Evidence Chainmail Had Material from Dave Arneson

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lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
This is the sort of glossing over I was talking about. At the top of that quote, Arneson seems to speak of Chainmail’s “Matrix based combat system” holistically. The Fantasy Combat Table is by no means the only combat matrix in Chainmail, and it’s quite possible he’s talking about the Man-to-Man tables or even the mass combat tables. They can all be characterized as “winner take all”. Speaking as if the Fantasy Combat Table is the only matrix in Chainmail assumes a lack of familiarity with the material in your audience.
Does it really? Having a conversation about these issues is kind of like whack-a-mole, which is the same feeling I get when there are discussions about flat earth, or sovereign citizens.

But let's play your game. Here's what you said again-

"it’s at least conceivable that his many mentions of using “Chainmail” for early sessions of Blackmoor were in reference to the pre-Fantasy Supplement versions of Chainmail. "

Sure, it's at least conceivable. If, of course, you didn't understand that he talked about it for decades. And that there was litigation. And that, somehow, he never, ever, ever brought this up. Or Gygax. Or anyone.

And if you ignore the context of the quote- that he was talking about adding additional monsters to the matrix; which only makes sense (looking at Chainmail) if he's talking about the matrix with monsters in it. Which is the fantasy one. Or, for that matter, if you ignore all the other quotes from him. But, again, whatever. This whole thread is pointless.

Sure. It's conceivable. If you choose to ignore all the evidence that doesn't agree with you.
 

mwittig

Explorer
"it’s at least conceivable that his many mentions of using “Chainmail” for early sessions of Blackmoor were in reference to the pre-Fantasy Supplement versions of Chainmail. "

Sure, it's at least conceivable. If, of course, you didn't understand that he talked about it for decades. And that there was litigation. And that, somehow, he never, ever, ever brought this up. Or Gygax. Or anyone.
"The medieval rules, CHAINMAIL (Gygax and Perren) were published in Domesday Book prior to publication by Guidon Games." -Gary Gygax, “Gary Gygax on Dungeons & Dragons: Origins of the Game" (1977)
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
"The medieval rules, CHAINMAIL (Gygax and Perren) were published in Domesday Book prior to publication by Guidon Games." -Gary Gygax, “Gary Gygax on Dungeons & Dragons: Origins of the Game" (1977)
That's fine. You still mistake, "It is conceivable," for, "this is evidence that...". Even if you have what might be a plausible story - plausible stories are not evidence.

There's this phenomenon called "confirmation bias". You might want to look into it.

I happen to like Mr. Kuntz's point - Arneson's great contribution is not anywhere in the details of the combat rules. It is in, "Hey, wait a minute... we can actually pretend to be individual elves and hobbits and things, pretend to be fantasy people! I can be friggin' Aragorn if I want to!"

Tidbits of the combat rules are, in fact, insignificant by comparison to that leap. '

What would help us understand this conversation is, why are you so heck-bent on proving the provenance of minor combat resolution details that have since be replaced several times over? The thing that hasn't been replaced is the meaningful bit, isn't it?
 

Hriston

Adventurer
Does it really? Having a conversation about these issues is kind of like whack-a-mole, which is the same feeling I get when there are discussions about flat earth, or sovereign citizens.

But let's play your game. Here's what you said again-

"it’s at least conceivable that his many mentions of using “Chainmail” for early sessions of Blackmoor were in reference to the pre-Fantasy Supplement versions of Chainmail. "

Sure, it's at least conceivable. If, of course, you didn't understand that he talked about it for decades. And that there was litigation. And that, somehow, he never, ever, ever brought this up. Or Gygax. Or anyone.

And if you ignore the context of the quote- that he was talking about adding additional monsters to the matrix; which only makes sense (looking at Chainmail) if he's talking about the matrix with monsters in it. Which is the fantasy one. Or, for that matter, if you ignore all the other quotes from him. But, again, whatever. This whole thread is pointless.

Sure. It's conceivable. If you choose to ignore all the evidence that doesn't agree with you.
I wouldn’t know. I don’t take part in those discussions.

I’m not familiar with the years of evidence to which you’ve alluded. Maybe if it were compiled and posted somewhere?

And I’m not ignoring the context of the quote. He’s talking about the transition from a “sudden death” matrix-based system, which is characteristic of Chainmail with or without the Fantasy Combat Table, to the d20 vs AC/hit point system. He seems to give two reasons for this: 1) his players didn’t like their characters getting killed based on a single roll (thus hit points), and 2) a matrix was an inadequate format for the display and reference of the variety of monsters he was rapidly adding to his group’s game.

