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RIP Dave Arneson

For those who might not have heard, Dave Arneson passed away on 7 April.

He was THE father of role-playing, who with Gary Gygax created the juggernaut of Dungeons and Dragons. Dave was the one who came up with the idea of players controlling only one character instead of platoons or squads as in typical table top gaming as well as creating the first RPG Campaign - Blackmoor.

I still treasure my original D&D books (Men and Magic, Monsters and Treasure, The Underworld and Wilderness Campaigns). Those three little digest-sized books and their suppliments, (Greyhawk, Blackmoor, Eldrich Wizardry and Gods, Demi-Gods and Heroes), killed a lot of hours at college (and a small chunk of my less than stellar undergraduate GPA, but that's another story).

I have been a Dungeon Master/Game Master for dozens of systems since 1979, but I think the early versions of D&D are still my favorites. I think all the time I spent GM'ing has helped my writing because as the GM I had to worry about things like believability, pacing, tension, balancing the action, keeping everyone involved as well as becoming everything from an angry troll bouncer to a bouncy elven barmaid in a split second, while trying to field a half-dozen questions from the players AND their characters at the same time.

So, Dave and Gary were both early influences on my writing and if I ever sell any of my original work, it'll be a large part because of their influence. (And yes, I'd love to write D&D stories also, but I'd like to think just being forced to read as much mythology, fantasy and history as I did to keep ahead of my players helped my writing as much as being a gamer did.)

I was at Dragon*Con in 2002, trying to promote a comic called Chronicles of the Sea Dragon. (Yes, I'm turning that idea into a novel.) While I'm there in Artist's Alley, a gentleman comes over to my table and begins flipping through the pages I have in a binder. He starts asking me about the characters and we spend some time discussing the world I've built for it and why.

After a bit, he stops and asks, "Do you play Dungeons and Dragons?"

I blushed a bit, because in some circles, D&D is looked down on by other fantasy writers/artists, but answered truthfully. "I've been playing since 1979."

"That's good. I could see myself running a campaign in your world."

That struck me as odd. "Oh."

He looked at me and grinned. "You don't know who I am, do you?"

"No sir, I'm afraid I don't recognize you." I figured he might be a comic artist or maybe one of the writers who attend D*C.

He hands me his business card. "I'm Dave Arneson."

The genuflecting began. Dave Arneson, Dave 'The Godfather of Gaming' Arneson liked my ideas enough he could envision running one of his games in my world?! He was extremely gracious and we had a very nice conversation about gaming in general as well as how he developed Blackmoor originally. After that, I honestly don't remember much of the next couple of hours at the con. Yes, I was in full geek mode and I really didn't care.

But, that's the way he was. Gary was the guy who followed the spotlight. Dave just kept plugging away between his work at TSR and teaching at various schools. Sometimes, I don't think he ever realized, or cared, what a force his simple idea had become. He was just wanted someone to pass him the dice for one more roll.

You are going to be missed, Dave.


( 3 howls — Howl with the Pack )
Apr. 9th, 2009 07:46 pm (UTC)
And that, is a memory to treasure. Juggernauts of modern fantasy...here's a roll of the dice hoping they know how much they meant to a lot of us.
Apr. 10th, 2009 08:47 am (UTC)
Wow. Praise from Caesar...
Apr. 10th, 2009 02:11 pm (UTC)

You've heard the phrase "knock me over with a feather".

That was so true at that moment.

The two greatest times I had at Dragon*Con was that and the time I got to spend almost a half-hour talking to Will Eisner about how he created P.S. Magazine for the Army.

Good times, good times.
( 3 howls — Howl with the Pack )

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