Friday, July 27, 2018

Happy Birthday - Gary Gygax - Co-Author and Midwife of Dungeons & Dragons

Gary Gygax - Co-Author and Midwife of Dungeons & Dragons

The truth is that the most important part that Gary Gygax played is the role midwife of Dungeons & Dragons.

Bear with me while I explain that. Without his tireless efforts and drive it would not have made it to print.

Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson although they lived in different states moved in the same circles and played many of the same games. They belonged to many of the same organizations and had previously collaborated on games.

Arneson is the Father of Role-playing Games, he had spent almost two years creating the Blackmoor Campaign, and his players referred to it as playing Blackmoor. Arneson travelled from Minneapolis MN to Lake Geneva WI in 1972 and ran his Blackmoor game for Gary Gygax, Ernie Gygax, Rob Kuntz, and Terry Kuntz. Publication had not been a consideration for Arneson, but Gygax the entrepreneur immediately saw the potential and was very excited about the game.

Therefore, Arneson sent Gygax his notes variously reported as 16, 20, or something loose pages of notes. These turned out to be just short notes as any of us might write that work great for us, but are mostly unintelligible to anyone else. Gygax with considerable help from Kuntz  and their joint memory of the game and with both telephone calls and correspondence with Arneson set out to get it down on paper. He wrote a document that contained the ideas and the system that Arneson created but wrote it down in his own words. Some of the mechanics were Arnesons', some were Gygax versions of those mechanics, and this is where parts of Chainmail were grafted back into the document. After all, you or I would have done the same. He played in this extraordinary game that Arneson ran, but the notes where just that, notes with different versions and no clear order. They meant something to Arneson and he used them in running the game, but not to Gary or to you or to me. Moreover, all the references to Chainmail in the text are not surprising, again Gygax is just like us, he wanted to sell more copies of Chainmail. Even though it has been widely reported by those who were there that Gygax did not use Chainmail to play D&D.

Play testing took place in Lake Geneva and in Minneapolis. An unknown number of drafts and play test versions were written and tweaked until it was published. It was not what Arneson envisioned, but Gygax did the heavy lifting on writing it down, he and others put up the money and his version dominated. 

But the history is clear, Arneson created it, but not in a vacuum.  He had influences from many sources, and many ideas where present in different place and he combined them into one game.  Gygax wrote it down and while keeping the system and ideas substantially revised the mechanics to fit his preferences in the writing and that was tweaked through interaction with all of the players in both the Blackmoor and the Greyhawk campaigns as they were the play testers.

So Arneson created the role-playing game, what came to be called Dungeons & Dragons, he is the father of role-playing.

Gygax took Arnesons' work, wrote it down in mostly his own words, and worked tirelessly to promote it. He is not the creator, but he is the co-author, midwife, and promoter of Dungeons & Dragons. In the writing, he added his own ideas to those of Arneson and he interpreted Arnesons' ideas. Gygax is deserving of many accolades, just not sole creator.

Neither Gygax (nor Arneson) deserve to be worshipped as saints or gods and like all men, they have feet of clay. There are books out about the history of D&D and about Gygax. Some of those books focus on Gygax as it relates to D&D, some are pretty even handed about things, some are biased, and some are hatchet jobs that are mostly TMI. Some are excellent and some read like articles reprinted from the gossip tabloids.

Let us hope that the books that focus on factual history as recounted by both documents and first person interviews will flourish and the books that focus on personal flaws will be relegated to the trash bin of history where they belong.

Happy Birthday to Gary Gygax, without whose tireless efforts you and I would not be playing the Original Dungeons & Dragons.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Chicagowiz's Games Blog and the Three Hexes Series

I made this post in regard to Chicagowiz's Games Blog back on January 14th, 2018 and I wanted to update my post. I am a big proponent of the DIY ethic which is the way that Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax always played and the way which Dave Arneson promoted for others his whole life. Since this Three Hexes series is an example of how you DIY and succinctly points out how anyone can DIY and that it does not have to be something overwhelming, but instead is something that anyone can do. Although many maintain that DIY is impossible, here Chicagowiz demonstrates that not only is it possible, it can even be a modest amount of work.

Chicagowiz says:
Every week, I will be posting "Three Hexes" - simple campaign starters to show that you don't need to do a lot to have interesting settings for people to play in. Feel free to use these in your game, campaign or as ways to spur on your own creativity and imagination!
I've purposefully left a lot of detail out because these are supposed to spur on your imagination! The scale is what I would use in my own world, but if something else suits you better, then go for it. I measure my hexes by a day's foot travel. I may have the features moved about on the hexes for clarity, if they don't suit you, move them!
[THREE HEXES] THE KINGDOM OF INTRIGUE - GUEST POST!(check copyright statement)

If you like and appreciate these, please be sure to let Chicagowiz know!

Friday, May 25, 2018

Links to Dave Hargrave Day Posts and a Bonus Link

These are links to posts by various bloggers for Dave Hargrave Day and a Bonus link that Arduin Fans should enjoy!

