SECRETS of BLACKMOOR: The True History of D & D Kickstarter

TristramEvans

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So yeah - just stumbled across this: SECRETS OF BLACKMOOR

Anyone know anything about this, or the guys doing it? Surprised with the circles I run in I'd never heard anything about this prior.
 

Voros

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I saw the Youtube promo on it but don’t know the people behind it.
 
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Séadna

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Also surprised to hear so little.

Some of the stuff at the higher pledges are very interesting, one of the (if not the) first megadungeons in a hardback release and also a copy of a playable edited form of Arneson's rules.

I know Jon Peterson has since found other groups who were role-playing at the same time (to be included in the 2nd Ed of Playing at the World), I wonder will there be something about them in this?
 

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I backed this due to this thread and just watched the 24 minute rough cut preview of the Braunstein section. Interesting to put faces to names I only know from "Playing at the World" (PatW hereafter). Funny section about Arneson dying in a duel, possibly the first PC death ever.

I'll wait until the full movie for a proper review. Particularly how much it accepts folk history, in comparison to PatW which does not.
 

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I’m a little leery of it being an extended ‘let me tell you about my character’ stories, not sure how they’ll address that.
 

Séadna

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I just finished watching it there. Overall I think it is quite good.

They follow a historical approach to the whole thing. Although they interview people it's framed in the context of what is known from historical research. The film follows this narrative:
  1. Basic Intro to D&D and roleplaying games and Arneson as a father of roleplaying
  2. Discussion of the prominence of wargames in American pop culture in the 1960s
  3. Formation of Twin Cities group through Dan Nicholson seeing who else rented out C. A. L. Totten's Strategos. Initially they use house rule variants of Avalon Hill games
  4. Commentary on rules influence of Strategos on the group's games and just a bit of discussion on their games. Culminating in adoption of modified Strategos variant "Strategos N" written by David Wesley as the groups official rules. Modified for Napoleonic games.
  5. Strategos introduces referee as adjuticator who runs the game. NPCs emerge as a way of narrating dice rolls, e.g. ship kept morale because brave officer deposed captain. People begin to identify with their commanders who can develop over time, e.g. lose limbs
  6. Wesley leaves, Arneson tries to make a campaign rather than one shots. Fails because he isn't seen as authoritative enough. This leads to the formation of a new group with Arneson as leader
  7. Wesley comes home from College and runs Braunstein. An intelligence gathering scenario that focuses on the element of being one person that had developed during earlier Strategos games. Wesley in separate room running game and thus misses out on player interaction. Also innovative for being a non-zero sum game: other players don't have to lose for you to win.
  8. Run twice more until Braustein IV where Wesley runs it with himself sitting in the same room listening to players narrate and converse with each other. Permits Arneson to make a character rather than simply receiving one.
  9. Arneson begins running massive Napoleonic wargame campaign and meets Gygax around the same time. Campaign starts with a Braunstein style roleplaying session. He introduces the concepts of statted characters for the monarchs.
  10. Duane Jenkins makes Brownstone. A Wild West variant of Braunstein. Introduces the idea of a campaign of these roleplaying games, not them functioning as a goal-based intel gathering prelude to a wargame.
  11. Arneson starts Blackmoor. A medieval Braunstein campaign. Introduces the dungeon as a concept from a Conan story. This requires detailed first person narration and back and forth between the GM and player as the dungeon is slowly explored. Most of the time one is "in character" unlike previous games. Characters are statted like monarchs from Napoleonic campaign.
  12. One of his players makes Dungeon! board game based on experience of Blackmoor.
  13. Meets Gygax, who then uses Blackmoor, Dungeon! and his own Chainmail to make D&D
In essence I think it's a very easily consumed and pruned version of the history one would read in Playing at the World. Historically accurate and not based on folk stories. The major simplification is that there is a main narrative thread created constituting what the film makers see as the "path" to D&D, unlike the sequence of historical facts in Playing at the World. I don't see this as a flaw for either. The "path" constructed is essentially correct as far as I can see, but Playing at the World as a foundational academic text is right not to be that definitive.

Very interesting to see Arneson's father, daughter and many of his gaming group. Also it does avoid "and I played this cool dwarf..." until the very end when it's suiting as a summary of the Blackmoor group's experiences.

Some negatives:
  1. I felt that the initial segment on D&D prior to the documentary proper is overlong and unfocused. To me it just seemed to be a load of people saying unconnected details about D&D and Gygax and Arneson's disagreements with no particular theme.
  2. There is looping generic fantasy music (very much in the style of the Elder Scrolls games) throughout that might drive some people mad. I liked it.
  3. Given how much it is referenced I would have liked some more discussion of Totten and Strategos. However I'm not entirely insensitive as to why they ignored it. Perhaps reaching too much into a history of wargaming in general.
  4. Blackmoor itself doesn't receive a strong enough emphasis at the end. Until then the narrative is good at explaining how each stage is a clear progression from the last. Then suddenly we're told Arneson just makes Blackmoor, that it was "awesome", had dungeons and all the great stuff we expect was in it and then the film ends. I would have prefered a more detailed discussion of what was inventive in Blackmoor itself.
Overall though quite good.
 
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Voros

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I just finished watching it there. Overall I think it is quite good.

