Saturday, March 22, 2008

Gary Gygax

RIP Gary Gygax. I know it's been almost 3 weeks since his death, but it's truly taken me this long to process the loss. I didn't think it would hit me so hard, but his works have been such a large part of my life for so many years. I started playing Advanced D&D in 1978, and began running my own game in 1980. I've been playing in the same campaign, with many of the same people, ever since.

My old, well-worn Players Handbook

I remember my first game. I was standing in for a friend who couldn't make it, playing his dwarf fighter, Tac-nuke. I had no idea what I was doing, but quickly grasped the concepts of movement and attack. We were assaulting 'The Steading of the Hill Giant Chief', and swarmed into the giant's banquet hall. I had my little dwarf run under the head table, attacking from underneath. The tactic turned out to be quite effective, as I was difficult to both see and hit under there, but could attack with impunity.

The rules of the game were both general and specific enough to cover an eventuality such as hiding under the table, and the potential for restrained chaos in any situation was so enormous as to be perfect for someone with a huge imagination. Even odd situations were covered, such as the Potion Miscibility table in The Dungeon Master's Guide. This table covers the possible results of mixing several magical potions, ranging from no effect to huge explosion. The effects of a potion could be made permanent by this process, too, as one of my players found out. His Ranger was permanently expanded in size to 18 feet tall. His belongings were also expanded, such that he was equipped just as before, except he was effectively a giant. This had both advantages and disadvantages. He was a formidable fighter, but of limited use in a dungeon adventure, and when the characters took an ocean trip he required a barge of his own, towed behind the players ship.

My custom Secondary Skills table. Typed (with a typewriter), on tractor-feed computer paper. A true geek artifact.

Over the years I've played Advanced D&D with two generations, always relying on Gary Gygax's works as the basis of my campaign. I've never liked subsequent versions that he wasn't involved with. There are quite a lot of tributes to Gary, he had a huge influence on geek culture. I think, however, that if he was named 'Smith', his influence might have been less. Who among us hasn't run into a magic item with the command word 'Gygax'?

Here's a compilation of tributes from all around the net:

Full Frontal Nerdity

Order of the Stick

Something Positive

User Friendly

Woot Blog


GU Comics

Simulated Comic Product

And of course: Gary Gygax Memorial Cat

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