Links to Blackmoor Play on Youtube

Author: DHBoggs / Labels:

 Watching other people play online is a mixed bag, but can be both informative and entertaining.  I'm tempted, but I won't bore you with a discussion of the quality of gaming on Youtube, but I do want to keep a running list, both for my reference and yours, of known games of Blackmoor play recorded online.  Please comment if you come across something not mentioned here that I should add to the list, or just let us all know what you may think of particular shows.

 I'll list them in the order the shows were uploaded:

City of the Gods - TSR DA3

Nominally set in Greyhawk, this is a fairly straight play of DA3, converted to 5e.  One of the characters is a particularly interesting sort of golem. June 2019.

1975 Temple of the Frog

Grognards having fun playing OD&D.  July 2019.

 Kilgore's Lair

Tad Kilgore was one of the central figures in the d20 Blackmoor era.  He was involved in practically everything, and is the author of the excellent Riders of Hak book.  Tad runs an excellent 5e version of Blackmoor based on the d20 material but made very much his own.  The games feature excellent play courtesy of other DAB/Zeitgeist era veterans.  There is a fair dose of pure character development vignettes which some may appreciate more than others but not to worry, there is also plenty of good old fashioned dungeoneering.  May 2020

 Hex Game

I no spreken-vous el lingo (Portuguese?) but this is a Blackmoor hexcrawl of some sort.  It looks interesting in any case.  Nov 2020.

Justin Alexander's Blackmoor

 The ever prolific and interesting Justin Alexander running an OD&D version of Blackmoor Dungeon.  He uses the classic Dave Arneson maps but has restocked the dungeon, taking inspiration from the contents of the FFC.                                               November 2020

Lets Play Blackmoor

"...learn how to play minimalist, modern OSR Dungeons & Dragons TTRPG with a lot of improvisation. Inspired by the likes of Knave and other D&D like games, we explore Blackmoor."

January 17, 2022

Locating Tamoachan in Greyhawk

Author: DHBoggs /

 Tamoachan - where is it?

The subject here was first posted on on Flanaess Geography Society on Facebook, but I know not everyone reads that and as with most social media, posts soon get buried and lost which is one reason I never bothered with the muck that was Google Plus or that twit site.

The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan is a classic adventure that was groundbreaking in that it showcased Mesoamerican culture in a fantasy setting.  The principal author, Harold Johnson, initially intended the module to be on some version of Earth, but Gary Gygax decided to incorporate it into Oerth - the world of Greyhawk.

In the introduction to the 1981 module it tells us, "Tamoachan lays south of the Olman Islands and southeast of the Holds of the Sea Princes."

Fine, but there are hundreds of miles of land meeting that criterion. We've also got coordinates in the World of Greyhawk, but those indicate the very bottom hex of the map as if to say its somewhere down there but we ran out of map. 

A couple years ago the original principal author, Harold Johnson graced the gaming community with a new version, Return to Tamoanchan - spelled with an additional n as he had originally intended it to be.

This product has a beautiful area map showing exactly where Johnson means for Tamoanchan to be in relation to the coast and sea. There are no Greyhawk references in his Tamoanchan, but that is of no consequence for our purposes.  We can simply line up the coast of his map with the right spot on the Greyhawk map and bingo.

Except, of course, it's never that simple, is it?

First, as mentioned, the exact location on the Darlene map of the World of Greyhawk is a bit fuzzy. The Greyhawk Glossography places the Shrine at hex A4-137 on the Darlene map - which is a half hex at the bottom.  

Anna B. Meyers's maps of the Flanaess combine a lot of research and references and cover more territory to the south, including a location for Tamoachan at about the place indicated in the Glossography or maybe one hex to the west.  So we can conveniently start with Anna's map and match it with Johnson's.

However there is an issue. The new map in Return to Tamoanchan shows a 10 mile per square scale. Tamaoanchan is situated on the map about 32-34 squares south of the coast. That is a whoping 320 to 340 miles in. That's further than the distance between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia for example, and almost the distance between London and Glasgow. It's a long ways.

Well, fine you say. If that's where Johnson wants it, that's where it is. Except, in the text Johnson writes "The dense Jungle is difficult terrain and movement is very slow. From the coast to the ruins will take 7 days of travel." p4.

That makes complete sense, and is surely exactly what he intended for the location.

Breaking out the old abacus, 7 days of travel at the minimum distance of 320 miles gives us a travel rate of 45 miles per day. Forty-five miles a day is decidedly not very slow, in fact, it is impossibly fast for a jungle excursion. A lightly equipped group walking all day in good clear weather and on very good roads might be able to manage 45 miles, but certainly not an adventure outfitted, armored party trying to fight and navigate their way through dense rain forest.

