!

If you have questions or concerns about today's topic, first see the last third of yesterdays post 2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary - Day One Hundred and Fifty and in fact if you have not read it, you may want to before you continue. It is OK, I will wait while you go read it.

OK, everybody back? On we go, this part of The First Fantasy Campaign is called:

Gypsy Sayings and Chance Cards

Arneson writes:
To allow for Crystal Ball Gazing and the like, a set of Chance Cards was set up. Each month, one was drawn from the deck and it's affect was worked into the game. As Judge, I drew the cards one game year iin advance to allow for a logical progression of events.
As with most of the Blackmoor rules, it grew from a local need (Gypsy Sayings was first used in the 2nd year of the game) to Legends, most of which were self-explanatory, and the rest made up as I went along (and now, unfortunately, forgotten), and finally the Chance Cards. 
It was the Chance Cards that allowed the Great Peasant Revolt and the Duchy of Ten Raid I mentioned earlier. These cards were only used after the 3rd year and generally only in the Outdoor Survival section of the campaign.
Perhaps you have heard of a living campaign? These things are part of a living campaign. In a living campaign things happen all the time, regardless of whether or not the players are present or involved. Although the players may choose to become involved, the event flow on regardless.

Gypsy Sayings
Unlike many other forms of advance warnings about upcoming events, the infamous Gypsy Sayings merely state what might happen, and allow the players a chance to get out of the steamroller's way. Gypsy Sayings are also obscure, generally, and subject to numerous interpretations about their meaning. One man's cake is another man's poison....

Note: Used sparingly and changed regularly. Make your own list of sayings, it is fun and it lets you have the fun of writing cryptic stuff and having the players try to figure it out. (Meanwhle that is what you are doing, trying to figure it out.)

Next up are Legends, I will give you just a few of these from a longer list:

And then the Chance Cards, I will show you a few of those from a very long list:

Tomorrow we will look at:

The Original Blackmoor Magic System

2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary - Day One Hundred and Fifty

Celebrating 2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary of Blackmoor and of Role-Playing!

Arneson writes:

Magic Swords & Matrix
Prior to setting up Blackmoor, I spent a considerable effort in setting up an entire family of Magical Swords. The Swords, indeed comprise most of the early magical artifacts. A small table was prepared and the Swords' characteristics set up on cards.
Later on a new Table was forumlated and used for generating Swords in other Castles. After the 3rd year there were four other Castles in the Blackmoor campaign and I had at least three myself, so more uniform rules were needed. The magical items list at the end of Chapter II was, again, the first attempt to set up such a matrix. The nature and the powers of the Spells and Swords were taken right from the available copies of Chainmail, which served as the basis for all our combat.
But we know that last was not really true other than very briefly as the players rebelled against dying after only one hit, so Arneson devised his own combat system, with hit points and the whole shebang. Chainmail was used for mass combat between armies. Which is of course what it is really designed to do best.

Magic Swords Personality Matrix "Blackmoor"

Below will be posted a few example portions of this Matrix:

So yeah, this is a pretty extensive matrix.

Next up is a section just noted as Matrix and Arneson writes:

The Magic Swords of Mythology are varied creatures that can give great power to their owners, *who are sometimes helpless without them. Only Swords have these powerful variations and capabilities. Other weapons are relegated lesser bonuses due to their shapes, that do not lend themselves to magical incantations.
*Do you know the reference?

As you can see a lot goes into designing a magic sword. Also some pretty big chunks of this made its way into OD&D via the Magic Swords section in Volume II Monsters & Treasure.

Here are a portion of the Tables that are referred to above:

Part of the instructions on building a Sword using these tables.

Holy Swords are my favorite type of Magic Sword. As Paladins are my favorite character class. The bad rap that Paladins get is not due to the class, it is (IMO) due entirely to the misinterpretations of the class resulting in something that is not Lawful or Good.

This details how special abilities are determined and assigned to swords.

While I do create and enjoy a wide range of magic items, I love to create magic swords and I really agree with Arneson about them being the premium magic item above  all others.

Now tomorrow we are going to look at Gypsy Sayings and Chance Cards. Now before people go off on the word Gypsy I must note that this was writen back in the early 1970s and for most of America any knowledge that Gypsy would be offensive to anyone was something that was off in the dim misty future, unknown and undreamt of. For myself growing up watching movies the Gypsies were this mysterious exotic people that had this wonderful music and amazing folk dancing and this close knit culture. Growing up in America, I would see all of these deeply ethnic cultures in movies that had this rich heritage on display and while I had quite a bit of that in my immediate family that was unique to us, there was barely a trace of that in the surrounding world at large.In so many ways America can be culture-less and we are poorer for it.

