Friday, July 24, 2020

Ideas are a dime a dozen. It's all about execution.

The title of the post should speak for itself, but a little context.

Heard on the intranets recently... "Gary Gygax ripped off Dave Arneson! Dave is D&D's true creator!"

My response: Horse shit.

Ideas are like a@#$holes. We've all got one, and most stink. I can sit here in the calm quiet of my living room and fire off a dozen. "Weight loss app." "Online mentoring program for pediatricians." "Telehealth scheduling interface." "Dying Earth role-playing game."

They mean (almost) nothing. What matters is the execution.

You've got an amazing idea for the next 7 volume epic fantasy series? Great. It means nothing ... unless you write it. And it's good.

That awesome weight loss app idea? Great. Now program it. Market it. Sell it. Until then, your idea is so much vapor.

Back to Gygax-Anderson. The idea of taking tabletop military wargames and altering the scale to make a tin soldier representing a unit of 1,000 men a single hero you control and imbue with personality, is a pretty cool one. Whoever conceived that idea, whether Gygax or Anderson (or some other unnamed wargamer), remains up for debate, though Arneson was definitely part of the conversation. His fictional game world of Blackmoor inspired Gygax, and together the two men went on to co-develop the original D&D game rules.

But Gygax took the idea and created TSR, turning an idea into an industry. Without Gygax, there would be no D&D.

That's the power of execution vs. ideas.


Andy said...

This reminds me of Stan Lee insisting he co-created characters like Spider-Man by saying, "Well, I had the idea of making a hero called Spider-Man..." while Ditko and Kirby did at least the great majority of the actual creation work. But of course they don't get that much credit because Stan ran the company for his uncle :p

Ray Otus said...

Agreed. I know a good deal of the history and Arneson really developed the whole idea of dungeon crawling, but as we can see from Arneson’s own written work (!) he NEVER would have made D&D on his own. His mind was a creative mess and coherent execution was not a talent he possessed. Also Arneson wasn’t the only source of ideas that went into D&D so if we are going to laud the sources of inspiration we need to include Len Pants, David Wesley, and others.

Brian Murphy said...

Andy: Pretty much, this.

Ray: Thanks for the insider perspective on this. I don't suppose you are related to Erol Otus? Uncommon last name...