The Dave Arneson's Blackmoor Discussion Forum



It is currently Dec 18, 2017 3:14 am

All times are UTC - 5 hours [ DST ]




Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 12 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2  Next
Author Message
 Post subject: [Blog] The "Blackmoor is Just a Chainmail Variant" Fallacy
PostPosted: Mar 01, 2016 5:32 pm 
Offline
Lord of the Regency Council
Lord of the Regency Council
User avatar

Joined: Nov 17, 2009 2:48 pm
Posts: 6017
Location: Norway, Europe
Tuesday, March 1, 2016
The "Blackmoor is Just a Chainmail Variant" Fallacy


This is something I have been planning to write about for a while, but a recent discussion with my friend Brynjar and others on Facebook inspired me to finally get to writing. I am not really sure anyone has ever actually made the ridiculous claim that Blackmoor was nothing more than a variant of Chainmail, the miniature skirmish game by Gary Gygax and Jeff Perren. On the other hand, gaming amateur historians, Wikipedia contributors and other fans have in recent years seemed obsessed with proving Dave Arneson wrong, when he claimed that he only used the Chainmail combat system during a few sessions and then pretty much discarded it completely.

It is true that we need to to be critical to claims made by Dave Arneson when the process leading up to the creation of D&D involved if we wish to know the truth. It is clear that he had stakes involved in this debate. But am I the only one with the impression that people aren't giving Dave the same benefit of doubt that we are giving the other side? The most common argument used to defend this line of thoughts is that we can find the truth based on written documentation. However, Gary Gygax had the full resources of TSR on his side. He was also active in publishing various fanzines in the decades before D&D was published. The fact that there is alot of documentation supporting the claims he made does not equal the truth however.


Ultimately we will never know how much of Chainmail Dave Arneson used. In the First Fantasy Campaign there are many references to creatures and units from Chainmail, so he clearly borrowed those. As to the rules themselves, Dave kept most of those secret even from the players, so that part will boil down to whether you trust his word or whether you don't.

However, I think this whole discussion misses some central points. What we should really talk about is the very nature of these games and how different they are from eachother. Chainmail (by Gygax and Perren) is a miniatures game for running skirmish battles between small units. It was also not primarily a fantasy game, the few pages dedicated to fantasy at the end were added as an afterthought. Blackmoor on the other hand was a game that featured single character roleplaying, a Game Master running the monsters (somewhat later in the campaign), dungeon exploration and level advancement. All in a living fantasy environment. Dave Arneson may have borrowed ideas from Gygax and Perren, but he also borrowed ideas from Dave Wesely's Braunstein games, his own long experience in Napoleonic Wargaming, various board games and many other sources. And, just like Gary did his game design, Dave used input and ideas from his players, many of whom went on to become prominent game designers themselves.

While there might be similarities between what Dave did and those other games he looked at did, it seems clear to me that he was very much doing his own thing with Blackmoor. Not only was Blackmoor a different game, but it was also a different genre of game. When Dave Arneson demonstrated Blackmoor to Gary Gygax in 1972, Gary was already looking for a new game to publish. After having played with Dave as a Dungeon Master, Gary was convinced that he had found what he was looking for. Dave and Gary proceeded to sit down and design a new game that they would call Dungeons and Dragons. They did not sit down to design Chainmail 3rd edition. Both men realized that they had something new on their hands, though I doubt either man realized how revolutionary that game would truly become.

This article isn't written as an attack on Gary Gygax' legacy. But I think we are doing both men a disservice if we ignore the radically new ideas that arose with Blackmoor and was brought into the world's very first published roleplaying game: Dungeons & Dragons.


Full version: http://blackmoormystara.blogspot.no/201 ... riant.html



-Havard

_________________
Currently Running: The Blackmoor Vales Saga
Currently Playing: Daniel S. Debelfry in the Throne of Star's Campaign


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: [Blog] The "Blackmoor is Just a Chainmail Variant" Falla
PostPosted: Mar 02, 2016 5:58 am 
Offline
Lord of the Regency Council
Lord of the Regency Council
User avatar

Joined: Nov 17, 2009 2:48 pm
Posts: 6017
Location: Norway, Europe
Some very interesting comments have been posted on the blog:

Thorfinn Tait March 1, 2016 at 3:34 PM wrote:
I've never understood the controversy over all these issues. It seems clear enough that both Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson had a hand in the creation of the game, and the genre. I don't really see the point of debating how much either man did. It's occasionally fun to read objective articles (like this one) delving into the roots of the mechanics of the game, but the controversy just puts me off.


