SECRETS of BLACKMOOR: The True History of Dungeons & Dragons

Created by The Fellowship of the Thing

If you missed our Kickstarter Campaign, here's your chance to still get in on some of our special editions for a limited time (until February 15th). Accepting Preorders Today! Delivery date is Mid-March 2019!

Latest Updates from Our Project:

Secret Sauce: 25 Years Ago - Dave Arneson
about 1 month ago – Mon, Dec 17, 2018 at 12:05:17 AM

This post is for backers only. Please visit and log in to read.

Teasing you with Stretch Goals
about 1 month ago – Sun, Dec 16, 2018 at 07:27:33 PM

Dave Arneson in his office at full Sail University
Dave Arneson in his office at full Sail University

We are very close to finalizing the Stretch Goals we will offer.

The first one will be a Poster of collected early documents about Blackmoor: Maps, Letters, Notices, and Reports from 1971 to 1972.

The next Stretch Goal will be an unpublished game by Dave Arneson; known as BITS, or Battle in the Skies.

This is an original manuscript for what was to be the Air Combat System in D&D. Yet, Arneson went a bit too far. He literally created a game within a game. Because of the limits of printing costs, and the size of the manuscript, this game was redacted from D&D. It is also another example of Arneson's close involvement in the creation of D&D.

Finally, many of you already have some skin in the game, because you've pledged at our lowest level of only $5.00. Of course the bonus for you early adopters is that you get to see all the Secret Sauce!

Secret Sauce = Backer Only Posts

We just posted another little historical document. Here is a quick quote of a quote:

"So my familiar is bigger, stronger, and smarter than me. Well can I run him instead?" Player comment after rolling six '01' on a row. (NPCs with character)

Keep an eye on this KickStarter for the future announcements.

An Old List from the First Gaming Club in the Twin Cities
about 1 month ago – Thu, Dec 13, 2018 at 10:59:19 PM

This post is for backers only. Please visit and log in to read.

Tonisborg, Deep Lore, and Yee-ess My Precious!
about 1 month ago – Thu, Dec 13, 2018 at 09:05:19 AM

Greg Svenson's Tonisborg Dungeon is a really special discovery. We did a lot of posts on it when we found it. Yet, we didn't know how special it was until David Megarry was able to locate the map key to the 10th level, which we thought must have been lost long ago.

Once he sent us all the scans there was a lot of frenzied emailing back and forth. That last double-sided piece of paper wasn't just a key to the dungeon, it was the key to a lot of answers, and the beginning of new questions. Not only was the thinking behind the design of the dungeon fascinating, this last level contains artifacts in the form of crowns.

Those Crowns are an early example of Game Master Deep Lore: Always give your players a reason for going to the dungeon!

Here are my email comments from when it was discovered:

"Another interesting thing is where the crowns are placed on the map.

Like most maps the numbers seem to go through an area of adjacent rooms. But the #1 room has a #2 nearby that has been erased, and if you look at the map the other two are located on the other side of the map. #3 is near room 39, and #2 is on the other side by Room #31.

Thus It seems like Greg has created a theme of all of these crypts and also these shrines that contain crowns on pedestals in the various areas of the dungeon.

What I see from you Greg, is that you established a theme here which is a very cool concept to see presented so early on. It isn't just a random dungeon, the main story elements have been intentionally placed here."

And then Dan did one of his usual "Oh yeah, I know what that is, responses." It truly floored me, he wrote back with these comments:

"Crowns - I actually know what these are, but what I'm wondering is what they do.  The rulebook only mentions them without specifying powers or anything.  On page 39 of Monsters & Treasure, under Artifacts

"Examples of Artifacts: Teleportation Machine; Fight'er's Crown, Orb and Scepter; Magic-User's Crown, Orb and Sceptre; Cleric's Crown, Orb and Scepter; Stone Crystalization Projector, etc."

No description of powers for any of the artifacts is given until Supplement III was published in 1976"

It's amusing to see what Dan and I notice as we examine the same information. Dan is an archeologist, he see's the connecting element, the bones of the thing as it were; whereas my field of interest is anthropology, so I'm looking at the underlying social and behavioral concept.

