Blackmoor is a medieval fantasy roleplaying game campaign setting created by Dave Arneson. It was the first campaign setting ever created by TSR, but Greyhawk was published before Blackmoor. (The setting Empire of the Petal Throne also known as Tekumel was published prior to even that.) It was published in 09/75. Seeing as Dave Arneson is still running it, this also makes it the longest running campaign in existence.

Blackmoor and Greyhawk had frequent cross-overs, which is rather evident since there's an area of Greyhawk called Blackmoor, it also crossed over with Rob Kuntz's Kalibruhn campaign. You definitely get the feel from reading the individual books that this was a group of GMs entertaining each other, a lot of it feels like things you would only put up with in a home game. Since Blackmoor has so little material published for it, it has less of the polish that other campaigns like Forgotten Realms and Greyhawk have received.

The campaign of Mystara bears a striking resemblence to Blackmoor. Blackmoor was really the setting where most of the original D&D rules evolved. It involved not only the standard fantasy modules, but it also included steam power, gun powder, and other anachronisms, even a space ship. (If anything in a fantasy world can be called an anachronism.)

One odd thing about Blackmoor, which I'm still in the process of researching further, are little hidden barbs against Gary Gygax. The main villain of Blackmoor is the Egg of Coot, which seems to me to be a reference to Gygax (who frequently went by his initials, EGG: E. Gary Gygax). It may have been just a friendly poke, but with Arneson's departure from TSR (which ended in an out-of-court settlement), it casts an odd light to it.

Blackmoor has the odd reputation of being imported into both Mystara otherwise known as The Known World (as a Kingdom) and Greyhawk (as a Barony). There was considerable debate as to which was the "official" location of Blackmoor, but in all honesty, it should be considered its own campaign setting. (At the time, Mystara was the default setting of Dungeons and Dragons while Greyhawk was the default setting of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons.) Arneson eventually produced additional materials for Judges Guild as First Fantasy Campaign.

Blackmoor was created as a medieval fantasy analog to a game which the early founders of roleplaying called "Brownstein." Brownstein was at its heart a wargame, but it added roles for people other than the generals who moved the troops to play (the original game was planned to accomodate 8 people, 20 showed up to play.) This worked very similar to modern How to Host a Murder Mystery party games. One player would have an agenda that they would try and convince the general, or other players, to pursue. Other players would have conflicting agendas. In Blackmoor Arenson added the concept of character advancement and it got rid of the focus on units of miniatures and replaced it with a focus on individual single characters. Arneson used Gygax's Chainmail rules for handling combat situations and spawned many modifications, which with Gygax's help, became the rules for the original Dungeons and Dragons.

The Kingdom of Blackmoor of Mystara is the pale remnant of an ancient kingdom, rich in both magic and technology, which merged the two and eventually caused a cataclysm. The only remains of that technology are the drives from a spaceship, which are now altered and the source of magic in Mystara. Despite the fact that in many ways, Mystara is based partially on Blackmoor, the division is such that it should be considered very separate. Later, several adventures were published for Mystara which featured Blackmoor campaign information. (The DA series, for Dave Arneson). These were DA1: Adventures in Blackmoor, DA2: Temple of the Frog, DA3: City of the Gods, DA4: City of Ten (which is the least canonical of the four, since Arneson wasn't actually involved). A DA5: City of Blackmoor was planned, but eventually cancelled.

The Archbarony of Blackmoor in Greyhawk was a place for where Gygax could drop in anything from Arenson's campaign that he wanted to borrow. I've heard that the City of the Gods (an unpopulated robotic city, with automated defenses) and the Temple of the Toad both appear in Greyhawk. However, otherwise it's located in northern Greyhawk and has a suggestion of powerful artifacts from another land and bears little resemblence to Arenson's campaign. In addition, the Duchy of Tenh from Greyhawk appears to have also been borrowed from Blackmoor's Duchy of Ten. They also both share a region called The Great Kingdom.

Arneson's later publication of "First Fantasy Campaign" for Judges Guild is definitely the official campaign. He also is talking about releasing a new version of it with updates for the Dungeons and Dragons Third Edition rules. As with any other published campaign, the truth is that it still is going to be a pale shadow of what you would experience if you were sitting around Arneson's kitchen table and playing the game yourself.

For more information about Blackmoor, please check the following websites:

  • www.castleblackmoor.com - Dave Arenson's personal website.
  • http://home.earthlink.net/~zimriel/Blackmoor/ - Home of the Ancients (very informative website)
Blackmoor was the second supplement published for the original "white box" Dungeons & Dragons. It was first published in 1975. David Arneson was the sole author.

Despite the name, the supplement in of itself was not a tour of Arneson's fabled campaign setting. It was strictly a set of additions: new character classes, new monster, and new rules. Much of the material, no doubt, came out of Arneson's Blackmoor campaign. Hence the name.

Blackmoor added the Assassin and Monk character classes. It also added a "Sage" NPC class.

Blackmoor's biggest page waster was no doubt the inclusion of an entirely cumbersome hit location combat system. The idea was your character's total hit points were really an average. Your base hit points were used with a formula to determine how many hit points your head, right arm, left arm, chest, abdomen, right leg and left leg had. On a successful hit one had to compute where the hit landed. But that in itself was no simple calc. You had to factor in things like what kind of creature one was attacking. Humanoid? Fish? Reptile? Avian? And then you had to work in height factors and the length of the weapon used. (For example, no matter how hard you try, if you're a halfling with a dagger you're never going to land a head blow on a Storm Giant). But wait, there's more. If you reduced some body areas to 0 Hit Points, like a leg, the character or creature wasn't dead. It just produced game effects like a very, very slow movement rating. However, if you reduced the head to 0 hit points, you scored a kill. The system was far more realistic but the amount of record keeping made the whole system unusable. It's doubtful any gamer ever seriously used the system.

Arneson also introduced monsters and rules for aquatic adventuring. Arneson himself was a huge a fan of naval warfare. He authored of his own set of naval war rules, Don't Give Up the Ship. From these rules we can actually trace back the Hit Point concept.

There were over two dozen new aquatic monsters in Blackmoor. There's a perfusion of "giant" versions of prosaic sea creatures that approaches the comical: giant frogs, giant squids, giant crabs, and giant otters (yeah, giant otters!). More interesting monsters also made their first appearance, like Mermen, Aquatic Elves, and the Sahuagin.

There was also the inclusion of Temple of the Frog, D&D's first ever published module (see Palace of the Vampire Queen for a discussion on "first"). This scenario was based around some weird cult that was breeding a race of super frogs to populate the earth. There were a number of rings the players had to acquire and figure out how to use to gain access to various parts of the temple. The module also has a strange sci fi twist to it involving a high priest who is really a space man armed with some sci fi artifacts. The sci fi element surely invites some comparisons/links to the Expedition to the Barrier Peaks module.

The last portion of Blackmoor was rounded out with a rather simple but well thought out set of rules how to introduce diseases into the game. Clomping around in swamps with open wounds and never becoming infected wasn't entirely realistic (and like a fire breathing dragon is…). Arneson covered about a dozen infectious diseases, from athlete's foot to small pox. Depending upon what terrain type and season the characters were clomping through, they had a certain percentage chance of coming down with some disease. The rules also listed what kind of magical and non-magical cures were available.

See also for additional supplements:

I - Greyhawk, III - Eldritch Wizardry, IV - Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes, V - Swords & Spells

Black"moor (?), n.

See Blackamoor.

 

© Webster 1913.

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