Friday, April 2, 2021

Kickstarter 2021 Update

Once again gentle readers it is time to review my collection of Kickstarters. Although I have tried to cut back once again I find I have signed up for far too many (Zine quest set the bait well this year). Without further ado here is the updated list. Projects I backed:

Not Due yet

Nightfell: Horror Fantasy Setting for 5E

Vault of Magic for 5th Edition

Monsters of the Wilderness for 5th Edition

Saving Cha'alt

Trudvang: Seed of Vanirs

Realms of Peril

DUNGEONEERING – ZineQuest

THE ONE RING™ Roleplaying Game, Second Edition

Desert Moon of Karth

Where the Wheat Grows Tall

Through Ultan's Door

The Many Crypts of Lady Ingrade (Zine Quest)

Dangerous Destinations Hardcover or PDF for any Fantasy RPG!

Kibbles' Compendium of Craft and Creation

Those Who Wander

IRON KINGDOMS: REQUIEM *5e*

Land of the Rising Sun

Caelum: A Shattered Sky

The Fox's Wedding: a Compendium of Japanese Folklore

Southlands 5th Edition: A Realm of High Adventure 

Dead Man's Rust - a mega-adventure for Scarred Lands 5E

Folio #26 The Virgin Mine Gaming Adventure! 

The Wildsea RPG

Darkest Dungeon: The Board Game

Blackstorm Realms: A 5th Edition Setting

Aaralyn's Stolen Notes to Velea (Reprint) - 5e Setting

Worlds Without Number

The Scarlet Citadel: A 5th Edition Dungeon of Secrets

Into the Unknown: A Solo Campaign for 5e, B/X, and S&W!

Unfamiliar

Tales of Arcana 5E (5th Edition) Race Guide

Where My Peeps At?

Ptolus: Monte Cook's City by the Spire

The Ultimate Guide to Alchemy, Crafting & Enchanting for 5E

The Greatest Thieves in Lankhmar: A DCC Boxed Set

Glorantha: The Gods War (Reprint & NEW Expansions)

Trudvang Adventures - for 5E

A bit late

Heckna! Carnival Horror Campaign Setting for 5e DnD Jan 2021

Book of Monstrous Might for 5E Dungeons & Dragons DnD RPG Jan 2021

Legends of Omeria Starter Set Jan 2021

The Titans Trail: A Mech vs Kaiju 5e Expansion Module Jan 2021

Exalted Vales: Region and Campaign Guide for D&D 5th edition Dec 2020

Creatures: Complete Monster Compendium for 5E Oct 2020

UNBOUND RPG Reprint Oct 2020

Castles & Crusades Castle Keepers Guide Sep 2020

Hearts of Wulin Sep 2020

Cat's Cradle: A Fantasy Town for 5e and Other RPG Systems Aug 2020

Rise of the Ice Dragons Trilogy: Three RPG Adventures for 5e Aug 2020

Shadows of Esteren RPG: Dark Romanticism Jun 2020

World of Aetaltis - RPG Campaign Setting for 5E May 2020

Vampire: the Masquerade - Blood Feud a Mega Board Game May 2020

GODS - The dark fantasy RPG May 2020

Ian Miller’s Grim Tarock May 2020

Arcana of the Ancients, a 5E science-fantasy sourcebook (just the final adventure) Mar 2020

Critical Core Dec 2019

Ruin Masters Nov 2019

Greg Stolze's Reign, Second Edition Aug 2019

Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad Zine Returns! Oct 2019

Reach of Titan Dec 2019

EMBERWIND: a new breed of tabletop RPG Jun 2019

Demon City: The Ultimate Horror RPG Jun 2019

Rise of the Demigods Mar 2019

Complete

The Fall of Mith: Aeteum

Folk Magic of the Haven Isles

The Majestic Fantasy RPG

Lost Lands: Tehuatl

Full Roslof Keep PDF Collection

BRANCALONIA - THE SPAGHETTI FANTASY RPG

Tome of Beasts 2 for 5th Edition: 400 New Monsters

Terrain Essentials

The Complete Curse of Roslof Keep Campaign

Trudvang Chronicles: Muspelheim

Knights of the Shadow Realm

Curse of Roslof Keep Digital Bonus Content

The Folio #24 & #25 Double Edition Adventure Set

Retro RPGA Inspired 1E&5E Mini-Adventure Set

The Paladin Queen's Forest (for D&D 5E and Pathfinder)

