Saturday, December 26, 2020

The First Fantasy Campaign: Remastered

Before his passing, Dave Arneson indicated that he wished to re-edit JG 37 "The First Fantasy Campaign", as reported in First Fantasy Campaign Belongs to Arneson Estate Bledsaw Confirms on Havard's Blackmoor Blog.

Although we can't know exactly what Arneson had in mind, having just completed a review of each section in "The First Fantasy Campaign", I have attempted to reorganize its contents, adopting the OD&D framework:

Foreword (Bob Bledsaw, August 9, 1977)

Introduction (Dave Arneson)

Men & Magic:
Special Interests
 - Definition of Terms
 - Examples
 - How to Become a Bad Guy

 - Egg of Coot
 - Ran of Ah Fooh
 - Gin of Salik
 - Marfeldt the Barbarian (A Short Biography)
 - Duke of the Peaks
 - The Blue Rider
 - Mello and the Hobbits (Mello's Hobbit House)
 - The Great Svenny (Svenson's Freehold)
 - The Bishop
 - Final Notes

Monsters & Treasure:
 - Dragons
 - Orcs
 - Bandits
 - Nomads
 - Trolls and Ogres
 - Wights (and Ghouls)
 - True Trolls
 - Rocs
 - Tarns
 - Basilisk
 - Balrog
 - Giants

 - Magic Swords Personality Matrix "Blackmoor"

 - Explanation
 - Combat Characteristics Table
 - Magic Characteristics Table
 - Special Characteristics Table
 - Sword Enchantments by Magic-Users
 - Holy Swords
 - Special Notes

The Underworld & Outdoor Adventures:
     - Population, Area, Resources, Ruling Class, The Country
     - Blackmoor Castle, The Pits, The Ruins, Wolf's Head Pass, The Comeback Inn
     - Blackmoor Military Manpower Distribution (Initial)
 - The Blackmoor Castle's History
 - Haunted Rooms and the Like
     - The Black Hall
     - The Catacombs
     - The Tower
         - Haunted Rooms

 - Sir Fang
 - Elves
 - Dungeon Map Notes
 - Magic Protection Points
 - Wandering Monster Areas

 - Level Maps

Campaign Map Notes (Part 1, Part 2)
 -Terrain Key to Campaign Map
Glendower Dungeons
 - Sample of Playing Area
 - Description of an Area
 - Defense of Area

 - Encounters
 - Moves, Budget
 - Outdoors in Blackmoor
 - Migration
 - Drawing Your Own Map
 - Human Habitation
 - Area Pattern in Hexes

 - The Great Invasion
 - The Original Price/Unit Ratio List
     - Additional Weapon Cost/Limit
     - Additional Price Lists (Standard Castle Types)
     - Personnel Costs (in GP for 1 Year's Pay and Upkeep)
 - The Later Prices Lists
     - Earl of Vestfold
     - Northern Lords (Sea Raiders)
     - City of Maus
     - Regent of the Mines
     - Duchy of Ten
     - Minor Holdings of Ten - Nomads of Ten
     - Egg of Coot
 - Internal Investments
     - Roads, Bridges, Canals, Inns
     - Hunting, Armories and Animal Branding
     - Religion, Exploration
     - Ship Building, Farming, Fishing
     - Trapping, Tourism, Arrival of New Persons
 - Land & Sea Trade
     - Price List 
 - Gypsy Sayings
 - Legends
 - Chance Cards

 - Differences in Creatures from Blackmoor Game
 - Population of Known Area
 - Wizard's Apprenticeship
 - The Languages
 - Hero and Superhero Flunkies
 - Vampires
 - An Explanation of Creature Psychology

Saturday, December 19, 2020

The First Fantasy Campaign: Monsters

The final section of JG 37 "The First Fantasy Campaign" lists a number of monsters, apparently drawn from Chainmail, for which additional descriptions are provided.  My guess is that these predate OD&D, and may have been used in preparing the Guidon manuscript.


Table of dragon types, presumably based on those mentioned in Chainmail (note the inclusion of "purple" dragons, and the lack of gold dragons).  Percentage given is the % "in lair" when encountered.

The first edition of Chainmail describes red dragons (based on Smaug from "The Hobbit") and also lists white, black, blue, green, and purple (each of which were described previously by Gary Gygax in the "Diplomacy" fanzine Thangorodrim (see OD&D Dragons: On the Origin of Species).

The chance for any type of dragon to be found asleep in its lair is given as 80%, in which case a "free chop" is permitted.  There is also a % chance of talking and rules for encountering mated pairs, which were probably incorporated into the OD&D description.

Finally, there are rules for capturing or "subduing" a dragon, which were likewise probably incorporated into the OD&D description.  Richard Snider expanded upon these rules in his additions (see Richard Snider's Additions: The Dragons).


The five tribes of orcs mentioned are those appearing in Chainmail (Orcs of the Red Eye, Orcs of Mordor, Orcs of the Mountains, Orcs of the White Hand, and Isengarders).  Descriptions of their fortified villages are similar to that found in the OD&D description.


Bandits are not mentioned in Chainmail, and so much of Arneson's description might have been used as the basis for the entry in OD&D.


Nomads are not mentioned in Chainmail, and so much of Arneson's description might have been used as the basis for the entry in OD&D.

Trolls and Ogres:

Trolls and Ogres appear under the same category in Chainmail.  Some additional details are provided regarding their vulnerabilities and lairs.

Wights (and Ghouls):

Wights and Ghouls appear under the same category in Chainmail.  Some additional details are provided regarding their paralysis attack and lairs.  Energy drain is not mentioned, but appears in Richard Snider's Additions.

