Earliest Known Map of the Black Moors (1971)
50 years ago something magical was beginning to take form in a basement in the Twin Cities. It would come to be known as Blackmoor, the First Fantasy Campaign.
Imagine that you have a bunch of friends who like playing games. Every weekend you gather and play whatever war game scenario that your Referee has created for you. One day you arrive to find something really different set up on the game table.
Your referee has laid out an entire town on a bay with a castle. HO scale toy train buildings are being used to represent the whole environment.
Each of you is given a persona to play and you begin to discover a new kind of game. What begins as a war game campaign swiftly changes in both scope and scale of play. This game isn’t entirely unfamiliar to you, because you have another friend who ran some scenario based games set in the time of Napoleon, and another of the guys has been running some wild west games where you get to play gun slingers. What immediately sets this game apart is the setting. This is the first time that you are going to play in a fantasy world.
Outline for a Black Moors War Game Campaign (1971)
Not everyone enjoys their experience in this First Fantasy Game, it's either too weird, or too deadly for some of the gamers. Yet another game session is scheduled and everyone gathers to play this home made game again. Before long, this Fantasy Game will become the most popular game with this group of gamers as it evolves into a game of high adventure and exploration.
The explorers in this game will be dubbed, The Blackmoor Bunch. These are the first people to ever play in a Fantasy Role Playing Game.
Nothing in this Blackmoor world is ordinary. Even the town inn has strange magical powers. What’s more, the castle where the baron lives sits right on top of an expansive catacomb of tunnels and chambers inhabited by mysterious creatures that are guarding secret treasures.
It’s difficult to say exactly when the Blackmoor campaign begins. We have scant few documents to tell us about the goings on in the Arneson basement in those days. All we know is that a young man named Dave Arneson has been publishing a local war game fanzine called, The Corner of the Table Top. He also is communicating with some friends in Lake Geneva, Gary Gygax and Rob Kuntz, about a war game group called the Castle and Crusades Society; an organization for medieval time period war gamers that has recently come into existence.
Arneson will take ideas from several games as well as literary and film influences, gothic horror, sci-fi, and fantasy, in order to create a synthesis of all these things within his new game creation. It is hard to pinpoint exactly when his moment of genius occurred. The documents that remain leave no doubt, Dave Arneson is the Father of Fantasy Role Playing Games.
In 1971, David L. Arneson created an entirely new kind of game, Fantasy Role Playing.
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Secrets of Blackmoor is a Feature-length documentary about the birth of the “Mother of all Games;” Dungeons & Dragons.