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 Post subject: [Blog] Dan Nicholson: The Merchant of Blackmoor
PostPosted: Dec 10, 2016 3:44 pm 
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Dan Nicholson: The Merchant of Blackmoor


The Merchant of Blackmoor was a character played by Dan Nicholson in Dave Arneson's original campaign. Dan Nicholson was one of the early members of the Midwest Military Simulation Association (MMSA) which was formed in 1964 by Ray Allard and friends. Dave Arneson joined this group when he was in high school and Dan went on to join Dave's Blackmoor game.

Untill recently, Dan's most well known character in the Blackmoor campaign was the Merchant, who would later go on to inspire the Merchant class in Zeigtgeist Games d20 Blackmoor product line. Nicholson was one of the older members of Dave's gaming group which by then had split from the MMSA.

The First Fantasy Campaign documents the game in which Dan Nicholson's Merchant tried to gain control over all the trade in Blackmoor. His organization gradually developed into a kind of mafia-like group. The Great Svenny, Mello the Halfling and the Blue Rider formed a secret organization of their own to try to counter the influence of the Merchant Mafia (FFC p 20). Although it is not mentioned by Dave Arneson, it has recently been revealed that David Megarry's Thief character, was also involved in trying to thwart Nicholson's plans.

The Merchant was apparently not the only character Nicholson played in the Blackmoor Campaign. Yesterday, the Secrets of Blackmoor documentary team revealed a character sheet provided to them by the late Nicholson's widow Helen. It details a Gnome character played by Nicholson in 1975:




It is possible that this Gnome and the Merchant are the same character, but I tend to believe they were two separate characters. This character sheet clearly uses the format of OD&D and looks a bit different from the character sheets used earlier in the campaign before ability scores and other aspects had been finalized. Also, 2000 XP does not seem like all that much if he had been playing the character from the campaigns beginning and all the way up to 1975. I do like that the Gnome character is in possession of gems though. That only seems appropriate for a Gnome character.

Dan Nicholson passed away in 2012 at the age of 72. I don't know much more about him. I do know that he was a computer programmer, working for companies called Coleco and 4D Interractive Vision. If anyone can provide me with other details about his life and career, that would help make this article even better.


Crossposted from: http://blackmoormystara.blogspot.no/201 ... kmoor.html

-Havard

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


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 Post subject: Re: [Blog] Dan Nicholson: The Merchant of Blackmoor
PostPosted: Dec 10, 2016 3:46 pm 
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Here's the Facebook post that inspired me to write this article:

Secrets of Blackmoor wrote:
It's time for a Friday Treat!

This week we have a character sheet that belonged to Dan Nicholson. It was found on his computer after he passed away by his wife Helen. We think this scan is all that remains of the document. Thank you Helen!

Blackmoor is a place of firsts. Name a fantasy gaming trope and it likely originated in Arneson's games: the first Dungeon Master; the first elf character; the first dwarf; different colored dragons appear first in Blackmoor; having players gather at the Inn; the list goes on and on.

These first time events don't always leap out at us. Our friends in Minnesota are always sending us scans of things they find. Often we won't realize the significance of these documents until much later. Today is no exception.

What can we find out from this character sheet?

It is from Friday September the 26th, 1975. D&D is already becoming popular. Dave Arneson has been invited to move to Lake Geneva by Gary Gygax, but he hasn't departed the Twin Cities yet. So what exactly is Dave Arneson up to at this time?

Judging by the date on this page, he is running Blackmoor games for his friends.

Other things that we noticed are easy to overlook because they seem so innocuous. When we got this sheet, we looked at it and thought, "Oh gee an OD&D character sheet. How cute." We set it aside and didn't really think about it anymore. It turns out that there are some very interesting things about this character.

First off, Dan took the time to record both, who's game this comes from, and when it happened. One thing we know about Dan is that he is very precise.

Now take a look at type of character Dan is playing. A gnome fighter that is 2nd level in experience. Reaching 2nd level is no small feat in Blackmoor, Dave ran a deadly game. It is likely that the highest character level attained in his campaign, by this point, is only 8th level. Dave liked to kill players off to keep the game competitive. At the same time, this character seems to have been created as a second level character to begin with.