It was a long, long time before I found out that Gypsies were widely viewed negatively, instead of just a few idiots here and there. As a kid I thought of hate for different cultures as being unique to a few people and not a widespread thing. I love different cultures and accents from different places around the world. Accents different than my own are music to my ears. I do not ever want everyone to sound the same. I love cultures that have colorful ethnic clothing. I love the bright colors and patterns that different peoples have and when I see people dressing in the clothing of their ancestral homeland, I think that is something to celebrate. 

I suppose I was very lucky to have parents that did not teach me to hate. My parents grew up in the center of WV during the depression of the 1930s farming with horses back in the center of the Appalachian Mountains.My dad had worked for a few year in Parkersburg on the Ohio River before returning home and getting married. During the second summer of their marriage a black man that my dad knew from working in the city came and stayed a week with my parents in their home and like most things my dad had a very long funny story to go with it. My dad had hundreds if not thousands of stories. But I remember my mom saying "He was the first black man I had ever seen." It was hard to imagine living in such an isolated area that you could be 20 years old and say that. But before television when you lived in a remote rural area it was isolated.

So I said all of that to say that I grew up viewing ethnicity as a high value thing and something that people should be proud of that the music and dance and stories and songs of different cultures was a good thing and my view of Gypsies was and remains positive. I was long gone from childhood before I ever heard the word the words Romani/Roma as the correct names for Gypsies. I think it is very sad that a word that sounds so beautiful when read and spoken is viewed as an insult and as a slur. In the early 70s I (and I think Arneson too) was totally naive to such an idea. I never dreamed that this and many other words were negative and when people read things from years ago, I think they should be conscious of the fact that many people did not use many words in a negative sense nor did they have any idea that there was anything bad about those words. So I think we should be very careful about ascribing ill intent to things from previous years and different times.

There were words that my parents taught me at a young age not to use, even if other people did use them. They also taught me why I should not use them. From my vantage point, now at 64 years old, I am amazed at how poorly our schools teach history and how little is covered in school. I have read a lot of history on my own over the years and I am saddened by all of the history I had in school from 4th grade on of pretty much being a repeat of the same small amount of partially accurate stuff every year and how much more could have been taught. 

So I hope that you can enjoy the post tomorrow (or rather tonight as I write this in the wee hours and am late getting this posted) and not get hung up on things from a different time and place. While the majority of us stop doing things once we learn they are wrong, it is a mistake to try to retcon  history and I believe it must presented as it was and viewed on its own merit in context. Do virtually all of us grow up with unconscious bias in various areas?Yes, all do. Should we look back on our youth and view ourselves as 
being terrible people for those things we did not know at the time, no that would be very wrong. No we should judge ourselves based on what we do after we learn things. We should give other people the same leeway. I do not assume people are bad people (as individuals) unless they show me that is the case. 

So I hope to see you back here for the next post.

Friday, May 29, 2020

2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary - Day One Hundred and Forty-Nine

Celebrating 2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary of Blackmoor and of Role-Playing!

I love the way he interprets vampires, "his "traditional" Slavic Vampire (not Hollywood)." I also like the summon rats by the thousand thing too. "He travels at will through the numerous cracks adn crvices in the Dungeon."

Next up is all about the Elves running the care and protection of Castle Blackmoor and its defense. 
  1. Test of Purity to get past the barricade at the foot of the hill leading up to the Castle.
  2. What is pretty much a tourist trap for the characters to empty their pockets, as well as, confuse them.

3. Turnstyles to the Dungeon for a 1 GP admission fee. An Elven Tour that has since been canceled. You can sign the Adventurers Book.
4. The heavily guarded exit/entrances from the Dungeon. Holy Water Hoses.
(We need to secret of mass producing Holy Water. Pressurized Holy Water)

Notes about the Dungeon Map.

 Here the map keys of two of the levels as a sample.

Then here below are the maps of the two levels that correspond to the above keys.

A lot people seem to find the diagonals to be odd and debate about why Dave Arneson used them. To that question I say why not? I used diagonals from the start myself. I also used spirals which is something that Dave Hargrave used in his Arduin campaign. I also used areas that were bigger on the inside, than they were on the outside.Sometimes two corridors occupied the same space without intersecting.

