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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Rob Kuntz

Adventurer
How long would it be before Gary runs a game?

Are you aware of Gary going to the Twin Cities to watch Dave and his group?


My name is Griff
Late December he had 3 levels of CasGh1 made and the 8-10 pages of rules.

About 3-4 weeks later I started him in Castle El Raja Key and then added other players as it went along.

That is a memory I discussed with you by phone. I was at Dave's once--during the winter--but cannot recall what we did there. In order to get to the Twin Cities Don Kaye drove as Gary never had a drivers license or car. It is possible that that was an unrelated event and that Gary and Don went by themselves, but the winter occurrence is what sticks. But as you have the letter is it not dated??
 

darjr

I crit!
Love this thread!!! The info and history bits! Thanks folks!

@Blackmoor_Film i get it too. I try to realize that the internet lets anybody voice just about any opinion. And then act like a duck mostly, or try too, water off my back. Silly stuff is and was always out there and always will be.
 
Late December he had 3 levels of CasGh1 made and the 8-10 pages of rules.

About 3-4 weeks later I started him in Castle El Raja Key and then added other players as it went along.

That is a memory I discussed with you by phone. I was at Dave's once--during the winter--but cannot recall what we did there. In order to get to the Twin Cities Don Kaye drove as Gary never had a drivers license or car. It is possible that that was an unrelated event and that Gary and Don went by themselves, but the winter occurrence is what sticks. But as you have the letter is it not dated??
The letters are vague. I am always up for corroborating all other evidence.

This all fits and makes sense.

My hunch is Gary went to play with the Blackmoor Bunch. What else would you do if you had played your first RPG and were excited about its potential? But I do have someone describing the event with Gary there. It is more of a dating issue.
 
Love this thread!!! The info and history bits! Thanks folks!

@Blackmoor_Film i get it too. I try to realize that the internet lets anybody voice just about any opinion. And then act like a duck mostly, or try too, water off my back. Silly stuff is and was always out there and always will be.
Agreed, I am tired of seeing passive aggressive seemingly polite language passed off as anything other than Trolling.

I am done acknowledging people who do not pose interesting observations.
 
"The above is the Forward [sic] reprinted from OD&D; but I am sure you knew that?"



I started play with AD&D. I hadn't ever read this.

I think it supports the idea that Arneson helped in a big way, invent D&D. In short it backs up a lot of what you are saying---and it's written by Gygax.

Don't get me wrong---I still think well of Gygax and what he did. I just think this is a really clear statement about the huge contributions of others.

Did I mention it's written by Gygax :)
Most people like to ignore what Gary wrote about Arneson early on. If you look at early issues of the Dragon magazine you can see Gary using Blackmoor as an example of the longest running campaign.

You can read the foreword to Blackmoor supplement and Gary pretty much gushes about how brilliant Dave is. http://jovianclouds.com/blackmoor/Archive_OLD/D&D - Supplement 2 - Blackmoor (TSR2004).pdf

For those of us with inquiring minds we question the difference between pre 1976 and post 1976 commentary.

But really, at this point it is really clear that RPG's were invented in the Twin Cities. I know of a really good source which documents the entire process from 1963 until 1974. I wouldn't be so crass as to plug my own movie by suggesting you go to secretsofblackmoor.com and rent it for only $5.95!

Most people do not understand my sense of humor either.
 
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Zardnaar

Hero
I was shocked a few years ago when I found out how small Lakes Geneva was. Back in the day I thought it would have been a small city 100k or so.

Crazy the hobby came out of a small town of 5k or so and the surrounding area.
 

Sacrosanct

Slayer of Keraptis
I was shocked a few years ago when I found out how small Lakes Geneva was. Back in the day I thought it would have been a small city 100k or so.

Crazy the hobby came out of a small town of 5k or so and the surrounding area.
To be fair, Lake Geneva wasn't some po dunk small town in the middle of nowhere. It was essentially the resort town of the wealthy Chicogans? Chicagoeans? Whatever they call themselves from Chicago. Also, Hugh Heffner built the first playboy resort in Lake Geneva in the 60s. It's basically a suburb of Milwaukee (I know, not officially, but close enough), so it was definitely not some out of the way village.
 

