David L. Arneson, the "father of role-playing games" died on Tuesday evening. He is legally credited as co-creator of the Dungeons & Dragon role-playing game.
He was in college in Saint Paul, Minnesota in the late 1960s, He was a gamer geek, playing historical miniatures games with friends. He and some of his friends enhanced their wargames by adding in alternate history and historical re-creator style (theatrical) role-playing of generals. (And soon adding other key people in a wartime scenario). In 1970 Dave realized that his friends would probably enjoy a break in their historical games -- a non-historical medieval setting that used sf reasons to become a fantasy setting. They did like it. Very much. Obsessively much.
Dave applied all he had learned from the role-playing scenarios, and fine-tuned the methods of interaction. The players became individuals, seeking treasure to finance their political & military ambitions in this new fantasy world they had found. Dave became the locals that they encountered, and the source of the setting they wandered through. Dave was the first Gamesmaster.
Within a few weeks, the original handful of players became dozens sitting in at a gaming club at the University of Minnesota. Several groups split off to have their own small parties of players with separate dungeon-masters creating their own settings. Rules were modified and improvised from the loose & improv-style rules devised by Dave. Within a couple of months in the Twin Cities, there were easily 200 people role-playing in over 20 'dungeon' settings. Fantasy, sf, serious, whimsical. All with their own improvisation rules.
By 1971, Dave Arneson had started sharing this idea of fantasy role-playing to gamers in other cities, including Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, home of a game publisher he knew.