Another issue with the 10 mile square is that if you overlay the Tamoanchan map onto Anna's Greyhawk hexmap at that scale, the city of Tamoanchan ends up not far from the south coast of the Amedio - which makes no sense at all.

So I ignored the scale, or rather I rescaled the Return to Tamoanchan map so that one square equals only 2 miles. That makes 6 squares to one of Anna's 12 mile hexes.  If we reduce the scale to one square = 2 miles, then a 7 day journey across 32 squares gives just over 9 miles a day covering a total distance of 64 miles inland. That puts us squarely in line with the 10 miles per day given as the jungle travel rate the World of Greyhawk Gazeteer on page 4. Case closed.

So here is the fun part. Exactly where to align the two maps is a guessing game, and I tried a few different spots, but best seemed to align the "Return To Tamoanchan" city location on the same longitude Anna has the X for Tamoachan on her map. The results shown here have the relevant portions of the Return to Tamoachan map showing through Anna's map, with her X left in place for reference. One happy coincidence seems to be that Tamoanchan falls on what looks like a plateau on Anna's map and it is also on a plateau on the Tamoahchan map. 

Sagard, Izmer, and Mapping Western Greyhawk

Author: DHBoggs / Labels: , ,

 Funnily enough, this process started with Izmer, the setting of the first and second D&D movies, as discussed in previous posts.  You might think that placing Izmer off the western edge of the Greyhawk map would be a fairly simple matter.  The trouble begins, however, with the fact that no map of the lands of Izmer was ever published. 

Luckily (?) it is pretty well established that "Izmer" was drawn from the filmmaker's home brew campaign, loosely based on Alphatia, an Island empire in the Mystara setting.  Again fortunately, Bruce Heard, one of the principal creators of Mystara, has been posting useful maps of the island. So I just snagged one of Heard's maps of Alphatia, played around with resizing to get a good fit, and tacked it on to the missing end of the Oerth map.  Okay, that's good, I thought.  I'm done.

That's not quite the end of the story, as I read deeper into what others had to say about western Greyhawk, more "canon" material came to light.  First there is a fair amount of information to be found in Gygax's Gord the Rogue books, a useful summary of which is On Drangonsfoot.

So, of course I had to add all those in.  I also found a useable Telchuria map that fit and scanned in some screen shots of area maps from the movies, including a map of the islands where the Orb of  Falazure was hidden: 

and This map of the area around Antius and the Tomb of Savrill.

Other location details had to be drawn out of the movie dialog, such as when Berek explains that to find the Vault of Malek the quickest root will be to pass through the Heartshorn Forest, sail down the Mudwash River to the goblin village of Kurtl where they can learn it's location.  

The final sources were written adventures posted free on WotC and even the novelization of the D&D movie written by Neal Barrett Jr. 

Still not done.  There is still a blank area to the south unaccounted for.  Typically fan made maps of Western Oerik utilize the Dragon Annual "Bearskin" continent, - namely this turd-like peninsula dangling from the south end.

So at first I reluctantly added it too.  Part of the reason for doing so was to provide a logical location for "Jahindi" (Zindia) from the Gord books, while also keeping the theme of Western Oerik being largely isolated and not as prosperous as the Flanaess - you would have to sail around the turd to get to Izmer or cross a vast desert.

Okay, now I'm done right?  Nope.  Enter Sagard the Barbarian.  Let me quote Wikipedia. "Sagard the Barbarian is a series of four Hero's Challenge Gamebooks written by Gary Gygax, co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons and Flint Dille, screenwriter,... Flint Dille met Gary Gygax while Gygax was in Hollywood and they began collaborating on a number of projects, including the Sagard the Barbarian gamebook series (1985-1986)...".  

These are teen "choose your own adventure" type books, set in yet another version of Greyhawk.  I don't have these books, but the maps are readily available online.  Here they are in order from the books:

The leftmost maps, from books 1 and 2, are straight-up Greyhawk.  They show Ratik in Northeastern Greyhawk, with some new towns added, along with the Hydranian islands.  These books span the time Gygax got ousted from TSR, so it is not surprising that the first two maps (1985) conform to Greyhawk while the last two maps from books 3 and 4 (1986) introduce a whole new geography set in a far southern land.  

If you look closely, you will note that it is only the Hydranian Islands that connect all these maps.  We can easily assume their placement on the book 3 map is simply wrong, and therefore Ratik can remain as Ratik is in the first map and as it is in all other Greyhawk maps.  

