D&D General Dave Arneson: Is He Underrated, or Overrated?


I crit!
I think if you limit yourself to D&D, it's tropes and traditions, it's definitely Gygax and TSR and the folks that came after with a dash of Arneson. The glimpses of how Dave ran a game and how is game worked and the rules we do have that he actually used both before Gary and after paint a bit of a different game with different traditions and almost a different style of game. Some of which D&D tried to adopt at the begining but quickly left behind. I've talked to folks who gamed with Dave and they often will state little things that seem way out for the traditions of D&D but bog standard normal for them.

If you think of the hobby as a whole, then not nearly enough credit is given to Arneson. Not for the details per se but in that long moment of inspiration that sparked all of this.

Edit to add: Go to GaryCon. Seek out the folks that played with Dave, ask them about it. They love to tell stories about it. It's fascinating. Maybe they'll tell you secrets not known to the wider world.
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As it stands, Arneson is owed credit for coming up with the concept of an RPG. However, he didn't have as much of an impact on the full creation and publication of the game as some seem to believe. The game certainly would have gone in different directions if he had, as his interpretation of "roleplay" is closer to our modern view than Gygax's.

While I haven't read the book (I know this makes my opinion a bit questionable in these things), it's my understanding that Arneson could have been more involved in the finalization and publication of D&D. Gygax required him to pony up the investment cash that he and Blume put forth, but either he couldn't or wouldn't, which is why Blume's father (?) fronted the remaining third of the investment. I think history would have been significantly different if Arneson bought in, since he would have also been part of the steering of the game and the debacle that ousted Gygax probably would have happened (ideally Arneson's influence could have kept Gygax in check, but the ability to out buy Gygax probably wouldn't have been there without Blume Sr's shares).


5ever, or until 2024
This seems to add details to the known story.

Arneson certainly invented the core concepts. Gygax made them into a game that could be sold.

Then Arneson checked out.

The fights over money are very normal and natural. There is no unique solution to a situation like that.

I could certainly see why, say, he would expect some royalties after AD&D came out. And of course, Gygax did hire him again.


If your whiting is what actually happened, it makes him look like a jerk and poor worker. Wonder if Gygax could have fired him?


Once A Fool
I'll admit though... I didn't know those were the people involved. Maybe for you guys it was obvious, but I've never really seen their names brought up as the creators of 3e.
Their names are on the books!

Probably not the 3.5 books, though.

If you’re interested in the 3e-development era, you could look into the history of EN World. The archived pre-3e articles and interviews from Eric Noah’s site would be a good place to start.

There’s plenty of other good stuff to be found in the “Features” section of EN World, too. Like the archived Q&A threads with Gary Gygax, for instance.
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