The Scenius of Dungeons and Dragons
Yesterday was the birthday of Dave Arneson. As important as it is to celebrate Dave it is maybe more important to celebrate the scenius from which D&D emerged. To me, D&D was not just the invention of Dave and Gary. Dave and Gary did a lot of the heavy lifting but it was a creation of a scenius. D&D came from the scenius of the hobby wargames scene combined with the sci-fi scene and swords and sorcery pulp scene. A scene, a good one anyway, emerges when a group of people love the same thing and try to make it better. They don't really know they are creating a scenius. They just enjoy something and always work on some way to improve it. They make something, share it to see if it is better or different. The combined brain power of the people in the scene creates something more powerful than any one of them could have done on their own. Anyplace there is real innovation there is a scenius.
In the 70's some surfer dudes in California who also rode skate boards when the surf wasn't right got the idea that it would be cool to ride in empty swimming pools. Other skateboarders thought this was a good idea and tried it too. They broke some boards and some bones. They made better boards and did better tricks on those better boards. Better tricks led to better boards and skater punk and Vans shoes and BMX freestyle and bad Tony Hawk video games (OK so the scenius fucks up sometimes). Improvement happened because skaters got together around something they all loved and shared.
In the 60's and 70's there were the zines where people said, “I've got this idea about how we can make Diplomacy better.” or ,”I found these weird dice in a teaching supply catalog, how can we use them?” They wrote articles. They made games. They modded toy soldiers and toy dinosaurs and shared ideas. Eventually, those iterative improvements led to Gary making Chainmail and that led to Dave putting Chainmail and Braunstein together to make Blackmoor. Braunstein came from ideas Dave Wesley put together from other wargamers about referrees and games with more than two players. The Blackmoor Bunch came up with crazy ideas that Dave incorporated into his game. Dave shared that with Gary. Gary's kids and Kuntz boys came up with their own ideas that got worked into the game. After D&D was published, a new scene developed with new zines and new conventions and new ideas and we today are continuing that line of creativity.
I am grateful for Dave's critical contribution to what became D&D and the RPG hobby. Also, I am thankful for the scenius from which Dave drew inspiration.