We all know that Dungeons and Dragons - or rather the whole RPG hobby - can directly trace its history to Chainmail and the Braunstein Games. We also have a rough idea about how the Braunstein Games would come to be:

Players for a Napoleonic wargame would be invited to show up at Twin Cities. David Wesley would assign roles to those people to get everyone to the table, for example, the two opposing sides' commanders, some soldiers, and the inhabitants of the town of Braunstein, where the commanders were to meet before the battle. The players then suddenly started to roleplay their characters.

According to Wikipedia, there were 4 Braunstein game events, some of them set in Banania.

However, this makes me wonder: Were those rules ever formalized in some sort of publication?


1 Answer 1


Braunstein used the Strategos ruleset

The nature of these Brownstein games means they would have been hard to put the full experience into a fixed ruleset:

There's been a number of recreations of the rules published, but it would be impossible to publish the originals as the rules were largely in a state of flux. This was very much a game driven by GM fiat, pulling in rules as needed from wargames. [Source]

Based on the Wikipedia article on David Wesley, the ruleset used for these Braunstein games was Strategos, a wargame developed around 1870 by Charles Totten:

In 1967, Wesely rediscovered the 19th-century professional wargame Strategos, by Charles A. L. Totten, at the University of Minnesota library. An avid hobby wargamer and reader of wargaming literature, Wesely seized upon these rules and incorporated their principles into the miniature wargames played by the Midwest Military Simulation Association (MMSA). These included the role of the referee, and the principle of free kriegsspiel that players could attempt anything, although not always successfully, and that the referee should be able to make judgements to cover anything not ordinarily covered by the rules. Totten's Strategos became the cornerstone text for the Twin Cities gamers.

So, if you want to play using the rules that were used in Braunstein, try getting a copy of the original Strategos rules. However, these rules only were part of the overall experience. The in-character play and RPG like openness to try anything would have been just as important.

Artifacts of Braunstein

There also is a wonderful blog post and youtube video by Jon Peterson (the author of Playing at the World) that shows a few of the original handwritten order cards and writeups for the various players for some of these early Braunstein sessions. Due to the reference to "French Forces", this is undoubtedly an artifact from the Braunstein 1 game.

Order Card from Wesley Braunstein session

Artifacts of later Braunstein

Another artifact of an early Braunstein game is one of the "character writeup" or "instruction" of a later Dave Arneson-run Braunstein session. It is one of a set of four pages, that all carry the same handwriting, and reflect This one is set in a situation where a castle is to be taken. This rules out the Banania and the Brownstone Texas setting. According to Jon Peterson, these papers are somewhere from around 1970 and might be the first prototypes of what would become Blackmoor, or at least they show relation to "The Northern Marches", a Braunstein which was run by Arneson starting around 1971.

Writeup from Arneson-run Braunstein session - Peasents Writeup from Arneson-run Braunstein session - Rescue Forces

Braunstein Re-created

Lastly, there is a publisher on DriveThruRPG that offers a reimagined Braunstein ruleset, apparently under license by David Wesley, and containing an essay by David.

  • \$\begingroup\$ That instruction card is an Arneston-run Branstein, of the 2nd iteration of "braunstein-esque" - the order card is earlier in the video, an index card. \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Commented Oct 15, 2023 at 11:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Trish Thanks, I added the order card. I think the Arneson one shows the intermeshing of role-play ("General Instructions: Hate royalty, opression; liberate area") and game mechanics (with troop listings like "18 longbowmen") more nicely. There is another one that even mentions point-buy values. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 15, 2023 at 11:29
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Added a little to explain how the cards match up to the games \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Commented Oct 15, 2023 at 17:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ Dang, as I reasearched it, even Blackmoor was a Strategos game, never really a Chainmail one! boggswood.blogspot.com/2017/07/… \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Commented Oct 16, 2023 at 0:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 I entirely forgot to say thank you for the bounty you gifted. Thank you! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 6, 2023 at 5:40

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