Zardnaar

Hero
To be fair, Lake Geneva wasn't some po dunk small town in the middle of nowhere. It was essentially the resort town of the wealthy Chicogans? Chicagoeans? Whatever they call themselves from Chicago. Also, Hugh Heffner built the first playboy resort in Lake Geneva in the 60s. It's basically a suburb of Milwaukee, so it was definitely not some out of the way village.
Still. I knew it was close to Chicago not as close as what you seem to be suggesting.

Close is relative as well if it's an hour drive in the USA that might be close, an hour drive here and you can be half way to the Alps.
 

Rob Kuntz

Adventurer
I was shocked a few years ago when I found out how small Lakes Geneva was. Back in the day I thought it would have been a small city 100k or so.

Crazy the hobby came out of a small town of 5k or so and the surrounding area.
It's a magical place, the beauty, the wealth (richest county per capita in the US; Playboy club at one point, Rockerfellers and Wrigley's on the Lake,etc Yerke's observatory, etc). Not to mention the Greek Mafia (a holdover for when Al Capone ran the area and got away there to relax and live it up). I'll be writing about some of this in my Memoirs, Lake Geneva Days.
 

havard

Explorer
Arneson changes the Blackmoor Game Engine creating something entirely new. The label of Role Playing is to me a misnomer. Wesely's game IS a role playing game. Arneson's game is more about interacting with and altering reality.
It a question of definitions. Braunstein was from what I understand, a roleplaying game in the sense that it included roleplaying, or in fact was centered almost exclusively around roleplaing.

Blackmoor however, was a roleplaying game in the modern sense of the word. Braunstein was a hugely important step in that direction, but Blackmoor changes the role of the Refree to that of a modern DM/GM. Blackmoor is organized in campaign style play, where characters have abilties and values that advance between sessions.

Secondarily, but still important, Blackmoor introduces the idea of dungeon exploration and wilderness exploration along with many elements found in D&D, but not neceesarily other modern RPGs today.

(Side note: Interestingly, more recent experimental story based RPGs seem to have taken things back towards something more similar to the early Braunstein games).

The play style for Blackmoor is cycled into all other games that follow. Greyhawk actually does not change the play style at all. Greyhawk is merely a Blackmoor, as is D&D.
I would agree with that, at least if we are focusing in fundamental game concepts.

I don't know enough about Gary's campaign to say what ideas grew from his campaign into the published version of D&D, but I'm guessing that everything that was added to early D&D that did not come from Arneson/Minnesota were probably ideas tested in the Lake Geneva group.

-Havard
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
It a question of definitions. Braunstein was from what I understand, a roleplaying game in the sense that it included roleplaying, or in fact was centered almost exclusively around roleplaing.

Blackmoor however, was a roleplaying game in the modern sense of the word. Braunstein was a hugely important step in that direction, but Blackmoor changes the role of the Refree to that of a modern DM/GM. Blackmoor is organized in campaign style play, where characters have abilties and values that advance between sessions.
I think that the continuity of character (and advancement) between sessions was a, if not THE, major advancement.

Single shots are fun, but it's campaigns that have always hooked people. "Wait, we keep playing?"
 

Sacrosanct

Slayer of Keraptis
Still. I knew it was close to Chicago not as close as what you seem to be suggesting.

Close is relative as well if it's an hour drive in the USA that might be close, an hour drive here and you can be half way to the Alps.

Nah, I think it is pretty close. Right now, it takes 45 minutes to get to Milwaukee. For context, it takes me over an hour just to drive from one side of Portland to the other.

Beautiful area? Yes. Small remote town? eh...not so much.
 

havard

Explorer
I think that the continuity of character (and advancement) between sessions was a, if not THE, major advancement.