I think it was described elsewhere that he tried to build such a matrix, which proved unwieldy, but it’s unclear, at least from this quote, whether he did so by adding to the Fantasy Combat Table from the published Chainmail, or by constructing his own matrix in imitation of those found outside of the Fantasy Supplement, in which case the Fantasy Combat Table could be a snapshot of that effort before it became unworkable.

Also, when he actually mentions the Fantasy Supplement in the second paragraph, it’s as if he’s bringing up a topic he hadn’t yet addressed, so I don’t think this is all as clear cut as you’re making it out to be, but I’m open to listening to further evidence if you want to continue the conversation.
 

mwittig

Explorer
why are you so heck-bent on proving the provenance of minor combat resolution details that have since be replaced several times over?
There’s a bigger question at stake here, and that is what is the actual origin of Dungeons & Dragons? Gary Gygax claimed that it started with Chainmail’s Fantasy Supplement:
“In case you don't know the history of D&D, it all began with the fantasy rules in Chainmail. Dave A. took those rules and changed them into a prototype of what is now D&D.” -Gygax in 1975
From the Chainmail fantasy rules [Arneson] drew ideas for a far more complex and exciting game, and thus began a campaign which still thrives as of this writing! -Gygax in Dungeons & Dragons (1974)
According to Gygax, D&D all started with the Fantasy Supplement of Chainmail. Jon Peterson repeated Gygax’s narrative in Playing at the World:
The earliest account of the history of Dungeons & Dragons also ranks among the briefest. Gary Gygax included it in a letter to Alarums & Excursions in July 1975, only sixteen months after the first sales of the game, and it reads as follows:

In case you don't know the history of D&D, it all began with the fantasy rules of Chainmail.
[...]
Chainmail, a miniature wargame Gygax released in 1971, focused on simulating the medieval period but also included a small appendix detailing a fantasy setting, one largely derived from the works of Tolkien. Dave Arneson used the Chainmail rules as the basis for his seminal Blackmoor fantasy game [...]
The analysis at the top of this thread indicates that this generally accepted causality is likely backwards. It wasn’t Chainmail’s Fantasy Supplement that led to Blackmoor, but rather Blackmoor that led to the Chainmail’s Fantasy Supplement; this, in turn, means that the actual origin of Dungeons & Dragons was not Chainmail, but Arneson's Blackmoor campaign.

Take a look at the last few days of what's been discussed-- note the difficulty Peterson was having with producing any tangible evidence indicating that Chainmail and its Fantasy Supplement predates Arneson's March 1971 letter about Blackmoor. Peterson resorted to arguing that the letter was not actually talking about Blackmoor, but that theory seems untenable when the letter and map are compared against known Blackmoor material-- Arneson is clearly talking about Blackmoor and the map is clearly a map of Blackmoor. And, it seems clear that even though the letter may date to March, what is contained in the letter likely dates still earlier. Not surprisingly, we find evidence supporting this; Greg Svenson's story, The First Dungeon Adventure, tells of the first dungeon adventure occurring during the holiday season from 1970 to 71, and that story (along with the dating) was corroborated by another original Blackmoor player. While Peterson was dismissive of Svenson's dating in Playing at the World because Svenson didn't set his story to paper until 2006, we're now seeing that Svenson (and his corroborator) were likely right all along.

So, its really not about some minor combat resolution details, but rather the actual origin of the hobby that we all enjoy.
 

increment

Explorer
note the difficulty Peterson was having with producing any tangible evidence indicating that Chainmail and its Fantasy Supplement predates Arneson's March 1971 letter about Blackmoor. Peterson resorted to arguing that the letter was not actually talking about Blackmoor, but that theory seems untenable when the letter and map are compared against known Blackmoor material
Um, I was not trying to produce any tangible evidence that the publication of Chainmail preceded the "Northern Marches" description letter. Why would I? We all knew that Blackmoor emerged out of Arneson's area of the C&CS game, which this letter describes, and we knew the C&CS game preceded the publication of Chainmail. All you are picking at, as far as I can tell, is at which point in time we should start calling Arneson's area of the C&CS game "Blackmoor". PatW deemed it was that March-April time, when that cool stuff with "medieval Braunsteins" seems to have started. Since the "Northern Marches" description does not mention Blackmoor, and for all we know the town had not yet acquired that name or any of its other features at that time, it seems kind of odd to hold it up as evidence we should think otherwise. If you want to compare the letter and map against known Blackmoor material, let's start with where Williamsfort, or Swampwood, is mentioned in like the FFC.