DELVE: A Solo Game of Digging Too Deep

Monsters of the City for 5E RPG

Electric Bastionland RPG

The Hero's Journey 2e

Heart: The City Beneath RPG

Spire's End - Solo & Cooperative Card Game Adventure

Tome of Horrors 2020 for Fifth Edition by Necromancer Games

Dungeons & Delvers: Red Book

Fantastic Adventures: Ruins of the Grendleroot for 5e

Empire of the Ghouls: A 5th Edition Campaign vs. the Undead

The Koryo Hall of Adventures 5e Compatible Campaign Setting

World of Relivo

Rise of the Drow: Collector's Edition for D&D 5E or PFRPG

The World of the Lost Lands

The Grande Temple of Jing V1 - For 5th Edition (and others)

Scarred Lands Creature Collection for 5th Edition RPG

Treacherous Traps for 5th Edition!

Tegel Manor Returns!

SECRETS of BLACKMOOR: The True History of Dungeons & Dragons

Sea King's Malice: a 5E Adventure in the Deadly Depths

Tales From the Sorcerer Under the Mountain

L'gat's Tome of Amazing Creatures Volume 3

Cities of Harn

Adventures Great and Glorious

The Isle of The Amazons - RPG Zine for #ZineQuest

Symbar - Mother of Darkness

Far Away Lands Nuzoz

Trilemma Adventures Compendium

Mini-Dungeon Monthly: RPG zine for D&D 5th Edition

Monsters & Magic: a 5e bestiary and treasury

Cha'alt

Lost Hall of Tyr (2nd Edition): Maps and Print Run

Your Best Game Ever!

CAVALIERS OF MARS

Secrets of the Nethercity Estimated delivery Jun 2019

Castles & Crusades: Den of Iniquity Estimated delivery Jun 2019

Dungeons of Amara: Poems and Art of Monsters and Townfolks

The Ultraviolet Grasslands

A Rasp of Sand: A Roguelike Tabletop RPG Experience

The Tomb of Black Sand

The City of Great Lunden

Fateforge: a 5th Edition Roleplaying Game

The King of Dungeons

Lancer

The Folio #22 (1E/5E D&D Adventure)

John Carter of Mars - The Roleplaying Game

The Vagabond’s Cyclopedia: an OSR + PbtA Supplement

Desert Dwellers Estimated

Humblewood Campaign Setting for 5e DND

Silent Titans Estimated delivery

Rex Draconis RPG - Rising Tides

Vagabonds of Dyfed RPG: OSR meets PbtA

The Midderlands Expanded - An OSR Setting Expansion

The Bane of Roslof Keep high level 1E & 5E gaming adventure

Trudvang Chronicles - Stormlands

Calidar "On Wings of Darkness"

Esoterica Tabletop Roleplaying Game

Sandy Petersen's Cthulhu Mythos for 5e

Dortoka: an OSR + PbtA City Module

Folio of Fiendish Monsters 1E monster compendium

Occult Secrets of the Underworld

The Complete White Ship Campaign 1E&5E mega-adventure

Make/100! Spell: The RPG & Spellbook Engraved Wood Box Set

YNDAROS: THE DARKEST STAR, award-winning Symbaroum campaign

Over the Edge: A Roleplaying Game of Weird Urban Danger

The Curse of Roslof Keep high level 1E & 5E gaming adventure

Confrontation – Classic The legendary skirmish game (note I just gave them a buck to read their updates)

The Dragon Heresy Introductory Set Fantasy RPG (5E-variant)

Rappan Athuk: Reborn for Fifth Edition! Go down the Well!

