Dave Arneson's True Genius by Robert J. Kuntz

System-neutral discussion of campaign setting and game world design. Discussion of existing rules systems belongs in The Crunchy Bits and its sub-forums.

Dave Arneson's True Genius by Robert J. Kuntz

Postby Big Mac » Sat Sep 30, 2017 11:09 am

I just found out about the book Dave Arneson's True Genius. It's not a roleplaying book. Instead it is some sort of historical examination of what elements of D&D were created by Dave Arneson.

Here is Robert J. Kuntz blurb for his book:
Robert J. Kuntz at Three Line Studios wrote: Three linked essays forming the first major treatise on David L. Arneson, the man behind the role playing frenzy that swept the nation 1974 onward and that continues to this very day world wide; and all of it, as revealed herein, based upon a unique systems architecture he invented and utilized for his make believe campaign world, Blackmoor, circa 1971.

This extensively researched work reveals:
  • That Arneson broke with 2,000 years of game design history and theory by creating and implementing a transcendent systems structure never before conceived of in the history of games or play. The author examines and explains Arneson’s evolutionary systems architecture.
  • That the design dimension qualities of Arneson’s systems structure are still in their embryonic stages due to his original concept being redacted for a less robust system, and by the very company which was catapulted from a basement concern to a near 1 million dollar business almost “overnight” while at first championing it.
  • That outstanding claims that the RPG concept, as first made available commercially as Original Dungeons & Dragons™ in 1974, is descended from the game Chainmail are incorrect and stem from assumptive leaps of logic not consonant with design theory or systems theory. Both of the latter’s knowledge bases are utilized by the author to debunk this ongoing fallacy.
Included as addenda to this work is a section and chapter outline, including select samples, from the author’s upcoming and much larger work, A New Ethos in Game Design: The Paradigm Shift Originated by Dungeons & Dragons™, 1972-1977.

Dungeons & Dragons™ is a trademark owned by Wizards of the Coast.


Has anyone read this book? (I'm thinking that Havard probably has, but I've not seen a topic about it here.)

How accessible is this book to someone who has not played OD&D? Is there enough information in the 72 pages to explain Dave Arneson's Blackmoor rules, and their evolution into OD&D and later "less robust" versions of D&D to someone who was not around then? Or is this a specialist book that mostly speaks to OD&D and Blackmoor experts?

What is a "transcendent systems structure"? Is that something we still see in today's D&D products? Or is it some sort of tool that Dave Arneson personally used to design his own books that has been lost in time? Does Robert Kuntz teach us how to use "transcendent systems structure" to create gaming material?

How about this bold claim that OD&D evolving from Chainmail is something to be debunked? I've seen a lot of people state that claim. Has anyone actually responded to this? Is anyone supporting Rob's side? Has anyone from the "descended from Chainmail" camp come back to answer Rob's points and stand by that point of view? Has anyone from the the "descended from Chainmail" camp read through Rob's evidence and switched their point-of-view?

Has this book sparked off any sort of debate elsewhere? Do people mostly support Robert Kuntz's position or oppose it? Is there an even split of support and opposition to his theories/statements about Dave Arneson? Has this book gone mostly unnoticed?

Is it possible to infer any Arnesonian game design practices from this book? Has anyone tried to add some of those lost game design tools back into their games? Would this book help people run Blackmoor games that feel more like they were designed by a "holographic Dave Arneson"?

How about A New Ethos in Game Design? Has anyone heard about that? Is this going to expand on Dave Arneson's game design or explain how the post-Arneson D&D moved in a different direction?
David "Big Mac" Shepheard
Newsflash!: The Piazza is moving!
Please join The Piazza's Facebook group, The Piazza's Facebook page and The Piazza's Google + community so that you can stay in touch.
Spelljammer 3E Conversion Project - Spelljammer Wiki - The Spelljammer Image Group.
Moderator of the Spelljammer forum. My moderator voice is green.
User avatar
Big Mac
Giant Space Hamster
 
Posts: 21300
Joined: Sun Jun 15, 2008 3:52 pm
Location: London UK

Re: Dave Arneson's True Genius by Robert J. Kuntz

Postby Tim Baker » Sun Oct 01, 2017 3:55 am

I haven't read the book, but you piqued my interest. I hope to hear more from others who have read it.
Image My Google+ RPG-related posts. | Image Escalation! fanzine for 13th Age.
User avatar
Tim Baker
Axe Beak
 
Posts: 826
Joined: Tue Jan 19, 2016 8:51 am
Location: United States

Re: Dave Arneson's True Genius by Robert J. Kuntz

Postby Angel Tarragon » Sun Oct 01, 2017 7:44 pm

Sounds fascinating...definitely need to add this book to my collection!
User avatar
Angel Tarragon
Dawn Dragon
 
Posts: 7995
Joined: Sun Jun 06, 2010 2:39 am
Location: Castrovel

Re: Dave Arneson's True Genius by Robert J. Kuntz

Postby Havard » Mon Oct 02, 2017 9:36 pm

Robert J. Kuntz is one of the legends of RPG history. And deservedly so. He was a player in Gary Gygax' Lake Geneva group and took part in organizing the Castles & Crusades Society years before D&D was published. He made significant contributions to the 1974 version of D&D and to Greyhawk.

Over the last few years several books have been written about the origin of D&D and even the best of these books have in my opinion downplayed the role Dave Arneson played in creating D&D. Furthermore, fans, wikipedia enthusiasts and other have taken some of the conlcusions of those books to a further extreme leading to an image being painted of history where Dave's contributions to D&D were almost insignificant. This, in spite of the fact that Gary Gygax in 1974 had no problems listing Dave's name next to his own as co-creators of D&D and signining a contract with Dave on that basis.

