Tuesday, September 3, 2019

We Need to Make Sure Both Dave And Gary Are Remembered Megarry Says

David Megarry, designer of Dungeon!, friend to Dave Arneson and Original Blackmoor Player adresses the recent discussions surrounding Dave Arneson's role as Co-Creator of D&D. It's not really about one side supporting Dave and another supporting Gary, Megarry says:

The "sides" are somewhat artificial. Now that ego's are out of the way, we, the living, can moderate the division and start to bring a balance, if you will, to this great creation which was started in basements and is ending up in Fortune 500 board rooms. Just as the Irish figured out The Troubles, let us also do what needs to be done to keep Gygax and Arneson from being forgotten collectively and end the division. It is already happening: their names are relegated to small type on D&D credits. It won't be long before even that goes away. Luke is trying to keep his father's name alive with Gary Con and understands what contribution Arneson had to the collective effort. The Secrets of Blackmoor documentary is our effort to keep Arneson's name alive and maybe the Minnesota crowd needs to start an Arnecon (or whatever...don't worry, Luke, I will guarantee that it will be six months different;) The Kotaku article demonstrates that corporate could take over the narrative and construe whatever makes them the most fame and fortune.

While there were times of tension between different sides, Megarry stresses that even after the publication of D&D, people Dave Arneson's group worked alongside Gary's other employees to help TSR succeed in its early stages:

You must realize that the bulk of the creative Minnesota people were working for TSR in 1976: Arneson (D&D, Adventures in Fantasy, First Fantasy Campaign...), Megarry (Guerrilla War, Dungeon!, Pentastar...)and Carr (Don't Give Up The Ship, Fight in The Skies, 24 Hours of Le Mans...); the only people not represented were the David Wesely (Strategos N, Braunstein, Source of the Nile, Valley Forge...), Ross Maker (Source of the Nile), The Snider Brothers (Richard: Adventures in Fantasy, Mutant...John: Star Probe and Star Empires) and Professor Barker (Empire of the Petal Throne). Did I forget anyone? (Duane Jenkins with his Western RPG??).

Since TSR already had a creative staff working "upstairs" when Dave Arneson and his friends arrived at the company, the Minnesota group found other ways to help the company that didn't necessarily give them credits on published books:

We embraced the downstairs work as we realized the company would flounder if it wasn't done. Terry Kuntz got the Dungeon Hobby shop in order and it was contributing to the cash flow of the operation as well. Unfortunately (or fortunately from a TSR perspective) Arneson was an excellent shipping clerk and shipping hummed. As the inflationary growth spurt started to set in, Arneson's contribution to the company as a shipping clerk became more and more important. Arneson, of course, felt this was a demotion of a sort and began to rail against the role he had slipped into. When he tried to assert his creative input, it was rejected (almost out of hand). He had been hired to be a designer; that he stormed out after being rejected as such, is not surprising.

Tim Kask, editor of Dragon Magazine, has perhaps been the most vocal critic of Dave Arneson from the time Dave worked at TSR, but Megarry says he understands Kask's frustration:

Tim's dealings with Arneson were jaded with by the experiences we had together in 1976 at TSR Headquarters. From Tim's point of view, Arneson and most of the Minnesota contingent were not very productive on the creative front. The Arneson Basement crowd ended up that year doing a lot of nuts and bolts running the "downstairs" part of the business. It was the time of the 2nd stage of a business [...] Tim was really stretching himself to create a successful magazine and, IMHO, felt that the other "creative" staff was not pulling their weight. You must realize that the bulk of the creative Minnesota people were working for TSR in 1976: Arneson, Megarry and Carr; the only people not represented were the Snider Brothers and Professor Barker. That we produced not one item (other than the Blackmoor supplement) must have seemed to him we lacked the creative spark. Tim was part of the "upstairs" and wouldn't necessarily have appreciated what was happening to the company in the late Fall 1976.

I think Megarry makes some very important points here. If the people who were present at the creation of D&D and the early days of TSR are willing to let old conflicts go, D&D fans should certainly also do the same. While we live in a time when many are attracted to tribalist ideas of us vs. them, those of us who care about the  origin of our hobby have much more to gain by working together to preserve the memories of both D&D Co-Creators as well as the others who played an important role in those early years.

This does not mean that we should turn a blind eye to facts when they present themselves. If evidence is there to suggest credit is due, then we should be honest enough to examine that. Most of the readers of this blog will know that both Dave and Gary deserve tons of credit for bringing forth the game that we all love. We can all do our part to preserve that truth for the future.



  1. When a passionate group of people pursue a small slice of history with very few founding texts, that group will find find schisms and heresies to fight over.

    Both Dave Arneson and Gary were absolutely necessary for d&d to be born. So were Dave Megarry and Tony Bath and probably H.G Wells.

    Sometimes I like to think of them as Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. You needed both of them to create the Marvel Universe, and you needed Dave and Gary to create d&d.