So then we are left with placing the peninsula shown in maps 3 and 4, and where better to put this than in the place of the "turd" peninsula from the Dragon Annual, non-Gygaxian map.   

It turns out I wasn't the first one to think along these lines.  Oerth Journal #26 (Here) has an excellent article by Erik Mona wherein he distills all the important setting information from the Sagard books and places them on the map in this very location.  Unfortunately, he choose to scrap the Sagard maps and tries relocate these countries onto the turd, along with the place names TSR had already put there ("Nippon") and some fan created material ("Sunela").  Nevertheless, most of the country descriptions in the article are terrific and useful if you just ignore his map.  Heck, if I had seen this article first I might not have done all the research into the Sagard maps, but I'm glad I did.

Now, yes, I'm done.  Below is a map - crudely but accurately done - that incorporates all the research from Izmer, the Gord novels, and the Sagard books into one functional, fascinating, gameworld. Whew! 


The Greyhawk West and Arneson's Izmer

Author: DHBoggs / Labels: ,

Hopes were high when the D&D movie came out, but most gamers found the film to be very disappointing.  Looking back with 20 years of hindsight, it isn't such a bad movie.  Parts are even well done, but the structure of the film was flawed in that it was generic fantasy with few iconic D&Disms and one of the main characters, a thief called Snails, was just ruinously, hideosly, awful, at least as portrayed by the actor. 

So the movie went into the dustbin essentially, and even though there was a low budget, but still much better, sequel, (Wrath of the Dragon God, 2005), the movie did not generate the line of role playing products originally planned.

A few articles and short adventures did appear on the WotC website however, and two of those were written by Dave Arneson, who had been asked to contribute to a planned sourcebook for the setting.  These articles are interesting in themselves, as they show Arneson's take on the setting, and in some ways lay a foundation for his later re-boot of Blackmoor - we will leave that discussion for another day.

Besides, there is plenty written about this stuff in the forums, such as HERE , and I don't want to recap all that now.  What I do want to point out is that in the correspondence posted in those forums, Arneson mentions that since his work on the Empire of Izmer wasn't going to be used for a sourcebook, he was incorporating it into his personal Blackmoor campaign.  He wrote "Since I did all that work, and WOTC scrubbed movie support (Before the movie came out BTW) I added it to my campaign world.  In my case I placed the Empire beyond the Great Mountains to the West...." 

Readers of this blog will know that of late I have been focusing on how Arneson's Blackmoor may best be retro-fit into Greyhawk as it originally had been before the rift with TSR, and that brings up the question of how Izmer would fit also.

It's always bothered me a little that the Greyhawk maps don't show a coastline in the west and southwest. Just looking at the map gives no clue how big the Sea of Dust is or what is on the other side. I know a lot of people have wondered. 

Long after Gygax had parted company with TSR, an Oerth map was released by TSR  that attempts to answer the question of what lies beyond. The TSR map shows a huge, bearskin-rug like continent extending from the west of the Flanaess. This monstrosity not only dwarfs the Flanaesse into insignificance, but it is completely ugly and unnatural. I really don't think it makes any sense as is, and a majority of Greyhawk fans reject it as ridiculous.

The story behind the map was that it was found in Gygax office after he left the company, so it must be legit, right?  Recently the real scoop about the map was related by Skip Williams in an interview on Lord Gosumba's Greyhawk channel (YouTube).  Yes, the map was found in Gygax's office, but it was not in his handwriting and most likely had been drawn by his friend Fran├žois Marcela-Froideval for his French commic series.

So that's that. 

In thinking about what might lie at the edge of the Greyhawk map in contrast to the ideas of Mr. Froideval, I remembered what Arneson said about Izmer.  From there it is a simple deductive syllogism: If Izmer lies west of Blackmoor, and Blackmoor lies in Greyhawk, then Izmer lies in western Greyhawk.

Interestingly, one doesn't need Arneson's idea to come to this conclusion at all.  As we shall see, Izmer has it's own Greyhawk clues.

An important caveate to make at this juncture, one which will often be brought up, is that Greyhawk exists in multiple versions, a multiverse of Oerths, Aerths, Yarths and what have you's.  That to me is just a metagaming tool of no real consequence.  I figure what may exist in one multiverse Greyhawk/Blackmoor prolly should exist in another, so there was a reason to possibly place Izmer to the far west of Blackmoor in Greyhawk too, and, as it turns out, there are additional clues that tie the movie setting to Greyhawk. In fact the second movie includes the  Greyhawk references to Obad-hai, Jubilix, the Ghost Tower of Inverness, the Barrier Peaks, and the Shrine of Kuo-Toa. So it's not out of the question to put Izmer somewhere west of the Sea of Dust.

