The internet’s been abuzz today with the news of Gary Gygax’s passing. From heartfelt tributes to postings expressing shock and sadness on message boards where gamers congregate. For many, it’s almost as if a family member or a trusted friend has died.
I never met Gary Gygax, even though he played an enormous role in shaping me into the man—the writer—I am today. As a kid, REH, JRR Tolkien, and Dungeons and Dragons formed my triumvirate of inspiration. I learned about sword-and-sorcery from REH; Tolkien showed me the heart of epic fantasy. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, creators of D&D, taught me to use everything I’d learned, to pull together tropes from myth and fiction in order to create a shared experience, a participatory novel. If books provided the fertilizer for my imagination, Dungeons and Dragons became the trellis on which I grew wondrous things.
As I’ve said here before, I started playing D&D when I was 11. I’ll be 41 this year, and I still remember my first adventure—The Keep on the Borderlands. The game gave me and my friends something to do on the weekends, something besides the usual buffet of delinquency that can arise from rural boredom. I never drank or did drugs, never went to raucous parties or cruised around the Square. Nope. I was too busy rolling the funky dice and keeping my half-elf thief alive.
My school friends drifted away over the years, much to my chagrin, but the game brought new players, new friends. I met Kris Reisz and Wayne Miller (he of Abused, Unused and Recycled fame) while DM-ing a game some 15 years ago; when our normal venue went tits-up that same year, we moved the game to the comic shop run by Josh Olive (who comments here on occasion). Darren Cox, who DM’s my current gaming group, came in back then with a sheaf of artwork (we’d advertised for a comic artist—it’s a long story) and sat in on a few games. ALL of my most enduring friendships happened because Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson decided to tweak a set of tabletop wargaming rules called Chainmail into a game involving dragons, elves, underground lairs, treasure, odd-shaped dice . . . and friends.
So tonight, Gentle Readers, I join gamers everywhere in saying: God bless you, Gary, and thank you for the years of adventure, intrigue, and friendship you’ve given us.
If you’d like to send your regards and well wishes to the Gygax family, their friends have set up an email account at InMemoryOfGaryGygax@gmail.com.