Tome of Horrors: Reborn for Fifth Edition

SYMBAROUM - Monster Codex

Forbidden Lands - Retro Open-World Survival Fantasy RPG

The Folio #16 & #17 Double 1E & 5E Adventure Set

The Folio #18 & #19, 1E & 5E Adventures

Lost Hall of Tyr: A 5e Adventure (Dungeon Grappling support)

Luminous Echo: The Forgotten King extended campaign

Spire RPG

Artifices of Quartztoil Tower - 5E Adventure

Capharnaum - The Roleplaying Game

Sommerlund City Maps

Midgard Campaign Setting: Dark Roads & Deep Magic

Luminous Echo: The Forgotten King extended campaign Estimated delivery Dec 2017

Slumbering Ursine Dunes

Heroic Fantasy & Barbarian Conquerors Collection

50 sHAdes of VORpal (Declared done)

Ended

Salt in the Wounds (I had originally marked this one done based on receipt of the campaign setting, but on reviewing my pledge I realized I had been promised a good deal more).

Refunded

The ADOM (Ancient Domains Of Mystery) Roleplaying Game

Neverending Story

Ryuutama (basically done but pledge contains permanent electronic updates)

Pieces missing

Rhune (one adventure short)

Please come home, I still love you baby (way past due, I still want the item).

Marmoreal Tomb (Adventure in hand but I think its a draft)

Throne of night



 

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Valley of Dewmouth

 I was sorting through old campaign notes on Monday and came across this map.


I drew the map, but She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed used it to run Starstone from Northern Sages. Most of the place names are from Starstone. However, the small village of  Glen's channel and the City of Dewmouth are both places that she made up and added. Maps of these places exist but I am in peril if start rooting through She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed Dungeon master notes without permission.

P.S. My college friend Paul Soper passed away a week ago Saturday. I have asked his widow for his Dungeon and Dragons campaign notes, but since she does not play D&D I am not sure what I'll get. She did find the briefcase he used to keep them in.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Warning Queens Gambit is Fake News

Spoiler alert: This post contains spoilers about the Netflix mini-series "Queen's Gambit" 




Still reading? Good. I just finished watching the mini-series "Queen's Gambit" and although it is quite dramatic and entertaining something about it did not ring true. Growing up a chess aficionado in the 1960's I had never heard of Elizabeth Harmon or the events described in the movie. Turns out it is actually based on a novel written in 1983 by Walter Tevis (The same guy who wrote the "Hustler" and the "Color of Money"). None of the occurrences in the movie from winning the Kentucky State Championship to beating the Russian World Champion are real. Being addicted to tranquilizers is unlikely to improve your chess game, so don't do it (An age eleven Walter Tevis was actually dosed with phenobarbital at the Stanford Children’s Convalescent home while he was recovering from a rheumatic heart condition).

As an aside, in my youth, I was a chess aficionado. One of my earliest memories of childhood was watching my father (who was a very good chess player, I had to wait until he was seventy-two and not quite as sharp to beat him) play chess with one of his students under the apple tree of the house we lived in Cambridge, MA. I still have my copy of Fred Reinfield's Complete Chess Course which I received as a present at age eight. For a while, I used to go over to the college chess club and play while I was still in high school. I gave up the chess club when I discovered the Dungeons and Dragons club which met the same night (It was called the Conflict Simulation Society, but Dungeons and Dragons heavily overshadowed the board gaming). I always suffered from the problem that I couldn't focus well unless I was losing (I have some brilliant games played fiercely with a piece down. I finally beat my father by sacrificing a pawn in a gambit early in the game). I also discovered by playing chess at lunch at work that although chess is an interesting game it is not a relaxing one.  

Although the mini-series is well-acted,  well-directed, and captures the spirit of the chess tournaments I have attended,  it feels a bit disingenuous. The real-world triumphs of Bobby Fischer who actually beat the Russian World Champion or even my friend David Sprenkle who won the Illinois State Championship in 1980 seem more important.


