Brilliant Arneson Quote of the Day

In honor of Dave Arneson's birthday tomorrow, something that tickled me recently at Beyond the Black Gate:
To say that Dave was completely impartial with regards to the game was not to say that Dave was completely impartial with regards to players, often with hilarious results. Once, while the party was being attacked by some sort of flying machines over the swamps near the Temple, a player whinged a bit that, since he had been paralyzed, he had nothing to do while everyone else got to fight the machines, and how unfair that was. Dave regarded him quietly for a moment, then handed him a d6, and said "here, roll that every round." The player, confused, asked why. "That," Dave said, "is how much damage you take every round. That should keep you busy." I don't believe anyone else complained about anything for the rest of the session.
Holy smoke do I love that! Let me analyze it a bit: (a) It's a jolly good answer. (b) It's unapologetic that if you get paralyzed or put down, it will last a while and you will be out of the action. (c) It actually is something to do each round for the player, physically. (d) It sort of makes sense that some shrapnel might be flying around and you're utterly unable to avoid it. (e) It's the exact inverse of action points in that kind of situation. (f) It's a fairly small amount of damage that may not be lethal -- not like a "bolt from the blue" insta-destruction. (g) It's above-board and explicit -- not some later behind-the-scenes passive-aggressive move wherein the DM sics a monster on you specifically, and you're left wondering why that happened. Delicious!

Happy birthday, Mr. Arneson. (And more Book of War stuff next week.)


  1. Just one observation here - is d6 actually only a small amount of damage? I suppose it depends which edition Dave was running, and at what sort of level, but 1d6 damage per round could represent a substantial amount of damage. Maybe I'm missing some contextual knowledge here :)

  2. 1d6/round might actually be a big bunch of damage based on Dragons At Dawn!

  3. It also makes the whinging prima donna's survival dependent on how quickly his buddies can end the fight; the longer it goes on, the more d6 rolls he has to endure. That's a nice reminder that the party is a team.

  4. Ah, I guess you guys are more correct that 1d6 is, at the least, a "moderate" amount of damage. I was thinking relative to a "bolt from the blue" that insta-destroys someone (as Gygax has it in the DMG at some place).