Tuesday, June 9, 2020

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

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

Now we come to Loch Gloomen (Dave Arneson):

So he tells of the players being "exiled for losing Blackmoor to the Baddies," so they were sent to Loch Gloomen or Lake Gloomy under heavy escort. They could only take what they could carry. This would mean that they lost a lot of stuff.

Then he sets it up so they cannot tell determine direction. A 20% chance of getting lost without knowing it. On top of that he provides multiple adversaries of the human variety not counting the monsters.

A sample playing area, with base wealth, creature based in each area plus treasure. Also Hit Dice of creatures per area. He says no more than 300 Hit Dice of creatures followed by examples all larger to much larger than that, one example be 3000 Hit Dice of creatures.

A table to roll on for a description of an area.  A lot of information is packed into this little table. It is an excellent guide for how to create and use a table.

I love this, one True Troll and two Ogres (standard Trolls).

This is a pretty detailed, but very concise note. A lot of people tend to dismiss and sneer at this volume, but IMO that is pathetic and the complaints ring hollow. There is so much information in The First Fantasy Campaign, and it was first. I really believe that anyone who really sneers at this volume is just jealous. This is not a rulebook although it has rules in it, it is a snippet of the campaign as it was. But then I am not someone who thinks a nice prettied up document is better in some way, than the honest unpolished gem. I would take one of these over a dozen hard back, slick paper, full color modern tomes.  IMO an awful lot of time and money are wasted producing things that are more designed to be a coffee table book, than to be useful for gaming.

That being said, there are of course some real gems with high production values. But to be clear, the high production values is not what makes them a gem, the high production values are the whipped cream with a cherry on top. The gem is the great stuff under the whipped cream.

The next page is a long section detailing the description of each area and what it contains.

Bleakwood was provided as another example. Note that it was accidentally destroyed.

Then we have the makeup of Bleakwood, as far as major features.

Monday, June 8, 2020

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

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

Here are some more Richard Snider changes from Blackmoor:

I found this to be intriguing and the only reason I have not used it, is that I have not had any players with a Barony since reading this. Your hireling was over qualified and has taken your place, so sorry. :;) 

The five ways to destroy a true Vampire. See item F below for more info about two of these methods. I love these names "True Bishop of La Hazar," "The Sacred Lake of the Acaldi," "The Death Plant of the Saccinid Monks." Great names, evocative names is a necessary skill for a referee. Bitd, you had to come up with your own, now there are many places to turn to for help if you need it. 

Then a few ways that have only a 33% chance of even doing damage.

The the restrictions on entering rooms and no reflection in a mirror. The details on how a Vampire can make a Flunky Vampire. Have you ever done this in your game? I have not, but might someday.

Locations lost in time, sounds like something to follow up on and search out, when I play, I would be completely into something like this.

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

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

Continuing with Richard Snider's changes:

I love that first sentence!  Detailing out eight Baronies is a really good start. No gunpowder, and yes Blackmoor did have gunpowder.

Do you use any type of apprenticeships in your campaign? I never have, but every time I read this section, I wonder if I should. I think if I could play twice a week like I did in college I would do it.

Simple way to run languages. I like this Odds of Creature Friendship, I have run variations on that theme, it can be fun if a player not only ends up with a new friend, but ends up with some really odd fanatical follower.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

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

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

We will continue looking at Richard Snider Changes in his campaign as compared to Blackmoor. This is also a good way to learn things about Blackmoor that are otherwise not stated:
Differences in Creatures from Blackmoor Game

I am taking this to mean that Balrogs cannot initially immolate by touch, but can as they level up.

Or, or they could do both. Key evil laugh. ;)

That is, his Ghouls only do normal damage unless they kill you, so no wounded infection that will still turn to worry about.

This is a severe restriction on this races as compared to humans. Not to my taste, but really good for a primarily human game.

Do you love creatures that can turn you to stone, I do. I like the full range of options.

Good rule IMO, so apparently Arneson's could not regenerate while in combat.

I like the infective Lycanthrope Bite myself.

I love this, seems like something you could teach the players to really hate.

I can see this both ways, I run mine this way though.

You do not really need to have a lot of different types of Dragons, you just need every Dragon to have a unique personality IMO. But I still design many different types.

Friday, June 5, 2020

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

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

This would have been my post for the 4th of June (see here for details)

Next up are "Richard Snider's Additions." Arneson says

Richard Snider's Additions
Richard Snider has been one of the most enthusiastic players that I had. He evolved an entirely separate campaign and mythos, on a small scale for the locals to play in. In addition to that he came up with what I feel are an exceptional set of rules for Dragons that settles a few of their problems.

A 10th Level Gold Dragon has a 26 HD breath weapon, that sounds about right to me.

Then he provides an alternate method to determine damage by a breath  weapon. A (IMO) major deficiency of most rule sets is that they give short shrift to alternate methods, I want rule books and supplements that are not shy about giving multiple ways of doing things. Do not censor yourself, let the user decide what works for them. (Yeah, I feel another essay coming on, but that will have to wait, it  needs to marinate for a while).