Sunday, October 11, 2020

Much Ado About Nothing

Just a blog post to be blog posting. Several notable blogs have come back to life in recent weeks (my favorite is Grognardia which had been inactive since 2012. It made me think about my own blog in which the post prior to this was in February. You would think with all the time on my hands during the lockdown, I would be able to blog lots, but it didn't work out that way. Trying to write thoughtful and well-researched articles (like I aspire to write) just seemed like too much work for my mental state during those times. Chrome frequently overwhelms the memory of my ancient desktop (used to be 4 GB of RAM was a lot). My copy of Outlook 2007 seems to constantly fight with the new mail servers as well. My wife and son's computers are much better behaved, but I need their permission to use them. I have not been gaming idle during this blog quiet period. Activities included: Binge-watching Critical Role (I had to stop about season 1 episode 100 as the scenarios seemed to be becoming repetitive and the players didn't seem to be learning how to handle their high-level characters). Playing through all of Ravenloft 5e on Fantasy Grounds. Learning Unity game programing by watching Zenva videos (unfortunately, programming seems to be the same tedious line by line text typing I learned in college, I have recently picked up a copy of RPG Maker to try instead). I started watching the Lord Gosumba youtube channel after virtual GaryCon. They have a fascinating series of interviews with many of the "old" Living Greyhawk organizers. I am at the time of life where 10 to 20 years ago doesn't seem old but I suppose it is. Unfortunately, times have changed sufficiently I do not think we will see anything as large or freewheeling as Living Greyhawk again. For the last few weeks, I have been playing Path of Exile. I have been thinking about how to play Path of Exile as a tabletop game. However, it is a little too bookkeeping intensive to play well without heavy modification from the online rules (here is someone else's attempt). I find the part Pacific Islander, part Roman Empire,  part Steampunk fascinating. My backed Kickstarter .pdfs keep collecting in my virtual inbox.  I am trying to slow down on signing up for new ones (5e campaign settings re-treading grimdark horror are making that easier). Well enough kvetching, for now, I'll try to do something more substantive next time.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Kickstarter Update 2020


I am trying to get my Kickstarter progress report for the things I backed out a little earlier this year. I am trying to scale back, but 5e world expansions and fancy card decks keep sucking me in. I also backed a couple of board games with cool miniatures (although I try to resist these because they are expensive).