True Trolls:

Are differentiated from normal trolls, as in Chainmail, and certain details regarding their treasure is provided.


Rocs are mentioned in Chainmail, although Arneson provides additional details regarding their nests and the value of their eggs and flightless fledglings,


Tarns, which appear in John Norman's Gor series, are described as the same as Rocs, but larger in some cases (War Tarns, Cargo Tarns, and Racing Tarns are described).


Basilisks are mentioned in Chainmail, although Arneson provides additional details regarding their treasure when encountered in lairs.


Balrogs are mentioned in Chainmail, although Arneson provides additional details regarding their treasure when encountered in lairs.


Giants are mentioned in Chainmail, although Arneson mentions that they "carry their wealth with them and vary in size".

Sunday, December 13, 2020

The First Fantasy Campaign: Magical Items Summary

A chart for determining magical items (including weaponry, equipment, formulas and potions, and books, manuscripts and maps) appears towards the end of JG 37 "The First Fantasy Campaign".

The weaponry category includes "lightning bolt thrower" and "fireball thrower".  Similar devices were described in more detail in DA3 "City of the Gods".

A hand blaster ("wand of sunflame") which functions as a "fireball thrower", from DA3 "City of the Gods".  Illustration by Jim Holloway.

The equipment category includes many of the items from the prior section "Description of Mechanical Marvels" which suggests that these two sections were originally intended to be presented together.*

*DA3 also includes descriptions for the communicator ("talk box") and medkit ("cube of healing")

The formulas and potions category includes many of the prototypical potions appearing in OD&D.

The books, manuscripts and maps section includes technical manuals, as well as "formula" (spell?) scrolls, and treasure maps.

One wonders if this table was the basis for the treasure tables appearing in OD&D, given the similarities.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

The First Fantasy Campaign: Bleakwood

Dave Arneson includes a brief description of a region called Bleakwood in JG 37 "The First Fantasy Campaign".  It is described as being next to Bramwald, which is east of Blackmoor.

The first mention of Bleakwood appears to have been in a piece written by Arneson for the Bel-Ran Rumormonger in 1974, the fanzine for a Midgard Limited play-by-mail game, as described by Jon Peterson in this post on his blog.

Bleakwood was "marked on huge hexes and used plastic and clay models to represent everything." for special convention demonstrations, although was only used at Gen Con VIII in 1975, where Rob Kuntz also ran The Sunken City.

Bleakwood reappeared, this time as a fief in Arneson and Snider's "Adventures in Fantasy" game, first published in 1978.

Bleakwood Fief, from "Adventures in Fantasy" (1979) by Dave Arneson and Richard Snider.  Note the "Shrine of St. Cuth".

Many of the geographical features on the map of Bleakwood Fief are present in the description for the Bleakwood "medieval demographic area" given in "The First Fantasy Campaign".

As a final note, The Comeback Inn released the excellent, fan-made Province of Bleakwood Sourcebook as part of Dave Arneson game day, this past year.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

The First Fantasy Campaign: Loch Gloomen

At the end of the 3rd year, the guys at Blackmoor were exiled for losing Blackmoor to the Baddies (they really messed it up bad).  So under heavy escort, they all ended up in Lake Gloomey with the goods they could carry and were dumped there.

Dave Arneson, The First Fantasy Campaign

The Loch Gloomen phase of the campaign represented an area for the characters to explore, following the dungeon-delving expeditions beneath Blackmoor Castle.  These games took place in mid-1972, by which time sessions were being held at St. Thomas College.

The perils of Loch Gloomen, illustration by Mark Nelson, from DA2 "Temple of the Frog" (1986)

Arneson includes a description of these menacing borderlands:

The most interesting aspect was exploring the surrounding swamps which lent a new aspect to Judging and map making for the following considerations:

1) There was a prevailing Cloud cover and magnetic disturbance precluded compasses, sun spotting and star gazing.

2) While traveling through the featureless swamp, there was a 20% chance of going off the desired track, right or left, without knowing it.

3) The only notable changes in the swamp was the appearance of islands and/or clear water routes.  But if you were unsure how you got there...  River routes were fun, what with stray Galleys and Merchant Ships ready to swarm over you.  Plus the Picts who inhabited the few islands in the area.*

Dave Arneson, The First Fantasy Campaign

*The mention of Picts is interesting, and hearkens back to the mention of barbarian Picts to the west and southwest of the Northern Marches map.

Loch Gloomen constitutes a prototypical sandbox, with old mansions, burned-out farms, ruined castles, monster-infested caves, and haunted villages.  Daniel Boggs reviews how these locations were stocked in Stocking Blackmoor Adventures in 1972.

Under "General Characteristics" there is a list of machines (Teleportation Machine, Flying Machine, Fighting Machine, and Water Machine) without further details.  Justin Alexander discusses these in a blog post, Reactions to OD&D: Arneson's Machines.

Events in Loch Gloomen soon focused upon the defence of the town, covered in Jon Peterson's post "Blackmoor, in the Era of Loch Gloomen".  (For the remainder of the summary, see this excerpt, shared by the Secrets of Blackmoor crew on their Facebook page, March 6, 2017).

*Greg Svenson reminisces about the fall of the Great Svenny and his subsequent resurrection by Mike Carr's character, the Bishop Carr in this thread on The Comeback Inn discussion boards.

The mention of Wesely, Scott Belfry, and Pete Gaylord taking their characters "to the town held by the Monks of the Swamp" was probably the start of a series of adventures involving Stephen Rocheford and The Temple of the Frog.