First stretch goal reached! "The Emergence of Blackmoor Poster" at $45,000. Click here to see the update.
Second stretch goal announced! "Battle In The Skies" Booklet at $60,000. Click here to see the update.
Blu-Ray Upgrade Available! Click here for information
How does a book of war game rules written in 1880 lead directly to the creation of Dungeons & Dragons nearly a hundred years later?
Secrets of Blackmoor is the two-hour documentary film resulting from an unprecedented exploration into the evolution of Role Playing Games (RPG's) that reveals the true origin of Dungeons & Dragons.
It's the story of the invention of Role Playing Games as told by the people who were there: the Twin Cities Gamers.
If you think D&D is the beginning of the story, then think again: D&D is actually the end of the beginning.
In 1974, Dungeons & Dragons is the first Role Playing Game ever published. It also becomes a worldwide phenomenon that brings fame and fortune to its creators: Gary Gygax and David L. Arneson.
Played by millions, and now a multi-billion dollar industry, D&D has influenced the likes of Stephen Colbert, George RR Martin, Robin Williams, and countless others.
It is the foundation of much of today's pop culture: Game of Thrones, World of Warcraft, Magic the Gathering, and more.
Yet, Dave and Gary's fame, and the ensuing legends & myths, have eclipsed the actual history of the game.
Secrets of Blackmoor takes you to the very beginning, and reveals what actually led to D&D. The film debunks the tired old mythology by showing you the very roots of the RPG's creation and all the relevant facts: the who, how, and why of the game's origin.
Be one of the first to know the Secrets of Blackmoor -- Coming March, 2019.
We are done editing the movie, but it needs a little more work before it can be released. All of our time is now consumed by what can best be described as adding a fine finish to an already wonderful movie. We're really down to adding the last touches -- things like color and sound refinements.
We feel strongly that Secrets of Blackmoor is the seminal documentary on the history of Dungeons & Dragons. Yet we need you to support us in this last stage of post production.
Please take a minute to look over our videos, and gifts (located in the side bar). There's even a special reward level to be delivered this Christmas day.
Get out your dice and roll for initiative, become part of our Secret Team by pledging your support!
More about the film follows.
In 1963, a bunch of high schoolers and college students form a military history club in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota.
Hiding within this club is a group of war gamers, who find an old military training manual from the 1880's in the library of the University of Minnesota. On the cover is a curious title, Strategos - the American Game of War, and it is written by a man with an equally curious name, Charles Adiel Lewis Totten.
Within the dense pages of this old book are a few sentences that inspire these young gamers. The influence of Strategos quickly changes how they play their war games. But are they really following these old rules, or have they stumbled onto something truly unique by re-interpreting what they say?
Should a game be constrained by rules and a board, like Monopoly, or should there be no boundaries at all?
These young gamers have no idea that they will devote the next 10 years of their lives as the incubator that develops the ideas and methods for an entirely new type of game, and that they will change the face of their hobby forever.
One thing is very clear--something magical is going on in the Twin Cities.
Most people no longer know the names of the gamers who came before D&D, or the crazy ideas they came up with that made D&D possible. Without people's names to attach to ideas, the real history of how RPG's come into existence gets lost.
Who is David Wesely?
Who is Duane Jenkins?
Who is Peter Gaylord?
Who is Ross Maker?
Who is Helen Nicholson?
As you dig deeper into the past, you begin to ask even more questions. Who created the archetype of the first Wizard, Thief, or Paladin in one of these games? Who was the First Woman to ever play in an RPG? Where did the concept of the dungeon adventure come from? Who was the first “Dungeon Master,” or referee?
And the number one question: who invented Role Playing?
We've been asking ourselves these kinds of questions since we began playing RPG's back in the 70's.
Those who helped create RPG's are nearly forgotten. Many of them have passed away unsung. Yet clues to their lives can be found in cardboard boxes hidden in attics and basements. Old papers, and worn lead ships and soldiers, tell stories of hard fought battles and dirty political maneuvering.
Most important is the revelation of the ideas behind all of the games they create. That with each iteration of their games and ideas, these young gamers in the Twin Cities are pushing the envelope on how a game should be played. That there isn't just one RPG, or one inventor, but many.
They begin to develop a new play style, The Role Play Method, and they apply this method to nearly every game they get their hands on, thus creating a series of RPG's.
