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Rob Kuntz Recounts The Origins Of D&D

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In this interesting article from Kotaku, Rob Kuntz relates a history of early TSR that differs somewhat from the narrative we usually hear. It delves into the relationship between Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson (D&D's co-creators) and the actual development of the game, which dates back to Arneson in 1971.

 
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Comments

Wolfpack48

Explorer
ad hominem. Who disagrees? There were only 6 people there. 2 are dead who never disagreed with me. My brother's PC was the only death and he remembers it well as he sat out the remaining part of the adventure until he could play in Dungeon, afterwards. Ernie sat to my right and was a fighter and battled the troll and the ogres and balrogs like the rest of us did. Will he disagree? Will Megarry who lead the adventure and still retains his maps and notes from it disagree, our leader who suggested we flee to the outdoor to escape from the wizard who fireballed Terry's PC and who was in hot pursuit of us as we fled Blackmoor Castle? So. Who are all of these mysterious people who were not there who will now disagree?
Well, we know at least one person arguing with you who definitely wasn't there, anyway. ;)
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
ad hominem.
You know, I was being graceful, but then you had to do that. So, you asked.

1. The reason the original article on Kotaku (and, presumably, the upcoming documentary) are attracting some attention is because they are using your quotes. It does sound like you're being a little self-aggrandizing (you are quoted, paraphrased, as saying "Everything (other people) know about the creation of the tabletop role-playing game is, in (Kuntz's) opinion, sorely mistaken or flat-out wrong."). Or how about "(r)egardless, Kuntz describes himself as the first 'dungeon master.'" Or "(Gygax) was jealous. Just stone-cold jealous."

2. Now, you have a lot of first-hand experience! But are you saying, now, that all the other people (like Gygax) agree with your current characterizations? That Gygax was just stone-cold jealous, for instance?

3. Or how do you square your recent descriptions of Arneson at TSR and how he left with what Kask said, and with what Peterson reported based on conteporaneous documents (for instance)?

4. And how can you claim experience in one thing (the experience at being at the table) to then say that you fully understood the two years before you met Arneson?

A lot of this is complicated. A lot of this suffers from people with agendas, and differing memories, and hurt that can still linger. I can understand that, just like I respect you for the seminal role you played in my favorite game (it's not Gygax and Arneson, it's Gygax and Arneson and Kuntz and Kask and Ward and so many artists and so many many others ...), and I love to hear what you have to say!

But it doesn't mean that I uncritically accept you theories. Just like I didn't accept it when Gygax said that Tolkien had little to no influence on D&D. Or failed to mention where Chainmail came from.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
You know, I was being graceful, but then you had to do that. So, you asked.

1. The reason the original article on Kotaku (and, presumably, the upcoming documentary) are attracting some attention is because they are using your quotes. It does sound like you're being a little self-aggrandizing (you are quoted, paraphrased, as saying "Everything (other people) know about the creation of the tabletop role-playing game is, in (Kuntz's) opinion, sorely mistaken or flat-out wrong."). Or how about "(r)egardless, Kuntz describes himself as the first 'dungeon master.'" Or "(Gygax) was jealous. Just stone-cold jealous."

2. Now, you have a lot of first-hand experience! But are you saying, now, that all the other people (like Gygax) agree with your current characterizations? That Gygax was just stone-cold jealous, for instance?

3. Or how do you square your recent descriptions of Arneson at TSR and how he left with what Kask said, and with what Peterson reported based on conteporaneous documents (for instance)?

4. And how can you claim experience in one thing (the experience at being at the table) to then say that you fully understood the two years before you met Arneson?

A lot of this is complicated. A lot of this suffers from people with agendas, and differing memories, and hurt that can still linger. I can understand that, just like I respect you for the seminal role you played in my favorite game (it's not Gygax and Arneson, it's Gygax and Arneson and Kuntz and Kask and Ward and so many artists and so many many others ...), and I love to hear what you have to say!

But it doesn't mean that I uncritically accept you theories. Just like I didn't accept it when Gygax said that Tolkien had little to no influence on D&D. Or failed to mention where Chainmail came from.
Dude. Calm down. You’re being incredibly aggressive.
 

Zardnaar

Adventurer
I look on it as Dave was an ideas man but Gary could produce something.

Gary was no saint either he was a product of his time and did the dirty on his children's mother. He also liked being all about Gary.

Since he also fell out with just about everyone at some point it's another factor to look at.

Rob was it you who had Robilar? I have read accounts of early D&D play and force marching captives into traps.

Parts if the 1st Ed DMG regarding slave soldiers and loyalty and morale start making more sense.
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
Gary was no saint either he was a product of his time and did the dirty on his children's mother. He also liked being all about Gary.

Since he also fell out with just about everyone at some point it's another factor to look at.
Most reports have Gary being a better fellow before TSR took off, and after he was ousted.