You can have a look Here on FB where some of the research - meaning notes from watching the movies - is discussed and is all pretty accessible for anyone interested in drawing on the Izmer setting.  The movie novelization, however, may be a lot more obscure, so I will close out this post with my notes from that book.  In the next post I'm going to look at pulling all the information together into a workable map - along with another twist to this story before we get there .

The D&D novel by Neal Barrett Jr. isn't exactly a gold mine of new information.  The plot follows fairly closely to that of the movie and there isn't much in the way of new scenes, but of course there is still some information to glean.  As a side note, the Snails character of the book is something of an exception, in that he is much more likeable and believable - not the annoying jar-jar binks nock off that Wayans portrayed. 

The notes I give here though aren't about the characters.  I looked specifically for geographical information, historical information, and general description to augment what we know from other sources.


Page 0. Map showing the heart of Sumdall.  Sumdall proper lies on the north side of the river (unnamed).  Four bridges are shown crossing the river into "Oldtown", the city south of the river where the poor and underprivileged live.  The map only lists a few principal buildings such as the Council of Mages, the Imperial Palace, The Magic School, and Profion's Tower on the banks of the river in Oldtown. 

Page 17 "...he could see one of the heavy stone bridges that linked Oldtown with the opulent domes and towers of Sumdall city - or, he thought, cut off the very rich from the multitude of poor."

page 17.  Sumdall is millennia old, and was established at a time when "short, bronze-armored warriors had come down out of the north to conquer."  There is no mention in the book of the Turanians, but these warriors seem a good candidate.

 There is no shortage of taverns. Some named in Oldtown are "Ferret and Fox (the oldest), Dog and Duck, Hoof and Hair, and Hare and Hound." In Sumdall there is a tavern named "The Rusty Sword", which is the oldest surviving tavern in the city.


Page 40 (and elsewhere).  The council of mages is described as an advisory body, not a legislative one.  However, if the council comes to a decision by majority vote, the Emperor/Empress is bound by law to obey the decision. (per pages 176-178)


Page 105.  Description of Antius; "Antius was a city even older than Sumdall.  A city built atop a city and a myriad of cities under that, going back to even before the great war... It was a cramped city with a crumbling fortress wall perched atop a steep hill.  The place had nowhere to go but up.  A stranger approaching this kingdom of thieves was awed by the towers and keeps that seemed to push one another aside, stretching high into the low clouds..."


Page 134 "Profion of Tarak".  There must be a territory or city named Tarak somewhere in Izmer.


Page 65 Marina comes from a place called Pretensa, her "birthland in the far mountain reaches of the north."


Pages 140-150.  Damodar's camp at a ruined castle is less than two days journey from Antius.  They travel one day, sleep, and travel at least half of the next day to get there.

Page 221 The surrounding lands are described as "Elwood stood alone in the shade of the rocky spire.  He looked past the scattered bodies, past the thicket of woods, past the stony plain."


Page 179, The hunter elves in the forest near Damodar's castle belong to the Verdalf clan of hunter elves, renowned for their healing ability.

Page 183-184 The Verdalf clan is lead by "the clanmaster healer", Hallvarth Fyrlief.  (played by Tom Baker in the movie)

Page182 "Elwood was startled.  He was no stranger to the forest, but this particular creature had simply walked out of nothing, as if he were part of the shadow, part of the trees themselves.  He knew this was an elf, but not one of the ordinary breed.  This one was clearly a hunter, a slender being with a nut-brown face, dark eyes, and pointy ears, a creature with hard and corded muscle, muscle wound up like a spring.  His clothes, like the forest, were a hundred shades of green and his strong, intelligent features were tattooed with the patterns of vines and leaves, marks that twisted across his brow, down his cheeks, and onto a bare shoulder.  His eyes were the color of berries, his hair a shade of brown and ochre lichen that grows on the bark of trees."

 Page 183 "Marina would have passed the elven village by, certain there was nothing to see.  Even Elwood, whose folk were as different from humans as elves themselves, sensed the presence of life but saw no dwellings, no paths were the grass was beaten down, no smell of campfires or food.  Marina was sure there came a time when she was somehow invited to see what there was to see, for the hidden to be revealed.  For in that instant a great elven village appeared in the trees.  Lights she would have taken for tiny stars were not stars at all, but lights from dwellings twinkling amidst the thick canopy of leaves.  The closer she looked, the more there was to see.  The village was a maze of twisted walkways, ladders, balconies, and stairs, not a one that wouldn't pass to unschooled eye as a cluster of vines or gnarled branch of a tree.  There was no aspect of elven life that intruded on nature - every home, every window, every bridge, and even the elves themselves - seemed as if they were meant to grow here."  