Maybe the map is a "proto-Blackmoor artifact" or something, but that doesn't readily imply anything about the relationship of Chainmail to Blackmoor either way, as far as I can tell.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
There’s a bigger question at stake here, and that is what is the actual origin of Dungeons & Dragons?
No. That's not bigger. I grant that the concept of playing the role was Arneson's. THAT is the origin of the hobby. Without that, Dungeons and Dragons is just an early form of Warhammer, anothe rin a line of games that already existed.

So, if you want to prove that the hobby started with Arneson, you already have that. The rest really is quibbling over exactly which rules bit came from whom. That's minutiae.
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
There’s a bigger question at stake here, and that is what is the actual origin of Dungeons & Dragons? Gary Gygax claimed that it started with Chainmail’s Fantasy Supplement.
...
The analysis at the top of this thread indicates that this generally accepted causality is likely backwards. It wasn’t Chainmail’s Fantasy Supplement that led to Blackmoor, but rather Blackmoor that led to the Chainmail’s Fantasy Supplement; this, in turn, means that the actual origin of Dungeons & Dragons was not Chainmail, but Arneson's Blackmoor campaign.
If Arneson only used Chainmail for a month, before abandoning Chainmail, it seems unlikely to be important for the origin of D&D.

By contrast, Gygax seems to exaggerate the importance of Chainmail because of a motive of self-promotion (which in business is often necessary).



The impression is.

Arneson was already working on a formative Blackmoor, even before 1971. Chainmail was one of many ideas that Arneson playtested while in the process of developing this game. Chainmail seems tangential to the origins of D&D.




That said. I find the evidence of literary dependence described in the first post to be notable and requiring explanation.
 
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Rob Kuntz

Adventurer
No. That's not bigger. I grant that the concept of playing the role was Arneson's. THAT is the origin of the hobby. Without that, Dungeons and Dragons is just an early form of Warhammer, anothe rin a line of games that already existed.

So, if you want to prove that the hobby started with Arneson, you already have that. The rest really is quibbling over exactly which rules bit came from whom. That's minutiae.
Well it goes deeper than that, in fact. According to my ten years of research, and as examined and corroborated now by several scientists familiar with systems, the system that Arneson created in order to further ALL of the game processes that interact with one another/are interdependent on each other, etc, and that can evolve as the players evolve (simultaneous synergy) and that, as a whole new system, is the complete opposite of those game/play systems preceding Blackmoor's advent--IOW every game that existed beforehand in recorded history when one seriously references game theory and play theory data and models. IOW, the "game" (and I use that term sparingly and with a little trepidation and for good reasons) as created and forwarded had no antecedent; and thus the system contrived for implementing it had (as is logical as the game itself cannot function without a system) none as well. Within the broader picture of Game and Play design history, Arneson broke many glass roofs, and not just by incorporating the RP element, but also by intuitively, in his genius, by manifesting a new system never before created, engaged or understood.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Within the broader picture of Game and Play design history, Arneson broke many glass roofs, and not just by incorporating the RP element, but also by intuitively, in his genius, by manifesting a new system never before created, engaged or understood.
Better stated than I could make it. This only furthers the point -

If the goal is to cement Arneson's influence on the hobby, this entire discussion misses the mark, because it is focused on the provenance of mechanical bits, not on the provenance of new concepts in games. We already agree on the provenance of the concepts.

If the goal is to remove credit from Gygax... really? That's your goal, to besmirch a man? Just stop if that's the goal.

If the goal is to merely fine The Truth... then most of this argument is, as I said, about plausible narratives, not actual evidence. The arguments here trying to assign the mechanical bits to Arneson smack heavily of confirmation bias, and that is troubling if the goal is The Truth.
 

Rob Kuntz

Adventurer
Better stated than I could make it. This only furthers the point -

If the goal is to cement Arneson's influence on the hobby, this entire discussion misses the mark, because it is focused on the provenance of mechanical bits, not on the provenance of new concepts in games. We already agree on the provenance of the concepts.

If the goal is to remove credit from Gygax... really? That's your goal, to besmirch a man? Just stop if that's the goal.

If the goal is to merely fine The Truth... then most of this argument is, as I said, about plausible narratives, not actual evidence. The arguments here trying to assign the mechanical bits to Arneson smack heavily of confirmation bias, and that is troubling if the goal is The Truth.
As I have stated upthread, I consider the factor of the mechanics inconsequential--Arneson used his, Gary substituted for his own, I substituted many in the playtests of D&D for my own, and so it goes on to this day, with house rules, new editions, and new RPGs What was NEVER, and can EVER be, substituted is Arneson's Systems Architecture which defines the RPG engine and makes an RPG an RPG. It is used by every iteration of an RPG--D&D included 1974 onward--to this day, notwithstanding the mechanics which adorn them.

