Sunday, February 12, 2017

Converting the FFC swords to OD&D.


Following up on my post here The First Magic Swords , this will be a look at how to convert them to an OD&D game.  Certainly there's an appeal to the idea of using these swords in an "old school" game today, especially if your game is set in Blackmoor.   For example, I've been adapting the lower level of Arneson's Blackmoor Dungeon to OD&D, where some of these swords appear in their original form.  This conversion method would also work for any new swords created using the old method.

Of course, the FFC swords could be used as is, but they are quite different from the standard swords and don't integrate well with other magic weapons that might be floating around in your campaign.
 
As it happens, the same problem was faced when TSR published Adventures in Blackmoortm for use with the BECMI classic rules by Frank Mentzer.  There are at least three of the FFC swords present in the Rogues and Rascals section of AiB: 

Bolitho's "White" sword
Svenny's "Maroon" 
Philo's "Weasel" (this last is apparently sword "M" in the FFC).  

These three swords were converted to BeCMI stats, and while not exactly the same as standard OD&D, these conversions can provide a good guide to follow.

I won't bore you with the exact stats for each - you can of course look them up if you like.  Instead, lets jump straight to the meat.

First, in the FFC there's a clear power differentiation between the Lettered swords and the Colored swords, with the colored swords being the more powerful and more magical. Accordingly,  AiB converted each differently into the standard D&D "+" rating.

Lettered swords convert to +1 and to +3 versus "Double Value" enemies. 

Colored swords convert to +2 , and to +3 versus "Double Value" enemies. 

Double "doubles values" in the FFC were simply ignored, and several similar monsters were converted into a single type like "undead".   The AiB conversion also sometimes ignores some of the FFC double value monsters - Balrogs for instance - but I would include them for OD&D.

Determining Intelligence:
The original FFV swords don't have an intelligence of ego rating and with only three cases to look at, it is impossible to say for certain how the AiB numbers were arrived at.  The FFC swords do have an intelligence increase bonus that is granted to the wielder, and I note that if you add 6 to that bonus you get the Intelligence scores listed in AiB.  However, that's not really going to work for us.

The reason why has to do with how Intelligence determines the number of Primary Powers in OD&D.  In fact each pip of intelligence above 7 adds a new Primary Power.  In the FFC, the "Special Values" each sword has are equivalent to the Primary Powers of an OD&D sword, so for the Swords Intelligence score to match its number of primary powers the score has to be specific minimum.  Here is a conversion table:

#SV
INT


1
7
2
8
3
9
4
10
4 + magic
11

12

Where a sword has a double or more Special Value, I treated each case as an additional power.  To convert these to OD&D terms is a case by case thing but will usually involve doubling the distance or power of the effect.

Determining Ego:
For Ego, we can look at the existing scores for the FFC and come up with a number that matches the ego scores given for the three swords found in AiB.  Now I doubt very much that the method I detail below is what TSR actually did (they probably just rolled a new one) but using this method allows the use of the original numbers found in the FFC, and will give you a consistent conversion rather than a random one.

So to determine the swords] Ego, add the FFC swords Combat Increase score to the Strength score and divide by 2 (round up).

Magic Ability:
OD&D swords don't normally have spell casting ability, but it fits in just fine, and I keep this feature of the FFC sword in my campaign.  If desired, the DM could drop this ability for an extraordinary power.  Magic ability requires a minimum 11 Intelligence.

In the FFC, Arneson himself tells us how to handle it for D&D, "Magic Spells (Referee determines it secretly) - roll once for level of the spell using a 6 sided die and then roll again on the standard basic spell list for that level to determine which spells are being carried on the sword." (77:67)

Alignment:
The FFC swords apparently had an alignment, as we know from Greg Svenson.  Unfortunetly that information is not in the FFC, so you simply have to roll for it again, following the usual proceedure.