As described in the book, the war over Sumdall is horrific.  There are literally hundreds of gold and red dragons fighting each other in the skies and fighting the soldiers in the city who are equiped with war machines, catapults, etc.  All but 5 of the hundreds of gold dragons involved  die and fall destructively on the city.  Most of the mages die too.

Page 267 "No one spoke as it vanished over the ruined towers of Sumdall, the charred, crumbling remains of this grand and ancient city."

Page 268  Somehow, despite the devastation of hundreds of dragons and two armies fighting and dying in the city, after "not so many weeks", everything is back to normal and life goes on in Sumdall.  This is just ridiculous.  The city must surely have been totally ruined in the fighting, not to mention all the burning dragon blood and bodies everywhere.  Sumdall must have been rendered an uninhabitable smoldering ruin.


Page 269 "...the Empire's proud new flag: a Golden Dragon wreathed in oaken leaves, rampant on bright squares of silver and white."


Page 270

Marina's mother Nalrid: House of Staverid

Norda: Ancient and Royal Clan of Tripidantes

Elwood Gutworthy: Revered Oakenshield Clan

Fitting the Great Kingdom onto the Flanaess

Author: DHBoggs / Labels: , ,

 Here we go.  For fun, take a look at the map below.

What you are looking at is one of the best medieval maps of the world, produced in 1154 by geographer al–Idrisi.

Observe how it is recognizable, yet "wrong".  Some places - like Spain or Arabia, are almost correct, while others like Britain and India are very wrong and in some cases there are places that are likely not even real.

That "similar but wrongness" is one way to look at the Great Kingdom map below.   

This map, as we've talked about before, was published in the Castles & Crusades societies Domesday Book #9 newsletter around June of 1971.  Details are still being researched, but the map was drawn by some artistic hand, apparently based on a map by Gary Gygax.

Technically, it is the first published map of what we now call the Flanaess.

Originally it was intended to be the shared map Castles & Crusades society members would use for campaigns - using whatever rules - involving their various holdings in and out of the Great Kingdom.

Few labels were put on this map by the cartographer, but using other hand-drawn copies, such as Dave Megarry's below, we are able to fill a lot of those blanks in.

Some of those names are familiar to Greyhawkers - like Nyr Div and Urnst - some, like Catmelun, not so much.

Nevertheless, it was on this map that the earliest Greyhawk adventures took place, and early Blackmoor adventures too, but like the al–Idrisi medieval map above, it was a crude representative of the world.

When TSR decided to publish Greyhawk in the late 70's it was decided a new and better map was needed - a modern map.  "For certain the WoG product as published by TSR came into being about two or three months before the date of its printing and sale.  Brian said that a campaign setting was needed, so after ascertaining the maximum size map sheet we could have printed, I free-handed the land outlines on... two sheets of paper, used colored pencils to put in terrain features, located the cities, and made up the names for everything. That took me about 1 week. Then I went to work on the text while Darlene made prettier maps."  Gary Gygax DF Forum

The end result of this process was the Darlene map of the Flanaess.  Did Gygax create one or more intermediary Flanaess maps between the 1971 C&C map and Gygax's new map of the Flanesse used by Darlene?  It doesn't appear that there was, but I don't presume to know all the steps it took to get to the final Darlene version, except that it all starts with the C&C Great Kingdom map.  

So I thought it would be fun to map the parts of the C&C map onto the corresponding locations on an official Greyhawk map, along with location labels, to see what may result.

The first thing you will notice is that I have cut the C&C map into 8 pieces where it seemed logical.  In two cases (Nyr Div and Catmelun) sections have been rotated, and in all cases the sections have been resized, bigger or smaller for best fit.

Now I don't for a second think somebody at TSR did something like that.  I expect the process was a lot more free form.  Gygax probably, sat down to sketch the new map with a copy of the C&C map close to hand and drew as he said in the quote above.  Certain areas, like the sea of dust and the Nyr Div, he copied pretty closely, while others, especially in the east, were more loosely inspired, and a whole lot of new geography was added, or redefined in between places - again especially on the eastern side of the new map.

Even so, there is much in the C&C map that is recognizable on the new Greyhawk maps we have now.

Here is the same map again, but this time I've ghosted the image so you can see what lies beneath and perhaps why the sections are where they are.

You can readily see, if you look closely, how mountains and coastlines follow together, and sometimes even rivers and forest.  The eastern three sections were the most difficult to place, but I think even there you can readily see how someone eyeballing a new map on a sketchpad is being guided by the C&C map outlines, at least in some places.  

