Dungeons & Dragons co-creator Dave Arneson dead at 61

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Dave Arneson, born in 1947, an American game designer, teacher and entrepreneur and the co-creator of the seminal Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game, passed away on Tuesday, April 7, after a long battle with cancer. He is survived by his wife and daughter.

Arneson was introduced to table-top wargaming in the early '60s by his parents, who bought him a copy of Avalon Hill's Gettysburg game. In college at the University of Minnesota, he met other wargamers and began both modifying existing games and designing his own. He attended the second official Gencon and there met a similarly youthful Gary Gygax. Gygax had published a set of 1:1 scale miniatures rules called Chainmail, which became the bare bones of an ongoing campaign that Arneson ran for friends called Blackmoor.

In 1974, Arneson and Gygax wrote up the rules they had evolved for their fantasy role-playing campaigns, creating the game Dungeons & Dragons. After failing to get any mainstream publishers interested, they created a company, TSR, and published the book themselves using investment money provided by one of Gygax's friends. The book became a hit, first in the wargaming community and then in the mainstream. Dungeons & Dragons not only created a new type of gaming, role-playing, but laid the foundation for the entire hobby gaming industry.

Arneson left TSR in 1979 and filed a lawsuit against the company. As a part of the ultimate settlement of that suit, neither Arneson nor Gygax ever spoke about what drove them apart, although Arneson would later return to TSR when Gygax was briefly president of the company again in the mid-'80s. They were on good terms at the time of Gygax's death last year.

In his post-D&D/TSR life, Arneson founded a computer game company 4D Interactive Systems, which is still in business. He did computer consulting. In the late '90s, he became a teacher at Full Sail, a private university that teaches media and computer careers. He suffered a stroke in 2002, but kept teaching until 2008. Throughout these years he continued to work on his original Blackmoor role-playing campaign, publishing it in various paper forms and also creating an online role-playing community.

He is a member of Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts and Design Hall of Fame.

Grognardia editor James Maliszewski received the following note from Dave Arneson's family:

The Arneson family would like to thank everyone for their support over the last few days, and for the support the entire community has shown Dave over the years.

We are in the process of making final arrangements and will provide additional details as we work them out. We will continue to receive cards and letters in Dave's honor. We are planning to hold a public visitation so that anyone wishing to say their goodbye in person has the opportunity to do so.

Cards and letters can continue to be sent:
Dave Arneson
1043 Grand Avenue
Box #257
St. Paul, MN

Visitation will be on April 20th
Time: yet to be determined
Bradshaw Funeral Home
687 Snelling Avenue South
St. Paul, MN 55105