Celebrating Dave "The Dream Weaver" Hargrave Day May 25th (This blog)

Time to Celebrate Dave Hargrave Day May 25th

Join me in Celebrating Dave Hargrave Day May 25th

David A Hargrave Day - May 25th

Musing on Arduin – Hargrave Day 2018

Bonus Link

Fear and Loathing in the Arduinian Wilderness

Also links to the passing of Dave Hargrave's friend Paul Mosher

Paul Mosher RIP (This blog)

Paul Mosher friend of Dave Hargrave has Passed On

Paul Mosher Friend and Champion of Dave Hargrave and Arduin has passed

If anyone has links to other Dave Hargrave Day Posts, please let me know so that I can add them to this list.

Erik Guttman's homebrew rules for magic and undead link provided by +Face of Iron

Paul Mosher RIP

Dave Hargrave's good friend Paul Mosher recently passed away. Now much information is available other than this:

Here are Aprel’s words (Paul’s wife):
On Sunday April 15, 2018:
“I wanted to let you all know, that this morning with no fuss Paul quietly slipped from this world into ARDUIN forever. He had not been sick, and it was a real shock…Please let anyone else you think of know.”
On April 25, 2018:
“They have finally signed off on Paul's death certificate and he was cremated last night. I will be picking up his ashes Thur. Hopefully today or tomorrow I will be meeting with the Vet guy and will be getting the arrangements made for the memorial. “
Sadly, I have not been able to locate an obituary for Paul and can only offer my condolences to his wife and family.

Celebrating Dave "The Dream Weaver" Hargrave Day May 25th

Image result for Arduin tome of treasures

Today is May 25th the birthday of the great and fantastic David (Dave) Allen Hargrave who was known as The Dream Weaver and is the Author of Arduin his homebrewed fantasy world that started out as an OD&D campaign world. He passed away prematurely in 1988 at the tender age of 42.

He published the first book called The Arduin Grimoire which was an unofficial supplement to OD&D. Once TSR reacted negatively (and failed to do the wise thing and hire him) he filed the serial numbers off and labeled it a new FRPG - the actual process in making it a standalone FRPG took several years.

The Arduin Grimoire though is the kind of supplement we OD&D players from the early 70's always wanted and TSR always failed to deliver. It is a grab bag full of all manner of strange ideas and uncensored brainstorming of ideas. It has a little bit of everything and there is something for everyone. (TSR almost had its own Arduin Grimoire but failed to deliver it more about that on Dave Arneson Day)

Dave Hargrave had an imagination like no other and he was one of the first of those who were outside the circle of Arneson and Gygax who took the game and really ran with it and did exactly what Dave Arneson would have wanted and that was make the game entirely his own and so Arduin the OD&D campaign became Arduin the FRPG

But that is not what I set out to talk about today. Back in early 1978 when my gaming group got its hands on a copy of the Arduin Grimoire (my friends copy) we used a number of things from it. That first copy of my friends had the D&D reference right in the text. When I finally got a copy they had been removed. The thing that I loved the most about Arduin were the monsters.

Deodanths are surrounded in mystery and legend, so much so, that even they themselves no longer know the whole truth!
...evolutionary hybrid of “undead” Elven kind and some other dark and unknown thing.
...a vampire like ability to mesmerize, or charm, opponents. 
...sole Warriors in sword to sword melees, and as Star Corsairs par excellence in spaceship to spaceship battles.
...seldom take prisoners, and those they do capture, they have a tendency to eat...
...some beings will commit suicide before allowing themselves to fail into Deodanth hands!
Deodanths have the natural ability to “time slip” forward in time d3 melee rounds (their space ships...
...only beings able to consistently match Phraints in combat...
That is a limited part of the description of Deodanths when we used them back in 1978-1979 in college.

What is not to love and it opened ours eyes to extending OD&D to space and being able to use anything past, present or future in our D&D worlds and games. Now had we had a copy of  First Fantasy Campaign by Dave Arneson we would have been privy to that, but it did not find its way to us even though it was published the same year. We knew OD&D was an open game, but Arduin and Dave Hargrave opened our eyes to just how open it really was.

These insectoid peoples are the decivilized remnants of an interstellar combat unit of the dread Hurakkuu Empire, a race of star Warriors unbeaten in 3,000 years of warfare between the myriad suns of space.
Phraints, having no emotional capacity of their own, cannot understand races that do, so they feel that, logically, they are superior, and should be the dominant species of the cosmos.
The Phraints are best known in combat for their leaping charges which have them throwing their light javelins at the apogee of their leaps, flipping over in midflight, drawing (and swinging) their twohanded swords, and landing behind their startled opponents ready for further action
They are perhaps best countered in combat by Deodanths who can also leap great distances,...
The full description of the totally logical totally emotionless Phraints along with the Deodanths taught us how to play something alien, sometimes completely non-human. We had played different monsters as characters, in addition to the demi-humans. But those where just strange humans. It is when Arduin came along that we took our game to a new level.

