Long Live The King

MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin (AP) — Gary Gygax, who co-created the fantasy game Dungeons & Dragons and helped start the role-playing phenomenon, died Tuesday morning at his home in Lake Geneva. He was 69.

He had been suffering from health problems for several years, including an abdominal aneurysm, said his wife, Gail Gygax.

Gygax and Dave Arneson developed Dungeons & Dragons in 1974 using medieval characters and mythical creatures. The game known for its oddly shaped dice became a hit, particularly among teenage boys, and eventually was turned into video games, books and movies.

Gygax always enjoyed hearing from the game’s legion of devoted fans, many of whom would stop by the family’s home in Lake Geneva, about 55 miles southwest of Milwaukee, his wife said. Despite his declining health, he hosted weekly games of Dungeons & Dragons as recently as January, she said.

“It really meant a lot to him to hear from people from over the years about how he helped them become a doctor, a lawyer, a policeman, what he gave them,” Gygax said. “He really enjoyed that.”

Dungeons & Dragons players create fictional characters and carry out their adventures with the help of complicated rules. The quintessential geek pastime, it spawned a wealth of copycat games and later inspired a whole genre of computer games that’s still growing in popularity.

*************

 

I have so many fond memories of Dungeons & Dragons and my life was forever changed because of this man’s creation. I will forever be in his debt, as well as several generations of dreamers.

 

I will always remember the day I bought my Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, DungeonMasters Guidebook. It was late August of 1979 and I remember how unbearably hot it was. It was during the day when not everyone and every car had air conditioning. It was when my family lived on a small farm that was 90 minutes away from the closest hobby store. I was still very young then, perhaps 15 years old. After my schoolwork was done and my chores complete, I would spend my day reading about the game and planning my quests and adventures.

 

I remember calling the hobby store up and they told me that they had three left — I begged them to save 1 copy for me. I then had to plead with my mom to drive me out to the hobby store. We were quite poor back then and money was hard to come by. After several hours of begging, my mom broke down and drove me out there. The ride was hot and dry — our car, of course, did not have air conditioning — hell it barely ran.

 

We finally arrived, and I rushed into the store and found the Game Section. To my amazement, there was no DM books there. I then ran to the counter and ask the clerk for my reserved copy. He said that he sold the last one ten minutes earlier and he was all out for several weeks — I stood there completely in shock, struck silent, not knowing what to say or even do. My mom was not so silent and began to beret the poor guy behind the counter on what she had to do to get me here and that someone was supposed to have saved me one. The guy called the manager, who walked out from his office, leaned over the counter and pulled 1 fresh copy of the book from a hidden cache.

That very moment froze in time for me — the book could not have sparkled anymore than the the largest jewel. I grabbed it and clung to it like it was my baby. I cracked the cover and drank in the fresh ink smell — its binding of glue caused my head to swirl.

 

All the way home, my mother tried to quiz me on the book, but I was lost in the grandeur of what I held. Each page was so stuffed with new ideas, spells, monsters, NPCs….you named it, it had it. Oh god! It was so terrific and I could not put it down.

 

I truly remember falling to sleep that night, holding on to the book. Hoping that if I died, my mother would bury the book along my side (ya, a bit weird, but I do remember that thought).

 

Gary, you did so well — no other person would shape my life as much did. God Bless you.

Advertisements

3 Comments

  1. What a great tribute, Troy. Hearing the sad new of Gygax’s death conjured up my own personal memories of first playing D&D (in my case, the red box Basic Edition in the early eighties and onto 2nd Edition AD&D shortly thereafter). I too have vivid memories of studying those softcover basic edition handbooks as if they were some religious texts. Many of the great pencil sketches of fighters and elves that graced the pages of the player’s handbook are still burned in my memory.

    I also remember going down to the hobby shop each week with my allowance to buy a new module–many of which were penned by Gygax–and reading them cover-to-cover even though I never got to play through many of them.

    The way that game empowered players to abandon the mundane everyday for a world of endless possibilities and adventure is artistry to the highest degree–and if not religious in some way–at least spiritual in that it allowed us to transcend the boundaries of corporeal reality for something mythic that has been curiously lost in modern times.

    It was Gygax’s D&D that began my imagined adventures through countless other pen-and-paper RPGs, and onto the Ultima series on my parents’ Apple IIe and almost twenty years after that, games like Vanguard and WoW.

    With all the different influences that have impacted me since adolescence, from literature and music to history and movies, Gary’s passing really got me thinking about how big an influence his work had on my life as a whole–and how his influence is still felt in this modern age of computer gaming in every fantasy MMO out there.

    Rest in peace, Mr. Gygax.

  2. A very well written tribute indeed!

    Reminds me of the Saturday mornings when I would get to the local hobby retailer half an hour before opening time to gaze and drool at all the new RPG gamebooks, dice and other related gadgets displayed in the front window.

    Few things since then have given me the thrill I used to get from such a simple, and silly, activity.

    With Gary Gygax’s passing I really do realise now how it is someting to be very thankful for.

  3. (Took me a while to find your blog, T. Finally heard the reference in an EP podcast.)

    Good tribute! It’s always interesting to hear other peoples RPG background. Myself have never been a very avid D&D player. I’ve always found the system a bit clunky and have preferd systems like Chaosiums General RolePlay. But I digress.

    What Gary did was giving us a system to simulate people and creatures in an imaginary world. And more importantly he realised the very idea that one could formulate rules for imaginary worlds.

    Personally Gary’s best work was the adventure modules he created. As a matter of fact The Wednesday Nighters – me and some friends who play rpg’s a few hours every wednesday – are waist deep in The Temple of Elemental Evil at the moment (march 27th -08). It is clearly one of the hardest adventures I’ve ever played. It is atmosphereic and very well thought out.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s