Zenopus Archives March 1, 2016 at 5:30 PM wrote:
I agree generally with your post. The one point I would quibble is that The Fantasy Supplement of Chainmail is a mere aferthought. It is 14 of the total of 44 pages, so nearly a third of the content. That's a significant chunk of the product. I'd guess it felt like even more at the time since there was so little fantasy wargame rules available.


Rob Kuntz March 2, 2016 at 12:10 AM wrote:
Let's make this simple: Direct line of descent through using backwards causality notes that if D&D is derived from any single source that that source must be able to reproduce the causes and effects as noted in the new source. When applied to Chainmail vs. Blackmoor this does not hold up, thus Braunstein and Chainmail are influences only and have nothing more to do with the leap that Arneson made to the original, what is now called, RPG engine. I detail this more concisely in my upcoming book.


-Havard

_________________
Currently Running: The Blackmoor Vales Saga
Currently Playing: Daniel S. Debelfry in the Throne of Star's Campaign


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: [Blog] The "Blackmoor is Just a Chainmail Variant" Falla
PostPosted: Mar 03, 2016 7:47 am 
Offline
Landed Lord
Landed Lord
User avatar

Joined: Jan 16, 2010 8:02 am
Posts: 592
Location: suburbs of Chicago
I haven't had a chance to read the full version, but I liked the stuff in the main post of this thread. This passage in particular attracted my attention:
Quote:
Ultimately we will never know how much of Chainmail Dave Arneson used. In the First Fantasy Campaign there are many references to creatures and units from Chainmail, so he clearly borrowed those. As to the rules themselves, Dave kept most of those secret even from the players, so that part will boil down to whether you trust his word or whether you don't.

I think that the problem here is that in a sense there were two Blackmoors -- the barony-scale Blackmoor and the character-scale Blackmoor -- and there is no reason to assume that both had to be run identically. The FFC clearly shows Chainmail style units on a Barony-scale, or if not exact Chainmail then certainly a very close derivative. This does not need to imply that character-scale had to use the same rules for one-on-one combat. And on a Barony-scale there would have been no reason for Dave to keep the rules of combat a secret. Blackmoor could have been run using Chainmail when nations or factions fought and this could be totally independent of what transpired on dungeoncrawl adventures. At least, that's pretty much the way my group ran it. The players might not have known what I did when we fought out D&D adventure combat, but when we got out the minis and fought wars the Chainmail attack tables were clear for all to see.

Just me thinking out loud.

_________________
Marv / Finarvyn
Member of The Regency Council
Visit my Blackmoor OD&D board
OD&D since 1975

"Don't ask me what you need to hit. Just roll the die and I will let you know!"
- Dave Arneson

Image


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: [Blog] The "Blackmoor is Just a Chainmail Variant" Falla
PostPosted: Mar 03, 2016 4:49 pm 
Offline
Lord of the Regency Council
Lord of the Regency Council
User avatar

Joined: Nov 17, 2009 2:48 pm
Posts: 6017
Location: Norway, Europe
finarvyn wrote:
I haven't had a chance to read the full version, but I liked the stuff in the main post of this thread


Thank you! :)

By the way, full version really just means the same text with pics, links etc. The text is the same. Perhaps I should call these something else in the future :)

Quote:
This passage in particular attracted my attention:
Quote:
Ultimately we will never know how much of Chainmail Dave Arneson used. In the First Fantasy Campaign there are many references to creatures and units from Chainmail, so he clearly borrowed those. As to the rules themselves, Dave kept most of those secret even from the players, so that part will boil down to whether you trust his word or whether you don't.