That's all there is to it.  Here are two examples of converted swords:

A (Neutral)
+1
+3 vs Dragons, Undead, Elementals, Balrogs
Int 9
Ego 5
Powers:
Detect Evil, Cause Morale Check -1 (100'), Detect Magic

 "Green" (Neutral) ,
+2
+3 vs Lycanthropes, Goblins, Ogres, Trolls, Elementals, Orcs, Balrogs
Int 9
Ego 6
Powers:
Detect Invisible 120'. Detect Magic, Cause Morale Check -1 (100')




Friday, February 3, 2017

Arneson's Great Kingdom Map

Among Dave Megarry's treasures, he's found another old map.  It's a hand drawn map belonging to Arneson, showing another version of the the old Castle & Crusade Societies Great Kingdom map, including notations of the area around the holding of Blackmoor and seeming to focus on provinces of the Great Kingdom.  The map is on an old photocopy, made on the old light sensitive paper by the look of it, and contains further notations written on the photocopy in colored ink.



Now, for comparison, here's a look at Arneson's contemporary map of Blackmoor, as found in his First Fantasy CampaignTM 




Here's what Mr. Megarry has to say about it.. "I have looked at the Great Kingdom map and have little to say about it. I think the numbered areas were districts within the Kingdom which had their own Duke's and such. As you can see, Blackmoor was wedged into a space between the Great Kingdom, the Duchy of Ten and the Egg of Coot. I think Arneson was trying to do a combination of Diplomacy, Braunstein and Fantasy gaming, having us take roles. But I think it was too ambitious and I was not part of it. I received the map in a poor condition with the coloring already done, possibly in anticipation of my being assigned a part, but nothing came of it. I suspect I was away in Boston.....I was living in Boston in 1974 and 1975; I moved to Lake Geneva on 22-23 Feb 1976 from Boston. I did not do much role playing during my time in Boston." (perscomm 2016-2017)

Check out Zenopus 'blog Zenopus Archives , and of course, the Secrets of Blackmoor Documentary.  Zenopus in particular has done some outstanding work on the Great Kingdom maps, so I asked him to lend his expertise, and I'd encourage readers to enjoy his results.

A couple additional notes:

One of the main NPC characters in Arneson's Garbage Pits of Despair is Terrence of Walworth, so it is interested to see Walworth so prominently marked.  Walworth, as has been mentioned before, was of course a territory controlled by Gary Gygax.

I'd also like to suggest that the "Contested Area" is quite possibly an early reference to what became known as The Wild Coast.


In this map, we are shown the location of the Capitol of the Egg of Coot is marked with an Asterisk.  But also of note is just how big the land of the Egg is.  Blackmoor is tiny by comparison. 





Sunday, January 22, 2017

Mapping The Entrances to Blackmoor Dungeon


If you have the 1977 print of Blackmoor Dungeon, or even the Zeitgeist games version, it's easy to think that the maps you have are good to go.  But if you try to run a game with these maps, you will soon come to notice stairs that seem to exit above ground without any key or clue as to where.  Even the main stair to the basement on level one is not clearly marked.  In fact, lining up the stairs from level to level just by looking at the maps is far from easy to do.  The only labels the stairs have are "up" or "down" and these don't always seem to be correct.  

A good long while ago, Tavis Allison of Autarch Games created a GIMP file of levels 1-6 of Blackmoor dungeon and began labeling the stairs in order to line up the levels one on top of another.  At that time, I decided to build on what he did by trying to place the stairs and exits that reached the surface onto a map of the castle of Blackmoor.

As simple as that sounds there is one very real problem.  There is no good surface map of Blackmoor castle.  There are two maps of the town of Blackmoor that show the castle, but the scale is tiny.  There is also a planview of the main castle building, but it shows nothing beyond the building itself.

