Author: DHBoggs / Labels: , ,

First lets establish style and what we might distinguish between Gygax’s and Arnesons writing.

Sample of Gary Gygax Writing(79:7-8)12:

Returning again to the framework aspect of ADVANCED DUNGEONS 8 DRAGONS, what is aimed at is a "universe" into which similar campaigns and parallel worlds can be placed. With certain uniformity of systems and "laws", players will be able to move from one campaign to another and know at least the elemental principles which govern the new milieu, for all milieu will have certain (but not necessarily the same) laws in common. Character races and classes will be nearly the same. Character ability scores will have the identical meaning - or nearly so. Magic spells will function in a certain manner regardless of which world the player is functioning in. Magic devices will certainly vary, but their principles will be similar.  This uniformity will help not only players, it will enable DMs to carry on a meaningful dialogue and exchange of useful information. It might also eventually lead to grand tournaments wherein persons from any part of the U.S., or the world for that matter, can compete for accolades.
The danger of a mutable system is that you or your players will go too far in some undesirable direction and end up with a short-lived campaign. Participants will always be pushing for a game which allows them to become strong and powerful far desire is to issue a death warrant to a campaign, for it will either be a one-player affair or the players will desert en masse for something more challenging and equitable. Similarly, you must avoid the tendency to drift into areas foreign to the game as a whole.

Sample of Dave Arneson writing from First Fantasy Campaign (77:36-37)2:

Outdoors in Blackmoor
Travel from one perilous adventure to another in a neighboring castle can result in a great deal of frustration for the players, or al least confusion, as the road is always populated by evil creatures.  After all, it is supposed to be some sort of civilization and it must have some form of communications, if for no other reason than to move all the treasure around from castle to castle. With a little work the Outdoor adventures can be enjoyable, and in the format of an overall campaign, lead to the pacification of areas after a time.  To reflect the above the referee should grid off the map into sectors (also called Hexes or squares).  Each of these hexes will contain some adventures which may range from a monster holed up in a small cave to an abandoned Castle full of Orcs.   A chart is provided for laying out the basics of the area and can be modified to suit the individual taste of the referee and his eagerness to lay out all the needed work.  Each square should contain an average, of say, two adventures (assuming 10 miles by 10 miles), determined by rolling a six-sided dice (upon a roll of six would mean that there are no adventures in the square).  This will determine how many encounters live in the area. 
            For each encounter, consult the Encounter Matrix for the type of creature that lives at each spot. Whenever there is an encounter in the area, in the future, it will be restricted to one of those already present (see advanced method for other result).

From these two samples, a number of differences in style can readily be seen, the most obvious is in the chosen voice of each.  Arneson’s sample is about as formal as he ever gets, yet it is not nearly as formal as Gygax’s.  It might be useful to point out that Gygax’s formality, intellectualism and depth of vocabulary is not a reflection of greater formal education.  The reverse is actually the case in that Arneson was a college graduate with a degree in History and Political Science, whereas Gygax had dropped out of high school and later only completed a few college courses.  Below are two more samples, both reviews published in magazines.  Gygax’s is countering a somewhat mixed review of D&D, whereas Arneson is reviewing an ACW book, but nevermind the content; it is the writing styles I wish to highlight in these examples:

Gary Gyax, (The Strategic Review, Vol 1, No. 3, 1975)9:

Donald Featherstone once said in WARGAMER’S NEWSLETTER that he believed Arnold 
Hendrick’s chief talent and claim to fame lay in his “pinching” of Fletcher Pratt’s Naval   
Wargame — alluding in all likelihood to similarities between Mr. Pratt’s game and
the set of rules for naval miniatures authored by Mr. Hendrick. I concurred with what
was said in WARGAMER’S NEWSLETTER, and when the good Mr. Hendrick
“reviewed” CHAINMAIL in a highly uncomplimentary manner I ignored what was
written, for surely most hobbyists could be assumed to be able to read this “review”
for what it was worth and in light of Mr. Hendrick’s talents otherwise. As an example
of the comments he made regarding CHAINMAIL, the most amusing was his assertion that
heavy cavalry was rated too high, imagine! In a period where the armored
horseman dominated the field of battle, heavy horse are too strong! Anyway, the 
learned Mr. Hendrick subsequently “reviewed” DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, again in a very
uncomplimentary manner — after all, he had gone so far as to play a game of D&D
as a Cleric, completely armed with such edged weapons as spear and arrows . . . Again,
this so called “review” was so obviously inaccurate and biased that I ignored it
completely, although numbers of letters and telephone calls from irate D&D fans who had
read the comments and wished to let me know that the “review” outraged them assured me
that Mr. Hendrick would not escape totally unscathed. Eventually the magazine which
retains Mr. Hendrick as a “reviewer” did print a contrary opinion — how could they
ignore a counter-article written by Mr. James Oden, President of Heritage Models, Inc.?
This brings me to the point of this editorial. The axe that Mr. Hendrick has been grinding so
loudly and long has been exposed.

Dave Arneson, (Civil War Book Review, Fall 1999)4:

Several years ago I received a copy of the first edition of this book as a present from a non-reenactor friend. Having seen several earlier books and videos by earnest folks trying to explain reenacting to newcomers, I could only shake my head wondering what these guys had missed or gotten wrong. As it turned out, I was the one who was mistaken.
Having been an infantry reenactor since the mid-'70s, I was confident that I pretty much "knew it all." So I was surprised at what I found within the pages of R. Lee Hadden's book. This guide tells you everything you need to reenact the role of an infantryman in the Civil War. A person or small group of people wishing to take up the hobby can do it using just the information presented in Reliving the Civil War.
There is nothing lacking here. The section on "Reenactment for Infantry" covers the usual items -- from uniforms and equipment to tobacco, medals, and military courtesy. "Camp Life" includes not just the military camp, but also civilian, sutler, and support camps. Hadden does not avoid touchy issues such as women in uniform. And he discusses rationally, unlike others I have heard, the different groups within the reenactment community.
The issues between casual reenactors and the hard-core "authentics" are addressed appropriately.  Other chapters are devoted to "Reenacting Etiquette," "Health and Comfort" (remember it is living history, folks!), and "Hosting a Civil War Reenactment."
The second edition includes expanded coverage of trends within the reenactment community, including roles for men, women, and children (yes, gentlemen, women do have a role in reenactments!), updated appendices (including Web site and e-mail addresses), and a new index with subject headings.

Again, I could go through and highlight the use of formal or informal, common, or rare, familiar or distancing vocabulary but I suspect the reader can well see it for themselves.  The difference in voice, approach and word stylings is fairly obvious.

Arneson is habitually collegial, informal and familiar.  He addresses the reader personally and offers little asides as if the reader is a comrade in whom he is confiding.  His vocabulary, while extensive, shows a preference for commonly used words, slang, and conversational phrasing.

Gygax's writing certainly has it's fans but most would characterize it as prolixic (“wordy”) and formal, as if offering expertise from a position of superiority.  His word phrasing is often complex, demands the reader to make inferences, and his vocabulary is intellectual and uncommon.  

These observations are directly applicable to establishing the primary authorship of BEYOND THIS POINT BE DRAGONS.  We can look through the text bearing the question in mind of whose style best fits.  While that’s a useful beginning, we have the very good fortune to be able to compare the text to the published game, which we are told, was prepared solely by Gygax, and therefore should, and quite clearly does, conform to his preferred wording and style.

Below then I cite three passages each from each work.  I have deliberately not marked which is which so the reader has the opportunity to make that determination for themselves.

Light: In the Underworld, generally passages have no light source. In this case, especially for hobbits and men, players must have some kind of light source. A lit torch will permit a player to "see" maximum of 15 feet, after which only dim shadows are slightly visible.  A lantern has a maximum range of 30', with similar viewing after this distance.  Of course this will make them seeable to creatures in the darkness.
All monsters automatically see in total darkness.

