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Dave Arneson, father of the Role Playing Game and co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons, fails his last save

Hola all. Massawyrm here. It’s hard to imagine a world without Dave Arneson. His name isn’t one most of you are familiar with – and if you are one of those who are familiar with it, you might not fully grasp his significance. Most people think that the ‘creator’ of Dungeons & Dragons passed away last year. That was Gary Gygax. The CO-creator of Dungeons & Dragons. He was the money man, a game creator in his own right who understood how to make D&D a hit. But Arneson? He was the guy that said Hey, you know what would be cool? If we played a game in which a group of heroes went into a dungeon and fought monsters. And then he made it cool. Gygax and Arneson first met at the 2nd annual GENCON in 1969. At the time Arneson was a big military wargamer, his passion naval battles. After a while his interests turned towards “what if” gaming – where you play alternate versions of history like a Pearl Harbor in which the Americans detected the attack early enough, just to see who would have won. But after Gencon things changed and Arneson began working on a game he called BLACKMOOR, the world’s first role playing game. Incorporating miniature wargaming rules into a setting in which characters would delve into dungeons and fight monsters, he would create what many of us would recognize as the very first RPG. It was here that he would create the notion of “hit points” and “armor class”, adapting them from a set of civil war naval wargaming rules. As he developed it, he would borrow elements from Gygax’s tactical wargame CHAINMAIL and would marry the two games into something he and Gygax would first call THE FANTASY GAME. Turned down by publishers, Gygax raised the funds to start a small company called TACTICAL STUDIES RULES (what we would come to know as TSR) and they published the new, retitled rules in 1974. That’s the game you know. DUNGEONS & DRAGONS. It was an instant hit. Arneson would become most famous however for publishing the very first D&D setting, Blackmoor. Arneson and Gygax would later have a falling out that would lead to Arneson leaving the company and suing it in 1979. The terms of the settlement were never openly discussed. But Gygax and Arneson would later reconcile and be known as good friends by the time Gygax passed last year. My close friend, writer and Dungeon Master, Ari Marmell had this to say earlier this week. Dave I knew, although certainly not well. We met several times, during the course of the work I did on the 3E and 4E updates of Blackmoor--Dave's campaign setting, and the first published setting for D&D--including (briefly) sharing a booth with him at GenCon. While I'm not sure he appreciated my sense of humor, he was always exceedingly friendly and polite, and he really struck me as enjoying his interaction with the fans. Even when his health first took a turn for the worse, he made every effort to attend GenCon in order to remain a part of the community. He never really got the credit he deserved, as one of D&D's co-creators, and that's a shame--and hopefully a mistake that history will correct as time goes on. But the man had an incredible imagination, and he helped create not only a game, but an entire hobby, that has now outlived him. Like I said, I didn't know him well, but I'm not sure he'd have asked for much more than that. Rest in peace, Dave. And thank you. What can I say? I don’t know what kind of guy I would be had I not developed the passion for gaming that I had – what friends I would have spent time with were it not the dorks who joined me for delves into forbidden shrines and unholy castles. And what would today’s video games be like were there no RPG model to draw from? This was the guy who thought it would be cool. And it WAS cool. The guy was a giant. A beloved member of the community and the creator of something so big that it will outlive us all. I can only echo my good friend’s sentiments. Dave, thanks for everything. It wouldn't have been the same without you. Until next time friends, Massawyrm Got something for the Wyrm? Mail it here.

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