They follow a historical approach to the whole thing. Although they interview people it's framed in the context of what is known from historical research. The film follows this narrative:
  1. Basic Intro to D&D and roleplaying games and Arneson as a father of roleplaying
  2. Discussion of the prominence of wargames in American pop culture in the 1960s
  3. Formation of Twin Cities group through Dan Nicholson seeing who else rented out C. A. L. Totten's Strategos. Initially they use house rule variants of Avalon Hill games
  4. Commentary on rules influence of Strategos on the group's games and just a bit of discussion on their games. Culminating in adoption of modified Strategos variant "Strategos N" written by David Wesley as the groups official rules. Modified for Napoleonic games.
  5. Strategos introduces referee as adjuticator who runs the game. NPCs emerge as a way of narrating dice rolls, e.g. ship kept morale because brave officer deposed captain. People begin to identify with their commanders who can develop over time, e.g. lose limbs
  6. Wesley leaves, Arneson tries to make a campaign rather than one shots. Fails because he isn't seen as authoritative enough. This leads to the formation of a new group with Arneson as leader
  7. Wesley comes home from College and runs Braunstein. An intelligence gathering scenario that focuses on the element of being one person that had developed during earlier Strategos games. Wesley in separate room running game and thus misses out on player interaction. Also innovative for being a non-zero sum game: other players don't have to lose for you to win.
  8. Run twice more until Braustein IV where Wesley runs it with himself sitting in the same room listening to players narrate and converse with each other. Permits Arneson to make a character rather than simply receiving one.
  9. Arneson begins running massive Napoleonic wargame campaign and meets Gygax around the same time. Campaign starts with a Braunstein style roleplaying session. He introduces the concepts of statted characters for the monarchs.
  10. Duane Jenkins makes Brownstone. A Wild West variant of Braunstein. Introduces the idea of a campaign of these roleplaying games, not them functioning as a goal-based intel gathering prelude to a wargame.
  11. Arneson starts Blackmoor. A medieval Braunstein campaign. Introduces the dungeon as a concept from a Conan story. This requires detailed first person narration and back and forth between the GM and player as the dungeon is slowly explored. Most of the time one is "in character" unlike previous games. Characters are statted like monarchs from Napoleonic campaign.
  12. One of his players makes Dungeon! board game based on experience of Blackmoor.
  13. Meets Gygax, who then uses Blackmoor, Dungeon! and his own Chainmail to make D&D
In essence I think it's a very easily consumed and pruned version of the history one would read in Playing at the World. Historically accurate and not based on folk stories. The major simplification is that there is a main narrative thread created constituting what the film makers see as the "path" to D&D, unlike the sequence of historical facts in Playing at the World. I don't see this as a flaw for either. The "path" constructed is essentially correct as far as I can see, but Playing at the World as a foundational academic text is right not to be that definitive.

Very interesting to see Arneson's father, daughter and many of his gaming group. Also it does avoid "and I played this cool dwarf..." until the very end when it's suiting as a summary of the Blackmoor group's experiences.

Some negatives:
  1. I felt that the initial segment on D&D prior to the documentary proper is overlong and unfocused. To me it just seemed to be a load of people saying unconnected details about D&D and Gygax and Arneson's disagreements with no particular theme.
  2. There is looping generic fantasy music (very much in the style of the Elder Scrolls games) throughout that might drive some people mad. I liked it.
  3. Given how much it is referenced I would have liked some more discussion of Totten and Strategos. However I'm not entirely insensitive as to why they ignored it. Perhaps reaching too much into a history of wargaming in general.
  4. Blackmoor itself doesn't receive a strong enough emphasis at the end. Until then the narrative is good at explaining how each stage is a clear progression from the last. Then suddenly we're told Arneson just makes Blackmoor, that it was "awesome", had dungeons and all the great stuff we expect was in it and then the film ends. I would have prefered a more detailed discussion of what was inventive in Blackmoor itself.
Overall though quite good.
Where did you see it?

Any discussion of Gygax and Arneson working on the rules together as Peterson has been filling in more of those holes on his blog?
 

Justin Alexander

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I saw it at the world premiere in Minneapolis last week.

I was generally underwhelmed:

(1) The film has some significant technical issues. (Shots that weren't exported correctly so they "jerk" across the screen. Mistimed edits which leave the screen inexplicably blank. Et cetera.)

(2) Although supposedly given access to a huge wealth of new material, there are no new revelations in this film. If you've read Playing the World, this is, at best, an abridged version of that much better researched narrative. If you haven't read Playing the World... you should probably just read Playing the World.

(3) The film is frequently fighting against the fact that a number of the people they're interviewing have a narrative history of those events which (a) they're deeply invested in and yet (b) contradict both each other and the contemporary documentary evidence. Rather than grappling with this difficulty, which is quite pronounced given that much of the film's narrative is propelled through these interviews, they've chosen to just sort of edit over the top of it.

(4) It is not clear to me that the filmmakers actually understand the material they had access to. For example, they have a shot of the Castle Blackmoor miniature. It's possibly the Castle Blackmoor miniature that Arneson built... but perhaps not, they never explain what it is. Either way, though, they don't use this footage of the Castle Blackmoor miniature in conjunction with Castle Blackmoor. Instead, they show it while introducing Weseley's Braunstein game (with the juxtaposed implication being that it's the fortress from the first Braunstein).
 

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Where did you see it?

Any discussion of Gygax and Arneson working on the rules together as Peterson has been filling in more of those holes on his blog?
Vimeo link released to backers. I agree with Justin above that if you've read Playing at the World there is nothing new in this film for you. It's just an abridged version of that. So in your case I probably wouldn't pay for it. I think though it's a good documentary for people who'd find Playing at the World to be too much detail. I watched it with my brother who hasn't read Playing at the World and he felt he learned a good bit.

No there is very little on their collaboration. This is a consequence of the rushed Blackmoor section. The film is better on the Twin Cities gaming leading to Braunstein and its variants. The actual Blackmoor to D&D part is just basically "after they met Gygax, he took Dungeon!, Blackmoor and Chainmail and made D&D" and that's it.
 
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Séadna

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(3) The film is frequently fighting against the fact that a number of the people they're interviewing have a narrative history of those events which (a) they're deeply invested in and yet (b) contradict both each other and the contemporary documentary evidence. Rather than grappling with this difficulty, which is quite pronounced given that much of the film's narrative is propelled through these interviews, they've chosen to just sort of edit over the top of it.
What did you find to be a particularly bad example of this?
 
