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

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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The vitriol in this thread, surprising. To say the least.

Now, let's sort this out: The letter, bizarre, but... Remember the times, folks. 1997 was well before LinkedIn. Arneson was handing in an unsolicited application, sure, and a pretty bizarre one, on top of that. But was he wrong to do so? Like, completely out of line? The last person in the entire world that should have considered sending in an application? - Probably not, or not entirely.

Like, Arneson, compared to the other first-hour D&D pioneers, has one of the more respected overall careers. After TSR, he worked on selected projects that he liked, including running what might qualify as "Tekumel 2e", and later became a teacher for game design at one of the first universities that taught the subject. - And as to his skill as a manager of traditional RPG brands, well, in the 2000s, he oversaw the Blackmoor d20 line - ten-something books, and a RPGA-style campaign with 100-something episodes. So, it's probably not like he didn't know at all what he was doing, or ordering others to do. - Does that make him a likely candidate to run a billion-dollar company. Naaah. Is he anything worse than a fool, here, though? Probably not. Not more than when Frank Mentzer did his Kickstarter, for example.

Which brings me to the next point: Whom are we comparing Arneson to? MAR "I did nazi that coming" Barker? Rob "Technically, I didn't breach the contract" Kuntz? Gary "Castle Zagyg will release in 2005" Gygax?

This idea to paint Arneson as an imbecile, it's not just insulting, it's factually wrong. The difference between Arneson and, lamentably, most of the other older first-hour TSR folks is, simply, he wasn't an ever-raging sellout with all the traits of a narcissistic personality disorder. After his time in the gaming industry, he retired to work as a church minister, IIRC. He didn't move to Cali, leave his wife and kids, and engage on a years-long hookers-coke-binge like a certain Mr Gygax did. (As per the Gygax biography, "Empire of the Imagination".) - Just asking, how is he possibly, imaginably the bad one in the story of TSR, at least to some?

And as to the inevitable, "bUt hE wOn tHe LaWsUiT" - yeah, some freelance nobody had to trade legal blows with the fastest rising company in the entire world of the year 1981. And he still won - no "settlement", he won, with the mall lawyers he could afford. Legal papers available online to this day, by the way, for those who fancy a read. So, who is he - an imbecile who couldn't even type right, OR a weasel who played 4D chess? Like, is he the Joker AND the Riddler?

What a sad conversation to have, in the first place.
 

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Thing is, if he'd done a basic amount of research, used spell check and got people's names right, then he probably could have gotten a gig at Wizards in the early days as some sort of creative consultant or whatever. Probably with a degree of caution, because WotC were all about making it be seen they were in touch with the hobby's history so they wouldn't have wanted to alienate Gygax, but they'd have found SOMETHING for Arneson along the lines of what Greenwood does these days. At least until he failed to meet deadlines too many times, i guess. Say what you like about Ed Greenwood, but the guy reliably churns out material.

But he had to go in and ask to run the whole shebang. Not just a creative gig, not just a historical consultant or elder statesman, he wanted the big chair. Was never, ever, ever going to happen, under a regime that only even bought D&D/TSR because it'd fallen apart due to amateurish management and was really leery about seeing it happen again. Anyone could have told him so.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
And as to the inevitable, "bUt hE wOn tHe LaWsUiT" - yeah, some freelance nobody had to trade legal blows with the fastest rising company in the entire world of the year 1981. And he still won - no "settlement", he won, with the mall lawyers he could afford. Legal papers available online to this day, by the way, for those who fancy a read. So, who is he - an imbecile who couldn't even type right, OR a weasel who played 4D chess? Like, is he the Joker AND the Riddler?
.

The remainder of your post is a diatribe in search of a thesis. This, however, is just factually wrong.

He did not win the lawsuit. It was settled. As has been extensively documented. And the reason it was settled was not due to the strength of his legal position, but instead due to the position of TSR in 1981 and a desire to decrease uncertainty.
 

Insulting other members
The remainder of your post is a diatribe in search of a thesis. This, however, is just factually wrong.

Nice. Did your mom say this to you after you tried to write her a birthday card?

He did not win the lawsuit. It was settled. As has been extensively documented. And the reason it was settled was not due to the strength of his legal position, but instead due to the position of TSR in 1981 and a desire to decrease uncertainty.

Wait. Wait. Wait. As in, "you've read the documents", or, "you're quoting some secondary source that you think is sufficiently credible"?

See, "settlement" usually implies "out of court settlement". (Unless your alternative is "trial by combat", all court cases, are, well, "settled in court".) "Out of court settlement" wasn't the case here. TSR didn't, whatever, "generously reach out to Arneson behind the scenes, to mend possible past wrongs". This was settled in court. TSR disputed Arneson's claims, Arneson proved his claims, and, wait for it, settled for an adequate compensation. Hence, me saying that Arneson won.
 
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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
See, "settlement" usually implies "out of court settlement". (Unless your alternative is "trial by combat", all court cases, are, well, "settled in court".) "Out of court settlement" wasn't the case here. TSR didn't, whatever, "generously reach out to Arneson behind the scenes, to mend possible past wrongs". This was settled in court. TSR disputed Arneson's claims, Arneson proved his claims, and, wait for it, settled for an adequate compensation. Hence, me saying that Arneson won.

