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Dungeons and Dragons Co-Creator Dave Arneson Passes Away:

Dave Arneson, co-creator of Dungeons and Dragons along with the late Gary Gygax, passed away today at the age of 61. Gygax himself died last year, at which time I wrote about the cultural significance of of D&D for my generation of academics and intellectuals. Arneson's role in the development of D&D was less well-known than that of the more famous Gygax. But it was he who introduced many of the crucial elements of character role-playing.

Unfortunately, Gygax and Arneson had a falling out in the late 1970s after a legal dispute over the intellectual property rights to their joint creation. However, both deserve to be remembered for their outstanding achievement in creating the world's most successful roleplaying game and for its positive influence on an entire generation of intellectually-oriented young people.

Ex-Fed (mail) (www):
Saving throw against sorrow -- failed.
4.9.2009 6:39pm
ohwilleke:
Sad.
4.9.2009 6:44pm
SeaLawyer:
I didn't know any actual intellectuals played D&D.


j/k
4.9.2009 6:47pm
Anderson (mail):
Bummer. Arneson's take on the game seemed darker and more interesting, judging by the old "Blackmoor" supplement. It's a shame he and Gygax couldn't work together.
4.9.2009 6:50pm
Anderson (mail):
Hm. Looking at a post on the (great) blog Ilya linked, it seems the "darker" tag for Blackmoor may need some qualification:

The "Blackmoor Dungeons" section begins with a brief historical overview of the dungeon (starting in Winter 1970). This is followed by discussions of notable inhabitants, such as Sir Fang the Vampire and the elves who maintain the barricades preventing the dungeon's inhabitants from terrorizing Blackmoor Town. Gamers used to a more straitlaced and serious approach to world building will no doubt find much that offends their sensibilities (turnstiles to enter the dungeon, holy water hoses, souvenirs, etc.) ....
4.9.2009 6:53pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
I was a 100th level Cleric-Fighter-Magic user; my character killed Gods and assumed their powers.

Yes, I cheated.
4.9.2009 7:38pm
Owen Hutchins (mail):
I've been playing since 1976; a sad day indeed.
4.9.2009 7:52pm
sureyoubet:
Of course for some, D&D did not have such a positive impact. The late nights (that usually became early mornings) that my roommate in college spent playing this game during his junior year was the primary cause of his flunking out.

All things in moderation.
4.9.2009 8:01pm
Xanthippas (mail) (www):
I think it's hard to overestimate the impact that Gygax and Arneson had on popular culture with the creation of D&D. And though playing RPGs is still nerdy, it's not nearly as nerdy as it once was thanks to these two men.
4.9.2009 8:18pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):
Given the early deaths of both, however, perhaps RPGing is not such a healthy lifestyle.
4.9.2009 8:40pm
Sasha Volokh (mail) (www):
What about Satanism?
4.9.2009 8:48pm
Ilya Somin:
What about Satanism?

What about it? There's no real connection between satanism and D&D. A completely bogus link was trumped up by a few religious right groups in the 1980s, but even they don't seem to be pursuing the issue anymore.
4.9.2009 8:52pm
Keith Jackson:
To elaborate on Ilya's point. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1SzZRwhmopc
4.9.2009 9:11pm
Perseus (mail):
There's no real connection between satanism and D&D.

But the cover of the AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide had a picture of a red devil on the cover. And don't forget about Asmodeus and the 9 planes of Hell.
4.9.2009 9:54pm
DangerMouse:
But the cover of the AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide had a picture of a red devil on the cover. And don't forget about Asmodeus and the 9 planes of Hell.

According to JRR Tolkien, Sauron was a fallen angel as well. So what? Heroes need a badguy to fight.
4.9.2009 9:57pm
Jacob T. Levy (mail) (www):
I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say Sasha was making with the funny.
4.9.2009 10:12pm
Andy Bolen (mail):
I'm giggling at the stereotypically humorless D&D players missing Sasha's joke... ;)
4.9.2009 10:55pm
Perseus (mail):
According to JRR Tolkien, Sauron was a fallen angel as well. So what? Heroes need a badguy to fight.

But D&D players could choose to play characters with evil alignments and evil character classes like assassins. D&D is The Devil's Web!
4.9.2009 11:17pm
Anderson (mail):
But the cover of the AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide had a picture of a red devil on the cover.

I assume Perseus is joshing us, like Sasha.

Nevertheless, the tall red fellow on the cover of the DMG is an efreet, not a devil, and does not even reside in the Nine Hells, but rather, on the Elemental Plane of Fire. Though efreeti do have cruel tendencies.