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Justin Alexander

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What did you find to be a particularly bad example of this?
I'd have to see the film again (or at least get access to a copy I could reference) to be particularly specific here. The instance I particularly noticed was a section that's Greg Svenson clearly relating his "surviving the first dungeon adventure" story (which you can read here in what I believe is its most recent revision). I'm not going to be able to recall exactly how it was presented in the film, but I was struck by how they were clearly editing around the details of that story in order to for it to be consistent with the general timeline they were presenting.

For those unfamiliar with this topic, there are several key cruxes in the early history of Blackmoor:

When the first session was played: Several key pieces of documentary evidence are widely considered to point to 1971 as the date of the first Blackmoor sessions. (These are not actually conclusive, IMO, they're just the earliest contemporary documentary evidence that can be reliably dated.) This date has gotten particular weight after the publication of Playing the World, because Peterson virulently rejected all eyewitness accounts in favor of contemporary documentary evidence. (For which, to be clear, Peterson has very good reasons.)

Virtually all of the original Blackmoor players cited 1970 as the date of inception. Although several people, including Arneson, decided their memories must be faulty after looking at the documentary evidence, the most significant testimony is that of David Fant: He was the original Baron of Blackmoor (infamously becoming the first vampire), he definitively played in the earliest sessions of Blackmoor, and yet he stopped playing when he got a full time job at KSTP at the end of 1970 and definitely was not playing in 1971. (The fact he can definitively date the event which caused him to stop playing with Arneson lends his account substantial credibility.)

What the first session actually consisted of: The three main variations of the tale are the dungeon crawl ("we came in, there was a model of Castle Blackmoor in the middle of the table, and we started exploring the castle's dungeons instead of playing the Napoleonics game we were supposed to"), the troll under the bridge (related in a fanzine and also attested to by players as being the first use of Chainmail), and the "rescue Dave Arneson from a plane crash in Europe, go through a cave, and emerge into the world of Blackmoor" (in which everyone was playing themselves and only later transitioned to a form of the campaign where they were playing different characters).

Who actually played in that first session: Even once you get past what the first session was, there's significant disagreement over who was there.

What were the original rules: Did the original Blackmoor use the Chainmail rules for combat or not? This is incredibly complicated by the later TSR vs. Arneson lawsuits where the question of whether or not Arneson's game was derivative of Chainmail was legally significant.

To give a small sampling:

David Fant says he was at the first session, it was the "castle in the middle of the table instead of Napoleonics and we went into the dungeon" variation, and Dave asked him if he wanted to be the Baron of the castle.

Bob Meyer says he was at the first session, it was the "troll under the bridge" scenario, and it definitely used the Chainmail rules because he died in one hit as a result, declared he thought the game was terrible, and refused to play again for several years.

Greg Svenson says he was at the first session (later revised to be the "first dungeon adventure"), it was the "castle in the middle of the table instead of Napoleonics and we went into the dungeon" variation, and it involved Baron Fant being an NPC (which clearly contradicts Fant's account).

(To be clear, I'm not saying of these people are being deliberately deceptive. I'm saying these things happened a long time ago, it's quite likely that there were many people who played in what they thought was the "first session" of the game without being aware that Arneson had run stuff in the Black Moors before that, and there are also all the foibles of an inconsistently shared communal narrative PLUS the complications of the Gygax vs. Arneson feud and legal troubles.)
 

Séadna

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I'd have to see the film again (or at least get access to a copy I could reference) to be particularly specific here. The instance I particularly noticed was a section that's Greg Svenson clearly relating his "surviving the first dungeon adventure" story (which you can read here in what I believe is its most recent revision). I'm not going to be able to recall exactly how it was presented in the film, but I was struck by how they were clearly editing around the details of that story in order to for it to be consistent with the general timeline they were presenting.
Thanks for that. The whole Blackmoor section was the true weak point I felt. When the documentary reaches it they had established there was a conception of a roleplaying campaign as seen in Brownstone rather than roleplaying as a special first session of a wargame. From Braunstein IV there was the idea of character building to some degree and the Referee remaining in the same room constantly reacting to events. We also had the idea of statted characters from the Napoleonic campaign.

However what Blackmoor actually did to go beyond this is left vague. It implies there was an increase in first person narrative due to the idea of dungeon exploration and getting more into your character's perspective due to the dungeon being slowly revealed.

I just rewatched the section there and in fact they just say "Blackmoor had evolved, it was no longer a Braunstein game" after the commenting about characters being statted in the Napoleonic campaign, but there is almost no lead into that.

As a side note I think we need a documentary about Totten.
 

Secrets of Blakcmoor

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Thanks for watching.

Yes, many tiny flaws.

We agreed to too early a premier date. The film was rushed to completion. Some things were left out, such as text that identifies documents and photos. We're fixing that now.

Others come from it being mostly self funded and being made on a very low budget.

There are a couple of clips that were recorded on a bad SD card. These clips stutter. We had to decide whether the footage was important enough to go ahead and use as is, or simply not use it - we chose to go for content over appearance, but now we find people want slick over meaning. We can't reproduce those moments that ended up flawed. They are magical.

The last section of the film is the least worked section. It is being refined. Yet, we are finding that many gamers are bringing huge expectations and misconceptions to what the film is, despite the long title. and the mention of it being only Volume 1. Many have a problem with not enough Blackmoor. To be clear, this film is an analysis of how the Twin Cities gamers evolve roleplaying, most of which is narrated in their own words.

It's sort of amusing to watch Game of Thrones fans demand a redo. ;)

And some of the criticism here is worth while for us to hear. For instance, David Megarry very clearly describes how Blackmoor is different when he says, and I paraphrase: we were no longer fighting each other, we were working as team. And we were all playing against Arneson, but it's not like we even understand that. For us it is the problem he is presenting to us.

Perhaps we need more narration to drive this point home. We felt the info was in the interviews. So maybe we aren't presenting it well.

