Friday, August 30, 2019

Some thoughts on Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson Part I

A recent article that was published has ignited discussion, some heated, about the legacy of Dave Arneson relative to Gary Gygax. I have my opinions which I will explain in part 2. But the process I went through involved me answering three questions for myself.

  • Would have Dungeons & Dragons be written without Dave's help or Dave running the Lake Geneva session?
  • What was involved in developing the idea of a tabletop roleplaying campaign in Dave Arneson's Blackmoor Campaign.
  • What would have happened to Dave Arneson innovations if Gygax never had written Dungeons & Dragons?

In other news
Sorry for the light blogging this month. The time I have for this was mostly consumed by two major projects. Drawing maps for Gabor Lux's upcoming Castle Xyntillan, and the Wilderlands of the Fantastic Reaches. I am happy to say that the guidebooks are going through the print approval process. So release should be in two to three weeks.


Charles Saeger said...

I'm amazed to find out that the article involved was actually news to folks. I thought the whole thing was stuff everyone already knew, aside from a few details.

Geoffrey McKinney said...

One thing is for sure: Compared to Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, all of us are epigones. We are mere mortals ignorantly arguing about the relative merits of the creators. Let us bring laurel leaves to both.

Scott Anderson said...

Agreed. This seems so 2009

Trent said...

2009? I remember people having this argument at GenCon in 1989 (and I'm sure they were in 1979 too)!

Havard: said...

Looking forward to part II! I also wrote my own thoughts on the Kotaku article on my own blog. :)

DHBoggs said...

Heh, well I think you are going to be wading in to quite a stew with the first question, and maybe the second, but have fun. :)

For the third, not meaning to steal your thunder but maybe give some food for thought, I think it is inevitable that Barker would have been exposed to Blackmoor play, and it's clear that he was primed to do something with his Tekumel material. In other words, I think it is inevitable that he would have created an EPT role playing game, with or without D&D. Of course the rules would have been very different and who knows how popular it would have been.

There's also the Snider brothers to consider. Both John and Richard were working on rulesets for their own games intended for distribution.

Robert Conley said...

I concur that Barker and the Sniders would have published something interesting. I didn't mention him specifically because I have don't have enough to extrapolate a plausible alternative. Other than yes the odds were good he would have publishing something gaming wise.

Likewise with the Sniders however there I would say without the example of D&D, it would reflected the Braunstein/Wargame side of Blackmoor more than the dungeon.

Frank said...

My thinking tends towards the side that any given invention would eventually have been discovered by someone, but that doesn't diminish the recognition the inventor that actually did it in our history deserves.

It's interesting to see some fight for "without Dave and Garry we would at best have more social wargames" and others who argue "D&D isn't anything different from what kids do or the 'role playing' used in business and therapy."

I'm pretty clear in my mind that D&D is something different, and I base that in large part that at 14 when I discovered D&D I was still engaging in the kind of play children do (maybe more sophisticated), and that play somewhat overlapped my play of D&D. And there was definitely real differences, among them:

1. Use of rules and describing characters in abstract but objective terms
2. Persistence of campaign, that the events of one session of play carry on to future sessions
3. Significant reliance on "theater of the mind" (even if combat might have been resolved with miniatures on a grid)
4. A referee (I'm not convinced a referee is necessary for an RPG, but it sure breaks D&D away from cops and robbers or army men)

And here's a thought, one of the appeals of D&D to me over war games (board or miniature) was the cooperative nature of the game. This took the cooperative play of my army man play into the realm of rules arbitrated play.

And definitely what distinguishes D&D from business or therapy role play is the more wide open imagination that's allowed. I'm sure a business role play would be quickly shut down if the participants started advocating something actually adverse to the corporation, and therapy role play is similarly going to get shut down if it goes off the rails of what the therapist is trying to use the role play to open up the participants to.