Before Black Marches was created, Taketoshi created a new wiki called Stonereach in emulation of the classic West Marches sandbox campaign. The campaign was core only without any clear plot but clues could be found as to the history of the past of the world. Stonereach didn't last more than a session or two and Taketoshi disappeared and gave access to the site as he could no longer run it due to real life issues.
One of the members of Stonereach, Tenser's Imp founded Raven Marches in emulation of the classic West Marches, but not eschewing city adventures and exploration. An important distinction in this game was that it allowed DMs other than Tenser's Imp as opposed to only Taketoshi for Stonereach. Many 3.5 books were allowed and certain concepts were banned (such as the Spirit Lion Totem Barbarian and the PHB2 Wizard variant as well as Polymorph). Tenser's Imp and only Tenser's imp could approve new material. The site lasted approximately 2 months. Several regular players including myself were annoyed that Tenser's Imp lived in GMT Time and participated in few games while most players lived and played in the continental US and played the majority of games and had no say in the rules and allowed material of the shared campaign. Bill Bisco asked Tenser's Imp if the site members could have a vote on certain decisions but he denied this. Bill Bisco spoke with the other regulars and they agreed that a change in management was in order, thus that night Bill Bisco manually copied all material from Raven Marches and created Black Marches.
Black Marches Iteration I
Since Bill had DMed many of the games of Raven Marches and he and the other players all still wanted to continue our established characters and storylines, Black Marches, setting-wise, began as a close copy of Raven Marches. To differentiate and improve, the city name was changed from Port Drambath to Dragonport and the southern continent was likewise renamed "the Black Marches" instead of "the Raven Marches." The population expanded to become a large Metropolis.
Black Marches was created with an intention to overcome the mistakes of Raven Marches. Anyone could DM, anyone could play. The allowed books and material were set to everything with the caveat that both players and DMs abide by a Gentleman's Agreement. The rules were decided upon by the Council Members whom were elected by a majority vote of the players of Black Marches.
Black Marches lasted a good few months. Bill Bisco went through some personal issues of getting a new job, graduating, moving, and getting married so on, and thus disappeared from the internet for a time. During his absence Black Marches began to fall apart, some DMs reportedly gave lots of xp for just roleplaying and with no danger while others were reported to be very immature players.
Bird's Nest Naelvich and Ethar
Several players began liking the idea of a steampunk setting rather than a purer sword and sorcery type game. Thus a former player of Black Marches, Avraham the Birdman created Naelvich. Naelvich was Avraham's own invention and world coshared with his wife and once again, all decisions regarding allowed races, books ect. was under his purview. Naelvich had a decent run, but several players were again unsatisfied with the management of Naelvich and Pharaun, a former Black Marches and Naelvich player, created Ethar. Much of Naelvich's style, plot, and world was copied over and Naelvich users were invited to join Ethar. Avraham, finding out that his former admins copied his site over was furious and banned them, but the damage to his ego was already done and some weeks later, Avraham closed Naelvich.
Ethar initially had a strong run, but eventually it too lost its momentum and by the end of the year DMs stopped offering games. Howevever, one lone DM,Warboss, has continued to run a weekly game in Ethar for awhile, but that too fizzled out.
Heroes of Alvena
During about the same time Naelvich was founded, another former member of Black Marches, Ashiel, had his own ideas . While at Black Marches, Ashiel wanted to play Pathfinder instead of 3.5, but he ran several games even while encouraging others to play Pathfinder only. Owing to the immaturity of some other players and a desire to play and design his own world and utilize the Pathfinder system, Ashiel founded Heroes of Alvena. Heroes of Alvena was Ashiel's own creation, world, and ruleset. He spent much time codifying his house rules and trying to tweak 3.5 / Pathfinder to suit his design and artistic tastes for balance as well as trying to copyright any homebrewed information he uploaded to the wiki. Once again, Heroes of Alvena was Ashiel's baby, the system and rules are entirely up to him. He also codified a system where DMs could gain experience for their characters who did not attend, but they had to be *approved DMs* or else get no xp. Ashiel came off and on to his wiki, sometimes able to DM and not. It has run off and on since June 2010, unfortunately the only consistentish DM seems to be Ashiel and the forum and wiki are both largely deserted and lacking many updates and as of this posting update, no HoA games have been seen.
Black Marches Iteration II
So a few lessons were learned from the changeovers and iterations from Campaign to Campaign.
1. Strong Administration is Required: Many good DMs and players were turned off due to the immaturity of a few. Since this is a multiplayer multiDM setting, more checks and balances are required than during a regular single DM game.
2. Strong DMs are Required: If a campaign has at least 1 strong DM, it can encourage other DMs to run games, and the campaign can potentially last a long time
3. Character logs are Required: Because of the nature of the Multi-DM Multi-Player setting, there has to be a way to differentiate between the items, xp, gold, etc. gained from legitimate and illegitimate, the only way for that to happen is to strictly require that players log their acquisitions every time for every adventure and downtime so that a mistakes can be rectified and illegitimate adventures not require a complete rewrite.
4. Shared Wiki Editing is Required: Adventures take up a decent time to write up as well as finding pictures, adding NPCs, editing organizations, and the like. Unless up front, the game requires that one player write up the adventure, and that another update the NPC, City, Organization, etc. information, then the wiki will always be out of date, and the ability to tie adventures and information together for new DMs is lost.
So with that, Bill Bisco is eager to start Black Marches Iteration II, the world has been reset with some changes and additional NPCs based off of actual PCs and actions that affected the first iteration. It is Bill's hope that Black Marches II will be able to be a stronger, better more fun game than it has been before and that it will last longer and be more persistent than ever. Bill is very excited to invite you all to the New Black Marches!