Saturday, February 23, 2013

Arneson's Naval Illustrations

Dave Arneson had a well-documented love of boats, especially sailing ships. Around the time that Dungeons & Dragons was developed, we see this especially in his work on the Don't Give Up the Ship naval miniature wargaming rules, as well as his unpublished Ships of the Line campaign system. His interest was not limited to the Great Age of Sail, however: Arneson contributed several illustrated articles to the Domesday Book about medieval naval warfare. Those who know Arneson's drawings only from his monster sketches in Dungeons & Dragons or the cartoons in the First Fantasy Campaign may find the level of detail in these illustrations uncharacteristic - but in keeping with the customs of the time, these illustrations were surreptitiously copied from existing sources. The Viking longboat above, for example, attached to Arneson's article "Tigers of the Sea" (DB #5) is obviously (but without credit) reproduced from Edwin Tunis's Oars, Sails and Steam (1951).

Sunday, February 3, 2013

How Gaming Got Its Dice

For those of us who grew up with Dungeons & Dragons, it is easy to take the polyhedral dice of gaming for granted. Dice had played an integral role in gaming since Prussian wargamers of the early nineteenth century first developed combat resolution tables. Those games and the many works they influenced, however, relied exclusively on 6-sided dice, apart from a few experimental dead-ends (like Totten's 12-sided teetotum in the late nineteenth century). When modern hobby wargaming culture began in the 1950s, it too stuck with 6-siders: the first Avalon Hill game (Tactics, 1954) requires a "cubit" for combat resolution, and the miniature gamers who contributed to the War Game Digest similarly seemed content to rely on the d6. By 1970, however, polyhedral dice had begun to creep into the wargaming community, as we see in the advertisement above from a 1971 Wargamer's Newsletter. Why do we need those funny dice anyway? What purpose did they serve that an ordinary 6-sider couldn't?

[UPDATE: See my guide to identifying 1970s dice here.]