Light and Darkness

In the underworld some light source or an infravision spell must be used. Torches, lanterns and magic swords will illuminate the way, but they also allow monsters to "see" the users so that monsters will never be surprised unless coming through a door. Also, torches can be blown out by a strong gust of wind. Monsters are assumed to have permanent infravision as long as they are not serving some character.17

All players, of course, must provision themselves for the journey which lies ahead. Initially, this is paid for out of the amount of GP with which the player starts off with. He must plan for the encounters he might have and, taking into consideration who and what he is, equip accordingly, also keeping in mind the total weight of his material and his own strength and endurance (see Tables 6, 7, 8, and 10). An example follows:


It will be necessary for players to equip their characters with various basic items of equipment. Selection of items is strictly up to the players, and Gold Pieces are taken away accordingly (players may sell to one another, of course, and then Gold Pieces would be transferred).15

As monsters inhabiting the rooms and corridors of a level are killed off new ones can easily be keyed in by the Referee, although not necessarily in the same rooms ..New "construction" should always take place, and whole sections of a level can be closed off for a time by blocking passages and extending them in different directions. If the worst happens, new levels can always appear extending downward...  All in all, with all of the devices and tricks available, there is no reason why participants in your game should not continue to find mystification, enjoyment, excitement, and amusement when adventuring through the maze of passages of the Underworld -   simply keep it spiced with plenty of imagination!

Maintaining Freshness

As monsters inhabiting the rooms, spaces and corridors of a level are killed or captured, the level will become drab and dull. Coupled with this problem, players will have made fairly accurate maps of the level, so it will be challengeless this way also. Remembering that egress to lower levels is desirable, one must nevertheless revamp worn levels by one or more of the several methods suggested below:

1.       Make minor alterations with eraser and pencil, blocking passages, making new ones, dividing rooms, and filling in others.

2.       Extend the boundaries of the map, if not already filled to the edges of the paper, adding corridors and rooms.

3.       Replace monsters in new areas as well as those less-frequented old areas where monsters were located and removed sometime previously.

4.       Reverse directions on the map, carefully relocating ways down to lower levels so as they still correspond to markings below, and do the same for passages upwards.

5.       Add a passage which continues past the established boundary of the level, creating a split or sub-level which it leads to, complete with new treasure and monsters.

Using these suggestions, and whatever else you dream up, there is no reason why participants in the campaign should not continue to find mystification, enjoyment, excitement, and amusement in the challenge of the myriad passages of the dungeons.17

  In case the reader has not already guessed, each of these examples begins with the text of BTPBD. Followed by the equivalent passage from D&D.
            There is a great deal to take note of, even with these few samples, but as regards the mater of authorship, the same disparity of voice shown in the previous examples of Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax’s writing should be evident.  Gygax is using the same formal and dense choice of words and phrases evident in his other writing samples.  The BTPBD author, on the other hand, is far less ambiguous, and avoids most of the more formal words Gygax uses (such as “myriad” and “infravision”), instead peppering his writing with more colloquial words and phrasing; such as “seeable”, “starts off with”, “killed off” and “spiced with plenty of imagination”.  This difference in tone is no doubt evident to the reader as is the clear resemblance to Arneson’s established style.

While that is very suggestive evidence, it still doesn’t prove it was Dave Arneson who wrote BTPBD.  For that we would need to find something unique, some quirky word or turn of phrase, or pattern of speech that really stands out as characteristically his.  Without such a marker, there would always remain the possibility that BPTBD could have been prepared by some other associate of Gygax and Arneson or some one of the couple of dozen members of the IFW who had an early script.

Fortunately, we do have several such style markers.  Consider the word “player” as used by Arneson.  It is typical for the text of the BTPBD manuscript to refer to the in game character – the Player Character – as the “player”.  Here is one of many examples, “Player intelligence after change will reduce at the rate of 1 point per every day of enchantment.”(Glossary of Terms, p21.)
While Gygax seems to have invented and regularly used the terms Player Character (PC) and Non Player Character (NPC) – the BTPBD manuscript, oddly, uses the term “Non Real Players”.  In fact, Arneson often simply called PC’s “players” and continued occasionally to do so as late as a year before his death as shown in this quote “Magic users in the beginning were more of an effort to give the players more firepower.  A month or so later the clerics were added to heal up players more quickly.”5  Here’s another example from his Adventures in Fantasy, co authored with Richard Snider. “Per week that a player is sick, he will loose ONE health point from his health rating.” (1979:7)6 And another from the FFC, “As the player progressed, he did not receive additional Hit Points, but rather he became harder to Hit.” (1977:3)2. 