There's another problem.  For reasons I have never been able to figure out, the two maps of Blackmoor town are oriented completely differently.  The original map that Arneson drew was published in the Castle & Crusades Society newsletter issue #13 in July of 1972 and depicts the town south of the castle.  The second, updated map appears in the FFC, and shows the town east of the castle.  Suffice it to say, this second orientation creates some weird alignment problems, and so I ignored it in favor of the original map.  The actual cardinal directions aren't really the issue anyway, because what really matters is the orientation and facing of the castle toward the town.  Here is what that original 1972 castle looked like:



In short, what I did was to create this blow up of the original castle drawing.  Then  I traced out the walls and towers and scaled the traced image to fit the dimensions given in the FFC.  After importing this image into the GiMP files, I noticed right away that the basement on level 1 and the outline of the inner walls of the Castle were obviously meant to match.  So I made a few more adjustments to the castle outline, straightening out some of the lines, and matched it up in what seemed like a logical fit.  The result of that was this:




And so it sat for years.  Just so you know what you are looking at, all those letter/number combos are Tavis' staircase notations on various levels.  The letter is just a label but the number indicates what levels the stairs are on - in retrospect it probably would have been better to start the label with the level the stair starts on and then give a letter tag, but it is what it is.   

Recently, former Arneson associate Jeff Quinn (author of the excelent Blackmoor adventure The Redwood Scar) has been redrawing the maps of Blackmoor dungeon (see here: Map Discussion ).  That prompted me to revist this old project.  I was never very happy with my results and I realized it would make more sense to keep the wall outlines I had made, but use the official castle floorplan instead of the crude sketch from the original map.  That way I could get the scale of the castle building exact and adjust the walls to fit.  Here then is the castle floorplan from the FFC (note that this particular version comes from the Arneson estate with his handwritten notes on it.  The Outline is identical however.)



Using this map allowed me to exactly scale the castle building (170') to the castle basement.  Playing around with that new image resulted this positioning of the castle:



Notice how the side entrance actually lines up on the side of the building and the castle walls line up with or closely parallel the walls of the basement.  There's also a possible second stair inside the castle itself, stair G1234.  I didn't show the outer walls on the above image for a reason.  My original drawing, based on the blowup of Arneson's '72 map, had the walls fairly close.  However, I noticed that on the west (left) side of the castle there was a line of stairs on level 1 that seemed to follow the line of the wall.  So I extended the wall over and discovered a remarkable alignment.




As it turns out, I should have known to extend the castle walls further out anyway.  If you look at Arneson's FFC map of Blackmoor Town and Castle (the one from '77) you can see this same area between the inner and outer wall is larger and is labeled "fair", meaning it is the location of the fair of the elves guarding the castle.  So, after trying scores of combinations and configurations, I'm convinced this is the proper fit or as close as is possible to get.  However, this would mean that the interior of the castle rooms shown in the FFC has to be wrong!

Here it is again:


Notice in this image that the throne room is in the smaller right side wing of the castle, while the tower base on the left is occupied by various rooms.  According to all descriptions, the main stair (Main 1) should go down from the throne room, and that appears to be what the "A" above is meant to represent.  Believe me, I tried dozens of orientations, size variations, mirror images and so forth to get the Main Stair to match with the throne room as shown in this planview.  but it simply won't line up in any way that makes any sense of the basement below and the arrangement of the outer walls and towers.  However, as you can see from the alignment above, the Main stair lines up quite well with the first floor of the Main tower, so it appears to me that the throne room should be in the tower, not the extension to the east where it is shown.  If you ask me, putting the throne room at the bottom of the tower makes more sense anyway.

Now we have one more thing to mention.  Thanks to Dave Megarry's maps for his character HW Dumbo, we know that the stairs marked "B12" and "D12" do indeed exit on the surface, and that the corridor heading directly west from the basement doesn't just end but actually extends to exit on the hillside.  So alright then; using the above map and Tavis's stair labels, here are the surface entrances and their locations around the castle.

Name
Location
A1 Stair
Hillside west of castle
B12 Stair
Tower on NW corner of outer wall
D12
In section of outer wall west
E12
At corner of outer wall west and sw
HY1
At corner of outer wall southwest and inner wall
I12
Inner wall SE near south tower
J1234
Well? near SE corner of outer wall
L12
Hillside just outside SE outer wall
Side
West wall of main Castle
Main
Throne room
Western corridor
Hillside west of Castle



Friday, January 20, 2017

Monster lists and Megarry's Maps

Let's take a closer look at that last section of Dave Megarry's maps - the one for the SE section of Level 7.