The reptilian race called Saurigs trace their long history back some 600,000 years and more, back to the dread elder race (the reptilian giants called “Kthoi”) that first ruled the world in the dim beginning of time.
They were the servants and drone soldiers of the Kthoi, and were bred for ferocity, tenacity, endurance, and fighting ability. Thus, they were never known for their intelligence or ability to think logically. They just fought, and fought, and fought. 
There were Desert Saurigs and Swamp Saurigs and they hated Phraints, but would team up with Deodanths and Orcs, especially Urukk Hai.

These are the creatures of Dave Hargrave that thought us how to create our own monsters and how to make them unique and special. Having the Arduin Grimoire was the next best thing to being connected to Arneson or Gygax. Since we did not have a chance to play in their campaigns and learn directly from them or their cohorts, having the Arduin Grimoire written by someone that served in Vietnam and who really got the real OD&D and who put it all into words that fully conveyed the excitement was like being there. Even though we had been playing since 1975 and had a pretty wide open campaign, Arduin opened our eyes to widening our vision of what could be.

Thank you Dave Hargrave! Happy Birthday!

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Coming May 25th Dave Hargrave Day, the Creator of Arduin

Coming on May 25th, 2018 several of us will be publishing posts concerning the Dave Hargrave. Dave Hargrave the creator of Arduin is the gonzo descendant of Dave Arneson. He took the spirit of Dave Arneson and Blackmoor and created his own unique thing Arduin. He did what Dave Arneson intended for all referees to do. Take what he (Arneson) did and do your own unique thing. Dave Hargrave is one of those that understood and took things his own unique direction. We should all emulate Dave Hargrave in our own unique way. Look for the whole post on May 25th, 2018.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

The (Unnecessary) Moral Dilemma Question (An OERAD Offering ) (Original Edition RPG Appreciation Day)

Celebrating Original Edition RPG Appreciation Day on May 5th, 2018. The below is in reference to OD&D specifically and to related games generically.

A recurring question on forums and other places is when Referees DM's and GM's throw in the proverbial humanoid females (mothers) and humanoid children and the question of what players do when they are encountered, especially after a battle and all the male humanoid's have been killed. It is usually stated that the mothers and children were noncombatants, but these children will grow up to be evil and kill innocent people. This is for the purpose of making the players look like bad guys if they kill, but stupid if they do not.

I contend that this is a false moral dilemma that is forced on players by DM's and GM's that do not understand OD&D, how alignment works and whom have failed to define good and evil in their campaigns and how it works in their campaigns. Because players are provided both incomplete and inaccurate information, they are left with trying to make decisions with no good solution.

Now I would like to say upfront that as a Referee and as a Player I have no interest in presenting my players with these types of choices, nor would I want to play in such a game. IRL people sometimes face (are forced into) these no win choices and I can do without such things in a game I am playing to have fun and forget the real world for a while.

As I said, I think these situations arise in games do to some fundamental misunderstandings and ignorance and to be fair because some "DM's" and "GM's" are just jerks who want to play the "Gotcha" game with their players.

1. Some presume that there is an adversarial relationship between the DM and the players. In an old school game nothing could be farther from the truth. The Referee is not an adversary, he is neither for nor against the players. The role of the Referee is to create the campaign world where the game will take place and to present a lot of interesting stuff in that world. The Referee gives voice to all the NPC's. The nature of the NPC's will vary across the entire spectrum of possibilities from close friends of the PC's to bitter enemies of the PC's and the Referee gives life to this whole range of possibilities. So we see that some NPC's are adversaries, but the Referee is not the adversary.

This mistaken and erroneous belief that the Referee is the adversary has wasted more opportunities for fun and caused more players to give up on D&D than any one other thing. It has also lead to the longtime fad of devising games where the DM lacks the authority needed to fulfill his role.

2. This leads into the second misunderstanding that the DM should present the players with difficult moral choices and other emotionally distressing non-fun things because the role of the DM is to be a sadistic dirtbag. Again this is the farthest thing from old school that it can be.

The old school role of the Referee is to provide an environment that can range from a light-hearted romp to dark, deadly, tough, and gritty as each group desires, but will be mutual fun for both the players and the referee. There is nothing in the whole range noted that implies that heartbreaking moral dilemma's are part of the package.

3. The third misunderstanding is how alignment works. Alignment in OD&D is Lawful, Neutral and Chaotic. These are not to be misunderstood as Lawful is Good and Chaotic is Evil, because that is not the case.

