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Returned Blackmoor: A Darkened Grim Shadow of its Former Self

by Brian Rubinfeld from Threshold Magazine issue 20

[Image: Blackmoor City]
Caption Blackmoor City, a drawing by Aleksei-Liakh


Ever since I became interested in the Known World and beyond, I was always fascinated by Blackmoor more than anything. My modus operandi when it came to D&D always leaned towards "Science Fantasy" rather than the straight up Medieval Heroic Fantasy that the game is better known for. When I discovered that there were plans to bring Blackmoor into Mystara via a boxed set, I was amazed and all the more disappointed that this ended up scrapped, along with the rest of the line. As for the article itself, it borrows heavily from dark fantasy, dystopian fiction, post-apocalyptic fiction and gothic science fiction... with tons of subtle nods here and there to things. Not to mention, other projects and ideas from the community are alluded to here, like Mystaraspace. Because of these inspirations, this article takes a slightly more mature theme, even though certain topics are only examined briefly or alluded to.

The gist of the actual game that inspired this was the heroes found the good ol' Inn from the DA series and helped save Blackmoor from many plots. They then discovered the Oard (from CM6) and battled them a fair bit (not the whole module, just enough to introduce them), only to discover they've found their way to Blackmoor. The semi-episodic game detailed the war against the Oard and the development of Blackmoor, leading to its prophesied doom. The players helped use the Oards' time tampering tech, alongside the Comeback Inn, to help save Blackmoor. When the players returned to see the fruits of their labors, they were greeted with the outskirts of the dark, dystopian mockery that is Returned Blackmoor. The game sadly ended there, which is where the article picks up and elaborated in the timeline slightly.

This work is made with the assumption of the year 1000 AC, when the Adventures in Blackmoor modules takes place initially. Albeit, this is an alternate timeline created by the events of the DA line as well as CM6 Where Chaos Reigns. However, this article wasn't made with any mechanical assumptions in mind, despite a heavy basis off the original Basic/BECMI books and AD&D 2E Boxed Sets. However, beyond looks into the earlier age of Blackmoor, very little official material exists on its rise to becoming a world conquering technomancy superpower. As for placement, it was decided by plenty of debates and research to be set in Northeastern Skothar.

"Those who seek out this tundra gem always meet the same fate, a gruesome demise. Every time, some addled exploration team with grand notions of fame and fortune plot their expeditions to the northern reaches of Skothar. They say the remains of a once mighty civilization rest there in deathly slumber. Before they set foot on the continent, the majority of their own troops are wiped out in some horrid manner. And those left? Why, they're too mad to communicate properly! We need to end these insane plans to head there, or we'll be next! Besides, how could such things be permitted to occur? There's only one logical reason behind this, the Immortals are sending a grave warning to all who dare to challenge them. Some subjects are best left unknown. There are things out there that our feeble mortal minds dare not try to comprehend. Such knowledge leads to oblivion! Something is alive up there, something we are not prepared to handle. I pray to the Immortals we don't discover it. May we either be granted ignorance or survive the same fate as those before us."

A waterlogged journal entry of a Marcos De'Casagrande, First Mate of the sunken wreckage formally known as The Ever Vigilant Mariner.

A Greatly Altered Timeline of Events:

[Image: The King in Crimson]
Caption: The King in Crimson

General Facts

Population: 1.3 Million (62% Humans, 9% Dwarves, 8% Gnomes, 4% Halflings, 4% Elves, 13% Others)

Ruler: Allogost the God-King of Blackmoor

Politics: Authoritarian/Militaristic Dictatorship

Technology Level Equivalent: Estimated equal to Real World 2070-2170.

Capital: Blackmoor City

Military: nearly 400,000

Religion: Allogost the God-King (and to an extent Khoronus and The Ascended of Blackmoor)

Currency: Digital Credit (worth 1 silver pieces), Commemorative Hybrid Alloy Coin (worth 2 gold pieces)

Climate, Environment and Weather

Much of the area outside the massive bubble shield surrounding the region is a desolate, frozen landscape. Besides the few hidden ancient artifacts accidentally left behind, very little lies within these reaches. Rumors of flying shining ghosts and sinister disappearing spires have kept many nomadic travelers and the possible once-native populations in the area away. Much of the terrain is mostly flat, ice cover lands. Further inland sports some jagged inclines and frigid crags. Jutting frozen spears keep much of the coastline hostile towards docking ships. Harsh gusts of wind and the occasional snow storm are common within the region. Much of the powdery dust is blown out towards the sea, further inhibiting any sailors who dare to get too close.