The in-between time? Not so much.

But judging people usually is a fool's game. There but for the grace, and all that.
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
I don't mind answering his questions however hard or soft they are. I've faced a lot worse invective and this doesn't come close. But I will bow to your moderation if that's your slant, of course. I'm not bothered by the questions and can work around the emotions as needed, his or mine.
;)

Just know that whatever disagreement I might have with some things you say, I have nothing but the utmost respect for you.
 

Zardnaar

Adventurer
I don't mind answering his questions however hard or soft they are. I've faced a lot worse invective and this doesn't come close. But I will bow to your moderation if that's your slant, of course. I'm not bothered by the questions and can work around the emotions as needed, his or mine.
Old school I like it. Lowkeys usually alright. Just mention Gnome Paladin's dual wielding rapiers. It's his favorite topic.
 

Sacrosanct

Slayer of Keraptis
Honestly, while I’d love to go back in time and see how those sessions grew, that’s not gonna happen, so I guess it’s all moot. We all hear from various sides and make our own conclusions. From everything I’ve heard and seen over the years, I always had the impression Gary was Edison to Dave’s Tesla. In several ways. But even if I’m wrong, that won’t change anything about how I play the game, and am thankful for all the early people involved (especially to Rob and Mike Monard, both of whom have been very open about their experiences).
 

Rob Kuntz

Adventurer
I look on it as Dave was an ideas man but Gary could produce something.

Gary was no saint either he was a product of his time and did the dirty on his children's mother. He also liked being all about Gary.

Since he also fell out with just about everyone at some point it's another factor to look at.

Rob was it you who had Robilar? I have read accounts of early D&D play and force marching captives into traps.

Parts if the 1st Ed DMG regarding slave soldiers and loyalty and morale start making more sense.
You know this whole Gary vs. Dave thing has to end. Unfortunately some truths have to come out to end it, and some people just don't want to hear them. There is no need to have lowballed Arneson in the past and if things were equal no need to refute the inspection of his history. Stand it its way if one does not wish at this point to determine the truth. I see it as a balance, that is all, period. Ultimately It is something that will not and should not be settled on an internet board. I am just recalling relatively minor pieces (from my view) of what I have seen, heard, experienced as well the impressions I got. I was on the phone today with a querist, a rather important one in fact in the scope of things, and was asked a question about Gary. I said right up front that my answer was my impression, my opinion on that singular subject and qualified it for knowing Gary's person, having been almost adopted by the family and knowing his ways as his student. In all it is still my impression but it is what I believe to have substance. For those who weren't there during my moments, hey, more power to them for having less impressions but, instead, full knowledge about them!

As Robilar, yes, I rolled him on Gary's kitchen table and can even tell you where the name derives from, but that is not documented and people might disagree with that memory... ;) The story you recall, in part, involves my play-test of ToH. Even Gary got wrong the number of orcs I took with me--I took 5. We got to the entry tunnel and I stopped, not liking the look of things. So I ordered an orc forward into it as a scout. Gary rolled the dice and the orc refused my command to go forward. I drew my sword and killed it on the spot. Then I looked at another orc, sword still drawn, and ordered it forward and it (surprise, surprise) complied immediately. This was repeated until all four orcs ere killed by the pit traps (I chose badly for all four). I then entered by myself. BTW--as this adventure occurred so long ago I am sure mysterious people will challenge my recollection of it... Funny how selective agreeing works... Other than that I never abused my henchmen or MAA, etc.with such tactics, but due to Gary's relish in wanting me to come over and playtest his new creation (I was the co-DM of GH then and we always traded playtesting new levels, his or mine) I was on guard during such times and doubly cautious...
 

Rob Kuntz

Adventurer
You know, I was being graceful, but then you had to do that. So, you asked.

1. The reason the original article on Kotaku (and, presumably, the upcoming documentary) are attracting some attention is because they are using your quotes. It does sound like you're being a little self-aggrandizing (you are quoted, paraphrased, as saying "Everything (other people) know about the creation of the tabletop role-playing game is, in (Kuntz's) opinion, sorely mistaken or flat-out wrong."). Or how about "(r)egardless, Kuntz describes himself as the first 'dungeon master.'" Or "(Gygax) was jealous. Just stone-cold jealous."

A1. INLINE: It's flat out wrong because many to this day think that Arneson was an idea man and had no functioning system, but yet Gary's quotes that Arneson provided a "prototype" and that He and Arneson did things differently with their respective systems (source: A&E #2) and that "Arneson had as much to do with it [D&D]" as he did (source: A&E #2) refutes that WILD assertion. The first DM quote references the day after we played in Blackmoor and Gary called me to come over (15 minutes after the two Daves had left to return to the Twin Cities) and inspect the concept as a story making apparatus. I DMed gary as he moved a chit across blank hex paper he provided and I drew in what he saw as terrain, etc and described the surround--two maps total, the maps are still extant, scanned and available on my El Raja Key Archive. We went through two sessions of about 1 hour each of him moving about and me describing things and naming them (as the DUN FOREST) and he gave up on using Dave's concept as a story making device.