BEYOND THIS POINT BE DRAGONS manuscript does not use the term “player character” anywhere, instead simply character or player is used or both, as in this interesting quote from the Curse description, “If not treated in one week game-time, the player or character will die. Until then, every day he gets weaker and his hits and health decrease.” (Glossary of Terms, p23).

There is another term Arneson used that is even more telling: “chops”.  “Chops” is definitely not a Gygaxian term, but it does appear several times in the BEYOND THIS POINT BE DRAGONS manuscript, including “Hits: The number of "chops" a player can endure in combat.” (Before Setting Out for Fame and Fortune, p4), and “The attacker announces what weapon he is using, and takes his "Chops" at the opponent. The player will always get the first chop unless he is surprized or the opponent has the higher ground.” (Melee and Combat.)  In fact “chops” occurs repeatedly in the Melee and combat section.

In all the gaming material I have read, there is only one other place I know of where “chops” is used to refer to attacks in D&D combat, that, not surprisingly, is in Arneson’s First Fantasy Campaign.  Number Double Values* (Std=0, M=6, Sm=12)….*that is, get 2 chops per melee round” (FFC,1977:64)2 This is a note found in the aforementioned Magic Swords and Matrix section detailing the magic sword cards that Arneson said he made up in and used in the first couple years of his Blackmoor campaign.  Another example from the FFC regards dragons “If in lair, 80% chance its asleep (free Chop). (FFC 1977:89)2; and that is almost identical to this quote from the BTPBD  If a Dragon is encountered in its lair there is a chance it will be asleep. Use a 100% reckoning, base 80% for White and decreasing in probability to 55% for Golden. If the Dragon(s) is (are) asleep, they can be surprised, and a free chop is gained.”

That, Ladies and Gentleman, is proof.  No one else uses the word chop for attacks or associates the word with an 80% chance of getting a free attack on a sleeping Dragon. 
Through tracing 3 primary lines of evidence – handwriting, writing style, and rule variations – we are left with all evidence pointing to the conclusion that Dave Arneson wrote and illustrated Beyond this Point be Dragons.  The question remains as to when he wrote it.  Was it before or after D&D was published?  If it was before, is it an early draft, or was it Arneson’s final revision?

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(1) Anonymous (staff)
1979    An Interview with Dave Arneson.  In The Space Gamer #21 (January/February) 1979:5-7.       Metagaming Concepts.

(2)  Arneson, Dave
1977    The First Fantasy Campaign. Judges Guild.

(3) Arneson, Dave
1979    My Life and Roleplaying 3. In Different Worlds 3 (June/July)  1979:6-10. Chaosium, Inc.

(4) Arneson, David
1999    Review of Reliving the Civil War: A Reenactor's Handbook. In Civil War Book Reviews [Website].          Louisiana State University.  Retrieved from            ubmit=Search 

(5) Arneson, David
2008    Reply to Topic: Was Arneson's Blackmoor Classless? In OD&D Discussion [Website].        Retrieved from   

(6) Arneson, David L. and Richard Snider
1979    Adventures in Fantasy. Excalibre Games, Inc.

(7) Bub, Andrew
2002    Dave Arneson Interview. GameSpy [Website]. Retrieved from   

(8) De Bie, Tanja
1998    Gary Gygax: The Man in Legend.  The RPG Consortium [Website]. Retrieved from   

(9) Gyax, Gary
1975    WHAT’S GOING ON HERE?. In The Strategic Review, Vol 1, No. 3, 1975. TSR Inc.

(10) Gygax, Gary
1975    Letter to the Editor. In Alarums & Excursions #2, July.

