Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Duero's Tower, Chuck Monson's early 1970's Campaign and more...

More from my discussion with Chuck Monson, in his own words:

"My D&D campaign of this time was known as Duero's Tower, a old keep off in the countryside used for a while by the not very amazing nor powerful wizard Duero which began some adventures.  
Duero was assumed by players to be absent (and an NPC legend) whose name was associated with a pile of cut rocks that had at some point in history been a strong point in the area.  No more than a room or two remained intact, perhaps a couple of broken stairs (wood) and such.  Evidently Duero may have left odd bits there which may have been abandoned or ignored by looters and sundry wanderers.  Only the daring, etc., approached the tower... Duero's story was more or less involved with nature magics, but not a druid, and by legend known to thwart any Evil upon the Land.  Then he seemed absent, then gone from the place, pehaps for a lifetime... 
As a storyteller, I was not giving away much in magic, goods or real stories.  Often just clues:  a broken piece of expensive looking crockery, an artsy styled clay vase fragment, and small wooden box with broken hinge... I liked clues useful to those with open eyes and open imaginations.  From those teasers the players more or less constructed the adventures themselves with some guidance from me.  

None of the player characters ever reconstructed the tower, or even rose to a status of wealth or social prominence, but they seemed to enjoy a lot of adventures during our couple of years of gaming.  

There was a later campaign around the legend of Bog Eye, a marvelous huge green gemstone with a flat surface that allowed visions of the goings on in the swampy lands of a barony.  The gem was in the possession of a dragon, of course, but coveted all the same.  
My players were mostly lower levels, 5-6, in this campaign, and understood the balance of things in the barony.  I required the players to be aligned neutral-good to neutral-evil, but compatible in attitudes, mostly.  No one was above larceny, no one was pure and Good.  And all seemed a bit dangerous in some way.  Fortunately, too, no one was truly Evil in nature. This was a time when Fritz Leiber and Robert E. Howard occupied my light reading hours.    

This campaign had small and remote dens of monsters (trolls or such), non-human PCs, and was commonly understood to have what I called 'treasured' riches.  I was more liberal as a storyteller and let the player characters gain minor magic items like gloves that enhanced dueling skills, +1 or +2 armor, a magic sword or two.  I also had fun with 'cursed' items.  

There was a power infrastructure: a bishop, a couple villages, towns run by tough, heroic types.

There was a Bishop's palace, a great house really, which was surrounded by a wide dry moat filled with life-sized statuary ... animals, men, and the occasional monster... the moat was an elaborate trap which transformed trespassers into stone.  Obvious to most, but not all... a warning of more to come if unwelcomed guests arrived... at this time I had not read Narnia, so no, no intention of duplication in that.

On occasion the Bishop feasted his guests. After a sumptuous repast, he would invite these select few to visit his treasure room.  Within the palace was a store room of legendary wealth... and he was amused to let his guests wander along a long, high roofed chamber which was piled with loose coins as tall as a man's height, with various oddities like wands, swords, armor, etc, some magic, some just very fine.  It was a greed trap.  "Take all that you can remove from my bounty," the Bishop would say with relish.  Then the chamber doors would close after the characters resolved to enter and accept the Bishop's favor.  He was a neutral-evil cleric. Of course the players would discover that not all that glitters was easily taken... being in some cases cursed and mixed in alignment.  Zaps, slashes, mind control challenges, etc., made it a bit of fun... and player ingenuity typically prevailed.  I was a kindly storyteller and did not roast or gut my players often, but vex them, yes, that was fun. And most of the coins were coppers, lol. 

One of the treasures taken out of the Bishop's chamber was a yellow died leather armor coat with some magical property.  The player in question put the armor on a frame and fired a crossbow bolt into it.  The bolt passed through the front of it.  When examined the exit hole in the back was perhaps the size of a fist.  Yes, the armor enhanced the wound damage.  An object lesson learned, it would seem.  What a gift to put upon an unsuspecting victim!  

Yes, I admit, it is fun to recollect these game adventures."   

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Monson On Playing and Wargaming

More of my discussion with Blackmoor Original Player Chuck Monson.  Again, my questions in italics:

 Did (do?) you prefer tabletop wargaming over D&D style dungeon delving?

I like both styles of gaming.  Role playing is a great deal of fun for me because I like to be involved in stories with other players.  I like the spontaneity of play and the creativity of adventures.  I also consider myself an avid table top miniatures wargamer for historical wargames: Napoleonic land battles being a favorite period. Wesley's Strategos N was a lot of fun, but too siege oriented at times (the Totten effect).  All in all, after nearly forty years of this hobby, role playing remains a favorite pastime.   

 In the First Fantasy Campaign you are mentioned in a section where it says: "Later, the game moved south....  Major border changes occurred when Monson was wiped out....  Significant event included a Nomad attack from the Duchy of Ten that was wiped out by Svenson and the Sniders. A great Peasant revolt that wiped out Monson, badly hurt Nelson and was then wiped out by all the other players. An expedition to the City of the Gods (located in the Desert south of Monson's old place)..."    Was the peasant revolt mentioned in the paragraph a tabletop battle you played out?   

I remember gathering forces and building a strong point to defend.  I don't think any of us there knew what to expect.  David had his fun too.  Yes, my great plans fell awry.  The first 'fall' was pretty hard fought, but overwhelming invaders.  That was when I figured out the meaning of 'Ten'... David multiplied the opponents by huge numbers and stomped his way through the defenses.  A second defense was even more crushed, but noting the game history, it took all the other players to counter the events.  As I can't remember any table top battle, likely not.  There would have been heaps of figures on the tables, the floor, the stairs...  LOL.    

 Did you have anything to do with the Duchy of Ten Nomads or the Peshwa?

No, I had nothing to do with the Nomads or the Peshwa. 

Did you adventure at all in the City of The Gods?

No, I did not venture to the City.  I was after all only a weekend visitor from 150 miles away.  
Did "Monson's old place" have a name?

It was only a place for the one battle.  No one was left alive to remember a name, or didn't care to do so.  LOL.  

I've made the argument that Arneson was using a variant of Weselys Strategos N, since that's what those guys seemed to have used for everything, but others have thought that he was probably using CHAINMAIL by Gygax and Perren to resolve the battles.  Any idea?

I thought David was winging it much of the time and used brief references on notepaper at best.  Certainly no copy of Chainmail or other rules clarified his numeric horde armies.  I never saw anyone referencing Chainmail after the earliest of days.  I picked up a copy of CM perhaps ten years later, then lost it.    

I found the tales of who influenced whom very typical for revisionists wanting intellectual property control.  In reality, gamers 30 or more years ago really adapted from many sources, including literature and actual games.  Had anyone thought to ask from where did Chainmail derive its data and terminology?  CM is not the font of all being in RPG, just another reference with a muddied history. Personally, I am more convinced that Tony Bath has the earliest published common source.  Then again, there are WWII simulation rules that formulate a single soldier running through sand firing an SMG (Korne's Rules).  A gaming buddy and I used to name our characters to play on a sand table we built in his basement.     

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

BEYOND THIS POINT BE DRAGONS: Mystery Solved, Mystery Deepens

It was a nice story and a pretty slick bit of deductive reasoning, the series of posts I wrote introducing the existence of Beyond This Point be Dragons back in late April of 2012.  I concluded that Dave Arneson had been the creative force behind the production of the Beyond This Point be Dragons Manuscript.  The conclusion rested primarily on four lines of evidence:

1) The art looked a lot like the drawings in the FFC

2) The language of the text was significantly less "Gygaxian" than that of the 3lbb's and contained words most characteristic of Arneson (chops especially)

3) There were trace rules only found in the BTPbD and in the FFC.

4) Gygax claimed to have edited two drafts of D&D, and Arneson mentioned only creating a single unused "final draft".  Since BTPbD did not reasonably appear to be either of the Gygax drafts, Arneson's draft alone remained as the best fit explanation for BTPbD. 

The first of these arguments simply fell apart under scrutiny, because I choose to compare handwriting found on the various pieces of art and in the FFC that turned out to be a mix and match of hands.  Nevertheless a weaker case could still be made on stylistic grounds, but it just wasn't clear who drew the pictures.

