I hope this blog post finds all of you well.
While I normally like to write a complete article which has a lot of heavy research with supporting images I am doing something different today. I will simply describe what we found without explaining too much about what it is. It's up to you to figure it all out this time.
I will also do something odd and try to be brief in my descriptions.
At Arnecon, Ken Fletcher approached me with a folder full of documents pertaining to his work when he was at Adventure Games. Ken felt it important to pass on these artifacts to someone who would help preserve and even convey some understanding about what these items are.
When handling stacks of artifacts, I am always careful to wash my hands first, and then I methodically go through the stack from top to bottom taking one sheet at a time and placing it face down after examining it. The goal is to keep the sheets of paper in the same order they were discovered.
The top of the stack were several character sheets for Ken’s, Adventures in Fantasy personas. As we looked these over ken explained that Dave Arneson was wanting to develop his Blackmoor setting to be played with the new game system that had just been published by Adventure Games.
Below that we found many hand drawn maps of Blackmoor. About half of these maps were designed to add detail to the hexes from the 1977 Judges Guild publication, First Fantasy Campaign.
Much deeper into the stack is when we discovered writings by Arneson. Some dating from the time when Ken was receiving these papers and others from much earlier.
This is when my heart rate went sky high as I knew I was seeing things I’d never seen anywhere before. The Ken Fletcher Collection is perhaps one of the most significant collections of Arneson writings I’ve seen to date. Many thanks to Ken for sharing this with everyone.
It’s also a great privilege to preserve these papers for future generations of gamers to be able to see.
Most significant of the all were two sets of post game write ups by Arneson himself.
It isn’t clear when these were written, yet, the content can be no other source but Arneson himself due to the letterhead and what the content reveals.
One set of papers is a detailed write up of the first invasion of Blackmoor Castle which contains some diagrams of the castle with troop placements. The other set of papers is what looks to be the write up that Rob Kuntz is referencing in a letter we used in Secrets of Blackmoor. Rob quotes Arneson when he says “Eeek It’s coming closer,” and also asks, “Who would include a balrog in their midst?” (I am paraphrasing as I can’t recall his exact statement right now.)
As I always do when I make a major discovery, I pass these papers onto the research group. The core group is Dan Boggs, Ara Winter, Nick Lalone, and Micheal Calleia. I could hoard these items and publish alone, but I feel it is important to get the entire group looking these things over and providing their insights and criticism.
Presented here are some photos taken with my camera phone as I was in a hurry and had not scanned anything properly, just yet.
Dating the items is difficult as all we can do is cross reference them with other papers shared from several large collections. There are some indications that Arneson may have been using dungeon adventures before 1971 - but we really need to examine everything closely and take our time.
The images are samples of the maps as well as some samples from a 6 page write up of two early dungeon adventures.
That is all for now, enjoy the excerpts.
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Secrets of Blackmoor is a Feature-length documentary about the birth of the “Mother of all Games;” Dungeons & Dragons.