Exclusive: Inside Forgotten Runes’ “Shadows” Ordinals Collection

BY Lorepunk

January 11, 2024

On Thursday, Jan. 11, Magic Machine, creators of the Forgotten Runes Wizard’s Cult ecosystem of NFTs and the Runiverse game, launched two highly anticipated collections on Ordinals—and they’re from the dark side.

At 1 p.m. PST, an auction began for the Shadows—a collection of 666 animated pixel art ghosts designed by the anonymous Forgotten Runes cofounder known as Elf J Trul. 600 of the Shadows were up for open auction—and one of the top bidders for the Shadows will also win a Shadow Hat: one of ten sub-1,000 inscriptions created by Magic Machine just as Ordinals were born.

600 of the whimsical, malevolent Shadows were available to purchase in an ascending bucket auction, open for 24 hours and capped at a top price of 0.2 BTC. The project quickly sold out at the top price, raising 120 BTC ($5.5 million).

nft now sat down with Magic Machine founders Dotta, Elf, and Bearsnake for exclusive interviews to learn more about the Shadows, their creation process, what they signify in the intricate collaborative legendarium, and how to get your hands on them.

Credit: Magic Machine

What is Forgotten Runes?

The Forgotten Runes Wizard’s Cult is a rich collection of NFTs inhabiting a magic-infused fantasy realm known as the Runiverse. The project, launched in summer 2021, began with over 9,000 generative pixel-art wizard characters—and has continued adding to the realm with the gruesome, undead Forgotten Souls, the 2022-released Warriors, a herd of magical Ponies, the majestic Beasts and their Spawn, and a horde of magical objects.

Two things set the Runiverse apart, and kept the project alive through the frosty crypto winter. First is the wisdom of the team. Magic Machine aims to create a world-shaking fantasy franchise, that will, they hope, wind up as big as “Game of Thrones” or “Lord of the Rings.” The team has a track record of success, with a series of comic books, fully rigged models for Wizards that enable holders to participate in games such as Otherside, partnerships with gamebuilders across web3, and its own Bisonic-created Runiverse MMORPG with development underway, and a successful alpha experience.

The second is the project’s relationship to its holder community. The core of Forgotten Runes is its collaborative legendarium; that means that the community is central to the project’s worldbuilding. With an on-chain Book of Lore, the holders can write the stories for their own Forgotten Runes characters, and upload them to the Book of Lore alongside images or even video.

The Forgotten Runes ecosystem is an enormous and fascinating rabbit hole in itself—this 2022 article is a good place to begin exploring. But on to today’s drop. In February 2023, the first day Ordinals began, Dotta and Elf decided to create the Shadow Hats: ten characters that looked a little bit like the familiar wizards and warriors, but created out of darkness and shadow.

The political structure of the Runiverse’s wizards is largely based on the color of their pointed hats—red, yellow, brown, green, blue, purple, and white. But where are the black hats? In-universe, they were always off-stage and unspoken, but the Shadow Hats had been an idea in Dotta and Elf’s heads, and the launch of the Ordinals protocol was a great way to bring them forward.

“In that original collection of Wizards, we have all the hat colors plus white hats, but we never had the black hats,” said Elf. “And that was intentional. At first, I always wanted the black hats to just be so mysterious and so outside of the establishment—so outside of the set status quo—that they weren’t even mentioned. I thought, when we tell stories about these black hat wizards, well, we’ll just never even show them— there will just be whispers of them. But then Dotta comes along and says, ‘Let’s make some Ordinals,’ and I thought this is the perfect opportunity to finally do the Shadow Hats. The black hats. And a reason it’s perfect is because Bitcoin is outside of the Ethereum status quo. The Shadow Hats are so outside of the norm that they’re on an entirely different chain.”

There is a place in the Runiverse called the Quantum Shadow; a dark rift full of twisted magic. To the creators, that’s where the Shadow Hats come from. They are wizards who are interested in the dark side of magic, and they are powerful, feared by the dwellers of the Runiverse.

“They sort of operate near the Quantum Shadow, and know what the Quantum Shadow is, more than anyone. They’re able to manipulate it with a high degree of skill—more than anyone else. They love chaos magic. They really just love the darker forms of all the magic that’s practised in the Runiverse,” he said.