The evidence for these games can be found in the relics. We have worked to discover and preserve many astounding game documents, like the first character sheet, or hand-written correspondence in a game between mighty rulers in the time of Napoleon. There are even maps of worlds, cities, and foreboding dungeons.
Often the meaning of the relics isn't obvious, but video interviews with the people who used these objects gives them context. We have sought to record as many interviews as possible, thus preserving what is left of the oral history of the Original Role Playing Gamers, "The Blackmoor Bunch".
The old stories and secrets have been closely held by the people who were there when it all began over 50 years ago, and are now finally revealed in the documentary Secrets of Blackmoor: The True History of Dungeons & Dragons.
It might be surprising to find out that this documentary began as an accident. We really never thought we'd be doing this kind of film and we had no idea what we'd discover. Yet, it has exploded into an obsession for us.
Just over 5 years ago, myself, M. Griffith (call me Griff), and my partner Chris Graves, known collectively as “The Fellowship of the Thing,” set out on an investigation into the history of role playing. We did it by asking simple questions like: Who was the first player to die in a role playing game?
Our search became worldwide as we reached out to experts all over the planet for help. We ended up traveling to 10 different cites in search of answers. We shot over 200 hours of movie footage and we found more than 20,000 documents and photographs. It is difficult to show you just how enormous this project has become.
This entire adventure has been a gamble for us. Our first exploratory shooting trip could have been a complete failure. We might have realized that there was nothing new to be found, and that making a movie about RPG's is just a silly idea, yet we’d just spent about $10,000 on a crap shoot.
Instead, we discovered that there was a group of incredibly fascinating people with interesting stories to tell. There were many games developed by the Twin Cities gamers that have role playing in them, and that, to paraphrase what they tell us: the invention of RPG's did not happen overnight; it was an accumulation of ideas that evolved over many years.
The sheer volume of people, life events, and games, cannot be covered in just one documentary. It forces us to make a lot of hard decisions about what to cut and what to keep in this first in a series of films.
This is only Volume 1. We narrowed down the subject matter to fit into one 2-hour movie. This first movie examines where the very concept of the RPG came from, and how it led to Dungeons & Dragons. Yet there are many other stories we found: the genius behind the Dungeon! board game, John Snider's 1972 Sci-Fi Role Playing Game, M.A.R. Barker's World of Tekumel, and others. We look forward to following up on this film with another volume with more detail about Gary and Dave collaborating on the creation of Dungeons & Dragons.
For now, we want to focus on getting this movie done.
Chris and Griff (Co-Directors of SECRETS of BLACKMOOR)
This year is a significant landmark in RPG history. It was during Christmas break, 50 years ago, that David Wesely tested a game he invented. It was set in a town named Braunstein. With that one game, David Wesely took the methods for roleplaying to new heights, and the Twin Cites gamers liked it so much that the term "Braunstein" became their term for all their RPG's.
We want to celebrate this occasion. We also want people to know about Wesely's game. Anyone who supports us at Any Level will receive a special online screener of the 24 minute section of the film dedicated to Braunstein, available on Christmas Day, 2018.
Watch this screener, and you will know the answer to "who was the first player to die in an RPG?".
We've also come up with several other "Thank You" gifts at a variety of levels that are located in the sidebar of this web page.
Video on Demand, DVD's, T-shirts, Dice Bags, and more...
We have online screeners and DVD's of the movie. We have a T-shirt designed by Bob Bledsaw (in 8 different colors and 7 sizes from XS to 3XL). The image shows Gerti the Dragon taking flight over Blackmoor Castle. ("Gerti" is the name of the very first Dragon in fantasy RPG's). There are handmade Dice Bags with the Blackmoor castle emblem also designed by Bob. We know you won't want to miss out on those.
We also really want to highlight the truly special gifts!
The Braunstein Gift Pack:
We did say "be one of the first to know the Secrets of Blackmoor," and we know some of you just can't wait to see the film. We've created a gift level for those who want an insider sneak peek of the entire film - available on Christmas Day, 2018. Sure, it won't be all slick and perfect like the final version, but if you want to see the film early, well, you'll have to put up with seeing a little bit less shine (you'll still get the final, polished version in February).