What's particularly awesome about these notes on Level 7 is that we can compare them to one of Arneson's original stocking lists.  Although the first 6 levels of Blackmoor dungeon published in the FFC are Arneson's Gen con convention restocking list generated randomly using the OD&D booklets, levels 7-10 are original lists, dating to the first year or so of Blackmoor, prior even to the great Invasion that led to King Funk III taking over the 10th Level with his hoards of minions.

It would not be too surprising for the notes on Megarry's maps to be quite different from the FFC lists.  Arneson may have restocked more than once - though perhaps some levels saw more such changes than others.

Here's Megarry's notes:
Room#
Monster
Treasure
17
10 Ogres
"Gold Dinning"
19
168 Goblins

22
33 Trolls
"riches"

Here's the same rooms in the FFC list, with the information in exact order:
Room#
Gold Pieces
Protection Points
Monster
Magic Treasure
17
3000 GP
150
10 Ogres
-
19
-
300
200 Ghouls (catacombs)
2 Arrows, 2 Gloves
22
-
500
33 Trolls
1/10 (prolly a weakened spell)

As can be readily seen, rooms 17 and 22 are identical, and that in itself is really quite remarkable. but what about those 200 (yikes!) ghouls in room 19? 

Certainly that could be a restocking change, but upon consideration, I think it is more likely to be a mistake.  As most of you will know, the FFC was a lightly edited assemblage of a fairly hodge-podge collection of Arneson's campaign notes and essays.  The original material was both hand written and (poorly) typed, and it is not unusual to spot errors in the FFC print - have a look at this post on the Loch Gloomin material for some examples: Stocking Blackmoor Wilds in 1972  

I think it possible that the editors/typist preparing the stocking list may have misread Goblins as Ghouls.

To explain why I think so,  I need to refer back to Arneson's "Protection Point" method.  In brief, Arneson assigned protection points to a room and then used those points to "buy" the monsters (For a full explanation, please see this post Point Buy Method ).

  The costs of the monsters were those given in the CHAINMAILTM  booklet.  Ogres, for example, cost 15 points.  That's why room 17, with 150 protection points, has 10 Ogres in it.  (BTW "points" also functioned as HP and XP, see here On Points )

Arneson's goblins are a little more complicated.  He actually had two types: one that costs 1.5 points, just as in CHAINMAILTM, and a tougher version that costs 5 points, perhaps a hobgoblin.  Ghouls however in the FFC lists always cost 10 points, just at they do in CHAINMAILTM.  


Notice that the FFC stocking list assigns 300 Protection Points for room 19.  To stock the room with 200 Ghouls would require 2000 Protection Points.  Three hundred points would give you 30 Ghouls.  On the other hand, 300 points would give you 200 standard Goblins.  So the number is right if is really Goblins and not Ghouls.  Further, Megarry's map has 168 Goblins in this room, and it is easily conceivable that any number of things could have led to those 32Goblins being "missing".

So, I think Megarry's map notes have actually helped us find and correct a mistake in the FFC.

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Oldest Dungeon Maps in D&D History

David Megarry, inventor of the Dungeon! boardgame and one of the original players in the Blackmoor campaign that sparked the creation of Dungeons & Dragons, has once again dug deep into his sea chests and pulled out an old Chemistry notebook with a set of maps on graph paper, drawn from sketches made as his character H.W. Dumbo braved the depths of Blackmoor Dungeon. 

As discussed previously (here: Early Blackmoor Characters ), H.W. Dumbo was one of David Megarry's characters in the pre D&D Blackmoor game developed and run by D&D co-creator Dave Arneson.  As Megarry's 5th created character, he probably came to existence in 1972, but certainly within 1 year of that date.  That makes the maps Megarry drew as his character explored Blackmoor dungeon the oldest adventure role playing game maps ever revealed.

These maps were drawn in a bound notebook of graph paper at a time before D&D existed, probably even before Gary Gygax was himself introduced to the game, so naturally, a close study of the images reveals interesting details, especially for Blackmoor fans.

