Thursday, June 4, 2009

Quotable Arneson

During my recent research into Blackmoor, I saved a number of tidbits which I found interesting along the way. Of particular note are quotes from a few different interviews with Blackmoor's creator, Dave Arneson, dating from 1981, 1999 and 2004.

Dave Arneson Quotes

On Blackmoor's origins:
We established in our historical campaigns the principal of having a Judge who everyone listened to and who set up the battle or campaign. That’s where we were coming from, traditional wargaming.

On Blackmoor's best feature:
To me, what made it unique and different was that a lot of what made up Blackmoor was input from the players and the way they were seeing the world, and what they were doing in it. I just kept notes. I built the framework, and would occasionally throw in a few storylines, but it was the players getting involved in filling in a lot of the gaps that made a difference.

I was doing a lot of work for them but they weren’t doing anything with it. I got tired of waiting a year and a half to get something published so we parted.

On Homebrew:
We ask people to use their imaginations and when you do that, they tend to have their own ideas of how things should be done. Any group that sets up a dungeon will eventually have their own rules.

On Role-Playing:
When I do my games, I give roleplaying points for people staying within their character. If they want to go out and kill things, that's easy to do, and a lot of referees that's all they do, but there's more to it. The richness is not in just rolling dice, the richness is in the characters and becoming part of this fantasy world.

On Player involvement:
...when a character gets killed, I let the player run the monsters that the party encounters. This way he or she stays involved, rather than becoming a spectator or leaving. When the party encounters intelligent monsters, I brief them on what that monster’s life goals are (usually "Guard this room, don’t let anyone in"). Then if the party wants to negotiate, they negotiate with him rather than me. That system also takes a little pressure off of me as a Judge.

On 25 years of RPGs:
Sitting down and reading boxed dialog, going through seven or eight volumes of rules, is a long way from the scribbled notes I started off with...It just got very, very complicated and, in the efforts to simplify things, they just lost whatever creativity was left...I think what you lost there was the spontaneity of the whole operation...Too many of them try to do everything, or they follow the official line of "You can't change anything or you'll destroy the rules."...That's not the way things started, that's not the way things should be. If something doesn't work, get rid of it. If something works in another set of rules and you want to put it in your game, go for it. The [rules'] job is to make the referee's life easier, so he can referee, not harder.

The above copyright Judges Guild, 1981 and 1999.

On Blackmoor Castle, the first Dungeon:
Well, dungeon crawls were, I think, the easiest things to set up because all you had to do was draw a grid map and didn't have to worry about the great outdoors and setting up trees and stuff. People also couldn't go wandering off where you didn't have a map because it was solid rock.

On Rules:
Most of the rules are only between my ears and they're constantly changing.

The above, including image, copyright IGN Entertainment, 2004.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee


Santiago said...

Another fascinating Arnesonian piece. Keep them coming. This guy held himself pretty obscure, and he really had lot's of thing to say.

Santiago said...

I wander if this "just a few notes" is somehow in the line of the one-page philosophy...

Santiago said...

Another thing... I came up to the first session of my campaing with my homebrew game. I did not have the combat rules finished, but had a vague idea of them.

No I'm thinking seriously about never finishing them.

Timeshadows said...


Thanks! :)

Sham aka Dave said...

Zulgyan: Just for the record, you'll always be Zulgyan to me, so get used to it. Yeah, I get the feeling that notes wise most Referees were running their games in that style...just enough to jog the memory or ad-lib off of during play. I've read part of your campaign report, and I think you're right...tinkering is fun, but don't let the details bog down the games.

Timeshadows: My pleasure. The more I learn about Dave and those Twin Cities guys the more I appreciate them.

Timeshadows said...

Dave: Ditto! :)

Steve Zieser said...

The bit about players with dead pcs running the monsters. That's so simple and obvious after it's pointed out, I'm ashamed that it never occurred to me. Swiped.

Andreas Davour said...

Another way to use Dave's method of letting players run monsters is to do it when the party split up.