Then later on Greg Svenson says, again I paraphrase: We didn't see a difference in how we played the game. To us it was the same game, but now we had our own copies.

Maybe we need to be clear that the play style that is used in D&D is created by Arneson in blackmoor. hmmm...

As to comparisons with Peterson, it seems unfair to do so, as we are under the limitations of being a film where we have a fixed time span to tell our story and Jon is self published author of a book.

Furthermore, we had to do our own research, much of which contradicts Peterson's work in many places. Jon has a lot of dates and citations wrong in his book. These mistakes can be misleading. As an example, he seemed to overlook that Wesely's published version of Strategos clearly states that the rules had been in use for several years. This is the first sentence of the foreword. Wesely himself says he didn't have the money to publish right away, so the manuscript sat in his hands for a long time, thus stretching the date of when the TC gamers use the book to an earlier date. Jon makes strong assertions as to the absence of any evidence for the use of Strategos despite this information and the existence of other variants that are clearly derived from Wesely that appear in 1968. It is to be expected on such a large manuscript, with no peer review or editing assistance, but we knew we had to get our research dead on.

Should Jon be pilloried for these problems in his book. I don't think so. Yet, what I often see when people use his book as a gaming history bible, is that all facts are swallowed with no critical thought as to their veracity.

Is it fair to use something that is has errors as the ruler for determining if our movie is flawed?

So once again, I must bring up flaws in some of his assertions. Even something as simple as the dates when Arneson published Corner of the Table Top. Jon is very firm on his dating. And yet when I began to assemble research, my collection went beyond his. It is a simple mistake, Jon assumed there were no more issues and went a bit far in making a hard statement in his text. Well, out pops an issue from 1986!

Should Jon's book be disregarded because of a minor flaw? Again, I do not think so.

One of our researchers found an earlier source for hit points that contradicts Peterson. it was discovered in Dave Arneson/ Randy Hoffa, Strategos A (ancients), where elephants have multiple hit points. Again, so much stuff to look at.

In terms of our film, I find it unfair to claim Peterson is the true source, and our film is flawed and not worth watching. If you found actual historical flaws, show them to us. We will either prove you wrong, and by that I mean that we will slap you down like a snot nosed teenager, or redact our comments in future. It's not about us, it's about getting the facts straight. Over the past 5 years we've had our facts wrong and had to retool the movie several times. We're used to it.

The quantity of material available for research is staggering. I know this because I have reviewed many of the same collections that Jon has. In fact, when I found the Spanish Royals Character Matrix stats sheet in the Nicholson collection, Jon himself congratulated me. He had been through that collection and missed it! It was just too much stuff and he overlooked it.

And to say we reveal nothing new, is factually incorrect, and unfair to the film. I don't want to put spoilers up. PM me if you want details.

This is why we recruited other researchers to go to work on the factual side of things.

We feel we have done a good job on the research. Paul Stormberg was at the screening and he seems to find no historical flaws in the narrative. He was highly impressed because unlike all other sources, there is no absurd holy grail context for the story, or one person sprang this forth from their brain overnight myth. RPG's are not created by just one person.

The story of how Role Playing Games evolve is very complex. We ignore rules and focus on behavior because our approach is coming from a mixture of disciplines in our research team, and the primary approach being from an anthropological perspective.

When I see comments about us not knowing our material, you have to understand that we are not showing you all the material. There is not enough time to show it. i.e. You have not seen the Snider Variant which likely predates all D&D drafts and is derived from directly from Blackmoor. It has all kinds of things that appear in D&D. What's even cooler is that any character can go spend money and be trained to cast spells.

We also chose to ignore the schism between Gygax and Arneson. We mention it, but our feeling on it is that it is not relevant to telling the story of how RPG's come into existence. All the other unknown stuff is way more important.

Peterson does not establish a cohesive study of RPG's; there is no thesis within his text. In fact, Peterson's book is best described as a narrated trip through his personal collection; and it is an excellent resource, don't think I am slamming everything Jon has done.

Our film has established a thesis and ground rules for how we measure what an RPG is, with several types being described in the film. These ideas came from close listening to interviews with the people who made them. Rather than saying: if it looks like D&D it is an RPG, we say, if there are play behaviors that look like RPG's, it is a type of RPG of X kind.

Peterson is confusing in how he connects Braunstein to Blackmoor and then D&D - We aren't.

The only researcher we seem to be in agreement with is Robert Kuntz in many regards. And even Rob likes to disagree with us. Yet, we mostly disagree over the significance of scope and kind when it comes to RPG's.

So yes, if you are going to cite Peterson, then you must cite Robert Kuntz book: Dave Arneson's True Genius

Not enough Blackmoor. Well, we have hours of people talking Blackmoor. We pat ourselves on the back for getting interviews with some of the guys who have now passed away. No one ever bothered to go talk to most of the people in our film and our archive will be a resource for researchers to come. It's too late to interview both Peter Gaylord and Duane Jenkins, and both were very ill when we did so. It was an honor to speak with them.

We also provide contradictory statements by people because these are their memories. They are entitled to them as they are. Does it matter if someone says they did something monumental on the wrong date, or is it more valuable to see them describe the memory of having done it?

And again, the quantity of material. We had to skim a lot of things. there isn't enough time to explain what campaign Arneson was running when. There is no time to break down the narrative of how Blackmoor evolves. All we can do is give a feel for it.

We have around 2 hundred of hours of footage which we boiled down to 2 hours. At the premier the interviewer kept asking how we did it. She wanted some secret trick for it. Well there is no trick. You just find a thread of discussion and then begin to match it to other threads. And then you spend over 5 years doing that over and over. Never mind also doing as much research as others have done simply to write a book. Nope gotta keep hours of images and audio in my head to edit the film. ;)

There is too much material. if you add something, you have cut something else. We likely have enough footage for about 3 films.