Both of these observations are important. Knowing that major Story Elements were being introduced into dungeon designs in 1973 is very significant. Seeing a set of artifacts that are only revealed in published form in D&D (1974) leads to a lot of interesting conjecture. Where do these crowns come from? Are they in the drafts that all of the Blackmoor Bunch received in 1973, or did Dave Arneson pass on this information to Gary Gygax, who then added it to the final manuscript?

Now the word is out and the brave and hapless will be descending into Tonisborg Dungeon in the hopes of coming away with one of these ancient treasures.

Tonisborg is deadly. In my game sessions it has a 10-20% kill rate on every mission. Good luck kids. ;)

So what about the book itself?

The manuscript is finished. More artwork is being made as we speak. We cannot tell you the final page count until it is laid out, yet the draft is over 300 pages long.

As you've likely already deduced, Bob Bledsaw is the primary artist for this manuscript.

Everything you need is in the book!

Greg Svenson gives his personal account of being a member of the first RPG group in the Twin Cities, and the creation of his Tonisborg Dungeon.

Much of the manuscript is dedicated to teaching people how to play in the traditional way, which is extremely flexible and also completely immersive, just like OD&D is. Dan like's to call it Theatre of the Mind.

Since many people do not own original versions of D&D, we're also including an entire set of game rules so that the module is a self contained time machine trip back to when it was created. These rules are derived from Daniel Boggs already published game: Champions of Zed. (The dungeon is readily playable with any system if you have one you prefer to use.)

Everything you will need to play as if this was 1973 will be at your fingertips.

As was mentioned in our first post, there will be two sets of Tonisborg maps. The original ones, which can be a bit confusing to read, and a set of newly rendered maps that will also include notation to help you locate where the stairs and shafts from each level connect.

Tonisborg 1st Editions will only be available via the KS. This is an honor we are bestowing on those who get the book, but are primarily backing the film right from the start. Once again, it's about making a movie and using what we have on hand to help leverage more backing for the movie.

It will be very limited. We will only print enough copies for those who back at the Tonisborg level or higher, along with some personal copies for those who contributed to the book project.

When we set out to do a manuscript. I wanted to create something that would remain in people's collections as one of their most cherished game books.

I like books. Especially old books. (You're going to have to read a bit here. Once I get talking about how books look and how they feel, I tend to run on. I promise not to write about how they smell.)

Thus when I began to investigate printing options, I really wanted to focus on the cover itself. I brought many different books as examples for my printer to see. And we talked at length about the many options available.

I have seen all the shiny paper covered hardbound books that game companies produce now. It all looks like cheap garbage to me. The primary idea I wanted to convey to the printer is that I want this NEW book to be an OLD book.

There was one set of books that really captured what I was looking for and I brought those along as well.

When I was a kid I had already read and reread the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy many times. One day I stumbled into a bookstore and discovered an amazing hard bound edition. Sure, it was in a box like all the other LOTR book sets, but this one had added BLING!

The cover of each book was emblazoned with a metallic foil representation of the elven writing that was on the rings. I was immediately taken with the BLING. I like shiny things. I had to have them and bought the books on the spot. As you can see, I still have them.

I also wanted the book to evoke a similar feeling to the one I had when I first touched my own copy of the Monster Manual in 1977. I still have that book too! (Thanks Gary Gygax and crew.)

Thus when I began to explore the possibility of making Tonisborg Dungeon into a new game module, I decided that it had to have the same kind of special-ness. A bit of shine on it like my LOTR books. And a look feel to make it into something one would treasure as a unique and significant volume within their game collection, like my Monster Manual. The words "My Precious" come to mind here.

Tonisborg Dungeon will come in a cloth hard bound cover with a metal foil design. When we say high end quality, we don't mess around, the die for the foil design alone, will cost a major chunk of cash to have made. We are praying we can recoup the high cost investment over all of the successive printings.

For now you have to use these photos of the books I showed to our printer, to get an idea of what the book will look like. Yet, I hope I have given you a better mental image of what you can expect when you first see your own copy.

