D&D General When D&D Co-Creator Dave Arneson Asked WotC For A Job!

Back in 1997, after WotC had purchased the failing TSR (and D&D), and just prior to the launch of D&D 3E, Dave Arneson -- who co-created D&D in the 1970s along with Gary Gygax -- wrote to WotC president Peter Adkison asking to be put in charge of TSR.

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Ben Riggs -- author of Slaying the Dragon -- discovered Arneson's letter to Adkison while researching his history of D&D.


The letter was full of typos -- Arneson even got Adkison's name wrong! According to Riggs, Adkison did not reply, and Arneson wrote to him a second time.
 

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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
And if I'm going to play a game of Axis & Allies, someone has to play Axis, and it could be me. Without that side, it's just Allies & Allies, which isn't a great wargame.
Well, if you simplify it somewhat, it can be. Just ask Tewligan:

Once a year, I pay a homeless guy $10 to wear a T-shirt with the words "metric system" written on the front. I then chase him up and down the street, beating him furiously with a wiffle bat labelled "The Hard Yard". I top off my celebration of the imperial system's superiority by sitting down to a dinner of a foot-long hot dog and a gallon of milk.
 

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billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him)
When I was a graduate student, people would find out one of my areas of research was prohibition and they would assume I was a teetotaler myself. It was bizarre going to social situations where the alcohol was flowing and nobody would offer me a drink for fear of offending me. I also had a friend who was a graduate student in anthropology studying white supremacist. She was frequently told she shouldn't be studying "those people" or shockingly asked why she would study them.
You get the same sort of thing when studying insurgent groups like the IRA or INLA in Northern Ireland. When you explain why they do something and how some of the things they do follow from their past experiences, you get accused of "justifying" them.
 


Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
The ideas that interest in WWII wargames and history can make someone a pro-nazi it really wild to me. Back in my wargaming days, I played German forces plenty of time at the tactical, operational and strategic levels. I've read books by Guderian and Von Manstein. I've always been a nazi hater. The same is true of all the people that were in gaming circle.

Not at all. But that's the point. There are plenty of people, like you, who might play as the German side, or read certain books, and still despise Nazis. But there were also people that got really into it and begin to confuse their love of games with their love of what lies behind it.

And I think, as @billd91 correctly notes, that because a lot of wargaming communities don't do a good job at grappling with the historical horrors ("it's just a game"), it becomes easier for someone to "hide in plain sight."

More simply- in most social circles, if you spend a lot of time talking about how cool Germany was in WW2, there'd be a lot more questions.
 


Parmandur

Book-Friend
Arneson was finishing up his history degree at the University of Minnesota when MAR Barker became chair of the Department of South Asian studies. They likely bonded over history and fantasy literature. I don't know how close the two were. I don't know if MAR Barker would have been comfortable sharing his neo-nazi sympathies with the son of decorated WWII marine who actually fought actual Nazis. Unless evidence surfaces to show that Arneson was aware of MAR Barker's support for neo-nazism and looked the other way, I'm not willing to tar and feather him postmortem.
Absolutely true. But I was responding to "well, it could be worse, he could have been a Nazi like M.A.R. Barker" and that is, like, the worst bright side I could imagine, especially considthst they were friends.
 


Nikosandros

Golden Procrastinator
I dunno, I'm not really convinced. IMO, you don't became a Nazi by playing the Axis in wargames and you don't became a Stalinist by watching Socialist Realism movies or paintings. But I get that some games might gloss over the problematic issues and that some environments can foster a pre-existing predisposition.
 

MGibster

Legend
A lot of people gloss over the moral implications of the German war machine when looking at it, playing it via war games, or even being fascinated/impressed by some aspects of it - like the training of officers that valued taking initiative, etc. Because it was very good at what it was designed to do - it's just that a significant portion of what it was designed to do was in service of a racist, colonialist government bent on carving out living space from points east by obliterating most of the resident population.
We tend to gloss over the unpleasant aspects of combat in almost every game. I can't remember the last time I was playing Warhammer 40k and my Imperial Knight accidentally fired its plasma cannon into a home obliterating both it and the family sheltering within. In D&D, I don't know if I've ever had an orc crying for his mother as he lay dying in the mud while trying to hold his guts in with his bare hands. And for most war games, I don't really get into the moral implications of the regime my forces are serving. I'll play the Confederates, the Nazis, the Soviets, the Imperium of Man, or the Institute and it doesn't bother me in the least. Heck, in fantasy games where I'm the good guy, I certainly don't worry about little things like representation in government or rock the boat politically because I'm upset I didn't get to elect the king or the archduke.
 