I think that the problem here is that in a sense there were two Blackmoors -- the barony-scale Blackmoor and the character-scale Blackmoor -- and there is no reason to assume that both had to be run identically. The FFC clearly shows Chainmail style units on a Barony-scale, or if not exact Chainmail then certainly a very close derivative. This does not need to imply that character-scale had to use the same rules for one-on-one combat. And on a Barony-scale there would have been no reason for Dave to keep the rules of combat a secret. Blackmoor could have been run using Chainmail when nations or factions fought and this could be totally independent of what transpired on dungeoncrawl adventures. At least, that's pretty much the way my group ran it. The players might not have known what I did when we fought out D&D adventure combat, but when we got out the minis and fought wars the Chainmail attack tables were clear for all to see.

Just me thinking out loud.


You raise an interesting issue here. This also touches on something else that I have been thinking about. In an issue of Different Worlds, Dave Arneson uses the terms "Explorer Character" and "Ruler Character" to differentiate between the two roles in this twin scale type of campaign. There he is actually talking about Jon Snider's Star Empires Campaign, but I believe it is the same concept. This is an interesting phenomenon that seems to have been used in many of the different Twin Cities Campaigns, perhaps taken to its most extreme in Blackmoor.

Back to your comment on Chainmail being used for the Barony Scale/Ruler Characters rather than the Explorer Character Scale. That is certainly a possibility. Dave says he discarded the Chainmail Rules because they didnt fit with what he was doing, but it is indeed on the Explorer Character scale that these rules would be most problematic. From what I understand, Chainmail is not designed for single character scale combat?

Now if you are right about this, it is worth keeping in mind that the Barony Scale game is one aspect of the Blackmoor Game that never really found much of a place in D&D. That would mean that there is even less of a reason to consider the Chainmail Combat system all that important for the development of the world's first published roleplaying game?



-Havard

_________________
Currently Running: The Blackmoor Vales Saga
Currently Playing: Daniel S. Debelfry in the Throne of Star's Campaign


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: [Blog] The "Blackmoor is Just a Chainmail Variant" Falla
PostPosted: Mar 04, 2016 1:10 pm 
Offline
Landed Lord
Landed Lord
User avatar

Joined: Jan 16, 2010 8:02 am
Posts: 592
Location: suburbs of Chicago
Havard wrote:
You raise an interesting issue here. This also touches on something else that I have been thinking about. In an issue of Different Worlds, Dave Arneson uses the terms "Explorer Character" and "Ruler Character" to differentiate between the two roles in this twin scale type of campaign. There he is actually talking about Jon Snider's Star Empires Campaign, but I believe it is the same concept. This is an interesting phenomenon that seems to have been used in many of the different Twin Cities Campaigns, perhaps taken to its most extreme in Blackmoor.
It certainly matches the way games evolved and developed in my group. We had played minis for months before D&D and when this new “role playing thing” came out (not that it was called that at the time) our natural response was to start playing characters in our mini battles. We would have adventurers doing stuff intended to help the generals that we also played, such as running spy missions or killing the bad guy’s monster before it could come into play against our army. That kind of thing. A lot of crossover between the two levels of play.

Havard wrote:
Back to your comment on Chainmail being used for the Barony Scale/Ruler Characters rather than the Explorer Character Scale. That is certainly a possibility. Dave says he discarded the Chainmail Rules because they didn’t fit with what he was doing, but it is indeed on the Explorer Character scale that these rules would be most problematic. From what I understand, Chainmail is not designed for single character scale combat?
I suppose it would come down to what you mean by “designed.” Chainmail has an entire section devoted to one figure in combat with another figure, as opposed to one army against another army, which included the ability for Hero types to fight monsters and so on. I’ve used Chainmail’s combat system to run actual role-play campaigns, so it’s not at all impossible that Dave did something like that before coming up with alternate combat methods.

Havard wrote:
Now if you are right about this, it is worth keeping in mind that the Barony Scale game is one aspect of the Blackmoor Game that never really found much of a place in D&D. That would mean that there is even less of a reason to consider the Chainmail Combat system all that important for the development of the world's first published roleplaying game?
I’m not sure that I’d make that claim. The early dungeon crawls probably started out a lot like “Barony Scale characters going into a dungeon” and used the same basic rules for everything. The Chainmail combat system probably started the whole thing off and then Dave would tweak it and tinker with it and players would say “can I add more spells?” and then Dave might make up more monsters and slowly the thing takes on a life of its own and becomes D&D. In that sense, Chainmail is vital to the development of the game even if the final result became less and less Chainmail-like with time.

