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In May, my daughter will be graduating from university in St. Paul, MN. I've been there a few times over the last four years, but when I go out for the ceremony it will likely be the last time I am near the Twin Cities for many more years. I'd like to take the opportunity to visit some location associated with Dave Arneson and pay homage.

Unlike the Gygax memorial, as far as I know, there is no public site associated with Arneson. If he has a physical grave1, its location is not publicly listed. I want to be respectful of the privacy of his remaining family (or unrelated owners), so something like a curbside visit outside a former place of residence would be fine.

"Secrets of Blackmoor: The True History of Dungeons & Dragons" shows an image from the outside of his parents' home, in the basement of which his gaming group met in his youth, but as I recall does not list the address.

His daughter has said "No matter what house we lived in, our entire basement was always devoted to gaming," implying that there might be several possible houses in the St. Paul area, although she might also have been referring to when he lived in California (I expect she was already out of the house by the time he lived in Florida).

I haven't seen any indication that there was a gaming club when Arneson attended the University of Minnesota or some place that he might have played on-campus.

Any ideas for, and specific locations of, suitably significant sites which would be respectful and appropriate to visit would be appreciated.


1His wife, who died three years after he did, was cremated.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I’ve voted to close for being opinion based. There’s no criteria for what is a correct answer here besides “sounds good to Kirt”. This seems like a good discussion prompt for a traditional discussion forum, but not for stack exchange. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 21, 2023 at 22:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov I appreciate the explanation of the vote to close, but I don't think I expressed the criteria as being "sounds good to me". Rather, I asked for a publicly accessible location in the Twin Cities area that would be associated with Arneson and specifically his contribution to the history of gaming. I gave examples of what I would consider viable locations, were they known. You can argue that my criteria are too opinion-based, but I hardly think it is fair to say that there are "no criteria". \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Mar 21, 2023 at 23:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ibid? what same source are you referring to? \$\endgroup\$
    – fectin
    Mar 27, 2023 at 17:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @fectin It was the next link after the superscript - in an earlier edit, the link was before and so the Ibid made sense. I have re-edited now, thank you. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Mar 27, 2023 at 20:18

2 Answers 2

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The Lake Geneva memorial works well for both giants

Gygax may have lived in Lake Geneva, where the Gygax memorial is situated, but it is also where Dave Arneson refereed Blackmoor for Gygax' group in November of '72.

That session was pretty much the inception of both Dungeons and Dragons, as well as the inspiration for Gygax' Greyhawk setting.

Also, since the Arneson family hasn't made any specific site(s) public, I would advise you to respect their wishes.

If you are going to San Fra Saint Paul

Arneson's parent's house with the famous basement was in Highland Park. I have no source for him spending any time there, much less drawing any inspiration from it, but I'd recommend the Hidden Falls Regional Park as a possible target for your pilgrimage. Some natural scenery seems as apt a tribute to his fantasy settings as any.

Don't forget David Wesely and Duane Jenkins

Wesely created the combination of single-character roleplaying with a referee, as well as the scenario concept, in his Braunstein games. They were hosted somewhere at the University of Minnesota. Based on Braunstein, Jenkins developed the concept of character re-use between scenarios, the campaign, for his Brownstone western setting. Arneson added character advancement and the Blackmoor fantasy setting, which Gygax' talent for wargaming systems then streamlined and developed into an actual product.

And also...

Nothing is developed in a vacuum. Braunstein drew inspiration from older games, notably Diplomacy from the 1950s and Strategos from the 1880s. Before Arneson showcased Blackmoor for Gygax, the latter had already released Chainmail.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I’ll give some feedback on the downvote so you aren’t left wondering, this is an entirely opinion based answer, since it is an entirely opinion based question, and I downvote entirely opinion based questions and answers. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 21, 2023 at 22:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ I will be in the St. Paul area. Lake Geneva is farther afield than I will be able to go on this particular trip. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Mar 21, 2023 at 23:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Kirt Another reason this question isn’t a good fit for stack exchange: the relevance and usefulness of answers depends on how they align with the details of this particular trip you are taking. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 21, 2023 at 23:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov I would expect a good answer to be relevant to anyone traveling to the greater Twin Cities area. I don't think it is hopelessly idiosyncratic to say 'I'm going to St. Paul, not Lake Geneva'. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Mar 21, 2023 at 23:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ The University of Minnesota was where the Braunstein games were hosted as far as the story goes - content.ucpress.edu/chapters/12896.ch01.pdf \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Mar 24, 2023 at 14:59
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Since you will be in the Twin Cities area, I will recommend a visit to The University of Saint Thomas - it was a hub of wargaming and early RPG activity in the 60's and 70's. I was able to get some info from a friend who lives in the Twin Cities area.
(The Original source refers to themselves as 'MNBlockhead' on reddit): I have summarized the info dump to organize it for the answer, but I will use quotes since all of this came from another source who does not post at RPGSE.

Arneson began participating in the MMSA while a student at Highland Park High School in St. Paul.

A number of players in the early MN wargaming and proto-RPG scene came from the University of Saint Thomas. In the early 70s many of the MMSA members moved their games out of Dave Arneson's basement to the University of Saint Thomas. "By the fall of 1972, activities related to Blackmoor were conducted "almost exclusively" at St. Thomas, though still under the broad auspice of the MMSA." The Midwest Military Simulation Association (MMSA).

Two other locales where DA was known to hang out, and who may have a momento or display for his prominence in gaming:

Source Comics & Games: while it only opened in 1989, it became a frequent gathering place for Arneson and some of the old guard in their later years. After Arneson died, for a while some of the original Blackmoor players would meet at The Source once per year to play Blackmoor in Arneson's memory.

The Minnesota Historical Society: Arneson worked for the Minnesota Historical Society for many years, and he was instrumental in the creation of the society's first gaming exhibit, which showcased the history of gaming in Minnesota.

Some other recommendations for game stores where Dave had visited and may have a display:

  • My gut says The Tin Soldier, which became Phoenix Games, whose name got sold to a store in Fridley maybe ten years ago when Neil Cauley retired.
  • The Source is likely the biggest gamestore in the area.

My friend is a member of the Minnesota Historical Society. I'll edit this answer when I get an update from him.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you. I was actually at The Source on my last visit, but didn't notice anything specifically related to Arneson (there was a huge play space for miniatures wargaming, though, which at least that night was GoT battles). I would be interested in knowing the location of the gaming exhibit at the Minnesota Historical Society - that seems like a fitting destination if I can't get the address of the Highland Park basement. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Mar 24, 2023 at 14:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, am I parsing this correctly - Arneson used to play at a store called The Tin Soldier, whose physical location is now called Phoenix Games, but the name The Tin Soldier is currently used by another, unrelated store? \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Mar 24, 2023 at 15:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is the University of St. Thomas the same as the University of Minnesota, mentioned in content.ucpress.edu/chapters/12896.ch01.pdf to have hosted the Braunstein Games? \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Mar 24, 2023 at 15:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Kirt I'll check with my source. Please be patient. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 24, 2023 at 20:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Trish No. U of Minnesota is a state run university. U of St Thomas is a private institution Founded in 1885, the University of St. Thomas is a Catholic university based in the Twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. We're the largest private university in Minnesota, with more than 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students and 110,000+ alumni. Eight schools and colleges offer 150+ undergraduate majors and minors and 55+ graduate degree programs \$\endgroup\$ Mar 24, 2023 at 20:18

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