Role-playing games were invented 45 years ago today!
Depending on exactly when you’re reading this post, it could actually be the truth.
Fact is, we simply don’t know the date. All we know is that the very first Blackmoor game session occurred sometime between December 1970 and April 1971. That’s the sweet spot, ladies and gentlemen – and we are right in the middle of it right now.
We also know for a fact that this “first game” took place on a Saturday, because Arneson’s group always met on Saturdays for their Napoleonic kriegspiels. So just for the kick of it, I went and found a 1971 calendar. There are not that many Saturdays between January and April:
- January 9 – 16 – 23 – 30.
- February 6 – 13 – 20 – 27.
- March 6 – 13 – 20 – 27.
- April 3 – 10 – 17 – 24.
Let’s add maybe December 12 and 19, 1970. (The guys couldn’t have pulled it off on either December 26 or January 2.)
There you have it. Chances are, the real honest-to-goodness date of the first Blackmoor session is up there, right under your nose. Those 1970 / 1971 Saturdays match our 2015 / 2016 Saturdays perfectly, except for March and April. Because the March / April dates fall on Sundays this year. I just drink a shot every Saturday (starting on March 6, I’ll switch to every Sunday), so I’m absolutely sure to catch the right one. Before each shot I say, “Cheers, Dave!”
Why don’t we know the exact day of that elusive first game? Beats me. For years I have looked all over the Internet and found zip. Arneson himself never said, “It was on that day.” Maybe it just didn’t seem important / groundbreaking at the time. Most of these players are still around, but none has ever given us a clear date. Why is that?
I conducted this fun little experiment.
Over the holidays I saw my dad and most of my uncles, and they are about the same age as the original Blackmoor players. I asked my dad about that big A-Frame Swiss Chalet they’d built with my grandfather way back when, in ’69. My dad was more than happy to talk about it, and my uncles too. But then I wanted to know about the bulldozer and when it came up to dig those foundations – what was the day, the exact date when work actually got underway. My dad couldn’t tell. None of my uncles could tell. They argued about it for a while. Was it on a weekend? “Yes it was; I never went up there during the week!” “No it wasn’t; that bulldozer guy didn’t work weekends – who was he, anyway?”
I didn’t get anything. They just don’t remember, that’s all. It was around May, or possibly early June of 1969.
My dad and my uncles are not senile, far from it. But they just can’t recall that specific day. The thing we know for sure is that my grandpa and his sons built a two-story Swiss Chalet up in the mountain, and that house still stands today, although it was sold in ’86.
Megarry, Svenson and the others played lots of Blackmoor before Dave Arneson ever drove down to Wisconsin in November of ’72 – they simply can’t point out which Saturday was “The First One”. February 6? March 13?
Take your pick, history buffs.
And Happy Birthday, RPGs!!! Here’s to another forty-five years!