Saturday, September 3, 2022

Dave Arneson Wanted to Be in Charge of D&D in 1997

Last week, Ben Riggs, author of Slaying the Dragon: A Secret History of Dungeons & Dragons, posted an article on his blog about Dave Arneson revealing a letter that Dave Arneson sent to Peter Adkison on April 11 1997.

Adkison was at the time CEO of Wizards of the Coast, the company that had just acquired TSR and with it the game Dungeons & Dragons. Adkison did not respond to the letter and Dave wrote a second letter later that month that Riggs plans on revealing at a later point. 

What I find most interesting about all this is what it tells us about Dave Arneson at this point in his life. Dave was 49 at the time. 6 years earlier he had published his last module, The Case of the Pacific Clipper, published by Flying Buffalo Games. Riggs describes Dave's career as being left a  a minor figure in the industry after having been vital to creating D&D suggesting this and perhaps the style of the letter as a possible explanation why Adkison never responded. 

However, we also know that this was not the end of Dave's involvement. After reaching a settlement with WotC, Dave was invited to be an advisor on the D&D movie (2000) and wrote tie in articles for the WotC website before eventually co-founding Zeitgeist Games in 2003). This was the company that would return Blackmoor to published form until Dave's passing in 2009. 

What are your thoughts about the letter and the notion that Dave wanted to run TSR in 1997?

Discuss this topic at The Comeback Inn.



  1. Are you misspelling Adkison as a homage to Arneson?

  2. That letter is practically a textbook example of how not to get hired, no matter who you are. The casual tone, the careless spelling errors, getting your prospective employer's name wrong while also using his first name throughout, it's just amazing how unprofessional this terrible missive makes Arneson look. He's asking to be put in charge of a multi-million dollar acquisition and he can't be bothered to proofread his own letter.

    I traded correspondence with Peter Adkison myself once upon a time in the early 90s. Sent him a letter with a small donation to his legal defense fund and commiserating about the then-impending action from Palladium Games over Primal Order. He was nice enough to send me a simple thank you note, complete with a copy of the company newsletter. Of course, that was before Magic came out and made him an industry giant almost overnight, nor was I asking him to hire me as head of TSR. I also didn't spell his name wrong.

    1. Sure. I don't think Peter Adkison did anything wrong here. My impression is also that he is a decent guy. He also apparently was responsible for compensating Arneson for his claims to D&D putting the end to the lawsuits AND may have been behind allowing for Arneson's involvement in playtesting 3E, the movie and the Blackmoor lisence.


Game Designer Jamie Chambers' Meeting with Dave Arneson

Jamie Chambers with Felicia Day (left)  Game Designer Jamie Chambers is perhaps best known for creating the Cortex RPG system for Margaret W...