Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Blackmoor News

Over at Havard's Blackmoor Blog, there's an interesting post in which it's stated that the license Wizards of the Coast extended to Zeitgeist Games to produce Blackmoor-related RPG materials will likely not be renewed at the beginning of next year. A lot of old schoolers are surprised to learn that Dave didn't own the rights to his own creation, Blackmoor. Nearly all the proper names and concepts associated with the setting were owned first by TSR and then by its successor, WotC. I couldn't tell you precisely how this came about, since Supplement II contains barely any Blackmoor-specific IP and The First Fantasy Campaign, which does contain a lot of details about the setting, was published by Judges Guild. I can only presume that the late 80s "DA" series of modules are the basis for this arrangement, but, as I said, I don't know this for a fact.

Regardless of the why, Blackmoor was not owned by Arneson nor is it now owned by his heirs. New Blackmoor materials only appeared under a licensing arrangement and it appears as if that arrangement will soon be at an end. On the one hand, I'm not surprised. Licensing arrangements are rarely stable, particularly when dealing with big licensors. On the other hand, I have to wonder why WotC would even care all that much about Blackmoor. Nostalgia aside, it's not a particularly valuable property and I have a very hard time imagining an official D&D IV Blackmoor campaign setting. Bleeding heart that I am, I long felt it would have been a nice gesture to return Blackmoor to Dave or his estate, but I also knew that that wasn't very likely.

The funny thing is that, as I descend deeper into old school madness, I find myself less and less concerned about things like this. It's sad for Blackmoor's fans, of which I count myself one, but the reality is that I no longer care much about pre-packaged campaign settings, even my beloved Greyhawk. It takes comparatively little effort to create a campaign setting of one's own and it has many advantages over relying upon the work of others. Plus, it's not as if we'll ever again see Blackmoor material written by Dave Arneson or that reflects the actual play of the Twin Cities campaign. The same goes for Greyhawk. It's a shame, because I would have found such material interesting from a historical perspective, but the hobby will survive nonetheless, as will my own campaign, whose setting is one my players and I are creating together. From my perspective, that's where the heart of our hobby lies, not in the ideas of any single creator, no matter how remarkable he might have been.

14 comments:

  1. It is a sad moment but one that can still be overcome by 3rd parties that can take 90% of the stuff from a setting and change it so that it has the same feeling, places, locales but with different names. Sure it'll be BlackMoor spelled with a MORE or some other derivative and be playable. It'll be upto the GM to convert it all to their setting and standards.

    It sucks but it's still salvageable.

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  2. Blackmoor's latest incarnation is a 4E version. Could they really be so petty as to think that this is competing with their products? Sad.

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  3. From my perspective, that's where the heart of our hobby lies, not in the ideas of any single creator, no matter how remarkable he might have been.

    What's more this properly honors what they did-- invent a whole new type of game, provide a structure that supports our own creativity and interests.

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  4. Yeah, last year, Greg Svenson was going to start publishing his part of the Blackmoor setting (which goes back to the very beginning) through Brave Halfling Publishing and we were all excited about getting to do it. Zeitgeist Games gave us permission and Dave Arneson even wrote the forward for us, but we never could even get a response from WOTC. :(

    It is indeed time for our own creative efforts. The OSR is far stronger (and more creative) as a movement together rather than as dozens of separate little niches.

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  5. The funny thing is that, as I descend deeper into old school madness, I find myself less and less concerned about things like this. It's sad for Blackmoor's fans, of which I count myself one, but the reality is that I no longer care much about pre-packaged campaign settings, even my beloved Greyhawk.

    Yeah, I completely agree. I love First Fantasy Campaign but that doens't mean I want to set my own game there or that I'm interested in a new Blackmoor product.

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  6. I'd pretty much have to agree. I would like to learn more about Blackmoor myself, but is what is being published really the true Blackmoor? No, the true Blackmoor was the campaign that was ran by Dave Arneson. I have wrote an entire blog post on the subject of existing material and it's effects on my campaign, so I won't go into that here. Too make my position short, I believe nothing of value has been lost from this. We lost everything of value relating to Blackmoor when Mr. Arneson himself passed away.

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  7. You know, I do think that it's very possible WOTC intends to use the license itself. Blackmoor's lost enough in the mists of time that it would probably be a new, exciting thing to a large part of 4e's fanbase.

    And the 4e Blackmoor supplement they released is so terrible that WOTC may just have wanted to buy the license to save face for them both.

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  8. Perhaps it time to find our own dutch maps, flip it on it's back, and trace.

    http://jamesmishler.blogspot.com/2009/10/original-blackmoor-maps.html

    http://batintheattic.blogspot.com/2009/10/introducing-blackmarsh.html

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  9. or embrace the zeitgeist:

    http://dnd.ezael.net/~snorri/odd_sandboxmaker.pdf

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  10. John Adams said: "Yeah, last year, Greg Svenson was going to start publishing his part of the Blackmoor setting"



    I had forgotten all about this one. It's a shame that it appears to have gone no where. Any chance of it still occurring, or has Svenson retracted the offer?

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  11. BlUsKrEEm said - I had forgotten all about this one. It's a shame that it appears to have gone no where. Any chance of it still occurring, or has Svenson retracted the offer?

    Not unless we change a great deal of names and such and I don't think Greg wants to do that.

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  12. It's awful that TSR/Gygax did that to Arneson. To be honest, I never liked the sci-fi themedness of Blackmoor, also I oprefer low level adventuring and haven't gotten past level 4 yet.

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  13. "...the reality is that I no longer care much about pre-packaged campaign settings... From my perspective, that's where the heart of our hobby lies, not in the ideas of any single creator..."

    I agree. And I disagree.

    As I descend into my own old-school madness, I recall creating my own worlds. Memories flood back of how I used to play these games; sitting in homeroom, rolling up stats; using study hall to design the coming week's dungeon. My experiences were a lot like your own Dwimmermount campaign. I'd come up with stuff week by week, rather than planning the whole campaign world out. It was a lot of fun, and as you say, not that hard.

    By the same token, however, I found other people's campaign worlds fascinating. They sometimes suggested a different way of playing the game, or doing different things with the existing mechanics. And in times of stress, I was not above a little pirating of this idea or that for the week's adventure.

    Oddly, of all the products produced, I found adventures to be the most helpful. I say "oddly" because it is a canard in the business today that adventures do not sell. And yet those are precisely the products I bought in abundance. It was easier for me to justify spending $10 on a module than three times that for a boxed set. I was, after all, on an allowance at the time. =)

    So I didn't need pre-packaged campaign worlds, but I liked to read them.

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  14. Ross,

    I don't disagree. I like to see other people's campaign settings too, just as I did back in the day. Of course, back then, I saw them by actually playing in them or by reading articles about them in Dragon and other places, not through published products. In this day and age, with blogs and electronic media so accessible, I think it much better to present one's campaign material through them than through other methods. I would have loved it if Dave had had a blog where he talked about Blackmoor and the adventures had therein.

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