Without the art, the second and third points still indicated a strong Arneson connection, but without any other, or earlier D&D drafts there was really no way to know if the "Arnesonianisms" and other mystery items were additions by Arneson to BTPbD or carryovers from some earlier draft that eventually got cut or changed before D&D was published.  

The last point teetered on what may have been oversimplified remarks by Gygax, a single unspecific remark by Arneson, and a lack of some of Arneson's D&D material.  What actually went on regarding the editing and typing of manuscripts wasn't perhaps as clear as the two men had let on.

There was another possibility that I acknowledged in the May 3rd 2012 'blog article "... we would need to find something unique, some quirky word or turn of phrase, or pattern of speech that really stands out as characteristically his.  Without such a marker, there would always remain the possibility that BPTBD could have been prepared by some other associate of Gygax and Arneson or some one of the couple of dozen members of the IFW who had an early script."

Zenopus (the ever clever Zac) picked up up on this very thought and in a post on ODD74  where he asked "Can it be excluded that this was prepared/edited/revised at a later date from Dave's notes by someone other than him?"  Cadriel (of the excellent Semper Initiativus Unum 'blog expressed much the same skepticism, "It's clear that this is a document out of the Minneapolis "scene" in Dungeons & Dragons, and clearly bears the mark of Arneson's play in large part. (There are things I think need more research, such as the "instant kill" rule - no Arneson player has ever reported that, and it should be confirmed.) However, given the presentation, I'm not sure it's a draft intended to be sent to TSR for publication. The other possibility is that it's a document emerging out of Arneson's large play group, possibly with a separate editor, that put forward his rules for play by other groups in 1973." source

Clever fellows, all three.

In response I wrote "The idea that BTPBD might somehow have been produced by someone in Arneson's gaming circle is the hardest to rule out. Unlike the other ideas, there's no direct contrary evidence in the text, particularly if you assume Arneson or notes from Arneson were involved.

We have to wonder who that might have been though and why they would have bothered.  Those whom I have been in touch with (J snider, G Svenson, S. Rocheford, M. Mornard) know nothing about BTPBD, and that's a big problem for your theory.  There's also the fact that Arneson only shared notes with a very few of his players (mostly the ones I just mentioned along with Ross Maker) - he didn't want rules arguments.  However, once the Minnesota group recieved Manuscript B from Gygax, they did begin playtesting it, so one of them could theoretically have created BTPBD.  Maker or maybe some other alternate DM in one of the splinter groups, such as that Ken Fletcher played in, could possibly have found Mss B inadequate and tried to expand it, but, as I mentioned, none of the other Blackmoor folks know of anyone working on D&D Mss. except Dave, and its hard to see what a splinter group not associated with Dave would be doing with some of his material and, apparently not much of their own."

In short, there seemed to me to be no credible reason and no credible candidate in the Twin Cities to explain a secret production of Beyond This Point be Dragons.  Turns out I was right about that.  There was no secret editor  in the Twin Cities.  There was however in Duluth....

The first clues came a few weeks ago when Jon Peterson, author of Playing at the World and an avid collector, turned up and published here, a flyer from a group in Duluth Minnesota that had a picture of a wizard that was part of one of the full page illustrations found in BTPbD.  The group was called Contax, and one of the people instrumental in starting that group had been Chuck Monson.

That's the same Chuck Monson, interviewed in our previous post, who played in Blackmoor and is mentioned in the FFC.   In the course of our dialog he told me about a manuscript he used to run games in Duluth  He said, (questions from me in italics)

"David allowed me to copy his notes in those days and that copy was my source to continue gaming back in Duluth for a couple of years during my college days.  I wore the ink off the pages running my own campaign. This was before any formal publication of D&D.   

I also remember that my copy of David's notes was from another copy.  The graphics were in background on graph paper and the lines were clearer than in the OD&D publication, but those marks were still evident there. My copy was on a heat-transfer ink copier so the ink sat on top of the heavy paper.  

Hard to recall the drawings. They included at least one sketch of a map and a monster certainly as an example and the graph paper it was drawn on was much clearer than as later appeared in the D&D booklets.  

Was this a "clean" copy or did it have scribbled hand written corrections or additions into the margins or anything like that.  I realize that may be something too difficult to recall.

Certainly difficult to recall, and, no, no marginalia that I can image.  Unlike Harry Potter, no magical notations to casting ."

I also sent him a copy of the BTPbD manuscript and mentioned that one of the images had also been found in a Flyer from Contax.  I asked if the manuscript rang any bells.  Here is his response (questions from me in italics):

"I know something of this.

Contax:  hearing that again caused me to remember vaguely using that group name for about one hour, then forgetting it.   One of those vain moments in college gaming days.   It referenced my Duluth gaming friends in that day with hopes of contacting other players.  

Among them was Mark Bufkin whose enthusiasm produced  Beyond This Point Be Dragons.   Mark's effort was to reduce the die rolling to d6's, not the polygonal version.  I do not believe he ever ran a game with those rules.

At some time I mentioned this to Prof. Barker and later delivered the only copy I had ever seen (actually unread until the car trip to the Twin Cities) .  Barker remarked right away that it looked like a copy of Arneson's work.  That made me uncomfortable, but it was after all not mine to defend.  Barker gave me a copy of his Wizard's War game at the time.  Barker was engaged with serious discussions of his intellectual property rights with TSR, but I think this was prior to the link to David Arneson's share holding interest in TSR. 

Mark was more engaged in his fantasy baseball league at the time.  His team in the 1970's was the Texas Rangers.  That puts my contact time with Mark around 1971 to 1975. "  

In your earlier email you mentioned "David allowed me to copy his notes in those days and that copy was my source to continue gaming back in Duluth for a couple of years during my college days."  Were those notes  what Mark Bufkin used to create his copy or was he working off of something else?

"I have to think that Mark worked from my copy but perhaps this was after the very first three book set was published and of course in his own style on a typewriter.  

Mark never ventured to the Twin Cities nor did he play with David Arneson during the time of our gaming friendship. "

Do you know if he drew the art in BTPbD? 

"I did presume at the time that he did draw that artwork himself.  There were no other common sources for us to work with that I recall. " 

There is a reference to Narnia as one of several fantasy world examples.  Was Narnia an inspirational setting in your gaming group?

"Mark would definitely be the most likely party to refer to Narnia.  No one else in my gaming group in those days had read the CS Lewis works.   This gave Mark a lot of story material which we would enjoy.  

My gaming story backgrounds were from reading the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series and then R. E. Howard's various tales."  

There are instructions in the manuscript for using playing cards to randomly generate percentiles.  Was using playing cards like that something you guys used to do?
"No, the playing card randomizers were only in Mark's game play.  I don't recall much more than that. " 

Although Mr. Monson was able to clear away much of the mystery surrounding BTPbD, there are still a number of questions remaining.  I wish my next statements were about learning more from Mr Bufkin, but I have to sadly report that he passed away in 2012 at just 57 years of age, and less than 2 months after my initial post on BTPbD.  He was only 18 in 1973.

What was Chuck Monson's copy of the rules that Mark Bufkin used to produce BTPbD?   Was it a straight copy of Gygax's "Guidon D&D" draft - the one used to produce the Mornard fargments?  Or was it a draft Arneson had prepared with his notes and changes?  Did Bufkin inject a "Twin Cities" vibe into BTPbD through being a participant in Chuck Monson's games, or did that come directly from the source materials he used?

For example, Jon Peterson has made the interesting argument on ODD74 that certain features, the "SETTING THE STAGE" section (bk II:16)  in particular, strike him as deriving from some campaign other than Greyhawk or Blackmoor.  The names are unique to BTPbD, but I felt they are fairly easily explainable as simply being generic examples from a generic sample map, but maybe they meant something more to Mark Bufkin.  One thing about that "SETTING THE STAGE" section that always seemed particularly odd to me was the mention of Narnia.  I'd say references to the works of C. S. Lewis are at least very rare if not completely absent in any of the contemporary material from either Gygax or Arneson.  Maybe this is an example of a section Bufkin wrote or edited, or maybe it's not.