There are multiple sides to alignment. First as it pertains to the PC's. Alignment does not dictate player actions - I repeat, alignment does not dictate player actions. How it works is this, you have explained to your players how alignment works in your campaign and what is Lawful and Neutral and Chaotic. So, for example, a PC starts as Lawful and along the way he picks up a Lawful aligned Sword. At some point his behavior starts to become Neutral or even Chaotic. The Referee immediately lets the player know that if this change continues, then his alignment will change. The Magic Sword may balk at certain things or not provide a bonus or even twists out of the players hand as the alignment change proceeds until the player cannot handle the sword. This is a gradual fully informed decision that the player makes for the PC they are running with full feedback. It is not and never should be a DM fiat "Gotcha" situation.

Now as for NPC's alignment is a strong, but not absolute, guideline to the behavior of all monsters. Monsters are able to make decisions and may make odd decisions for their own purposes, this gives them more depth and complexity. Nevertheless, NPC's will generally act in accordance with their alignment.

Now how does Good and Evil come into the picture since it is not part of alignment in OD&D? That is up to the referee. If the referee establishes that all goblins are all evil all the time. Then there is no moral dilemma, when killing goblin children. Because if they are all evil all the time, there will be no non-combatants. Now the goblin child might wait until you are close enough to sink their teeth into your throat, but they will try to kill you. You do not have to set up goblin orphanages.

The PC's regardless of alignment will be Good or Evil as they choose. The NPC's will be Good or Evil or variable along the spectrum of Good and Evil as the Referee chooses. If the monsters are all evil all the time, the players can act accordingly. It still does not mean that fighting is the only option, evil will negotiate and trade at times to suit their purposes.

The players just need to have accurate information about how you are running your campaign, because the PCs growing up in such a world would already know this pretty accurately.

If a humanoid race is all evil all the time and is an implacable foe of civilization, then the PC's know that and there are no moral quandaries. If a particular humanoid race is not all evil, then the PC's should know that and would deal with the humanoids the same as with other humans.

I have run it both ways. If all humanoid monsters are all evil all the time, then do not be a jerk, there is no reason to throw in orc babies and make the players kill them. If the monsters are not all evil all the time, but are much as humans, then throw in a ogre bar tenders and a few other humanoids in your town just to drive home that some of them are good guys the same as some humans are good guys. Bottom line, just give your players the information they need to play the game without unnecessary angst and drama.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

A Three Part Interview of Rob Kuntz by The RPGPundit

Good interview in three parts of Rob Kuntz by The RPGPundit.
Robert J. Kuntz is one of the founding fathers of the hobby. He began playing D&D in the second ever game of the Greyhawk campaign, DMed by Gary Gygax, in 1972. His character was the fighter Robilar. Within a year he was one of the first people on Earth other than Gary Gygax to be running a Greyhawk campaign, with Gary Gygax as one of his players.  His material in that campaign had an influence on Castle Greyhawk and many other elements of the Greyhawk campaign. He was one of TSR's first six employees. He co-authored the Gods, Demigods & Heroes sourcebook (and later Deities & Demigods), and contributed to the module Expedition to the Barrier Peaks.
He was also the first player ever to successfully beat the Tomb of Horrors.
His current publishing company is Three Line Studio.

Rob Kuntz Interview Part 1 
Rob Kuntz Interview Part 2
Rob Kuntz Interview Part 3

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Scot Hoover aka Kellri - Scot's Stroke Xray Bill Go Fund Me Update Second Stroke!!!

Update on 3/15/2018 from Allan Grohe with Black Blade Publishing:
In case folks hadn't heard, Scot suffered a second stroke on Wednesday or Thursday last week (this was breaking news over the course of GaryCon). 

If you haven't donated to the GoFundMe campaign yet, there is still time to do so, and the need is as great now as it was previously, if not more so! 

Black Blade will be donating $500 to support Scot.

My wife and I are going through major health challenges and the bills are mounting so Scot we feel your pain. My wife has end stage renal disease and inoperable ovarian cancer and has been in the hospital with complications. She is now out to a rehab center for physical therapy and I have to stay away for a few days with a high fever.  I jumped on-line and I saw this and I had to give a little and I ask you to give a little too (or a lot if you can).

To quote Allan Grohe:

Scot Hoover has a GoFundMe page up for helping to recover from a stroke he had last week. In old-school gaming circles, Scot goes by Kellri and has contributed substantially to the old-school gaming community through his writings and blog at His GoFundMe is @ Scot's Stroke Xray Bill and could use whatever support you're willing to throw his way.

Scot's Stroke Xray Bill

I'm 49  years old, I will be 50 in two weeks. I have been an American blogger writer and a English teacher living and  writing in Vietnam for the past 19 years.I  have been a single father supporting my  two teenage children Sam,  and Siobhan for the past 6 years in Vietnam  Last week I suffered  life threatening and debilitating stroke which has left me unable to write. According to my doctor I need to get an MRI as soon as possible.  I have no health or medical insurance this campaign will mean I will be ale to pay my rent an medical expenses and continue supporting my children until I am on the road to recovery . Those of you who know me know that I have always refused to crowdfund my writing projects all of which have always been provided as free downloads for the past 10 years. I currently have two completed books which I also intend to provide a to the old school RPG community as free downloads.  I will be extremely grateful for any help my friends and family are willing to contribute.

