From the time I entered the hobby of roleplaying games in the Fall of 1979, the name of Gary Gygax loomed large in my imagination. Why shouldn't it have? After all, Gygax was the man whose name was on the cover of my Players Handbook, Monster Manual, and Dungeon Masters Guide. He was the guy who had a regular column - "From the Sorcerer's Scroll" - in the pages of Dragon magazine. And he was the head of TSR Hobbies, the company that produced Dungeons & Dragons, Gamma World, Top Secret, and all those other RPGs I loved so much. As a kid of 10 years old, it was pretty hard not to think of Gary Gygax as the Source and Summit of All Gaming, given the foregoing evidence.
Of course, the truth was more complicated than that, as I slowly began to discover. The version of D&D with which I started was the one edited by Dr. J. Eric Holmes in 1977 - the "Blue Book," as it's sometimes called. That book includes the following byline "by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson." Dave who? Somehow I'd never really noticed the name before, so overwhelmed was I by the prominence of Gygax's own in my perception of the hobby. I was genuinely perplexed, as I believed that D&D had sprung fully formed from the head of one man and his name was not Dave Arneson. If Arneson had played a role in my beloved game's genesis, why were there so few references to him anywhere? Why didn't he have a column in Dragon? Why couldn't I buy adventure modules with his name emblazoned on the front covers?
By chance, I eventually came across a funny little brown book that bore the Dungeons & Dragons logo, along with a title, Supplement II: Blackmoor, and beneath that title, a name - Dave Arneson! I'd never seen a D&D book like this before; it was small and rather dingy looking, not at all like the attractive hardcovers I associated with the game. I was later informed by my more knowledgeable elders in the hobby that this book was a supplement to the original Dungeons & Dragons published in 1974. I was vaguely aware of the existence of a version of the game published before my Holmes-edited basic rulebook or the Advanced D&D manuals I viewed as sacred scripture, but I'd never actually seen any of the books, so this was a revelation to me.
Cracking it open, I read Blackmoor's foreword, written by Gary Gygax, in which the Dungeon Master intones the following:
Dave Arneson ... Is there really such a creature? Yes, Gentle Readers, there is, and shudder when the name is spoken. Although he is a man of many talents who has authored many historic rules sets and games (which TSR will be publishing periodically), Dave is also the innovator of the "dungeon adventure" concept, creator of ghastly monsters, and inscrutable dungeonmaster par excellence. He devises complex combat systems, inexplicable dungeon and wilderness areas, and traps of the most subtle fiendishness. Herein you will get a taste of these, but he never reveals all. This writer always looks forward with great anticipation to an adventure in the "BLACKMOOR" campaign, for despite the fact that I co-authored the original work with Dave and have spent hundreds of hours creating and playing DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, it is always a fresh challenge to enter his "world." I can not recommend him more highly than simply saying that I would rather play in his campaign than any other - that other dungeonmasters who emulate Dave Arneson will indeed improve their games.