So, while we can say the mystery of who created the Beyond This Point Be Dragons manuscript is resolved, there remains much work to be done and more mysteries to be solved with this fascinating little set of rules.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Melted like cheese on plate armor. ...

In the First Fantasy Campaign, under the section titled Campaign Map Notes, we find the following, ""Later, the game moved south....  Major border changes occurred when Monson was wiped out....  Significant event included a Nomad attack from the Duchy of Ten that was wiped out by Svenson and the Sniders. A great Peasant revolt that wiped out Monson, badly hurt Nelson and was then wiped out by all the other players. An expedition to the City of the Gods (located in the Desert south of Monson's old place)..." 

Poor Monson.  "Monson" refers to Chuck Monson, and aside from this entry in the FFC, he's not someone we've heard a lot about in regards to Blackmoor.  As his name came up recently in regards to Beyond This Point be Dragons,  I thought someone should remedy that situation.  I'll be doing several posts on what Mr Monson has to say, but we'll start with his introduction.  So here is Chuck Monson, original Blackmoor player, in his own words:

"I lived in Duluth, Minnesota, and played naval miniatures and Avalon Hill games in 1970.  I heard about an open Diplomacy game when I visited the nearest wargame store, The Tin Soldier, about 150 miles from my home.  I gained an invitation to play Diplomacy at the home of Greg Svenson.  There I also met Bill Heaton, another gamer.  Conversation lead to mention of a game club meeting in St. Paul.  

At that meeting, Dave Arneson was in a heated discussion with Randy Hoffa about a game issue.  Later that day I joined in a Dont' Give Up the Ship miniatures game with Mike Carr. I also learned about the next meeting. I was hooked on having a group of gamers in one spot, unlike my one-on-one gaming experiences.  

At a following meeting we played Braunstein, something with a dragon that popped up in the middle of the game.  It was interesting, but a bit confusing. 

Again, another three hour drive to the Twin Cities, this time with the idea that a Napoleonic campaign was formed and that I might join the British team.  Rear Admiral Sir Marmaduke Monson came to be in the battle of Denmark against Richard Snider's Russian fleet and Steve Rocheford's Prussian raiders.  What was different here was the role of personalities rather than fleets or armies as expected.  I rather enjoyed the experience, creating part of the story line from my perspective.  

After that, I became involved in only a couple of Napoleonics games including sacking the Russian Winter Palace, then enjoyed the COTT articles, and the socializing of the other gamers.  What passed from there was an introduction to David's Blackmoor games.  Therein I took up the position of an armored fighter who by lack of luck met with scorched death more than once.  Perhaps it was David's way of testing my resolve, or just a way to humor himself.  I persisted however, and gained acceptance in the group. 

Blackmoor was interesting as players carved out their vested interests on the maps.  Eventually, this led to the Duchy of Ten campaign as noted by Judge's Guild.  I was at Gen Con in the Playboy Club when I was called over to the company table and given a free copy of the publication, just because my name was in there.  Well, it was there.. twice I think... I am not yet digging out my copy from the closet.  Many years later I would use that mention as a ploy to get a better auction price for another person's copy. 

John Snider ran the Egg of Coot; his brother Richard another character; the Great Swenny; Bill and Old Blue (his sword); Rocky and the Temple of the Frog.  Dave Megarry was around somewhere and Bob who lived... at the Snider apartments on Riverside. Doug Hoffman was there a couple of times before he headed off to Anapolis. Blackmoor was fun and instilled a deep passion for role playing games in general.  

Yes, I played in Blackmoor dungeons several times.  Died, died, died.  Melted like cheese on plate armor.  We all noted that more monsters fit into tiny dungeon rooms than anyone thought possible.  Yet we kept on playing...  My characters were always humans.  Always a fighter.

I also was an intermittent visitor at Prof. Barker's home games and played two large Tekumel miniatures games in the Cities.  I remember vainly that my first character I rolled a 99 on appearance and that I named him Mulloch.  Later, in the first game I played, David Sutherland's character sold him off to sexual slavery.  That was the end of his story.  I do remember that in part of the conversation that day, it was mentioned that Bill Hoyt recently had fronted funds ($800?) for the publication costs of some of the Barker game material.  

There was a brief time one summer when I was supposed to be working on an American Civil War game between the Twin Cities gamers and the Lake Geneva gamers.  I remember getting ammonia print (blueprint) copies of the 'official' West Point maps to manage the game (pbem) in background to actual table top play in each locale.  Some aspects of 'generalship' bore RPG feel to them in the story telling, but no character cards, etc.  with details.  

I further played in several games based out of John Snider's apartment covering his Star Empires game, a very long WWII campaign, and later Rocky's Great War variant.  John Snider was a remarkable game manager and a very practical game designer.  Extremely intelligent (degrees in Mathematics, History and Physics (I think), ROTC and graduated in 4 years from the University of Minnesota); later an educator at the Army War College. He had a crowd of gamers at his residence in Riverside, near the UofM campus.  He ran a WWII game (among others) on weekends and I would frequently travel there to play ( the great trek of 150 miles, gas was $0.35 a gallon and freeway speeds were easily 'variable').  

John used a simple military rule set that seemed overwhelming in off-page details which he tracked on a small note book (3x4) each session. The rules were later adapted to a Great War campaign by Rocky (Stephen Rocheford) aka von Rocheford.  Pencil scribblings of the 1970s were used to track data, and each team/player of a nation had a list of units for wargaming purposes -- not table top.  

I played a role (sans character card) managing economic plans for the German team and Rocky was the military role.  One of Rocky's early maneuvers was to assassinate Hitler and become the great marshal of the Army faction leading Germany.  My character was down the hall occupying a toilet when the shooting was over.  Our next mission, as it was, led to the marginalization of the SS units. On the diplomatic front, we grandly shook hands with the Russians (Richard Snider) to gain resources for the Reich, and stayed at arms reach for the rest of the game.  Richard pursued a Near East strategy in Persia while we fought off the British and other allied forces.  We conquered France and ran it pretty much as a Vichy nation.  We supported the Italians across North Africa where the French had retreated (I think Greg Svenson played France).  David Arneson became 'Arnesako' as player for Japan.  (I still have a picture somewhere of David in a kimono).  Fred Funk played the over-the-top British.  One game ploy, carried on independently by Japan and Germany, was to keep the USA neutral for as long as possible.   (I still have copies of the Great War campaign rules which Rocky adapted from John's handouts.)   

The WWII campaigns ran part of every Saturday session for perhaps 2 years or more and these weekends also included campaigns  (with David Arneson and the usual suspects) for Star Empires (written by John Snider and later published by TSR) and I believe a couple of other games, including a fantasy campaign (not a Blackmoor game as I recall; maybe a pre-quell to Richard Snider/Dave Arneson collaboration).  A very active group of about 10 or more persons.  

I played in the Twin Cities on weekends for about five years.  I played in Duluth for about nine years.  When I moved west to Salem, Oregon, in 1980, I continued play at the local club at Stuff 'n' Nonsense out of which I formed my first gaming convention.   

I stopped playing D&D when my local players became power hungry around 3e.  I prefer story telling as opposed to golf carts loaded with magic staves, spare Eyes of Odin, and dimensional windows back to a safe castle-home every evening. I did venture out once in a while, but I was required to fix up a 20th level character to qualify in the local group.   Not my cup of tea.

I have from time to time ventured out in Tekumel, certainly Traveller, and Pathfinder for several years.  I keep tabs on RPG games through the Metro Seattle Gamers club and the Dragonflight Convention, now in its 37th year this month.  

I did meet up with M.A.R. Barker for a semi-private dinner out at a Pacificon Origins in San Mateo.  It was memorable not just because of the contact time, but because Barker politely used his Cantonese to gain entry to the restaurant as it was about to close.  He made quite a good impression on the owner.  How many RPG players think to add a master linguist to their retinue?

David Arneson made it to the Dragonflight Convention (Bellevue, WA) as a guest a few years back.  That's my local convention here in the Northwest.  I helped out as convention manager for about eight years starting in 1980 and the 37th convention happens at the end of this month.  I shall be a guest there.  

