Saturday, November 21, 2020

The First Fantasy Campaign: Svenson's Freehold

Greg Svenson began as a player with all the others but during the later part of the first year, he really began clicking and had a character that has been in the game ever since that date.  He plays more than most but rather than take great risks, runs to fight another day.  Thus, although incredibly long lived, he is still only 15th level.

In his early days, Greg built a small keep for himself and some friends (all from Carr's FITS society group) and herein are the plans of that edifice.  It was destroyed once (the 2nd time Blackmoor fell) but was rebuilt in total.

Dave Arneson, The First Fantasy Campaign

"The Great Svenny" is described in "Blackmoor's More Infamous Characters".   Carr's FITS society group refers to Mike Carr's "Fight in the Skies" society.

Svenson stated "I did the floor plans when I was taking an architectural drafting course in the Spring of 1972." in this thread on the Comeback Inn discussion boards.

Plan for the 2nd floor of Svenson's Freehold, from JG 37 "The First Fantasy Campaign".  Note "Sgreg" (Greg Svenson's) room in the center.

"Svenson" is alternately spelled "Swenson" or "Zvenson" in many sources.  The Great Svenny's room is depicted in greater detail (rotated by 90 degrees), below:

"Zvenson's Room", denoted "Sgreg" in the plan for the 2nd floor of Svenson's Freehold.

Arneson states "Greg then went on to build Vestfold Dungeon and another complete castle of his own on the Outdoor Survival Board."  Vestfold Dungeon refers to "The Lost Dungeons of Tonisborg" soon to be released by the Secrets of Blackmoor crew.

Dave Arneson might have been referring to the castle on the Outdoor Survival Board, mentioned above, when he stated "Greg is preparing maps etc. of his castle.  Not just the dumpy little freehold in FFC.  He is looking for a publisher." in this post back in 2008.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

The First Fantasy Campaign: Special Interests

JG 37 "The First Fantasy Campaign" contains an approach to awarding experience points very different from that used in OD&D:

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.

Dave Arneson, The First Fantasy Campaign

Descriptions are provided for seven categories of special interests defined for the purposes of gaining experience points (Wine, Women, Song, Wealth, Fame, Religion or Spiritualism, and Hobby).  Types of hobbies include animal, magical research, legend leads, and languages.

(There appears to have been an earlier reference to Hobbies under "Hunting, Armories and Animal Breeding" in the Internal Investments section of "Blackmoor, The Campaign" where "Player Motivation" might refer to "Special Interests".)
Chart for determining special interest(s) based on character type, from "The First Fantasy Campaign" (1977).

The method Arneson describes is to first roll percentile dice and consult Table II to determine a character's prime "special interest", based on character class (each of the rows add up to 100%), also referring to this attribute as a character's "motivation".

(Fighting-men are more likely to be motivated by fame, whereas clerics are more likely to be motivated by religion, for example.  However, it's possible for a fighter to be primarily motivated by religion, or a cleric by women or song, for that matter).

Players then refer to Table I in order to determine the percentage of experience points gained for gold pieces expended on various activities, based on the prime "special interest" column (the rows labeled a. to g. represent the seven categories of special interest).

Two alternative methods of determining the percentage of experience points gained for gold pieces expended on multiple special interests are given, although neither differ substantially from the first method, and one might involve 3d6 where percentile dice are mentioned.

What's interesting about the character classes listed, is that these include the three original classes, the ranger from The Strategic Review #2, the paladin from the Greyhawk Supplement, the assassin from the Blackmoor Supplement, the merchant, and the sage.
(Daniel Boggs makes a good case for this section to have been written by Arneson for the Blackmoor Supplement, in The Sage: Rescuing a lost Blackmoor Character Class, in which case the monk class may have indeed originated with Brian Blume.)

