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.

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Despite his excitement his plans seem underwhelming.

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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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Dausuul

Legend
So that's a solid No then on any link to relevant quotes where he Apologizes, and then repudiates his previous statement: "I still don't think what we did was wrong. But society does, unfortunately."

Got it.
Of course it's a no. I never said he apologized for or repudiated anything. I only said that he learned. Which he clearly did.

He didn't learn (at least not by 2001) why the thing he was doing was wrong... but he did learn not to do it. And unlike Gygax and Arneson, he learned it before crashing his company or getting himself thrown out of it.
 

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.
So Arneson wasn't out of touch, he was actually so far ahead that no one could even recognize the genius of his ramblings? Okay.
 

darjr

I crit!
I would now like to also credit Dave Arneson now.

I am usually the “ideas are a dime a dozen, it’s execution and luck that matters” but in this case Daves idea transcends that. Execution and luck still mattered a great deal, credit to Gary and TSR and all the players, but Daves idea was great.

F2202106-8868-4C53-BAC6-F8831B85202F.jpeg
 

Iosue

Legend
So Arneson wasn't out of touch, he was actually so far ahead that no one could even recognize the genius of his ramblings? Okay.
It's not that. It's that Arneson was essentially suggesting leveraging the IP of TSR's worlds, and Riggs, rather uncharitably IMO, interprets that as meaning to flood the market with world-specific product like TSR did.

In fact, it seems to me that most of Arneson's letter are contemporary "observations" that are very similar to the conclusions the Riggs made in his book years after the fact. Yet Riggs downplays all of them to play up the genius of Adkison/Dancey/Stevens, who happen to be the subjects of his next book.

Arneson was a poor writer. This letter in particular strikes me as the typical kind of correspondence he would have with other wargames-hobbyists-turned-game-publishers, rather than a formal business letter that I guess Riggs thought he should have written. But he seems to have had a good understanding of the game industry and the issues with TSR. I'm not saying that Adkison should have hired him, but this article seems like meanspirited nitpicking to promote Riggs' next book. I liked Slaying the Dragon, but this is just distasteful. If the next book is more in this vein, I'll just pass on it.
 

Yet Riggs downplays all of them to play up the genius of Adkison/Dancey/Stevens, who happen to be the subjects of his next book.
From what I've read of Riggs, he uses an very biased voice in his writings. Which doesn't make him wrong. But since we can read the letter ourselves, we don't have to rely on Riggs' interpretation.

There's nothing insightful there. Nothing that a first-year business student couldn't write in response to a case study, except that the grammar and spelling would be better.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
It's not that. It's that Arneson was essentially suggesting leveraging the IP of TSR's worlds, and Riggs, rather uncharitably IMO, interprets that as meaning to flood the market with world-specific product like TSR did.

In fact, it seems to me that most of Arneson's letter are contemporary "observations" that are very similar to the conclusions the Riggs made in his book years after the fact. Yet Riggs downplays all of them to play up the genius of Adkison/Dancey/Stevens, who happen to be the subjects of his next book.

Arneson was a poor writer. This letter in particular strikes me as the typical kind of correspondence he would have with other wargames-hobbyists-turned-game-publishers, rather than a formal business letter that I guess Riggs thought he should have written. But he seems to have had a good understanding of the game industry and the issues with TSR. I'm not saying that Adkison should have hired him, but this article seems like meanspirited nitpicking to promote Riggs' next book. I liked Slaying the Dragon, but this is just distasteful. If the next book is more in this vein, I'll just pass on it.
This is pretty much just how Riggs writes.
 

Saracenus

Always In School Gamer
@darjr thank you for the link, it was both interesting and... sad. Even sadder was my inability to avoid J. LaNasa's posting as TSR Con... Why can't I have something related to D&D where he does pop up like the delusional gopher that he is...
 

ENWorldUser

Explorer
Creative types are notoriously bad with spelling/grammar so I wouldn't hold that against him. Editors might..

No way could he have been a senior manager.
Back then WotC required even the current ex-TSR staff to move to Washington to keep their jobs.
At best, he could've been a consultant on something but probably had too many years out of the game. But even EGG contributed articles to Dragon.
 

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