Perhaps the NE section is most interesting.  That squiggly peninsula on the C&C map for all the world looks to have been followed on the Greyhawk map to form the line of The Frozen River, leaving the islands of Botulia and Maritz to be paved over by new land.

Here is another look.  This map has all the C&C sections removed but the place names left behind.  Placement for a lot of these labels was straightforward, but there were also a few that are more of a best guess, because they fall on the edge of a section that is separated from it's neighbors by a lot of space.  

There's some very interesting alignments and some possibilities for place names where our current Greyhawk map lacks detail.

Of the places listed, many have direct corollaries on the world of Greyhawk map.  Places like Urnst, Perrenland, Keoland, and Geoff have retained their names and the same general locations.  Some others seem to have simply changed names, while a few seem to be altogether novel.  For these new and usual names we have limited source information, the best source being Andre Norton's Quag Keep novel.  Norton was invited by Gygax to play D&D in his early Greyhawk campaign.  Her 1978 novel mentions several of the unusual place names seen on the various C&C maps, indicating she either had a copy of a similar Greyhawk map or, perhaps more likely given her unusual spellings, had jotted down some notes after having looked over Gygax' map.

Given that there are names in the list that we can identify in Quag Keep, but have been changed - for example Faraz/Furyondy - and that many of these can also be found in the older form in the pages of Andre Norton's Quag Keep, I would suggest that they are simply "old fashioned" or antique regional names, dating from the same period as the Quag Keep events.  Erik Mona, pegs this to CY 498, and I see no reason to argue otherwise.  That would of course also suggest that our "antique" C&C map represents some scholar's knowledge of the world at that time, much as al–Idrisi's world map reflected his knowledge of his time.

Leaving aside the familiar place names that are the same on both maps, we get the following list of new or changed places:

The Hold of Iron Hand - the location of the Hold of The Iron Hand on the coast north of the Paynims places this territory in the Greyhawk realms of Ekbir,  We can take Hold of the Iron Hand to be a nickname or older name for this collection of sheikdoms.  It is possible "Iron Hand" inspired "Stone Fists" but the Stone fists are nowhere near this location, so there's no good reason to take them as being the same, at least in game terms. 

March Slove  - Slove appears to be a small, otherwise unnamed area just north of the Yatil Mountains in an area dominated by lakes.

County of Hither Hills - The Hither Hills are mentioned in Quag Keep (p22) where it is described as a land of "Half Bloods", perhaps some kind of half elves or something else.  These Hills are one of the border areas on the map that are harder to place, but must fall between the Burneal Forest and the Land of Black Ice and appear to abut the Hold of the Iron Hand.

County of Celate - Celate appears in a mountain chain just NW of Blackmoor and west of the Egg of Coot.  While otherwise unknown in Greyhawk lore to my knowledge, Celate falls squarely on a place known only as "The Duchy of the Peaks" in Dave Arneson's Blackmoor campaign.  This is fortunate, because it allows us to give a "real" name to a place otherwise known by an unimaginative nick-name.   

County of Stabilny - Stabilny is another location seemingly in between C&C map sections.  Best fit seems to be the NW shore of Quag lake. 

Neron March - The Neron March on the old maps falls very near to the "Gran March" on the Greyhawk, map and we can safely assume these are one and the same.  As a name, Neron March is preferable to me.  One of the quirks of both Greyhawk and Blackmoor is the ready use of English words for names (The Cold Marsh or the Firefrost channel for example), so it is nice to have a non-English alternative.

Kingdom of Faraz - Faraz or Faraaz in Quag Keep, is undoubtedly Furyonody.  In Andre Norton's 1978 novel, Quag Keep Faraaz gets mentioned a fair few times.  We learn a for example that it appears to be some kind of theocracy under the control of Holy Lords.

Yerocunby - Yerocunby covers several territories on the Greyhawk map, including Dyvers, Narwell, Verbobonc and possibly Devarnish and Greyhawk itself.  We can imagine this name may have covered a temporary alliance of nations or may represent an old name for the geographic area. Zach Howard of Zenopus Archives made the suggestion that the Kingdom of Furyondy derives from a combination of Faraz and Yeroconby.  That seems very likely to me, and so we can imagine that Faraaz expanded at some point after 500 CY to merge or absorb Yerocunby temporarily - perhaps through a royal wedding, resulting in the merged name Furyondy.  For some reason the area of Yerocunby later Balkanized, but Furyondy retained the name (and perhaps the territorial claim).   Interestingly, as the protagonists travel away from Greyhawk toward the Sea of Dust, Quag Keep also mentions Yerocunby in the same relation we see on the C&C map. "We shall have Yerocunby and Faraaz facing us at the border. But the river then will lead us straight into the mountains." p32

Duchy of Maritz - The island duchy of Maritz or Maritiz as it is spelled in Quag Keep, seems to have been entirely swallowed up by the new NE peninsula drawn on the World of Greyhawk map, possibly falling about where the Atmanship of Kelten lies.  We know nothing of these islands except the useless but colorful fact from Norton that they use half-moon coins with sea-serpents on them.