Projects I backed
 Not Due yet
The Hero's Journey 2e
Glorantha: The Gods War (Reprint & NEW Expansions)
Curse of Roslof Keep Digital Bonus Content
Electric Bastionland RPG
Ian Miller’s Grim Tarock
Vampire: the Masquerade - Blood Feud a Mega Board Game
Tome of Horrors 2020 for Fifth Edition by Necromancer Games
Spire's End - Solo & Cooperative Card Game Adventure
The Folio #24 & #25 Double Edition Adventure Set
Heart: The City Beneath RPG
Retro RPGA Inspired 1E&5E Mini-Adventure Set              
Trudvang Chronicles: Muspelheim
World of Aetaltis - RPG Campaign Setting for 5E
Dungeons & Delvers: Red Book
Fantastic Adventures: Ruins of the Grendleroot for 5e
Hearts of Wulin
Empire of the Ghouls: A 5th Edition Campaign vs. the Undead
Terrain Essentials
GODS - The dark fantasy RPG
Arcana of the Ancients, a 5E science-fantasy sourcebook             
A bit late
Critical Core Dec 2019
Ruin Masters Nov 2019
World of Relivo Dec 2019
Rise of the Drow: Collector's Edition for D&D 5E or PFRPG Dec 2019
The World of the Lost Lands Dec 2019
Greg Stolze's Reign, Second Edition Aug 2019
The Koryo Hall of Adventures 5e Compatible Campaign Setting Dec 2019
The Grande Temple of Jing V1 - For 5th Edition (and others) Sep 2019
Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad Zine Returns! Oct 2019
Reach of Titan Dec 2019
Treacherous Traps for 5th Edition! Aug 2019
Scarred Lands Creature Collection for 5th Edition RPG Dec 2019
Tegel Manor Returns! Estimated delivery Jun 2019
EMBERWIND: a new breed of tabletop RPG        Estimated delivery Jun 2019
Demon City: The Ultimate Horror RPG    Estimated delivery Jun 2019
SECRETS of BLACKMOOR: The True History of Dungeons & Dragons         Estimated delivery Mar 2019
Rise of the Demigods     Estimated delivery Mar 2019
Complete
Sea King's Malice: a 5E Adventure in the Deadly Depths
Tales From the Sorcerer Under the Mountain
L'gat's Tome of Amazing Creatures Volume 3
Cities of Harn
Adventures Great and Glorious
The Isle of The Amazons - RPG Zine for #ZineQuest
Symbar - Mother of Darkness
Far Away Lands Nuzoz
Trilemma Adventures Compendium
Mini-Dungeon Monthly: RPG zine for D&D 5th Edition
Monsters & Magic: a 5e bestiary and treasury
Cha'alt
Lost Hall of Tyr (2nd Edition): Maps and Print Run
Your Best Game Ever!
CAVALIERS OF MARS
Secrets of the Nethercity             Estimated delivery Jun 2019
Castles & Crusades: Den of Iniquity         Estimated delivery Jun 2019
Dungeons of Amara: Poems and Art of Monsters and Townfolks
The Ultraviolet Grasslands
A Rasp of Sand: A Roguelike Tabletop RPG Experience  
The Tomb of Black Sand
The City of Great Lunden
Fateforge: a 5th Edition Roleplaying Game
The King of Dungeons
Lancer
The Folio #22 (1E/5E D&D Adventure)
John Carter of Mars - The Roleplaying Game
The Vagabond’s Cyclopedia: an OSR + PbtA Supplement
Desert Dwellers                Estimated
Humblewood Campaign Setting for 5e DND
Silent Titans Estimated delivery
Rex Draconis RPG - Rising Tides
Vagabonds of Dyfed RPG: OSR meets PbtA
The Midderlands Expanded - An OSR Setting Expansion
The Bane of Roslof Keep high level 1E & 5E gaming adventure
Trudvang Chronicles - Stormlands
Calidar "On Wings of Darkness"
Esoterica Tabletop Roleplaying Game
Sandy Petersen's Cthulhu Mythos for 5e             
Dortoka: an OSR + PbtA City Module
Folio of Fiendish Monsters 1E monster compendium
Occult Secrets of the Underworld
The Complete White Ship Campaign 1E&5E mega-adventure
Make/100! Spell: The RPG & Spellbook Engraved Wood Box Set
YNDAROS: THE DARKEST STAR, award-winning Symbaroum campaign
Over the Edge: A Roleplaying Game of Weird Urban Danger
The Curse of Roslof Keep high level 1E & 5E gaming adventure
Confrontation – Classic The legendary skirmish game (note I just gave them a buck to read their updates)
The Dragon Heresy Introductory Set Fantasy RPG (5E-variant)
Rappan Athuk: Reborn for Fifth Edition! Go down the Well!
Tome of Horrors: Reborn for Fifth Edition
SYMBAROUM - Monster Codex
Forbidden Lands - Retro Open-World Survival Fantasy RPG
The Folio #16 & #17 Double 1E & 5E Adventure Set
The Folio #18 & #19, 1E & 5E Adventures
Lost Hall of Tyr: A 5e Adventure (Dungeon Grappling support)   
Luminous Echo: The Forgotten King extended campaign
Spire RPG
Artifices of Quartztoil Tower - 5E Adventure
Capharnaum - The Roleplaying Game
Sommerlund City Maps
Midgard Campaign Setting: Dark Roads & Deep Magic
Luminous Echo: The Forgotten King extended campaign
Slumbering Ursine Dunes
Heroic Fantasy & Barbarian Conquerors Collection
50 sHAdes of VORpal (Declared  done)

Ended

Salt in the Wounds (I had originally marked this one done based on receipt of the campaign setting, but on reviewing my pledge I realized I had been promised a good deal more).
Refunded
The ADOM (Ancient Domains Of Mystery) Roleplaying Game
Neverending Story
Ryuutama (basically done but pledge contains permanent electronic updates)
Pieces missing
Rhune (one adventure short)
Please come home, I still love you baby (way past due, I still want the item).
Marmoreal Tomb (Tons of beautiful maps have been completed, Frog God Games has taken this over which is promising, but no adventure yet.)


Throne of night

Monday, December 16, 2019

Eberron and Me

Eberron: Rising from the Last War

With the release of the new Eberron hardback from Wizards of the Coast, I thought it might be time to talk about Eberron. Eberron is a Johny-come-lately to the campaign settings, being the winner of a 2002 campaign setting contest. Its principal author Keith Baker remains a font of new gaming ideas, I try to follow his blog regularly. Most of our knowledge of Eberron comes from a series of hardbacks from the 3.5 edition era. When I looked at my collection I have eleven, but checking the list on the internet there are more. I did not collect any of the 3.5 adventures interestingly there are fewer adventures than there are hardbacks.

