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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

Rob Kuntz

Adventurer
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.
Claptrap. Don't apply for a scholarship grant.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
We never thought of using slaves/captives or summoned critters as trap bait
We never used slaves or captives for those purposes but we've always just kind of assumed that trap detection and suicide missions are the entire reason summoning spells exist. :)
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
Claptrap. Don't apply for a scholarship grant.
shrug

Okay, I mean, you know that "history of RPGs" isn't exactly a huge field, and, to the extent that it is an academic field (?), Jon Peterson (the person you keep attacking for some reason because he uses original documents?) is pretty well-known in the limited field and has spoken at academic symposia on the subject? I guess I'll subscribe to your newsletter.

But I'm just an enthusiast. I get my money in a far more mundane way than scholarship grants. :)
 

Rob Kuntz

Adventurer
shrug

Okay, I mean, you know that "history of RPGs" isn't exactly a huge field, and, to the extent that it is an academic field (?), Jon Peterson (the person you keep attacking for some reason because he uses original documents?) is pretty well-known in the limited field and has spoken at academic symposia on the subject? I guess I'll subscribe to your newsletter.

But I'm just an enthusiast. I get my money in a far more mundane way than scholarship grants. :)
You are now blatantly trolling me. I have not attacked Peterson, I have fundamentally challenged his methodologies which I consider weak due to lack of comprehensive research regarding what I have already cited.
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
I have not attacked Peterson, I have fundamentally challenged his methodologies which I consider weak due to lack of comprehensive research regarding what I have already cited.
I will respectfully disagree with you. Jon Peterson has done more good for the study of the early history of the game than any single other person in the last 20 years.

But you can fundamentally challenge his methodologies with him, not me. :)
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
As Robilar, yes, I rolled him on Gary's kitchen table and can even tell you where the name derives from
I'm actually rather curious about that, since the Wikipedia entry makes it sound like Gary Gygax invented the name whole-cloth.

On a related note, I'm also curious about Bilarro, of whom the iron bands are named after. As I recall, the 2007 adventure Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk revealed that Bilarro was Robilar's evil (or at least, more evil) twin from Uerth, and had replaced Robilar quite a few years ago; that it was in fact he, not Robilar, who had helped Rary betray the Circle of Eight. All of which is fascinating (since I'm aware that you've long held that Robilar would never have turned on his comrade Mordenkainen like that), but the iron bands that gave us Bilarro's name predate that adventure by a long period of time; was Bilarro always Robilar's evil twin from a parallel dimension, or was that invented for the 2007 Expedition adventure?
 

Farenn

Villager
No RPG architecture created by Arneson = no RPG game engine. There is one thing in common with every RPG proceeding Arneson's Blackmoor 1971-1972, including D&D: They ALL, every one of them, use Arneson's systems architecture. However, very few outside of D&D use Gary's mechanics. Again, every RPG uses Arneson's ground breaking architecture. Without it there would have been no RPG form, period. Think about it.
I agree with what you are saying which is why I look at BOTH as the father of roleplaying games. The RPG game engine of D&D is fabulous. But I still stand by my original point that it was the game world and its monsters that captured my imagination as a child and held onto it ever since. If it was the D&D engine with one of the game worlds from some of the horrible rpgs of the past it would have never caught my attention. I would have just moved on and stuck to strategy board games.
 

MonsterEnvy

Adventurer
I'm actually rather curious about that, since the Wikipedia entry makes it sound like Gary Gygax invented the name whole-cloth.
That does not make much sense, he was clearly Rob's character. ROBilar kind of says everything about who played him.

Edit: Did not notice the part in the article where it says that Gary suggested the name.
 

QuentinGeorge

Explorer
I'm curious if Dave Arneson ever spent any time as a player. Gary, yes (obviously), but from everything I've seen Dave seems to have always been behind the screen, so to speak.
 

reelo

Explorer
On a related note, I'm also curious about Bilarro, of whom the iron bands are named after. (...) Was Bilarro always Robilar's evil twin from a parallel dimension, or was that invented for the 2007 Expedition adventure?
At least as far as the name is concerned I think I can guess how it came about (but I might be wrong)

Superman has Bizarro
Robilar has Bilarro

Did I guess right?
 

Rob Kuntz

Adventurer
I'm actually rather curious about that, since the Wikipedia entry makes it sound like Gary Gygax invented the name whole-cloth.

