Thursday, October 1, 2015

Remembering Dave Arneson

In memoriam, I wanted to talk a bit about Dave Arneson. Today would have been his birthday as he was born October 1, 1947. Best known as one of the co-creators of my favorite game Dungeons & Dragons, I will not be exploring his departure from TSR during this post. Rather I just wanted to celebrate his contributions to the gaming industry because they are important.

Dave’s love of games really took off in the 1960s when he attended the University of Minnesota. Historic miniature war gaming was his regular hobby, but it was about to change dramatically. Dave was very interested in having individual war game models learn from their experiences in-between battles. This desire to develop one model, instead of the entire military unit, was a great example of the earliest stages of role playing games. Dave put these concepts to test in his campaign world named Blackmoor.

Soon Dave met another gaming enthusiast named Gary Gygax at Gen Con in 1969. Their amazing collaboration would go on to create the wonderful pastime that so many of us enjoy today. 1974 marks the year that famous little white box appeared, which would change tabletop gaming forever. In 1975 Supplement II: Blackmoor was released with a forward by Gary Gygax. In the former Gary goes on to say that Blackmoor is the “oldest and longest running Dungeons & Dragons game”.

In the years after leaving TSR, Dave continued to publish more role-playing game material and taught classes at Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida. In 2010, Full Sail University dedicated the student game development studio space as "Dave Arneson's Blackmoor Studios" in Arneson's honor. Turbine's Dungeons and Dragons Online added an in-game memorial altar to Arneson and also created an in-game item named the "Mantle of the Worldshaper". 

Admittedly, for many years I had no idea who Dave Arneson even was. As a young player cutting my teeth on BCMI and eventually AD&D he was just not on my radar. But as I grew older and the history of the game started to fascinate me I eventually learned about Dave. Ironically sometime in late 2001 when the MMORPG explosion occurred I was playing Dark Age of Camelot with one of his students. Every time he had a chance this student heaped praise upon Dave’s name as a professor. 

At the time I thought it was cool he had one of the co-creators of D&D as a teacher. Now so many years later my only regret was not listening more closely to those stories. If anything that experience is a constant reminder to me that the old guard is slowly passing on. It remains my sincere hope that we as a community will continue to seek out as much gaming history as possible.

So later today maybe take a stroll through Dave’s Lake Gloomey to the Temple of the Frog. Just remember to bring your favorite D20, because Dave will almost certainly be asking you to roll for initiative!