The first hardback the "Eberron Campaign Setting" published in 2004 is the starting point for Eberron. Being a 3.5 book the first 128 pages are filled with race, classes, prestige classes, magic, and equipment. There is also a section on "heroic actions" something new for Eberron as if 3.5 feats weren't enough to keep track of. New concepts include: Dragon marks a magical birthmark, and the religions of Eberron: The Silver flame, The Sovereign Host, The Dark Six, The Blood of Vol, The Cults of the Dragons Below, The Path of Light, and the Undying Court. Most inhabitants of Eberron worship pantheons rather than single gods. It is not until chapter seven (pages 129-226) that we actually get into the setting itself. Eberron has five major continents Khorvaire, Frostfell, Xen'drik, Argonnessen, and Sarlona as well as the large island of Aerenal. Most of the description in this book is devoted to Khorvaire. Khorvaire is split into five major nations: Aundair, Breland, Cyre, Karrnath, and Thrane. However, there are numerous freeholds, debatable lands, and an entire goblin kingdom as well. The setting timeline places Khorvaire a point where the nations are recovering from an exhausting struggle between them to try and recreate the single continent-spanning kingdom of Galifar. With thirteen great houses, all specially marked with birthmarks of power (dragon marks), vying for power amongst the five nations in a shakey cold war detente there is more than enough political intrigue to last several entire campaigns without ever leaving Khorvaire. The island of Aerenal gets four pages and is the island of the elves. The rest of the continents do get a brief description on the next four pages Argonessen is the land of dragons, not many who go the return. Frostfell is a frozen wasteland. Sarlona is the original homeland of humans and controlled the empire of Riedra, although the hidden mountain fortress of Adar still stands against Riedra (Sarlona gets its own book later). Xen'drik although once home to the kingdom of the Giants is now jungle-covered ruins (Xen'drik also gets its own book). Khyber the Underdark of Eberron also gets half a page. Chapter eight is devoted to organizations: the dragon marked houses, faiths, cults, and other movers and shakers. Chapter nine is some tips for running an Eberron campaign. Chapter ten is magic items. Chapter elven is monsters, most notable are the Halfing riding raptors and the Quori an outsider race responsible for the creation of other monsters. Chapter twelve is a short adventure to run for your players. At 320 pages total it is a decent size book but only about a third of it is what I would call campaign setting.

"Five Nations" (2005) and "The Forge of War"(2007) detail more about Khorvaire. "Sharn: City of Towers" (2004) details the largest city on Khorvaire and Breland's main port (it also includes a music CD I have never listened to). "Eberron Explorers Handbook" (2005) details numerous adventure sights throughout Eberron. "Secrets of Sarlona" (2007) details that continent further with more details on Riedra and Adar, as well as adding the shifter clans of the Tundra wastes, and mage ravaged Skykarn. "Secrets of Xen'drik"(2006) after introducing Stormreach as the port of entry adds some interesting ruins to poke through and explore and encounters to throw in while running Xen'drik as an exploration sandbox. Stormreach gets its own book "City of Stormreach" in 2008. I also own "Magic of Eberron" (2005), "Faiths of Eberron" (2006), and "Dragonmarked" (2006) but these are more player-facing books chock full of prestige classes and feats so favored by the third edition writers of the time. Eberron books I do not own include "Races of Eberron" (2005, this one might just be misfiled), "Players Guide to Eberron" (2006, not big on players guides as a rule), "Dragons of Eberron" (2007, I probably should pick this one up as it has additional information on Argonnessen), and "An Adventures Guide to Eberron" (2008 another player guide). Although there were two Living Eberron campaigns, I only remember playing one adventure where the Khorvarian Nobility snubbed us and then sent us off to pilot a dangerous experimental machine for traveling underground. Everyone in our gaming group returned to the more familiar Living Greyhawk fairly quickly.

I did purchase the fourth edition Eberron books when they appeared in 2009. The war forged race and the artificer class were both popular in my gaming group. I don't think I more than glanced at the campaign guide most of it a rehash of the third edition books.

