Thursday, March 3, 2016

Being a Fan of Both Dave and Gary

The two creators of Dungeons & Dragons

As mentioned the other day, it is difficult to talk about Dave Arneson without getting into his troubled relationship with Gary Gygax. This is the creative relationship that resulted in the creation of Dungeons & Dragons and the invention of the RPG hobby. But it is also a story of much grief and words and actions that both men would have been better without.

Early on in my gaming career I learned about Blackmoor. It was Blackmoor that made me curious about its creator, Dave Arneson, whom I only knew as the lesser known of the two D&D creators. The age of the Intenet opened up to new opportunities for learning about authors and game designers that I only knew from the covers of the books and games that my friends and I had so much fun with. With mailing lists and internet forums it  even became possible to interract with people like Frank Mentzer, Bruce Heard, Rob Kuntz, Colin McComb, Ed Greenwood, David Zeb Cook, Aaron Allston, Allen Varney and all the others. It was heaven for us fans.

The internet forums was where I first learned about the ugly side of fandom though. The lawsuits and falling out between Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax was not only the source of grief for those two men and their friends and associates. Long after Dave and Gary had seemingly put the conflict behind them, fans associated so strongly with their heroes that they continued the fight.
People arguing on the Internet

Gary Gygax has always had a huge following. Most of them are great people. But among them I also encountered quite a few people saying pretty nasty things about Dave Arneson. Claims that he had not really contributed to the creation of D&D at all. Blackmoor was just a variant of Chainmail. And what an evil man he had been to dare sue TSR and Gary. I didn't really know what to think about that at first. But these claims made me wonder. Could this really be true? Is the world really made up of good guys and bad guys like in the movies? Or could there be more than one side to the story? That was the beginning of a story that lead to this blog, a website and a forum. I have learned alot about the history of D&D since then.

So who is the good guy and who is the bad guy of the story? Ultimately I don't know. I never knew either Dave nor Gary. I never had a chance to speak to Gary. I met Dave once and corresponded briefly with him. But I cannot say I knew him. I think they were just two human beings who had some brilliant ideas and also made some mistakes in their lives, just like everybody else.

In 1974 both men agreed to put both names on the cover of Dungeons & Dragons. They were both willing to sign a contract that recognized both men as creators of the game. I am thankful to both men for the game they made and this is why I am a fan of both Dave and Gary. Fan theories, whether posted online or published in books is not going to change that.

 So thank you Gary. Thank you Dave. Your game brought alot of joy in my life.



  1. There are thousands, tens of thousands, perhaps millions of creators of D&D. It is time to move on from this conversation.

  2. Thanks for the feedback Alexis! I agree with your main point that it is time to move on. I do think recognizing that numerous people contributed with their ideas to the first RPG. But ultimately I believe that D&D was created by two people: Gary and Dave.