Sunday, October 27, 2019

The Northern Marches

Back in 2009, James Mishler posted some thoughts about the original maps of Blackmoor.  A few years later, Zenopus Archives compared the settlements between Dave Arneson's hand-drawn map in "The First Fantasy Campaign" and its fold-out poster maps of Blackmoor.

It's been unclear how the hand-drawn map relates to the fold-out poster maps, or how either correspond to any Dutch maps.  I was therefore intrigued to see a recent post by M. Griffith on the "Secrets of Blackmoor" blog, and this map, courtesy of William Hoyt:

Map of the Northern Marches, courtesy of William Hoyt, recently posted on the "Secrets of Blackmoor" blog and previously on Facebook.  (Original black and white version posted in December, 2016).

The map accompanied an early campaign letter, also provided by William Hoyt, describing an area referred to as the Northern Marches, a frontier land of the great Empire of Geneva.  The region is beset on all sides by enemies - bandits to the east, sea raiders to the north, a coven of unholy wizards to the northwest, and barbarian Picts to the west and southwest.

In describing the original campaign area for Blackmoor, Arneson stated:
The basic campaign area reproduced on a large mapsheet outside this book, was originally drawn from some old Dutch maps.  Much of the rationale and scale was based on data found with the Dutch maps.  Later, the game moved south and we then used the Outdoor Survival tm map for this phase of the campaign when the exiles from Blackmoor set up shop after the bad scene at Lake Gloomy.
Excerpt from "The First Fantasy Campaign" (1977) by Dave Arneson

Note how the northern coastline and general position of waterways in William Hoyt's map corresponds to the southern part of the old Dutch map shared by James Mishler:

Map of the Northern Marches (left) and antique map of Holland (right).

Arneson goes on to describe changes to the original map:
In redrawing the first campaign map, I have decided that it would be advantageous to make some minor changes along the south and west borders to link it with the Judges Guild's 'Known World' area (as shown in the Guide to the City State).  My map is twice the scale, 10 miles per hex, and fits into the northeastern corner, bordering the Valley of the Ancients.
 Excerpt from "The First Fantasy Campaign" (1977) by Dave Arneson

If the map of the Northern Marches was used as the original map of Blackmoor, then the hand-drawn map in "The First Fantasy Campaign" might be Arneson's redrawn map, not his original:

Map of the Northern Marches (left) and hand-drawn map from "The First Fantasy Campaign" (right).  Note the similarity of roads and settlements.

The minor changes along the south and west borders could refer to the desert (with rivers draining from it) to align the Blackmoor map with the Valley of the Ancients in the northeastern corner of the Judges Guild 'Known World':

Map #03 of the Judges Guild World Map (left) and hand-drawn map from "The First Fantasy Campaign" (right).

Update (May 10, 2020) - DH Boggs provides a compelling case in this post on his blog that the hand-drawn map is the one altered to fit on the C&C Society map, and the FFC map is the one Arneson is referring to, requiring minor changes along the south and west borders, as evident in the reproduction, below:

As Mishler points out in his post, the fold-out poster maps in "The First Fantasy Campaign" were probably created by Bob Bledsaw, no doubt using the original map of the Northern Marches (later, Blackmoor) that we now have access to:

Map of the Northern Marches (top left), antique map of Holland (top right) and fold-out poster map of Blackmoor from "The First Fantasy Campaign" (bottom).  Area enclosed by red border is clearly based on the map of the Northern Marches, the original map of Blackmoor.  Parts of the coastline are also recognizable from the antique map of Holland.
Over at The Comeback Inn, Havard provides more details, and Daniel Boggs mentions that the map and letter were mailed by Arneson to Rob Kuntz, before Chainmail was published.  Daniel discusses the map of the Northern Marches in detail on Wandering DMs.

Many thanks to M. Griffith for posting the map and campaign letter provided by William Hoyt!

Saturday, October 26, 2019


In the forward to Men & Magic, volume 1 of the original Dungeons & Dragons rules (1974), Gary Gygax wrote:
From the map of the "land" of the "Great Kingdom" and environs -- the territory of the C & C Society -- Dave located a nice bog wherein to nest the weird enclave of "Blackmoor", a spot between the '''Great Kingdom" and the fearsome "Egg of Coot".
In February, 2017,  David Megarry shared a copy of an old map of the land of the Great Kingdom, upon which locations for Blackmoor and the Egg of Coot are indicated:

Zenopus Archives provided an in-depth analysis of the map, here.  Jon Peterson was able to confirm that Megarry's map is a later version of the map of the Great Kingdom from Domesday Book #9, and that other maps exist, depicting the location of Greyhawk, (see comments, here).