How to Become a Bad Guy (Basic Procedures): 

There is an additional section describing level advancement for monster types, with notes on alignment changes, for which I recommend checking out Experience Points, levels and Combat in Blackmoor over at OD&D Discussion.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

The First Fantasy Campaign: Description of Mechanical Marvels

The next section in JG 37 "The First Fantasy Campaign" is titled "Description of Magical Items" although is listed as "Description of Mechanical Marvels" in the Table of Contents.  These technological items, like the Blue Rider's and Stephen the Rock's battle armor, are examples of Blackmoor's science-fiction elements.

Illusion Projector:

Can create the 3D image of anything and animate that image. Range is line of sight, no limit, and image must be less than 100 yards on a side. (A technological effect similar to the "phantasmal forces" spell).



Can cross stretches of water at great speed, 50 mph and greater, as well as marsh and short (10 yards) stretches of low unobstructed land. Hitting a snag will wreck the Skimmer and cause the occupants one Hit Die in damage per 5 mph of speed. Chance of hitting a snag is about 1% per 100 miles of water, 5% in marsh and 5% every time any land is crossed. All encounter chances can be ignored due to its speed.


Borer, illustration by Allan Alegado, from Dave Arneson's Blackmoor (Zeitgeist Games, 2004)
Can dig through ten yards of any material every hour. Makes a hole 10' x 10' as it goes. It has no weight but can only move about 1 mph. (Certainly inspired by the "iron mole" from At the Earth's Core by Edgar Rice Burroughs).



Shuts out all outside sounds, light, magic, etc. Those within the barrier are behind the equivalent of +5 Magic Armor. Magic cannot pass the barrier, although Fireballs and Lightning Bolts can attack the outside.



Will give the operator complete physical information about any item it is pointed at. Has a range of 100 yards, only metal will block its effect. Will only give out that information that is specifically asked (saying "tell me everything" will get an automatic 30 day lecture on the basic universe which will run it's course no matter what the operator does. Similar answers to other general questions have also occurred! (Clearly based on Star Trek's tricorder).


Medical Unit:

Will Heal all wounds within 24 hours and cannot "get out" early. (Similar to the Medical Kit as described in The Temple of the Frog).



Any jolly you ever wanted, and some that might kill you. User loses track of time and is open to attack. Roll ten-sided dice for hours of use. Cures all fatigue and raises fighting level by one for the rest of the day.



Teaches you how to use these mechanical marvels. One tape in machine, other tapes can be used as treasure finds, etc.


Robot, illustration by Allan Alegado, from Dave Arneson's Blackmoor (Zeitgeist Games, 2004)
Roll one 6-sided die for Armor Class, and another die for the number of Hit Dice. All Robots have a 10% chance of being able to throw one Lightning Bolt every tum up to 20 Bolts. (Robots are mentioned in OD&D vol. 2 and featured in The City of the Gods).


Controller: Allows players to get Robots to do what the player wants, otherwise, there is only a 20% chance you can use the Robot, 20% chance it is defective, 60% that it is hostile.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

The First Fantasy Campaign: The Original Blackmoor Magic System

Dave Arneson included a brief section in JG 37 "The First Fantasy Campaign" outlining how magic worked in the original Blackmoor campaign, an approach differing in many respects from the Vancian "fire and forget" system used in OD&D.

A magic-user blasts a section of a castle wall using a lightning bolt.  Illustration by Ken Simpson, based on the original by Dave Arneson.

The first magic-user spells were probably drawn from those listed in the 1st edition of Chainmail (phantasmal forces, darkness, wizard light, detection, concealment, and conjuration of an elemental), in addition to fireball and lightning bolt, depicted above.

The latter two were also used in David Megarry's Dungeon! board game, in addition to "transference", (a spell inspired by Star Trek's transporters, the origin of "teleport").  Megarry leveraged the Blackmoor mechanic for casting spells, using cards.

Arneson later described "A system of magic based on ANIMAL-Type, VEGETABLE-Type, or MINERAL-Type with a hodge-podge of spells." in discussing the original Blackmoor campaign in Different Worlds #3 (June/July 1979).