Forget about humans trying to subdue Dragons, how about Dragons subduing and capturing humans. I also like the idea that a Magic-Using Dragon might target Magic-Users with magical attacks to assert dominance.

I like the above, partly because I think most campaigns really under-utilize Dragons mainly because people do not really know what to do with them. Also people tend to only think in terms of combat and I personally want Dragons played as very smart and crafty and a bit sneaky. I want Dragons that are evil and deceitful and I want Dragons that are generally very good and very honorable and yet, and yet very proud, touchy and easily offended. I like Dragons to be complex and above all very, very powerful. I want Dragons that you do not want to get on the wrong side of.

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

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

This is my post for 6/3/2020 and this is why it is late. I have been mostly offline the past few days for several  reasons, one is everything going on in the world, one is a drive by shooting that happened less than 40 yards from my front door, fortunately no one was hurt, although another neighbor was walking with her child and were about 20 feet away (but not in the line of fire) when the bullets started flying. I grew up around guns and you immediately know it is not firecrackers. Thirdly, I was also getting some tests to hopefully verify that I do not have cancer for the fourth time.

The cat scan looked pretty good, but they could not do the visual because scar tissue was stopping the probe, but the little bit they could see was something they want to biopsy. To do that is going to require minor surgery to stretch the scar tissue, do one or more biopsies based on what they find and remove and cauterize each possible item and, of course, put me under anesthesia to do it. That is going to be expensive and out of pocket as I am one of the uninsured until  I turn 65 with Medicare, so we have to figure out how we can make that happen. So, you know, just another dull ho-hum week of an old guys life.

So on with:

Svenson's Freehold

Gerg Svenson is also the creator of the Tonisborg Dungeons. The book and maps for this was part of the Secrets of Blackmoor Kickstarter. Work is apace on it, and I am confident in its completion. It is written, but all of the stuff that happens to turn a manuscript into a published book is a process that is underway, so now it really is just a matter of time. I am hoping before Christmas this year and no I do not know what the timetable is, that is just what I am hoping. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

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

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

This next part is a short section and Arneson calls it:

How to Become a Bad Guy
(Basic Procedures)

OK, you are all here, that is great. First, I must confess that this title is a bit misleading which you will understand shortly. Second, if you are a hard core BtB zealot, you might want to skip this post, because it is going to offend your sensibilities greatly. I am happy to have you read it, but you have been warned! ;)  Third, when I first read this section I was quite frankly thrilled because I had been running my own variation of this since the very first game that I refereed. 

So off we go:

OK here we find out that the monsters have variable hit dice and also advance in levels very much as do the players. He begins here to tell us how it all works. So while he is not really going into how a player would become a bad guy at this point, he does start laying out how the monsters work.

Here he lays out advancement for the monsters. Now he  says you take the Hit Dice and the AC and multiply by 1000. So I am not sure what we are doing with the AC in this calculation and I would love to hear from anyone who does. He gives an example and obviously the progression would look different for each monster.

If I were going to do this, I would assign each armor class points, say 1.0, 1.1, 1.2 and so on or 1.0, 1.2, 1.4 and so on.

So he says that a creature can never be more than 10 times as powerful as its 1st level version. So that tells you how it all scales from orcs to dragons.

Then you call look at the Dragon section to see just how something like a Dragon was handled and credits the Dragons which we will look at later to Richard Snider. We also find out that the Special Characters (read really powerful) are limited in numbers appearing.

Now here he touches on how to become Bad Guy by defining what a Bad Guy and a Good Guy are.

The most defining thing is Good Guys take prisoners and Bad Guys do not. So you just look at what the players do when these situations come up and they sort themselves.

So yeah, if you slit the throats of those orcs that were slept by your Magic-Users, you are a Bad Guy. So if you were just in the middle then you did not get to use the most powerful items. 

I also like this, both the Good Guys and the Bad Guys were obligated to try to kill the Neutrals - everyone in the middle. Of course the Neutrals would know they could surrender to the Good Guys and live, but not so with the Bad Guys.

Now what is it that I have always done in my game as a referee? I have always given my monsters variable hit dice. For instance, in OD&D an ogre was 4 HD +1 or a maximum of 25 HPs. My ogres can have up to 80 HPs. I did this for all of my monsters. I did not write down how many points it required for them to advance by levels. But having 1st Level and High Level versions of my monsters is something I did from the beginning. For instance my Dragons could have up to 25 HD. 

Every time I find something were I was kinda sorta thinking like Arneson from the beginning, it buoys my faith in my instincts. Especially since I was learning about these similar things 30+ years after the fact. Arneson and Hargrave are the two people I measure my creativity against. (There are many others I could mention Kuntz, Ward, Wesely, Barker, but for me these are the prime ones) This has the effect of making me continually strive to up my game and do new things I have not done before.

Oh and why would BtB people not like this section? I have been told by a number of BtB zealots that having variable hit dice (levels) for monsters is cheating because the players know by what monster it is whether or not they can beat it, but to me the whole point is they should not be able to look at men or monsters and be sure. Because when they are not sure, they will be more creative in getting what they want without combat. Or more attentive to gaining an advantage before combat.