_________________
Marv / Finarvyn
Member of The Regency Council
Visit my Blackmoor OD&D board
OD&D since 1975

"Don't ask me what you need to hit. Just roll the die and I will let you know!"
- Dave Arneson

Image


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: [Blog] The "Blackmoor is Just a Chainmail Variant" Falla
PostPosted: Mar 07, 2016 5:19 pm 
Offline
Lord of the Regency Council
Lord of the Regency Council
User avatar

Joined: Nov 17, 2009 2:48 pm
Posts: 6017
Location: Norway, Europe
finarvyn wrote:
It certainly matches the way games evolved and developed in my group. We had played minis for months before D&D and when this new “role playing thing” came out (not that it was called that at the time) our natural response was to start playing characters in our mini battles. We would have adventurers doing stuff intended to help the generals that we also played, such as running spy missions or killing the bad guy’s monster before it could come into play against our army. That kind of thing. A lot of crossover between the two levels of play.


I find this really fascinating. I sort of had the opposite experience. We started a bit later so our group began with D&D and then later began exploring more strategic aspects of the game. Of course, Frank Mentzer's BECMI structure helped in that he introduced much of that stuff in the Companion Rules.


Quote:
I suppose it would come down to what you mean by “designed.” Chainmail has an entire section devoted to one figure in combat with another figure, as opposed to one army against another army, which included the ability for Hero types to fight monsters and so on. I’ve used Chainmail’s combat system to run actual role-play campaigns, so it’s not at all impossible that Dave did something like that before coming up with alternate combat methods.


Ah you are right. I had forgotten about that. I really should be reading more in by copy of Chainmail.


Quote:
I’m not sure that I’d make that claim. The early dungeon crawls probably started out a lot like “Barony Scale characters going into a dungeon” and used the same basic rules for everything. The Chainmail combat system probably started the whole thing off and then Dave would tweak it and tinker with it and players would say “can I add more spells?” and then Dave might make up more monsters and slowly the thing takes on a life of its own and becomes D&D. In that sense, Chainmail is vital to the development of the game even if the final result became less and less Chainmail-like with time.



"First" is something I may want to discuss further. But my position was never that Chainmail had no impact on Blackmoor. I do believe it did have significant impact. The point in the blog entry though is that it was the other aspects of Blackmoor that turned D&D into something other than a miniature game.

But you also touch upon something else that I am planning to explore in a later blog entry. That is the fact that Blackmoor was in a state of constant change. As you say, player demands meant Dave had to expand and revise rules constantly. This dynamic nature of Blackmoor is a pretty interesting aspect of the game when it comes to talking about what Blackmoor was and what it wasn't.

-Havard

_________________
Currently Running: The Blackmoor Vales Saga
Currently Playing: Daniel S. Debelfry in the Throne of Star's Campaign


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: [Blog] The "Blackmoor is Just a Chainmail Variant" Falla
PostPosted: Mar 07, 2016 10:28 pm 
Offline
Landed Lord
Landed Lord
User avatar

Joined: Jan 16, 2010 8:02 am
Posts: 592
Location: suburbs of Chicago
Havard wrote:
But you also touch upon something else that I am planning to explore in a later blog entry. That is the fact that Blackmoor was in a state of constant change. As you say, player demands meant Dave had to expand and revise rules constantly. This dynamic nature of Blackmoor is a pretty interesting aspect of the game when it comes to talking about what Blackmoor was and what it wasn't.
And this certainly makes the whole "evolution" issue tricky. Dave was constantly tweaking rules and didn't encourage his players to be rules lawyers because he wanted the game to be more fluid and freeform than he wanted rigidity and conformity. So saying "Dave did this" may be true for certain blocks of time, yet may be totally untrue for other blocks of time.