Single shots are fun, but it's campaigns that have always hooked people. "Wait, we keep playing?"
I think identifying what the most important development is will always be difficult because defining what is the core of RPGs will always be somewhat subjective, but I agree that this was a major one. Campaigns were common among Wargamers, but Dave lifted the campaign concept into RPGs.

I also think the taking the Wargaming Refree role and turning it into "the guy who controlled the bad guys" was another very significant step that occurred a few sessions(?) into the Blackmoor campaign.

Wargaming and Braustein games were always games with an objective and where some players would win and others would lose.

-Havard
 

Zardnaar

Hero
Nah, I think it is pretty close. Right now, it takes 45 minutes to get to Milwaukee. For context, it takes me over an hour just to drive from one side of Portland to the other.

Beautiful area? Yes. Small remote town? eh...not so much.
Completely different scale lol.
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
I think identifying what the most important development is will always be difficult because defining what is the core of RPGs will always be somewhat subjective, but I agree that this was a major one. Campaigns were common among Wargamers, but Dave lifted the campaign concept into RPGs.

I also think the taking the Wargaming Refree role and turning it into "the guy who controlled the bad guys" was another very significant step that occurred a few sessions(?) into the Blackmoor campaign.

Wargaming and Braustein games were always games with an objective and where some players would win and others would lose.

-Havard
Good points. I just really think that you cannot underemphasize the continuing campaign. That remains, to this day, the most salient feature of TTRPGs as opposed to other games IMO. "You don't win ... you just keep playing."

(By the way, while I ignored the other commenter, I'll just say that I looked briefly around at some other forums and .... wow ... trolling gamers and calling them mouthbreathers is probably not the best way to sell your product.)
 

Rob Kuntz

Adventurer
(By the way, while I ignored the other commenter, I'll just say that I looked briefly around at some other forums and .... wow ... trolling gamers and calling them mouthbreathers is probably not the best way to sell your product.)
Agreed. But consider that same thread around page 3 where two posters are actually mouthing outright lies about me and defaming me. I warned Griff not to get involved in that. Now, on the flip side, you pressed me pretty hard but I stared it down. Perhaps there is now a mutual respect though we disagree. But when one, as noted, starts off attacking, defaming, bitter, and enraged as in that thread aforementioned, mouth breathers is not too far off the axis, methinks. I just would never have jumped into that buzz saw to begin with.
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
Agreed. But consider that same thread around page 3 where two posters are actually mouthing outright lies about me and defaming me. I warned Griff not to get involved in that. Now, on the flip side, you pressed me pretty hard but I stared it down. Perhaps there is now a mutual respect though we disagree. But when one, as noted, starts off attacking, defaming, bitter, and enraged as in that thread aforementioned, mouth breathers is not too far off the axis, methinks. I just would never have jumped into that buzz saw to begin with.
I saw that earlier bit, which is why I am neither linking to, nor stating what forum it is in. But that's just one person; unfortunately, there's always one person.

But you can't troll your audience.

(Heh ... pushed you hard? C'mon ... you've chewed up harder than me and spit 'em back out before! ;) )
 

Rob Kuntz

Adventurer
I saw that earlier bit, which is why I am neither linking to, nor stating what forum it is in. But that's just one person; unfortunately, there's always one person.

But you can't troll your audience.

(Heh ... pushed you hard? C'mon ... you've chewed up harder than me and spit 'em back out before! ;) )
OK. I'm not getting soft, but as you age you tend to dislike negativity in whatever form unless one is a die hard bully or ruffian, the latter whom I tend to avoid en toto. SO: "You pushed me harder than those others present." OK? Robilar's no sissy man. He's got Dragons and will use them!!! ;)
 

Rob Kuntz

Adventurer
The 2nd Column for ENWorld is finished (about 1,100 words) and the third is near finished. Going shopping with the Mrs. on Friday. An exhausting trip so I will not be posting until Saturday. Have a great weekend and happy gaming!

1st Column: The Beginning: 1968 and Meeting Gary Gygax and the Gygax Family.

2nd Column: Greyhawk Theatrics, Comments, and Quips from the Lake Geneva Gamers
 
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