Sunday, January 22, 2017

Mapping The Entrances to Blackmoor Dungeon


If you have the 1977 print of Blackmoor Dungeon, or even the Zeitgeist games version, it's easy to think that the maps you have are good to go.  But if you try to run a game with these maps, you will soon come to notice stairs that seem to exit above ground without any key or clue as to where.  Even the main stair to the basement on level one is not clearly marked.  In fact, lining up the stairs from level to level just by looking at the maps is far from easy to do.  The only labels the stairs have are "up" or "down" and these don't always seem to be correct.  

A good long while ago, Tavis Allison of Autarch Games created a GIMP file of levels 1-6 of Blackmoor dungeon and began labeling the stairs in order to line up the levels one on top of another.  At that time, I decided to build on what he did by trying to place the stairs and exits that reached the surface onto a map of the castle of Blackmoor.

As simple as that sounds there is one very real problem.  There is no good surface map of Blackmoor castle.  There are two maps of the town of Blackmoor that show the castle, but the scale is tiny.  There is also a planview of the main castle building, but it shows nothing beyond the building itself.

There's another problem.  For reasons I have never been able to figure out, the two maps of Blackmoor town are oriented completely differently.  The original map that Arneson drew was published in the Castle & Crusades Society newsletter issue #13 in July of 1972 and depicts the town south of the castle.  The second, updated map appears in the FFC, and shows the town east of the castle.  Suffice it to say, this second orientation creates some weird alignment problems, and so I ignored it in favor of the original map.  The actual cardinal directions aren't really the issue anyway, because what really matters is the orientation and facing of the castle toward the town.  Here is what that original 1972 castle looked like:



In short, what I did was to create this blow up of the original castle drawing.  Then  I traced out the walls and towers and scaled the traced image to fit the dimensions given in the FFC.  After importing this image into the GiMP files, I noticed right away that the basement on level 1 and the outline of the inner walls of the Castle were obviously meant to match.  So I made a few more adjustments to the castle outline, straightening out some of the lines, and matched it up in what seemed like a logical fit.  The result of that was this:




And so it sat for years.  Just so you know what you are looking at, all those letter/number combos are Tavis' staircase notations on various levels.  The letter is just a label but the number indicates what levels the stairs are on - in retrospect it probably would have been better to start the label with the level the stair starts on and then give a letter tag, but it is what it is.   

Recently, former Arneson associate Jeff Quinn (author of the excelent Blackmoor adventure The Redwood Scar) has been redrawing the maps of Blackmoor dungeon (see here: Map Discussion ).  That prompted me to revist this old project.  I was never very happy with my results and I realized it would make more sense to keep the wall outlines I had made, but use the official castle floorplan instead of the crude sketch from the original map.  That way I could get the scale of the castle building exact and adjust the walls to fit.  Here then is the castle floorplan from the FFC (note that this particular version comes from the Arneson estate with his handwritten notes on it.  The Outline is identical however.)



Using this map allowed me to exactly scale the castle building (170') to the castle basement.  Playing around with that new image resulted this positioning of the castle:



Notice how the side entrance actually lines up on the side of the building and the castle walls line up with or closely parallel the walls of the basement.  There's also a possible second stair inside the castle itself, stair G1234.  I didn't show the outer walls on the above image for a reason.  My original drawing, based on the blowup of Arneson's '72 map, had the walls fairly close.  However, I noticed that on the west (left) side of the castle there was a line of stairs on level 1 that seemed to follow the line of the wall.  So I extended the wall over and discovered a remarkable alignment.




As it turns out, I should have known to extend the castle walls further out anyway.  If you look at Arneson's FFC map of Blackmoor Town and Castle (the one from '77) you can see this same area between the inner and outer wall is larger and is labeled "fair", meaning it is the location of the fair of the elves guarding the castle.  So, after trying scores of combinations and configurations, I'm convinced this is the proper fit or as close as is possible to get.  However, this would mean that the interior of the castle rooms shown in the FFC has to be wrong!

Here it is again:


Notice in this image that the throne room is in the smaller right side wing of the castle, while the tower base on the left is occupied by various rooms.  According to all descriptions, the main stair (Main 1) should go down from the throne room, and that appears to be what the "A" above is meant to represent.  Believe me, I tried dozens of orientations, size variations, mirror images and so forth to get the Main Stair to match with the throne room as shown in this planview.  but it simply won't line up in any way that makes any sense of the basement below and the arrangement of the outer walls and towers.  However, as you can see from the alignment above, the Main stair lines up quite well with the first floor of the Main tower, so it appears to me that the throne room should be in the tower, not the extension to the east where it is shown.  If you ask me, putting the throne room at the bottom of the tower makes more sense anyway.

Now we have one more thing to mention.  Thanks to Dave Megarry's maps for his character HW Dumbo, we know that the stairs marked "B12" and "D12" do indeed exit on the surface, and that the corridor heading directly west from the basement doesn't just end but actually extends to exit on the hillside.  So alright then; using the above map and Tavis's stair labels, here are the surface entrances and their locations around the castle.

Name
Location
A1 Stair
Hillside west of castle
B12 Stair
Tower on NW corner of outer wall
D12
In section of outer wall west
E12
At corner of outer wall west and sw
HY1
At corner of outer wall southwest and inner wall
I12
Inner wall SE near south tower
J1234
Well? near SE corner of outer wall
L12
Hillside just outside SE outer wall
Side
West wall of main Castle
Main
Throne room
Western corridor
Hillside west of Castle



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