Sunday, March 20, 2011

Delving deeper into Blackmarsh

I apologize for the title of this post for being a pun. If I was sitting at the table with Dwayne and Tim I would have gotten hit in the arm by now and owed them a coke.

John Adams has been blogging about the Deleving Deeper rules and so I thought likewise I would share some of what you are getting with Blackmarsh.

The map is created, like the original Blackmoor, but taking a map of Holland and flipping it around. I go into detail about this in this post and I have James Mishler to thank for connecting the dots on this.

The result is this

I further fleshed it out by adding villages, lairs, and other locales.

The locales are described in one or two paragraphs like this for the ruins at 0814 and 1112
0814 Scattered throughout the bogs are several small buildings that were once the homes of magic-users researching the plants and herbs of the region. Stone was sunk into the bogs and dry pathways were built to connect the scattered residences. It was abandoned in the century after the fall of the Bright Empire and time has taken its toll. Sections of the pathways have worn away and various creatures have moved into the abandoned dwellings. Some have reported that the wizards left unfinished experiments and strange forms of plant life live in the ruins.

1112 On the sea bottom are the sunken remains of the last treasure ships to sail from Blackmarsh before the fall of the Bright Empire. There are over a dozen galleys with cargo consisting of gold, adamant, and sealed crates with viz still in their hulls and scattered across the seabed. Taking residence amid the crumbling ships is a school of several dozen sharks (2 HD) along with a giant sea serpent (12 HD)
I also added a map of the town of Castle Blackmarsh.

As well as some short entries on a dozen establishments within the town.

Due the circular bay on the map, the background I come up with has a meteor, known as The Mountain That Fell, crashing into the earth and smashing out what became known as the Smoking Bay. It scattered a strange material known as viz that is potent in using to create magic items and caused many strange and unusual monsters to form. (many of the original roster). The elves were the first in the region and healed the lands but soon other races came in. The elves split over the arrival of the other races with the xenophobic faction forming the Brotherhood of the Raven. Those who desired peace created the Blackmarsh Rangers (an organization not a class). The conflict between the two factions, along with the continual intrusion of outside forces seeking viz drive the subsequent history of Blackmarsh.

An important part of that history is the arrival of the Bright Empire when it was at it's maximum extent. Blackmarsh was just beyond it's further frontiers and was loosely colonized by various magic-users and their conclaves. Their main settlement was Castle Blackmarsh. They built several castles, keeps, and towers throughout the region seeking viz. When the Bright Empire fell Blackmarsh survived but many of the wizard keeps and towers feel into decay. They form the largest part of the numerous dungeons that dot Blackmarsh.

Viz is a magical substance that takes many forms. One Viz allows a magic user to cast a memorized spell without losing it from memory. The viz is consumed in the process. Two Viz allows this for a second level spell, three for a 3rd level spell and so on. One Viz is also worth 100 gp towards the creation of a magic item. It is meant to be only a little more useful than scrolls and to be magical treasure usable towards the creation of a magic item.

Those you with Gothridge Manor's Knowledge Illuminate will recognize viz. This is one of the elements that Tim, Dwayne, and I share among ourselves. Each of us developing our own take.

The background has been applied with a light touch and be altered without impacting much of the locales detailed. Like the Points of Light series the dynamics of how locales interact with each is what ultimately drives the setting.

I explicitly tie this to Southland although it is not dependent on having that setting. Those who own Points of Light or downloaded it from the Escapist can use it alongside Blackmarsh to create a larger setting. Also I plan to convert the Wild North that was published in Fight On #3 to a standalone setting and set it just to the northeast of Blackmarsh.

I will be honest, that doing this is a bit of juggling game. I am trying to be careful so that I don't go into AD&D 2e setting territory and produce a series of setting books that require all of them to be bought. I focus on making it work as a standalone setting but give some support for tying everything together for those who want that.

Blackmarsh is a homage to Dave Arneson's Blackmoor. But it is not a clone. The elements that it shares are; drawn from a map of holland, has a castle with a dungeon underneath where access is controlled by the elves, an elven forest, vikings roaming around, and there is a larger kingdom to the southeast. Beyond that background, the locales and details are unique to the Blackmarsh setting. Much of what I used is inspired from material I developed for the campaigns I ran in the Elephand Lands in the Majestic Wilderlands.

Finally all of this material will be placed under the Open Game License for you to develop from. What this specifically means is that a free PDF will be provided, a word document stripped of art, and high resolution graphics of both maps. I will also be selling a standalone print copy for those of you who play similar systems to Delving Deeper.

Feel free to ask any further questions in the comment section.


Jeffrey said...

This is a beautiful tribute to Blackmoor.
I am so excited to have pre-order DD and to also be receiving Blackmarsh in addition... and I am grateful.

DD & Blackmarsh will mark my return to the OD&D-style rules, like when I started gaming.

I also recently purchased The Majestic Wilderlands PDF & print combo, so I will be set for many, many fun adventures ahead!

I am not against people playing what they like in RPGs, no matter what system they prefer, but I know for a fact that I prefer 1e and earlier. DD and Blackmarsh will return me to the wonder of 1977, the year I discovered the hobby I never outgrew. It just grew within me, instead :)

I am so glad that the OSR community is so vibrant with people like you and John Adams and an innumerable host of others that are not only keeping The Game alive, but actually adding a new chapter to ancient worlds... older than any of us... even those who "created" them.

"DM Retro"

Neil said...

I've already enthused about this project elsewhere, but it really dose just keep on getting better as each piece is revealed.

I love the idea that the setting can be expanded with other regions should you want to, but can just as easily stand on it's own if required. That is a big difference to the setting splat books you mention. Us fans will of course just buy everything you put out regardless!

- Neil.

DuBeers said...

It looks great. I can't wait to see the printed product!

Akrasia said...

Rob, is there any chance that you might provide some notes on how precisely the Southlands, Blackmarsh, and the Frozen North are related to each other? That is, how far apart they are from each other, in what direction, what lies in between, etc.? No worries if you can't, of course!

The Frozen North is one of my favourite mini-settings of all time. I'm tempted to use it for a RuneQuest II campaign. (My only complaint is that there is no 'players map' for it.) And I dig both 'Points of Light' books as well!