The new documentary Secrets of Blackmoor (2019) describes the fascinating process by which gaming in the Twin Cities evolved from Napoleonic miniatures, to multiplayer Braunstein games run by Dave Wesely, to the Blackmoor campaign, run by Dave Arneson.

In Playing at the World (2012) writer Jon Peterson makes a good case for Arneson's first "Blackmoor" session to have been in April, 1971.  Players used their Napoleonic characters, (perhaps after having been transported to Blackmoor through a cave in Iceland).

At the time, local wargamer Greg Scott endorsed a rival Napoleonic campaign under Randy Hoffa.  Arneson responded by casting both as imaginary villains (the "Egg of Coot" and "Ran of Ah Foo") in a medieval "Braunstein"-style game incorporating elements from Chainmail.

Peterson writes that players were tasked with defending the town of Blackmoor from the forces of the Egg of Coot, after the defection of the Baron of Blackmoor (named "The Weasel" in reference to Wesely, who was on military duty from 1970-73, and so never actually played the character).
The Baron Fant was placed in command of Blackmoor Castle after his successful operations during the first Coot invasion.  His nearest neighbor is Sir Jenkins who rules the northern most march of the Great Kingdom which rests on the actual frontier with the Egg of Coot.  Sir Jenkins prior to the honors bestowed upon him from the first Coot invasion was a noted bandit, driven to that extreme by the former ruler of Blackmoor, "the Weasel".  To firm the alliance of Fant and Jenkins, a marriage was arranged between them with Jenkins wedding Fant's cousin and Fant marrying one of Jenkin's relatives.
Excerpt from "The First Fantasy Campaign" (1977) by Dave Arneson
Arneson chronicled the happenings of his Blackmoor campaign in The Corner of the Table  newsletter.  A summary of these would some day make for fascinating reading.  He circulated the first issue of The Blackmoor Gazette and Rumormonger in late fall, 1971.

Note that in the BGaR #1, it's stated that Baron Jenkin's wife is the sister (not cousin) of the Baron Fant.  "The First Fantasy Campaign" was compiled and published years after the original Blackmoor sessions, and inconsistencies may have therefore crept in.

Update (May 11, 2020):  The numbered regions on Megarry's map probably correspond to a key labeled "Great Kingdom Forces" in Rob Kuntz's "El Raja Key Archive", as emerged in a thread over at "The Comeback Inn" last week.  I plan to investigate further, as soon as I'm able.

The next major phase of the campaign involved exploration of Arneson's original six-level dungeon beneath Blackmoor Castle, as evidenced by a shift in the focus of the next issue of the BGaR.  Megarry based his innovative boardgame "Dungeon!" on this aspect.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

The Great Kingdom

The map of the Great Kingdom, depicting the territory of the Castle and Crusade Society, languished in obscurity for decades.  Its reproduction in Jon Peterson's book Playing at the World generated a lot of interest, when published in 2012:

  Map of the Great Kingdom, from Domesday Book #9.

The first mention of the "Great Kingdom" was in Domesday Book #6 (reproduced below, with minor edits for spelling, from History of D&D in 12 Treasures): 
All members should be aware of efforts to create a mythical world for our Society.  To date we have a map showing our "Great Kingdom", as well as our neighbors - several sovereign principalities, kingdoms, nations, the "Dry Steppes" of the nomads, and the "Paynim Kingdom".  Great Nobles, (Earl and above) of the GK, as well as members who attain independence with fiefs of full kingdoms or nations, will take part in service to the King in his wars, fight each other, or rebel against their liege, and that includes vassals created by any sovereign.  Exact method of play is yet to be determined, but before any final decision is reached we will publish the map and general rules for vote by the full peerage.  Rick Crane suggests that the game be strategic to allow for full PBM, and we agree.  We also think any elevation to nobility above the rank of Viscount should be contingent upon the candidate's full agreement to become involved in the game.
For those interested, the page from Domesday Book #9, describing rules for the proposed game, was reproduced in Jon Peterson's blog, here.

Years later, in describing the OD&D campaign setting, Gygax would state "The game world is a parallel earth, but the continents are somewhat different.  Most of our campaign activity takes place on what corresponds to North America, on the eastern half of the continent.  The "Blackmoor" lands lie far up on the northeast coast.  "Greyhawk" is in the central portion."  (From Alarums & Excursions #15, October, 1976).