For more information see:

Kellri - OSR/OSRIC writer needs medical support help

GoFundMe for Kellri

OSR Commentary On Kellri aka Scot Hoover's Go Fund Me Campaign & Free OSR Resources

Scot Hoover aka Kellri needs your help

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Three Hexes by Michael "Chgowiz" Shorten

3 Hex Map based on Gygax's "Sturmgeschütz & Sorcery" by Michael "Chgowiz" Shorten

See this post.

and this blog post.

About this he says:
Chgowiz's Notes: This campaign world is based on the scenario "Sturmgeschütz and Sorcery", an article from Strategic Review Vol 1, No. 5 - published by TSR and a predecessor to the Dragon magazine. This scenario recounted an Original Dungeons & Dragons battle between a company of Wehrmacht soldiers and evil chaos creatures from the lands of D&D. I often wondered what a campaign would be like if a much larger force had "crossed over..."
And he also says:
 Every week, I will be posting "Three Hexes" - simple campaign starters to show that you don't need to do a lot to have interesting settings for people to play in. Feel free to use these in your game, campaign or as ways to spur on your own creativity and imagination!
 I look forward to following this series, I think it will provide some badly needed examples and teaching material.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

ERKA, DATG and Sunken City Christmas Special

Don't miss this special from Rob Kuntz and TLB Games. Reposted from the Lake Geneva Original RPG Campaign  Blog!

Holiday Greetings from Rob & Nathalie!

Let us get into the Christmas spirit with some great offers, shall we!

We have just launched a Christmas Special across El Raja Key Archive, with great offers to treat yourself and the D&D gamers in your circles:

🎅   ❄️  🎄
But wait! There is more! 
🎅   ❄️  🎄
It feels like Christmas has come early!

Friday, December 15, 2017

New AD&D/D&D podcast - The Dungeon Master's Handbook

I copied this with permission from chicagowiz as it is a very interesting and quite good podcast.

Hello! I've started a new podcast about running AD&D/Classic D&D campaigns - my experiences, lessons, tips and tricks from 9 years of running a multi-group, Tony Bath-esque world. I've recorded four episodes so far, and I'm looking to release new episodes every two weeks.

I host at SoundCloud. You can find us there or on iTunes, Google Play Music, bluebrry or grab the RSS feed and put it into your podcast player:

RSS Feed:

If you like what you hear, please leave me a review on iTunes or Soundcloud!
I'm running a campaign with multiple political entities that hosts multiple RPG groups, wargame scenario/campaigns and anything else I can throw in there including personas from each who have yearly/seasonal events that affect them. Tony Bath in my inspiration for doing this.

I highly reccomend that you give this a listen if you are interested in the topic.

Sunday, September 10, 2017


krusader74 posted this over at ODD74 and has graciously given me permission to post it here and at my forum. 

-ana Suffix and substantive. (Forming plural nouns) denoting things associated with a person, place, or field of interest. From Latin, neuter plural of -anus, adjectival ending. As in (DictaVirgiliāna Sayings of Virgil, used in Fr. in 16-17th c. as sb. sing. un Virgiliana and extended to collections of the notable sayings or 'table talk' of modern authors as un Huctiana (Littré); whence also the simple termination was taken un ana; both usages were known to Eng. in beginning of 18th c., and subseq. extended or transferred to anecdotes, scraps of information or gossip about persons or places of note. [SourceOxford Living Dictionaries and Oxford English Dictionary.]

What follows are links to some firsthand online resources by Dave Arneson: essays, interviews, posts, a supplement, a map, and a dungeon. Here is a quick summary of these links:

For purposes of commentary and criticism, below I've excerpted from these Arnesoniana a few quotes that shed light on the origin of roleplaying and OD&D.
If you know of any other firsthand, online, Arneson-specific links or resources that will help others discover the wonders of OD&D, then please add them below! Also feel free to add your own comments about the resources mentioned here in the OP. Enjoy!

Many of your questions could be answered but I am bound legally to not do so.

Remark: Dave sued Gary Gygax and TSR five times to get credit as co-creator of D&D. The cases were settled out of court and the terms were sealed. Unfortuantely, as a result of the confidentiality, Dave could not answer many frequently asked questions, either here or in the interviews linked below.

A snapshot of Dave's official website archived by the Wayback Machine on 10-Jun-2008 (the Wayback Machine's links still work but may require a few seconds to load):

Role playing came into it's own for me when I thought about using the Medieval skirmish rules called CHAINMAIL along with the individual goal concept explored in the Braunstiens.

Having a weekend off from refereeing our group's Napolenic campaign (A wargame with national goals set by the players) I spent the time reading CONAN novels and watching old monster movies while munching on popcorn.

