Friday, July 27, 2012

Remembering Gary Gygax

For geeks like me, today is a day of memorial celebration. E Gary Gygax, co-creator with Dave Arneson of the Dungeons and Dragons game, was born on this day in 1938.

Gary Gygax and Arneson created a game that provided me with untold hours of entertainment, a game that introduced me to great literature (and horrible drivel), a game that helped me form life long friendships. Because of this man's creation, my life (and many others) were made better and more enjoyable. I am extremely grateful to Gary.

Gary Gygax Memorial Day seems the perfect time to share Gary stories of gaming goodness and fun.  It seems that every gamer worth his or her salt has a Gary Gygax story, and I envy those that do their stories. I have no "when I met Gary story." Instead, I have a when I "almost" met Gary story.

You April of 2007 I was on a trip for work in eastern Wisconsin -- Racine to be specific, and I decided I wanted to do two things. First, I wanted to watch a baseball game in Wrigley field. I am a huge Cubs fan, and there is no better place to watch baseball. Second, I wanted to tour Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, the birthplace of gaming in America. Trust me. Whether you play modern boardgames, video games, collectible card games, or role playing games, the game you are playing likely has some connection to the gaming movement started in that small Wisconsin town.

So I drove to Lake Geneva and toured all of the locations that once housed the offices of TSR, the company that published D&D. Then finally, I stood in front of what I believed to be Gary's house and took about 10 pictures from across the street. It was relatively early in the evening and I contemplated walking up to the door and knocking, just to tell Gary how much entertainment his game has provided me over the past three decades. I walked up to the cars parked in front of the house (pictured below), but then I thought..."what if it is the wrong house?"

What if I walk up to the door, knock and ask for Gary and it's the wrong house? What if it's the right house? What kind of crazy stalker gamer knocks on a game designer's door uninvited?

So...I walked to the library, took a couple of pictures of the beautiful lake, walked around the small downtown area, and left. I was angry at myself for not emailing/message boarding Gary earlier, or later, and I promised myself that I would do so when I next traveled to the Wisconsin or Chicago area.

That day cannot come now.

While I am sad about that, today is not a day of sadness.  It is a day of remembrance and celebration.  So let me share with you a couple of pictures from a D&D Encounters session I ran last night at Emerald Knights Comics and Games.  These pictures show the real gift that Gary and Dave gave to the world.  They gave us  a tool with which to build community and have a good time.  Gary might not have liked the 4th Edition of the D&D game, but I think he would be happy to see the enjoyment these gamers had last night.

A little pre-game discussion.
Did Christian actually bring a character sheet for Miles Edgeworth?

It looks like the Kobold Wizard Speelock is in a bit of trouble.

Can his companions help him out, or will the Drow win the day?

Later this month, I'll make my group endure a small reading from one of the books Gygax wrote. We all need to push through a little Gygaxian prose every now and then. Maybe I'll open up "Master of the Game," or read the introduction to the Player's Handbook (1st edition) one more time. That introduction made me feel like I was part of something special, even before I rolled my first die.

It also seems like a good time to make a donation to the Gygax Memorial Fund.


JuhnDonn said...

Just started daughter in on our first D&D session last week. We're doing Pathfinder beginners box for now, as I want to train her in DM'ing for her friends and it's laid out pretty well. Once I find my OD&D books in storage, will have to take her on a ride in the way back machine.

Christian Lindke said...

The Pathfinder beginner's box is one of the best introductory products out there, especially with regards to how it is laid out and its ease of use.

As much as I like 4e, the "Red Box Redux" wasn't as useful a product. Not even close. The DM Kit for Essentials is pretty good, but that doesn't contain enough to play by itself. Wizards could have done a better intro product and they should have looked to the old Moldvay/Cook books to see how.