Tonisborg Part II

Author: DHBoggs / Labels: , ,

Now that we've established some of the history, our next couple posts are going to look more at the nuts and bolts of the dungeon.

I mentioned earlier that the stocking list might not be the original list. There is some reason to think the list may have been re-made after the "new" D&D rules booklets came out in an effort to conform.  In fact this seems the best explanation of the facts at hand.

The clues to this earlier stocking list are small notes here and there on the maps.  These notes are part of the photocopy, and so were written on the original graph paper.  As such, they are often very difficult to read, but what can be deciphered resembles exactly the kind of pre-D&D gaming terminology we see in the Twin Cities, while evidencing no hint of elements from published D&D.  

For example, on both Levels 1 and 2, there is a room with a note "12 per door".  That may be a requirement to roll 2 dice to open the door, with a very low chance of success.  

This same area on Level 2 has 3 heroes and a very unD&D like light cannon.  

Another note on level 2 has an apparently animate guard consisting of "Plate(mail?) holding sword".

There are only a few notes like this, but nevertheless these little hints are fascinating windows into a pre D&D, Twin Cities dungeon set in Blackmoor.  

Level 10 has two especially interesting examples of these "nonD&D" map notes, and in this case they seem to have been re-written on the copies.  One reads "Sp. evil area Statue 2 perm wishes and 20 temps".  

The first thing we should observe is that there is no rule in D&D about "temporary" wishes,  nor are there things called "evil areas".  "Sp" probably is meant to mean "special power", a term regular readers of this blog will recognize as occurring sometimes in FFC notes.  

In fact this whole "evil area" phrase in Tonisborg is not at all unique to Greg Svenson.  A very interesting, if equally vague echo, is found in the FFC for Arneson's  Blackmoor dungeon.  In the key for Blackmoor dungeon level 5, room 18, it reads:   "Evil area, 2 permanent, 20 wishes".

As can be seen, the wording is nearly identical, with the added clarification in Tonisborg that the 20 other wishes were not permanent.

This tells us two really interesting things: first, that these ideas of temporary wishes and evil areas were established features of gameplay in the Twin Cites.  These are part and parcel of the pre D&D game.  Second, despite the fact that levels 1-6 of Blackmoor Dungeon as published in the FFC were stocked randomly using the D&D tables in Monsters & Treasures (see this post for an explanation), in the few places in Blackmoor dungeon levels 1-6 we see notations from Arneson, at least some of those notes stem from an older stocking list.

The other example from level 10 I want to mention here is a note regarding what must have been the boss creature of the level.  It is called the Ylth'yl, a name unknown to D&D.  Ylth'yl, whatever exactly it may have been, was taken from the pages of a book by Gardner Fox published in 1964 and titled Escape Across The Cosmos.  In that book, the Ylth'yl is an evil energy creature, that bears some resemblance to both the mysterious gaurdian creature of the Temple of ID, described in the FFC, and the Invisible Stalker of D&D.  

The appearance of this creature here helps us solve another mystery.  If you will recall from our discussions of David Megarry's early character sheets, one of his favorite characters, The Scholaress, met her fate in Tonisborg dungeon, fighting a 7 headed hydra.  The picture below shows the bottom of the Scholaress character sheet showing her kill record.

Take note of the area of scratched out green felt.  The words scratched out really puzzled me, but now it is quite clear the bottom word is Ylth'yl.  It may read Killed by Ylth'yl, but perhaps, like the temple of the ID monster, the Ylth'yl doesn't kill, instead it knock out and transports a character  somewhere.  In any case it seems the Scholaress encountered the Ylth'yl at least once in Tonisborg.

Since the origin of the Ylth'yl predates even Blackmoor, this monster is of no help for dating, but does hint at an earlier non-D&D stocking key.  Unfortunately, Level 10 of Tonisborg is the one level for which no handwritten key was put on the map.
We must consider the possibility that the whole purpose behind making the map photocopies on oversized paper in the first place was to provide a blank slate for an entirely new key in order to update the dungeon to the newly released D&D rules.  Perhaps this update had only reached level 9 by the time Megarry got the maps, and perhaps Level 10 was never in fact restocked.

Some other Map features:

It's not just the line mentioned above about evil area and permanent wishes that resembles Blackmoor dungeon.  Its abundantly clear that Mr. Svenson was well familiar with Dave Arneson's dungeon maps and did his best to emulate that style.  The resemblance is unmistakable, and suggests that Mr. Svenson may have had copies of the Blackmoor dungeon maps at hand.  Here are two snippets to compare:

Blackmoor Dungeon Level 7:

Tonisborg Dungeon Level 3:

In the sample shown above, it is obvious certain sections were gone over with color markers.  Mr Megarry explained that he had done this in order to make seperate sections distinct: "I added the coloration. The brown are areas reached from the main staircase without going through a secret door; the green are areas can only be reached by going through a secret door; the orange are areas that are reached by up or down staircases."

There are 10 levels - just like Blackmoor dungeon.  Each sheet of 11" * 17" paper has one dungeon level.  The levels themselves were originally drawn on standard 8.5" 11" three-hole graph paper.  All of the sheets have a key written in pen on the side of the map except for Level 10, which was perhaps, never completed in a form that was compatible with the standards of the 1974 D&D booklets.

In mimicking the stylistic look of Blackmoor dungeon, Tonisborg also replicates one of it's most impressive features, it's linear and vertical complexity.  It is particularly amazing to realize these dungeons were created before 1974, whereas the dungeons that followed in their wake were generally simple block and corridor affairs with a single stair or two down to the next level.  Tonisborg has multiple sections on a single level, with a veritable maze of stairs and trap doors connecting multiple levels.  This dungeon, like Blackmoor, isn't just about finding monsters and looting treasure, it is simultaneously an exploration puzzle, whose secrets could take many expeditions, and careful mapping, to unravel.

In our next post, we will discuss the details of the stocking method and contents of Tonisborg dungeon.


Zenopus Archives said...

Fascinating & looking forward to more.

Geoffrey McKinney said...

'Each sheet of 11" * 17" paper has one dungeon level. The levels themselves were originally drawn on standard 8.5" 11" three-hole graph paper.'

Am I understanding correctly that each level map would fit on an 8.5" by 11" sheet of graph paper, but that it was photocopied on an 11" by 17" sheet of paper so as to have ample room to write stuff in the margins?

DHBoggs said...

Thanks Zen :)

Geoffrey, yes, except we can only assume it was done "so as to have ample stuff in the margin". That certainly seems the most likely reason you would go to the added expense of making a legal sized copy of a standard sized sheet of graph paper. As I speculated above, I think there was an earlier key in some notebook or something, but Svenson wanted to put a key (updated?) on the map - it may well be he made this for Dave Megarry specifically, so he could have it in Boston.

Eldrad Wolfsbane said...

This is great! More pictures of the maps!

Eldrad Wolfsbane said...
Well IT seems that I am not on YOUR Blog List! I am going to start becoming more active so add me!

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