In less than a week, two of my idols have passed away.
First, mentioned in a previous blog post, was William F. Buckley, who helped define what it is to be a conservative.
On March 3rd, I lost my second idol.
E. Gary Gygax helped create the hobby I have enjoyed since 1977, when I first discovered the game of Dungeons and Dragons as a 5th grader. Bored out of my skull at Wednesday night church, my friend at the time, Jim Rapchinski, brought a new book with him. That book ended up changing my life.
Oh, my first adventure wasn’t spectacular to say the least. It was ‘In Search of the Unknown’, the module that came packaged in the blue box. I died in the first encounter, with the character I chose out of the back of pregenerated characters. Not surprisingly, it was a kobold that did my poor little fighter in, but that little kobold hooked me.
Over the years, my love of the game waxed and waned. I always came back to it, however. Fifteen years later, I was writing for Hero Games and the Champions RPG, but my Dungeon Masters Guide, Player’s Handbook, and Monster Manual did not collect dust. Twenty years later, I had moved on to writing things for Shadowrun, but I always kept coming back to the various incarnations of Dungeons and Dragons.
As August approaches, and the fourth edition of the game about to debut, the grandfather of gaming has passed away. Those millions of people playing World of Warcraft, Everquest, or another fantasy game either online or off have Gary to thank for the kickstart he gave.
Some of you know what Gary went through over the years. His love of his creation blinded him many times to the things going on around him. Because of that, he ended up losing control of his game’s publication. His later attempts at games seemed half-hearted sometimes, but he was gentlemanly enough to not become a vocal critic of what happened to his creation.
Gary was a critic, though, to those who subscribed to his private mailing lists. In politics, he was very libertarian in thinking, yet as pro-defense as anyone after 9/11. On gaming, he mourned what he once called his biggest failure, allowing the skills in Oriental Adventures. With 2nd, and then 3rd editions focusing so much on dice rolling to resolve skills, Gary stated that role playing was suffering.
Gary begrudingly accepted online games for the same reason. Gary was all about taking the role of a character in the game, and not relying on player dice rolls. This seemed contradictory for the man whose works were scattered with so many random tables and generators, but Gary created those tables for the gamemaster, not the player.
A few years ago, when I was trying to get ‘Living Erde’ off the ground and before the RPGA squashed all non-company games from its line up, I met Gary at GenCon. He was the nicest man, willing to talk your ears off about fantasy genres. But, even then, you could tell his health was failing. Honestly, I am surprised he lasted as long as he did with his health issues cropping up.
Still, at the age of 70, E. Gary Gygax died way before his time. Many different tributes to Gary have made comments about ‘failing his saving throw vs death’, and he would have laughed at them. That was the thing about Gary, he had gone through his stage of being bitter about losing control of TSR, Inc., but in his later years, he could laugh at himself. He appeared as himself in an episode of Futurama, again making fun of his attraction to random tables.
The world is going to miss Gary. Even though I did not know him very well, I know I already do.
Tags: E Gary Gygax, RPG