Our gnome is unnamed. Yup, Dave ran a tough game. We figure that by naming this little guy, it may have almost been like jinxing him from the start. We're ok with the gnome being known as Gnome Fighter for now.

We can also tell that this gnome has 8 hit points. How did that number get generated? Was it 2 d4, 2 d6, 2 d8? How would you rule this character in your game?

What is most compelling about Dan's character is that he is playing a gnome. In the original edition of D&D, there are only four player races: Humans; Dwarves; Elves; and Halflings. This is not a bit surprising for Blackmoor since being a fantasy creature was already standard in Dave's games. Yet, it makes one wonder if this is the first time a player decides to be a gnome in a role playing game.

Our knowledge is limited by what we have in our collection at this point. What do you think, is this a first time character type?

Moving forward you can see the player statistics. These are standard D&D abilities. Perhaps what may be interesting to newer players is the values of those character stats; everything is average except for the fighter's main attribute. In fact, aside from strength, this little gnome is just a regular guy.

The gnome has exactly 2000 experience points, as penned in by Dan. A round number like this is giving an impression that this character started at 2nd level. It may be that this is from a demonstration game.

Down the middle of the page is a list of the player's expenditures in gold pieces. Here we go again, the player seems to have started the game with twice the normal amount of gold. In D&D, a player normally starts with 30 to 180 gold pieces. The way Dan has logged his expenses is very interesting too; he writes it all down in ledger form like an accountant.

The first expense listed is -70 to Helen. That tells us a lot about this game. There is a woman playing in Blackmoor. This should be a big deal except that within the minnesota group, women were playing RPG's from the very beginning. What this really tells us, is that this truly is Dan's character sheet and he has loaned his wife Helen's character 70 GP.

The second expense is a total expenditure for his character's equipment.

The third entry is just 1 gold piece. After the campaign is going for several years, after all it is the first of it's kind and has been running for about four years by now, the players realize that they need to protect the town from anything that could wander out of the depths of Blackmoor Castle. A band of elves station themselves in the castle and spray everyone entering or leaving with holy water; just to be sure they aren't a vampire. they fund their Park ranger type activities by charging anyone who enters 1 gold piece.

The third column on this sheet begins with a magic sword and a magic shield. These are very standard magic items in a D&D game. They are only rated at +1, which is very much the low magic one would find in early D&D games.

What really draws our eyes to this entry is that the entire sheet has been done in ink. So why are the magic items listed first? Normally magic items have to be found during adventures; they would appear lower in the list as they were acquired later, but here they show up at the top. Again, this would indicate that this is a character that was partly created by Arneson in order to run a more competitive game. Or maybe, since everyone else may have had higher level characters, Dave just told Dan to run a 2nd level one and also gave him some special items so that Dan wouldn't die during the first encounter.

The rest of the equipment is standard D&D from Men and Magic. Dan has listed the price for each item and done a running tally down the side to keep track of his expenses. This might not seem significant, yet it shows a bit more about Dan as a person. Dan was a good businessman and his habits in real life carry over into how he makes up a character sheet. He is very organized.

Last of all, lets take a look at what is noted in pencil:
1000 silver
1000 gold
2 gems
3 vials

It looks like Dan has acquired some treasure. The gold, silver, and gems are pretty straight forward, but what about those vials? It seems the players hand't tried sipping from them to see if they were magic potions yet.

By comparison with new RPG's, D&D is very minimal. This character exists as a compact set of lists on half a page of paper. Xerox machines and computer printers are rare. Most people use handmade character sheets. Everyone has their own way of making up a character sheet. Compare this sheet to how David Megarry did it, or the Pete Gaylord sheet published in Jon Peterson's book: Playing at the World; and you'll see what we mean.

As we noted, the most exotic aspect about this character is that he is a gnome, but there is no mention of how this makes Dan's character special, all we can assume is that Dan had that part of his character worked out in his imagination.


Source: https://www.facebook.com/blackmoorsecre ... 22790037:0

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


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