Set in a town called BLACKMOOR. Actually mostly the graph paper dungeon under the castle and town. The previous games had all been 'on the board' but it's hard to hide things there. A totally unseen dungeon maze added additional territory and to hide several nasty beasts therein.

-- Dave Arneson, A Quarter Century of Role Playing?

An Interview with Dave ArnesonPegasus #1 (April/May, 1981). Page 4.

PegasusWhat inspired you to co-author Dungeons & Dragons?

Mr. Arneson: Back in 1972, I started doing dungeon explorations with the local gamers building up a set of rules as we went along. I kept track of my rules decisions in a big black notebook as we went along so I didn't contradict myself too often.

We were in correspondence with the group from Lake Geneva through the Napoleonic Campaigns at that time, so we mentioned that we were doing fantasy stuff on alternate weekends and they became very interested in it. After I made several trips down there so they could go down in my dungeon, they became very excited about it.

At the time, they had a lot more spare time than I did and they had a lot of ideas, so they came up with their own version of the rules. They sent theirs to us and we fooled around with them for a while. We exchanged letters for awhile and just kind of slipped into it. It just felt natural that Gary and I worked together on the D&D rules because the two groups were associated and Gary and I had worked together on projects before.


PegasusTell me a little about the Blackmoor Campaign.

Mr. Arneson: Well, as I've quoted in other articles, I was judging Napoleonics so much that I just started getting tired of it. That happens after you do the same thing for three or four years. So I began with a variation of Dave Wesely's Brownstine game where you go into some Banana Republic. Your object was to become dictator or try to overthrow the government or something like that. You had a role that you were playing. I just applied the idea of having a role to being in a fantasy world (an idea I got from reading Conan for awhile).

I had a weekend off, so I sat up reading books, eating popcorn, and watching the boob tube. I drew up a maze and populated it with creatures. Then the next time someone showed up for Napoleonics I said that we were going to do something different. Unfortunately, at that time I visualized that I wouldn't have to keep track of all those records and maps. I really thought that it was going to be easy (just draw up one map and use it for-ever along with all kinds of other ideas on how to make things easy for the Judge). Needless to say, my illusions were soon shattered but I had gotten excited about it because it was different and I wasn't tied to historical restraints. I could let my imagination run rampant which it wasn't usually allowed to do. By the time I was done, there was little left of Wesely or Conan but a lot of rules for fantasy role playing!

PegasusSo historical gaming did influence you when you set up Blackmoor.

Mr. Arneson: It certainly did. We established (in our historical campaigns) the principal of having a Judge who everyone listened to and who set up the battle or campaign. That's where we were coming from, traditional wargaming.

PegasusIt's nice to hear about a campaign where people listen to the Judge. I've seen a lot of campaigns that are a little more chaotic.

Mr. Arneson: Yes, but it took a lot of forceful diplomacy on my part (the baseball bat helped). The games were held in my basement and I have thrown out disruptive players. That way I established the fact that I was in charge and when I talk you had better listen. Then when others would Judge, I could use my influence to back them up by saying "If you don't listen to this Judge, I'll remove you". Before I knew it, even I was listening to the Judge whether I liked it or not. I think in 15 years only one person was ever removed (and that by popular demand!).

Question: Does anyone know who got ejected from Dave's game? By any chance was it the legendary Dinkie Rizzle?!  :D 

Garbage Pits of Despair (PDF) - a Blackmoor Campaign Module for Dungeons & Dragons by Dave Arneson:

Link removed by Rafe.

  • Part 1 - The Slave Raiders. Different Worlds #42 (May/June 1986).

  • Part 2 - The Dragon Hills. Different Worlds #43 (July/August 1986).

Quoting from Wikipedia:

While Gary Gygax was president of TSR in the mid-1980s, he and Arneson reconnected, and Arneson briefly relinked Blackmoor to D&D with the "DA" (Dave Arneson) series of modules set in Blackmoor (1986–1987). The four modules, three of which were written by Arneson, detailed Arneson's campaign setting for the first time. When Gygax was forced out of TSR, Arneson was removed from the company before a planned fifth module could be published. Gygax and Arneson again went their separate ways. In 1986 Arneson wrote a new D&D module set in Blackmoor called "The Garbage Pits of Despair", which was published in two parts in Different Worlds magazine issues #42 and #43.

Pegasus chats with... Dave ArnesonPegasus #14 (December, 1999).

PegasusGoing on to changes in the industry ... back when we started, going on 25 years ago, everyone was pretty much discovering roleplaying for the first time. There was all the excitement and so on. Today it's almost totally commercial, as close to mainstream is it's ever going to get. What changes do you think that's made in the hobby, in the people who are playing?