In Blackmoor, magic followed the "Formula" pattern for most magic. The reasoning behind limiting the number of spells that a Magic User could take down into the Dungeon was simply that many of the ingredients had to be prepared ahead of time, and of course, once used were then powerless. Special adventures could then be organized by the parties to gain some special ingredients that could only be found in some dangerous place.

Dave Arneson, The First Fantasy Campaign

Spell preparation or "manufacture" is mentioned in the character profiles for the Egg of Coot, the Ran of Ah Fooh, and the Gin of Salik, and echoed in the Holmes rules for scroll creation, as discussed here.  The concept of adventuring for special components also emerged in AD&D.

Progression reflected the increasing ability of the Magic User to mix spells of greater and greater complexity. Study and practice were the main important factors involved. A Magic User did not progress unless he used Spells, either in the Dungeon or in practice (there was no difference) sessions. Since there was always the chance of failure in spells (unless they were practiced) and materials for some spells were limited (determined simply by a die roll) the Magic User did not just go around practicing all the time. The Magic User could practice low level spells all the time, cheaply and safely, but his Constitution determined how often he could practice without rest. Thus, the adventurers might want a Magic User to come with them only to find him lying exhausted.

Dave Arneson, The First Fantasy Campaign

The method by which magic-users gained experience in Blackmoor was further developed in Arneson & Snider's "Adventure in Fantasy" (1979).  Daniel Boggs has examined Spell Failure in Blackmoor in depth.  Note the role of constitution in a magic-user's advancement.

So to progress to a new level, one first learned the spells, and then got to use that spell. There was no automatic progression, rather it was a slow step by step, spell by spell progression.

Dave Arneson, The First Fantasy Campaign

For more on the original Blackmoor magic system, with comments from some of the original players, see threads on The Other Magic System for D&D and Blackmoor Wizard's Duel over at OD&D Discussion.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

The First Fantasy Campaign: Chance Cards

Dave Arneson describes the use of "chance cards" in JG 37 "The First Fantasy Campaign".  I suspect these had their roots in wargames by Avalon Hill and other companies, but I couldn't locate any specific examples.

A chance card was drawn for each game month, and the events worked into the campaign timeline.  Arneson mentions drawing the cards one game year in advance, in order "to allow for a logical progression of events."

Chance cards were only employed "after the 3rd year" of the original Blackmoor Campaign, and primarily involved the Outdoor Survival phase of the campaign.  They are presented in tabular form, reproduced below: 
01-02: Small Duchy of Ten Raid (2/3 Cavalry, 1/3 Mixed)
03-04: Large Duchy of Ten Raid (maximum once a year)
05-06: Migration and Travelers (maximum once a year)
07-08: Special (maximum once a year): Horror of the year - Judge's option!
09-10: Large Orc Uprising (Civil War) Report
11-14: Wandering Heroes
15-16: Wandering Superheroes
17-20: Mercenary Company (small)
21-22: Mercenary Company (large)
23-26: Small Bandit Attack
27-28: Large Bandit Attack
29-32: Small Tarnsmen Raid
33-34: Large Tarnsmen Raid
35-36: Caravan to Empire
37-39: Caravan ro Small Capital
40-41: Caravan to Large Capital
42-43: River/Coastal Convoy
44-47: Legend Lead
48-49: Large Viking Raid (maximum once a year)
50-52: Small Viking Raid
53-54: Dry Spell: Will convert sinking land to marshes
55-56: Wet Spell: Negates a Dry spell or similar magic
57-59: Draw Two Cards
60-61: Draw Three Cards
62-74: No Activity
75-77: Peasant Revolt
78-80: Small Nomad Raid
81-82: Large Nomad Raid (maximum once a year)
83-86: Earthquake hits - Roll for intensity
87-88: Army Revolt
89-92: Storm: Delay Trade by one month, movement reduced.
93-94: Crusaders Passing Through
95-96: New Wizard Arrives
97-98: Plague!
99-00: NPC(s): 1-3 turn Traitor

Arneson mentions that events such as the Great Peasant Revolt and the Duchy of Ten Raid originated through the use of chance cards.
In a similar vein, the Companion Set Rules (1984) by Frank Mentzer describe 1-4 "Dominion Events" to be selected or randomly determined at the beginning of each game year:

Table of "Natural Events" for a Dominion, from the D&D Companion Set Rules, by Frank Mentzer.