This first film is an essay on the evolution of the play style. The second volume will be about the Blackmoor campaign in more detail.

Thus far, we know of about 6 film attempts. First out is Eye of the Beholder. It looks really good, but it is a different type of film since it covers the artwork from D&D. It's an awesome idea and I'm glad to see it come out. Go watch it!

As to all the others, no one else has a complete film. Many could not survive all the rigors of film making that are required to follow through to the end. Some begged for tons of money and delivered nothing. All of them thought what we thought at first - Oh, cool we'll get this done by next year. If you had told me it would 5 and half + years I would have bailed out before making the film.

Nope, the subject is a huge undertaking. We're the first. We could put it out as-is right now, but we're gonna do some more tweaks to make it a little better.

In the end most films are not completed. They are simply abandoned. The directors know they can't add enough to it to make it better. Or, they fear that if they change it too much, the thread of the story will begin to unravel as they go laterally rather than forward. And also, because the intense focus on one story becomes exhausting.

So yes, some of the criticism here is good as it will help retool the last section of the film, and some of it is very unfair.

I appreciate your comments, I hope you take mine into consideration.

Griff

Oh yeah, the castle. Arneson's castle is used all over the place because it is used all over the place. Wesely used it as the building for Braunstein University. Arneson also used it as a prop in his photos he took to be used, then redacted, for DGUTS. And, it is used as blackmoor castle. We will be adding text. Thanks for the criticism.
 
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Voros

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Thanks for watching.

Yes, many tiny flaws.

We agreed to too early a premier date. The film was rushed to completion. Some things were left out, such as text that identifies documents and photos. We're fixing that now.

Others come from it being mostly self funded and being made on a very low budget.

There are a couple of clips that were recorded on a bad SD card. These clips stutter. We had to decide whether the footage was important enough to go ahead and use as is, or simply not use it - we chose to go for content over appearance, but now we find people want slick over meaning. We can't reproduce those moments that ended up flawed. They are magical.

The last section of the film is the least worked section. It is being refined. Yet, we are finding that many gamers are bringing huge expectations and misconceptions to what the film is, despite the long title. and the mention of it being only Volume 1. Many have a problem with not enough Blackmoor. To be clear, this film is an analysis of how the Twin Cities gamers evolve roleplaying, most of which is narrated in their own words.

It's sort of amusing to watch Game of Thrones fans demand a redo. ;)

And some of the criticism here is worth while for us to hear. For instance, David Megarry very clearly describes how Blackmoor is different when he says, and I paraphrase: we were no longer fighting each other, we were working as team. And we were all playing against Arneson, but it's not like we even understand that. For us it is the problem he is presenting to us.

Perhaps we need more narration to drive this point home. We felt the info was in the interviews. So maybe we aren't presenting it well.

Then later on Greg Svenson says, again I paraphrase: We didn't see a difference in how we played the game. To us it was the same game, but now we had our own copies.

Maybe we need to be clear that the play style that is used in D&D is created by Arneson in blackmoor. hmmm...

As to comparisons with Peterson, it seems unfair to do so, as we are under the limitations of being a film where we have a fixed time span to tell our story and Jon is self published author of a book.

Furthermore, we had to do our own research, much of which contradicts Peterson's work in many places. Jon has a lot of dates and citations wrong in his book. These mistakes can be misleading. As an example, he seemed to overlook that Wesely's published version of Strategos clearly states that the rules had been in use for several years. This is the first sentence of the foreword. Wesely himself says he didn't have the money to publish right away, so the manuscript sat in his hands for a long time, thus stretching the date of when the TC gamers use the book to an earlier date. Jon makes strong assertions as to the absence of any evidence for the use of Strategos despite this information and the existence of other variants that are clearly derived from Wesely that appear in 1968. It is to be expected on such a large manuscript, with no peer review or editing assistance, but we knew we had to get our research dead on.

Should Jon be pilloried for these problems in his book. I don't think so. Yet, what I often see when people use his book as a gaming history bible, is that all facts are swallowed with no critical thought as to their veracity.

Is it fair to use something that is has errors as the ruler for determining if our movie is flawed?

So once again, I must bring up flaws in some of his assertions. Even something as simple as the dates when Arneson published Corner of the Table Top. Jon is very firm on his dating. And yet when I began to assemble research, my collection went beyond his. It is a simple mistake, Jon assumed there were no more issues and went a bit far in making a hard statement in his text. Well, out pops an issue from 1986!

Should Jon's book be disregarded because of a minor flaw? Again, I do not think so.

One of our researchers found an earlier source for hit points that contradicts Peterson. it was discovered in Dave Arneson/ Randy Hoffa, Strategos A (ancients), where elephants have multiple hit points. Again, so much stuff to look at.

In terms of our film, I find it unfair to claim Peterson is the true source, and our film is flawed and not worth watching. If you found actual historical flaws, show them to us. We will either prove you wrong, and by that I mean that we will slap you down like a snot nosed teenager, or redact our comments in future. It's not about us, it's about getting the facts straight. Over the past 5 years we've had our facts wrong and had to retool the movie several times. We're used to it.

The quantity of material available for research is staggering. I know this because I have reviewed many of the same collections that Jon has. In fact, when I found the Spanish Royals Character Matrix stats sheet in the Nicholson collection, Jon himself congratulated me. He had been through that collection and missed it! It was just too much stuff and he overlooked it.

And to say we reveal nothing new, is factually incorrect, and unfair to the film. I don't want to put spoilers up. PM me if you want details.

This is why we recruited other researchers to go to work on the factual side of things.

We feel we have done a good job on the research. Paul Stormberg was at the screening and he seems to find no historical flaws in the narrative. He was highly impressed because unlike all other sources, there is no absurd holy grail context for the story, or one person sprang this forth from their brain overnight myth. RPG's are not created by just one person.

