Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Braunstein Game

As some of you may know David Wesely invented a game known as a Braunstein and he has been credited with creating ideas for that game that led directly to the Original Dungeons & Dragons the first roleplaying game.

From the sometimes/occasionally accurate Wikipedia as the easiest place to grab a bit of info:

In 1967, Wesely served as referee for a Napoleonic wargame set in the fictional German town of Braunstein. As usual, two players acted as commanders of the opposing armies, but because he was interested in multi-player games, Wesely assigned additional, non-military roles. For example, he had players acting as town mayor, banker, and university chancellor. When two players challenged each other to a duel, Wesely found it necessary to improvise rules for the encounter on the spot. Though Wesely thought the results were chaotic and the experiment a failure, the other players enjoyed the role playing aspect and asked him to run another game.

Wesely thus contributed to the development of RPGs by introducing a one-to-one identification of player and character, and open-ended rules allowing the players to attempt any action, with the result of the action determined by the referee.

Wesely's Braunstein drew inspiration from Diplomacy, a game requiring players to negotiate in between turns. The idea of a referee was derived from Strategos: The American Game of War (1880), by Charles Totten. Totten's book also inspired Wesley with the idea of having a game master who invented the scenario for the evening's battle. Wesley discovered the idea of "n-player" strategy games from The Compleat Strategist by Kenneth Swezy. Wesely also read and cited as influential, Conflict and Defense: A General Theory (1962), by Kenneth E. Boulding and, The Compleat Strategyst (1954) by J.D. Williams.

Wesely subsequently invented a new role playing scenario in which players attempt to stage or avert a coup in a small Latin American republic. After Wesely was drafted into the Army, Dave Arneson, another member of the MMSA, took over as referee for this scenario, which was also known as a 'Braunstein'. As Arneson continued to run his versions of Braunstein and invent new scenarios, he eventually expanded them to include ideas from The Lord of the Rings and Dark Shadows. In 1971 Arneson developed a Braunstein set in a fantasy world called "Blackmoor", a precursor to Dungeons & Dragons.

It is my understanding that Mr. Wesley still runs these Braunstein games to this day.  One reason I bring all this up is to thank Mr. Wesely for his contribution to all of the fun that I have had over the years playing OD&D. The second reason is that the following has just come to my attention: Over on Drive Thru RPG there appears Braunstein! for sale on their site. I found it being shared with this comment:

From one of the creators of Pits and Perils comes an ode to the Braunstein game, conveniently titled Braunstein!. Braunstein! is meant to be used to play games set in a historical setting, much like the game it takes its name from. It's a quick read. The rules are quite simple and straightforward—and it's not like Pits and Perils was complicated by any stretch. It's worth a look if you are interested in people's takes on (very) rules light gaming.

Apparently it is written by James & Robyn George. What I would like to know is this: What connection do they have to David Wesely, if any? Is David Wesely aware of this publication and did he approve of it? Did David Wesely give permission for the use of the name and do the rules bear any resemblance to his rules? I would love to hear from Mr. Wesely on these issues. In addition, if any of the information posted above is inaccurate I would love to correct it with his assistance. Furthermore, I (and no doubt many others) would love to see the rules that Mr. Wesely uses himself.

EDIT: I found these two links associated with the Georges : Olde House Rules and Pits Perilous

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