David and I chatted for a couple of hours off and on between his duties.  At the banquet meal, we sat together.  He commented at the time 'if they (the others around the table) only knew about the early days".  I replied that many did know, because I told them.  I mentioned that I also had spoken at the first annual dinner of the Wizards of the Coast. My talk had been about my view of the industry revolving around my experiences with Arneson, Barker and others.  Kind of a 'and now for the rest of the story' lecture, encouraging respect of contributors and others responsible for the success of a business.  TSR had a dark reputation in that talk.  David had heard that I had done that." 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Blackmoor as a CHAINMAIL Campaign

Rob Kuntz:
"No one knew what to call it so we have a "place-holder" for it. However, people today are quite literal-minded.  So the sentence could or would convey the implication of the Chainmail derivation.  Those who know, know.  Those who don't know are left with what appears to be."  Read more: LINK

That Blackmoor was a CHAINMAIL(TM) campaign who's unique qualities accreted through play is a "truth" repeated so often by so many voices over the years it is surely something "everybody knows" and has known for a long time.  So why question what everybody knows?

I might say: "Because nobody does.", but that's not completely true. I won't cite quotes from specific personalities, (pro or con) because I'm not looking to call anyone out or burn any heretics, but suffice it to say that amid those who have opined on the subject, several of the original Blackmoor players have, from time to time, made the seemingly odd claim that they didn't play CHAINMAIL at all in Blackmoor.   

To be clear, what I'm specifically talking about is the rules of CHAINMAIL as the basis of the wargaming component of Blackmoor.  CHAINMAIL isn't an RPG ruleset or a guide to world building, it is a wargame, so the narrative understood by addressing Blackmoor as a CHAINMAIL campaign is that when battles were being fought by armies or just men and monsters it was under the rubric of the CHAINMAIL ruleset. 

In other words, CHAINMAIL was the go to set of rules for battles and warfare, which in turn, so the narrative goes, was the initial and primary focus of the games.  It is the first part of that narrative, the CHAINMAIL as the rules for Blackmoor wargames, we will examine here.

Our primary documentary sources for the Blackmoor campaign 1971-1975 are The First Fantasy Campaign(TM), The Corner of the Table Newsletter, and the Blackmoor Rumormonger and Gazette newsletter.  

What follows is a thorough but not exhaustive look at these sources.  I've gone through and isolated "rulesish" references that point to or from CHAINMAIL as a source and I've divided these into pro and con segments. 

First - Evidence in favor of Blackmoor as a CHAINMAIL campaign.

Anyone reading CHAINMAIL (hereafter CM) and the First Fantasy Campaign (hereafter the FFC) will surely notice the co-incidence of descriptive terms such as Hero, Superhero, and Wizard peppered throughout both works.  There are many instances, so I'll note just two:

"Superheroes - 8 plus one per 40 villages per year." (FFC 77:7)
"....Dale Nelson (Hero, magic sword)..."  (CoTT V4, #5.  Lake Gloomey) 

Blackmoor derived these terms from CM.  There is absolutely no reason to think otherwise.

Below is a table comparing hand to hand weapons.  For simplicity I excluded projectile weapons, however very similar results can be obtained for that class of weaponry.  The first column contains the weapons list from the CM 1st  edition Man to Man table, the second is from the list found on Pete Gaylords very early Blackmoor character sheet, and the third column is from an equipment list found in the FFC.  I have retained the exact order, spelling, misspelling, and punctuation in each case.

Pete Gaylords Character
FFC 77:4
Hand Axe
Hand Axe
Hand Axe
Battle Axe
Battle Axe
Battle Ax
Morn. Star
Morn. Star
Pole Arms
Pole Arms/Halbear
Pole Arms
2 Hnd Swd
Morning Star
Mtd. Lance
2 Hnd Swd
Mtd. Lance
2 hand Sword


The single difference between the first and second columns is that 
"Halbear" is separated from Pole Arms.  The third column FFC list is also nearly identical, but for some minor rearrangement and spelling.  

There can be no doubt that Blackmoor Weaponry lists came straight out of CM.


The FFC gives extensive statistics on the various forces engaged in the "Great Coot Invasion" miniatures battles.  The Coot invasions were medieval fantasy battle scenarios Arneson organized to take place in Blackmoor within the first year of play (likely fall of '71).  Below is a comparison, in order of unit types listed in CM and in the FFC Coot invasion tables.

Cm 1ST EDITION (point cost table and elsewhere)
FFC 77:4
Peasant (Fyrd)
Levee (local)
Light Foot
Light Foot
Heavy Foot
Heavy Foot
Armored Foot
Armored Foot
Light Horse
Light Horse
Medium Horse
Medium Horse
Heavy Horse
Heavy Horse

As can be readily seen, the lists are nearly identical, aside from two adjectives (fyrd, local).  Clearly once again we see Blackmoor drawing directly on the CM rules.


Game Element
CM Cost (points)
Blackmoor Coot Invasion Cost (Gold)
Light Foot
Heavy Foot
Armored Foot
Light Horse
Medium Horse
Heavy Horse
Long/Composite bow
Lt. Catapult/Cannon
Hv Catapult/Cannon

The table above illustrates the comparative costs in both sources.  One can readily see that Blackmoor derives it's basic cost structure from CM, multiplied by a factor of 10, with some variation.


Another clue showing the relationship of CM to early Blackmoor are monster lists.  The first column of the table below shows all the "Neutral" and "Chaos" monsters listed in CM (75:39).  For convenience I've relisted them alphabetically.  One of the oldest pieces of material found in the FFC is a table of wandering monsters for wilderness encounters - those monsters are listed in the second column.  The third column is from a stocking list of the Loch Gloomen monsters dating to 1972.

FFC Wilderness
FFC Loch Gloomen


Elementals, air
Elementals, air
Air Elemental
Elementals, earth,
Elementals, earth,

Elementals, fire

Elementals, water
Elementals, water







True Troll
True Troll
True Trolls








Notice that both Blackmoor tables are similar subsets of the CM list.  The FFC wilderness monster table does add three types of men, Trolls - a CM monster seemingly forgotten on the chaos/neutrals lists, and possibly a new monster - the Wright - which is likely some kind of wight/wraith combo.   However, these few additions do not disguise the fact early Blackmoor was populated largely with monsters straight out of CM.

PART TWO - Sand in the Air.

We've already seen a lot of unequivocal evidence pointing to the presence of CHAINMAIL in Blackmoor.  The question of Blackmoor as a CHAINMAIL campaign seems like an open and closed case.  For anyone familiar with the Twin Cities gamers that really ought to be quite a big surprise.  Why?  Because of Strategos.

Strategos N (Napoleonic), if you are not familiar, was Dave Weseley's distillation and adaptation of Charles Tottens 19th century "Strategos: A Series of American Games of War" book into a set of wargaming rules used by the Twin Cities gamers.  

However, Strategos N wasn't just some pet set of rules introduced to the group by one of it's members for some of his games, Strategos N quickly and completely dominated their game play from the late 60's onward.  Strategos was their set of club rules.  They soon began to develop appendixes and amendments to cover different campaign and time periods.  Virtually all the membership became invested in the Strategos ruleset in one way or another.

The Corner of the Table newsletter from the 1960's is rich with Strategos related material.  It was practically all they talked about.  Several historic period variants were typed up and published separately, including an Ancients variant co-written by Dave Arneson and Randy Hoffa.  Remember that famous old story Arneson and others related of a battle featuring Roman legionnaires and a druid with a Phaser? (DW#3, Space Gamer 21, et al)     That was a Strategos A (ancients) game.

So, given the deep commitment the Twin Cities group had to "their" Strategos ruleset, it should strike any Blackmoor researcher as kind of a shock that they would switch to a new and quite different set of rules for the Blackmoor campaign - especially considering that the club member organizing the affair, Dave Arneson, had already authored a set of Ancients rules readily adaptable to the period.  One would think a rule switch like that is something that might be remembered or have triggered some discussion and controversy.