Dave: Well, you know, it was a lot more fun when we started out. Some of the changes were good, because, well, first edition Dungeons & Dragons didn't even tell you how many dice you were supposed to roll to generate your stats. You could tell from the numbers, but it never did say you were using three six-siders. There was a lot of cleaning up there needed to be, tightening up, but I think what happened, oh, ten, fifteen years ago, things got so commercial, TSR was making studies about what grade level they should be writing their rulebooks for, they would include boxed dialog for everything, and that caught on with the other outfits. Sitting down and reading boxed dialog, going through seven or eight volumes of rules, is a long way from the scribbled notes I started off with, even the first three-volume set of Dungeons & Dragons. It just got very, very complicated and, in the efforts to simplify things, they just lost whatever creativity was left. We talked about Judges Guild, they're really the ones that started doing modules in a wide variety of areas. I'd done a couple for TSR. They didn't call them "modules" back then of course. They didn't have boxed dialog in there, and it was up to the referee to pass that information on to the players as they played. That was probably a little bit too little information, could have used a little more help in that regard, but then it's like suddenly they went to the opposite extreme, trying to provide them with everything. I think what you lost there was the spontaneity of the whole operation. I would have rather seen efforts expended improving the quality of referees, whether it was a referee class, or college, or more seminars than the couple you get at a gaming convention once in a while. A lot of people want to be referees, but that doesn't make them good referees, because a good referee has got to be a good storyteller, keep things moving along. You can have a crummy set of rules, and if you've got a good storyteller, you can still make it work. Or you can have a great set of rules, and a lousy storyteller for a referee, and it doesn't matter.

PegasusSo you think that there's been too much dependence on trying to do everything in the rules, and getting away from the Judge's own creativity?

Dave: Oh, yeah. Too many of them try to do everything, or they follow the official line of "You can't change anything or you'll destroy the rules." Aw, forget it. That's not the way things started, that's not the way things should be. If something doesn't work, get rid of it. If something works in another set of rules and you want to put it in your game, go for it. The [rules'] job is to make the referee's life easier, so he can referee, not harder.

Comment: I'm quite fond of Dave's remarks here about rules and referees.

Dave Arneson InterviewGameSpy. By Andrew S. Bub. August 11, 2002. 2 pages.

GameSpyIsn't that exactly what wargames do? Introduce random things into history that change events? Lee winning at Gettysburg, that sort of thing?

Dave Arneson: Yeah. That's right. In our own games we got tired of taking the town, or the hill. So we started thinking about other objectives in a scenario, and to do that we had to give our Generals personality. 

GameSpyYou had to role-play them.

Dave Arneson: We found that by doing that players started to identify with them. So, we'd role-play diplomacy and how they'd act out there on the battlefield. D&D; sort of came about after a monster marathon week of reading Conan novels, eating popcorn until it was coming out of my ears-no I was not on drugs-and we got the idea to do something in a dungeon. So I wrote the dungeon. All my players showed up and instead of having a nice neat battlefield to fight on there was a castle and all these buildings and they were told they were going to go down and adventure in a dungeon. 

GameSpyWhat did these wargamers think of that idea?

Dave Arneson: Well, they went along with it and most of them had a great time. So, we literally did that every weekend for probably the next six-months, I had one guy who was a security guard and he'd call me on the phone from work and want to play, every day --

GameSpyI can't tell you how many D&D players still do that in the High School cafeteria.

Dave Arneson: I know. So, as it started out it wasn't a major gaming effort as such but I was then adding rules and modifying things to make it ongoing. We had to change the old wargame system Gary (Gary Gygax) used in Chainmail. 

GameSpyAnd this led to the rules eventually published in Blackmoor?

Dave Arneson: And that led to Blackmoor. Yeah, I was really creative: Blackmoor Dungeon, Blackmoor Castle, Blackmoor Village, all in the Province of Blackmoor. (Laughs) Ok, I could have thought of names but --

Anyway, when we tried to use the old matrix rules (for Chainmail) only one die decided combat. So either the player would die or the monster would die. Well, the players didn't like that, so that's where I came up with hit points. Actually I got that from a set of Civil War Naval Rules where you had Armor Class and Hit Points and guns would do different damage. 

GameSpyAfter Blackmoor, how much longer did you work on D&D?

Dave Arneson: After about a year of playing it we went down and met Gary's group and they liked it. We thought we had something publishable here, and sent him all my notes, which subsequently appeared in the first fantasy campaign, we exchanged copious amounts of correspondence, and the rules were finally published in 1974. My involvement ended in 1976, we had a -- it was me and Gary that had a difference of opinion, but I had a difference of opinion with TSR. And that led to -- that was the first lawsuit, there's been five, but I can't talk about any of that. So that ended my involvement with TSR and D&D.; When Gary became President (of TSR) in 1985 he commissioned me to do a series of modules for the world of Blackmoor. We got to the fourth module and again the company changed hands, and the new people didn't want to do it, so, that was it!

So what's my involvement? I do all the conventions. I talk about it. I use it for my classes. I think I've still had a lot of influence on rules in spite of not being officially involved but it was not until 3rd Edition came about and they involved me in the playtesting that I again had any direct involvement in D&D.

The following exchange about Dave's role in the D&D movie is a gem...

