Thursday, January 19, 2012

What Happened to the Co-Creator?

Today’s big news is that Wizards of the Coast is reprinting the three core 1st edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons volumes.  They are “premium versions” with new cover art.  “Available in limited quantities for a short time only, these are sure to be collectible.”

Any person likely to visit this blog will almost certainly be aware of this information before seeing this post.  As such, your humble host did not intend on writing about the announcement of this reprint, but something caught his thoulish eye…

The image above comes from Wizards’ solicitation document.  Please note the phrase “Gary Gygax, creator of Dungeons & Dragons®.”  Readers of this blog may have heard of Dave Arneson, who has consistently been identified as a co-creator of D&D (at least since the settlement of certain litigation, the exact terms of which have not been disclosed).

Arneson did not have the charisma bonuses Gygax had and any ‘cult of personality’ associated with Dave was extremely minor in comparison to that of Gary.  Truly, D&D would not have been a phenomenon were it not for Gygax, but D&D would not exist were it not for Arneson.  Yes, there are Arneson detractors who insist his contributions were overstated or even marginal.  The fact is, Arneson was the first Dungeon Master; he was the visionary, he was the pioneer.  He deserves (and usually receives) recognition and credit.  I’m not suggesting that WotC is in violation of any settlement agreement by making the ‘creator’ reference; this is just a solicitation document and not the rules themselves (and, anyway, I don’t know the terms of the settlement).  However, I am interested in seeing whether Gygax will be listed as the sole author of these books as he was when they were originally published.

If the document said “co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons®” or even “creator of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons®” I wouldn’t have written this rant.  I even accept that Gygax is “the father of roleplaying games.”  However, Arneson is the midwife at the very least.


  1. Have you heard about the other reprint news today? First seen on Grognardia (credit where credit is due).

  2. Yes, yesterday Craig Brain left a comment for my December 25th post. So, technically, it was first seen on Thoul's Paradise (for anyone who bothered to look); however, Maliszewski was the first to blog about it.

  3. This is a god damn outrage!

    Seriously. I do not accept that Gygax is the father of RPG's. No disrespect intended for Gary, but Dave had the original vision, as ragged as it was.

    And to your last comment there, Perdustin, it seems like maybe you are getting the Arneson treatment in the blogging community...


    1. I concede that Gygax is “the father of roleplaying games” because he published and popularized D&D. If not for Gygax, would the concept of RPGs (as we know them) have extended much beyond Arneson’s wargaming circle? Perhaps, perhaps not. Gygax created the industry; possibly the industry would have developed without him but it would have been quite different. Also, it was Gygax’ rules that Arneson originally employed and modified. You could say that Dave was the biological father, but Gary was the adoptive father and he greatly influenced RPGs.

      As for the ‘Arneson treatment,’ I can’t expect people to notice recent comments on a month old post. Even if I did write a new post about it, Thoul’s Paradise is a low profile blog; it doesn’t have the exposure of Grognardia.

    2. Heh, heh. You said "exposure."

      You're right that it was Gygax and company that marketed it to the world. But I remember Arneson's original rules being much different from Chainmail, and it wasn't until the two guys and their groups started linking up that some standardization emerged. I could be wrong, it is tough to cut through all the revisionist dogma out there, and I didn't get into the hobby until the late 70's.

      I do recall one dude essentially recreating Arneson's original rules from notes and players' memories, called Dragons at Dawn. I am interested but haven't picked it up yet, because some of the author's comments on boards are total douchebaggery (unlike my erudite insight).

      Have you seen these, or know anything about them?


      PS I noticed YDIS is not a Thoul-certified game blog...

    3. Yes, it is tough to cut through the dogma and I could be wrong. Arneson's style was certainly different and I wish more of it was reflected in the rules.

      D. H. Boggs' Dragons at Dawn is available at Lulu. I purchased it and I recommend it.

      Thoul certification is a rare privilege. Perhaps if YDIS didn't attract the sort of cruel commenters that insult the Mid-West, it could make the grade.

    4. Does Dragons at Dawn look a lot like Chainmail? I am now very curious.

      Arneson's style was certainly a glorious mess, if the First Fantasy Campaign is any indication (I assume it is, since he wrote it), and a lot more seat-of-the-pants than what the original D&D was. There is a part of Timmy Kask's Q&A thread on Dragonsfoot where he talks about editing Blackmoor, and how much he personally despised Arneson. I don't doubt the amount of editing he claims to have done, but a lot of his animosity toward Arneson is more reflective of Kask's "look at me and despair because I kissed Gary's ass" personality than anything Dave actively did. I'd love to see those original Blackmoor notes before Kask took his righteous red pen to it.


  4. I fully agree that Arneson should get just as much credit for his contributions. I think it is pointless at this time to argue who actually contributed more to the finished product BUT I also think it is fair to point out that D&D would definitely NOT be the same without the contributions of both Gygax and Arneson.

  5. I don't think it pointless whatsoever. History matters.

    None of us know the ins-and-outs, but it seems to me that Gygax contributed more to the finished product. The guy did layout and type the first printings. Plus it was his basement company on the box; he, Kaye, and Blume had the most to lose.

    Yet without Arneson's vision, we would have variants of Chainmail.

    I won't be buying due to the fact I am far too uncool for such 'limited editions' - but I do hope the reprintings list Arneson as co-author. It's only fair.