The story of how Role Playing Games evolve is very complex. We ignore rules and focus on behavior because our approach is coming from a mixture of disciplines in our research team, and the primary approach being from an anthropological perspective.

When I see comments about us not knowing our material, you have to understand that we are not showing you all the material. There is not enough time to show it. i.e. You have not seen the Snider Variant which likely predates all D&D drafts and is derived from directly from Blackmoor. It has all kinds of things that appear in D&D. What's even cooler is that any character can go spend money and be trained to cast spells.

We also chose to ignore the schism between Gygax and Arneson. We mention it, but our feeling on it is that it is not relevant to telling the story of how RPG's come into existence. All the other unknown stuff is way more important.

Peterson does not establish a cohesive study of RPG's; there is no thesis within his text. In fact, Peterson's book is best described as a narrated trip through his personal collection; and it is an excellent resource, don't think I am slamming everything Jon has done.

Our film has established a thesis and ground rules for how we measure what an RPG is, with several types being described in the film. These ideas came from close listening to interviews with the people who made them. Rather than saying: if it looks like D&D it is an RPG, we say, if there are play behaviors that look like RPG's, it is a type of RPG of X kind.

Peterson is confusing in how he connects Braunstein to Blackmoor and then D&D - We aren't.

The only researcher we seem to be in agreement with is Robert Kuntz in many regards. And even Rob likes to disagree with us. Yet, we mostly disagree over the significance of scope and kind when it comes to RPG's.

So yes, if you are going to cite Peterson, then you must cite Robert Kuntz book: Dave Arneson's True Genius

Not enough Blackmoor. Well, we have hours of people talking Blackmoor. We pat ourselves on the back for getting interviews with some of the guys who have now passed away. No one ever bothered to go talk to most of the people in our film and our archive will be a resource for researchers to come. It's too late to interview both Peter Gaylord and Duane Jenkins, and both were very ill when we did so. It was an honor to speak with them.

We also provide contradictory statements by people because these are their memories. They are entitled to them as they are. Does it matter if someone says they did something monumental on the wrong date, or is it more valuable to see them describe the memory of having done it?

And again, the quantity of material. We had to skim a lot of things. there isn't enough time to explain what campaign Arneson was running when. There is no time to break down the narrative of how Blackmoor evolves. All we can do is give a feel for it.

We have around 2 hundred of hours of footage which we boiled down to 2 hours. At the premier the interviewer kept asking how we did it. She wanted some secret trick for it. Well there is no trick. You just find a thread of discussion and then begin to match it to other threads. And then you spend over 5 years doing that over and over. Never mind also doing as much research as others have done simply to write a book. Nope gotta keep hours of images and audio in my head to edit the film. ;)

There is too much material. if you add something, you have cut something else. We likely have enough footage for about 3 films.

This first film is an essay on the evolution of the play style. The second volume will be about the Blackmoor campaign in more detail.

Thus far, we know of about 6 film attempts. First out is Eye of the Beholder. It looks really good, but it is a different type of film since it covers the artwork from D&D. It's an awesome idea and I'm glad to see it come out. Go watch it!

As to all the others, no one else has a complete film. Many could not survive all the rigors of film making that are required to follow through to the end. Some begged for tons of money and delivered nothing. All of them thought what we thought at first - Oh, cool we'll get this done by next year. If you had told me it would 5 and half + years I would have bailed out before making the film.

Nope, the subject is a huge undertaking. We're the first. We could put it out as-is right now, but we're gonna do some more tweaks to make it a little better.

In the end most films are not completed. They are simply abandoned. The directors know they can't add enough to it to make it better. Or, they fear that if they change it too much, the thread of the story will begin to unravel as they go laterally rather than forward. And also, because the intense focus on one story becomes exhausting.

So yes, some of the criticism here is good as it will help retool the last section of the film, and some of it is very unfair.

I appreciate your comments, I hope you take mine into consideration.

Griff

Oh yeah, the castle. Arneson's castle is used all over the place because it is used all over the place. Wesely used it as the building for Braunstein University. Arneson also used it as a prop in his photos he took to be used, then redacted, for DGUTS. And, it is used as blackmoor castle. We will be adding text. Thanks for the criticism.
I wouldn’t expect a doc to cover anywhere near the ground or depth of a book, I think it makes sense to focus on telling a compelling story for a documentary. A well edited, slick presentation that makes the story accessible is what the hobby needs.

I don’t doubt that there are going to be some errors in his massive tome but I very much agree with Peterson’s decision to favour documented sources over memories and verbal stories. Far too much weight is given to the latter in gamer circles imo. I’m sure Jon would be happy to be corrected when there is good evidence and your own statements seem to reinforce that.

But a documentary is obviously going to favour the verbal over documents. Different formats and all that. I would just hope one would avoid contributing to a lot of the resentments, politicking and false narratives pushed by fans online.

As to the Gygax/Arneson split. I can see avoiding it as it has taken up most of the oxygen on the origins of the hobby.

At the same time I do think some research into who contributed what is important, right now the fan narrative is that Arneson contributed the idea and Gygax ‘did all the work’ although there are reasons to believe that is not a complete picture. But considering the toxicity of the fandom probably best for that to be addressed in a book with strict documentation and detail rather than a doc based on verbal stories and memories.
 

Séadna

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Just to respond to a few of your points @Secrets of Blakcmoor

Firstly let me say I don't think Peterson's book invalidates your film. Above I said I think it is a worthwhile film for fans of the hobby who don't want to work through an academic monograph. I'd say this is a bigger audience than the more hardcore of us here. I mentioned above watching it with my brother who felt he learned a good deal from it, as have others I've shown it to since.

My comment was confined to somebody who has read Peterson spending money on the documentary. This is not a criticism as I outlined. If you were an expert on Babylonian history I wouldn't recommend paying for a popular documentary on the well established essentially correct history of Mesopotamia.

