Caution! This is the second supplement to the highly addictive game Dungeons & Dragons. Handle it at your own risk. Even a brief perusal can infect the reader with the desire to do heroic deeds, cast mighty magical spells, and seek to wrest treasure from hideous monsters. The most insidious factor, however, is the secondary nature of this work. Any reader who becomes infected from this work will immediately develop a craving for the other parts, i.e. Dungeons & Dragons, Greyhawk (Supplement I), Chainmail (Medieval Miniatures Rules), polyhedral dice, and various and sundry other items. Anyone so completely ex- posed will certainly be hopelessly lost. In short, if you are not already an addict of fantasy ad- venture, put this booklet down quickly and flee!
As with the first supplement, the material herein is arranged to follow the format of Dungeons & Dragons, with corrections, additions, new rules, and so forth being shown so players will be able to distinguish material at a glance. All of it is, of course, optional, for the premise of the whole game system is flexibility and personalization within the broad framework of the rules.
"Blackmoor" also contains some interesting and amusing information regarding the actual campaign of that name. It is the oldest and longest running Dungeons & Dragons game, and readers should find such material quite helpful in assuring the longevity of their own campaigns.
This PDF is drawn from the Original Edition Premium Reprint, which included new cover art and updated layout.
D&D Supplement II: Blackmoor (1975), by Dave Arneson, is the second of four supplements for the OD&D game. It was published around November 1975.
Origins (I): A Bushel of Problems. In D&D Supplement I: Greyhawk (1975), published around April 1975, Gary Gygax mentioned that "Dave Arneson, co-author of the original work, is currently in the catacombs beneath his tower preparing the second supplement". Unfortunately, this would continue to be the story throughout 1975 as TSR grew and thrived. The second and third printings of OD&D sold out, putting another 3,000 copies of the game on the street; the company was incorporated as TSR Hobbies under Gary Gygax and Brian Blume; The Strategic Review published a total of five issues; TSR hired its first employees, Tim Kask, Terry Kuntz, and Rob Kuntz; and still Dave Arneson labored on his supplement.
At some point Arneson's manuscript landed on Brian Blume's desk and Supplement II: Blackmoor was offered for sale in The Strategic Review #4 (Winter 1975). But it still wasn't done. Tim Kask found out why when Gygax and Blume handed the manuscript off to him to edit. He was given what he later described as "a bushel basket of scrap papers". After taking a few days to sort it out, he said it was "contradictory, confusing, incomplete, partially incomprehensible, lacking huge bits and pieces and mostly gibberish". Kask finally sent the book off to the publisher while he was finishing up The Strategic Review #5 (December 1975) and said that he'd "been blooded, as an editor".
By the time that Blackmoor had gone to press, Dave Arneson himself had been hired on TSR's newest employee. He'd start work in January 1976, though his tenure at the company would be short lived.
Origins (II): Whodunnit? The incomplete nature of the original Blackmoor manuscript has led to much speculation about who actually wrote it. Decades later, Tim Kask would say that the book "was about 60% my work, 30% Dave Arneson’s and the remainder came from Gary and Rob Kuntz".
It seems obvious that there was heavy editorial work, but the majority of the material nonetheless has origins in Dave Arneson's game. "Temple of the Frog", an adventure clearly drawn from Arneson's own campaign, is an example of how these two facts could both be true. Multiple sources suggest that Kask had to convert the adventure, probably from the Chainmail (1971) system that Arneson used in his original Blackmoor games. This sort of massive renovation might have required considerable editorial effort from Kask while still preserving the core of Arneson's original material.
Brian Blume is believed to have contributed to Blackmoor, primarily due to one statement by Gary Gygax. In his forward to Oriental Adventures (1985), written ten years after the production of Blackmoor, Gygax claimed that the monk character class was "inspired by Brian Blume and the book series called The Destroyer". Tim Kask offers a more nuanced origin, saying that the monk definitely originated with Dave Arneson, but Brian Blume heard of it and may have adapted it on his own. Kask "could not tell you how much of what [he] was given for the editing of [Blackmoor] about the Monk PC was Dave's or Brian's".
Steve Marsh is the other author who's known to have contributed to Blackmoor.
He was a fan who had been introduced to D&D by Sandy Petersen. He sent a treatise on the Elemental Plain of Water to TSR, which Tim Kask cut apart to produce many of Blackmoor's aquatic monsters (including the ixitxachitl and sahuagin), some underwater magic items, and the rules for underwater adventuring. Marsh would later say that his material was used because "Gary was looking for material to fill out the page count on Arneson's supplement."
The final verdict? Other than the aquatic material, most of the ideas in Blackmoor seem to have come from Dave Arneson's group in the Twin Cities. How much of his original material remained in the printed book, and how much was revamped, revised, or reimagined in Lake Geneva is currently lost to the mists of history.
About the Book. Much like Greyhawk, Blackmoor was produced as a digest-sized book. Like its predecessor, its rules are also organized to match the three books in OD&D (1974): "Men & Magic", "Monsters & Treasure", and "The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures". The biggest physical difference is that it's slightly smaller, at 60 pages rather than 68. However, there was also a philosophical difference. If Greyhawk contained the rest of the OD&D rules, then Blackmoor had what Tim Kask called "new stuff".