The area inside this ever expanding shielding bubble proves to be far different. A mixture of a greenhouse effect and weather regulating devices allows for a temperate climate, much akin to home. Likewise, weather tends toward the mild; save for mandatory drills which force situations to their extremes, especially with "winter" weather. The general feel of the area tends to shift thanks to artificially regulated seasons. Much of the "natural" spaces are man-made parks and reserves, quiet pockets of serene wilderness built up for both aesthetics and preservation of old world wildlife. A wide variety of deciduous and pine trees line the reserves, alongside various types of plants long thought to be extinct. To promote geographical diversity, the scientists of Blackmoor have helped to craft various hilly rock formations, forests, marshland and various other types of biomes within this space. In fact, they've even simulated other types of biomes that are a good match for other parts of the world. As for areas that are assimilated into the realm, they slowly transition from the arctic of outside to the changing landscape found inside with the help of the constantly busy science divisions.


Despite the dystopian society that has been imposed on Blackmoor, it still retains much of its culture, with an added sense of stubbornness to it. For all the pride in advancing innovations and a new form of government, the region remains heavily conservative. Genuine cultural change is rare and often met with criticism. Whether out of maintaining graces with the rulership or comfort in traditions, people aren't overly likely to adopt too many new ideas. Even proxy rulers for areas like the provinces or the citadel tend to be the same as both the mainstream ideologies and the state itself. But, in their defense, they are essentially the puppets of Allogost himself.

However, some critics of Blackmoorian tradition have successfully petitioned or proposed some new ideas, as Allogost fears too much stagnation settling in. For example, law abiding citizens have been granted a couple of work rights allowing them to earn "home time" after a certain amount of hours are worked each day. As such, new forms of leisure and entertainment have slowly emerged. Much of it has been filtered due to government approval systems and other forms of censorship. However, what has been cleared has still found its way into public consciousness. This ranges from newer forms of music to traditional art movements to even technological media itself. However, all of these required to advance the state and the "image of its people" in some regard. This proud and chauvinistic approach is either embraced by its citizens or hated behind closed doors. In fact, wherever you go within the civilized majority of Blackmoor, you will see some symbolism related to the nation or the face of the ruler featured clearly. However, frivolous and distracting novelty that bears no threat to the state is allowed in certain amounts. As such, all sorts of pointless and fascinating devices crop up in Blackmoorian markets.


Following the fall of the noble houses and royalty of Blackmoor, this colony has been ruled through a brutal dictatorship. The supreme overlord of this empire is Allogost, the former general under Blackmoor's military. Following his usurping of power, he has ruled the land rigidly. His elite military team, the Exe-Corps or Executioner Corps, helps to crack down and suppress dissenting opinion while the rest of his armed forces carry out his will. And, what the militarized police and army can't handle, surveillance techno-magic covers. Very little of the land isn't being watched over by something. Privacy within the borders is almost non-existent.

[Image: The Exe-Corps]
Caption: The Exe-Corps

Equally important to maintaining order is maintaining secrecy of Blackmoor itself, despite the fact nothing within country limits is secret. Despite the calming look of the natural reserves and awe of the sprawling cities, the ever moving borders look anything but. No façade is kept here. Guards are on constant patrol, looking for any outside "contaminants" that might stumble past the cloaking illusion of just more frozen wastelands. Most intruders or outsiders who react negatively are killed on sight, while others are taken for questioning. Those who escape gain bounties on their heads or are left to fend with the strange things outside of Blackmoorian civilization. Those who are taken in are often enslaved or brainwashed into pawns to be used for Blackmoor. Only the "mythic heroes" are granted special privileges. But even then, these unique individuals would be constantly under watch.

When it comes to unruly behavior or lawbreaking, forgiveness is extremely rare. Should this happen, it often has a catch to it. This can range from enslavement to usage in secret experiments. Otherwise, execution is a common reality. As Blackmoor doesn't really have the accommodating space for prisons, it's very rare that they take prisoners of any kind. As it is, political prisoners are often slain after "outliving their usefulness". In some cases, they’re lumped in with the lab guinea pigs, to be used for all sorts of unethical research. There have also been talks of sites being used solely for the purposes of mass slaughter, but no one from the public has been able to confirm this as fact. Meanwhile, the government only confirms that they take actions to further the empire’s will.

As for the leadership of the land itself, Allogost rules as the god-king, supreme commander, overseer, emperor or whatever else strikes his fancy that day. His trusted cabinet of associates serve directly under him as glorified obedient mouthpieces and servants to his causes. The classic Blackmoor castle now serves as his dark base of operations. Offsite locations include a barracks by one of the borders of the actual city, a fortress and battery that also acts as a carryover from Old Blackmoor and several classified bunkers below main city limits. The final location is top secret information only shared with top informants and other "trusted" elites of the land.

