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:

We've added a new reward level: Special Edition DVD plus Tonisborg Book (and more)
about 1 month ago – Tue, Dec 11, 2018 at 01:54:03 PM

Due to popular request we’re adding the Kickstarter-Only Limited Edition 2-Disc DVD of the Completed Documentary to our 6th level Tonisborg Dungeon Explorer Reward and calling it "6.5 level Tonisborg Dungeon Explorer +"

Everything at the Tonisborg Dungeon Explorer level, plus the limited edition DVD for $1 more! 

If you pledged at the previous $160 Level - Upgrade now! If you haven't pledged yet, pick this one instead! 

About the Book: The Lost Dungeons of Tonisborg were unearthed during the filming of Secrets of Blackmoor. Originally created by Greg Svenson in 1973, it is one of the oldest mega dungeons still in existence. Greg is also the second person to be a referee in a Fantasy RPG.

Get your own hard bound Deluxe Edition copy of this illustrious dungeon module. Published by Judges Guild Game Company & Secrets of Blackmoor, it comes with the complete dungeon, playing guidelines, and a complete set of old school rules - Champions of Zed by Daniel Boggs, which brings together the rules of original style play, scattered across many sources, into a single carefully edited work. With original artwork by Bob Bledsaw. Limited 1st Edition is 500 copies only. Includes 24-minute Braunstein Segment (available Christmas Day, 2018). Remaining rewards available March, 2019

A Limited Edition DVD of the Completed Movie
Hard Bound Limited Edition Tonisborg Dungeon Module Book
Special Thank You in the Movie Credits
XMas Day 2018 VOD 24 minute Braunstein Movie Segment Rough Draft
A Streaming VOD of the Completed Movie

A Quick Peek at Tonisborg
about 1 month ago – Tue, Dec 11, 2018 at 01:53:57 PM

(Excerpt from Greg Svenson's, Tonisborg Dungeon Manuscript)

Behold! A lost relic from an early time in Fantasy Gaming.

Created in 1973 by Greg Svenson, a core member of Dave Arneson's "Blackmoor Bunch", and preserved for 30 years by David Megarry, famous author of The Dungeon! board game; Tonisborg Mega-Dungeon is now finally revealed in all of its original glory!

 As the only surviving Twin Cities dungeon from this era that was not created by Dave Arneson himself, it offers a unique historical perspective on early dungeon games. 

Seasoned referees will find much to benefit their games within the pages of this book, as will the novice game master, who may be unfamiliar with some of the traditional methods of Old School play. No matter your experience level, you will find everything you need to bring Tonisborg back to life within this volume.

-Full color reproductions of all 10 levels of Tonisborg Dungeon, complete with the original dungeon keys, or stocking lists

 -Greg Svenson reveals how the dungeon came about and why it is a bridge between what came before and what comes after

-Extensive play guidelines teach you how to make Tonisborg rise again as a real life experience for you and your players

-Updated maps and keys have been reconstructed from the originals for ease in play

-A set of historically accurate game rules have been included that are ideal for developing an original style adventure campaign

Tonisborg is a Living Dungeon!

For the Referee, you will learn how to imbue your own games with the true flavor of adventure and exploration of the original fantasy gaming group in Minnesota who first explored this catacomb.

For your players, the most important thing they will learn is that Tonisborg is deadly. Players who wander in casually, expecting to kill monsters and gather treasure effortlessly, will find a quick and easy demise. This type of dungeon requires stealth, cunning, and tactical savvy if one expects to once again see the light of day.

Tonisborg is real!

Player immersion is the goal for you the Game Master of this dungeon. This book will teach you how to make the game seem real. Remember, this is an imaginary fantasy full of magical discovery and the dread of fearsome monsters. You’ll learn keep your players on the edge of their seats as you weave a tale of adventure for them: You hear a distant dripping sound - You smell burning hair - You see droplets of blood on the ground - You feel something touch your neck - The door behind you slams shut - A sudden breeze blows out all the torches - Someone lets out a blood curdling scream.