So, as I have stated in Dave Arneson's True Genius, it's not about the mechanics, it's about the new system itself. IMO, and at my extreme view of this, this discussion is somewhat like examining and arguing over who created the lug-nuts for a tire to determine who created the breakthrough for the combustion engine car. Perhaps the OP has a valid reason for this route notwithstanding perceptions or presumptions, the latter which we all hazard in scholarly discourse.

I have been participating only to clarify historical points I have knowledge about and not to let preconceptions or misconceptions stand in relation to what I know and can elucidate upon what Arneson really accomplished, and all of it which greatly transcends the level of discourse now taking place in my professional estimation as a designer and according to my own specific areas of research.

That said, I did not originate the topic; it is not my spawn, so I have been courteous in that regard so as not to derail it.
 
"If the goal is to remove credit from Gygax... really? That's your goal, to besmirch a man? Just stop if that's the goal."

while i LOVE gygax (i have eternal gratitude to that man) i don't find there to be anything wrong by default with removing credit from someone, even posthumously. my confidence in gygax is enough that i wouldn't mind if he actually was stripped of some credit. that man is a titan which no one can ever deny. so even if i find the analysis flawed (still not sure if i think its right or wrong though) i don't think there is any point in saying one should not do the exact thing you are saying they should not attempt.

all that said, otherwise i completely agree with your post.
 
Well it goes deeper than that, in fact. According to my ten years of research, and as examined and corroborated now by several scientists familiar with systems, the system that Arneson created in order to further ALL of the game processes that interact with one another/are interdependent on each other, etc, and that can evolve as the players evolve (simultaneous synergy) and that, as a whole new system, is the complete opposite of those game/play systems preceding Blackmoor's advent--IOW every game that existed beforehand in recorded history when one seriously references game theory and play theory data and models. IOW, the "game" (and I use that term sparingly and with a little trepidation and for good reasons) as created and forwarded had no antecedent; and thus the system contrived for implementing it had (as is logical as the game itself cannot function without a system) none as well. Within the broader picture of Game and Play design history, Arneson broke many glass roofs, and not just by incorporating the RP element, but also by intuitively, in his genius, by manifesting a new system never before created, engaged or understood.
i agree that arneson conceptualized and configured a vast degree of the concepts, structure, and mechanisms of d&d, but no antecedants? that seems a little hyperbolic.
 

Rob Kuntz

Adventurer
i agree that arneson conceptualized and configured a vast degree of the concepts, structure, and mechanisms of d&d, but no antecedants? that seems a little hyperbolic.
None. Ten years of searching for models have arrived at no echo. That is not to say that this system may, by chance, be discovered at some future point, and it would obviously have to occur before Arneson originated it in 1971, but to date there is no systems model or systems organization for this type of game pre-Blackmoor. And that does not surprise me, for Arneson inadvertently/intuitively created a new 1st order game category as well.
 
i don't remember the article, but i do remember a few years ago finding out that there was an rpg system discovered to have existed all the way back in the medieval era. it was far simpler and obviously missing a lot of modern ideas but it was basically a ttrpg. and they had elements of high fantasy and rp and stats.

it has no surviving lineage discovered though. as in, when it died, it died, without any game systems actually descending from it.

still, with that kind of thing existing, i just find it a little startling that there are no direct antecedents. to me it is simply unexpected.

if you say the research supports it though i guess i'll take you at your word unless i see something contradicting it. 10 years spent looking into this is certainly worth something.
 

Rob Kuntz

Adventurer
i don't remember the article, but i do remember a few years ago finding out that there was an rpg system discovered to have existed all the way back in the medieval era. it was far simpler and obviously missing a lot of modern ideas but it was basically a ttrpg. and they had elements of high fantasy and rp and stats.

it has no surviving lineage discovered though. as in, when it died, it died, without any game systems actually descending from it.

still, with that kind of thing existing, i just find it a little startling that there are no direct antecedents. to me it is simply unexpected.

if you say the research supports it though i guess i'll take you at your word unless i see something contradicting it. 10 years spent looking into this is certainly worth something.
Well. I was surprised as well which kept me digging. DATG is a precursor to the larger work on this which, unfortunately and at present, I have delayed to produce more RPG related stuff including a new DVD project. but it will end up as my grand opus no doubt. And along the way If I discover such a model I will be the first to reveal it.
 

mwittig

Explorer
If the goal is to remove credit from Gygax... really? That's your goal, to besmirch a man? Just stop if that's the goal.