_________________
Marv / Finarvyn
Member of The Regency Council
Visit my Blackmoor OD&D board
OD&D since 1975

"Don't ask me what you need to hit. Just roll the die and I will let you know!"
- Dave Arneson

Image


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: [Blog] The "Blackmoor is Just a Chainmail Variant" Falla
PostPosted: Mar 08, 2016 4:48 pm 
Offline
Lord of the Regency Council
Lord of the Regency Council
User avatar

Joined: Nov 17, 2009 2:48 pm
Posts: 6017
Location: Norway, Europe
More comments on the blog:

Jan Egil wrote:
I believe none of the "camps" have the utter truth here, and even the memories of the persons involved was somewhat shaded by their their shared history and disappointments with each other.
Without Gygax' business savvy or Arnesons leap of imagination from wargaming to roleplaying we wouldn't have DD ... and maybe not the hobby as is ..
:-)


I totally agree with your conclusion. As to which camp has the answer, my main point was simply that both camps have been asking the wrong question. It doesn't really matter what combat system Dave Arneson used because it was not the combat system that was the revolutionary part of Blackmoor. Pretty much what Rob is saying I think.

I think it can be very interesting to discuss the various influences that Dave Arneson and his group borrowed from. Also, the same question can be put to Gary and his group. But ultimately we need to recognize that Blackmoor and D&D were new inventions, different from what came before in spite of making use of various ideas existing out there.

Rob Kuntz to Jan Egil:
Rob Kuntz wrote:
The idea of WE having a hobby or not is irrelevant in ascertaining the line of descent of the original RPG engine, which was being used several years prior to Gygax's, or my own, involvement with it. Who starts what and as influenced or derived from what is the issue, and not its end-point commercialization.

Cheers!


Rob Kuntz to me:

Rob Kuntz wrote:
Havard. Thanks! Yes. The combat system, all of Blackmoor's or D&D's "game systems," are the actual sub-systems of what became D&D (or remained Blackmoor). They are just different iterations (Dave's and then Gary's, and then my own, et al, forwarded to the present as individual "takes"). It's the conceptual system interface on steroids that Arneson moved to that makes it leaps above anything preceding it.


Michael (Gronan) Mornard wrote:
Anybody who actually claims that about Blackmoor is a booger-eating moron and should be ignored as hard as possible.


-Havard

_________________
Currently Running: The Blackmoor Vales Saga
Currently Playing: Daniel S. Debelfry in the Throne of Star's Campaign


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: [Blog] The "Blackmoor is Just a Chainmail Variant" Falla
PostPosted: Mar 09, 2016 10:42 am 
Offline
Landed Lord
Landed Lord
User avatar

Joined: Jan 16, 2010 8:02 am
Posts: 592
Location: suburbs of Chicago
Havard wrote:
I think it can be very interesting to discuss the various influences that Dave Arneson and his group borrowed from.
Gary told us repeatedly his influences (the Appendix-N list, etc.), but Dave seems to have been a lot more vague on the issue. Makes it harder to have a good discussion when we're guessing half the time. :(

_________________
Marv / Finarvyn
Member of The Regency Council
Visit my Blackmoor OD&D board
OD&D since 1975

"Don't ask me what you need to hit. Just roll the die and I will let you know!"
- Dave Arneson

Image


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: [Blog] The "Blackmoor is Just a Chainmail Variant" Falla
PostPosted: Mar 09, 2016 11:27 am 
Offline
Lord of the Regency Council
Lord of the Regency Council
User avatar

Joined: Nov 17, 2009 2:48 pm
Posts: 6017
Location: Norway, Europe
finarvyn wrote:
Havard wrote:
I think it can be very interesting to discuss the various influences that Dave Arneson and his group borrowed from.
Gary told us repeatedly his influences (the Appendix-N list, etc.), but Dave seems to have been a lot more vague on the issue. Makes it harder to have a good discussion when we're guessing half the time. :(


I think it should be possible to reconstruct something. I think there is a list of books and films Dave read collected somewhere here on the forums. Tolkien, deCamp's Conan, John Norman, Poul Anderson, Lord Dunsany, Star Trek, classic horror shows etc would be on the list.

I also think it should be possible to get an idea of the games Dave played. I think alot of his ideas came from Napoleonics, Braunstein, Chainmail, Strategos-N and several other games he played.

In both cases I think it would also be useful to consider what the players were influenced by. Players would have had a big influence on how the game evolved. This would also be true for Gary's campaign I would think.


-Havard

_________________
Currently Running: The Blackmoor Vales Saga
Currently Playing: Daniel S. Debelfry in the Throne of Star's Campaign


Top
 Profile  
 
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 12 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2  Next

All times are UTC - 5 hours [ DST ]


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 0 guests


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
cron
Copyright © The Comeback Inn
Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group