Gary Gygax, RIP

Gary Gygax died today.

Gygax was one of the creators of Dungeons & Dragons, a game that pretty much saved my life when I was a kid.

I first heard about D&D at the grade school bus stop. Some older kids were talking about a game involving wizards and dragons, and I couldn’t contain my excitement. “Tell me about it,” I begged. “It’s great,” the kid said. “When you get to eighteenth level, you can cast Power Word: Death!”

I had no idea what he was talking about, but it didn’t matter. I bought the D&D boxed set when I was twelve and taught myself to play. I bought the Advanced D&D books. I read Dragon Magazine. I created a suitcase full of characters and drew character portraits for all of them. I dreamed about dragons and memorized monster statistics.

When I got to high school, I hit the jackpot. I fell in with a small group of friends and we started our first real campaign. Rylin Whitefall, cavalier, became my alter-ego for almost four years. I still have notebooks filled with sketches, photos, coat-of-arms, and descriptions of her adventures. We played every weekend, usually in someone’s basement. We drank Coke and ate outselves sick on potato chips and M&Ms. We had marathon sessions on the weekends, whenever our parents would let us. We escaped high school and found a place full of adventure and meaning.

I kept playing in college, every Friday night and sometimes during the week. I made new friends, rolled new characters, and explored new worlds. I even took a turn developing a campaign during my senior year, and I still mine that huge notebook for story ideas whenever I can. (“Lady Blade,” my story forthcoming in Japanese Dreams, comes from that world, as does one of the main characters in my current WIP Above World.) I played in D&D tournaments, I led role-playing sessions at cons, and I never stopped loving the game.

Believe it or not, the years after college were actually my best in terms of gaming. Two multi-year campaigns produced my favorite characters and gave me some of the best gaming memories. Oh, the stories I could tell! And I have the notebooks to back ’em up. Someday, those characters will find their way into my fiction.

My fiction. That’s what eventually suppressed my ability to play D&D. I could not continue to put so much creative energy into my games and keep enough of it for my writing. D&D slowly faded into the background as I began writing, and the rest is history.

Sure, I’ve played dozens of other role-playing games through the years, and had many joyful campaigns and evenings of fun. But Dungeons & Dragons…there are no words that do justice to its impact on my life. It’s such a huge part of who I am, and I’m proud of it. Someday I’ll do one of those “Everything I need to know, I learned playing D&D” entries because, seriously, I learned more playing that game than you could possibly imagine.

Does anyone remember that episode of X-Files with the kid who played D&D? He said,

You don’t play Dungeons and Dragons for as long as I have without learning a little something about courage.

Thank you, Mr. Gygax.


Comments

Rick 9 years ago .

Ah, Rylin. How I envied your adventures, even as I lived my own…

;)

Rest in peace, Mr. Gygax, but not for long… your adventures in the underworld are about to begin!

    Jenn Reese 9 years ago .

    Don't think for a minute that I could ever forget Xetious… even if I can't remember how to spell his name. How I envied your adventures!!

    But there will always be a soft spot in my heart for Hsthth… even if I can't remember how to spell his name, either.

domynoe 9 years ago .

I can so relate to this. And am so stunned.

Rest in peace indeed, Gygax.

    Jenn Reese 9 years ago .

    I loved your journal entry. Let's raise a D12 together and toast to the memories. :)

Michael 9 years ago .

As I had the pleasure of adventuring with Rylin for many a year, and I can truthfully say without reservation that D&D was one of the only things that kept me sane during a less than happy adolescence. Remember when the party split up and we all had to have separate sessions with Eddie the DM for several weeks? I fabricated school events so I could go play D&D in the back of my parents car quite a few times. Yes, the back of your parent car can be used for other things too…;) Yay geeks!

!

Sometimes I think it would be nice to pick it up again, but I know it would be hard to beat my memories of having such an amazing pool of role-players involved as we did back then. D&D is the reason I don't understand the appeal of repetitive and rigid games like World of Warcraft.

Rick (see comment above) played with us a few times as I remember. I still have my characters folder/notebook around somewhere too. Tells you something about the impact it had on our lives. I never found out what the prophecy meant either… ha ha

    Jenn Reese 9 years ago .

    I think it's safe to say that I'll never ever forget our adventures together. I don't know how I would have ever survived those years without D&D and friends like you. It's a bond that can never be broken. After all, I know T's real name. :-D

    World of Warcraft is nothing compared to D&D and a good 'ol campaign. But on the other hand, it doesn't sap my creative energy, so I can play and still write. It's also a great way to hang out with my friends across the country. Sometimes I log in just for the pun wars.

Chris 9 years ago .

great post. I have been reminiscing about my introduction to D&D all day. Gary has given us the ability to create adventures that never end.

    Jenn Reese 9 years ago .

    Thanks, Chris. I'm glad you enjoyed the post — Most people don't like reading about other people's D&D adventures, but I just couldn't help myself this time. If only for Gygax's memory. :)

Carolyn 9 years ago .

Alas, I'm a bit behind on your journal entries, Jenn, but thanks for the most appropos comments on D&D! Our campaigns still provide many fond memories. Since I don't game anymore, I just write Rhenna/Alpadrin stories. =)

Mike, would you accept Wollsi's blessings?

    Michael 9 years ago .

    Whoa! Selidra (sp?)! Where have you been, on a vision quest? get in touch, would be nice to catch up! Just noticed this today, been wasting time with Scrabulous on facebook. Sorry for the off topic post Jenn!

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