Well, actually in fact it did, but only as regards the tactical, individual combat layer of play.  One of the earliest games in the  Blackmoor setting was the Troll bridge game that occurred on April 17, 1971.  Arneson has stated that the earliest games used CM's Fantasy Combat Table, and we can be fairly confident the FCT was used in this game.  Of course, a successful roll on the FCT often results in an immediate kill and it so happens that in the troll bridge game one of the players was killed by just such an immediate strike.  That player was Bob Meyer, and he wasn't happy about it.  "I was in the game that had that troll, and I did not care for the rules. The troll killed me in no time at all, and I was a hero! I refused to have anything to do with Blackmoor for a very long time after that." Source  Complaints such as this one are what Arneson claimed lead him to develop the concept of Hit Points and develop different mechanics for individual combats.

However, as regards the focus of this essay, for the wargames, battles and larger scale encounters in Blackmoor, the historical materials we have from the time are entirely silent on the matter of a new or different rule system.  There were no similar complaints or comments or praises in battle reports involving the use of CM. The only player discussion touching the subject is from years later and can often be summed up as "We didn't play CHAINMAIL games"   Curious.

Thus far, we've looked at where early Blackmoor material clearly points to a close relationship with CHAINMAIL.  We've seen fantasy types, troop types, monsters, and some spells - compelling evidence to be sure - but the question remains as to whether any "rulesish" material points to Strategos or anywhere else, and if it does, what might the relationship of CHAINMAIL to Strategos be in Blackmoor?

First, I will exam facets of early Blackmoor that buck the CM trend we've seen, problematizing CM campaign issue.  


Dave Arneson's original magic sword details harbor many curious facts and indicate statistics tied intimately to his original rules and methods.  Deciphering that information is less than straightforward. In introducing his earliest material regarding the creation of magic swords, Dave Arneson had this to say: 

"Prior to setting up Blackmoor. I spent a considerable effort in setting up an entire family of Magical swords. The swords indeed comprise most of the early magical artifacts. A small table was prepared and the swords' characteristics set up on cards.....   The nature and the powers of the spells and swords were taken right from the available copies of Chainmail, which served as the basis of all our combat." (FFC 77:64)

We should tackle the end of that quote first, because at first blush it would seem to be strong support for the thesis that Blackmoor was indeed a CM campaign.  It would be unwise to be so confident however, especially given Arneson's history of less than precise use of the English language.  "Combat" here should not be seen as necessarily synonymous with "battles", but rather with "fights", meaning individual character melees as much as anything.  Further, in this passage Arneson is speaking  topically of the initial development of Blackmoor when magic swords were first created.  That he could not have been referring to the entire Blackmoor Campaign is also obvious, given his multiple statements of abandoning the CM Fantasy Combat Table after the first few games, and the simple fact that the last two years of Blackmoor were played under the published D&D rules - letting alone the year of the playtesting phase. 

Of greater import for the purpose of examining CM rules in a Blackmoor context, is Arneson's curious claim regarding "The nature and the powers of the spells... "

Here's what's curious, CM swords have but two facets; they grant a bonus in combat - usually +1 - and they shed a magical light.  Arneson's swords are quite different.  Here is just one example:

Double Values (7) Mortals, Goblins, Pudding, Ghouls, Wraiths, Balrogs, Giants; 
Special Values (6) See in Darkness III, Paralyze II, Raise Morale, Strength +6; 
Combat Increase  +8; 
Intelligence +6; 
Appearance - 880 GP

Let's tackle that in order.  Double Values refers to combat multipliers.  An example from Arneson's early monster section reads: "Trolls & Ogres:  These creatures are worth 18 points (or hits) with variations. Elves get DBL value hits while hero types and magic weapons get hits times six." (FFC 77:91) 

This quote indicates clearly that Double Values multiplies damage, but numerous other entries in this section indicate an attack value was also doubled, as in "... ""When young are present, the Mother Dragon will fight at double value if the young engage in combat. The Father is not doubled. If a young Dragon is captured, badly wounded, or killed, the Mother will attack at Six times normal value for Six turns while the remaining young disengage (immediately) and withdraw two moves. If the Mother is killed, seriously wounded or captured, the Father will attack at double value for three turns with a 1/6 chance the young will return to the Mother." (FFC 77:90)

"Double Values" as a term doesn't appear in CM, but the idea can be made to make sense in the mass combat rules.  The Lycanthrope entry gives an example.  "If they are fighting inside of or within 6'' of , a wood, they will double their melee capability.  Lycanthrope  attack as four armored foot and defend as four heavy foot."  

So in this case, "double their melee capability" to attacking as eight armored foot and defending as eight heavy foot, might be taken as synonymous with attacking at Double Values.  How double values might apply on the Man to Man or Fantasy Combat tables is unclear, but we might assume it should mean two attack rolls.

However, there's a problem with this interpretation.  Notice on the example sword "Grey" above that it also has a +8 Combat increase statistic.  How does one reconcile a +8 combat increase with a double value attack in CM mass combat terms?  There is no statistic to add +8 to in the mass combat rules. It's nonsensical.  For example, using the CM mass combat rules, a hero attacking as as four heavy foot against a light footman would roll 4 dice, with a 5 or 6 indicating a kill.  The same hero wielding "Grey" would get double values against Mortals, meaning 8 dice rolls with a 5 or 6 indicating a kill.  As can be seen, there is nothing to add the + 8 combat increase to.  

Yes, possibly, the Combat Increase was supposed to be ignored in mass combat.  Perhaps it was meant to be something added to an attack roll in conjunction only with the Fantasy Combat Table (FCT) and Man to Man rules, while "Double Values" translated into two attack rolls on those tables.  Again that's problematic, as "mortals" aren't part of the FCT and neither are Puddings for that matter, and Fantasy creatures like ghouls don't fight on the Man to Man tables.  Nevertheless I suppose you could work around these difficulties by switching back and forth and adding new tables.  However, what about cases of triple, quadruple, or even six times values?  Was Arneson really suggesting an Elf wielding the magic sword Grey in battle with a troll would get 6 unanswered rolls on the 2d6 FTC with a +8 bonus to each (or at least one) roll?  Why would you do such a thing?  

One way to reconcile Combat Increase with CM is if we assume "Combat Increase" applies to the "hits" (hit points as Arneson devised them) of either the wielder or the victim.  If appled to the victim as a kind of "damage bonus" we face the confusing issue of how a combat increase which adds a damage bonus works with multiple values across three different CM systems, when those multiple values also multiply damage, as we saw earlier.   Applied to the hits of the wielder, the bonus is more workable with CM, though we are still left with the issues previously described for values.

In short, with some fiddling things can more or less be made to work, but it is particularly suspicious that Magic Sword combat statistics and terms fit so incredibly awkwardly, if at all, with the CM combat rules they were supposedly designed for.

Now let's turn to those "powers of the spells" Arneson claimed were lifted from "the available copies" of CM.  The table below shows all the "Special Values" powers of the early Blackmoor swords and a reference in CM to an identical power. 

FFC Sword Magic Powers (in order)
CM equivalent
CM Appendix D List
Invisibility Detection 
Elven ability
Magic Detection 
Wizard Spell

Magic Ability*

Evil Detection

Cause Moral Check 
Superhero, Rocs
Sprite ability
See in Darkness 
Wizards, Goblins
Raise Morale 
Heroes, Wraith
Wraith ability
(Control?) Dragons

*Magic ability refers to any magic spells the sword could cast.  Arneson determined the spells by random rolls on a spell list we don't have.  There are only 6 spells in CM 1st edition, yet most of the swords with Magic ability have more than 6.  In fact in the "color swords" list there's one with double magic and 17 spells.  It seems unlikely that these would all be multiple copies of the same 6.  Further, one of these spells is "detection" which is already a part of the list above.

Arneson chose only 10 such Special Values powers for his swords, two of which appear to have no parallel in CM (Dragons, Evil Detection) and a third (Magic Ability) which is paralleled only in the sense that it describes the power of wizards.  The remaining 7 Special Values can be found in the booklet, but aren't as straightforward as Arneson's quote makes it seem. 

