As we all know by now, Gary Gygax passed away last week. When I initially heard the news, I was shocked and found blog after blog paying tribute to him. I’ve spent the past several days trying to find something that I can say that would express how I feel about his contribution to the fantasy gaming world, something that could be said that hundreds before me haven’t already expressed and there is nothing else that I can say. I know virtually nothing about Mr. Gygax, except that he helped create one of the greatest games in the world, Dungeons & Dragons. I haven’t played Dungeons & Dragons since 1994, but it’s impact has left a major mark on my life.
In 1985, my family moved to Pocatello, ID. I was in sixth grade. I had grown up on a small dairy farm less than an hour north of Bear Lake. For any who know the Pocatello area, it’s a small town, but to a kid that grew up in a farming community of 500, it was a huge city. I was in sixth grade at the time and made a friend who’s family was into a game called Dungeons & Dragons. A small group of us banded together and he introduced us to a world of swords and sorcery.
Initially, I didn’t have a clue as to what we were doing. Although I’ve always had a vivid imagination, at the time I didn’t understand a lot of the terminology commonly associated with the fantasy genre. It was something to do and I did enjoy it some, but understood little of what we were actually doing.
In 1986, my family moved to Eugene, OR. Again, I met some friends that played D&D and knowing more about what was going on, began purchasing the books to read up to better understand how to play. This led to other games such as Palladium, TMNT: Road Hogs, GURPS, Car Wars, Robotech, Mech Warrior, etc. This also lead to an intense amount of reading, but only in the fantasy genre. I read Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, Weis & Hickman (other story lines such as Death Gate), David Eddings, Piers Anthony, and even later in life Robert Jordan and Harry Potter.
My family made several more moves over the next few years, once each year. Dungeons & Dragons was there to help me through it all. It may sound nerdy, but I was indeed one of the geeks. Every year being the new kid in a new school was tough. My sisters made the transition rather simply, but I was the shy one. D&D was a means of escape for me and an enjoyable past time that got me through some lonely times. Don’t misunderstand, I participated in school sports such as football and basketball, had a small handful of friends, but in the summers before school and after a move D&D often became my life.
As technology progressed and D&D made the transition to computers, I played all the original greats like Pool of Radiance, Hillsfar, Curse of the Azure Bonds, etc. It makes me wonder would World of Warcraft even exist without his contributions to fantasy gaming? This was easier than having to create my own adventures or use the store bought ones which required I knew what was out there and try to pretend that I didn’t.
Either way, Dungeons & Dragons and ultimately Gary Gygax had a large impact on my life. Without him, the shape of the fantasy gaming world would be largely different. Although I know virtually nothing about him, I give my thanks, along with millions of others, to Mr. Gygax and may he rest in peace, dicing in the heavens.
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