Botulia - another island paved over in Greyhawk by the added NW peninsula, falling about where the Atmanship of Amaran is now.  Other than being given a name and kingdom status on the old maps, this island was not mentioned anywhere else that I have found. 

Walworth - Walworth derives from the county of the same name in Wisconsin where Gygax lived, and in fact, Earl of Walworth was a title Gygax used in the C&C Society.  It's useful to remember that Gygax envisioned the C&C map as an alternate North America in a parallel  dimension.  Of course the map doesn't look like North America, but it does have the same climactic regions (cold to the north, tropics to the SW and mountains running up the mid west.)  In an article sent to Alarums & Excursions #15 (October, 1976), Gary tells us, "The game world is a parallel earth, but the continents are somewhat different.  Most of our campaign activity takes place on what corresponds to North America, on the eastern half of the continent.  The "Blackmoor" lands lie far up on the northeast coast.  "Greyhawk" is in the central portion."  Elsewhere Gygax specifies that he imagined the Free City of Greyhawk to be positioned similarly to Chicago.  On the Greyhawk map, Walworth falls directly on the Shield Lands.  This may be another case where a real name (Walworth) may be a preferable substitute for an English Language nick-name (Shield Lands).   

Kingdom of Catmelun - The last mystery name we have is the Kingdom of Catmelun, and it is another example of having a name on a map with no other details.  If my guess is right, Catmelun is none other than Sunndi.  Perhaps Catmelun was the name of a royal house who ruled the area around 498, or perhaps the name can be ignored altogether in your Greyhawk campaign. 

For more on Quag Keep people and places, have a look at This Post by Eric Mona.

The New Blackmoor Town Map in the Style of Cuidad Rodrigo

Author: DHBoggs / Labels:

Earlier this month I posted a Blackmoor town map re-designed to properly fit the dungeon below That's Here

Only days later, the Cuidad Rodrigo map (previous post) came to my attention.  So of course it is time to marry the two.

Below are two maps - a labeled DM's map and a blank map.  These were created by matching the size of the Cuidad Rodrigo model image to the walls of Blackmoor village.  I then traced the Cuidad Rodrigo city walls and placed house buildings wherever they were on the model - except that right around the south gate lane some were shifted west to make room for the lane.   Enjoy:

The Town of Blackmoor or is it Cuidad Rodrigo?

Author: DHBoggs /

Lately I've done several posts involving the village of Blackmoor, so Arneson's map below is likely a familiar sight:

For something new, consider this 19th century map of the 1812 siege of Cuidad Rodrigo in Spain during the Napoleonic wars:

Okay Boggs, you are thinking, that's nice.  There is a similarity.  So what?

Indeed, not the end of the story.  Cuidad Rodrigo came to my attention through Bill Hoyt.  Several interviews of Mr. Hoyt were posted on Youtube (here), and towards the end of the video (TC 28:16) we get a glimpse of a model sitting on a shelf in Mr. Hoyt's workroom.  It caught my attention so I messaged Bill and he sent me a still picture along with the information that it was a model of Cuidad Rodrigo in Spain.  I've taken that picture, reoriented it, and applied a pencil sketch effect.  Now here is the model side by side with the town of Blackmoor:

Was Blackmoor Village derived from, or at least inspired by, Bill Hoyt's model?  They have the same general form, same prominent church in the middle, same empty section in the NW (the cemetery), same triangula bastions around the walls and even similar rectangular sections on the left side - something that has always struck me as an odd feature on the Blackmoor map.

According to Mr. Hoyt, the plan for the walls of Cuidad Rodrigo was laid out to scale by Henry Sayire, who had a background in drafting.  Sayire's participation in wargaming was ended at the request of the pacifist Jehova's Witness congregation of which he was a member, but Hoyt took the drawing Sayire had made and created the 3D model on top.  He then "filled it with blocks for buildings." (pers comm 2020)

William J. Hoyt, as many of you will remember, was one of the bedrock members of Arneson's gaming circle.  He was very active in Twin Cities gaming all around and was an early Tekumel player.  Bill is one of the three people cited in Arneson's March 1971 letter to Rob Kuntz and the C&C society explaining his "Northern Marches" campaign where Mr. Hoyt is given the territory of Williamsfort.  It is entirely reasonable then to posit that the first time or two Arneson's N-scale castle model was called upon to represent the Blackmoor Castle, it was paired on the table with Bill's Cuidad Rodrigo model to represent the town of Blackmoor (or perhaps as the town and castle of "Keston/Keiston as it may at first have been named - discussed in previous posts).

