Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Gygaxian Revisionism?

The inaugural issue of the RPGA's newsletter, Polyhedron (Summer 1981), contains the first part of an interview with Gary Gygax. In responding to a question, Gygax offers up a brief history of the creation of Dungeons & Dragons.

Specifically, he says:

After Guidon published Chainmail, and that became one of its most popular sellers – and what with all the questions pertaining to fantasy – it became apparent that there was a larger element of people interested in fantasy than we had thought. So I began working on what I initially thought of as a supplement to Chainmail, and it eventually grew into its own game.

At best, Gygax is being artful, implying that the creation of this "supplement to Chainmail" was his alone. At worst, he is straight up lying by omission in not referencing Dave Arneson's contribution to D&D in any way. I don't know that that's what he's doing here, but the way he lays out the origins of the game suggests that he's erasing Arneson from the early history of Dungeons & Dragons. 

If that's the case, it's fascinating for a couple of reasons. First, if you read the last paragraph posted above, you'll see that Gygax is not shy about acknowledging others, specifically members of the Lake Geneva Tactical Studies Association, with having had an influence on the development of the game. Second, this interview was published after the early 1981 settlement between Gygax and Arneson regarding the creation of D&D, a settlement that formally recognized Arneson as its co-creator. 

Perhaps I am misreading what Gygax is saying here; it wouldn't be the first time I'd erred on this score. Still, his answer in the interview is very strange and I suspect I'll be looking further into the matter. (For what it's worth, the whole interview is quite intriguing for other reasons and I'll be commenting on those in future posts)

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