  2. Scott: I absolutely agree! :) But the problem is the focus of fighting. Instead we should work together to gain more knowledge. I have learned so much from dedicated fans of Gary Gygax. If it hadn't been for them, I probably would never have started asking the question "But what about this Dave guy?" :)

  3. I admit that in my early days of D&D I was not really aware of Dave Arnesons input into the projects, but as the years went by, long after I coresponded with E.Gary Gygax and and long before he passed away I was already of the mind that we the fans should be greatful to both men for the game we love. but lets face facts, these two were not alone in the creation of the game, and the development of the game and praise, I count myself lucky these days as I have had the pleasure of meeting many of the men and women who were there and co-developed the game as we know it.
    I look at this as facets of a Dodecahedron, perhaps Gary/Dave are 1 and 20, but all the others who were there and played their roles are 2 thru 19, and none of the facet faces are great or lessor than the others.
    but this is just my view.
    I thank them all, equally.

  4. I grew up in Northern IL and started wargaming in the early 1970s, adding D&D to the gaming mix when it was first published in 1974. The wargamers I knew and who taught me in those early days were often the guys from the local military bases who also made trips to Lake Geneva for the early Gen Cons and other wargaming. I didn't make it to a Gen Con until 1975. The folks I played with back in those days were always aware of Dave Arneson's contributions to D&D, as well as the the whole MN contingent, especially Dave Megarry whose Dungeon! boardgame gave so many of us many hours of fun gameplay. His game was a sort of shorthand for how to start designing dungeons for a homebrew and also helpful when trying to explain to non-gamers how D&D worked!

    As near as I can tell, for me as an outsider (non-TSR, non-Industry-person) who gamed in the early days, it wasn't until the advent of the Internet when some reprobates started the pissing contests. That Dave Arneson had moved on from TSR was known by me and my friends but none of the details really from either "side." The recent articles on that site beginning with K are manufacturing more of the same false animosity that some early Internet trolls were fashioning out of ignorance and a need for attention.

    The author of the Gygax legacy "hatchet piece" and the more recent TSR "rift" piece came to Lake Geneva and tried to interview a number of people prior to the first article and most wouldn't speak with her. It's my understanding Gayle was unaware this author seemingly had an agenda. When that writer contacted me (she contacted lots of locals who were formerly in TSR or who are in the current gaming scene), I told her to feel free to come by the game store (figuring she would anyway and I'd rather be aware she was there) but told her I wasn't interested in being recorded or interviewed, though I was happy to talk to her, since she said she was a gamer. It was very clear from the start she was asking leading questions and looking to find quotes and sound bites to further a predetermined narrative. She hung out around twenty minutes or so and our conversation led me to believe her gaming background was with console and video games rather than tabletop games, though she had a smattering of TTRPG knowledge. I was not looking forward to the article given my experience talking to the author. The second "rift" article just confirmed what we already knew from the first piece.

    As far as I am concerned, the appreciation of the early games and their progenitors is not a zero sum game. There's plenty of credit to go around and there are plenty of reasons to celebrate everyone. Dave Megarry is a big part of Gary Con as I am sure Dave Arneson could or would be if he was still with us. Heck, I love the idea of a Arnecon in MN in late September or early October (his b-day being Oct 1st). Of course, in the meantime, running stuff by Dave Arneson and paying tribute to him during Gary Con isn't going to ruin anyone's day either. It's all good.

  5. Well-said, Mark. Your perception of the author's slanted reporting seems spot-on, per her own comments in one of her earlier pieces:

    Lake Nipigon
    Cecilia D'Anastasio
    5/09/17 10:00pm

    Gygax is a public figure I’d kinda like to see get skewered juuuuuust a bit by a new publication. Not because he was a horrible human or anything, but just to cut through the constant brownnosing at the very least.

    Dude was pretty famously a “quirky” guy who, while very friendly, wasn’t all that easy to work with to say the least. I can’t find it right now so maybe this is me going on bad information, but I remember reading a bit back in the day about how he also had a legendarily explosive temper if you managed to get on his bad side. Like a lot of 70s tabletop math nerds, he disliked being told “no” and/or unexpected changes to things they had decided on. His ouster gets painted as him getting the shaft more often than not, but quite a bit of evidence is floating around that the guy was something of a nightmare to work with if you actually wanted to make a saleable product (which he did, he just wanted to do it “his” way because of course he did).

    ‘Course, he’s also a product of his time and a lot of that doesn’t translate super well to the modern era. His chauvinistic streak was a mile wide. :/
    Reply5 replies

    Cecilia D'Anastasio
    Lake Nipigon
    5/10/17 9:50am

    Good comment. I am a diehard D&D fan who seriously dislikes Gygax and his legacy.
    Reply1 replies
    Lake Nipigon
    Cecilia D'Anastasio
    5/10/17 10:05am

    Outta curiosity, is this a subject that’s been explored much? The whole “we love your product but you’re kind of a tool and your worldview actively distances people from your creation” problem with the creators’ legacies?

    It’s a hell of a topic, if potentially really exhausting to explore.

    Cecilia D'Anastasio
    Lake Nipigon
    5/10/17 3:55pm

    It’s being explored c;

    From https://kotaku.com/1795075294


  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. (Edited for clarity) Just in the above quote(s), she repeatedly admits her ignorance even as she is making assumptions and citing a lack of proof for what she is asserting, then also contradicting herself in the process. That's a lot of problems in a very short passage. Not that I'd expect someone's casual posts to rise to the level of journalism but it's plain she has no qualms simply writing whatever she thinks might titillate her audience or rock the boat. She must be familiar with the concept of an unreliable narrator.


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