For comparison, I'll include images from the 1977 First Fantasy Campaign booklet by Judges Guild (JG).  These 1977 maps show the dungeon and key created by Arneson as redrawn for the booklet.  (For a related post see here: # Appearing in Blackmoor Dungeon )  These same maps were, of course, redrawn nearly identically for the Zeitgeist Games (ZG) release of The Dungeons of Castle Blackmoor in 2006, and I'll refer to that publication from time to time also.

Megarry's scans of his notebook are of whole pages and show a lot of blank space.  However, to make the images easier to view, I have cropped together the portions showing the explored areas.  We begin with Level 1.




Here is the corresponding section of the JG map:




First, a bit about notation; Megarry's stairs are little circles.  Frequently he marks these as U.S  or D. S. - up stairs or down, just as on the JG maps, or as "Grand stair", to indicate both up and down.  Passages are also marked D.E. for Dead End.

Notice that D.E. appears where room 9 is marked on the JG map - very likely indicating that H. W. Dumbo failed to find the secret door leading into that room.  We also see in the passage just to the east of where room 9 isn't, an area marked "cave in", just where the Orchian Way stairs should be.  This and other cave ins we will see on Megarry's maps, are probably the result of the earthquake reported in Arneson's newletter the Blackmoor Gazette and Rumormonger released in the fall of 1971.

Curiously, the note "to castle" is written near room 2, and very interestingly, there is a note at the western end of the east west corridor at the bottom of the map which reads "way out; the side of cliff."  On the JG map the same corridor simply appears to end.

The long north/south passage ends in a "Grand stair", indicating both must exit above ground - I'll have more to say about that in a later post - but this does contradict the published JG map where these stairs are labelled down (and probably shouldn't be).  

LEVEL 2



Here's the corresponding JG section:




Perhaps the first thing to jump out is room 4, marked "Torture" on Megarry's map.  In the FFC key, this room is non-descript, but the ZG dungeon key describes this room as the torture chamber of Sir Fang, the vampire.  Further there is a mysterious circle on the JG map, which is described as a pit in the ZG text, but on Megarry's map we see only a half circle in that area marked "pillar".  I wonder if this might have been one of Arneson's elevator shafts, or probably more likely, some kind of a pedestal.

The configuration in room 2 is slightly different but there are the same 8 cells.  These are marked "pens" on the JG map.

Rooms 5 and 6 are slightly bigger on Megarry's map.

Lastly, there is a small note on Megarry's map that says "? 30' above house".  This note refers to a house Megarry had H. W. Dumbo build.  Mr. Megarry told me:

 "It is located on the isthmus between the town and the castle. It is amazing that Arneson let me dig a tunnel in that area. I recall that I dug a tunnel from the northwest shore to the location of the house and then dug down to the 5th level before I connected with the Blackmoor dungeon (I missed other levels by a hair). I earned enough on expeditions to finally build the house, which I put right on top of the down part."


LEVEL 3





And the JG section:
   



There is a slight difference in stair placement in the three pronged passage east of room 2 that could have some significance for map alignment issues.

Room 10 is oriented completely differently.

In the center east section of the map is a single colored in square marked "H. W.'s hole".  That's the location of the tunnel from H. W. Dumbo's house.

At the very bottom of the map, near the area between rooms 10 and 12 and in the east/west corridor below them, is a door in the south wall with a hint of the corridor beyond heading south.  Here is a note reading "Elves ?".

LEVEL 4




Compare to the JG map:




At the North east edge of Megarry's map there is a note that says "Devils Fountain" next to "cave in".  Devil fountains are mentioned in the FFC, where they are said to be marked on the maps with black squares.  Only level 9 of the JG FFC maps have black squares marked on them, and curiously, that map has a note - probably a mistake -saying the black squares are trap doors. 

There's also a note on the nearby stairs that says "damaged stair".

On the eastern edge, the note reads S.P. 50'.  This appears to be the same as the rough hewn passage indicated on the JG map, but at the next hallway just to the west.

Just east of room 16, there is a feature not shown on the JG map that appears to be the fire pit also shown on level 3.  