Table of "Unnatural Events" for a Dominon, from the D&D Companion Set Rules, by Frank Mentzer.
I'm not sure if Frank was thinking about Arneson's chance cards when he came up with these tables, although many of the events are similar.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

The First Fantasy Campaign: 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....

Dave Arneson, The First Fantasy Campaign

Gypsies, or the Romani people, have traditionally been associated with fortune-telling, something which was also incorporated as a plot mechanic in I6 "Ravenloft" (1983), although concerns were rightly raised about the portrayal of the Vistani in 5E's Curse of Strahd.

Gypsy fortuneteller, illustration by Val Mayerick, from A Guide to Transylvania (1996) by Nicky Rea

The Blackmoor Gazette and Rumormonger #1 included a section "travelling gypsy band comes and goes without a trace":
After a two day stand at the edge of town, where almost the entire town partook of the entertainment offered.  There were several private performances by individual female members of the troop up at the castle along with a rash of fortune telling.  Shortly after the completion of the last performance the band disappeared during the great Earthquake of All Hallows Eve last.

Arneson states that "Gypsy Sayings" were first used in the 2nd year of the original Blackmoor Campaign.  He provides these in JG 37 "The First Fantasy Campaign", along with explanations in parentheses:

1) When the six Vultures alight on the six hills, Doom will come in six turns.

(The Vultures are a giant variety that live above Wolf's Head Pass. There were only four hills on the playing board, but the player's forgot about two towers in the area. Doom, referred to Wizard's Darkness and should have read "Gloom".)

2) Those who live in Darkness desire Light.

3) When three rule the land, the Dark Lord will come.

(Referring to the committee set up by three of the players to rule Blackmoor. Such a political mishmash would certainly cause the Baddies to attack thinking that the opposition was too divided to resist.)

4) When the skies Darken at noon, the land will be barren.

(Bad weather)

5) That which is valuable is well-guarded.

6) When Evil gathers its Might, two will succeed where a Host fails.

(Rather than get the Army wiped out, try an assassination!)

7) The Jewel of the Sun will pierce any Darkness.

(Reference to an artifact.)

8) When the Undead walk, their companion is Darkness.

(Undead shun darkness, so ...)

9) A man who is an animal is not man.

(An interesting psychological discussion on Lycanthropy or maybe personal habits....)

10) Light will conquer Dark but a Cloud can be a Shield.

11) The Evil that lurks in man is always present.

(Paranoia anyone??)

12) The Mists at noon foretell far-reaching Doom.

(If there is fog everywhere, then the Baddies are probably sneaking up on the walls. Or perhaps Doom just means Gloom. Gypsy accents are terrible.)

13) That which is, might not be.

(Psychological talk or comment on Phantasmal Forces??)

14) Rider, Jewel and Marsh are a Doomful Threesome.

(see Temple of the ID.)

Arneson finishes by stating these "should be used sparingly and changed regularly" and "are especially useful if a particular scenario is planned, like saving a Princess, or saving someone's hide...." by which I'm not sure what he means.


The "Gypsy Sayings" section is followed by "Legends".  Arneson describes these as a refinement of the "Gypsy Sayings" and indicates there were 100 of them, but that 75 were false.

False legends were randomly determined to be local (presumably in the vicinity of Blackmoor; 1-2), arising from Vestfold (3-5), or beyond (6).  Additional determination is made for "Gold PD x PD x 1000" (1-4), "Philosopher's Stone" (5), or "Magic" (6).

I'm not sure what "Gold PD x PD x 1000" means.  Perhaps the false legend could refer to a cache of gold, a mythical "Philosopher's Stone", or some type of magic item?