I didn't purchase the online fifth edition Eberron .pdf and have not played any of the Eberron adventurers league modules which have been appearing over the last year. I received for my Birthday in November the fifth edition Eberron book. The Introduction is a short explanation of how Eberron is different from stock D&D. Chapter one goes through new character and race options. Most races have some spin on their player's handbook descriptions. Several races are re-introduced to the fifth edition including Changelings (doppelgangers), Kalashtar (humans bound by Quori spirits), Shifters (lycanthropes), and Warforged. Dragonmarked characters are treated as subraces of their race and replace several traits. "House agent" is added as a background. Artificer is a new spell casing class capable of manufacturing his own magic items. The chapter ends with a discussion of Group Patrons for your adventuring crew. Chapter two is a Gazetteer of Khorvaire, mostly a rehash of previously published information. There is a brief discussion near the end of the other continents (including the continent of Everice at the south pole even though it is lumped together with Frostfell as a frozen wasteland). The very last section of the chapter discusses the faiths of Khorvarie. I think this is a better discussion than the original "Eberron Campaign Setting" although not as comprehensive as the "Faiths of Eberron". Chapter 3 is about Sharn, the City of Towers. Chapter 4 Building Adventures contains adventure hooks, locations and even a complete adventure at the end of the chapter. Chapter 5 is about magic items. Most unique to Eberron are dragon shards. These crystals serve as components in the construction and powering of other magic items (although the rules here are a bit vague). Chapter 6 (the final chapter) is a bestiary updating monsters to the fifth edition rules, as well as providing NPC versions of the new Eberron races and classes.

Although this review has opened my eyes to the possibilities of Eberron, it still lags behind Greyhawk and the Forgotten realms in my esteem. I do think covering the number of continents it attempts is a bold move, giving something for everyone. The steampunk gothic urban of the main continent Khorvaire is not my cup of tea. Xen'drik is set-up as a jungle crawl similar to Forgotten realms Chult, but I found the book lacking in places of interest. Sarlona has a strong "Darksun" feel, which could work well. Argonnessen seems to have a similar vibe to the second edition "Council of Wyrms" box set, both being dominated by powerful dragons. Eberron is definitely full of ideas worth stealing. I do not like dragon marks as they seem both elitist, in that when acquired at the very start of play they lock the player's allegiance to a specific faction and disruptive, in that those with different marks are forced into opposing factions. The Changling and Shifter races are good options for those desiring to play doppelgangers and lycanthropes as characters. I have enjoyed both the Warforged race and the Artificer class. I look forward to playing their updated versions for fifth edition dungeons and dragons. I have yet to actually play in the Eberron setting (except for that one unimpressive "living" Eberron session). However, every time Keith Baker blogs about it I feel like I am "missing out". Perhaps the Eberron of Keith Baker's imagination is stronger than the rapidly published ensemble cast of authors 3.5 era splatbooks. I hope that Keith Baker will get the chance to reveal more of Eberron in the future.

P.S. How could I miss an entire kingdom blowing up in a magical explosion? Cyre is now Mournland, a magically radiated wasteland. Here an explanation of Eberron from Keith Baker himself here.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Blackmoor and Me


Happy Dave Arneson day!

Blackmoor, of course, dates back to the beginnings of Dungeons and Dragons.  The introduction of the Original Dungeons and Dragons (ODD) booklets mention it in conjunction with the Great Kingdom Chainmail campaign (circa 1971) and cites it as the start of Dungeons and Dragons.


Although there is a great deal of controversy how much Dave Arneson’s role-playing game derives from Chainmail, the Great Kingdom Map seems to be the first appearance of Dave Arneson’s Blackmoor. The second supplement of Original Dungeons and Dragons Blackmoor is the next appearance. Like the first Greyhawk supplement Blackmoor is in the majority extra rules and magic, and magic items. However, unlike it does contain a complete Dungeon in the Temple of the Frog. The Temple of the Frog is a high-level dungeon with an emphasis infiltration as when it is on high alert there are hundreds of troops available. Please note, however, in the original games I played Magic-Users with spells of missile deflection, Fireball, and Cloudkill routinely handled hordes of 100 to 400 bandits by themselves. I was glad to see the Dungeon in the book since it gave more insight into how the designers of the game played it. There are large quantities of sea creatures in the monster section and underwater combat rules which are useful if you’re into that thing. However, Monk and Assassin are some of the worst classes mechanically of ODD.