One can find some of these powers by closely reading the monster descriptions, but perhaps the most likely place for Arneson to have drawn these Special Values powers is from a list found on Appendix D in CM, shown below:

Interestingly, 6 of the first 7 found on this list are on Arneson's Special Values list - the odd one out being "B - split move and fire", which seems a perfectly logical power to exclude.  The remaining 5 are nowhere to be found despite there being no obvious reason that powers like "change to flame" "shape change" and "cast fire" should be left out.

A seventh Special Value "magic detection" could also be drawn from CM, being found as part of a wizard spell, but not found on the appendix D list.  The spell  "Detection" in CM detects the type of magic or the location of hidden enemies.  So, while the "detect magic" part of that is in the swords Special Values list, the "detect enemy location" portion is not, nor is it part of a separate Special Value power.  Since "Detection" could be a spell that a sword with "Magic Ability" could have and would therefore be partially redundant with the Special Value, it may be that Arneson didn't realize "detect magic" was part of the Detect Spell when he made the list.

In addition to the 7 magical powers (B, H, I, J, K, L, X) on the Appendix D list that Arneson didn't use for his Special Values, we also don't see these other magical powers found in CM: 

No "impervious to missile fire" (Treant, Wight)
No "fly" (fairies, wraiths, dragons)
No "impervious to dragonfire" (elementals)
No "impervious to normal attacks" (elementals)
No venomous sting (purple worms)
No "turn to stone" (Basilisk)

(Note that fireball and lightning bolt are also not included and neither is Wizard light, or Darkness, though these could, sensibly, have been in the lost spell list.)  

The situation overall is curious, because while some of the Special Values powers were taken from CM, at least three were not, and those that were drawn from CM are only a seemingly arbitrary selection from the first half of the Appendix D list, of what could have been used.

That doesn't make a whole lot of sense if the goal was to adapt and ascribe the magic powers of CM to the magic swords of CM.  Instead it looks more like a case of raiding an existing list to flesh out something of Arneson's own design.  It is particularly suspicious that 6 of the first 7 powers of the appendix D list are there.  It is almost as if Arneson came up with 4 Special Values powers on his own and, perhaps running out of ideas, turned to the Appendix D list to fill out the remainder to 10 - a number convenient for use with the d20 dice he acquired in England.  

Taken as a whole, the magic swords don't seem to have a very tight or orderly relationship with the rules of CM.  I don't think the evidence is conclusive, but it does seem to point to systems of magic and combat developed independently of CM without intent of compatibility.


That wizards would be included in a fantasy wargame is practically a given.  We've already shown that "hero" titles in Blackmoor tie directly to CM and "wizards" are surely no exception.  That said, it is clear that wizards and magic in Blackmoor are quite distinct.

In 1st edition CM, under the description of Wizards,  there are three types of what we would call magic users: "WIZARDS: This class includes Sorcerers and Warlocks." (71:37)   Second edition adds Magicians and ranks the types in terms of power.  These all have the ability to turn invisible until they attack and to see in darkness.  

It's been argued that these CM magic types were ported directly into early Blackmoor, essentially forming 3 levels of Wizard, expanding to 4 with the printing of CM 2ed in 1972.  The problem is these CM "ranks" are rare to non-existent in early Blackmoor material (pre D&D).  "Sorcerer" as "wizard or sorcerer" appears in the write up on Blackmoor Arneson wrote for publication in the Castle & Crusade society newlsetter (July 1972), and that's about the extent of it, with the only similar reference being found in the Loch Gloomen report in CoTT V4 #5 to a level 12 ! Sorceress.

Instead what we see is that wizards are ranked into levels, and we see them called "wizard" regardless of their level.  Some examples:

"Wesely (Superhero, magic sword, Level I Wizard....)" (CoTT V4, #5.  Lake Gloomey) 

"Wizard, one Lvl 3, 12 GP/week." (FFC 77:8 Coot Invasion, City of Maus)

"Kurt Krey (Anti-Superhero, Level IV Wizard...) " (CoTT V4, #5.  Lake Gloomey) 

"Wizard.  Lvl 4, 16 GP/week....; plus 50/spell." (FFC 77:7 Coot Invasion, Duchy of Ten)

"Wizard, 1 Lvl 6, 24 GP/week." (FFC 77:8 Coot Invasion, Nomads of Ten)

"Wizard Gaylord... Level 7 (3 without soup*)" (Pete Gaylord character sheet, 1971, in Peterson; Playing at the World 12:367)

"...the Ran and one of them has become his assistant (Level 7, Warrior and Magic) while the Ran brought another who looks exactly like the Ran (except 20% smaller) who is Level 8 in both catagories. (FFC 77:19)

*meaning without his superberry elixers

So we see, not just the three ranks of wizard in 1st ed. CM, but at least 8 levels of wizard operating in early Blackmoor (12 if the Sorceress counts).  A level 6 wizard, as indicated in the Coot Invasion tables from the 1st edition CM era, makes no sense at all in terms CM rules.  

Levels aren't the only problem shown here, we also see something perhaps even stranger in the context of a CM campaign.  We see a number of combo, or what we might now call "dual class" characters with seemingly any mix of level in each type possible.

There is a short section at the end of the CM rules discussing such Combination Figures.  We might otherwise consider these sort of combo characters to be a direct violation of the CM rules.  In CM wizards have their own combat rules, and of course, heroes have theirs.  They don't mix.   Unfortunately, the Combination Figures paragraph in CM contains little guidance beyond saying they should be rare, something they are certainly not in Blackmoor, and not too powerful, otherwise leaving it entirely unclear how you would even begin to handle a melee involving a multi-level hero/wizard character in CM.  Arneson must have created his own procedures for handling these combo figures in Blackmoor, whatever the ruleset being used.

Blackmoor sources don't tell us what it meant to be a particular level of wizard, except to say, according to Arneson, "Progression reflected the increasing ability of the MU to mix spells of greater and greater complexity.... So to progress to a new level one first learned the spells, and then got to use that spell." (FFC 77:74)

Segueing to magic, the Blackmoor system resembles nothing we see in CM.  In 1st ed CM there are six spells given  (phantasmal forces, darkness, wizard light, detection, concealment, and conjuration of an elemental) and there is every reason to think Arneson ported these spells into Blackmoor, along with the spell like abilities of fireball and lightning bolt.  

However, the CM method was for a player to choose from among these spells for a particular Wizard figure to have and be able to cast repeatedly during a game.  The spells themselves once cast, never fizzled.

Blackmoor magic was alchemical and consisted of physical spells a wizard could make and carry around.    Once a spell was used, it was used, which put a curb on the unlimited casting of CM. Also unlike CM spells there was always a chance a Blackmoor spell could fail.  Further, spells were ranked into seemingly only 4 levels which like D&D, are a separate ranking from character levels.  Level 4 spells were apparently exceedingly rare and powerful, so much so that only the Gin of Salik is recorded as being able to make them. (FFC 77:20)

CM magic and Blackmoor magic utilize two entirely different, and contradictory approaches to spell casting.

It's clear that while the "wizard" and perhaps to a lesser extent, magic, as game elements, borrow some pieces from CM, the rules governing their use in play in Blackmoor stood independent of the CM rules, apparently from very early on.  Blackmoor wizards were not CM wizards at all.

What we have seen so far with magic swords, and especially with Wizards, Wizard Levels, Magic Levels and Blackmoor Alchemy, is that they utilize terms and methods that are not familiar to CHAINMAIL at all and in some cases are seemingly incompatible with that ruleset. 

We see what are apparently new rules.  Nevertheless, new rules, no matter how contradictory and how awkward the fit, could be argued to be "houserule" amendments to a CM based game.  We haven't yet seen anything that outright contradicts CM or that points directly to Strategos, or any other ruleset, and so we come to our last segment.

PART THREE - Evidence for Blackmoor as a Strategos Campaign.

The fact that the game elements we have examined so far work perfectly well in a Strategos based game and not so well in CHAINMAIL is no proof of anything.  To prove Blackmoor was a Strategos based campaign, we would need to show elements that are directly specific to those rules.  We have two cases to examine. 