The last section of the film is the least worked section. It is being refined. Yet, we are finding that many gamers are bringing huge expectations and misconceptions to what the film is, despite the long title. and the mention of it being only Volume 1. Many have a problem with not enough Blackmoor. To be clear, this film is an analysis of how the Twin Cities gamers evolve roleplaying, most of which is narrated in their own words.

It's sort of amusing to watch Game of Thrones fans demand a redo. ;)

And some of the criticism here is worth while for us to hear. For instance, David Megarry very clearly describes how Blackmoor is different when he says, and I paraphrase: we were no longer fighting each other, we were working as team. And we were all playing against Arneson, but it's not like we even understand that. For us it is the problem he is presenting to us.

Perhaps we need more narration to drive this point home. We felt the info was in the interviews. So maybe we aren't presenting it well.
Regarding the part in bold it is a good presentation of exactly that component of RPG history. The Twin Cities group evolving the roleplaying concept via Strategos and experimentation.

Now I understand that it is a Volume I and thus there are topics you will be dealing with later. Great to hear there will be more on Blackmoor later. However as it stands there is a good bit of running time that is concerned with Blackmoor and people I've shown it to have been a bit confused after watching it what exactly Blackmoor did. It is basically implied and sketched out in the interviews, but I think you simply need to "cement" it in the viewer's mind with a lead in or follow on line from the narrator. The narrator currently only says the vague "Blackmoor had evolved", perhaps something mentioning "the group were working as a party..." (I'm no script writer!) with a little bit about how it had become about Arneson challenging them rather than adjudicating a roleplayed "competition" as it was even in Braunstein IV.

From simple experience I just think the narrator needs to frame it like he does for other sections.
 

Secrets of Blakcmoor

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Thanks for all the criticism.

After careful study perhaps one or two lines would help clarify what this is, by saying something like:

Where the referee and players create a shared reality like a complex game of make believe.
 

Secrets of Blakcmoor

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I'd have to see the film again (or at least get access to a copy I could reference) to be particularly specific here. The instance I particularly noticed was a section that's Greg Svenson clearly relating his "surviving the first dungeon adventure" story (which you can read here in what I believe is its most recent revision). I'm not going to be able to recall exactly how it was presented in the film, but I was struck by how they were clearly editing around the details of that story in order to for it to be consistent with the general timeline they were presenting.

For those unfamiliar with this topic, there are several key cruxes in the early history of Blackmoor:

When the first session was played: Several key pieces of documentary evidence are widely considered to point to 1971 as the date of the first Blackmoor sessions. (These are not actually conclusive, IMO, they're just the earliest contemporary documentary evidence that can be reliably dated.) This date has gotten particular weight after the publication of Playing the World, because Peterson virulently rejected all eyewitness accounts in favor of contemporary documentary evidence. (For which, to be clear, Peterson has very good reasons.)

Virtually all of the original Blackmoor players cited 1970 as the date of inception. Although several people, including Arneson, decided their memories must be faulty after looking at the documentary evidence, the most significant testimony is that of David Fant: He was the original Baron of Blackmoor (infamously becoming the first vampire), he definitively played in the earliest sessions of Blackmoor, and yet he stopped playing when he got a full time job at KSTP at the end of 1970 and definitely was not playing in 1971. (The fact he can definitively date the event which caused him to stop playing with Arneson lends his account substantial credibility.)
Our crew debates the whole first blackmoor event endlessly.

I keep demanding a series of stages of evolution since all the evidence points to the games changing. I too beleive something Blacckmoor happened earlier, but we have no records that exist of it.

Svenson says xmass 1970.

Yet, the notes we have from David Megarry seem to indicate later dates.

Arneson often described his game as beginning with dungeons, but the notices and the stories from other players do not support this narrative.

Arneson is actually very inconsistent in his accounts. We think he came around to the date of 1971, because it was what could be proven in the trial.

One thing of note, is that CM was published after Blackmoor began. So some historians will claim that Arneson must have had a draft copy. I do not believe he did. I think Arneson simply grafted combat tables into his games later, and then removed them as they become burdensome.

Dating Blackmoor and defining it is difficult. I think that anyone who tries to put hard dates on many of the key events is wading into a land of make believe. We have the Arneson letter to gary, where he includes a description of his game world and a map. Yet those were given out to his players, possibly earlier.

I do think those who want to push back the start date, are sort of flogging a dead horse. It actually does not matter if it happened 9 monthes earlier or 9 months later, as the proof of Arneson having invented Fantasy Roleplaying and Dungeons is readily available, and much of the later narrative is false, and comes from issues surrounding the ownership and revenue from a huge commodity.

Of course, this view runs counter to Peterson's view. He published a section of the Blackmoor gazette and rumor monger, yet redacted the part where it describes going to dungeons and adventuring. Again, when you work on a large project, things fall through the cracks. I have no interest in attacking Jon. But now that I have seen all of them, my view is different.

Also, Jon has slapped me around on some of my own flawed assertions, it's part of the game.

We are the only people to openly publish a large number of documents that have been closely held by collectors for a long time. Most of it is up on our facebook page. Lots of things that you can pore over and decide for yourselves what it means. We have no intention of controlling the narrative on these things, we merely present our interpretation.


Scroll into it a bit, you can find rumor mongers and many other old things to tickle your brain.

The only things we redact are those we do not own copyright to, have specific contracts for use on, and those we plan to publish in a complete annotated volume later on, such as Corner of the Table Top.
 

TristramEvans

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apropos of nothing, the model used for Castle Blackmoor is still readily available...

 

robertsconley

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I thought the Branzoll model that Dave used was HO scale not N scale.
 
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Gronan of Simmerya

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I would bet that the model was designed first, and then they called it N scale later. Many older models are "box scale" -- that is, sized to fit in a standard box.

I wonder when the model came out vs when N scale was developed?
 

robertsconley

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I would bet that the model was designed first, and then they called it N scale later. Many older models are "box scale" -- that is, sized to fit in a standard box.