Although much of what your players experience will be like a red herring in a mystery novel, your job is to keep the players immersed in their experience -- unsure and frightened, yet curious to see what sort of magical wonder they will discover next.

This is your goal as the next Game Master of Tonisborg Dungeon!

Tonisborg awaits!

Tonisborg island rises tall at the mouth of the Barleycorn river as it flows sluggishly past the north’s bustling capital city.

The island itself is the outcast suburb of the city, where a thieves den of seedy establishments, slave auctions, and ramshackle slums nestle between the smugglers ports that even the town guard avoid patrolling; all of which is firmly under the thumb of the Merchant Mafia. The island rises higher to the south, where atop a high promontory are scattered the ruins of an old tower, whether built for defence or as a beacon for ships navigating the river, none now remember. Amidst these ruins can be found the entrance to an ancient catacomb.

The ruins are an open secret, closely guarded by the Merchant Mafia and their allies and used for their own purposes. Few however, of even these rough characters, dare to go beyond the first level into the horrid depths below.

What lies deeper inside and further down is unknown, but promises incredible wealth and power for the brave explorer to discover or the fool to die trying. Beware, for it is said that sleeping in the lowest levels are the nightmare terrors from the times of dark gods and primeval horrors -- if you dare enter this dungeon, tread lightly, and pray to the Greater Gods for mercy.

Oh Tonisborg, Oh Tonisborg--'Tis the season of Tonisborg!
about 1 month ago – Tue, Dec 11, 2018 at 11:17:50 AM

Ok, lets talk a tiny bit about Tonisborg Dungeon. 

This is what we hear a lot from potential backers: Why is it part of this KickStarter at such a high level?

First off, we think you should know how we feel about this book: to us, Tonisborg Dungeon is part of the movie project. Without having made the investment to do all the research and shooting for the film over the past 5 years, it may not have been discovered. It was only after about 4 years of work that things connected and we fully realized what the maps were.

When we began to plan the KickStarter, we decided to add Tonisborg Dungeon in as a way to say "Thank You". Our attitude wasn't so much one of selling the book, but one of having a special reward for those who truly believed in the film project and were backing at a higher level.

Certainly, Tonisborg is a product we can sell, yet this KickStarter is not about selling Tonisborg - it is for the purposes of completing a very extensive and expensive research project.

Many of you may feel that we should just sell the book at cover price. Yet that is complicated for us. Selling just the book alone does not fund the film. We have made separate agreements with everyone involved in making the book. In fact, the agreement is very generous to those involved. We feel strongly that creators should be compensated. Thus when it sells at cover price, the film entity does not make very much off of that, as most of it goes directly to the creators of the text.

The book's cover price is much lower than the Backer reward level. Any of you who just want to buy a book, but do not feel a need to support the film, will eventually be able to do so.

Doing Tonisborg Dungeon in conjunction with the movie KickStarter project is a huge risk for us, yet we wanted to make an elite one-of-a-kind product for our Backers. We also feel the book should be used and played, and that whoever does get a copy, needs to consider this sample passage from the text very seriously:

"If you’ve purchased this book and do not intend to become a Game Master, you will ruin your experience as a player by reading the section on Playing Tonisborg. Above all, you do not want to go and tell all your friends what is in this text either, as it will also spoil the game for them.

If you do decide to read the text anyway, it poses a challenge to you as a gamer: if you have always been a player, you may want to consider that by reading this manual, it may be time for you yourself to take the reigns of the Game Master within your gaming group. That in assuming the mantle of Referee, you can read this book freely and become an advocate and mentor for Traditional Adventure Games. More importantly, you will become a new member in a historic tradition that harkens back to much older manuscripts such as Charles A. L. Totten’s: Strategos, from the 1880’s, to the Twin cities creations, David Wesely’s: Braunstein, Duane Jenkin's: Brownstone Texas, and David Arneson’s: Blackmoor."

