Jenn Reese Writer, Artist, Geek

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.

About the author

Jenn Reese


  • 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!

    • 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.

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

  • 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

    • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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. :)

  • 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?

    • 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!

By Jenn Reese
Jenn Reese Writer, Artist, Geek

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