Thursday, March 06, 2008

...Finally Ran Out of Hit Points

Add another loss to the rolls. Ernest Gary Gygax, co-author of Dungeons & Dragons and godfather of the adventure roleplaying game, died on Tuesday, March 4th at age 69. While many might scoff and subscribe to the mistaken belief that RPGs "are for geeks and adolescent boys with no social skills and bad bathing habits"*, without Gygax & Arneson and the D&D effect of bringing tactical wargames into the living room, there might not be World of Warcraft or City of Heroes or Second Life or the entire RPG genre of electronic games. Since its arrival in the late '60s, the adventure roleplaying game has had a profound effect on popular culture (and, if you've ever read a Chick Tract or listened to the ravings of Pat Pulling, on religion and crime).

I met Gary briefly at Gen Con a few years ago, and had chatted with him via an industry email list we subscribe(d) to. We rarely saw eye-to-eye on the mechanics of game design, but he was a gentleman and a scholar, a truly nice guy and well deserving of the reverence of the rest of the industry. I can in all honesty credit the man with giving my creativity a ready vehicle in my teens, and a vocation in my 20s and 30s. I wish him well in this ultimate quest, and I wish the best for his family.

I'm reminded of Gary's guest spot on Futurama, wherein Al Gore tells him to "put the dice away before I take them away!" And when Fry destroys the universe, of course they all settle in for a game of Dungeons & Dragons for all eternity. That's kind of how I imagine him now: gathering a party together for a classic dungeon-crawl. H.G. Wells, J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, C.S. Lewis... and you know Sam would have to muscle her way into that game... and that bastard Tolkien would hog all the Mountain Dew.

* For the record, I bathed and had a girlfriend and interests outside of gaming, and rarely played in groups that were devoid of female participants. In other words, my experience was precisely the opposite of the stereotype.

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