If the goal is to merely fine The Truth... then most of this argument is, as I said, about plausible narratives, not actual evidence.
The goal is the latter, and I don't think I've made any statements besmirching Gygax. I've made statements as to what I think the correct lineage of Dungeons & Dragons is based on the evidence intrinsic to three sets of monster names. As @Yaarel remarked, the evidence requires an explanation. I have presented what I think the correct explanation is. I've also tried to show how Arneson's "medieval project" letter and map above appear consistent with the explanation that I have given.
 

mwittig

Explorer
@increment can you please tell us the correct citation for the quote on page 42 of Playing at the World?
Gygax reported that the addition of these fantasy rules to Chainmail was "an afterthought," [WGN:#110]
I've looked through WGN #110 and I cannot find that quote. Here's a link to it (for research purposes only) if anyone else wants to look:

Wargamers-Newsletter-110.pdf
 

mwittig

Explorer
I have some new information to respond to increment's post with, so here we go…
A March date was already around in earlier looks at the history of the game, and what I saw was consistent with that.
Can you be more specific than “earlier looks”? Where was it stated prior to Playing at the World that Chainmail was published in March besides the 2006 Acaeum forum post?
My date was, following Zenopus's lead above, based in no small part on the earliest advertisements for Guidon Games, which appeared in the April International Wargamer and a few other contemporary places. But that has to be understood in terms of how the IW production schedule operated at the time, and who got which issues when. The short story is that I concluded that the March and April IWs were produced and shipped simultaneously - so effectively, there was no issue shipped in March –
Here’s the March issue (for research purposes only):

International-Wargamer-March-1971.pdf

The issue notes that it is “commemorating IFW’s Fifth Anniversary – March 1966 – March 1971. It makes no mention of being published two months late. It also contains no ad for Chainmail, unlike the April issue.
and that IW production had a long lead-time, maybe up to six weeks between layout and issues being in people's hands. There are good data points to suggest that the March and April IWs were jointly in subscribers' hand by the third or so week of April. Note that the April IW ad lists Chainmail as available, but suggests that Alex and Dunkirk were scheduled for an April 30 release - something you would not bother to mention if you expected your mail-order ad to be seen like April 18th. But these are ultimately indirect data points, and to be absolutely clear, they don't rule out an April "release" date for Chainmail - if you're counting from when just anyone could have ordered it, it wouldn't be until after they saw an ad.
Given that the March issue has no ad for Chainmail and the April issue does, I don’t see the relevance of when they actually shipped. Obviously it was planned for the Chainmail ad to appear in the April issue but not the March issue, which is good evidence that Chainmail was not available in March--regardless of when the two issues actually shipped.
Dave Arneson was not "just anyone", and that he was surely aware of Chainmail before April.
While it may be true that Arneson “was surely aware of Chainmail before April,” awareness of Chainmail does not mean that Gygax had sent him a copy of it--which is what the thesis in Playing at the World that Arneson “design[ed] his new game around the fantasy elements of the just-released Chainmail” [PatW 65] would require. You stated in Playing at the World that:
this study anchors all major events, dates and sequences related to the history of Dungeons & Dragons on contemporary sources, which is to say sources printed within a year or so of the events in question-preferably far closer.
Yet, you seem to have no tangible evidence of the March publication date for Chainmail and no tangible evidence that Gygax sent Arneson a copy of Chainmail before it was published. In fact, on page 41 of Playing at the World you state:
Quite late in the development of Chainmail, Gygax decided to furnish the game with a supplement dealing with a very different sort of combat. As he offhandedly reported to Wargamer's Newsletter in early 1971:

We are also planning to write up rules for Tolkien fantasy games, using LGTSA Medieval Miniatures rules as the basic starting point. […]
Yet, we see Arneson’s Blackmoor—complete with Fantasy elements—already being described to Gygax in a March 1971 letter. How is it possible that Gygax was “planning to write up rules for Tolkien fantasy games” in “early 1971,” with those rules having already been written, tested, printed, and published in time for Arneson to create Blackmoor with the published Chainmail booklet and write to Gygax about it by March of 1971?
Most else of what I'd say here has already been said.
Jon, this is a cop-out ;) Why can’t you positively state that you support or don’t support my thesis that material from Arneson ended up in the Fantasy Supplement? One sentence would do.
 
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