Tucked into the last few pages of the FFC is a list of monsters and description Arneson prepared sometime in the first year or so of the Blackmoor Campaign.  The text is apparently incomplete, but what has survived covers the following monsters:

Trolls & Ogres
Wights & Ghouls
True Trolls

It's certain that these monsters owe their inclusion in the Blackmoor Campaign because they are drawn from CM, aside from Tarns and the human types.  Tarns, however are said to be the same as Rocs, and Nomads and Bandits are divided into CM troop types. The "hits" (hit points) of all the monsters also usually come from the CM point cost of these monsters, but are adjusted to fit into d6 ranges like 4-24.  However we also find a wealth of new information in Arneson's monster listings.

In fact, it is interesting that these monster write ups exist at all in the context of a CHAINMAIL campaign.  There is simply no reason to create a new description and rules for monsters that are already well defined in the CM booklet for the purposes of running battles.  So why would Arneson bother?

Let's consider one example that appears to be particularly informative.

Here is the description of Giants found in CM:
"Giants are one of the most effective fighters.  They can demolish normal opponents with ease, for they melee as 12 Heavy Foot with an extra die for their oversized weapons.  The defend as 12 Armored Foot and Giants must take cumulative hits equal to a number sufficient to destroy 12 Armored Footmen before melee or missiles will kill them.  Moreover, Giants act as highly mobile small catapults (20 inches), without minimum range restrictions, and they can move on turns they don't throw missiles, for reloading for them simply consists of picking up a boulder to give it a heave.  Giants never need check morale." (75:34-35)

Here's the FFC description:
"These creatures carry their wealth with them and vary in size. Wealth ranges from 2 - 12,000 Gold Pieces and from 12 -72 hits with those over 36 getting DBL attack value with 3/2 missile and 3/2 movement.  In Woods 8 - 48 Hits; 3 -18,000 Gold Pieces in MTNS.  In groups of Giants, only one may be over 36.  However, total Gold for Giants over 36, or travelling with one. is increased by 3/2. 
1/5 chance of being encamped when encountered resulting in: 
1. DBL Gold, 
2. Triple no. of Giants (females and children) Non Combatants that will flee if attacked, 
3. Palisade and Ditch around village (as curtain wall for siege), 
4. Building (as square tower; one per two Giants.  
Captured as Dragons, 1000 x point value for worth."

The FFC giant entry can be considered supplementary to the CM entry.  Arneson adds information crucially important to adventuring, such as how much gold giants in different encounter locations might have.  It is just the sort of information one would need to run encounters with Player Characters, and arguably this is the main reason these entries were created.

However, notice also the combat information:
"....those over 36 getting DBL attack value with 3/2 missile and 3/2 movement."

As a side note, that 3/2 missile and movement rule puzzled the heck out of me for years, so I asked some of the original Blackmoor players if they knew what it meant and Ross Maker supplied the answer "...they move 50% farther than usual and have a 50% longer missile range (usually thrown rocks, etc. for giants)."

Again we also see Double Value mentioned.  As we discussed earlier, "Double Attack Value" can be made to make sense in CM mass combat terms, but becomes a question mark when applied to combat on the FCT.  In this case, in CM terms, giants with over 36 hits would presumably attack as 24 Armored Foot instead of 12 and get two rolls on the FCT.  

That's a real possibility, but here's the thing; nowhere in the entire monster section do we see any explanations like that given in the paragraph above, using actual CM terms like "24 Armored Foot" or two attack rolls or what have you.  That's just peculiar.   Instead what we actually see are lots of references like those in the Magic swords section to attacks at double and quadruple values.  In a few cases we see even six times normal attack value.

So again, in terms of a CM campaign, it is very strange that across the 12+ monsters described we never once see combat strength expressed as "x# Foot" or "fighting cabpability" as it always is in CM.  Instead it is always "x# Value" in the Blackmoor material.  Why?

The answer is fairly simple.  "Value" is the basic stat used to express troop strength in Strategos.  Below is an example from Arneson & Hoffa's Strategos A**:

Without going too deep into the Strategos rules, suffice it to say that a troops' Value is the core statistic used to determine the "odds" of opponents in combat, which is then resolved in accordance with dice rolls referencing "Table T".  In the Strategos A example above, a unit of Heavy Cavalry fighting at Double Value would have a base Melee Value of 6 instead of 3.  

The use of the term "value" throughout both the Magic Swords and Monster sections of the FFC are a strong indicator that Arneson is engaging in a conversion of the CM combat terms and stats into something compatible with Strategos. 

Of course, this isn't unequivocal evidence of Strategos.  One could argue that the use of the term "values" throughout the early Blackmoor material was merely one of habit and familiarity, and doesn't necessarily mean the Strategos battle rules were employed instead of CHAINMAIL rules when dice began to roll.  Indeed, Arneson continues to talk about double and triple values in his 1975 Temple of the Frog adventure which is quite clearly written with D&D in mind.  That's a fair objection.  Nevertheless the continuous use of the core Strategos term coupled with the complete lack of CM "x# Foot" etc. certainly favors a Strategos rule base for the Blackmoor Campaign.

So far we've seen a lot of apparent and circumstantial evidence pointing at Strategos, but perhaps the reader of this tediously long essay is hoping for a smoking gun, some item of inarguable proof. Given the fragmented state of our records, that might be an unreasonable expectation.  Nevertheless there is indeed a smoking gun:


If it is intended to bear any semblance to reality, morale will be at the heart of any good wargame, as indeed it is for both CHAINMAIL and Strategos.

Morale in CHAINMAIL:
Here is how morale works in CM.  There are two types, "Instability Due to Excess Casualties" and "Post Melee Morale".

"Instability Due to Excess Casualties" is a check that occurs when a unit has suffered casualties below a certain percentage allowed for that type of unit.  When the casualty threshold is crossed, a saving throw must be made or the unit will be removed from the game.

"Post Melee Morale" occurs only when troops are engaged in a melee, immediately after casualties are removed.  The calculation then follows a somewhat complex formula involving troop numbers multiplied by a morale rating.  Once calculated the result 
is compared to this table:

0 - 1 9 difference
— melee continues
20 - 39 difference
— back 2 move, good order
40 - 59 difference
— back 1 move, good order
60 - 79 difference
— retreat 1 move
80 - 99 difference
— rout 1½ move
100 & + difference
— surrender

These morale rules are core functions of the combat system.  The difference determined in the post melee morale calculation results in either a continued melee, a forced movement, a retreat or a route.  The morale "condition" of these units doesn't change, that is it remains in good order, unless they are in retreat or route.  Otherwise, when not directly in combat, morale is not a factor.

The "morale rating" figure used as part of the above process, might, upon a cursory glance at the rules, seem to be a possible candidate for what Arneson referred to as Morale Condition and/or Morale Level, despite the fairly clear semantic distinction between a condition, a level, and a rating.  A closer look shows morale rating to not be a reasonable fit, however.

Morale Ratings, to be clear, are a number assigned to a type of unit or monster for use within the post melee morale calculation. The Ratings range from 3 for peasants to 50 for wizards and Balrogs. Rans' army was composed not just of men, but a menagerie of CM monsters also, so so a -3 morale condition and a +2 morale level must apply to a rule that covers all monsters and men sensibly.   

CM morale ratings are a static number used to perform calculations in a formula.  They do not go up or down as steps or stages or levels. Further the whole 3-50 range would be affected.  If you were to apply a -3 to a unit while calculating post melee morale (nevermind for the moment that the FFC implies all troops are affected, not just those in melee) you would have a situation where peasants use "0" in their post melee calculation, heroes use 17, and wizards use 47.  The way the formula works, the 0 rating for peasants would produce an extreme swing in the final numbers while other creatures would hardly be affected, contrary to the point of the rule in the first place.  There are also a number of CM creatures that have no morale rating at all, such as trolls and dragons, so there would be nothing to subtract the -3 morale condition from or add the +2 morale levels to.  It's pretty clear we can rule out any conflation of the Ran's morale condition and level terminology with CM's morale ratings.

