D&D General Dave Arneson’s Pitch for the future of TSR and D&D in ‘97 to Peter Adkison

Following his 1997 application for a job at WotC, D&D co-creator Dave Arneson wrote a second letter to WoTC founder Peter Adkison and made a pitch about how he'd run TSR and D&D.


Despite his excitement his plans seem underwhelming.


My heart already bleeds for Arneson. The man has never received his due as D&D’s co-creator. He never made CEO. He wasn’t on Futurama. TSR and Gary Gygax did him dirty. (This has been explored in my prior post and in Game Wizards by Jon Peterson.)

This letter is Arneson’s moment. If he wants to make D&D for a living again, he has to put points on the board, and he has to do it with this letter. Now. But he hasn’t even bothered to check his punctuation!

Six pages of his research and plans follow. Here’s a summary, but I’m pasting the letter below if you want to thrill to every misspelled word.

In the main, Arneson’s thoughts are nothing you wouldn’t have heard hanging around a game store in the spring of 1997. He said that all of TSR’s projects were “dead in the water,” which the whole world knew as the company hadn’t published anything for months.

See Ben Riggs article for the full letter and more of his observations.

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I crit!
I wonder what Peter thought? I'd be a bit alarmed if Dave was talking to people at TSR and making plans.

Ah my answer as best as I'll probably get.

having co-created the first role-playing game, the great work of Arneson’s life was finished. Yet it is so sad to think of him watching others take his creation to heights he could not reach himself.

I asked Wizards’ first CEO Peter Adkison if he remembered these 1997 letters from Arneson. Adkison said he “only had the vaguest recollection of Dave and Gary each offering to come to work for Wizards.” He said, “I declined as gracefully as possible. At the time, I was pretty sure that wouldn’t have turned out well. And now, I’m absolutely certain.”


I mean, probably for ghe best in both cases.
Almost certainly. Both men got pushed out of TSR, and not without cause. They deserve great credit for creating the game... but they made poor stewards of their creation.

Giving them positions of any real responsibility would have been foolish, given their track records. The alternative--giving them sinecures and using their names for PR--is slimy and soulless, and would likely have ended badly. I doubt either Gygax or Arneson would have been content in such a role.


The Irony no one will actually realize.

5e took off because they discarded the ideas of Dancey and the old guard of WotC and their philosophy behind 3e, and actually utilized some of the ideas of Arneson (that he put in these letters, though they were arrived at by different means, the ideas are surprisingly similar) in the creation and continued production of 5e.

MODIFIED...obviously and of course, but still implemented (and still being implemented or advanced, as in the electronic measures) and it has been FAR more successful with the brand than Adkinson was (does that sound like bragging...naw...but probably not that humble either).

A LOT of online movement with the magazines, but ALSO other content (what...you think D&D ingratiating itself with things like online dramatic gaming sessions is just by coincidence???)

Cutting down on the worlds and production (so no big investments like 3e did with FR and a ton of books and such) and a slower pace focusing on the heart and core of D&D. Cutting down on staff and having a bigger picture of contract and managers rather than being completely in-house. Mixing in some D&D with Magic Worlds, and more importantly, experimenting and mixing MtG worlds with D&D. Etc..etc...etc.

Of course, there are some things tossed aside as well (The entire novel line for example), but that letter and the ideas are also for a generation ago when books were selling better.

And now that I said it, you can ignore this post and go back to your normal commenting...

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