Tonisborg, Deep Lore, and Yee-ess My Precious!
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!