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.


paleologos said...

Absolutely fascinating!

Thanks for posting, I'm certain that the layout of the Town of Blackmoor must have been inspired by Bill's model.

Add Cuidad Rodrigo to my bucket list of places to visit, one day!

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