David Wesely

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For the basketball player, see David Wesley.

David Wesely (born March 15, 1945) is a wargamer, board game designer, and video game developer. Dave Arneson credited him with the idea of the role-playing game.[1]

Wesely earned a B.S. in physics at Hamline University in 1967, and an M.S. in high energy physics at the University of Kansas in 1969.[2] During his college years, Wesely was a member of the Midwest Military Simulation Association, a group of wargamers based in Minneapolis-St Paul.

The Braunstein Game[edit]

In 1967,[3] Wesely served as referee for a Napoleonic wargame set in the fictional German town of Braunstein.[4][5] As usual, two players acted as commanders of the opposing armies, but because he was interested in multi-player games,[2] Wesely assigned additional, non-military roles. For example, he had players acting as town mayor, banker, and university chancellor.[5] When two players challenged each other to a duel, Wesely found it necessary to improvise rules for the encounter on the spot. Though Wesely thought the results were chaotic and the experiment a failure, the other players enjoyed the role playing aspect and asked him to run another game.[6]

Wesely thus contributed to the development of RPGs by introducing a one-to-one identification of player and character, and open-ended rules allowing the players to attempt any action, with the result of the action determined by the referee.

Wesely's Braunstein drew inspiration from Diplomacy, a game requiring players to negotiate in between turns. The idea of a referee was derived from Strategos: The American Game of War (1880), by Charles Totten.[2][5] Totten's book also inspired Wesley with the idea of having a game master who invented the scenario for the evening's battle.[5] Wesley discovered the idea of "n-player" strategy games from The Compleat Strategist by Kenneth Swezy.[5] Wesely also read and cited as influential, Conflict and Defense: A General Theory (1962), by Kenneth E. Boulding and, The Compleat Strategyst (1954) by J.D. Williams.

Wesely subsequently invented a new role playing scenario in which players attempt to stage or avert a coup in a small Latin American republic. After Wesely was drafted into the Army, Dave Arneson, another member of the MMSA, took over as referee for this scenario, which was also known as a 'Braunstein'.[7] As Arneson continued to run his versions of Braunstein and invent new scenarios, he eventually expanded them to include ideas from The Lord of the Rings and Dark Shadows.[5] Arneson adjusted his Braunsteins to use Gary Gygax's Chainmail rules and allow players to play themselves in the fantasy Barony of Blackmoor, which included delving into the sewers beneath "Castle Blackmoor", a castle that originated in a plastic kit that Arneson had of a Sicilian castle.[7] In 1971 Arneson developed a Braunstein set in a fantasy world called "Blackmoor", a precursor to Dungeons & Dragons.

After college[edit]

Wesely joined the US Army Reserves in 1968. He served on active duty in the Army from 1970 to 1973 and again in 1976-1977. He continued to serve in the reserves until 1990, rising to the rank of major.

TSR, Inc. published Valley Forge, a set of miniature wargaming rules by Wesely, in 1976. Wesely's board game Source of the Nile (1977,1979) was published by Discovery Games, and later by Avalon Hill.

In the early 1980s Wesely worked as a software developer for Coleco, porting the arcade games Zaxxon and Spy Hunter to the ColecoVision home console.

Wesely has been a regular at Gen Con and Origins since 1995, speaking at seminars.

Miniatures rules[edit]

  • Strategos N (self-published 1967, 1970)
  • Bombers and Battleships (self-published, 1969)
  • Valley Forge (TSR, Inc., 1976)
  • Valley Forge II (self-published, 1976)

Board games[edit]

Video games[edit]


  1. ^ Interview with Dave Arneson : Pegasus Magazine #1
  2. ^ a b c Acaeum.com Forum Posting by David Wesely
  3. ^ A forum reposting of The Secret History of Dungeons and Dragons by Don Whetsell. Whetsell says his information was gathered during the making of an unreleased documentary called Dragons in the Basement.
  4. ^ A Brief History of Role Playing Games : Midwest Area Gaming Enthusiasts
  5. ^ a b c d e f Tresca, Michael J. (2010), The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, McFarland, pp. 60–61, ISBN 078645895X 
  6. ^ Schick, Lawrence (1991). Heroic Worlds: A History and Guide to Role-Playing Games. Prometheus Books. pp. 17–18. ISBN 0-87975-653-5. 
  7. ^ a b Shannon Appelcline (2011). Designers & Dragons. Mongoose Publishing. p. 6. ISBN 978-1-907702-58-7.