On a related note, I'm also curious about Bilarro, of whom the iron bands are named after. As I recall, the 2007 adventure Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk revealed that Bilarro was Robilar's evil (or at least, more evil) twin from Uerth, and had replaced Robilar quite a few years ago; that it was in fact he, not Robilar, who had helped Rary betray the Circle of Eight. All of which is fascinating (since I'm aware that you've long held that Robilar would never have turned on his comrade Mordenkainen like that), but the iron bands that gave us Bilarro's name predate that adventure by a long period of time; was Bilarro always Robilar's evil twin from a parallel dimension, or was that invented for the 2007 Expedition adventure?
Ok. I will write a comprehensive short history of Robilar for my column, here--perhaps including a timeline, as I have been time-lining a lot lately--rather than going into such matter in a hashed out, piece-meal, give-n-take. I had already written, at my Lord of the Green Dragons Blog, and some time back, a lesser article, "Will the Real Robilar Please Stand Up," in 2009 or 2010? Thanks for the prod along the avenue of articles I'm sculpting for Morrus.
 

Rob Kuntz

Adventurer
At least as far as the name is concerned I think I can guess how it came about (but I might be wrong)

Superman has Bizarro
Robilar has Bilarro

Did I guess right?
Somewhat as Mona had understood from me and by referencing the UA, "Iron Bands of Bilarro" and other info. dating back to the Greyhawk-L Serve days (1996), then even farther back to pre-TSR times. All will be explained in an upcoming column, here.
 
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Rob Kuntz

Adventurer
I'm curious if Dave Arneson ever spent any time as a player. Gary, yes (obviously), but from everything I've seen Dave seems to have always been behind the screen, so to speak.
A good question better asked of the Minnesota Players like David Megarry, Greg Svenson, Bill Hoyt, et al.
Good starting point for that: Secrets of Blackmoor - A Dungeons & Dragons Documentary Gary DMed Dave once with the latter playing a Monk and it was a solo City of Greyhawk adventure.
 

Rob Kuntz

Adventurer
That does not make much sense, he was clearly Rob's character. ROBilar kind of says everything about who played him.

Edit: Did not notice the part in the article where it says that Gary suggested the name.
Gary did invent the name as a tribute to me. The full story will be told via a future, upcoming column here. One more thing added to my burgeoning list... ;)
 

Oldtimer

Great Old One
Kuntz, then still a teenager, wanted to be a designer. Instead he was titled a “chairman” of the company, but said that functionally he was the director of shipping.
That explains why the enclosed letter I got with my D&D set was signed by Rob Kuntz. I imagine there wasn't a whole lot of D&D being sent to Sweden in the fall of '74. I hope that it wasn't too inconvenient for you Rob and that the extra $10 I sent covered the shipping. Or maybe I still owe you for that. :)
 

Rob Kuntz

Adventurer
That explains why the enclosed letter I got with my D&D set was signed by Rob Kuntz. I imagine there wasn't a whole lot of D&D being sent to Sweden in the fall of '74. I hope that it wasn't too inconvenient for you Rob and that the extra $10 I sent covered the shipping. Or maybe I still owe you for that. :)
Well by 1974/75 I was 19/20 years, a young adult and had two publishing credits (Greyhawk, an article in 1973 w/Gary for THE GENERAL 'zine) and was on my way to Gods, Demi-Gods and Heroes and had been Gary's DM, co-DM and had designed World of Kalibruhn (top down) and Castle El Raja Key the latter used in the playtests of D&D. Playtesting credits of other games goes off the list--I was absorbing concepts like a thirsty sponge.==then two years running GENCON 75/76 and Winter Fantasy 1 after my departure in 1976 and the articles for SR and Dragon Magazine on the near horizon. Many hats worn by me, as all of us were doing. It was a team effort, a group thing.

Shipping was very demanding even when Brian Blume and I were handling it out of Gary's basement prior to moving to the Williams and Marshall street location.

Do you still have that letter? I'd love to see a copy of it for posterity and historical purposes if you do!

Thanks galore for being an Old Timer, nothing due, all paid up it seems. ;)
 

reelo

Explorer
I wonder when (if any at all) the first D&D products officially made it to Luxembourg. The "earliest" products I remember buying (and still have) are the FR "Grey Box" and the Basic adventure "Dymrak's Dread". But both are in German, so that must have been during 2E times.
 

havard

Explorer
I look on it as Dave was an ideas man but Gary could produce something.
A lot of people hold this belief, but is there really any basis for this? In the early 70s, Dave wrote a series of articles submitted to Gary's fan magazine, the Domesday Book. Dave published the game Don't Give Up The Ship (co-written with Mike Carr and Gary Gygax) and later went on to publish RPGs like Adventures in Fantasy and Trapman as well as adventures for Shadowrun and various other RPGs.

As Rob Kuntz mentions in this thread, Dave clearly had the intent of getting his Blackmoor game published.

Would a game by Dave without Gary have been as good or as successful? That is a different question and we will never know the answer to that one.

I am definitely not disputing Gary's contributions to the game. But I think we shouldn't dismiss Dave as simply a man with ideas either.



-Havard
 

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