Tuesday, April 7, 2009

And Another Legend Passes...

(I originally posted this yesterday, but pulled it when the news of Dave's passing turned out to be premature. Sadly, it appears that was but a temporary reprieve.)

I just read over at Grognardia that Dave Arneson has passed away.

I met Dave back in 2007, when the guys at The Source Comics and Games in Minnesota flew me out as part of World Wide D&D Game Day. I had dinner with him, and had a chance to chat with him a bit. My only regret is that I forgot to bring anything for him to sign.

To be blunt, history has largely cast Dave as Gary's second banana, but it's clear from any study of D&D's roots that while Gary tended the flame in those early years, Dave struck the spark. In a perfect world, things would've played out differently. The two elders of our hobby would've guided the game for years, a Fafhrd and Grey Mouser of the tabletop.

Alas, we don't live in a perfect world, but an infinitely human one. That which should be, and that which can be, all too often never come into alignment.

Gygax, Arneson, Moldvay, Bledsaw, these men were more than the pillars of our hobby. They are the pillars of an entire new way of thinking about games, about how we interact with *stuff*.

User generated content? The fundamental concepts of the multi-billion dollar gaming industry? These guys invented it. Maybe the world will forget their names, Hell, maybe it already has, but it'll never forget what they made. These guys taught us that what's in the book doesn't have to be what's played at the table, that the best stories are the ones we make ourselves, that what's on the shelf doesn't compare to what's in our minds.

Rest in peace, Dave, and thanks for blazing that trail.

8 comments:

ChattyDM said...

Hear, Hear Mike. This was a sad week for us all.

Ryven Astrology said...

I hope God has His dice ready, because they're both up there now and have an awful lot of free time on their hands..

Windjammer said...

"User generated content? The fundamental concepts of the multi-billion dollar gaming industry? These guys invented it. Maybe the world will forget their names, Hell, maybe it already has, but it'll never forget what they made. These guys taught us that what's in the book doesn't have to be what's played at the table, that the best stories are the ones we make ourselves, that what's on the shelf doesn't compare to what's in our minds."

Apart from the respect paid to Arneson, I was really grateful for these words coming from you.

The company you're working for has done its best to erase these words - and the ideology behind them - from the rulebooks. Case in point, opening paragraph in DMG 3.0, which got shifted somewhere else in its 3.5 version, and the following (second) sentence got deleted:

"You (the DM) are in charge. You get to decie how the rules work, which rules to use, and how strictly to adhere to them."

Contrast that attitude towards the D&D commodity with the final paragraph in OD&D booklet 1. It's been said before, but with Arneson (and Gygax last year) a whole CULTURE of gaming has passed away to from the franchise.

So it was heart touching to hear you paying respect to that culture. Thanks for that, much appreciated.

Noumenon said...

I hope God has His dice ready,

We have it on good authority that God does not play dice. I hope Messrs. Gygax and Arneson are up for some LARPing.

Lizard said...

It's very depressing.

I began gaming in 1978, when I was 14. As my 44th birthday comes barreling down like a charging ogre, I am seeing the true "first generation" of gamers passing, and the second generation -- all of us who started as teens in the late 70s and early 80s -- aging into middle age, and beyond. We owe a tremendous debt to Gygax and Arneson... and Bob Bledsaw of Judge's Guild, and Dave Hargrave of Arduin, and probably a lot more I can't name. (And, just to add a special capper to this week, Aaron Allston is hospitalized following a quadruple bypass.)

I really wish the hordes of people playing WoW and other MMORPGs where more aware of where their game came from and the debt they, too, owe. Maybe petition Blizzard to add an in-game memorial to Gary and Dave, at the very least.

lokipan said...

I fear that with the passing of Gygax and Arneson table-top gaming itself nears its end

Red Jason said...

Great post, Mike. Dave is an icon who's memory will continue to live every time we sit around a table with friends and roll dice, every time words are spoken aloud that are not ours but those of our pc's.

AzaLiN said...

I find it unsettling that I never knew anything about either Gygax or Arneson until a few months ago. I would have wanted to talk the them while i had the chance. They were so influential its mind blowing.