It's a sad day for gamers around the world, as Gary Gygax, the creator of Dungeons and Dragons and the man considered the father of the role-playing game, passed away today. He was 69.
When I heard the news, I was surprised by how sad I felt. Although I haven't played the game in many years, it was a big part of my life when I was younger. I still remember the excitement when I saw that red box on the shelf at the toy store in the Foothills Mall. It had an epic picture of a fighter about to engage in a fierce battle with a dragon perched on huge pile of gold and it immediately captured my imagination. I'd heard of D&D before and knew a couple kids that played it, but I had not seen it in person until that moment. I learned from the box that it was a game played in your mind and that you became an active participant, like an actor in a story...AND it had these cool looking dice with all kinds of weird shapes. For a shy, bookworm-ish Junior High kid, this sounded perfect! I went home, scrounged together my money and rode my bike as fast as I could back to the store to buy that set. Little did I know then that it would be my introduction to the fabulous worlds of role-playing.
A short time later, I met some guys that played Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. Whoa...these were the cool kids (haha...pretty funny when you think back...they were of course the über-nerds to the rest of the school). When I saw the hardcover rulebooks, I was enthralled. There were tables galore and rules to govern every bit of action you could imagine. I was in geek heaven! From that point on I considered myself an AD&D player and spent a good amount of my money purchasing books, adventures, supplements and dice. Oh the dice...in so many cool colors and finishes!
I played Dungeons and Dragons with a core set of friends most of the way through high school (yeah...not a whole lot of dates among our group! :-) It was a great way to spend our spare time and kept us out of trouble. In addition, in my quest to learn as much as I could about the medieval period and to become a top-notch player and DM, I was exposed to a ton of great learning material. I'm convinced that I became a better writer, enjoyed history more and even loved my statistics classes (hmmm...I am a freak!) because of my involvement with the game.
Gary Gygax was the man that invented this craze that kept me penniless (and dateless) for so long, but when I think back to all those games, they were some of the most fun I've ever had. He was also a superbly imaginative writer and all around great person who continued contributing to the hobby all the way up to his death.
So...I failed my saving throw vs. sadness today when I heard about his passing. Here's to Gary. Thanks for all the good times!
Update: What a great tribute at Penny Arcade!
Update 2: Have I completely scared you off with my geekiness yet? :-D