[RPG] What was Braunstein, and why was it important to the beginning of the hobby


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?

Best Answer


According to Ben Robbins, David Wesely ran a Napoleonic wargame called Braunstein in 1967:

Major David Wesely took his usual wargaming group and tried something a little different. Instead of having them command armies he set down the two opposing leaders in a Prussian town before the battle, their troops nearby but not on stage. To give the other players something to do he let them control other people around town: the Mayor, a school Chancellor, some revolutionary students, etc. The humble town was the eponymous Braunstein, “brown stone” in German.

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:

The idea of having an all-powerful Referee who would invent the scenario for the game (battle) of the evening, provide for hidden movement and deal with anything the players decided that they wanted to do was not taken from Kriegspeil but was mostly inspired by 'Strategos, The American Game of War', a training manual for US army wargames

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 Wesely 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:

  1. Braunstein was the first game to popularize the idea of one player = one character.

  2. Players weren't limited to actions in a rule book. It allowed players great latitude to take creative actions that would be interpreted by a game master.

  3. Dave Arneson, a player in the first Braunstein game, influenced Gary Gygax and helped write the first D&D rules.

  4. Possibly, Braunstein ("brown stone") created a naming convention that was used by Arneson ("Blackmoor") and Gygax ("Greyhawk").

Interesting Tidbits

Ironically, Wesely did not like the term "role-playing game," instead preferring "adventure game."

Wesely 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.

Wesely claims to have invented polyhedral dice for gaming.