In Memoriam: Gary Gygax

Photograph of Gary Gygax taken at en:Gen Con Indy 2007 on en:2007-08-16. Gygax is standing in the en:Troll Lord Games booth (booth 515). The photograph was taken by and is copyright 2007 by the uploader, Alan De Smet. The photograph is multi-licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 and 3.0 licenses
Gary Gygax at en:Gen Con Indy 2007 photo copyright Alan De Smet. Multi-licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 and 3.0 licenses

Like millions of other fantasy and SF fans around the world, time to pay tribute to Dungeons & Dragons co-creator Gary Gygax (photographed here at GenCon in 2007 by Alan De Smet), who died this week aged 69 at his home in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

He had apparently sufffered health problems for the last few years.

Surely there cannot be many people in the western world who grew up or who was at University in the 1980s who did not in some way come into contact with Gary’s fantasy roleplaying creation: I certainly did, whiling away many Sunday afternoons (and evenings) sitting around a table exploring and creating imaginary worlds populated with all manner of strange beast, from orcs, goblins and dwarves to gods and, of course, dragons (although you should never, in my opinion, over use dragons. When they turn up in a game it should alway be a momentous event).

Dungeons & Dragons had its origins in Chainmail, a miniatures wargame based on Elastolin figures which Gygax devised with Jeff Perren in 1971, as he recounts in this interview on UGO. Prior to this, Gygax’s devotion to gaming had led him to organise a convention in his basement in 1967, attended by a hanful of people which today has grown into the GenCon event which now attracts tens of thousands of gamers each year.

Dave Arneson [the co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons]… started a Chainmail campaign where all the players each had one figure,” Gary recounts, “and he brought that style of game down to Lake Geneva to show me. I said, ‘Wow, that’s really cool’. So out of his inspiration, I created the D&D rules.

Dungeons & Dragons was first published in 1974 by the Gygax-owned company Tactical Studies Rules, Inc. Its publication is widely regarded as the beginning of modern role-playing games and, by extension, the entire role-playing game industry. It became an instant success, played by over 20 million people worldwide, and inspired many other rpgs, comics, countless video games, books and films.

“The essence of a role-playing game is that it is a group, cooperative experience,” Gygax said in 2006. “There is no winning or losing, but rather the value is in the experience of imagining yourself as a character … You get to sort of vicariously experience those things.”

Gary Gygax also wrote many fantasy books, including the Greyhawk series of novels.

Gary Gygax’s widow Gail said that her late husband’s father read fantasy books that sparked his son’s fascination with the subject from which he was to draw inspiration for his own creative career.

Today, Dungeons & Dragons is is currently published by Wizards of the Coast, a division of Hasbro. In a posting on the offcial D&D web site Wizards of the Coast describe Gary as one of the creators of an entirely new type of hobby that attracts millions of players worldwide to face-to-face and online roleplaing games.

“Gary was a grand storyteller renowned for his unique style, sprawling “Gygaxian” adventures, and the fantastic world of Greyhawk. He inspired generations of players, and authors, and he will be sorely missed by legions of fans.”

Thanks for introducing the world to the chance rolls of D20s and the D6s, Gary. You will be much missed.

UGO Interview with Gary Gygaz
Gary Gygax’ Gaming Legacy (Posting on gaming news site Kotaku)
Tributes to Gary Gygax on
• Brad King and John Borland’s excellent 2003 book Dungeons and Dreamers. The book explores gaming from those early days in Wisconsin up to today’s massive online communities.

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