Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Original Campaign World

Forget Greyhawk. Forget Blackmoor. Way before the Forgotten realms, the original campaign world boxed set was Outdoor Survival by Avalon Hill.

I'd wondered for years about this boardgame mentioned in Men & Magic on page 5 as part of the Recommended Equipment to play the game. I stumbled across a reasonably priced copy on eBay in surprisingly good condition and have enjoyed reading through it. My mind wondered back to the early 70's and how this boardgame could form the basis for wilderness adventuring in the developing D&D game of Gygax and Arneson. It is firmly rooted in the style of gameplay of its day. No elegant "universal mechanic", instead it is a collection of rules that work together.

For someone like Dave Arneson who was much more idea oriented than a strict rules guy, this must have really helped him out to lay some ground rules for adventuring in the wilderness. I can see how the system could easily work with Chainmail without too much tinkering.

I've been considering the idea of using it as a base map for a new Swords & Wizardry campaign and it struck me how wonderful it would be to scan the map in and use modern digital graphics to turn it into a fantasy game world.

Just imagine it: Lavivrus, realm of ancient sorcery and high adventure!


  1. Grognard point of order: It clear from the early histories that Dave Arneson was running wilderness campaigns on the Blackmoor map before he tumbled to the idea of using the Outdoor Survival map. Therefore I would have to say Blackmoor predates Outdoor Survival. Given that the early histories indicate that it was drawn for Dave A's miniature campaign, the Blackmooor map might even be said to predate Dungeons and Dragons. Of course I am not sure of the actual printing date of Wilderness Survival (my copy says 2nd printing March 1973) so it is conceivable the actual Outdoor Survival map is older than Blackmoor, but its use in Dungeons and Dragons is not. O.K. Grognard mode off.

    Have yourself a blast running your campaign on the Outdoor Survival map. I am sure it will be fun.

  2. Gygax used Outdoor Survival for the original Greyhawk campaign. Arneson used a modified map of Holland, which would inspire Gygax to later base his map on the Great Lakes region. http://jamesmishler.blogspot.com/2009/

    I'd like to try running a campaign with Outdoor Survival too! Be sure to share Lavivrus with the rest of us:)

    Word Verification "Valag", a city of Dark Mysteries and Decadent Pleasure Domes in Lavivrus.

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  4. I was trying to figure out how you came up with the name Lavivrus ... ah, the ultimate old-school conceit! Let's re-arrange or reverse the letters and voila! instant unique name!

    I saw a couple of used OS games at my FLGS, going for a song, but I ended up buying a used copy of Magic Realm instead.

  5. Speaking of the actual accounts of what transpired in the early days of the hobby, I, for one, would be happy to pay $50 for an accurate and indepth history of D&D. Not a white-wash, but a blow-by-blow, warts and all account, unsavory bits included.

    I was half-imagining that James M. was planning to do just that.

  6. imredave: allow me to quote myself "the original campaign world boxed set was Outdoor Survival...". That said, I'm sure you are right that Blackmoor pre-pub was the original D&D campaign world.

    Al: sure thing! If you want to help...

    rob: that's nice. :)

    Paladin: you caught me!