The settlement:

1. Fact- Arneson demanded hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages.
Reality- The settlement provided that the 56 shares that Arneson owned of TSR would be bought for $56 a share. This was the valuation of the time.

2. Fact- Arneson demanded full authorship credit.
Reality- The settlement did not provide authorship credit.

3. Fact- Arneson sought 5% royalties on all AD&D products.
Reality- Arneson received a 2.5% royalty AD&D products; with a lifetime cap.

4. Finally, you asserted that Arneson "proved" his claims. The case never reached a stage where there was "proof." There was never a trial.

You stated that (1) Arneson "won" the case. That is incorrect legally. The case resulted in a settlement. You also stated that (2) the case was "settled in court." I have no idea what you mean by this. It settled, by agreement of the parties through counsel, prior to trial.

Do you have anything else you wish to add, or are we done? As entertaining as it might be to see you try to explain the legal nuances of this to me, I would recommend maybe not?
 

Do you have anything else you wish to add, or are we done? As entertaining as it might be to see you try to explain the legal nuances of this to me, I would recommend maybe not?

Of course I'm not finished!

Your sources for those oddly specific numbers, please, if you don't mind. Because then we can debate them, and not your way of reading them. Weren't there a few pretty high-profile publications on this, recently? And aren't the actual legal docs still available online, perhaps even through some archive page? Like, of all look-up-able things, that's one that you can look up most easily.

And what are we trying to debate through this, precisely? Because I'm certainly not "camp Arneson", or "camp Gygax" in this; that'd be "very 2005", I think. Like the first announcement that Castle Zagyg was "completed and would start shipping out in months", by the way. But you are a "camp Gygax", right? I'm usually not much of a detective, but your screen name kind of took away the mystery for me, there.

This article gets published, and good part of the posters here - you, in particular - immediately start pooping on old Dave Arneson as if he had broken into your harem, and impregnated your many wives. - And I just wonder why:

Arneson, for all we know, became a man of a certain spirituality, and went on to teach folks who then went out and did the thing.

In contrast, the guys who still promote negative opinions about him to this very day - what did they do, specifically? Oh, yeah, they went on to become convention-touring micro-publishers, often not much better than the drunk old vet from "Jarhead": "Pay me a drink, and I'll tell you how I won the war." Or, well, rather something like: "I'll tell you how I sometimes was in the building where the cool stuff sometimes happened in the other room." - And made headlines as notorious vaporware sellers; let's not forget that, either.

My "thesis" which you astutely anticipated earlier, is: Arneson, half-retired from the gaming industry as he was, was still a better ambassador for the hobby than most of the other vets, alive or dead.
 


Warpiglet-7

Cry havoc! And let slip the pigs of war!
Of course I'm not finished!

Your sources for those oddly specific numbers, please, if you don't mind. Because then we can debate them, and not your way of reading them. Weren't there a few pretty high-profile publications on this, recently? And aren't the actual legal docs still available online, perhaps even through some archive page? Like, of all look-up-able things, that's one that you can look up most easily.

And what are we trying to debate through this, precisely? Because I'm certainly not "camp Arneson", or "camp Gygax" in this; that'd be "very 2005", I think. Like the first announcement that Castle Zagyg was "completed and would start shipping out in months", by the way. But you are a "camp Gygax", right? I'm usually not much of a detective, but your screen name kind of took away the mystery for me, there.

This article gets published, and good part of the posters here - you, in particular - immediately start pooping on old Dave Arneson as if he had broken into your harem, and impregnated your many wives. - And I just wonder why:

Arneson, for all we know, became a man of a certain spirituality, and went on to teach folks who then went out and did the thing.

In contrast, the guys who still promote negative opinions about him to this very day - what did they do, specifically? Oh, yeah, they went on to become convention-touring micro-publishers, often not much better than the drunk old vet from "Jarhead": "Pay me a drink, and I'll tell you how I won the war." Or, well, rather something like: "I'll tell you how I sometimes was in the building where the cool stuff sometimes happened in the other room." - And made headlines as notorious vaporware sellers; let's not forget that, either.

My "thesis" which you astutely anticipated earlier, is: Arneson, half-retired from the gaming industry as he was, was still a better ambassador for the hobby than most of the other vets, alive or dead.
I am not a big fan of digging up dirt and tearing people down. It has reached new lows in our culture.

However, I am incredulous that folks don’t know why this is a discussion. There have been a lot of books about the origins of the game released as of late. In that context we also have a source document that gets at the writing skill and social acumen of one of the main subjects!

That is surely worthy of discussion for interested parties.

If you have trouble writing and getting along with others and have very little self awareness, it doesn’t mean you’re a garbage person to be forgotten.

It means without the co designer you probably weren’t taking the game beyond your basement.

Very relevant to recent books and discusssions…
 


Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Of course I'm not finished!

Your sources for those oddly specific numbers, please, if you don't mind.

To quote something I found very helpful recently:

Dude, I've known u for ten seconds & enjoyed none of them. I'm not taking homework assignments from you.

I've now corrected you twice on your error. If you wish to educate yourself, it's not hard. It's not my job to teach you how the law works, or how to find the materials to educate yourself, or why you might want to avoid aggressively attacking people when you're wrong.

(For everyone else, it's around p. 200 and cites the source.)
 

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