Excerpt from: SPOILER ALERT chapter of Tonisborg Dungeon By Greg Svenson, Dan Boggs, and M. Griffith

Only those of you who become Backers of Secrets of Blackmoor at the Tonisborg Dungeon Explorer level will be eligible for the limited 1st-edition Tonisborg Dungeon Book. It will be very clear that you own a first edition, as these are the only one's that will be printed with black fabric covers.

More on Tonisborg Dungeon book itself, will be in an upcoming update.


Seeking the the Deep Lore in Tonisborg Dungeon
about 1 month ago – Tue, Dec 11, 2018 at 11:17:42 AM

It seems that many of you are as curious about Tonisborg dungeon as you are about the movie.

As a fellow Dungeon Master I am going to rant a bit here. These days you often see the words "Old School" used in order to categorize an aesthetic that has gotten lost in many newer games.

I have come to despise the term because it implies a fixed and concreted idea. My RPG game sessions are hardly Old School. I work hard to come up with odd events and situations that my players have never dealt with before. I play in the old style, but I upgrade as times change, as I am sure most of you are doing as well. Yet those of us who have been playing a long time are drawing from very deep roots. Perhaps a better term for this type of play is to call it the Deep Lore and treat it as a jumping off point for our games.

When Daniel Boggs and I began work on a manuscript for a RPG book, the first concept was to be a series of prefab encounters one could use in their own game titled: 101 Passages. It was Dan who said "But Griff, we have an entire dungeon we could use that has never been published, and it's one of the oldest dungeons too!"

Dan does that a lot. He looks at things and points out something so obvious that no one else seems to have twigged to it yet. 

A quick email to Greg Svenson and we were all set to begin on a much more exciting project: HOW TO BRING THE FRAGMENTS OF A VERY OLD SET OF MAPS AND ROOM KEYS TO LIFE.

Both Dan and I have done a fair amount of writing on the subject of this dungeon. Because it is an old dungeon, it doesn't look, or read, like all the modules that gamers are familiar with. It actually is a lot like Dave Arneson's Blackmoor dungeon that was published in First Fantasy Campaign by Judges Guild in 1977. Just as with the Blackmoor dungeon all you get is a map with numbered rooms, and a set of lists that correspond to what is in those rooms. And the contents of each entry on these lists is very simple: what kind of creature is in this room; how many of them are there; and what treasure they have.

All the older gamers here are going to be groaning and saying to themselves: well yeah, that's how we did it in the old days, we used shorthand, and we just knew what was in our own dungeon!

Some of the younger gamers might not know how to play this kind of dungeon because it does not have long written out descriptions of what each room encounter should be like.

This may be what is different about First Wave Game Masters and those who came after, when everyone began to use published modules. The DM's of yore knew how to fake an entire adventure off the top of their heads. It wasn't entirely faked, it's just that if they had a room somewhere and as they made the dungeon key they had noted that this room had: 1x 6th level fighter, 2x 3rd level clerics; The DM would simply remember that this room is inhabited by a female Paladin and her two Cleric followers. A basic idea of the Paladin's motive for living in the dungeon would already be in the DM's head, yet the details wouldn't always be worked out ahead of time. Everything was simply a mnemonic for what the DM would create if this room got explored.

I have been running my gaming group through Greg's Dungeon and I am perfectly at home doing so. It's easy for me to put myself into the mindset of his dungeon. A good example is the deadly rooms on level 1. This is a super deadly part of the dungeon most players should run away from. As I noted elsewhere, when Rosa, who plays in our group, discovered what was in those rooms she said "If this is the First Level, I want to go to Kinder Level!"

Greg's dungeon is not a senseless series of disconnected encounters. Yet a DM who runs Tonisborg must learn to read between the rooms. What I mean by this is that there are sets of rooms that are all part of one encounter. Thus when you get to the end of the passage and you find two doors on level 1; where one room has a bunch of evil clerics in it, and the other has a pair of wraiths in it. These are not separate encounters. This is what Dan and I call the Compound Monster; two different types of creatures working together.