Cities and Domains

Blackmoor City

The capital of Returned Blackmoor. This region is by far the most built up, as this urban sprawl was well maintained before the big jump. Expansion mostly lies in increased security and anything seen fit by the supreme leader. It is here that both the center of commerce and culture for Blackmoor resides. Or at least, whatever is permitted by the ultra strict laws and far harsher government. All the same, a chaotic underground thrives in the city’s cracks, just outside of the regime’s eyesight.


A small colony created many miles away from the prime city. Once next to the ever expanding energy walls, it now resides as a midpoint for any guards and military that are actively on patrol. Originally meant as a resting stop for workers helping to terraform the land, it's now a recuperation stop for Allogost's soldiers.

Mobile Work Towns

What can only be described as industrial buildings carried by a slab with mechanical crab legs. These mobile locations are used to shelter workers while keeping them near sites relevant to their jobs for that day. These were created after Torchlight outlived its purpose.


A collapsed former colony of citizens descended from outsiders and immigrants. Discrimination and unfair conditions lead to a revolt, which was sadly squashed. This incident wasn't erased by propaganda, as news of this was already widespread before the government could do anything about it. It's left as a grim reminder of those who turn away from their ruler. Some scrappers and monsters have found their way into the ruins though.

Citadel Archivis

Originally an encampment, now a compound, this archeological base is the center of operations for any funded treks to discover what's left of the old world. Blackmoor University often sends out scholars and professionals for briefing on where to explore and what to hopefully unearth. Unfortunately, this was how the Serpentine Ruins were unearthed... strangely intact! A lot of the larger laboratory and technical groups have moved here over time, turning it into the central cluster of knowledge and innovation. Meanwhile, Blackmoor University stands as a reminder of a historic age.

Star Garden

Built up by priests who became dismayed by the failing leadership in Returned Blackmoor, prior to the upheaval, this place remains an important center for religious affairs. The current regime tolerates its presence, as many of the leaders revere the Immortals (including those who ascended during the chaos magic storms). However, these religions tend to be reworked and woven to fit the agendas of the state. Many of the largest supporters are fervently devout to the religions of Blackmoor.

Outer Provinces

Large territories in their own right, they pale in comparison to Blackmoor City itself. None the less, they are maintained by puppet-leaders that directly serve under Allogost in some manner. However, it's possible that one of these division leaders could have their own subversive agenda. Nonetheless, little is extraordinary. Residential ranges from comfortable homes for those who have connections with the regime to humble establishments and slums for everyone else. While industry is often found in other parts of the colony, the provinces are still developed enough to help support the colony's central hubs. Many of the residents are likely employed under these services. These can range from agriculture to manufacturing supplies for the military. Otherwise, nothing is exceptional about these areas.

The Outlands

A savage wasteland that, while converted, has remained very much barren dirt. Due to little attempt to cultivate, little is usable. However, some effort has been made to maintain areas reserved for future provinces or other spaces. The only populations out here are the growing number of "wild men", escapees and fugitive criminals, outsiders who broke out of the fake demiplane and former military who snapped under pressure. Many of these people have degenerated into raiders and bandits. Small towns exist out in the wastes, but lack the protection of locales overseen by Allogost. Help for these settlements often comes well after carnage has been unleashed. Tribal grounds and forest kingdoms like the Red Woods are considered part of the outlands, due to a disconnect with the rest of Blackmoor. These insulated lands prefer to keep to themselves and are unlikely to unite under some revolutionary banner. However, nothing is outside of the realm of possibility.

The Vaults

Below the city and stretching far beyond its limits is a series of bunkers and shelters occupied by the government and any allies within the elite. These winding, maze-like places serve many uses; a private retreat, top secret planning, a place to interrogate or execute potential enemies without any prying outside eyes or a place to conduct all sorts of heinous experiments. Of course, should things go terribly wrong, it's secluded enough that it won't affect anything up above.

Locations of Interest

[Image - Blackmoorian Mental Patient]
Caption: Blackmoor mental patient

Dramatis Personae:

[Image: God-King Allogost]
Caption: An anti-allogost propaganda drawing

[Image: Intruder caputed by Blackmoor border guards]
Caption: Intruder captured by Blackmoor border guards, drawing by Toni Roads www.artstation/

Entering Blackmoor

Sneaking into the lands of Blackmoor should prove to be no easy feat. For starters, travelers must brave the brutal tundras of northern Skothar, finding their way to where the “ancient ruins” of Blackmoor should be located. Harsh storms, frostbite, unstable icy ridges and impaired vision alone would prove to be deadly adversaries for any explorer foolish enough to fight the elements. The tell tale sign of finding your way is an uncanny glimmer in your path ahead. Everything looks distorted, as if a magical painting was made of the frozen reaches beyond. In reality, this is the barrier wall that cuts off Blackmoor from the outside world.

