A Quarter Century of Role Playing?

By Dave Arneson

Historical quotes

"I'm laying off Pete what about me?" Intercepted message in Medieval
skirmish game. So was it to Pete or about Pete? Individual player goals introduced.

'Wada ya mean my Elephant got fried?" Ancient Miniatures battle.
Roman punitive expedition in England runs into a snag.

"He's got too many papers. Let him go." Brawnstien game.
First 'non-wargame' just players with their own agendas.

'You can't stab me in the back. We're on the same side!" Early Blackmoor
Introduction of the Chaotic thief. (Character Class/Alignment)

"Who cares they're just Sword fodder." Blackmoor outdoor campaign.
Evil nasties eat a bunch of village militia.

"So my familiar is bigger, stronger, and smarter than me. Well can I run him
instead?" Player comment after rolling six '01' on a row. (NPCs with character)

Historic quotes?
Yep. Each marked a new phase in what was to become the
first role playing game. Before the above Medieval game the battles with
knights was pretty much a dice throwing match until someone got wiped out. No
real tactics or strategy. With that game no one knew whose side anyone was on
for the medieval sword bashes.

Using a non-period weapon the Druid high priest (and Federation trader)
barbecued the elephant but only made the Romans VERY angry. So the effect on the game was only psychological. While the Federation observer never
intervened because the Druid was killed by the Romans. Now those Ancient
battle/shoving matches might find huge holes blown in their sturdy Phalanxes.

By marrying these two, and many other aspects, came the first pure
interactive game.

The South American genre Annaban Republic game. Not quite role playing but
real close. I still fondly recall flying out of that South American country,
in the Armies' own helicopter, with money from most of the other players to
buy off the enemy invasion. What no enemy invasion? Well at least my bulging
suitcases and I made the connecting flight to Switzerland. Yes, according to
my papers I worked for virtually everyone. It was fun drawing them up too!

There were number of games of this sort. Most of these were set up by me in
the a small Balkan country called Braunstien. Interesting but complicated and
usually turned into an urban war.

Role playing came into it's own for me when I thought about using the
Medieval skirmish rules called CHAINMAIL along with the individual goal
concept explored in the Braunstiens.

Having a weekend off from refereeing our group's Napolenic campaign (A
wargame with national goals set by the players) I spent the time reading
CONAN novels and watching old monster movies while munching on popcorn.

Set in a town called BLACKMOOR. Actually mostly the graph paper dungeon under the castle and town. The previous games had all been 'on the board' but it's hard to hide things there. A totally unseen dungeon maze added additional
territory and to hide several nasty beasts therein.

So we began wit CHANMAIL'S simple combat matrix and the handful of monsters and spells that it contained.

Almost immediately, like during the first game, things got changed. I
started making notes in a black binder and the seeds took root and germinated.

I realized that and decisions or rules used had to be consistent, even if it
was a]fantasy world so notes were essential. The CHAINMAIL matrix called
for any losers being immediately killed which the players certainly did not
like. And there were not enough critters to satisfy them either. Shortly
after that the matrix was replaced, spells added, yadda yadda yadda.

Well since there were NO rules for practically anything the players wanted to
do the game was "loose" and "unstructured". The old referee got VERY good at
thinking on his feet. I say I was good because the game, and I, both
survived the player's onslaught. And even without a lot of rules we had rules
lawyers back then too! Thank he lord for that black notebook. Even if the
rules weren't all in there I was usually able to convince the players that
the rule was in the black folder, or at least would be soon.

We began without the multitude of character classes and three alignments that
exists today. I felt that as a team working towards common goals there would
be it was all pretty straight forward. Wrong!

"Give me my sword back!" "Nah your old character is dead, it's mine now!"

Well I couldn't really make him give it to the new character. But then came
the treasure question. The Thieves question. Finally there were the two new
guys. One decided that there was no reason to share the goodies. Since there
was no one else around and a +3 for rear attacks . . .. well . . Of course
everyone actually KNEW what had happened, especially the target.

After a great deal of discussion . . . yes let us call it "discussion" the
culprit promised to make amends. He, and his associate did. The next time the
orcs attacked the two opened the door and let the Orcs in. They shared the
loot and fled North to the lands of the EGG OF COOT. (Sigh)

We now had alignment. Spells to detect alignment, and rules forbidding
actions not allowed by ones alignment. Actually not as much fun as not
knowing. Chuck and John had a great time being the 'official' evil players.
They would draw up adventures to trap the others (under my supervision) and
otherwise make trouble.

And finally;

The message was to Pete by the way but everyone assumed it was to someone
else. The resulting free-for-all left no victors, just losers.


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