We can't predict how many volumes will be printed, but we strongly feel that those of you who do get a copy are getting more than just a game module that they stick on their bookshelf, but also, an entrance into a select group of Referee's who can say "I am a Tonisborg Game Master".

Thus far, we know of only three people who have run Tonisborg since 1973: Greg Svenson; David Megarry; and myself.

As an added bonus, we will be creating a forum for Tonisborg Dungeon owners only. It will likely be hosted by Havard at the Comeback Inn, and will be a place where we can all gather to share secret game master ideas with each other.

To those who have already pledged at Tonisborg Dungeon Explorer Level, or higher, and will be receiving your own copy of Tonisborg Dungeon, I say: Welcome to the Deep Lore - Game Master!


Funded! Their Stories Will Be Told!
about 1 month ago – Wed, Dec 12, 2018 at 05:04:24 AM

We were just a couple hundred dollars below being funded when I looked at our KickStarter page this morning. Just a little while ago I got a very ecstatic phone call from Chris.

You've done it. Or rather, the Blackmoor fans have done it! Thanks Everybody!

Not to do the old "GET OFF MY LAWN!" routine, and despite the new edition of D&D flying off of the shelves, most newer gamers have no idea about Blackmoor and its importance in the history of RPG's. The only people who would support a project like this are all of you Blackmoor fans and those of you open-minded enough to explore a more expansive history for D&D.

Things are about to change. Now it will be possible to complete the movie. People are going to know that there is a direct path of invention for D&D. That there are many inventors in this chain of ideas.

Certainly there were other historians working on this subject before this project, but a film gives the subject a lot of street cred. It is heartwarming to think that a bunch of gamers that would never be known are going to get their due credit as having been part of the adventure.

Duane Jenkins and Dave Arneson
Duane Jenkins and Dave Arneson

Think of Duane Jenkins, his Wildwest Campaign was short lived; yet it was innovative. We've only been able to find a few hand written documents on it. What came out of the interviews was that Duane took RPG's a step farther. His version added the idea of the endless game into the equation. All the previous games were scenario based, yet Duane had his players continue as the same persona from session to session.

To many this seems like such a minute detail that it isn't worth mentioning; after all we do it when we play our favorite RPG's. Yet, Duane's little nugget of genius is carried forward and incorporated into many other games, and will continue to do so.

For us, it is also a sad moment. Duane passed away not too long ago. We lost a friend with a very good sense of humor, but most of all, Duane didn't get a chance to know that people would hear and see what he did.

Duane, Barb, and Charlie Jenkins
Duane, Barb, and Charlie Jenkins

We did a short video that may not make too much sense to those who did not know Duane closely. It really was for all of his friends, because we wanted to capture a few small moments of Duane doing something he loved a lot: singing. It must run in the family, as his son Charlie loves to sing as well.

Here is the video:

Another one we lost not long ago was Pete Gaylord a.k.a the "Wizard of the Wood".

As we celebrate the success of the KickStarter, we want to remain humbled by our experiences through the making of this film, and by those we have lost.

Lets turn toward the future: Where do we go from here?

If you consider that this is a combined release of a film and a game product, this is an odd Kickstarter. We blew the doors off the old Blackmoor cart the second we left the starting gate. Unlike most KickStarters, the kinds of things that would be kept secret in the beginning for stretch goals were already available as gift levels right from the minute we pressed "go". All the bonus goodies were revealed. We knew we had to make a big splash. Very few knew about the movie, perhaps 4000 people? So we had to make people notice this project.

We even set our goal fairly low because our expectations were low.

All of the things we have already put into the KickStarter will require a lot of work on our part to fulfill on. As we begin to think of a small stretch goal gift, it still is adding to an already huge commitment.

We have some other good ideas about what we could make happen next, and yet we think some of you might have some really good ideas.

It really comes down to knowing what you want.

Our big concern is that we don't want to lose momentum. And this kind of project is really something that goes one tiny step at time; from one person to another person. There are 14 days left. So we're relying on you our fans to help make this KickStarter even bigger.

Keep the energy up, talk to your friends. Show people the 35 minute draft on your social media. Let people know that this project is important to you.

Our commitment to you, is that we will make the best movie we know how to make for you.

Thank You!
Griff and Chris