Morale in Blackmoor:
As was discussed above, the earliest major battles fought in the Blackmoor campaign involved the invasions by the notorious Egg of Coot, and one of the major figures in those invasions was the Ran of An Foo.  The Ran of An Foo is actually a pun on Randy Hoffa, though Mr. Hoffa himself never played the character, others did for the battle scenarios.   The player in charge of the Ran controlled the province and all the armies of the Duchy of Ten.  However, we learn that the Ran's player operated under certain restrictions.  This information is found in material with numerous hallmarks showing it to be one of the oldest bits found in the FFC - The Infamous Characters section, which served as a handout for players back in 1971.  (For more discussion on this topic see this post here.)

The instructions Arneson wrote for Ran's player are these: 
"To reflect the superior planning on his part, and the fact that the troop' are then all conditioned to follow the plan, do the following:
The plan for the battle are drawn ahead of time (as specific as possible) where upon the troops have +l on all combat die throws while following the plan and a two level increase in their morale while the plan is followed.  If the troops are forced to deviate from the plan, they suffer a -1 on combat throws (or additional troops needed for the throws to be made) and a -3 on morale condition." (FFC 77:19-20)

Let's compare the highlighted information to our CM rules.  The first and last items highlighted are related so lets look at the second item first.

they suffer a -1 on combat throws (or additional troops needed for the throws to be made)

That can be restated as "adding new troops to a combat will negate the -1 penalty and allow a throw to be made normally".  There is no complementary rule in CM like this.  That is, there is no rule in CM whereby a player would "need" to bring in additional troops to avoid or cancel a penalty while affecting a "morale condition".  It doesn't make any sense in CM terms.

a two level increase in their morale 
-3 on morale condition

Neither "Instability Due to Excess Casualties" nor "Post Melee Morale" has anything like a "Morale Level".  The statement makes no sense whatever in CM.  There are no levels.  CM troops are either in good morale, or they are in retreat or rout.  Likewise there is no way to subtract -3 from their morale "condition".  There is no list or statistic representing morale conditions or states.   

The special instructions for when the player of the Ran of Ah Foo engages the forces of the Duchy of Ten in battle are simply nonsensical jibberish in a CHAINMAIL based game.

But do they make any sense in Strategos?  Lets go back through them: 

they suffer a -1 on combat throws (or additional troops needed for the throws to be made)

As explained earlier, troops in Strategos are assigned a value.  These values are used with other factors to determine combat odds.  Below is the rule for adding new troops to an existing melee** :

(Strategos N p17) 


 (Strategos N p15)

In Strategos, adding new troops to a melee increases the combat odds.  The Blackmoor rule appears to be taking this into account by negating the -1 penalty.  Certainly, unlike with CM, the Blackmoor rule makes perfect sense in Strategos terms.

a two level increase in their morale 
-3 on morale condition

To examine these two statements, we need to look at how morale works in Strategos.  Here is the Morale Table in Strategos N:1.

Seem Familiar? Perhaps you have seen the version published in the Arneson/Gygax collaboration from 1972, Don't Give Up The Ship(TM).

It should be no surprise this table shows up in DGutS as that game is essentially a naval variant of Strategos.  Here is how the tables above work;  At any given time in the game, no matter what they are doing or where they are, all units have a morale condition or class.  Typically, troop morale will of course be "Normal", but will move up or down morale levels according to circumstances.  A unit at Normal condition that achieves a victory will move up a level to "Flushed with Victory". 

For the Ran's forces, while a battle unfolds according to the pre written plan, the morale of any given unit is two levels above what it would otherwise be in any given situation (most troops would therefore be flushed most of the time). When the pre-written battle plans are no longer being followed, the morale condition of all units drops 3 levels from what it would otherwise be in any given situation.    Applied to the Strategos rules, a -3 on morale condition means that if the unit started in "Normal" condition they would drop 3 levels down to "routed" condition.  Troop would go from Flushed to in disorder, and from Normal to routed.  This makes perfect sense as the point of the rule is that the Ran's army is so conditioned that deviation from the plan is catastrophic, but adherence to the plan is highly beneficial. 

One might well wonder who would want to play under rules like that, and it is hard to say if anybody ever did.  The reason behind the whole thing, was an ongoing disagreement Arneson had with Randy Hoffa over his attempts to set up a rival Napoleonics campaign.  This description of the conditioning of Ran's troops and their morale rules was, of course, a thinly veiled character jab at Randy Hoffa. 

Although the tables shown above make no mention of "level" or "morale condition" there needn't be any doubt that the Ran rules refer to Strategos as we can observe several examples of each from the rules themselves, such as:


Likewise, "morale condition" as a synonym for morale class or state, seems to be preferred by Arneson in DGutS, published apparently not long before the Ran entry was created:


Taken in context, there should be little doubt the the Blackmoor player instructions for the Ran of Ah Foo are referencing the Strategos morale and combat rules so well familiar to all those in Arneson's gaming circle.  This was the lingua Franca they all shared for the rules they all used.  From the time Wesely discovered and distilled Totten's rules in the mid 1960's through the mid '70's Strategos ruled the table for Arneson and company.  They used Strategos N as the building block for games set in the Russo Turkish war, the American Civil War, the American Revolution, Ancient battles, Medieval battles, WWII armor conflicts, and all the Braunstein games. The Twin Cites gamers lived and breathed the Strategos rules.  Indeed, they still play them.  To those gentlemen, the references to values and morale levels in the FFC were immediately recognizable, but to the gaming community at large who's knowledge of and exposure to Strategos was limited and who's relevance remains downplayed at best, the confusion is certainly understandable.  

However, we can now draw the inescapable conclusion: The battles in Blackmoor were being fought with Strategos as the go to rules, not CHAINMAIL.  

As with any piece of deductive reasoning, the strength of an inescapable conclusion rests entirely on the strength of the premises.  In our case, Strategos makes immediate sense of the terms and data presented, whereas CHAINMAIL leaves one bewildered trying to make it work.  The evidence shows that it is perfectly accurate to say the the first Blackmoor games began with CM in hand.  It is also undoubtedly true that a couple of the very first experimental games in the setting utilized the Fantasy Combat Table in CM.  However, for the remainder of the campaign, character combats were resolved, first with Arneson's own methods, and later with the D&D ruleset itself.

Magic likewise was a system of Arneson's own invention, borrowing only a handful of spell descriptions from CM.  

Large scale battles, logistics and wargame campaigning, while they drew some organizational information from CM were fought in accordance with their usual Strategos ruleset.

Given the information highlighted in this article, how then should we characterize the relationship between CM and Blackmoor?  Is it proper to refer to Blackmoor as a CM campaign?

Perhaps the best way to answer that question is through analogy.  Suppose, I decided to start a Napoleonics campaign with the locals using Wesely's Strategos N rules (not so hypothetical as I really would like to do that someday).  As it happens the Strategos N rules have no information on Unit costs, troop types of various nations, organizational differences, national wealth and logistics, and so on.

To run a campaign you would certainly need all that information.  Fortunately, I have a copy of Bruce Quarrie's wonderful little book "Napoleons Campaigns in Miniature", and I would happily turn to that book for all the needed supplemental information, while completely ignoring the last chapter therein where Quarrie presents his own set of rules.  

So if someone asked me, I would tell them I was running a Strategos N campaign.  I might add I was supplementing Strategos with information from Quarrie, but never would I claim or endorse the claim that I was running a "Quarrie Campaign"

Blackmoor was a Strategos campaign, wherein CHAINMAIL functioned as supplemental information; a sourcebook for ideas, a primary Monster Manual, and a kind of guide to medieval typologies.  In retrospect, it is hardly surprising that Arneson would exploit the easy to hand information present in CM, while continuing to game with the rules he and the other Twin Cities gamers knew by heart.  The rules of Blackmoor developed in the mileau of Strategos on the heels of Braunstiens and Ancients and medieval battles.  It was not a CHAINMAIL campaign

**documents courtesy of Secrets of Blackmoor archives.  While the references above from the FFC have been available for 40 years to ponder over, many documents have been extremely hard for researchers to access, a condition exacerbated by collector markets.  Now, thanks to the tireless and generous work of the Secrets of Blackmoor team in cooperation with many of the original Twin Cities gamers, these resources are becoming available electronically.   I applaud their efforts and I'm honored to consult with them and provide whatever insights I can on documents whose significance is sometimes unclear. Secrets of Blackmoor