The New Blackmoor Town Map in the Style of Cuidad Rodrigo

Author: DHBoggs / Labels:

Earlier this month I posted a Blackmoor town map re-designed to properly fit the dungeon below That's Here

Only days later, the Cuidad Rodrigo map (previous post) came to my attention.  So of course it is time to marry the two.

Below are two maps - a labeled DM's map and a blank map.  These were created by matching the size of the Cuidad Rodrigo model image to the walls of Blackmoor village.  I then traced the Cuidad Rodrigo city walls and placed house buildings wherever they were on the model - except that right around the south gate lane some were shifted west to make room for the lane.   Enjoy:

The Town of Blackmoor or is it Cuidad Rodrigo?

Author: DHBoggs /

Lately I've done several posts involving the village of Blackmoor, so Arneson's map below is likely a familiar sight:

For something new, consider this 19th century map of the 1812 siege of Cuidad Rodrigo in Spain during the Napoleonic wars:

Okay Boggs, you are thinking, that's nice.  There is a similarity.  So what?

Indeed, not the end of the story.  Cuidad Rodrigo came to my attention through Bill Hoyt.  Several interviews of Mr. Hoyt were posted on Youtube (here), and towards the end of the video (TC 28:16) we get a glimpse of a model sitting on a shelf in Mr. Hoyt's workroom.  It caught my attention so I messaged Bill and he sent me a still picture along with the information that it was a model of Cuidad Rodrigo in Spain.  I've taken that picture, reoriented it, and applied a pencil sketch effect.  Now here is the model side by side with the town of Blackmoor:

Was Blackmoor Village derived from, or at least inspired by, Bill Hoyt's model?  They have the same general form, same prominent church in the middle, same empty section in the NW (the cemetery), same triangula bastions around the walls and even similar rectangular sections on the left side - something that has always struck me as an odd feature on the Blackmoor map.

According to Mr. Hoyt, the plan for the walls of Cuidad Rodrigo was laid out to scale by Henry Sayire, who had a background in drafting.  Sayire's participation in wargaming was ended at the request of the pacifist Jehova's Witness congregation of which he was a member, but Hoyt took the drawing Sayire had made and created the 3D model on top.  He then "filled it with blocks for buildings." (pers comm 2020)

William J. Hoyt, as many of you will remember, was one of the bedrock members of Arneson's gaming circle.  He was very active in Twin Cities gaming all around and was an early Tekumel player.  Bill is one of the three people cited in Arneson's March 1971 letter to Rob Kuntz and the C&C society explaining his "Northern Marches" campaign where Mr. Hoyt is given the territory of Williamsfort.  It is entirely reasonable then to posit that the first time or two Arneson's N-scale castle model was called upon to represent the Blackmoor Castle, it was paired on the table with Bill's Cuidad Rodrigo model to represent the town of Blackmoor (or perhaps as the town and castle of "Keston/Keiston as it may at first have been named - discussed in previous posts).

As the Blackmoor game progressed, however, Mr Hoyt was less involved due to the tensions between Arneson and Hoffa/Scott with whom Bill was still gaming.  Just as Mr. Hoffa and Mr. Scott were notoriously immortalized in Blackmoor as the Ran of Ah Foo and the Egg of Coot, Mr. Hoyt seems to have provided the inspiration for the waffling Duke of the Peaks (with whom he shares the initials WH).  

At some point, Arneson drew a map of the town of Blackmoor, and it now seem likely he was copying the 3D model.  The copy of the village map we have from Arneson was published in the Domesday book in the summer of 1972. Given that Mr. Hoyt wasn't regularly participating in the Blackmoor games in this late 1971 through 1972 timeframe, Arneson may no longer have had the model of Cuidad Rodrigo in front of him and would therefore have relied on memory to draw the village map onto the butchers block paper on his gaming/ping-pong table and likewise for the map we see in the Domesday Book.   That would certainly explain why the town map in the Domesday Book has all the extra and somewhat wonky triangula bastions and only the one rectangular bastion.  

In any case we should hardly be surprised a Napoleonic battle inspired the form of Blackmoor village.  The walls of the town obviously owe their design far more to Vauban than William the Conqueror.  They are yet another reminder of the wargaming tapestry of which Blackmoor, and ultimately Dungeons & Dragons are a part.

Mordenkainen's Glimpse of Blackmoor

Author: DHBoggs / Labels:

"They entered the store as Mordenkainen looked north towards Castle Blackmoor, another enigma of the North which for now would be left unplumbed by them."  Rob Kuntz, Oerth Journal #6:45

What did Mordy see?  What does castle Blackmoor  look like to those wandering the streets of the village?  

The earliest description comes from Domesday Book #13 (circa July) 1972. Arneson writes "Blackmoor Castle was built... Over a period of six years on the hill that dominated the small village of Blackmoor... The newer structure incorporates many of the underground galleries of the older structures as well as the main tower which has stood throughout the history of the area."

From other sources we know that the hill the castle sits on is one hundred feet higher than the town and both the castle and hill are made of a dense black rock.

Even with details from later sources, there has never been a lot of written description for artist to go on.  The images they have drawn have unsurprisingly depicted all manner of castle types.  Here are a few:

First from the 1975 Blackmoor Supplement cover:

From the 2016 Blackmoor Supplement cover:

This Background image in TSR's DA1 from 1986:

There have also been a number of non-official representations such as this one below on the Three Castles Award trophy.  Blackmoor is the one on top.

No doubt these images are all very lovely.  They're also all very wrong. 

Folks "in the know" have long been aware that the original Blackmoor Castle was in fact an N scale model Arneson owned of Branzoll, a castle in the Italian alps.  This one in fact:


Confirmation of that can be seen readily enough in the top down view Arneson gives of the castle in his Blackmoor village map:

So the Branzoll model gives us some idea of what Blackmoor Castle should look like when viewed from the town.  There are a few details however that make Blackmoor Castle a little bit different from the model.

First, as can be seen in Arneson's drawing, the outer walls are somewhat bigger, wider, and longer.  In fact, they are bigger still if we judge by the dungeon plan as talked about in my previous posts.

Looking at the picture of the model, you can note exterior stairs on the tower.  Not only are these stairs never mentioned anywhere in any Blackmoor material, the two floor plans of the castle (Bob Bledsaws in the FFC and Jeff Berry's done for show at conventions) show no sign of an exterior stair, so we really should discount that detail.

Then there is the gatehouse.  We have two Arneson drawings of this.  One in the FFC that shows a small tower next to a gate with the castle behind:

And a second, older, drawing, shown here from inside a display case at Garycon, that shows an entrance into a larger tower:

This second image seems to me to be a better fit with Arneson's overhead drawing, but in any case, given that the castle was sacked, wrecked and repaired any number of times, we could simply see these drawings as being from different times in the castle's history. 

So keeping these details in mind, what might Mordenkainen have seen high upon the rocky crest above Blackmoor village?

Working a little paint-program magic with an image of the model, here is my rough attempt at the answer to that question (properly speaking, this angle would be from the area of the docks or behind the church):

About Me

My photo
Game Archaeologist/Anthropologist, Scholar, Historic Preservation Analyst, and a rural American father of three.
Powered by Blogger.

My Blog List