Blackmoor week celebrates the birth of Dave Arneson and his creation of the Blackmoor setting. As the co-founder of the game and other grandfather of roleplaying games, he deserves some love as well, hence this week on the web. You can click the image above to see more of what Blackmoor Week has to offer. But, should you be interested in my own mad ramblings and homages to Arneson’s setting and beyond, do continue here as well! Doc’s Laboratory awaits!
Since its inception, there have been a number of iterations of the lands of Blackmoor. The ones most tied to Arneson were the first and last incarnations. And to an extent, even the alteration into Mystara’s history counts. My experience with Blackmoor started mostly with the final versions, the 3rd edition and 4th edition source books provided by Zeitgeist Games at the time. While I knew it was put into the distant past of The Known World and beyond, I never had a chance at the Mystara friendly version of it for a while. None the less, I favor a blend of the classic vision with the Mystaran one. It even factored into a game friends took part in long ago. Said game was a multiple campaign arc in Mystara, with tons of crazy time travel and other antics with reality. The last game ended after our travels back and forth into Blackmoor’s history. For numerous games, we were called to deal with progressively evolving threats in the kingdom-turned-empire. However, our final threat was something we weren’t prepared for, a Blackmoor in the modern age. Sadly, the campaign ended as we caught a glimpse of an imposing and bleak city over the horizon. Mind you, this was during the days when many of us still thought Blackmoor would be fit in the Broken Lands, before we realized that later developments changed that.
This isn’t the end of Returned Blackmoor, just it in active campaign form. Years and years passed, before the Mystara Reborn Facebook group became the encouragement I needed to give life back into this new Blackmoor. With old notes in hand and scrambled bits from the rest of the old table, I cobbled together an image of what a Blackmoor might look like if it used time powers to survive its doom in the Mystaran world. It turns out, having your land rotated into a frigid wasteland can massively throw one off. This, combined with plague and political instability lead to a trusted member of the military staging a coupe and establishing a harsh dictatorship. While the arcane-infused high technology of Blackmoor recovered and developed anew, the culture became far more stagnant and stale, as leadership forbid it to develop further. As the decades passed since it leapt into the near-present, the leader began to lose a grip on reality as well as physical health. Ultimately, he would become something of a quasi-undead cyborg, a major campaign reveal. (A brain-in-a-jar piloting a robot body, a staple science fiction trope.) Meanwhile, movements arise in the shadows to oppose him, some more extreme than others. Other forces stir, many of which driven by wicked ends. All sorts of enemies roam this new Blackmoor: wasteland raiders, rogue robots, mutant animalmen, atomic undead, acolytes of new dark Immortals or even the slumbering Egg of Coot! Those are only a few examples.
Now, how does this involve the players? Well, many games could involve them in the mayhem and wonder of this forbidden land. For starters, they could help shape an uprising against the corrupt usurper state. Heroes may choose to help remnants of the old ways help restore classic order within the realm. They might consider radical change instead, favoring one of several other factions, ranging from reformists to new potential overlords. They might even earn the trust of the regime and become ambassadors to the greater world. Over time, the current ways of Blackmoor may become less extreme in their own way. For the more Arneson approved old school experience, there are a number of dungeons both classic and infused with gonzo science-fantasy, even Castle Blackmoor has received modifications over the eons. It seems with time that many of the kinks that caused Blackmoorian tech to go haywire are more properly ironed out too. Or at least, more attention to potential sabotage. Potential for larger plots exist too: Blackmoor trying to integrate safely into the greater world, the Immortals having none of it and punting the land into the Hollow World (alongside the Blacklore Elves), a massive war risking a Greater Rain of Fire, the rise of a new Blackmoor Empire and much more.
To dive more into Returned Blackmoor, check out Threshold Magazine! Issues 20, 22 and 26 (edited) have articles by me.