Early tournament modules, including the original versions of "Tomb of Horrors" (Origins I, July 1975), "Expedition to the Barrier Peaks" (Origins II, July 1976), and "Lost Caverns of Tsojconth" (Wintercon V, Nov/Dec 1976) were ostensibly set in this game world.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

The Battle of Brown Hills

With the publication of Chainmail in March, 1971 the Lake Geneva Tactical Studies Association (LGTSA) began using Gygax and Perren's rules to run fantasy scenarios.  One such was The Battle of Brown Hills, which Gygax submitted as a battle report to Wargamer's Newsletter.

The article was published in issue #116 (November, 1971), eliciting scorn from traditional wargamers.  Nevertheless, the popularity of the Chainmail fantasy supplement grew, adopted by gamers like Dave Arneson in the Twin Cities.

Gygax opens his report with "Having run across an old map I had drawn of a mythical continent, complete with many fantastic inhabitants, I decided to use it as the basis for a game."  Apart from a familiar place name or two, the setting appears distinct, predating that of the Great Kingdom.

The forces of Chaos hail from the peninsula of Lands End, north of the Giant Mountains.  They covet the fertile Meadowlands, under the protection of the remnants of the Old Kingdom, ruled from its capital at Great Keep.  The forces of Law are aided by horsemen from the east.

At Gary Con XI, this past March, my son was able to take part in "The Battle of Brown Hills", on the sand table in the Legends of Wargaming room.  It ended up being his favorite experience of the Con.  I've posted a few pictures, below:

The Horde of Chaos and the army of Law collide!

Verdurmir, the Giant King, leads the Ogres of Iuz into battle.

The Count Aerll surveys the engagement from above.

Gygax submitted a follow-up article entitled "Fantasy Battles" to Wargamer's Newsletter.  It was published in issue #127 (October, 1972) and described how he modified dimestore plastic figures to create fantasy miniatures (a few of which ended up in the 1e Monster Manual):

Trolls and ogres are 54mm. I located some inexpensive plastic Indians in this scale, and a bit of conversion has produced sufficient numbers of black, grey, green and purple creatures of this ilk.

There are two dragons in our force of fantasy figures. One I made stegosaurus: First, the head was enlarged with auto body putty, a wire was inserted into the tail and puttied to make it longer – and barbed, the spikes of the tail were clipped off and added as horns to the head end, cardboard bat wings were puttied into place, and finally the entire affair was given many coats of paint, gilding and glitter (as sparkling gems on its belly).

Quotes taken from "Fantasy Battles" by Gary Gygax, published in Wargarmer's Newsletter #127 (October, 1972).  Illustrations by David Sutherland, from the AD&D 1e Monster Manual.  Special thanks to the venerable Kevin Maurice for enlightening me!

Saturday, October 12, 2019

The Castle and Crusade Society

ONCE UPON A TIME, long, long ago there was a little group known as the Castle and Crusade Society.  Their fantasy rules were published, and to this writer's knowledge, brought about much of the current interest in fantasy wargaming.
So begins the forward to Men & Magic, volume 1 of the original Dungeons & Dragons rules, published in 1974.  The fantasy rules referenced are the Chainmail rules for medieval miniatures, by Gary Gygax and Jeff Perren.  The writer in question was of course, Gary Gygax.

The Castle and Crusade Society was a medieval period interest group within the International Federation of Wargamers (IFW).  The IFW hosted the first Gen Con back in 1968, where Gygax played The Siege of Bodenburg, a medieval miniatures wargame.

Inspired by the setting, Gygax, together with Rob Kuntz, founded the Castle and Crusade Society, starting a newsletter called the Domesday Book in 1970.  The covers and summaries of the contents for each issue are available over at The Acaeum.

Much information about the Castle and Crusade Society and its newsletter has come to light in recent years, thanks in large part to Jon Peterson's history of role-playing games Playing at the World (2012).  Peterson blogged about Domesday Book #1, here.

Gygax met Dave Arneson, the future co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons, at Gen Con II.  Arneson became a member of the Castle and Crusade Society in time to receive issue #3 of the Domesday Book.  An early version of the Chainmail rules appear in issue #5.

Artwork from Domesday Book #5 based on an earlier illustration by Jack Coggins from his book The Fighting Man (1966).

Domesday Book #6 describes a mythical "Great Kingdom" as the setting for a strategic game of feudal warfare.  A map of the continent was published in issue #9, eventually serving as the basis for the first D&D campaign "world", (discussed in a subsequent post, here).

Domesday Book issues #10-14 feature cover illustrations that were likely "swiped" from other sources.  Issue #12 (above) was instantly recognizable to me, but I'm not sure about the others.  Have a look for yourself, (here), and let me know what you think.