I wonder when the model came out vs when N scale was developed?
According to Wikipedia N Scale was developed in 1962 by Arnold of Germany. According to the article it caught on quickly as a standard within 2 years unlike other gauges which were more defacto standards

This article

Details the history of Kibri which took advantage of the emergence of N Scale

Kibri entered N Scale in 1964 with several plastic structure kits of small chalets, and proceeded to build their product line to become one of the dominant players in this market segment. Their name is synonymous with quality tooling; some of their castles and cathedrals are extraordinary.
So yes it looks like Branzoll was always N Scale. Although there was some HO Scale and larger castle in use as described in this article about Bodenberg.


Elastolin produced an assortment of vacuformed plastic castles, scales for use with figures from 25mm to 40mm.
This appears relevant since Branzoll is a Kibri brand model


In 1965, Nathan R. Preston of Chicago began importing practically anything he could get his hands on, including Kibri, KleiWe, Peco, Preiser, Sommerfeldt, Trix and more. A year later, Con-Cor International introduced Sekisui of Japan (now known as Kato) to the US. In addition to representing many other domestic dealers and striking co-branding agreements with a number of overseas manufacturers, Con-Cor began commissioning Sekisui to produce North American models.
 
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Secrets of Blakcmoor

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You can find Branzol easily enough. It is in northern Italy. It's fun to use google street view and try to get close to it.

Just to blather on about film making. We have so many really wonderful moments with all of the guys. Yet, so many of these sections are too long to use in their entirety in the film.

One thing we are doing is putting out freebie videos of the choice long sections.

Here is a nearly 10 minute section with Robert Meyer talking about what it was like to war game with the guys.

 
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Secrets of Blakcmoor

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My other bad habit is model railroading. So I am amused to see a bunch of gamers searching up info on N scale. - tee hee hee

As a side note, Michael Mornard shares this odd passion as well. We often talk about our latest model projects. He's doing some nice HO scale boxcars for his layout and I am doing some not so nice home made models for my 1/55n3 layout.
 

Gronan of Simmerya

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By the way I liked the little industrial switcher you did. If you decide you done like the stack, you could use brass tube with a wrapping of masking tape to model an exhaust pipe with muffler like an old tractor.
 

Secrets of Blakcmoor

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By the way I liked the little industrial switcher you did. If you decide you done like the stack, you could use brass tube with a wrapping of masking tape to model an exhaust pipe with muffler like an old tractor.
I actually have found a very close simili to that stack on an old narrow gauge gas mechanical from around 1930.


You can pan scan and zoom this old plymouth on the DPL digital media site.

I don't mind my models being a bit off historically. When we were kids half the toy trains were some bizarre mix of numerous locos. Remember the old tyco F9's. I think those have heaters like the passenger veriosn of an F7. it's a hodge podge.

I just build what appeals to my sense of beauty with these things. So far: A Gilpin Tram caboose, a sort og Gilpin tramway gondola, A random tank car sorta looks like any you would find back in 1890-1930, And a Prince Edward Island Railway Baggage car.

I do a lot of searches for Blue Prints so I can use them as guides for my semi actual models. https://princestreet.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/waycar56_draftnoscalev2.png?w=620
 

TristramEvans

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Funny, I'd totally forgotten this thread!

Looking back now after having watched it I'd say that even as someone whose read Playing at the World a few times, I got a lot out of it.
 

Secrets of Blakcmoor

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Funny, I'd totally forgotten this thread!

Looking back now after having watched it I'd say that even as someone whose read Playing at the World a few times, I got a lot out of it.
Jon is a good dude. His book Playing at the World is an essential source for anyone interested in this history. Like all research something will be discovered later that reveals a different twist on the history. You really need to proof and fact check everything in his book as the research is changing. He himself is posting changes on his Blog. I am kind of a archeology and cultural anthropology buff, seen it happen way too many times in those fields.

We dig pretty deep. Our approach was closer to anthropological research than just the physical affects and documents. We ended up with much different results. Of primary concern was having some method for describing RPG's. No other source seems to have done this. We used the concept of scope in order to describe RPG's. It allowed us to assign the RPG moniker to everything from Strategos (1880) to D&D (1974) and then break it down into stages such as:

RPG Wargame
RPG Domain Game, or Military Campaign
Character Driven RPG, the Bruanstein
(Unspoken withtin the text, yet implied) The persistent reality RPG, Brownstone Texas
The Adventure game, Blackmoor and D&D

Not everyone will agree with this system. At last we're beginning to move the science of RPG game research forward by adding some kind of systematic approach to the discussion.

In other news: I've been Raslin' with Trolls on other forums. It's all quite hilarious to me. But I just dropped this video in regard to people accusing me on my supposedly nefarious agenda in making Secrets of Blackmoor:

Thought some of you might find the context it provides interesting.

Griff
 

JRT

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In other news: I've been Raslin' with Trolls on other forums. It's all quite hilarious to me. But I just dropped this video in regard to people accusing me on my supposedly nefarious agenda in making Secrets of Blackmoor:
As a backer of your documentary on Kickstarter, I appreciate how you're trying to defend yourself, especially since the implication was that there's some kind of quasi-coordinated effort to conspire to somehow diminish Gary's status, which I certainly don't buy.

But you may want to back off a little bit on the combative tone when responding on some of those other boards, as I worry it's alienating the neutral folks who just look at the tone, especially since you're coming in new to most of the forums. This video would be a better way of getting your point across.
 

TristramEvans

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out of curiosity, what forum is this? I don't need links, I just didn't see anything on the usual suspects
 

Secrets of Blakcmoor

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Not worth reposting. lots of trolls. Anything you say they will pick at details. I'm going to quit posting there before long.

As JRT said, even jousting with those folks make you look bad.

rule #! 1 about wrestling with pigs:

The pig likes it and most people can't tell you apart. ;)
 
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