Blackmoor is clearly built on the core game system revealed in OD&D and Greyhawk. Thus it includes Greyhawk's "alternate" combat and hit dice systems, subclasses, and more variable monster damage, just like in Greyhawk.
Expanding D&D. A number of minor new rules systems appear in Blackmoor including disease and weapon length.
Expanding D&D: Forgotten Heroes. The biggest expansion in Blackmoor is its introduction of two new character classes, adding the monk (a cleric sub-class) and the assassin (a thief sub-class) to the five character classes found in OD&D and Greyhawk (plus the slightly-less-official ranger and illusionist from the first year of The Strategic Review). Blackmoor's two new character classes were each innovative: the monk suggested the possibility of non-western fantasy, while the assassin pushed even further than the thief toward the idea of evil PCs. Of all the rules in Blackmoor, these character classes survived the best into AD&D (1977-1979), but were then removed with the advent of AD&D 2e (1989).
Blackmoor also introduces a sage, who appears as a specialist. It's quite possible he was originally intended as another PC class by Arneson, but if so, he was NPCized by the time that Kask finished with the manuscript.
Expanding D&D: The Combat. The most surprising addition in Blackmoor is probably its rather extensive hit location system. Like most of the new rules in Blackmoor it was never heard from again, leaving early D&D players to go to third-party supplements like ICE's Arms Law (1980) for more complex combat. Players interested in the return of hit locations to D&D proper would have to wait over a decade and a half for books like PHBR1: The Complete Fighter's Handbook (1989) and Player's Option: Combat & Tactics (1995).
Adventure Tropes. Today, the most notable inclusion in Blackmoor is clearly the 20-page adventure, "The Temple of the Frog". Though OD&D had included two pages worth of sample dungeon, "The Temple of the Frog" was the first full adventure that TSR published (two years before the release of their first standalone adventure modules).
The adventure features a number of adventure tropes of particular note:
First, the Temple has armies of defenders. There are "100 or more" Brothers of the Swamp and rooms with tens of guards. It's really not clear how an adventuring party could assault the Temple … until you remember that OD&D suggested that there might be up to 50 players in a game and that the Temple was probably originally played with the Chainmail mass-combat rules.
Second, the Temple is surprisingly well-detailed. It's got an extensive background and the rooms each get a long paragraph of description. This is an adventure that was meant to reveal an evocative locale.
Third, there's an undercurrent of science fantasy in the Temple. The villain Stephen the Rock "is an intelligent humanoid from another world/dimension". There's mention of a "hovering satellite station" and Stephen has "battle armour" and a variety of other technological items.
Looking at these tropes, the most notable thing about "The Temple of the Frog" might not be its mere existence, but the fact that its tropes are quite different from the other early adventures published by TSR — though D&D would eventually grow back into all these tropes through continued publication and through specific releases like Battlesystem (1985) and Spelljammer (1989).
Adventure Tropes: Under the Sea. Blackmoor also introduces a fourth major style of adventuring for D&D, complementing the dungeons, wilderness, and baronies of OD&D with Steve Marsh's undersea adventuring. Though this idea wasn't immediately expanded upon, it would resurface in the '80s, beginning with U3: "The Final Enemy" (1983) and X7: "The War Rafts of Kron" (1984).
Introducing Blackmoor. D&D Supplement I: Greyhawk totally failed to detail the world of Greyhawk, despite its name. Blackmoor does just slightly better with the World of Blackmoor. "The Temple of the Frog" name checks Lake Gloomey and depicts the science fantasy of the campaign world, but little more.
Love It or Hate It? Blackmoor was much less appreciated than Greyhawk (or OD&D) at the time. It also may be the least influential of the early OD&D books, with its rules largely disappearing in later editions (especially during the '90s). Even the book's groundbreaking adventure was very different from the style of later D&D adventure modules.
Whoops. Despite Kask's considerable editorial work there are still strange blemishes in Blackmoor. The description of the sahuagin is the strangest because it talks about things like "double value fighter (Hero type)", "triple value fighter (Super hero)", and even "six times normal value fighter". Similarly, there's a line in "The Temple of the Frog" that talks about frogs fighting "at double value". It seems very likely that these are references to the Chainmail origins of Arneson's material, and not to the actual D&D game.
Future History. Dave Arneson only stayed with TSR for about 10 months before leaving because of discomfort over the company's commercial direction. He'd continue receiving royalties for D&D — though there would eventually be disagreements over what he should receive royalties for.
After Arneson's departure from TSR, Judges Guild published his The First Fantasy Campaign (1977), a supplement that actually detailed the world of Blackmoor. It also included some descriptions of Castle Blackmoor's dungeons — with very sparse descriptions, totally unlike "The Temple of the Frog".
In the '80s, after a bit of discord, Gygax an Arneson mended fences and Arneson returned to produce new Blackmoor material for TSR. This included DA2: "The Temple of the Frog" (1986), a much-more polished iteration of the adventure found in Blackmoor.
About the Creators. Arneson was the co-creator of D&D, who turned the Chainmail miniatures rules into a system for personal adventure, but he was left out of most of the growth and success of the game in the '80s and '90s.
About the Product Historian
The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to firstname.lastname@example.org.