I've heard of a game called Braunstein that apparently was the precursor to Dave Arneson's Blackmoor campaign. Can someone tell me what Braunstein was, and why it's important?
This style of play marked a subtle shift in gaming, from commanding units to controlling individual personalities. As Robbins says, he was "the very first GM." Wesely explains:
One of the players in that game was Dave Arneson. Arneson truly understood how to play in this new type of game, using his imagination. When Weseley joined the Army Reserves, Arneson started running his own games, but set in a fantasy world instead of Prussia. He used the Chainmail rules to handle combat. Arneson called his world Blackmoor.
One thing led to another. Arneson met up with Gary Gygax and they exchanged ideas and rules. Dungeons and Dragons was the eventual result.
So to summarize why Braunstein is important to hobby gaming:
Ironically, Weseley did not like the term "role-playing game," instead preferring "adventure game."
Weseley shares credit for inventing the RPG. He says that Micheal J. Korns published Modern War in Miniature, "a set of miniature rules with all of the features of an RPG," in 1968. This was a simultaneous invention, since Wesley and Korns had never met at that time.
Weseley claims to have invented polyhedral dice for gaming.
It was a Napoleonic wargame invented in 1967 by David Wesely that was heavily influenced by Diplomacy.
I've never played but there is a Wikipedia entry.
In an interview with David Wesely his description of the Brausteins shared elements of a Live Action Roleplaying event. In that much of the action was generated by the players interacting with each other. So he had a triple innovation with the first Braustein.
Brauenstein was a character scale wargame with elements of Roleplaying, and essentially was the first RPG. Not that Dave Weseley, its author and GM, intended it that way, per se.
Several other wargames used the GM adjudicated "do anything the GM will let you" mode; some date back to the turn of the 20th Century. (cf Kriegsspiel, ca 1890 in that mode, and less open as far back as 1812.)
Several other wargames had character scale play, but not as characters, merely as units.
Brauenstein combined 1 player to 1 character and GM adjudicated open action choice. It was also a sandbox-type game: "Here's the initial situation, what do your units do?" It also featured PVP action. (Dave Arneson, personal message via email, 2004)
Dave Weseley was essentially running a simulation. When Dave Arneson used his imagination to come up with novel solutions to tactical problems, and began thinking in character, and getting the GM to respond likewise, the move to true Role-Playing Games began.
Arneson's later campaigns with in-character play lead he and E. Gary Gygax to develop experience rules, fortification rules, etc, and those expansions to the Chainmail Miniatures game became the first edition of Dungeons and Dragons.
Braunstein was the first step away from war-games towards roleplaying games as we know it for the following reasons:
All of the above is based on my understanding of the interview at Theory of the Closet.