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"Ultimate" Blackmoor

by Håvard

For my campaign I have toyed with the idea of an "ultimate" Blackmoor. Ultimate should be read in the sense of Marvel Comic's Ultimate series, where the most unusual and interesting features are exaggerated.

Sword & Sorcery
I wanted to make this campaign as different from the campaigns I have ran as possible. Making it more Sword and Sorcery and less Tolkienesque was an obvious way to go. Many of the entries below fit within this category.

Part of reducing the Tolkienesque element of the setting was reducing the importance of demihumans. Elves, dwarves and halflings still exist in the setting, but they don't play an important role. This allows me to put more emphasis on the human cultures of the North, which are IMO perhaps the most interesting ones.

Chaos vs. Order - Cities vs. Wilderness
This typical Sword & Sorcery theme is already apparent in Blackmoor. The conflict between Blackmoor and its northern barbarian neighbours on the one hand, and the decadence of Thonia and the Duchy of the Peaks on the other. The idealised barbarian is represented through Marfeldt, though a dark version of Chaos is also clearly present through the Afridhi, the Skandaharians and the Egg.

The Peshwah are another example of the idealised barbarians. Although they have yet to make their appearance IMC, I plan on using them as a parallel to the Freemen from the Dune series. A sort of noble folk of the wilderness.

The North
The region of Blackmoor is known as the North, and I wanted to make that mean something. I made the climate more like that of northern Europe, and did the same with the fauna. The biggest consequence of this decision was the reimagining of the Dismal Swamp as a great northern marshland, rather than a classical Louisiana-style swampland as I had originally imagined it to be. Alligators and Gatormen are also generally out, but Frogs of all sizes and shapes as well as Salamanders works well. Lizardmen become Salamandermen.

Furthermore, I decided that dinosaurs were out. I still wanted to keep the ancient world feel, but since this was the North, Ice Age style creatures seemed more appropriate: Woolly Mammoths, Woolly Rhinos, Sabre-toothed Tigers and Great Eagles are all present in the campaign.

Cthulhu Mythos - R.E. Howard style
The imagery of the Cthulhu Mythos has always been fascinating, though I had no interest in running a CoC campaign. Rather, I wanted to present the Cthulhu Mythos as seen in R.E. Howard's Conan stories. Dark Gods and gloomy cults exist, but mainly to be defeated. The Cult of the Swamp God (Frog) and the Sphere of Qo'uth (Egg of Coot) are reimagined through this imagery.

Technology is another feature of Blackmoor that is not so often seen in traditional fantasy settings. At the same time, I knew there was no way I could pull off introducing Star Trek style technology the way it was done in the DA series. Technology here became a representation of magic. Wizards were the ones creating Golem-like warriors and other technology, and as far as mortals know, the wonders of Valley of the Ancients were created by long dead wizards.

Another source of technology in my Blackmoor is the Egg of Coot, or as it is known here; the Dark Sphere or the Sphere of Q'uath. The Technology of Q'uath is a sinister and dark form of technology crossed with black magic and necromancy. Technologically enhanced undead is the most common form seen of the Technology of Q'uath.

Mystara's past
I have been back and forth about how much Mystara can add to a Blackmoor campaign and vice versa. At the moment I feel that they do in fact add something, especially if the players know and love both settings. Since my players were familiar with Mystara, I decided to emphasise that this was Mystara as it had been in ancient times. Again, adding pre-historic creatures helped, and while I usually present Mystara as a Renaissance setting. Blackmoor was clearly an Ancient World/Dark Ages mix.

I have also decided to replace Orcs, Goblins, Trolls and the like with Beastmen. I still use the game statistics of the above, but change their descriptions making it clear that these are the ancestors of the creatures usually seen in other campaign settings.