Tuesday, March 4, 2008

In Memoriam: E. Gary Gygax, 1938-2008

I don't know if I met Gary Gygax, but I owe him big.

For those of you who don't know, Gygax essentially created roleplaying gaming. A miniatures gamer from Wisconsin, Gygax and his friends were enthusiastic about tabletop minature wargaming-- but then took it a step further. Individual lead figures were given identities, attributes, characteristics... and then set loose to adventure their way through scenarios devised by a 'Dungeon Master.' They wrote up the rules in a booklet called Chainmail, which was the precursor to

Dungeons & Dragons.

Gygax and his friends formed Tactical Studies Rules, Inc. (better known as TSR), then created a gaming empire through the late '70s and early '80s. He left TSR in 1985, after a change in management, but remained active in roleplaying publishing over the past 23 years. He also founded GenCon, the world's largest gaming convention, which began as a gaming party at his home.

How did he affect me? Well, when I was 13, I bonded with two good friends over D&D. We made more friends who were gamers from junior high into high school, playing on Friday nights, then after college I joined a gaming club that met on Fridays. When my dad passed away in 1988, they were all there for me-- they were all fantastic friends.

We playtested games together and had a terrific social group.

I'm also proud that my game writing credits include an adventure module for AD&D, the "advanced" descendant of Gygax's brainchild.

He was perhaps the single most important figure in roleplaying games; without him, all the other creators who have made such great contributions would have done other things, or at least the world of gaming would look very different. Everyone who ever rolled a 20-sided die owes him a debt of thanks.

RIP, Mr. Gygax, and thank you.

Associated Press article.


Peter Nixon said...

Wow, now I am definitely starting to feel old.

Between your e-mail about John and this, a whole chunk of memories are flooding down. I remember John having that wizard Zigfried with that totally ridiculous sword that Eric Hermann allowed him to have (even though the rules at the time prevented magicians from wielding them).

Here's another John memory: he once painted (for a fee, of course) a lead figure for my principal character, a wizard. He did an amazing job on it. Incredible attention to detail.

I also suppose we can say that without E. Gary Gygax, no chronicles of Footprint and Djarrin..:-)

Drew said...

Boy oh boy... Footprint and Djarrin. Wow, there's a pair of names that'd been buried a long time.
I remember John killing my first D&D character for using Charm Person on him, and how we rode giant ants (you let us mangle the rules a lot back then :).
John was always very artistic... and pretty enthusiastic about breaking whatever laws the rulebooks laid down. Sort of like how he approached life.
thanks, Pete!

Peter Nixon said...

You seem to be assuming I actually knew what the rules were back then! Between the rules for alignment and the complexity of the combat tables, I think I was always completely winging it as a GM. I think the games we played later at Scott Davidson's were better managed, although I never got quite used to Jim Davidson playing a character from Gamma World in an AD&D game...:-)

Why do I have a feeling that as we get older this sort of maudlin trip down memory lane is going to get more common...;-)

Drew said...

Well, we were figuring it out as we went along and always had fun-- which is the most important thing.
And yeah, why did Jimmy D have a Gamma World character in the game? Never figured THAT out!
Hey, nostalgia is one of the few things we can do better now than we used to!

Anonymous said...

Hey Drew -- it's been a long time since I visited your blog. I hope you get the Bradbury interview -- that'd be cool. Did you get the voicemail from Kimi? Love to Kat from the Evans clan. -Glenn