by Larry Peery

O Death where is thy victory? O Death, where is thy sting? Paul wrote to the Corinthians.

Oh Dot where is thy victory? O Stab, where is thy sting? Koning wrote to The Stabbers.

One of the questions I raised in the Retrospective on Allan Calhamer’s passing that Edi Birsan and I wrote for the current issue of Diplomacy World was “How could a man who was so quiet stir up such a frenzy among his fans?”

I’ve been thinking about that for several weeks as I thought about the man I’ve known for nearly fifty years and the game and hobby he created.

Perhaps I’ve been reading too many reports from Rome on the recent papal election but it occurred to me that there were some remarkable parallels between the origins of Christianity and the origins of Diplomacy. Hence the title of this Peerispective, “The Gospel According to Calhamer,” which in turn was based on Robert L. Short’s “The Gospel According to Peanuts.” Short’s book appeared in 1965, about the same time as the postal Diplomacy hobby began. Short’s book was a bestseller and sold over 10 million copies. Calhamer’s game sold mostly to efite, nerdy college kids and sold over 300,000 copies. Both were translated into many languages and published in many editions. However, I do not know if Allan was a religious man or if Henry Kissinger was a fan of Peanuts.

Still, the thought of Calhamer as a Messiah or a Christ-like figure does seem a bit of a stretch. But consider:

  • Both began with a calling. Christ’s was to save the world. Calhamer’s was to snatch a dot.

  • One became known as Christianity. The other as Diplomacy.

  • Each had his inner circle of followers, or disciples; who knew The Creator and spread his vision.

  • Each had his followers, be they called Christians, gamemasters or ‘zine publishers. Creating and spreading the word was their mission.

  • Each had his believers who practiced or played the teachings of The Master.

  • Each created their own history and relics, whether they were gospels written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, John or the Q Source; or rule books written by publishers, an original Diplomacy board, etc.

  • One created churches and denominations. The other tournaments and conventions.

  • Both were responsible for feuds and schisms, and more than a little bloodshed and heart-break.

  • Within 50 years of Christ’s death and, some say, resurrection, Christianity had made it to Rome. Within 50 years Calhamer’s Diplomacy had conquered the world of gaming.

  • According to The Church (take your pick as to which one) there are some billions of Christians in the world. According to my best guesstimate there are about a thousand serious Dippers in the world, and another 9,000 who play occasionally.

Christianity says the meek shall inherit the earth. While he was most certainly a meek man, Calhamer was content to inherit Europe. Just as there is no explanation for how Christ could stir up his followers, there is no explanation for how Calhamer could stir up his fans. Call it faith. Call it fate. But it happened.

Larry Peery

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