Just east of that, in the north end of the triangular shaped room, a down stair is marked.  The same stair is marked two squares further north on the JG map, and the significance of this is that the JG map does not align with a stair on level 5, but Megarry's position of this stair lines up perfectly with the published JG map of Level 5.

Once again, on the eastern edge of Megarry's map, we see a note against a colored square marked "Dumbo's hole".  The note in the upper corner reads "50' from house; down in Blackmoor; (4th level)" 

LEVEL 5




Here's the Corresponding are of the JG map:




Megarry's map notes this is "100' down in Blackmoor".  

Room 15 is marked "empty" on Megarry's map, but there is a note there that says "secret passage"

Just east of room 15 is a "down stair" in a hallway with the note "...to 7th level 100' down".

There is also a down stair marked on Megarry's map missing from the JG map - at the end of the hall adjacent (east) of room 4.

A little further east, we see the location where the tunnel breaks through.  The note reads "Hole in roof". "Way up; 20' S; 100' up".  Another little note pointing at a small line in the area says "Spike".  The rubble seems to be marked on both maps.

Lastly, there is a stair marked in a slightly different position in the room just north of room 5.

LEVEL 6



The Level 6 JG map portion:




 The corner notation on Megarry's map has "150' from Dumbo's house"

There's some pretty rich notation on the maps for this level.  The hatched squares on Megarry's map are marked "fire pit" as on the JG map.

The South passage extending from room 1 is marked "slopes down" and the doorway at room 1 is marked "S. P." for secret passage.

Room 14 in the JG map has but one stair marked.  Megarry's map however has two "up" stairs marked on the southeast wall, flanking a semicircle labelled "Throne".

LEVEL 7

Level 7 is the last level contained in Mr. Megarry's maps.  The areas shown are the northwest and southeast corners, so I will present them seperately;

L7 NW



Same portion on JG map:





Interestingly the Megarry map actually shows a small portion of corridor at the top edge not found on the JG map.

The square in room one of the JG map is marked "firepit" on Megarry's map.  

Also note the area indicated by small dotted lines and the word "down" on the JG map at the northwest end of the corridor in the middle of the image.  Megarry has an explanatory note at this location: "Alcove False Bottom". 

The note at the southeast corner reads enigmatically, "To Dwarfs Entrance"

L7 SE



  And this section of the JG map:




The corner notation on Megarry's map reads, "200' down in Blackmoor" 

This section of the map reveals more of the dungeon inhabitants.  The entrance to room 17 is marked with S. P. on Megarry's map and the room itself is noted to have "10 Ogres" and underneath it is somewhat hard to make out, but according to Dave Megarry it reads   "gold dinning room".  

The stair at the west end of the east-west passage extending from room 17 is marked "up stairs 100' up".

Room 19 on Megarry's map is marked "168 Goblins"

Room 22 is drawn much larger on Megarry's map and is noted to have a "secret passage" entrance and "33 Trolls + riches"

Lastly, the unnumbered vertical corridor in the southeast corner is marked "20' wide passage", thus confirming the scale of 1 square = 10 feet.
   
I'll have more on HW Dumbo and Megarry's other Blackmoor characters in future posts, but for the maps, that wraps it up for now.  I believe some additional information and certainly some related content will shortly be available on the Secrets of Blackmoor documentary Facebook page HERE, so keep an eye on that page.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Megarry's Blackmoor Character Sheets IV - Missing Info

This post is about what is and is not on the character sheets, and why.  I'll start with a picture painted in quotations:

"..,Dave played things so close to the vest, when I asked him questions at the "My Awesome Gaming Group" panel, he answered my "is it this or that" question 'yes' because 'some of my players are here'"  Tavis Allison, commenting on the 'blog Beyond the Black Gate Monday, July 25, 2011, "Dave Arneson and Impartiality in the Temple of the Frog"

"Dave did lots of secret rolling and never showed us the results or explained what he was roling for. I am sure that sometimes he rolled dice just to make us nervous..." Greg Svenson Nov 27, 2009, http://odd74.proboards.com/post/40731/thread

