Tuesday, March 04, 2008

E. Gary Gygax RIP

Gary Gygax, the creator of the Dungeons and Dragons role playing game, died today at age 69.
I actually got to meet Mr. Gygax back during the summer of 1983 and got his autograph when I attended the GenCon gaming convention in Lake Geneva, Wis. with my friend Jim Miller.
My friends and I were big into D&D when I was in high school. My friend Robert introduced me to the game when I was a freshman or sophomore and we played pretty regularly until we all left for college.
D&D has gotten a bad rap over the years from fundamentalist churches and that lame TV movie that starred Tom Hanks and so forth, but I have to say that for a kid growing up in small-town South Texas it was a godsend. Back before we had home computers and VCRs and cable TV, there just wasn’t much for young teens to do in the evenings. Rather than driving around town, cruising the local Dairy Queen, drinking beer and generally getting into trouble, my friends and I would gather at someone’s house, sit around a card table with a big bowl of popcorn and play D&D until late in the evening.
The game was complex and had lots of rules, but was otherwise very low-tech and required little more than the rule books, some pencils, paper and special dice. When we started, we didn’t even have dice and had to use little cardboard chits with numbers that we would keep in styrofoam cups. I remember when we finally got the special 20-sided, 12-sided and 8-sided dice it was very exciting. Back then, finding D&D games and accessories meant searching through the back corners of old hobby shops that mostly catered to people who built models and train sets. The closest one to us was in Kingsville more than 30 miles away.
Today, the game has been taken over by computers. Whereas it used to require gathering all your friends together to play a decent game, you can now play all by yourself in front of your computer, sometimes with other people half a wold away sitting in front of their computers. It’s just not the same.
I still have all my D&D books and stuff at home, packed away in a closet somewhere. Maybe when my kids are old enough and if they show any interest I might drag it all out and hopefully the magic will still work at that point. All it takes is a little imagination.

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