As I mentioned earlier this week, Dave Arneson was terminally ill with cancer. He apparently had entered hospice, and his death had been falsely reported a few different times this week. Now, with confirmation from people I trust, we know that Dave died last night.
Dave was one of the two people credited with designing Dungeons & Dragons, the game that changed my life in many ways and gave millions of people countless hours of fun with their families and friends. The other, Gary Gygax, died just over a year ago.
Dave and Gary had a notorious falling out decades ago, which wound up with Dave suing to retain credit and obtain royalties on the game. While they managed to settle it out of court, they never, that I knew, repaired their friendship, which kept Dave out of mainstream gaming industry circles for years.
After Wizards of the Coast bought TSR, which published D&D, though, Dave made a well-heralded return to Gen Con. I had the honor of meeting Dave after that and the chance to express my gratitude to him. Best of all, I sat on a number of different panels with him in the following years, and he was always an absolute delight to spend any amount of time with.
One of the first things I did after Gary died was to write Dave a note too. Lots of times, we don’t express our appreciation of people until they’re gone, and I wanted to make sure Dave knew how I felt. A lot of other people did the same thing then and at Gen Con last year, which now turns out was Dave’s last.
One of my favorite memories of Dave was at the opening of one of the Gen Cons in Indianapolis. Standing next to a giant twenty-sided die—it had to be at least three feet across—Peter Adkison stood in front of throng of people massed outside the doors of the exhibit hall just before it opened for the first time that year. He then brought Dave and his granddaughter forward to make the opening die roll for the convention, the first time I ever remember anyone doing something like that. The grins on all three of their faces lit the gigantic hall, and the crowd let out a huge cheer when the giant die rolled.
I couldn’t think of a better way to start the show—or for me now to remember such a wonderful man.