Sunday, May 27, 2018

Dave Arneson and Mel Jass - Appendix 'N' For The Twin Cities, Perhaps?

Unlikely, but you may have heard of this.
Just a coincidence, surely!!!

One of the problems that I've had explaining in my gaming style to modern gamers is that my world, once upon a time, is very different then anything they can get their heads around. We'll have a go at it, with Dave Arneson and his after-school television habits...

A long time ago, back in the Dark Ages, when you wanted to watch TV you had a choice of three networks and maybe an indie - a station that was not 'affiliated' with NBC, CBS, and ABC. None of this 'satellite' malarky, or less that 'internet' stuff which was all decades in the future. to add the the very limited choices, the national networks had a habit of going dark at certain times, leaving the local stations without any programming at all. They had to scramble to find something to fill that time - dead air means no advertising revenue, so the rush was on to get something - anything! - on the air that would get and hopefully hold the attention of viewers. Any viewers, to be honest.

And, of course - well, 'of course' to people like me, who are of a certain age and can still walk downstairs and turn on their very first videotape recorder (a 3/4" Sony U-matic, if you must know) - everything was on film and a device called a 'telecine' rules the airwaves. A very skilled technician put the reels of film on the machine, it converted the images to video, and the result went out over the airwaves to your home. Thus arose a desperate need in America for cheap film packages, where the station could buy a batch of cheap films and show them at a profit to make money for the stations' owners.

The gods of television heeded the prayers of desperate station owners, and Lo! the stations' owners' prayers were answered. By the Japanese, the Italians, the Spanish, and the British. Film studios in these countries were in pretty bad shape, financially, but the good old American dollar saved the day. TV stations could get 'packages' of movies about Sinbad, aliens in flying saucers, vikings, Hercules, pirates, cavemen, and giant monsters rampaging through urban centers. (US film studios also got into the action, by selling broadcast rights to their old movies as well.) These films are some of the greatest ever made, and some are not. (Hoo boy, they are not!) But, when you get home from school and turn on the television, there they were; locally, the undisputed king of local TV was a gent named Mel Jass, who could sell anything to anybody. He was vital to the station, because when the film reel ran out, the announcer (Mel) had to make the sales pitch live to the viewing audience, selling the product that was paying the bills and also stalling long enough to get the time that the technician needed to change the reels and get the telecine running again.

Enter, stage left, a young guy named Dave Arneson. He, like I did later on, grew up on a diet of Sword and Sandal epics, Japanese monster movies, swashbuckling pirate flicks, turgid spy dramas, Technicolor medieval romances (with Sword Fights!!!) and all the other genres of motion pictures that the 1950s and 1960s could offer. In the fullness of time, one could also get heaps and heaps of toys from these movies - the Japanese in particular, had a lot of them on offer, as later generations would discover for themselves in something called "The Monster Manual".

So, if you want to get down to the core of what became that thing called "D&D", I suggest you look at Gary's 'Appendix N', and Dave's play list of movies - especially those from that media powerhouse, Toho Productions.

Next up: Chirine's 'Appendix N', and where to find it.