There are 25 True legends ("sort of").  These appear to represent a list of magic items or artifacts (with a location given for some of them):

1) The Mare of Steel
2) Sign of the Wolf (Blackmoor Dungeon)
3) The Prisoners Stone
4) The Black Egg of Blackmoor (Pete's Place)*
*likely in reference to Pete Gaylord "The Wizard of the Wood"
5) Place of the Gods
6) The Frogs (Rocky)* (Temple of the Frog)
*likely in reference to Stephen Rochford "Saint Stephen the Rock"
7) Orc Treasure (Freddy)* (Blackmoor)
*likely in reference to Fred Funk "King of the Orcs"
8) Emperor's Crown
9) Dragon's Island (Blackmoor Dungeon)
10) Radiator of Death (Dray Is. Blk. M.)
11) Loch Gloomen Legend (L.G. #F)*
*Castle (13 Rooms, 4 Passages, 2 Levels) 370 Magic Points (25 Ogres) Shape Changing, Fireball Wand, Fighting Machine
12) Loch Gloomen Legend (L.G. #E)*
*House (10 Rooms) 310 Magic Points (twelve Wrights), Sword (lettered), Horse (4), Water Machine
13) The Great Bell (4000 #) 2 1/2 mil.
14) Viking Cap. 1 #
15) Viking Cap. 2 #
16) Egg of Coot (Egg of Coot)
17) Throne of the Skies
18) Throne of the Gods
19) "The Golden Dragon"
20) Sign of the Eagle
21) Sign of the Elephant
22) Treasure of the Payme Princess
23) Three Crowns of Tonisberg (Tonisberg)*
*likely in reference to the Three Crowns in The Lost Dungeons of Tonsiberg
24) Mount Rocky* (Duchy of Ten)
*mentioned as a dragon breeding area in the Ran of Ah Fooh's description
25) Mount Doom (Egg of Coot)

Not much else is known about the "Legends" section, which has been the topic of a couple of threads in the past, over at The Comeback Inn.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

The First Fantasy Campaign: Matrix

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

Dave Arneson, The First Fantasy Campaign

The second section on magic swords in JG 37 "The First Fantasy Campaign" has been identified as the basis for the section on magic swords appearing in OD&D vol. 2, as discussed by Daniel Boggs in Tracing Magic Swords, back in 2012.
Arneson's matrix to determine a magic sword's characteristics and will, from JG 37 "The First Fantasy Campaign"

The categories "Side Determination", "Origins", "Intelligence", and "Egotism" correspond to the sections "Alignment", "Origin/Purpose", "Intelligence", and "Egoism" in OD&D vol. 2.

"Magic Characteristics" roughly correspond to "Primary Powers" in OD&D vol. 2, although are based on magic-user spells.  Arneson appears to be referring to an early version of the spell tables in OD&D vol. 1 when discussing the spell tables in this section.
"Special Characteristics" include "Communicative Ability" and roughly correspond to "Extraordinary Abilities" but also include a range of impressive "Special Powers" such as conjuring elementals, and even granting wishes.
Arneson concludes with short paragraphs on "Sword Enchantments by Magic Users", "Holy Swords", and "Special Notes":

Special notes for magic swords, including a form of life stealing ability, ultimately resulting in transcendence of the wielder to another plane of existence, and for swords with multiple origins.

The best way to understand a set of tables is to grab some dice and give it a go, and so with that in mind, I rolled up a magic sword from scratch:

Side Determination: 8 (Chaos)
Origins: 1 (Holy Sword)
Intelligence: 9
Egotism: 10

Magic Ability: 37 (No Special Characteristics)
Combat Ability: 73 - One roll on Combat Table:
Versus Law Types: 1 on d6 - Normal: 22 (Men)
Versus Neutral Types: 4 on d6 - Magical: 97 - Two more rolls:
40 (Hippogriffs)
47 (Elves)
Special Ability: 5 on d10 (for Holy Sword): 58+5=63 (No Special Effects)

So, we have a chaotic, (un)holy sword (Intelligence: 9, Egotism: 10), +1 vs. Lawful Men, +2 vs. Hippogriffs and (Neutral) Elves.