So it's Dave Arneson appreciation day and to tell you the truth I've been pretty conflicted about putting fingers to keypad. Blackmoor means a lot to me and Mr.Arneson still to this day doesn't get the amount of recognition that he deserves. So here are some of my thoughts & opinions about this gentleman game designer and wargamer.
I'm trying to first think about when I heard about Dave Arneson. It was through Judge's Guild's Guide to the City State (1976), this was the real deal perhaps one of the greatest fantasy cities that came out or at least that's how it appeared to me when my father's friend from the RAF told me about it. Blackmoor came into my life in upstate New York from the Judge's Guild. I was six at the time and it was all about Kiss, Radio Shack, the Spiderman television show, etc.,etc. It wasn't until a year later that I played or watched my first game of original Dungeons & Dragons. I have very mixed emotions about this because its sort of like writing about something that has always been a part of my life. Arneson, Bledsaw, Gygax, were names that were as familiar to me as my uncles or cousins. Gary Gygax gave us Greyhawk but my hat has always hung in Blackmoor. I lost at least a dozen characters in Tegal Manor, two hundred and forty rooms of haunted house horror as a dungeon crawl. Areson gave my dungeon master the perfect setting to put this haunted hall of horror and gonzoness.
Its only recently that I've acquired a fine scan of this book and come to appreciate its brilliance at what it does. A tight, tense, and well put together urban setting with lots of potential and its been beloved by fans for years. Dave Arneson was very, very, good at what he did and was a damn good game designer way, way, ahead of his time in lots of ways. We lost Dave at sixty one back in 2009 & by God I wish I had taken the time to get to know the man more. I've written extensively about my debt to Judge's Guild but not Mr.Arneson. For me these games are not simply about wargaming or another game of D&D, these games instantly forge friendships between people that last twenty years or more. There's very little that can replace the feeling of getting together with friends and family slinging some dice and breaking the hold of an evil overlord, vile villain or slaying a monster. There are three things that come to mind when the name Dave Arneson is spoken ; one that's its alright to mix in science fantasy & fantasy elements together, two that play is key to the interaction of PC's and cooperation rules the day in parties of adventurers and the three the world of Blackmoor. A setting of free wheeling almost any can happen and probably will. I love the Blackmoor setting with its science fantasy roots and inclusion. The Temple of the Frog was and is a great adventure; it remains a favorite.
Personally I think that sixty one was way too soon of an age to be taken from us but we have little to say in such matters. I wish Dave Areson could have seen the rise of games such as Dungeon Crawl Classics and Lamentations of the Flame Princess as well as other clones that not only use but reveal in the gonzoness of play that he used so frequently. But alas all we have now are the memories, stories, and debt that we owe to Mr. Arneson. So I raise a glass to your memory sir and a life well played. May you find your place at the table of those who have passed and sling some dice with other greats. Thanks for all of the wonderful games and adventures, the halls of Blackmoor resound with your greatness and echo with your creation. Salute to you sir.