We think this is an ideal gift for the gamer in your family (whether it's you, or someone you know, who will truly enjoy being one of the first to see the movie).
The Lost Dungeon of Tonisborg Deluxe Hard Bound Edition Book:
A complete 10 level mega-dungeon module in a hard bound cover!
While making the movie we discovered the never published Tonisborg Dungeon maps, the second fantasy RPG dungeon from the Twin Cities, that all thought had been long lost (it had been hidden away in a basement for decades). We asked the original creator, Greg Svenson, how he felt about making a book with his dungeon maps in it, and he really liked the idea. Then we got Daniel Boggs, game historian and designer, to contribute his design expertise along with his Champions of Zed, Open Game License, rules. Lastly, we got ahold of Bob Bledsaw Jr. (Judges Guild), who had worked with his father on Dave Arneson's First Fantasy Campaign in 1977, and he came on board as well.
Over the past year we've been putting together this historic Game Module, with personal background by Greg Svenson, maps, guidelines for old school play, and complete game rules.
It even includes many quotes like this one, by the original RPG'ers:
"Anxiety leads to doubt - doubt leads to fear - and fear, if properly manipulated - leads to terror!" - Robert Kuntz - Game Author and Theoretician
It is written so that a novice can learn to play, yet we've put some old gamer wisdom into the book that even experienced grognards will appreciate.
The Minnesota Gaming Experience:
(Limit 6 to 10 gifts)
This is something truly unique. When we told David Megarry, author of the Dungeon! (1975) board game, and member of the group who invented RPG's, about our upcoming Kickstarter, he asked if he could help us.
We weren't really sure what he was planning. Several days later he phoned us and proposed that he would host a mini game convention in the Twin Cities.
The Minnesota Gaming Experience was born!
Some of our intrepid supporters will be able to come and play many of the games that influenced the creation of RPG's with the very people who created the games. It's like a cruise ship vacation to Gamer Fantasy Island.
We like the idea so much, that both Chris and I will be coming to the event. I'm even going to run a game session for those brave enough to risk entering Tonisborg Dungeon.
Just to sum it all up: It's a week of gaming at a bed and breakfast. All your meals are taken care of. You play a different game every day. All you have to do is get yourself to the Twin Cities.
Event begins March 28th and ends April 3rd, 2019 (Check the sidebar for a list of games, and referees.)
There are some stipulations:
-We have to get at least 6 people to support us at this level, or we will have to refund the donations.
-We do not provide transportation to Minnesota, but we will have airport pick-ups and drop- offs.
Personally Delivered Dungeon! Board Game:
(Limit 1 gift at this level)
This Gift Level is another of David Megarry's brainstorms. What can we say? He really likes the movie.
It is the most elite of gifts: an original, unopened 1st edition copy of Dungeon! - the adventure board game from 1975.
Well, ok. That's sorta cool--but it gets better!
David Megarry will hand deliver the game to your house anywhere in the USA or Canada. He will also give a personal presentation to you & your friends on the history of the Twin Cities Gamers, and how he came up with the idea for his game. After that, he will show you how Dungeon! is played and help you have a fun gaming session with several, already opened copies. (The true importance of Dungeon! is revealed in Secrets of Blackmoor).
Who knows, maybe the Secret Team will tag along and shoot some video of the event.
More information about all of the gifts are in the sidebar.