One of the most striking things to me is how small the dungeons are. Prior to seeing them I assumed that it would be massive and it was a surprise when it was not. I was very surprised when I learned that many people limit the size of a level of a dungeon to one 8.5 x 11.0 sheet of paper. Limiting anything to one sheet of paper never occurred to me. My dungeon levels may occupy 40-50 sheets of paper per level. IIRC my smallest dungeon level is 9 sheets of paper. I like them massive, it well behooves the players to have a plan for exploring dungeons. Player should learn, at least IMC, to size rooms and areas up and spend time where is it warranted and cruise where it is not warranted. 

Tomorrow on to Magic Swords!

Thursday, May 28, 2020

2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary - Day One Hundred and Forty-Eight

Celebrating 2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary of Blackmoor and of Role-Playing!

Let us take a look at what Dave Arneson has to say about the:

He tells us that the Dungeon was established in the Winter and Spring of 1970-71 and these map cover the first five years. Ge says there have been many changes to the Dungeon.

He then mentions that this map was specially marked to show the secret passages and a note about the stairways. Not all stairway connect tach level of the Dungeon.

He then discusses two areas marked on the map. The "Fire Pits" and "Devil Fountains" and specific details about them.

An explanation about why the Castle is shown as a blank. The Castle was destroyed and rebuilt twice. Sounds like nothing is off limits and "breaking" the game world is not a problem for Arneson.

Here we learn that the first six levels as shown here are along "Official" D&D lines, but the last four levels are the originals. Which makes you want to study them to discern the differences. He mentions crazy characters, the "Orcian Way" and Sir Fang the Vampire. For some reason this bit "two Balrogs, six Wraiths, 200 Ghouls, 50 Ogres and 750 Orcs" cries out to be sung. Yeah, I know I am a bit strange. These are the remnants of King Funk's Orcs' Grand Army. Also noted are the features and hazards of the "Orcian Way."

If the players ascend the stairway, the "Orcian Way," they find some really odd things and perhaps encounter the Great Kraken of the Bay. When I read this section I feel a great deal of appreciation for Dave's sense of humor which has so many parallels to my own. That room at the top of the stairs, I do things like that. 

I am reminded of a descending stairway in a secret passage where the stairway disappears behind you as you descend and at the bottom is a small platform suspended over a bottomless chasm. Fifteen (15) feet away is another platform, beyond which is a door. All you have to do is get across the chasm to exit through
the door. While the platform you are standing on could disappear at any moment as the rear edge starts to fade out of existence.

I am fond of doing things like this with plaques and runes craved into stone walls and such.

It still claims its victims, yeah, the players keep going back to until they can claim victory.

We will continue tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary - Day One Hundred and Forty-Seven

Celebrating 2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary of Blackmoor and of Role-Playing!

Blackmoor - The First Fantasy Campaign: Today Dave Arneson and "Drawing Your Own Map."

He says for those who want to draw their own map, but do not know where to begin, here are some suggestions.

I have zero artistic talent and my maps are very rough and dirty. I often just use plain old style computer paper and pencil and just sketch it out with a few lines and word pictures. But now there are these wonderful stamps and anyone came make a great map, not the map the artist makes that you just drool over, but far superior to what I could do otherwise and an awesome product in its own right. Go to GAME STAMPS a map-making tool for role-playing games I am really happy that I backed this Kickstarter!

I have only used a regular pencil. Colored pencils would be a waste for me as I am color-blind.

This is a handy way to do it, if you want to randomly generate your map although I prefer to just decide what goes where myself.

Now under item four is a long detailed section of excellent advice and inspiration for making your map. Here a much abbreviated look at it:
Heavily Wooded - how to generate the percent wooded, the number of hills along with size and shape. Check for water and for human habitation.
Very Hilly - generate the number, size and shape of the hills, check for water, check for wooded, check for human habitation.
Wooded and Hilly - how to combine the previous two items.
Open Area - goes into all the different features as to what is present.
Swamp - check for presence of various features.
Rivers and Streams - flow towards coast or away, lake, swamp, larger lakes, lake outlets, spring fed, and other things.
You can of course work up similar things for Mountains, Desert, Tundra, High Plains, etc.

Cities are surrounded by farms, out a little way will be walled cities and more farms and then villages (some Castles with Villages) and farms, then Hamlets and farms IMO all farms will be within range of a market where they can sell and buy or they can trade for items they need, but will be mostly self-sufficient.

He talks about how to decide when there are ruins, and info about roads.

Summary of Population location.

What to do when an encounter is indicated.

The above chart has a lot of great information to help get you started.Wish I had had this when I started out.. Fortunately I had read a lot and had ideas from that and a ton of old movies, but still this would have given me a quick start.

Tomorrow Blackmoor Dungeons.