“Bitcoin is outside of the Ethereum status quo. The Shadow Hats are so outside of the norm that they’re on an entirely different chain.”


Within the lore of the Runiverse, the Shadow Hats needed underlings to carry out their bidding, so the ten dark wizards cast a summoning circle in the shape of a decagram and created the 666 Shadows. “The decagram is a 10-pointed star. This is a symbol that is really big in hermetic magic, abd a phrase often associated with it is “as above, so below.” What I really liked about that phrase is it sort of makes me think about Carl Jung’s concept of the shadow self. We each have two sides to us–one above and one below. We have our light side, and then we have our shadows. All of us have a shadow, all of us have that side of us that’s  little unsavory—something that we don’t show. Something that we keep in the darkness,” Elf explained.

While the ten Shadow Hats have a dark and malevolent bearing, the 66 Shadows have a malicious humor mixed in with their darkness. They reminded a reporter of Pac-Man ghosts and of the Minions from Despicable Me, and Elf said this was deliberate.

“There is a ghost head in our Wizards collection called Toru. And he is the obvious connection to Pac Man,” said Elf. “The creator of Pac Man’s name is Toru [Iwatani]. Toru just is kind of this outlier. He’s got a totally different form factor [than other Wizard heads]. And so I wanted to reconnect some lore back to Toru with Shadow Hats. And it’s funny you mentioned the Minions because that’s another influence—and what’s funny is, I actually hate the Minions! Facebook memes have destroyed Minions. But I also kind of love them because they’re so dumb and annoying. The villains that I’ve always been attracted to are the ones that have a goofy comedic edge to them. Joker is an obvious one, right? The Shadow Hats themselves are very dark, but I wanted to bring just a little bit of humor, whimsy, and fun to the Shadows, because they are meant to look a little bit goofy. You know, they’re made of the Quantum Shadow, which is really uncontrollable. This goofiness kind of implies the chaos that the Quantum Shadow is.”

Credit: Magic Machine

Lore, Art and Tech

The Shadows artwork followed along in August 2023. Then, Magic Machine worked with the team at Luxor Technology to create the technical aspects of the Shadows—an act of conscious design that put Runiverse lore into every aspect of the Shadows—to the most nerdy of details.

Unlike NFTs on a chain that supports smart contracts, like Ethereum or Solana, an Ordinals digital collectible is inscribed on-chain on a particular sat—a satoshi, or the smallest unit of Bitcoin. Specific sats can be interesting and valuable to collectors, such as those mined on a historic day or those on a particular block number. Luxor helped Magic Machine track down sats from Bitcoin’s 666th block to inscribe the 666 Shadows.

They also went a step further, reflecting the eldritch numerology in other Ordinals metadata such as inscription accounts, sat suffixes and UTXOs; Luxor’s team dives into the technicalities in a blog post.

Most importantly, each Shadow was “summoned” (inscribed) from the same account that holds its matching Shadow Hat. Just as JRR Tolkien’s demigods, the Valar, each has its own coterie of powerful Maiar acolytes, the Shadows are magically connected to the Shadow Hats that summoned them, and each derives its shape from the form of its summoner. “When they were inscribing the Shadows, it basically created on-chain art of a decagram—meaning each Shadow Hat “summons” a Shadow, literally on-chain. If you were to draw a picture from the transactions that happened on-chain, it shows that each Shadow Hat actually summoned its matching shadows,” said Dotta.

“[Satoshi] is a disrupter of the status quo. To people on the outside, he seems like just a black hat hacker ready to disrupt the establishment. And that’s what the Shadow Hats are.”


It’s no accident that the public debut of the Shadows and Shadow Hats falls today, on the day after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission approved Bitcoin spot ETFs. The Shadows and Hats are inspired by the stories of real and legendary secret societies, like the Templars, Freemasons or Illuminati. To Magic Machine, Satoshi Nakamoto, creator of Bitcoin, is a perfect example of a “black hat” wizard, echoing the idea of black hat hackers and the power of the cypherpunk movement—which aims to build a free society through strong cryptography and decentralized digital money.

There’s a strong parallel to what the black hats are and Satoshi Nakamoto himself. Satoshi’s identity is totally unknown to this day. He is the ultimate sort of shadow. He is a disrupter of the status quo. To people on the outside, he seems like just a black hat hacker ready to disrupt the establishment. And that’s what the Shadow Hats are,” said Elf.