It's a mess, to be sure. Writing is a skill, one that needs to be developed for specific forms. A person can be great at writing 500-page novels but terrible at a four verse poem. Same goes for writing professionally. I would imagine that in Arneson's head his letter came across very differently than how it looks to us (and presumably, how it looked to Adkison).

Yeah. You don't talk trash about your former employer when applying for a job, even if everyone knows they were a dumpster fire (which TSR indisputably was). It's like ranting about your ex on the first date... except this is the cover letter, so it's like ranting about your ex in the process of asking for the first date.

(Edit: Just realized Arneson wasn't merely talking trash about TSR--as you note, that "lowly" was directed at his supposed future employer, i.e., Wizards! Dave, man, what were you thinking?)

I just looked at about 20 applications for a position, and nary a cover letter between them.

I dont think employers, or recruiters even want prospective employees even submitting cover letters anymore. I stopped once applying for a job transitioned to all online applications. All the filter software just made it that much harder to get passed them if you submitted a cover letter.
 


We have an application portal that is used for posting jobs and receiving applications. This wasn't using recruiters, and we did the narrowing ourselves.

I don't know how other people feel about cover letters, but I don't even want them. There's also increasing talk about filters to remove information that could potentially bias people in the hiring process. Stuff like removing people's names and even educational background.

Do you use recruiters ans software to narrow down the applicants to the 20 you reviewed? Do you even want cover letters?
 

There's also increasing talk about filters to remove information that could potentially bias people in the hiring process. Stuff like removing people's names and even educational background.
I can understand removing names. What benefit is there from removing a person's education? Wouldn't that be biased to younger people just out of college and entering the work force in favor of someone who has 20 years of experience?
 

Von Ether

Legend
I can understand removing names. What benefit is there from removing a person's education? Wouldn't that be biased to younger people just out of college and entering the work force in favor of someone who has 20 years of experience?

I was thinking more if the schools are Harvard vs a state college. You get the same years of schooling but there's a lot more implied in that Ivy league degree.

I switched from several years of being a journalist to joining a public relations firm. My coworkers were just fresh out of their masters and this firm was their first real job and made more money than I did. They thought they could schmooze journalist like you do tech bros at a network meeting.

Guess who taught them the ropes but was laid off first during the tech crunch of 2001.

Come to think of it. That was the big failing my farmer kid background did to me. I didn't know that business culture assumes you have no ambition if you only get a four year degree. No masters, never promoted.
 


Eubani

Hero
There are 3 things Arneson could of done that would of immensely helped him in his endeavor to join WotC or any position in the gaming industry. 1. Take creative and technical writing classes 2. Seek counseling regarding his motivational issues and general inability to finish projects and 3. Seek professional help in the creation of introduction letter + resume. Instead he wrote a letter that made him come across as an entitled buffoon who unfortunately had a reputation of over promising and under producing. I am reminded of a saying about drilling a hole in a ship and then blaming the shipwrights.
 

Von Ether

Legend
I got an Associates in Drafting, then got a Bachelors in Industrial Tech. I saw 100% more return on investment from my associates than I ever saw from Bachelors.

I've since learned it can depend on the industry. I've seen 1,000% ROI on my 1 year Licensed Practical Nurse vocational certificate than in my B.A. + President and Deans Honor Roll.

On a related note, a law degree seems to be the most universal degree you can get. No one asks why you are running anything if you're a lawyer, except for surgery. But during the malpractice suit, guess who asking the surgeon all the questions.
 


grimslade

Krampus ate my d20s
I don't see the big deal. Adkinson knew enough of the history of D&D to recognize the good and ill of Arneson. The letter quickly confirmed the hearsay. Arneson was not hired or even considered for anything because WotC was buying a dead company's assets out of a sense of nostalgia and appreciation. I am not going to drag Arneson. Both he and Gygax, rightfully, have a lot of warm feelings for what they brought into the world, but neither could have done any of it without a lot of luck and a lot of help. We like to, as a society, elevate individuals as being the 'parent' of ideas or inventions, but it is never the case. It is a cult of personality and a desire to simplify things. It is also a bit of a projection of what we want. We want some untapped genius in the wings to solve our gripes with the game. The rightful heir who will return to fix all our problems with the game. Arneson was not that guy. There never is, and never was a 'that guy'. They are all human beings with ugly parts and bad habits who threw a bunch of ideas into a stew. D&D was the result.
 

MGibster

Legend
I don't know how other people feel about cover letters, but I don't even want them. There's also increasing talk about filters to remove information that could potentially bias people in the hiring process. Stuff like removing people's names and even educational background.
I was speaking to some students at a local university and one of them asked me about cover letters. I told them I don't read them, but some recruiters do. The first thing I do is scan the resume to see if they meet the minimum qualifications for the job regarding education and experience, and if not I reject it right then and there. The recruiter told them that she absolutely reads the resumes. So you never know.
 

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