- David Arneson - Co-Author Don't Give up The Ship, Creator of the First Fantasy RPG World: Blackmoor, and Co-Author of D&D (Archival footage courtesy of the David L. Arneson Estate)
- John Arneson - Dave's Father
- Malia Arneson - Dave's Daughter and Blackmoor Player (a Hobbit Monk)
- David Belfry - Blackmoor Player ("I died a lot")
- Shelley Britton
- Jeff Berry, a.k.a. Chirine Bakal - Former Employee at Adventure Games, Game Designer, and Tekumel & Blackmoor Player (a Priest of Vimulha)
- Bob Bledsaw - CEO, Judges Guild Game Company
- Jim Ford - War Gamer and Game Designer
- Gail Gaylord - Dave Arneson's typist and Blackmoor Player (a Cleric)
- Peter Gaylord, a.k.a The Wizard of the Wood - Blackmoor Player (the first Magic User)
- Randy Hoffa - Founder and CEO of C in C Miniatures, and Co-Author of Strategos-A
- William Hoyt - Game Publisher and Author, Tekumel and Blackmoor Player
- Barbara Jenkins - Former Employee at Adventure Games
- Duane Jenkins - Creator of the Brown Stone RPG, Blackmoor Player (a Vampire)
- Robert j. Kuntz - CEO of Three Line Studios, Co-Author of Greyhawk D&D Supplement I, Blackmoor Player
- James Laferrier - Blackmoor Player (a Wizard)
- Ross Maker - Co-Author of Source of the Nile Board Game, Blackmoor Player (a Dwarf)
- David Megarry, a.k.a. McDuff - Creator of the Dungeon! Board Game, Blackmoor Player (a Thief)
- Bob Meyer, a.k.a Robert the Bald - Blackmoor Player (a Wizard)
- Helen Nicholson - Player in Braunstein II and Blackmoor
- Martin Noetzel, a.k.a. The Wandering Elf - Blackmoor Player
- Greg Scott - Founder and CEO of GHQ Miniatures Company
- Kenneth Shepro, a.k.a The Shepra of Puna - Dave Arneson's legal counsel at the beginning of his first lawsuit vs. TSR, Played in Dave Arneson's Napoleonic campaign
- John Snider, a.k.a Boozero - Author of Star Probe, Star Empire, and the unpublished manuscript Star Empires RPG, Blackmoor Player (Fighter)
- Greg Svenson, a.k.a Svenni the Great - Blackmoor Player (Paladin)
- Stephen Rocheford, a.k.a High Priest of the Temple of The Frog - Blackmoor Player
- David Wesely - Author of Strategos-N, Co-Author of Source of the Nile, Creator of the unpublished Braunstein RPG, and Blackmoor Player (a Half Elf)
- Su Wesely
Additional people who appear in the gaming session videos:
- James Gallup Jr.
- James Gallup III
- Nathan Lyke
- Kevin McColl
- "Spike" Shepro
- John Warren
- Luke Weinhagen
Those Who are Unseen, Yet Have Assisted Greatly in Making this Film:
Our 3rd Director on our tiny 3 person location crew. (No really, everyone on our crew is a director!)
- Ryan Swan
- Jonathan Fulton
- Michael Lauter
- John Gingrich
- Stephan Stomberg
Research and Peer Review:
- Jeff Berry
- Daniel Boggs
- Havard (ComeBack Inn Forum)
- Rafael and The Company of the Maiden
- Kevin McColl
- Paul Stormberg
- Ara Winter
Post Production Crew - the Ones Being Flogged Daily to Keep the Ship Moving:
- Ocean Byrne (Animation)
- Michael Lauter (Color)
- Ivy Morgan (Editor)
- And a huge Shout-Out to Alex Kharlamov! (Score and Sound Design)
Script Consultant and Wonderfully Harsh Critic:
- Sara Veglahn
Photos, Documents, and Artifacts
We could not have done this movie without all the artifacts and documents we've been able to acquire via the many private collections of those interviewed, and particularly these 2 extensive collections:
- The David L. Arneson Estate
- The David L. Arneson Collection
Lending us Dave Arneson's Blessing
Last of all, a heartfelt thank you to the David L. Arneson Estate, John and Malia, for all the support you have provided in making the story of the Twin Cities gamers come to life.
Risks and challenges
The only CHALLENGE we foresee is TIME,
Well, and also the possibility that the RINGS OF SATURN may fall off and crash into Denver, Colorado.
We are a small team and we want to make sure that we get the movie out in a timely manner.
Doing a Kickstarter is like adding a bit of nitro into the fuel mix. With the backing of someone like you, we can hire additional professionals to make the final stages go faster.
It has been 5 years. We are past the risk stage, as we funded the entire research, shooting, and editing of this film ourselves ($150k of our own money). Most of all, we have an edit of the film that just needs a bit of polish.
This last stage of post-production can be time consuming, yet necessary, in order to make the movie a high-quality film that will be enjoyed by viewers around the world for years to come.
We intend to complete the film regardless of whether we reach our goals. We're personally invested in this project via our own finances, countless hours of work, and most of all, an emotional connection with this project and our friends--the people who are in the film.
We are seeking KickStarter funding to speed things along, and get the movie out sooner.
No matter what--You Will Get To See This Movie!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (31 days)