GameSpyYou were involved in the D&D movie, weren't you?

Dave Arneson: I was in the movie as an actor. I was there standing in the background throwing a fireball at a dragon. 

GameSpy: I don't remember you --

Dave Arneson: (Laughs) Well when you're standing in a 300 foot tower and there's twelve of you throwing fireballs at dragons, I think it's really stupid. But it was all in the movie. Y'know I didn't find out they were making the movie until about halfway through the filming. And then they found out I was alive, instead of the rumor that I was dead, which was why they hadn't tried to contact me. They were nice. They sent me to Prague for a week and since it was a crowd scene they put me in.

An Interview With Dave By Ciro Allessandro Sacco. July 07, 2004.

Dave Arneson InterviewGameSpy. By Allen Rausch. August 19, 2004. 6 pages.

GameSpyHow did you first get involved with wargaming?

Dave Arneson: My parents bought me a wargame by the Avalon Hill company called Gettysburg. I thought there were a lot of possibilities there and I liked it a lot. I even talked my friends into learning how to play it. There was only one game a year that came out from Avalon Hill, though, so we started to design our own games.

Around 1968 I got in touch with some gamers in the Twin Cities that were playing with military miniatures and thought that was interesting and exciting. I played games with them for a couple of years and we started to make our own battles. That ended up leading to something a little bit closer to true role-playing when we started to set objectives for different generals that weren't necessarily military in nature. At that point I guess we started role-playing. 

GameSpyCan you go into a little more detail about how "different objectives" became role-playing?

Arneson: We started setting different objectives for the players. It wasn't just about fighting; we started stealing things: bombs, guns, food supplies, that sort of thing. Players could negotiate with each other for who captured the goal, and then had to figure out how they were going to slip the products past a blockade and sell them on the black market. Things like that.


GameSpyExplain to me a bit about the process. How did it suddenly start being more fun to play as an adventurer than to command these big armies?

Arneson: You got me. We just did it. We tried it out for a couple games and we thought it was a lot of fun; they all did … all the guys in my group. And certainly it was easier to battle with only 20 or 30 individual (miniatures) than it was to set up a tabletop with five thousand different lead figures on it. 


GameSpyHow did you come up with the idea of getting off the surface and going through a dungeon crawl?

Arneson: Well, dungeon crawls were, I think, the easiest things to set up because all you had to do was draw a grid map and didn't have to worry about the great outdoors and setting up trees and stuff. People also couldn't go wandering off where you didn't have a map because it was solid rock.

GameSpyWhy fantasy, though? You had started out playing with real-world armies.

Arneson: Some other people in my group set up rules for modern games, or even back in the age of Napoleon. We would get in these arguments, though, about historical accuracy, the latest translation of the latest book, and what was "real." Going into a fantasy world was actually again kind of a copout from my point of view. I didn't want people always coming up with some new book saying we just had to use because it was right and the old one was wrong. This was a fantasy world, so who could come up with anything to prove that he was lying or that a monster wasn't accurately represented? [Laughs]. Now, of course, there's book on everything. It's trickier than it was in the beginning when there weren't as many (fantasy ) books. 

GameSpySo basically at the time you could say, "Listen, white is whatever I say it is."

Arneson: Yeah. You know, nobody ever said, "Here's my translation of some such book," and said I was wrong. It was easier for me to referee. 

GameSpySo you started playing Chainmail using the fantasy rules. How did you have to change the rules around?

Arneson: We had to change it almost after the first weekend. Combat in Chainmail is simply rolling two six-sided dice, and you either defeated the monster and killed it … or it killed you. It didn't take too long for players to get attached to their characters, and they wanted something detailed which Chainmail didn't have. The initial Chainmail rules was a matrix. That was okay for a few different kinds of units, but by the second weekend we already had 20 or 30 different monsters, and the matrix was starting to fill up the loft.

I adopted the rules I'd done earlier for a Civil War game called Ironclads that had hit points and armor class. It meant that players had a chance to live longer and do more. They didn't care that they had hit points to keep track of because they were just keeping track of little detailed records for their character and not trying to do it for an entire army. They didn't care if they could kill a monster in one blow, but they didn't want the monster to kill them in one blow.

GameSpy: How consistent was your fantasy world? Could you develop a whole history right at the beginning or did that come later?

Arneson: No, that came later. I needed the first couple games to work out the rules. I came up with the maps and the castle, and [then] I came up with the characters and monsters. I didn't worry about any kind of world. Frankly, I didn't think it was gonna add up to some sort of campaign that was gonna last 35 years.

I built it as I went along, and as the guys wanted to do more. That really was good because then I had to keep notes and organize them. I wanted to be consistent. I had learned that from role-playing the military games. You had to be consistent. So I started keeping notes in a little three-ring binder, and then there was a much bigger three-ring binder. [Laughs]

Dungeons & Dragons' Arneson: The Lost Interview. Gamasutra. Published posthumously, August 10, 2009.