Earlier this week, Twitter was – well – all a-twitter about the death of Dave Arneson, co-creator of Dungeons and Dragons. He was dead. He wasn’t dead. Oh way, he’s dead. Twitter was wrong, but then not so wrong. Dave Arneson lost his epic-level combat with cancer on April 7, 2009.
I didn’t know Dave. I’ve never heard him speak. I’ve not ever been to a convention he was attending.
Still, the man had a profound impact on my life and the life of RPG hobbyists the world over.
My very first DnD experience was run by a GM who had one of those original 3-volume digest sized, brown, DnD books. That first game was horrible. Horrible. Yet there was that kernel of greatness evident in the rules and game concept that couldn’t be overcome by Game Master dickery. I’d never heard of DnD before then, but that experience exposed me to a world of imagination and fantasy that was previously hidden.
Since that first game of DnD, I’ve been a GM. I at once sought out the books and started creating my own game world. It wasn’t long before I was creating campaigns, character classes, and new races. Through junior high, high school and college, we’d play almost every weekend. Engaging in marathon sessions throughout our summer breaks, playing deep into the night and into the small hours of the morning for years until, finally, I brought my DnD campaign to its world-ending conclusion at the end of my college career.
For thirty years I have been in this hobby, meeting people from across the world sharing similar interests and playing games with them. I’ve not just had fun playing games designed and inspired by Dave Arneson, I’ve made great friends through those experiences. There is tremendous value in gathering a bunch of folks around a table, telling stories, and playing games.
This world would be a far better place if more of us did that.
Mr. Arneson leaves behind an indelible mark on not just the hobby, but also on media of all kinds and hundreds of thousands of people. His impact will be felt for generations to come. When I regard his achievements, I find myself both envious and admiring of them.
Rest in piece, Dave.