Braunstein (wargame)

Braunstein was a fictional location developed for an experimental-informal type of Napoleonic miniatures wargame[citation needed] introduced by David Wesely circa 1969. Further experiments in the same pioneering format but set in differing times and places continued nevertheless to be referred to as "Braunsteins" after the seminal game. The role-playing game concepts Wesely introduced were further developed by Duane Jenkins in his old west "Brownstone" setting and by Dave Arneson in his Blackmoor setting and later in the Dungeons & Dragons game to which Arneson was a contributing author.[1]


In 1967,[2] David Wesely served as referee for a Napoleonic wargame set in the fictional German town of Braunstein.[3][4]

As usual, two players acted as commanders of the opposing armies, however no battle was set up or fought. Instead of having the other players present at the game line up to support one commander or the other, Wesely set up a multi-player, multi-objective game,[5] in which he assigned, individual roles for each player, including non-military roles. For example, he had players acting as town mayor, banker, and university chancellor.[4] The players then schemed or collaborated strategically to achieve their secretly stated goals. When two players unexpectedly 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'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.[5][4] Totten's book also inspired Wesely with the idea of having a game master who invented the scenario for the evening's battle.[4] Wesely discovered the idea of "n-player" strategy games from The Compleat Strategist (1954) by J.D. Williams. Wesely also read and cited as influential, Conflict and Defense: A General Theory (1962), by Kenneth E. Boulding.

Its name was licensed for use as Barons of Braunstein by Olde House Rules[7]

Wesely continues to run campaigns of Braunstein at GaryCon[8].


Braunstein contributed to the development of role-playing games 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 subsequently invented a new role playing scenario in which players attempt to stage or avert a coup in a small Latin American republic - the perpetually unstable nation of Banania. He and Dave Arneson, another member of the MMSA, took turns acting as the referee for repeated stagings of this scenario, which was also known as a 'Braunstein'; Arneson took over as referee after Wesely left for service in the Army.[9]

In October 1970, Wesely, who had enrolled in Army ROTC at the University of Kansas, was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant and ordered to active duty. Arneson continued to run Braunstein and invent new scenarios. Duane Jenkins, another gamer in the MMSA, created a series of "wild west Braunsteins" set in "Brownstone Texas" in which Arneson played the recurring role of a Mexican bandit leader named "El Pauncho". [10]

The "Brownstone" games introduced the concept of giving the players their own "player characters" with a history that they could develop from game to game, rather than starting over each time the game was played.[1]

In 1971, Arneson developed a Braunstein set in a fantasy world called "The Northern Marches" including the "Barony of Blackmoor". For this campaign he brought together ideas from such disparate sources as The Lord of the Rings novels and the Dark Shadows horror soap opera.[4] Arneson also drew heavily on Gary Gygax's Chainmail

In this precursor to Dungeons & Dragons, players' recurring characters adventured in the fantasy Barony of Blackmoor, including delving into the monster and treasure filled dungeons beneath "Castle Blackmoor", a castle that originated in a plastic kit that Arneson had of Branzoll castle in Italy.[9]


  1. ^ a b Morgan, Griffith (Director) (Aug 18, 2019). The Secrets of Blackmoor [The True History of Dungeons & Dragons] (Motion picture). Minnesota: The Fellowship of the Thing.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ A Brief History of Role Playing Games : Midwest Area Gaming Enthusiasts
  4. ^ a b c d e Tresca, Michael J. (2010), The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, McFarland, pp. 60–61, ISBN 078645895X
  5. ^ a b Forum Posting by David Wesely
  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. ^ Rules, Olde House (2015-08-05). "Pits Perilous: The Return of (Barons of) Braunstein!". Pits Perilous. Retrieved 2019-08-27.
  8. ^ "GaryCon – My Harrowing Trip to Braunstein". Paul's Gameblog. 2018-03-12. Retrieved 2019-08-27.
  9. ^ a b Shannon Appelcline (2011). Designers & Dragons. Mongoose Publishing. p. 6. ISBN 978-1-907702-58-7.
  10. ^ Arneson, David L. (April 1971). "The Saga of El Pauncho". Corner of The Table. Vol. 3, no. 4. Minneapolis, Minnesota: MMSA.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)