D&D did allow evil player characters, but I personally can't recall a successful example in my own (too limited) RPG experience. A friend of mine in another city had a "thieves' war" campaign where the players were thieves in the same (?) guild, fighting a rival guild in a large city while keeping out of the city fathers' attention, and I'm sure some or most of the characters in that were evil; but I never got a chance to play in it.

At any rate, I'm sure his campaign paled in comparison to Grand Theft Auto.
4.10.2009 9:49am
Tracy Johnson (www):
Oddly enough, I'm currently running a Blackmoor campaign at the moment.

In related news Ryan Dancey, former VP of the company that owns D&D, says the game is in a "Death Spiral". See: Enworld.org . Presumably over the lawsuits versus 8 defendants recently filed.
4.10.2009 10:19am
Skyler (mail) (www):
I never understood the attraction of this game. I used to play war games, they were rooted in some sort of reality and had distinct rules based in historical events. Even then, war games were too long and cumbersome to do very often. Thank goodness for computers, today's youths can get the benefit of war games without the daunting physical logistics (it takes a parking lot or gymnasium to properly play a decent game of Jutland, for instance) or the difficult enforcement of very nit picky rules, or the endless sorting out of tiles. Computers make all these difficulties practically disappear and the fun is much easier to get to while you can learn about past battles and better understand the real challenges of fighting wars.

But D&D didn't ever make sense. You just pretend to have arbitrary magic and you have a "dungeon master" who arbitrarily makes up rules and characters have "lives" and it's all so much like third graders.

These guys were mocked in their day for being very weird. Their followers were certainly weird, by definition. It takes some kind of special lack of something in one's life to create fake personalities with magic powers and discuss them as though they were something serious to behold. All that energy could be spent chasing girls instead.

But if they made money off of it, then I'm happy for them. I'm sorry to hear of anyone dying that young.
4.10.2009 10:24am
Desiderius:
Xanthippas,

"And though playing RPGs is still nerdy, it's not nearly as nerdy as it once was thanks to these two men."

Oh it's just as nerdy as ever - these guys changed the social acceptability of nerdiness itself by the breadth of appeal of their take on it among those who have now grown to have great influence in our society.

BTW, where's a high-level cleric when you need one to cast a resurrection on these guys?

= (

As for the satanism controversy, Magic the Gathering was forced/chose to remove demons from their cards in their early days in the 90's, but have recently discovered that they have more cultural power than the demon-fearers so demons have returned to do battle with those who seek to vanquish them.
4.10.2009 3:26pm
Bama 1L:
I never understood the attraction of this game.

"Oh, the roleplayer and the grognard should be friends!"

Anyway, there has been substantial overlap between the populations, so evidently some people have found recreation in both. I think part of it is a desire to interact through the medium of games whose chief value is not defined by winning and losing.
4.10.2009 4:06pm
Anderson (mail):
It takes some kind of special lack of something in one's life to create fake personalities with magic powers and discuss them as though they were something serious to behold.

Absolutely right. Hell, fake personalities, period.

Novelists, playwrights, actors, moviemakers, and their ilk are all hopeless losers who just couldn't get laid.
4.10.2009 4:07pm
Betty1 (mail):
So, I don't know much about D&D and tend to make fun of it out of habit, but I do know that most of the men I've dated have at one time played it... so it can't be all bad. Makes me less willing to marry a D&D player though, since these guys kicked the bucket so early.

Are there studies out there that demonstrate the average IQ of D&D players against their average age of death, or is there not a significant number of them dead yet to really be worthwhile? ;)
4.11.2009 2:19am
tyree (mail):
He will be missed. Dungeons and Dragons certainly helped solidify my decision to be an architect. The plans and diagrams and eventually blueprints I made of the adventure settings were great design exercises.

I was speaking with a fellow players who is approximately my age and I mentioned that one of the reasons I got into games in general was my childhood asthma. Quite often as a child I could not just, "go outside and play". He smiled and pulled an asthma inhaler out of his pocket. There is definitly some kind of link to the type of person who is attracted to sitting around a table and talking as opposed to playing basketball for a few hours. So people in poor health play games instead of sports. This will definitely affect their mortality rate, but the games are not to blame for that.
4.11.2009 5:13am
Desiderius:
tyree,

"There is definitly some kind of link to the type of person who is attracted to sitting around a table and talking as opposed to playing basketball for a few hours. So people in poor health play games instead of sports."

Could be, but for what its worth, I did both. Exercising the body vs. the imagination. Both developed the mind and social skills.
4.11.2009 1:10pm

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