The Battle Over Dungeons & Dragons Was the Final Geek Warfare


Following the sudden success of Dungeons & Dragons within the late ’70s, sport designers Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson waged a decade-long battle over who needs to be thought-about the true creator of D&D. Gaming historian Jon Peterson chronicles that wrestle in his new ebook Sport Wizards: The Epic Battle for Dungeons & Dragons.

“I managed to seek out sufficient sources that many of the questions I believed have been fascinating I can a minimum of shed some gentle on,” Peterson says in Episode 489 of the Geek’s Information to the Galaxy podcast. “Lots don’t have definitive solutions, however I feel I can a minimum of paint sufficient of an image.”

Sport Wizards might come as a shock for a lot of D&D followers. Peterson’s account quotes extensively from major sources, together with letters and authorized paperwork, lots of which paint Gygax and Arneson as deeply flawed folks. “It’s not enjoyable to jot down one thing that’s, in the end, fairly unfavourable,” Peterson says. “However on the identical time, I feel it’s needed. In the event you don’t get the nuances of those enterprise and authorized circumstances, there are simply causes and results that you just’re not going to grasp.”

Peterson tried arduous to deal with all of his characters with respect and sympathy. “Everybody made errors, and everybody had their egos and all the pieces else,” he says. “However I feel they have been making an attempt to make one of the best of a scenario no one anticipated they’d be in. Instantly they’re in it, and what are they going to do? So I hope nobody comes throughout on this as a villain.”

As for the query of who needs to be thought-about the true creator of Dungeons & Dragons, Peterson believes the sport was clearly a gaggle effort. “It’s drawing on all these completely different sources and experiences, and all these completely different inputs that went into it—whether or not that’s Braunsteins, whether or not that’s all these completely different phenomena that have been occurring within the time main as much as D&D,” he says. “It’s by no means the suitable factor to interrupt down the invention of one thing with this sort of cultural significance to 1 single particular person.”

Hearken to the whole interview with Jon Peterson in Episode 489 of Geek’s Information to the Galaxy (above). And take a look at some highlights from the dialogue under.

Jon Peterson on Dave Arneson:

“There have been three awards that got to D&D [at the 1978 Origins Game Fair], together with the award for “Greatest All-Time Position-Enjoying Sport Guidelines.” It’s an awards ceremony, and it’s not an enormous one, however TSR staff would go up and get their trophy, and thank folks, and sit again down. Arneson really ran up on stage to seize that all-time best role-playing guidelines trophy, and there was a little bit of a dispute. Ought to these trophies go to the corporate that printed the sport, or ought to they go to the designer? Arneson ran this entire publicity marketing campaign to attempt to persuade those that awards like this could go to designers and to not corporations. … However in the end there wasn’t numerous sympathy, even among the many wargame publishers within the business, for his place, and he didn’t find yourself getting all three trophies for himself.”

Jon Peterson on Gary Gygax:

“Gygax was nice in individual. All people who met him—earlier than he grew to become ‘Gary Gygax’ and everybody had all this anger over the success of D&D—simply remarked on how keen he was to assist, how he wished to take a seat down and play video games with you, make it easier to design video games, make it easier to good your individual guidelines. He was a extremely gregarious, outgoing, pleasant man. … It’s simply as soon as these expertise begin having to be utilized to operating a medium-sized enterprise, the place now there’s lots of people on workers, there’s many layers of administration, there’s course of, and this group must agree with this group, and they should go execute on this normal technique, and you’ll’t micro-manage all the pieces, as quickly because it grew to become that sort of firm, he simply hated it. He wished out.”

Jon Peterson on the Satanic Panic:

“You see folks [at TSR] saying issues like, ‘Sure, there’s all this gnashing of enamel concerning the occult, however the cause folks discover the occult compelling is that there may—simply possibly—be one thing to it.’ I don’t assume they meant something extra with that than they do with, say, astrology. Whenever you learn your horoscope within the newspaper, is there one thing to it? Most likely not, however there was simply this background stage, particularly popping out of the Nineteen Seventies, of crystals and New Age-ism and American watered-down spiritualism. And I feel they did wish to faucet into that—or a minimum of they have been conscious it was a part of the market that was on the market. However Gygax and Arneson recognized as Christians—strongly—in order a consequence of that I don’t assume they have been actually making an attempt to take some provocative stand concerning the potential veracity of occultism.”

Jon Peterson on Ben Riggs:

“Ben Riggs is placing out a ebook that may come out subsequent 12 months, which known as Slaying the Dragon. It focuses principally—although not completely—on the interval after Sport Wizards ends. … As quickly as Sport Wizards was introduced, lots of people who comply with Ben, who knew that his ebook was coming, have been like, ‘Oh my god. Is anyone making an attempt to beat you to the punch? Is Peterson making an attempt to sneak this in earlier than you?’ So we did a video at Gen Con this 12 months simply to say, ‘Truly, we’re buds. We’ve recognized that we’re each doing these books without end, and we’ve been coordinating about this to make it possible for they’re going to be on the identical web page.’ This isn’t going to be one thing the place you’re going to be asking, ‘Is Riggs proper or is Peterson proper?’ Hopefully we’ve aligned these just about in addition to we will.”


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