Psychochild's Blog

A developer's musings on game development and writing.

12 April, 2009

The passing of Dave Arneson
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 2:28 PM

I was shocked to learn yesterday that Dave Arneson had passed away. I was shocked for three reasons: First, it is the death of someone I admire. Second, when someone passes away who created something I grew up with, it gives you that, “Oh, crap, I’m getting old!” feeling.

Finally, it shocked me it took so long to find out. When Gary Gygax passed away, lots of people posted about it and it was all over the blogosphere. But, then again, Dave was the less showy of the two from all the stories I’ve heard.

Some thoughts after the jump.

I had the privilege of hearing Dave talk at Gen Con a few years ago. He was with David Wesely talking about the early days of RPGs, back before D&D. They talked about some more free-form type war games, called “Braunstein”, which inspired Arneson to create Blackmoor. It was fascinating to hear their memories about role-playing before people figured out they were playing RPGs for someone interested in the history of games like myself.

Back when Gygax had passed away, I spent time reminding people that Arneson was still around. Gygax was obviously better at self-promotion and getting his name out there. Once again people should see that “if you build it they will come” is not entirely true; you need to make sure you stand out from the others. I hope others take time to remember the other person who helped bring the games we love so dearly to us.

It’s sad that a person who so greatly influenced my life both directly and indirectly has passed away. I wish his friends and family the best in these times. He will certainly be missed.

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  1. There’s no question that Dave was less well known than Gary, but Dave’s passing was all over the place, just, perhaps, not as much on blogs but then, blogs are not what they were a year ago. I heard about the news almost immediately via both Twitter and Facebook, for instance, and saw a number of people posting ‘goodbyes’ to Dave and talking about what a massive effect he had on their lives. Not as much attention as Gary got when passing away, but Dave’s passing was certainly noticed and spread around quickly.

    Comment by Matt Mihaly — 12 April, 2009 @ 6:51 PM

  2. I began roleplaying through D&D. For a long time, there’s a been a Gary Gygax shrine in my mind, and I was saddened by his death. But I was shocked because it was then that I discovered the existence of Dave Arneson ! So i modified the mentioned shrine, which had now a black mourning part for Gary Gygax, and one for Dave Arneson.
    When I learned his death through Order of the stick (, I made sure to tell it to people to whom Gygax had mattered. I think a good part discovered Dave’s existence at that moment…
    So Dave’s passing was not so all over the place as you might hope Matt. Or it’s a different place from which I tread, and I’d be delighted to discover yours :).
    The shrine is now all black. But I’m getting some D20 gems on it for color…

    Comment by Modran — 20 April, 2009 @ 6:10 AM

  3. A great obituary written by Mike Stackpole:

    Comment by Psychochild — 27 April, 2009 @ 3:34 PM

  4. An article posted over a decade goes into the conflicts between who created what and when, giving some props to Arneson for his work:

    Comment by Psychochild — 26 August, 2019 @ 11:07 PM

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