My impression is that Gary was jealous. He was also jealous of MAR Barker's Tekumel and I have good reasons for stating that as well, and that POV is shared by others of that time who dealt between the two.

2. Now, you have a lot of first-hand experience! But are you saying, now, that all the other people (like Gygax) agree with your current characterizations? That Gygax was just stone-cold jealous, for instance?

2A: No. Gary would never have admitted that he was jealous. Would you? It was my impression from two separate instances pre-TSR. They remain my opinion yet what I believe considering the instances that generated the thought both times.

3. Or how do you square your recent descriptions of Arneson at TSR and how he left with what Kask said, and with what Peterson reported based on conteporaneous documents (for instance)?

3A: Well. Kask worked at the main building; Arneson worked off site. If Arneson stormed out and Kask says he was there and saw it happen, then Arneson stormed out of shipping where he had been moved to. Ernie recalls Arneson being in shipping and no longer offsite at his apt as Research Director. Besides that, we have Arneson's and Megarry's recollections of events as well and that he was in shipping.

4. And how can you claim experience in one thing (the experience at being at the table) to then say that you fully understood the two years before you met Arneson?

4A: Not understanding this. I met Dave in 1969 and he and I corresponded and would call each other in 1971-1972 in playing in his Nappy Campaign and in running the Domesday Book. He became Steward when Gary quit and I was still KING and editor, thne, with my brother's and Arneson's help. I published his article "Facts about Blackmoor" in DB 13, 1972, 5 months prior to our run through the Blackmoor adventure.

A lot of this is complicated. A lot of this suffers from people with agendas, and differing memories, and hurt that can still linger. I can understand that, just like I respect you for the seminal role you played in my favorite game (it's not Gygax and Arneson, it's Gygax and Arneson and Kuntz and Kask and Ward and so many artists and so many many others ...), and I love to hear what you have to say!

But it doesn't mean that I uncritically accept you theories. Just like I didn't accept it when Gygax said that Tolkien had little to no influence on D&D. Or failed to mention where Chainmail came from.
COOL--I replied inline and in bold so expand
 
The story you recall, in part, involves my play-test of ToH. Even Gary got wrong the number of orcs I took with me--I took 5. We got to the entry tunnel and I stopped, not liking the look of things. So I ordered an orc forward into it as a scout. Gary rolled the dice and the orc refused my command to go forward. I drew my sword and killed it on the spot. Then I looked at another orc, sword still drawn, and ordered it forward and it (surprise, surprise) complied immediately. This was repeated until all four orcs ere killed by the pit traps (I chose badly for all four). I then entered by myself. BTW--as this adventure occurred so long ago I am sure mysterious people will challenge my recollection of it... Funny how selective agreeing works... Other than that I never abused my henchmen or MAA, etc.with such tactics, but due to Gary's relish in wanting me to come over and playtest his new creation (I was the co-DM of GH then and we always traded playtesting new levels, his or mine) I was on guard during such times and doubly cautious...
Bits of the 1e AD&D DMG suddenly make more sense. ;)

I've long been curious about Robilar, the only non-wizard primordial PC from those mythic early days whose name seems to have come down to us.
Maybe it was just the naming of spells after various wizard PCs, but it seemed like everyone was playing wizards back then?
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
COOL--I replied inline and in bold so expand
As you might guess, my philosophy is closely analogous to that of Jon Peterson, who made the following comment in the spoiler section:

"If I may with some small irony relate an anecdote of my own, last month I met a member of the original Lake Geneva gaming circle who had been reading my book, and who insisted that he had never heard of a gaming society that PatW had placed him in. With the materials I had on my person, I at least managed to convince him that the society in question existed, but he maintained that he had no part in it. By email, I later sent to him a half dozen or so scans from period magazines that contained reports attributed to him on the activities of the society. He replied firmly that despite the attributions the reports could have been written by someone else. I then furnished him with some more evidence for this, including a period piece that clearly identified him as the president of this society. He hasn't yet replied to that email.

From these sorts of interactions, which I've had numerous times since I first started working on this project, I have gotten the impression that most of this history has not only been forgotten, but for the most part people have forgotten that they ever even forgot anything about it. No one at the time knew that the gaming events of 1973 would be worthy of remembrance. When it comes down to unpublished documents, for which it's unclear who might have seen them or where they were produced, it's quite common to draw a blank when we ask who remembers them. Fortunately, we have more reliable tools at our disposal to make sense of these things."

As I wrote, this is in accord with my experience; memory is a tricky thing, whether it is an oral history, or taking a deposition.