Tomorrow Svenson's Freehold.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

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

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

Now we are going to look at what Arneson calls:

Special Interests
Many characters wonder what they should spend their money on and what it will get for them in exchange. Just accumulating the money is not really enough of a guide in some case, as to what players do between expeditions, besides healing themselves up. So the following is presented as a supplement or alternative to the players.
Instead of awarding points for money and Jewels acquired in the depths of the Dungeon or hoarding items against the indefinite future, the players will receive NO points until they acquire the items listed below unless it happens to already fall within the area of their interest.
Yes, an alternate XP method that involves earning XP only when you spend the money on your interests. 
Definition of Terms

Note he says "Experience gained while drunk does not count but treasure does.*"

There does not seem to be a note that corresponds to this particular asterisk.

Given that Arneson would have 20 or 21 at the point this was used, I am not too surprised at this. I think of when I started playing in college and what our game might have been like had our group been entirely male instead of a 50/50 male/female mix.

I am really curious as to how long or how much this alternative XP method was used. Perhaps that will be addressed in a future Secrets of 

If your thing is accumulating wealth and it is stolen, you could lose levels too! Ouch!

Just like in real life, your deeds must be witnessed and attested to by others in order to count towards fame. If a player desires to become famous, how does he treat all the other party members, do you think?

Yes, earn XP for charity and good deeds, but beware if the Cleric refuses the offering it could be bad for you.

This category could include almost anything.

A method that takes into account the "honesty of the propreitor vs the actual value of the goods and services received....:Price gouging and all manner of things can happen to get some of that player gold.

This begins a section where during character creation the Character Class and motivation are determined. Additional dice rolls can be made to created a more varied character.

The remainder of this section are the tables and examples of how it is done.

Then we come to:

Magical Research could occupy a lot of player time and effort, as well as risk.

Given some of the stories I have heard of Arneson's rather quirky sense of humor, I can see him some really dry textbook to read and then quizzing him on it to verify that he did the research, as the way of playing this out.

I am pretty sure he never did this, but think of making players learn a real world language in order to gain one in the game. No, OK!

How to Become a Bad Guy
(Basic Procedures)

Monday, June 1, 2020

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

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

Next up is Magic!

This section is quite short and really minimal information is given. On the other hand, I think there is enough for most Referee to flesh out a system of their own if they want try this method.

Arneson calls this the "Formula" pattern for most magic. This method limited the number of spells that could practically be taken on an adventure. This was an early verision of the spell components that Gygax used in 1st Ed AD&D. Most people think spell components were a Gygax idea, but he learned the concept from Arneson and later used his own version of it.

The whole purpose of spell components is to weaken and limit magic users. In Arneson's Blackmoor, there were a lot of ingredients, they had to be prepared ahead of time and could only be used once. They were also hard to obtain and the rarest "special" ingredients required extra effort going to dangerous places to obtain them.

Arneson's system required the components to be prepared and mixed correctly so that the spell could be cast.

A Magic User had to study and practice a lot, learning to mix spells that had ever more complicated forumula's. Magic User had to cast Spells, whether through practice or in the Dungeon, did not matter. Spells also had a chance of failure unless practiced and the rarity of materials limited practice. A Catch 22, if you will. Magic Users were also limited by their Constitution. 

I have never found any more detailed information about how all of this worked. However, as I said, most of us should be able to write out own rules if we want or need to. As he notes it was a slow, step by step process with nothing automatic. 

The Gygax mechanic used in OD&D resulted in much more powerful Magic-Users than in Blackmoor. IMO OD&D Magic-Users were more powerful that Magic-Users in 1st & 2nd Ed AD&D simply because there were none of the limits that were later introduced. I think all of the rules to limit Magic-Users that were introduced in later D&D/AD&D versions were to nerf Magic-Users because they were thought to be too powerful. But no one knew they were going all the way back to Blackmoor methods.

This is also one place where I do not follow the Arneson way, I like the unfettered OD&D Magic-User. It is really a great thing to house rule, you can use the Arneson way or the Gygax way, which ever you prefer, or make up your own. Between Arneson, Gygax and Hargrave there has not been much in the way of new ideas since. I use Arneson, Gygax and Hargrave as a blanket term that covers all of the people who played in their respective campaigns - way too many people to list here. 

Over the years, many game designer have thought they were doing something new, but one or more of these original guys were there first. They really do not get the credit they deserve, any of them. David Wesely and Robert Kuntz (just to name two) do not get the credit they deserve. But there are so many more I do not have time to name here.

Here are a few of Arneson's Magic Items look at these and then tell me, are they Magic Items or are the Technology?  Are you sure?

Here are a few of Arneson's Magic Items look at these and then tell me, are they Magic Items or are the Technology?  Are you sure?

What do you think?

This one gives it away, they are technology, masquerading as magic. Or! Or are they both at the same time?

You may remember from earlier that Magic Swords were the main magic items in Blackmoor, there were other magic weapons and other items, but Magic Swords were given a large share of the love.

Tomorrow we will look at Special Interests!