Saturday, May 18, 2024

Interview with Rob Kuntz: Part One

Rob Kuntz is a key figure in the development of D&D, and continues to make valuable contributions to our hobby (click here for Rob's bio).  He recently agreed to answer several questions regarding the early days in Lake Geneva, as well as what he's up to, these days:


Robert J. Kuntz


Q. My friends and I recently made the trek to Lake Geneva for the 50th anniversary of D&D.  I remember meeting your brother Terry at prior Gary Cons.  Have you ever attended Gary Con, or any other old-school cons?  I would imagine that your presence as one of the key figures in the early development of Dungeons & Dragons would generate a lot of interest.

Yes.  North Texas RPGCon, Gary Con and the upcoming ARNECON.  I have not been invited to Gary Con since 2013 and after moving to France.  Yes, my appearance always generates a lot of excitement with me being the last founder and designer standing and still active.  But I can only attend conventions I’m invited to, so I will be appearing at ARNECON in October, a small but doughty convention which is building rapidly, and I hope to assist them in that regard.


Q. You recounted some details regarding that game of proto-D&D run by Dave Arneson for Gary Gygax and a few others, including yourself, in "Dungeons & Deceptions" (Kotaku, Aug 2019).  The article describes an unpublished work called "A Tale of Two Daves, Two Gygax's and Two Kuntz╩╝s".  Has this appeared in some form, in one of your other publications?

That was actually published as THE GAME THAT CHANGED EVERYTHING.  But we are updating that with new material and possible release through the documentary we are involved with.  It contains the oldest map made by me the day after the game session wherein Gary played and I DMed an experimental idea of using Arneson’s new concept to create stories.  That ostensibly makes me the first map-making DM before we continued interfacing with Arneson and The Blackmoor Bunch to create D&D.  That’s D&D’s beginning in Lake Geneva.


"The 4th Category" (2024) by Robert J. Kuntz

Q. Your most recent release "The 4th Category" represents the first chapter of your forthcoming "A New Ethos in Game Design: The Paradigm Shift Originated by Dungeon & Dragons, 1972-1977" mentioned on the back cover of "Dave Arneson's True Genius" (2017).  Does "The Fourth Category" provide any details or historical anecdotes regarding Gary's Greyhawk Castle and/or your El Raja Key playtests of D&D in 1973?

Not really.  For the record Gary created Castle Greyhawk 1 and he and I created Castle Greyhawk 2, late 1973.  I created Castle El Raja Key 1 one month after Gary created the first Castle Greyhawk; and then I created Castle El Raja Key 2 later on.  So, there are two distinct versions of each castle.

What is contained in The 4th Category is of more import than Castles.  It’s a culmination of 17 years of research and study which states that Arneson & Gygax, unbeknownst to both, created a new primary game category in games.  Not just a game, but the first game in a new category of games.  I would think that merits some raised eyebrows and really transcends to the realm of historical consequence when considered in light of current historical research.


Q. In your foreword to "Adventures in Oz" (Double Critical, 2022) you mention your "Entrance to Oz" dungeon level, included as part of Greyhawk Castle 2.  Did you ever run a group through that level, as co-DM of Gary's original Greyhawk campaign?

Our PCs had moved to outdoor adventures so my work on OZ languished uninvestigated.  I redid it as D&D Dreamlands, now Dreamlands, in 1985.


"A Walk Though Dream Land" by Andy Taylor


Q. Can you tell us more about "Dreamlands"?  I'm not familiar with that setting.

That was my move from OZ to my own form of Dreamlands.  It has appended rules for play as things don’t always match with real play circumstances, such as death, eating, sleeping and many other waking world circumstances.  It was utilized twice in play when I was living in Charlotte, N.C. for many years.  It’s set up to make players believe that they are still in the real world, just in a special part of it.  It was never published, but I have a gorgeous full color map of it drawn by me when my hand was steadier and the front cover by Andy Taylor.


Q. Any luck in getting the levels that you designed for Greyhawk Castle 2 back?  Do you think we'll ever see publication of the source documents for this major collaboration between yourself and Gary?

I possess full scans of my levels and keys.  The chance of ever getting Castle Greyhawk 2 made is probably nil.  One cannot deal with egomaniacs and revisers of history, though I have tried four times to do that.  I will not talk about getting my levels back at this time as that matter is in another’s hands at the moment.


"Dark Druids" (2015; 2023) by Robert J. Kuntz


Q. In February, 2023, you re-released "Dark Druids" (Chaotic Henchmen Productions, 2015) in an electronic format, an adventure involving the conceptual origins of Tharizdun.  When were the games this adventure was based on run?  Was it set in Kalibruhn, or another setting?  

It was set on the Wild Coast area in Fang Forest.  Gary and I figured that the area (then,1975 when I created Dark Druids) was the main adventuring area we shared using the Outdoor Survival map during the play-tests which then became the Wild Coast where most of the adventures were happening.  There is a dimensional entrance to Kalibruhn there (in Mistwood) which was created by the wizard Zayene when he fled Kalibruhn for what he called the Gray Lands (our Greyhawk campaign 1973 onward).


Q. A free map of "The Barbarous Coast" is available on the Three Line Studio website.  Was this setting inspired by the eastern coast of the map of the Great Kingdom from Domesday Book #9 (1971)?  Is it part of the Kalibruhn campaign setting?

It is a stand-in for the Wild Coast which I was forwarding as WoG’s first regional setting before Gary was ousted; and I undertook to complete it in 2002, thus the changes to the names (Jepton = Safeton, etc.).  A well known cartographer has recently rendered a professional hex map of it which will be included in a future release to finally finish this.  I had always felt that WoG needed a regional setting like they were doing with Mystara, so that’s where the whole idea started.


To be continued in Part Two, tomorrow.

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