If you open either door and create a ruckus, guess what: that other door is going to open too!

Again, an experienced DM may be thinking to themselves, yeah I do this all the time.

This is why Tonisborg Dungeon Module is designed differently from other dungeon books. Dan and I wanted to keep the original dungeon maps and keys as they were when they were discovered. Yet, we felt that it might be worth passing on old wisdom to newer gamers, as well as doing a review of the Deep Lore for older gamers. Thus Tonisborg contains Greg's original dungeon, and a lot of talk about how to be a referee, and how to take Greg's old notes and bring them to life.

Also, if you run Tonisbrog, you should not feel like you absolutely have to follow everything that Greg stocked his dungeon with. You need to make it your own dungeon. Add rooms and tunnels and pits and stairs to it. Scribble notes on the maps and margins to enhance what is already there. Change up what monsters appear where. (Mind you, you should make your own copies for this.)

That is the all part of the mechanical duties of a referee, yet there is also the pure Role Playing aspect of Dm'ing that we think is paramount to having a real experience in a dungeon adventure.

Everyone we spoke to about Dave Arneson's Blackmoor, and their first experience of it, described a place of dread and fear. Tonisborg is part of the same tradition. The original dungeons were actually more like a gothic horror setting than a pure fantasy setting. Players didn't begin as super powerful warriors and wizards; they were weak little flunkies who were quaking in their boots as they descended the first stair down into the unknown.

The Tonisborg Dungeon Module has tutorials on how to immerse one's players, and keep players worried and nervous. How this feeling of doubt can be used to hide your true motives as a the Referee and also instill terror in your players.

We'll leave you with a short excerpt from the Tonisborg Dungeon manuscript:

The Quiet Game and the Psychology of Fear

"Anxiety leads to doubt - doubt leads to fear - and fear, if properly manipulated - leads to terror!" Rob Kuntz - game author and theoretician From an interview for Secrets of Blackmoor documentary film

Rob Kuntz, one of the truly famous Dungeon Designers, is an advocate for what he calls: The Quiet Game.  The quiet game can take many forms, all of them are intended to slow down play and immerse the players in the game experience by causing them to be afraid of the unknown.  Having been in Rob’s game, we can tell you that his quiet game is nothing less than terrifying.  RPG’s have a natural pacing based on what is happening in the moment.  Often, while a party is questing through uninhabited areas such as hallways, or previously explored rooms, a GM will play looser and faster in order to get them to the next situation.  Most combat situations are also all about moving things along with everyone taking their turn to roll dice and give or take damage as well.

Yet there is a point where things naturally slow down.  Once a combat is finished, the players usually begin to explore the room for loot, hidden doors, and passages.  If the party has found something like a treasure chest, most GM's will become more detailed in their description and ask for very specific information about where everyone is standing and how the person examining a chest or other object is doing so.

Players learn that when play gets slow and detailed it’s also likely that something horrible is about to happen.  Since players assume that a GM wants to be fair to the players, the leading event usually ends up being the same every time, but in this case, the objective is different.

Roll some unseen dice and then look at the players and say “I need to know where everyone is standing.”

This question alone will make players realize something is up.

Sometimes the GM will give players a simple hint - the smell of decaying flesh permeates the room… And then the questions begin.  At the same time, it may be necessary for the GM to get die rolls from the players and do some hidden rolls of their own, loud enough so the players can hear them.

Yet, what we are doing here has nothing to do with any actual threat.  A variety of detailed question, and answer, and die rolling events can be manipulated to great effect to instill confusion in the player's minds.  If you combine slowing down play, changing the information flow, and some meaningless die rolls, your players are going to get worried. If they have no idea what this slow down is about, the lack of information will instill the emotional cascade that Rob Kuntz describes, beginning with anxiety.

The first step to using the slow game is to alter the pacing when the players least expect it.  There are many ways to do this, and each has its own purpose and reward for you as the GM.  Consider that you can simply stop and begin to ask questions of your players, and even demand die rolls -- just because.