Shadow Hats and Shadows are a canonical part of the Runiverse, and owners of the Ordinals will enjoy access and privileges in the Forgotten Runes discord. There is also an Ordinals-based Shadow Book of Lore in the works, and the team hopes to build support for Ordinals in the Runiverse game under development, enabling Shadow owners to explore the game with unique skins representing their tokens.

Credit: Magic Machine

How Do You Get a Shadow?

To get a Shadow, you’ll need to connect your Ordinals-supporting Bitcoin wallet to the auction website—xVerse is fully supported, although the team hopes to have others available before drop time. If you’re technical, you can also participate directly using a Taproot BTC address.

The auction is called an ascending bucket auction: everyone can bid with no reserve. However, there is a price cap of 0.2 BTC per Shadow. Any bids over that price will have the excess refunded. Here are the full rules.

A 0.2 BTC bid is called a “goated” bid, and—if you get it in on time—automatically gets you a Shadow (it’s a blind auction, so you don’t get to pick the one you get). There are 600 Shadows up for auction, so once there are 600 0.2 bids, the auction ends.

It’s important to remember that this is Ordinals, so you are not participating in the auction by interacting with a dApp or a smart contract, like on ETH or Solana. You’re sending money to a Magic Machine bitcoin wallet, and if you’re successful in winning a Shadow, you’ll be claiming that Shadow on Magic Eden a few days after the auction. Don’t send money from an ordinary non-Ordinals bitcoin wallet or an exchange like Coinbase. If you need help, the Forgotten Runes discord is a great place to ask.

Credit: Magic Machine

Everyone who wins a Shadow at auction with a 0.2 goated bid is entered into a very important raffle. This raffle is to win one of the Shadow Hats themselves. This is the only way to get a Shadow Hat at present, and if you win one Shadow, you have a 1 in 600 chance of winning a Hat.

There are also 66 Shadows going automatically to certain holders within the Forgotten Runes ecosystem, including the top Forgotten Souls holders, the owners of the Forgotten Beasts, and the holders of particular Shadow-themed tokens that became available during the 2022 Nightmare Imp event. People who hold a Jelly Donut—an unfavorable result that can happen when you burn a Wizard with the Sacred Flame—automatically receive a Shadow. A handful of Shadows are going to the Magic Machine team, and a few are going to people who won a contest to make videos depicting “sacrificing your soul to a jelly donut.” The recipients of these Shadows do not get entered in the raffle to win a Shadow Hat, however.

During the lead-up to the Shadow drop, Magic Machine established a “darklist,” offering list spots to partner communities and as an award for some of the people who competed in the jelly donut video contest. Although auctions and allowlists don’t necessarily mix well, the team has incorporated the darklist into the auction mechanics. There is likely to be hot competition for the 600 Shadows, but people with a darklist spot who bid will get priority over those with an equal bid but without a darklist spot.

If you do win the Shadow Hat raffle, you get to pick which of the Shadow Hats you will receive; the Hats representing Dotta, Bearsnake, and Elf are not available for choosing, but the winner can choose any one out of the remaining seven. After that Hat goes to its new home; what happens with the other six? They will become available at an undetermined time in the future.

“We’re doing it because we want to expand the world on another chain. While there are a lot of people who started with ETH NFTs who are in Ordinals now, this is a different community. It’s a Bitcoin-based community.”


Future Case Study

The Shadows and Shadow Hats collections have broader import as an example of how an established Ethereum project can expand onto Ordinals without losing its identity in the meme-based meta of the attention economy.

“How do you engage with Ordinals? How do you build a community? How do you engage with their community? Something that ties into the lore of Forgotten Runes overall,” said Bearsnake.

“All these people, when Ordinals started to become a thing, were just taking art that already existed and doing derivative collections on Bitcoin. For us, we thought if Forgotten Runes is going to do an Ordinals collection, let’s make a case study for how an ETH-based project moves into Bitcoin. We really wanted to make sure there was an intention behind this—that we weren’t just doing it to do it. We’re doing it because we want to expand the world on another chain. We also wanted to find a different audience. While there are a lot of people who started with ETH NFTs who are in Ordinals now, this is a different community. It’s a Bitcoin-based community,” he said.

Editor’s note: At the time of publication, the author owns Forgotten Runes NFTs.

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