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I was dumbfounded. Here was Gary Gygax - "Mr. D&D" himself - singing the praises of a man I didn't know existed and who had apparently co-created Dungeons & Dragons with him back in 1974. How was it then that I'd never heard of him or that he'd managed to keep such a low profile in the hobby a mere five years after he founded it? I would in time learn more of the story - Arneson's involvement in miniatures and board wargames, his membership in the Castle & Crusade Society of the International Federation of Wargamers, along with Gary Gygax, with whom he'd co-authored a naval wargame called Don't Give Up the Ship!

Most interesting of all, though, was the Blackmoor campaign, from which that funny little book had taken its name. Arneson had created this imaginary medieval fantasy world as a staging ground for a new kind of miniatures game, one where literally anything could happen and where individual heroes carried the day, rather than platoons or regiments of soldiers as in traditional miniatures games. It was in Blackmoor that many of the concepts and mechanics gamers now inextricably associated with Dungeons & Dragons and, by extension, roleplaying games generally (including their electronic descendants) were born. Armor class, hit points, dungeons - they all first appeared in Blackmoor, as even Gary Gygax alluded to in the foreword I quoted above.

As with too many creative endeavors, the fruitful partnership between Gygax and Arneson that led to D&D and the foundation of an entirely new hobby foundered on the rocks of money. Disputes over royalties and other related issues led to bad blood between these two founding fathers for years. It also contributed to the marginalization of Arneson, who largely ceded the limelight to Gygax, who proved to be a far more charismatic and effective advocate and pitchman for the hobby he'd brought into being with him. Arneson continued to be involved in the hobby, founding his own company, Adventure Games, in the late 70s, in order to produce and sell RPGs and wargames that he created, but none of his efforts ever managed to catch fire the way that D&D did, which likely explains my own early ignorance of him.

DAVE ARNESON DIED A YEAR AGO YESTERDAY (APRIL 7, 2009) AT THE AGE OF 61. HIS PASSING WAS NOTED IN NUMEROUS PLACES, INCLUDING HERE AT THE ESCAPIST, BUT, IN GENERAL, THE TESTIMONIALS WERE MORE SUBDUED AND LESS WIDESPREAD THAN THOSE OF GARY GYGAX, WHO DIED THE PREVIOUS YEAR. THIS WASN'T THROUGH ANY MALICE BY ANY MEANS, BUT, EVEN A YEAR LATER, IT'S DIFFICULT NOT TO FEEL THAT DAVE ARNESON IS NO BETTER KNOWN TO THE WIDER GAMING PUBLIC THAN HE WAS WHEN I ENTERED THE HOBBY OVER THREE DECADES AGO. THAT'S A PITY, GIVEN HOW MANY OF THE MAN'S IDEAS FORMED THE FOUNDATION ON WHICH OUR COLLECTIVE PASTIME RESTS. HERE'S HOPING THAT, IN THE YEARS TO COME, DAVE ARNESON WILL FINALLY GET HIS DUE AND BE REMEMBERED FOR THE TITAN THAT HE WAS.

James Maliszewski is a writer currently living in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. His blog, Grognardia, explores the history and traditions of the hobby of roleplaying.

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