Thank you for all of your support. We will keep talking about the Tonisborg Dungeon Module, but we also want to get David Megarry to chime in about his gift ideas: The Minnesota Game Experience; and the hand delivered copy of Dungeon!

A little about the line: “If you think D&D is the beginning of the story, then think again: D&D is actually the end of the story.”
about 1 month ago – Tue, Dec 11, 2018 at 10:52:57 AM

This has turned out to be a pretty controversial line, at least as much as “The True History of D&D”.

I grew up playing D&D, starting with the original 3-book box set in 1977. At that time, and going forward, I had assumed one of two things: One, that the “universe in a box” concept had always existed, or two, somebody, particularly Gary Gygax (since that is who I heard about almost exclusively) had just come up with this concept by themselves over so many months. So to me, and probably many many others, D&D was the beginning of the story. It wasn’t until the other author’s name on those first three books was pointed out to me again after so many years that I began to think that there was a deeper story there.

So when I was approached by Griff with the opportunity to help investigate the story, I jumped at it. I have always been fascinated with the nature of creativity and invention - everything comes from somewhere. So, we dug in to see what we’d find, and discovered that there was a lot that came before that led to the publishing of D&D in 1974 - there was gradual evolution based on logical progression from what had been made previously, as well as genius leaps made by a few key people. It’s that process that this movie is about.

The “end of the story” line simply is there to indicate that the story is a lot more complicated and involved than what most people may think.

If one wants to know The True History, one needs to go back in time to the very beginnings of Role Playing.

If you ask people “who invented the automobile?”, I bet most would say “Henry Ford”, but I’m sure you know that he was person who made that invention accessible (through a genius leap). The mass-production of the automobile - it’s the end of that story of the invention of the car. You may not have heard of Siegfried Marcus, François Isaac de Rivaz, or Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot.

The mostly unknown story of the people that came before, of logical progressions and genius leaps, is the story to me. So, we’re letting you know about the stories of David Wesely, Duane Jenkins, and David Arneson (and others). Gary Gygax would be the Henry Ford in our story - the end of the story in the creation of the RPG. Please watch the film and see how it unfolds.

If you do a little digging, you may be able to figure out that I too have been involved in a somewhat notable story of creativity. I won a Student Academy Award for an animated movie that I made with Trey Parker. It was my last animated film and Trey's first. I had been doing that kind of animation since I was 9 years old, and I got the idea for the style from watching Monty Python. Thus you can trace a path for that style of animation from Terry Gilliam, through me, to South Park. Yet even my story is untold until now.

I find this human phenomenon of the untold story of creativity and invention fascinating. There is something really compelling about discovering hidden connections. It is why I spent $150k of my own money to make this movie happen.

That's me, in my natural habitat.
That's me, in my natural habitat.

On a side note - It is important to say something about the business of film here. It is highly unlikely that this film will be widely distributed. It is very “niche” and very specific. If you’re reading this it means you have an interest in the subject - you are the very person this film was made for. If you’re waiting in the wings for a broader release, say, on to Netflix or Amazon, or you think you may see this DVD at Walmart, well, the simple truth is that it is unlikely to happen. The reason we are doing this Kickstarter is to sell the movie - we knew we could reach you here. 

This is the release of the film. You may not have the opportunity to purchase it anywhere else. We’re certainly going to try to get it out there, but there is no guarantee we will. So please jump on it now.

We greatly appreciate your support. We have more on this story to tell, so if we do good here, we’ll do the second volume!

Griff has been doing posts about the some of the things we discovered along the way. These are Backer Only posts. It is our way of thanking those of you who have taken the plunge early on and backed this one-of-a-kind documentary. Watch for a new one today about a medieval battle that borders on being an RPG. All you have to do to access these posts is donate $5.00, less than the cost of a large fancy latte, or a Big Mac Meal. In fact, consider it your way of throwing a Big Mac at us.

Chris Graves