The next appearance of Blackmoor is the First Fantasy Campaign supplement from Judges Guild in 1977. It is one of my most treasured modules being a collection of Dave Arneson's campaign notes including both the actual Blackmoor dungeon, as well as the campaign map. The module includes instructions for how to connect Blackmoor to the Valley of Ancients in the Judges Guild’s Wilderlands of High Fantasy campaign. The map itself is based on a Renaissance map of the Netherlands so it is very soggy. The map scale always seemed a bit off things described as mountains barely covering the area of foothills. Cultures changing from Vikings to Steppe Nomads in the space of less than 200 miles.


The actual dungeon of Blackmoor itself is fascinating. I am always amazed at how many different ways dungeon designers can start with a piece of quadrille paper and draw unique things. Blackmoor contains lots of diagonal corridors and very few doors. Most of the monsters seem to be just standing around in the hallways. Note that the monster population is the Dave Arneson convention loadout, updated to the published ODD rules rather than his original population. The staircases between levels needed some sort of key. I spent a week with a piece of tracing paper trying to line them all up. Some of the levels have tunnels that lead off the map, something which I used in my campaign. The random yearly events table was completely fascinating as well. Some people object to the lack of organization, however, it is not significantly worse the ODD books. The ODD trained me to hop, skip, and jump around the rules picking up the parts I needed rather than reading rules cover to cover. This has served me well through all the editions since.
In 1980 the Greyhawk Gazetteer includes a region known as Blackmoor, although whether this is Dave Arneson’s Blackmoor is unclear. There an interesting analysis and comparison between the First Fantasy Campaign and the Greyhawk Blackmoor’s on this blog.


In 1986 Dave Arneson got another chance at Blackmoor with DA1 Adventures in Blackmoor. Other than the weird linkage to Mystara it is one of the best Blackmoor modules. However, the weird properties of the Comeback Inn definitely reflect the Jokey Gonzo style of early D&D. DA2 Temple of Frog revisits the adventure from the Original Blackmoor supplement. If you are going try running the Temple of the Frog run this version. DA3 City of the Gods reveals one of the dark secrets of Blackmoor, a crashed alien spaceship. DA4 The Duchy of Ten explores western Blackmoor. These modules intrigued me although most of them were higher level than I was running at the time. Their Jokey Gonzo style is not for everyone, and several items in the modules are campaign breakers (especially City of the Gods). However, they finally give a complete view of several key elements of the Blackmoor campaign. The Egg of Coot remains unexplained. I find Gary's invitation to Dave to write Blackmoor modules a refutation of the eternal rivalry narrative between Gary and Dave current on some websites. It seems the bitterness of the lawsuit of the late '70s (mostly about royalty payments) had faded by the mid-'80s. After DA4 due to upheaval at TSR after the departure of Gary Gygax. Blackmoor goes radio silent. 

The 2000s saw another revival of Blackmoor. The D20 open license led to a joint venture between Zeitgeist games and Dave Arneson. Blackmoor and Blackmoor Dungeons are re-visitations of the material in First Fantasy campaign. Several other expansions were published but these were written by others than Dave Arneson and jarred with my sense Blackmoor. I remember being annoyed that the “Riders of the High Hak” shifted the Hak from Mongolian to Native Americans. I was intrigued by the “Living Blackmoor” living adventure, but was too tied up running “Living Greyhawk” to be able to do much with “Living Blackmoor”. Unlike “Living Greyhawk” all the “Living Blackmoor” Adventures have been archived on the Blackmoor.Mystara.net forum. Follow the instructions here to gain access. Unfortunately, Dave Arneson’s death in 2009 followed by the third to fourth edition transition debacle seemed to have taken all the wind out of this effort. Several very active fan efforts continue to the present day.

Blackmoor remains an important touchstone to the early days of Dungeons and Dragons. The limited range of the campaign map has led it to be shoehorned into other campaigns rather than having it as its own campaign. It, however, packs a great deal of content into a small area being able to match much larger campaigns in depth. If you have the adventure sense for notes in the raw get the First Fantasy Campaign( perhaps hard to find). If you like a more modern approach get the DA adventure series(all available on Drivethrurpg). The Zeitgeist publications(also available on Drivethrurpg) didn’t quite click with me, although I should give them another look.

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