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

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I say this with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek, but from a certain point of view, they're all overrated.

Gygax: Hey... instead of playing the French vs the British, why don't we play elves vs orcs?
Arneson: Hey... instead of armies on the battlefield, why don't we play individuals in a dungeon?
Gygax: I could sell that...

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Blue Orange

Gone to Texas
Also, one of my coworkers had him as a professor for one of his classes back in college, which still kinda blows my mind.

Well, I do know of one (in)famous case of a fantasy writer being someone's professor, but it's a little OT (spoilered to avoid thread derail)...

The Gor guy was a philosophy professor at CUNY Queens. He retired, but you can still find his RateMyProfessors ratings.

When I was a teen, I didn't know who Nolan Bushnell or Shigeru Miyamoto was, I just liked playing Atari and later Nintendo games. I do think that lately, there's been a tend towards aggressive nostalgia, which also manifests itself in curiosity and scholarly interest in the best case scenario. There are people that are intensely curious about D&D's history younger than I am. Some of my younger players get really interested when I talk about old D&D stuff, others, it's like I'm talking an alien language.

Its strange how much and little different groups and generations think of this stuff. Most millennial gamers I know learned about Gygax from his two lines on Futurama. No idea what TSR is or who Arneson might even be. They dont have much curiosity or care about the particulars. Could be an internet thing.


Prophet of the profane (She/Her)

Good article again!

To me, going on this and other bits I've read, it seems that, despite being a bit of a useless so-and-so work-wise, Arneson invented or popularized what, to me, to groups I've played in, is what we really enjoyed about RPGs, and which was broadly applicable to multiple RPGs, which is a certain approach to DMing, to world-building, and so on, and it's one that EGG has both railed against in unequivocal terms, and also sort of seemed to almost-agree-with at others. In general though EGG has given the impression that his ideas re: how D&D and DMs should be were far narrower and even slightly repulsive to most people who run RPGs (including a lot of OSR people) - I mean, the less said about Role-playing Mastery the better. They say "Never meet your heroes" which is probably good advice (though I was behind Sigourney Weaver in a queue at a bookshop once and nothing bad happened except her smiling bodyguard looked at me in a "Don't try and ask for autograph, bro" way), and nothing disillusioned me about Gygax as hard as that book. I read it at 13 and I was already too sensible and too experienced as a DM for it. Awful.


Morkus from Orkus
This one paragraph is really all you need to pass judgement.

If you believe the man co-created D&D (and you say you do), then it is not possible that he is overrated. He is the man who literally co-created the greatest RPG of all time and the RPG all others would be modeled after.
I don't agree with that. They were both new to fantasy RPGs, creating it as they went along, so while they did come up with an amazing game, they still both made errors along the way and some of those made it into the game. You can overrate them very easily if you ignore those mistakes.
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Morkus from Orkus
I think that quote is key. But it points directly to the view that Arneson invented D&D and Gygax published it. Gary never would have invented D&D on his own. Dave never would have published D&D on his own. There’s a clear line between creator and publisher or popularizer. I’m glad both were involved because I got to grow up playing these games, but it’s fairly clear one man created the thing itself...while the other put it out into the world.
I think this goes too far. Arneson had most of the ideas, but Gygax was a rules guy, and rules are a huge part of what makes a game. That makes it a pretty even split in my book.

Voidrunner's Codex

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