Friday, September 30, 2022

Laconic Review of RINGS OF POWER Episode Six

Laconic Review:


Less Laconic:

The least Tolkien content of any episode yet. 

Adar's backstory.

The orcs go to war. 

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Dave Arneson sees the future

So, yesterday I found the old Dave Arneson piece I'd been looking for (right where I thought it'd be, and where I thought I'd looked three times already. Apparently not),    A bit disappointing on a quick skim, but I'm nevertheless looking forward to reading it through.

Nearby, also on the JUDGES GUILD shelf, I found a copy of PEGASUS magazine --the Summer 1999 issue. As it turns out, this issue includes an interview with Dave Arneson, in which he makes the memorable pronouncement

Oh, the future's here.  

It turned out to be a lot dumber 

than I thought it was going to be.

I wonder what he'd make of the current D&D boom, as testified to in different ways in these two links,* one about D&D's acceptance in popular culture,  the other about WotC's opening moves in what looks to be the start of work on the next (sixth) edition of D&D.

--John R.

--current reading

*thanks to Janice for the links)


Saturday, September 24, 2022

Less Laconic Review of RINGS OF POWER Episode 5 (JDR)

Plots in THE RINGS OF POWER so far: harfoots and Gandalf (if it is Gandalf) and Galadriel the obsessed virago and Numenor and Elrond the accommodating and Gil-galad the not-to-be-trusted and Celebrimbor and the Hadrian's Wall elf and Adar who's probably Sauron and more Numenor and the Aragorn impersonator and Durin and yet more Numenor. 

--John R


Laconic Review of THE RINGS OF POWER, Episode 5 (JC)

 THE WIFE SAYS: The Plot Holes Thicken

Friday, September 23, 2022

Bilbo's Birthday (More Events at Marquette)

 So, more and more people are celebrating September 22nd as Bilbo's Birthday,  joining March 25th (Tolkien Reading Day, pegged to The Downfall of Sauron) and January 3rd (JRRT's birthday).  Which makes this a good time to remind those who can get to Milwaukee that the JRRT: ART OF THE MANUSCRIPT is still ongoing and will continue to do so through most of the rest of the year. A few samples will give an idea:

September 22nd: CARL HOSTETTER's presentation on 'EDITING THE TOLKIENIAN MANUSCRIPT, which I assume will be more or less the piece appearing as his contribution to the Bodley's Christopher Tolkien festschrift, THE GREAT TALES NEVER END.  This was originally scheduled as an in-person event but changed over into a Zoom.

This is followed less than a week later by TOLKIEN: THE PRESENCE OF LAW by Kali Murray of Marquette's Law Department --a subject I don't recall having come across anyone covering before; to come across something new and different makes me sorry I'll miss it.

Speaking of Banquets, just two days later comes a fundraising banquet, THE FALL DINNER.  Bilbo wd certainly have approved.

Another major presentation comes on October 13th: Holly Ordway's TOLKIEN'S FAITH AND THE FOUNDATIONS OF MIDDLE-EARTH.

Then on October 25th comes another presentation by someone at Marquette: this time TOLKIEN AND THE BIBLE by Michael Cover of the Theology Department.

November 5th comes another one I'm sorry to have to miss, a presentation of WORLD-BUILDING: DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, overseen by Marquette alumnus and TSR veteran Jim Lowder.

November 17th comes a piece by John Garth whose title sounds interesting but uninformative: WHISPERING LEAVES: HOW TOLKIEN'S MANUSCRIPTS REVEAL THE SECRETS OF HIS CREATIVITY.

Finally, near the end of the semester brings Garry Canavan of Marquette's English Department --the person at Marquette who teaches the courses I wd have loved to have taken had that only been an option back in my day-- discussing TOLKIEN IN POPULAR CULTURE.

And above and beyond, most important of them all, is the exhibit of the Tolkien manuscripts. I know that if I still lived in Milwaukee I'd be making multiple visits this fall to take advantage of this big event.

--John R.

--finally wrapping up reading the Christopher festschrift; only two essays (Shippey's and Sibley's) to go now.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Meeting Dave Arneson

 So, recently TSR/RPG researcher Ben Riggs published an interesting piece of TSR history: Dave Arneson's proposal to Peter Adkison asking to be hired back at TSR and put in charge of D&D.


"Why D&D's Co-Creator

Didn't Get Hired by

Wizards of the Coast"



Riggs states that this was the last of Arneson's many efforts over the years trying to regain control of the game, all unsuccessful, though Arneson did manage to extract a good deal of cash from TSR over the years. The Great War between Gygax and Arneson is now the stuff of legend, recently set down by RPG scholar Jon Peterson in well-documented glory in his book GAME WIZARDS.


Riggs says this April 1997 gambit was Arneson's last effort along these lines.  As it turns out, I think I can add to this account.  I only met Arneson once that I remember,*  when he dropped by the RPG department at WotC. I don't know who was showing him around, but he came over from the direction of Peter's office, so I assumed he'd been meeting Peter Adkison himself. Arneson was in a good mood, v. pleased as he told us the news that he would be contributing to the new edition of D&D (what came to be known as 3e). This surprised me, because Julia and I were already well into the editing of the PLAyER'S HANDBOOK (working on the skills and spells, I think;  Julia or Jonathan might remember more), and any contribution Arneson might want to make wd have to be in hand pretty soon.  I did not however share this reservation with Arneson; it seemed inappropriate to rain on his parade, put the kibosh on his happy mood, however you want to put it. 


What strikes me as curious about this is that it wd definitely have been after the April 1997 period Ben Rigg's letters date from. Among other considerations, I was laid off from TSR in Lake Geneva at the end of December 1996 and hired back at Gen Con 1997, reporting to work in Ranton in early September 1997.  Arneson's visit was definitely to the Renton building, so it cdn't have been earlier than that.  Working from the other end, my copy of the Third Edition PLAYER'S HANDBOOK is dated Monday June 19th 2000. I know that 3e had an unusually long creation period but can't now remember specific signposts. At a guess, the encounter I'm remembering is likeliest to have fallen about a year before the book's release date --which wd make it circa mid-1999, or about two years after the April 1997 letters.



In the end Arneson contributed nothing to 3e D&D, but Peter's meeting with him clearly made him happy. And it's of a piece with Adkison's making a goodwill gesture to Gygax as well, which resulted in his writing a brief Foreword to RETURN TO THE TOMB OF HORRORS (1998).






*While drafting this post I discovered that I may have met him one other time, at the 1995 Origins in Philadelphia (the only time I've ever been to Origins. Or Philadelphia). Inspired by Petersen's account of Arneson's career in his THE GAME WIZARDS, I did some recent sorting of the remaining rpg collection.  I remembered that somewhere down there I have a copy of THE FIRST FANTASY CAMPAIGN, Arneson's post-D&D Judge's Guild release. I haven't unearthed that  (yet) but I did find a copy of the boxed set ADVENTURES IN FANTASY (Adventures UnlimitedExcalibre), signed by both Arneson and his cowriter, Richard Snider.** 


**not sure how he connects with the Snider who authored the early TSR STAR EMPIRES/STAR PROBE digest-sized games (John M. Snider), nor the one who illustrated the former (Paul G. Snider).


According to my note on the inside box cover this was a gift from Lester Smith ("cJuly '95"), one of TSR's top talents in the mid-90s.


And with this I found THE ADVENTURE OF THE PACIFIC CLIPPER, by Arneson (Flying Buffalo); this one is autographed 


"to John

Dave Arneson



  I remember the con well, but somehow this event has disappeared from my memory, alas.


Friday, September 16, 2022