As the Blackmoor game progressed, however, Mr Hoyt was less involved due to the tensions between Arneson and Hoffa/Scott with whom Bill was still gaming.  Just as Mr. Hoffa and Mr. Scott were notoriously immortalized in Blackmoor as the Ran of Ah Foo and the Egg of Coot, Mr. Hoyt seems to have provided the inspiration for the waffling Duke of the Peaks (with whom he shares the initials WH).  

At some point, Arneson drew a map of the town of Blackmoor, and it now seem likely he was copying the 3D model.  The copy of the village map we have from Arneson was published in the Domesday book in the summer of 1972. Given that Mr. Hoyt wasn't regularly participating in the Blackmoor games in this late 1971 through 1972 timeframe, Arneson may no longer have had the model of Cuidad Rodrigo in front of him and would therefore have relied on memory to draw the village map onto the butchers block paper on his gaming/ping-pong table and likewise for the map we see in the Domesday Book.   That would certainly explain why the town map in the Domesday Book has all the extra and somewhat wonky triangula bastions and only the one rectangular bastion.  

In any case we should hardly be surprised a Napoleonic battle inspired the form of Blackmoor village.  The walls of the town obviously owe their design far more to Vauban than William the Conqueror.  They are yet another reminder of the wargaming tapestry of which Blackmoor, and ultimately Dungeons & Dragons are a part.

Mordenkainen's Glimpse of Blackmoor

Author: DHBoggs / Labels:

"They entered the store as Mordenkainen looked north towards Castle Blackmoor, another enigma of the North which for now would be left unplumbed by them."  Rob Kuntz, Oerth Journal #6:45

What did Mordy see?  What does castle Blackmoor  look like to those wandering the streets of the village?  

The earliest description comes from Domesday Book #13 (circa July) 1972. Arneson writes "Blackmoor Castle was built... Over a period of six years on the hill that dominated the small village of Blackmoor... The newer structure incorporates many of the underground galleries of the older structures as well as the main tower which has stood throughout the history of the area."

From other sources we know that the hill the castle sits on is one hundred feet higher than the town and both the castle and hill are made of a dense black rock.

Even with details from later sources, there has never been a lot of written description for artist to go on.  The images they have drawn have unsurprisingly depicted all manner of castle types.  Here are a few:

First from the 1975 Blackmoor Supplement cover:

From the 2016 Blackmoor Supplement cover:

This Background image in TSR's DA1 from 1986:

There have also been a number of non-official representations such as this one below on the Three Castles Award trophy.  Blackmoor is the one on top.

No doubt these images are all very lovely.  They're also all very wrong. 

Folks "in the know" have long been aware that the original Blackmoor Castle was in fact an N scale model Arneson owned of Branzoll, a castle in the Italian alps.  This one in fact:


Confirmation of that can be seen readily enough in the top down view Arneson gives of the castle in his Blackmoor village map:

So the Branzoll model gives us some idea of what Blackmoor Castle should look like when viewed from the town.  There are a few details however that make Blackmoor Castle a little bit different from the model.

First, as can be seen in Arneson's drawing, the outer walls are somewhat bigger, wider, and longer.  In fact, they are bigger still if we judge by the dungeon plan as talked about in my previous posts.

Looking at the picture of the model, you can note exterior stairs on the tower.  Not only are these stairs never mentioned anywhere in any Blackmoor material, the two floor plans of the castle (Bob Bledsaws in the FFC and Jeff Berry's done for show at conventions) show no sign of an exterior stair, so we really should discount that detail.

Then there is the gatehouse.  We have two Arneson drawings of this.  One in the FFC that shows a small tower next to a gate with the castle behind:

And a second, older, drawing, shown here from inside a display case at Garycon, that shows an entrance into a larger tower:

This second image seems to me to be a better fit with Arneson's overhead drawing, but in any case, given that the castle was sacked, wrecked and repaired any number of times, we could simply see these drawings as being from different times in the castle's history. 

So keeping these details in mind, what might Mordenkainen have seen high upon the rocky crest above Blackmoor village?

Working a little paint-program magic with an image of the model, here is my rough attempt at the answer to that question (properly speaking, this angle would be from the area of the docks or behind the church):

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