Penetrating the wall while it lies in its protective mode is next to impossible. Outside of extremely powerful magic, any creature that attempts to enter is repelled backwards and shot back onto the icy ground. When the barrier rarely turns to its consumption phase, teleportation magics have been known to succeed. However, there is a 50% chance that you’ll instead be sent to the facade crafted by Blackmoorian scientists, a barren wasteland of ice; the endless void that Northern Skothar was originally meant to be. For those who lack the proper magic, one can wait for the wall’s second phase to move past them and hope that the scientists that survey wall import the “organic matter” that the wall has consumed. However, it’s also likely that the teams monitoring the wall will “delete” anyone who ties to enter through the barrier in this manner, to avoid “contaminations” from entering the land.

Another, less savory alternative, is to not only know of the guards that patrol the perimeter but get their attention from the outside zone. This will result in combat or capture. Should a fight break out and the party succeed, a hefty bounty will be placed on them at the very minimum. Perhaps they could become a national threat. Should they not resist arrest, they’ll be brought into the territories where they will face all sorts of horrible trials. They could range from being transported to a secret laboratory, a prison complex or be assigned into servitude (slavery) under some Blackmoorian official.

Less likely is to gain the contact of a powerful Blackmoorian. By some circumstance, they might be willing to let “the gates” down for you to grant you entry into Blackmoor. This assumes that you can fulfill the nation’s agenda, or the ruler’s to be more specific. Barring that, a rebel or rogue that has either infiltrated a powerful inner circle or one of Blackmoor’s magical science institutions is willing to recruit help, should you find a way to reply to their message for help.

The Future of Returned Blackmoor?

Suffering under a harsh tyrannical rule for many years, it is unlikely that this new version of Blackmoor will find happiness. In time, it is likely that the heroes that helped to save Blackmoor in the first place will stumble upon the consequences of their actions. Despite having missed the heroes by decades, many still recall them from either direct contact or the mythic tales they produced. While the denizens of the land want little to do with outsiders, it is likely that the party that traveled back to the ancient kingdom to begin with would receive at least cautious fanfare.

Returned Blackmoor can't sustain itself in a reclusive and repressed state forever. Eventually, the current state will falter, people will leave, outsiders will find their way in and change will occur. Eventually, Allogost's reign of terror will come to an end; by the hands of his own trusted council or a civilian revolt. While all revolts up until this point have been crushed by him, a brave group of adventurers could help turn the tide.

Will the Immortals take kindly to one of the largest examples of temporal tampering in the multiverse? It's hard to say. The alternate events that created this colony also created its own share of Immortals who watch over the somber land. It's likely that massive conflicts will stem from both mortal turf and the domains of Immortals over the controversy of Blackmoor's resurgence... not on the Mystaran Immortals terms, but the Blackmoorians themselves! This new City of the Gods will eventually find its purpose, perhaps branching out and sharing the secrets of its once lost technologies!

Possible Adventures in Returned Blackmoor


[Image: Blackmoor City]
Used with permission from the author


[Image: The King in Crimson]
Modified from wikimedia commons


[Image: The Exe-Corps] (By Walt Miller - Last Enemy - Astounding Science Fiction)


[Image - Blackmoorian Mental Patient]
Mental Patient by Ambroise Tardieu


[Image: God-King Allogost]
Mammon, from A book of images, 1898, by W.T. Horton (1864-1919), preface by W.B. Yeats (1865-1939).


[Image: Intruder captured by Blackmoor border guards]
Original drawing by Toni Roads (tif) (png)


1The Comeback Inn is detailed in DA1-TSR9172-Adventures in Blackmoor.

2Oards appear in CM6-TSR9158-Where Chaos Reigns.

3NPC from a campaign, implied to be a manifestation of the Egg of Coot itself.

4As the Immortals of Mystara considered Blackmoor dangerous in canon, the Blackmoor Immortals would not be allowed to join them. Thus, they remain in their own space for the time being.

5More on the Red Curse can be found in the Red Steel boxed set.

6The shields operate on two cycles, a protective wall and the consuming barrier. The first phase blocks things out majority of the time. The second functions for no longer than 1 hour. Despite grabbing material, it is monitored by guards, who can “extract” material and push it away. Clever stealth and magic can get past this.

7This refers to the Mystaran Exiles campaign, further elaborated here.

8The “hippo-like” Giff appear in the Spelljammer: AD&D Adventures in Space boxed sethalfling/hin

9Similar (non-magical) cyborgs are detailed in DA3-TSR9191-City of the Gods.

10As referenced in Threshold Issue 9: The Lighthouse’s Guide to Unknown Cultures.

11The Domains of Dread are further elaborated in the Ravenloft: Realm of Terror boxed set.

12More details on the Iron Gods adventure path are detailed in the Adventure Path adventures #85 - #90 for Paizo’s Pathfinder RPG