I am usually reminded of the common example of witness identification; a police officer might, through no fault of their own, use a poor technique in soliciting a witness ID (a drive by, or a single-photo "lineup"). The witness will then, again through no fault of their own, put that individual within their recollection.

Everyone with the best of intentions, no one lying, and the truth is obscured. C'est la vie.
 

Rob Kuntz

Adventurer
Bits of the 1e AD&D DMG suddenly make more sense. ;)

I've long been curious about Robilar, the only non-wizard primordial PC from those mythic early days whose name seems to have come down to us.
Maybe it was just the naming of spells after various wizard PCs, but it seemed like everyone was playing wizards back then?
About an even split with a few clerics: Robilar, Terik (Terry Kuntz), Gronan (Mike Mornard) (F); Gary's Mordenkainen started in El Raja Key and my environs (then by literary contrivance due to combining our two shared campaigns gets sluiced into Greyhawk when I am co-DM; Ernie's (Tenser). Murlynd (Don Kaye) (MU).
 

Rob Kuntz

Adventurer
As you might guess, my philosophy is closely analogous to that of Jon Peterson, who made the following comment in the spoiler section:

"If I may with some small irony relate an anecdote of my own, last month I met a member of the original Lake Geneva gaming circle who had been reading my book, and who insisted that he had never heard of a gaming society that PatW had placed him in. With the materials I had on my person, I at least managed to convince him that the society in question existed, but he maintained that he had no part in it. By email, I later sent to him a half dozen or so scans from period magazines that contained reports attributed to him on the activities of the society. He replied firmly that despite the attributions the reports could have been written by someone else. I then furnished him with some more evidence for this, including a period piece that clearly identified him as the president of this society. He hasn't yet replied to that email.

From these sorts of interactions, which I've had numerous times since I first started working on this project, I have gotten the impression that most of this history has not only been forgotten, but for the most part people have forgotten that they ever even forgot anything about it. No one at the time knew that the gaming events of 1973 would be worthy of remembrance. When it comes down to unpublished documents, for which it's unclear who might have seen them or where they were produced, it's quite common to draw a blank when we ask who remembers them. Fortunately, we have more reliable tools at our disposal to make sense of these things."

As I wrote, this is in accord with my experience; memory is a tricky thing, whether it is an oral history, or taking a deposition.

I am usually reminded of the common example of witness identification; a police officer might, through no fault of their own, use a poor technique in soliciting a witness ID (a drive by, or a single-photo "lineup"). The witness will then, again through no fault of their own, put that individual within their recollection.

Everyone with the best of intentions, no one lying, and the truth is obscured. C'est la vie.
No comment other than the limited Narrative approach he has taken is weak, as it sets limitations on even Narrative Theory and does not include 3 other Primary investigatory angles needed to fully explicate the holistic subject at hand--a new game category (+ Systems Theory + Game Theory + Play Theory).
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
No comment other than the limited Narrative approach he has taken is weak (...)
What you consider a weakness, I consider a strength.

There is nothing harder and more frustrating than understanding limits and then working within them; what we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.
 

Rob Kuntz

Adventurer
What you consider a weakness, I consider a strength.

There is nothing harder and more frustrating than understanding limits and then working within them; what we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.
Wow, Ignoring 3 Primary investigative channels in favor of a weakened 4th is considered strength? OK.... Extending the research parameters where possible and/or needed has ALWAYS been the praxis of strong scholarship; anything else is a lesser route, always has been.
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
Wow, Ignoring 3 Primary investigative channels in favor of a weakened 4th is considered strength? OK.... Extending the research parameters where possible and/or needed has ALWAYS been the praxis of strong scholarship; anything else is a lesser route, always has been.
As a general rule it is far better to use rigorous analysis and make limited claims that are well supported by contemporaneous evidence than to make sweeping claims that are poorly supported under the rubric of "strong scholarship."*

That's why it's frustrating to approach these matters- it's not a lesser route, it's a more difficult one, less prone to grandiosity or use of the word praxis. ;)

*IMO it is rare for serious scholarship to depend on personal observation and anecdote, for the reasons elucidated supra.
 
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Zardnaar

Adventurer
About an even split with a few clerics: Robilar, Terik (Terry Kuntz), Gronan (Mike Mornard) (F); Gary's Mordenkainen started in El Raja Key and my environs (then by literary contrivance due to combining our two shared campaigns gets sluiced into Greyhawk when I am co-DM; Ernie's (Tenser). Murlynd (Don Kaye) (MU).
I think it's because wizards names were attached to spells.

Latecomer started in 93 we found some old 1E books and B/X material. Had to figure out multiclassing and AD&D classes from UA and OA.

We lacked a 1E phb though. When I heard the Robilar story it made me laugh.

We never thought of using slaves/captives or summoned critters as trap bait
 

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