" We were not keeping our own records or character sheets as they are called now. Dave had an index card on each of the players (and NPCs) with their attributes, HP, possessions and other useful notes. I only remember seeing Svenny’s character card a couple of times.... he kept our character cards,... We didn’t track our experience points as is done now. Dave simply told us when we had transitioned from one level to another."  Shams Grog.& Blog Q AND A-with-Greg-Svenson

"To be honest, I never had a character sheet. Dave A. had my character (Svenny) on an index card that he kept. He let me use it during a couple of game sessions (maybe 2 or 3) but always collected it again. I never thought to make a copy of it, either."  Greg-Svenson, Post subject: Re: Megarry's Blackmoor Characters Posted: Oct 24, 2016 5:08 pm Comeback Inn forum.

"Don't ask me what you need to hit. Tell me what you're character is doing. I'll tell you what dice to roll" - Dave Arneson

If you are an OD&Der, it is only natural for you to be looking at Megarry's characters for signs of familiar stats, but you will be hard pressed to find them.  A few of the "ability scores" are there, albeit in 2d6 instead of 3d6, but the all familiar hit points, level, saving throws, etc., of the D&D are conspicuously absent.  Is this because these things were not a part of the Blackmoor game?  The answer to some extent depends on the particular stat.  In fact, while there seems to be a lot missing from the sheet, we can be certain nonetheless certain that there were some items of character information, that the players weren't allowed to know. 

As the quotes above show, Arneson prefered what we might call an immersion game, with as little "out of character" talk as possible.

"Just role playing not roll playing." Dave Arneson, Blackmoor at the Piazza, Sep 30, 2008 at 10:09pm ODD74 forum

Perhaps the genesis of this disposition lies in Arneson's contrasting experience of Wesely's nearly rule-less Braunstein games and all the "rules lawyering" that took place in his own Napoleonic games.  Arneson made a number of comments that one of the reason fantasy appealed to him was that no one could argue historical facts with him.  In one interview he said:

"How did it all start in Blackmoor?..... I was also quite tired of my Nappy campaign with all its rigid rules, etc., and was perhaps rebelling against it (in fact I'm sure I was!!).....  (For Blackmoor) rules were actually written down (but closely guarded by the referee and subject to change without notice if things got out of hand)."  Different Worlds magazine, June/July 1979, p6-7.

Given the context, it is pretty easy to see what is going on with Dave Megarry's character sheet.  Arneson apparently preferred to keep important rules details out of the hands of his players, including things that we would now think of as a part of character information.  The information the players had about their character was not the whole picture. 

Hit Points are perhaps the most obvious omission.  We might also expect to find Hit Dice, Level, and Experience Points. 

Despite not being directly referenced on the character sheet, we know these things were a part of a characters makeup.  Hit points and experience points are discussed in this POST, for example.  That post references Greg Svenson notes in the back of his 2nd edition CHAINMAIL.  Svenson had these notes, no doubt, because he was one of the first persons Arneson turned to with help refereeing Blackmoor adventures.  It was "need to know" information.

There's a bit more to be said about experience points, however.  Although it is true there is no XP total listed, Megarry does keep track of the monsters his characters have killed, and in the single case of the Scholaress character, he also writes their point value.  Which tells us at least something about the characters earned experience (more on this in a later post). 

Academically, this is all kind of interesting (to me anyway), but imagine for a moment, if Arneson's approach had become the norm for D&D.  Imagine character sheets where the only statistical information a player has is their ability scores, saving throws, armor class, and maybe their level.  It is the referee, not the players, who track the characters hit points and damage, experience points, and other "rulesy" type information.

So, you don't know what your hit point total is, or how much damage exactly (in points) you can do.  You don't know how close or not you might be to leveling up.  You probably don't know how much of a bonus that magic weapon has either.

Descriptions of action, especially of fights, would naturally be less laced with statistics and mathematics.  Instead of "You take 4 points of damage" it would necessarily come out as "You receive a deep gash and your character is feeling very weak." or some such.


One wonders what direction D&D would have developed in if the D&D player's character information had been limited in the same way it was in Blackmoor.