E. Gary Gygax 1938-2008
E. Gary Gygax
Dungeons & Dragons creator E. Gary Gygax died Tuesday. I just found this out today, almost a week after the fact. I want to take the time to share my personal Gary Gygax story with you. It’s not a good story, nor is it very impressive. It is, however, mine.
Sometime during the mid ’90’s, I was invited by a friend of mine to help playtest the new RPG Dangerous Journey’s, created by Gary Gygax. Needles to say, I jumped at the chance to play test it. I went along with my friend to the first session (first for me, at any rate) and made up a playtest character named Chuck D. Weamercrafter.
I remember the characters name because at the time there was a rapper named Chuck D. (At least, I think there was a rapper named Chuck D. I remember the character, but not the rapper.) and I think I had just seen an episode of Yo! MTV Raps! (Yeah, I watched that show. Don’t laugh.)
Anyway, we had a good time with the playtest and later that year, we went to Dragon*Con (a local converntion held every year in Atlanta; click here for more information on Dragon*Con) to promote the new game at the convention. During that convention, I was invited to a party held for the playtesters and the higher ups at the company that was publishing the Dangerous Journey’s game (though, in all honety, I don’t remember the company).
Amongst the attendents was one E. Gary Gygax and his lovely wife Gail, who said not one word to me the entire time. In all honety, I was too, scared, and I guess, nervous, to say anything to him. Gygax was a legend amongst Gamers, and not someone you casually go up to to talk about your latest exploits in the Tomb of Horrors, or how while in the Village of Hommlet, you killed sixteen first level player characters in one sitting (a story that is still talked about around our gaming table!)
No, I simply nodded to him, and he nodded back. There was no exchange of pleasantries beyond the simple greeting. I’m sure he quickly forgot me. But, I never forgot him. He created something which I am not afraid to say I still play today.
I started playing Dungeons & Dragons in the Summer of 1982. I was 11 years old and my brother and I were visiting my dad and grandparents in Reno, Nevada. There was a kid across the street named Kevin who had all the D&D books. We played in his garage while my dad was at work (he didn’t want us playing; he thought it was stupid. Not evil, mind, just childish and dumb.) We were rebellious children, though, and we never listened. Lucky me.
My first character was chosen, not with an eye for effectiveness, which would come much later, but with and eye for logic. It set the stage, I see now, for a lot of my characters to come. The first character was a Human Fighter (back then, only humans could be a fighter, a cleric, a magic-user, or a thief; all the other races were also classes) though I don’t remember his name. Fighters at that time rolled the largest die for hit points; a d8. I remember I had a pretty decent Constitution score, so I wanted losts of hit points so I could hang in a fight longer. That move payed off later when I watched my brothers character, an elf, get slaughtered by a pair of skeletons. (The elf class rolled a d6 for hit points, so he had less than I did.)
We had great fun playing the game and that fun continued into my adult life. It shaped who I am today and my thought proccesses, the values I hold, and the imagination I have. All because E. Gary Gygax created a simple game for the entertainment of millions of geeks everywhere.
Without E. Gary Gygax, I would’ve had a very boring childhood and a worse adulthood. I’ve met a lot of good friends, both real and imagined, because of a small red box with with artwork by someone named Erol Otus on the cover. (Erol Otus’ art was iconic in and of itself).
So, from me, and all my alter ego’s, Farewell Dungeon Master. May Bahumat welcome you warmly in the Seven Heavens. Save a place for me at the Celestial Gaming Table.
WonderGoon, Tel’Avin, Rikus Soth, Thenin Ravenbeard, Janwyn Bloodblade, Flavius of Mythus, Ylum of the Vale, Gowron Bard of Ill Repute, Lord Kregstan, Loreseeker, Kivan, Illbrahn, Torg, Kelrissa, Pryntor, The Songster, and all the many hundreds of NPC’s of all the various campaigns I’ve run.