I therefore think it is great that someone like RJK has taken it upon himself to write this book. I immediately ordered a copy when it came out. The book is a solid piece of research. It is not an easy read, I will admit as it is wirten in a high academic and philosophical level. I also think that someone with no familiarity with D&D or even with no familiarity of the history of D&D will find some of the essays difficult to comprehend. That said, this is a great read for those who are truly interested in a different perspective on D&D and a good offset to books like Jon Peterson's Playing at the World.


Big Mac wrote:How about this bold claim that OD&D evolving from Chainmail is something to be debunked? I've seen a lot of people state that claim. Has anyone actually responded to this? Is anyone supporting Rob's side? Has anyone from the "descended from Chainmail" camp come back to answer Rob's points and stand by that point of view? Has anyone from the the "descended from Chainmail" camp read through Rob's evidence and switched their point-of-view?


People seeking to discredit Dave will often suggest that Blackmoor was simply a variant of Chainmail. I have also written on my blog that I think this is a completely false myth. I also think it is a wast misunderstanding of what makes RPGs a unique and wonderful hobby.

I think one of RJK's points is that D&D (the 1974 edition) failed to communicate many of the amazing things that were part of gaming in Minnesota in the early 1970s. Gary and Dave had very different approaches to gaming and it would have been very interesting to see what D&D had become if the original version had incorporated more of the concepts that Dave Arneson brought. On the other hand, many of those practises were spread by word of mouth and 1974 D&D was played very differently than the way it was written. Remember that OD&D was described, not as an RPG, but as "Rules for Fantastic Wargaming Campaigns Playable with Pencil and Paper and Miniature Figures". D&D evolved into something very different than that, so many things from Dave were still brought into the hobby, but other things again were lost as Dave was not able to continue to influence the hobby.

I am thankful for what Gary Gygax did to our hobby. Without him this hobby would probably never have existed and it would never have been the huge phenomenon that it became. But it is time to honor both D&D creators and look for the truth about what they represented instead of going into fanboy trench war about which of our heroes is the one and only true D&D designer. Dave is the forgotten D&D designer and learning about what his ideas for the hobby were can only add to our gaming fun :)

-Havard

The Comeback Inn - My Blackmoor Forum
The Blackmoor Blog
My Articles at the Vaults of Pandius
Moderator of the Mystara, Blackmoor and Thunder Rift forums.
My moderator voice is
GREEN.
User avatar
Havard
Dragon Turtle
 
Posts: 17082
Joined: Thu May 22, 2008 7:32 pm
Location: Norway

Re: Dave Arneson's True Genius by Robert J. Kuntz

Postby finarvyn » Tue Oct 03, 2017 12:17 pm

Big Mac wrote:What is a "transcendent systems structure"? Is that something we still see in today's D&D products? Or is it some sort of tool that Dave Arneson personally used to design his own books that has been lost in time? Does Robert Kuntz teach us how to use "transcendent systems structure" to create gaming material?
I have met Rob Kuntz a couple times and have had the pleasure of talking about gaming with him, but terms like that totally befuddle me and I just don't know what he is talking about when he gets into game-speak mode. Sort of like reading old computer programming manuals. :? That's the big factor that has kept me from buying this book, but if folks tell me that it's written more clearly than this I know I would like to read it.
Finarvyn
Earl of Stone Creek, C&C Society
OD&D Player Since 1975
Original D&D Discussion
I'm partly responsible for the S&W White Box
User avatar
finarvyn
Orc
 
Posts: 39
Joined: Mon Jun 02, 2008 10:23 pm
Location: Chicago = Greyhawk

Re: Dave Arneson's True Genius by Robert J. Kuntz

Postby Havard » Tue Oct 03, 2017 7:28 pm

finarvyn wrote:
Big Mac wrote:What is a "transcendent systems structure"? Is that something we still see in today's D&D products? Or is it some sort of tool that Dave Arneson personally used to design his own books that has been lost in time? Does Robert Kuntz teach us how to use "transcendent systems structure" to create gaming material?
I have met Rob Kuntz a couple times and have had the pleasure of talking about gaming with him, but terms like that totally befuddle me and I just don't know what he is talking about when he gets into game-speak mode. Sort of like reading old computer programming manuals. :? That's the big factor that has kept me from buying this book, but if folks tell me that it's written more clearly than this I know I would like to read it.


Hi Finarvyn! :)

Rob can get a bit esotheric, and I will have to say that this is also true for this book. I think "trancendent systems stucture" has to do with Gary and other TSR designers thinking very much in terms of the framework of specific rules on the one hand while Dave Arneson's group were thinking more "outside the box", being willing to shift between the war gaming strategic approach to the single character story perspective, constantly experimenting. Gary's approach turned out to be the right one when it came to producing a commercially viable game, but Dave supplied some fundamental ideas. Only some of Dave's ideas ended up in the game, while other ideas that did not fit with the rules structure were lost. Anyway, that is my interepretation :)

-Havard

The Comeback Inn - My Blackmoor Forum
The Blackmoor Blog
My Articles at the Vaults of Pandius
Moderator of the Mystara, Blackmoor and Thunder Rift forums.
My moderator voice is
GREEN.
User avatar
Havard
Dragon Turtle
 
Posts: 17082
Joined: Thu May 22, 2008 7:32 pm
Location: Norway


Return to The Squishy Bits

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests