Co-creator of D&D, Gary Gygax, dies at 69 years

I clearly remember how I first got into Dungeons and Dragons. I was 15 years old at the time. My friend Tim was a member of Mensa, and told me that they had this thing called Dungeons and Dragons that they played. Since I was a big fan of Tolkein’s Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, Tim’s description of D&D sounded perfect. I wrote an IQ test and discovered I missed the grade by a couple of points: the fact that I wrote the test on the day I found out my Dad had died might have had an impact, but I also never really claimed to be a genius. But the desire to play D&D remained.

I bought my own Players Handbook (Advanced D&D 1st edition) and started a D&D group shortly thereafter. That’s how I met my life long best friend Chris, and role playing was the foundation for a ton of other improvements for me. I’d always been “bookish”, but had never really fit in with any particular group- D&D gave me a ready-made introduction to any number of like minded people. It also focused my creative interests, helped me become more social (I had to form that D&D group after all, and continue to find new members as the years passed by). Years later when I was still playing the game in my 30’s, I once joked that my original Players Handbook was older than some of the players in our group. Although I haven’t actively played for a few years, D&D was truly a life changing activity for me for at least 25 years of my life.

Gary Gygax, or “E. Gary Gygax” as his byline used to be on all the source materials, was sort of like the iconic “father” of the game. Yes, there were others arguably who contributed more to the mechanics, but Gary was the “face” of the game during it’s early years. He was also a bit… odd, and seemed like a magnet for equally odd people. His one-time-wife, for example, who ultimately stripped him of his place within TSR and removed his name from the game. In later years he was re-recognized by the new owners of the game, Wizards of the Coast (and later Hasbro), and was granted the chance to have his name associated with the game once again at conferences and in the occasional article that he wrote.

I never met Mr. Gygax. I don’t doubt that we would have had some things to talk about, but I’m also pretty sure that we wouldn’t have gotten along terribly well. That is beside the point, however: I owe a debt of gratitude to the man for his contributions to Dungeons and Dragons. A man who was responsible for a major part of my adolescent growth has died, and I shall miss him.

5 thoughts on “Co-creator of D&D, Gary Gygax, dies at 69 years”

  1. I remember that comment about your 1st book being older than some players in the group. *smirk*

    ’tis true and now the next generation takes it a runs!

    Screw THAC0! d20, man! The power of adding rocks!

  2. To Hit Armour Class Zero (THAC0) was actually a great innovation in it’s day, which was (I’m embarrassed to admit) towards the end of my gaming career, when I already had ten or fifteen years of playing D&D behind me. I remember the heated discussions we used to have about other innovations like “roll 4d6 take best 3” or “re-order your stats as you see fit” for rolling up characters. Ah, those were the days…

    A measure of my age is that that “new fangled THAC0 thing” is now older than dirt and largely forgotten by most gamers. One way for me to judge the antiquity of a D&D gamer: remember the Chainmail rules (and I don’t mean read about them on Wikipedia- I mean held them in your hands)? Wormy or Phil and Dixie? How about the Flumph? No? Ah, youth…

    Strangely, none of that stuff I mentioned above seems like it was very long ago. The thing with being {sigh} old is that I don’t think the possessor of said title ever really feels like *they* are the old ones. That beer bellied thing in the mirror? That’s someone else. And later… the zimmer frame? That is just a temporary thing. High school was just the other day, and retirement is decades and decades away…

  3. I still have all the D&D stuff in the cabinet of wonders and I will probably keep them all too. The Dragon magazines, sad to say will have to go, but all the books, the dice, the figures, the maps, the few modules, and even I think my Basic D&D Beginners book are still in there.

    I look at amusement at new rule additions now…

    Even before you joined us Oblivions I’d come to the conclusion that the rules weren’t that important. They were just a framework to hang everything else on. And you can use as little as you like and bend the what you do use to shape so it all looks best.

    I find the reason I don’t feel like playing much, ( though the occasional twinge is still there 😉 ) is not about rules … I could butcher any rule system and make it work … it not lack of time, though it is lacking. It is because I want to play with friends. It has become such a part of my past and of who and what I am that it’s pretty hard to put it all aside and start from scratch with new people that don’t share the same memories, the same past, the same in jokes.

    Aww crap.

    I really AM old.

  4. I am currently in a game, out of desperation, which seems to be nothing BUT rules. It’s driving me nuts. You guys showed me the role playing aspect over the rules so that it’s now utterly engrained. I can barely role a character muchless quote you the rules and feats and gods know how many other tids bits… i just like to play.
    Unfortunately it makes me utterly dependant on the DM to know what the hell is going on, but in the end that doesn’t matter so much either. Wing it, I wouldn’t know or quite frankly care.

    Miss you guys to play with… we’re starting a new proper group tonight, so perhaps I can catch the feeling again…

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