(11) Gygax, Gary
1977    Origins of the Game. In Dragon 7:7-8, June 1977. TSR Inc.       

(12) Gyax, Gary
1979    Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Dungeon Masters Guide. TSR Inc.

(13) Gygax, Gary
1987    Role-Playing Mastery.  Perigee Book. published by The Putnam Publishing Group.

(14) Gygax, Gary
2002    Q&A with Gary Gygax. Enworld [website]. Posts #131,  5th September 2002, 11:23 AM.         Retrieved from 9.html

(15) Gygax, Gary and Dave Arneson
1974    Dungeons and Dragons: Volume I Men and Magic. TSR Inc.

(16) Gygax, Gary and Dave Arneson
1974    Dungeons and Dragons: Volume lI Monsters and Treasure. TSR Inc.

(17) Gygax, Gary and Dave Arneson
1974    Dungeons and Dragons: Volume III Underworld and Wilderness Adventure. TSR Inc.

(18) Kuntz, Robert.
2009    Castle El Raja Key, Small Partial of the Introductory, Historical Essay. (2009, December 14).  Lord of       the Green Dragons [Weblog]. Retrieved from

(19) Kushner, David
2008    Dungeon Master: The Life and Legacy of Gary Gygax. In Wired Magazine(2008, March 10).   Retrieved from   

(20) Lynch, Scott
2001    Interview with Gary Gygax, part 1 of 3. (2001, May 1) RPGnet  [Website]. Retrieved from  

(21) Mornard, Michael
2012    How to Address this Slight. ODD74 [webforum].  Retrieved from   

(22)  Private Correspondence quoted with permission.

(23)  Sacco, Ciro Alessandro.
2002    The Ultimate Interview with Gary Gygax. (reposted 2005, August 11) The Kyngdoms [Website].   Retrieved from

(24) Sloan, Sam
2008    Interview with "Dungeons & Dragons" co-creator Dave Arneson (2008, March 8) Slice of SciFi      #151[Podcast].  Retrieved from

(25) Wiemholt, Michael
2001    Weem Interviews Gary Gygax (2001) Part 1 of 2. (reposted 2010, August 23).  The Weem        [Website]. Retrieved from          gygax-2001-part-1-of-2/


James Maliszewski said...

Very nice. Well done.

paulg said...

I really like "chops"--much more evocative than "hits".

Even from these limited samples, it's doesn't look like Gygax authored BTPBD. I'm not totally convinced that Arneson wrote it.

I'd be very interested to see a statistical text analysis. We have a sufficient volume of writing from both men that such an analysis would yield a reasonable if not certain conclusion.

Anonymous said...

It's a convincing argument Dan.

anarchist said...

Gygaxian prolixity is the antithesis of weal.

anarchist said...


Word can give you readability statistics for a document.

Guy Fullerton said...

Regarding the use of the word "chop" as an analog for "attack," there are a few other instances of that by other authors:

Jim Ward uses it in his articles in The Dragon #12 (p. 12), #16 (p. 17), and #21 (p. 27).
Rob Kuntz uses it in his original manuscript notes that eventually got published as part of Bottle City: "Helm of Full Hit Die: chops dealt out when worn = full chop"

Guy Fullerton said...

Also, google turned up a potentially relevant quote from Mike Mornard (Old Geezer) on

'Or, as we used to say, "I up and take a chop on him."'

DHBoggs said...

Excelent Guy, Thanks for the info. that's very interesting. In the particular case I'm citing it is not the association of the word with Arneson that is the clincher, it is the nearly identical use in both the FFC and BTPBD in the statement regarding 80% probability of a free attack on a sleeping dragon. The odds of this exact wording being used independantly by two different authors for the same rule can only be astronomical. Keep in mind that this 80% rule in the FFC and BTPBD is completely different from that given in 1st print D&D. In D&D the rule is that there is a 60% chance for white dragons to be asleep descending to only 10% for Golden. And of course I've shown other direct connections to the FFC and BTPBD such as in the specialist list.

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