Tuesday, March 4, 2008

A legend is gone

T'was a sad day for me and the roleplaying community in general: Gary Gygax, co-founder of Dungeons and Dragons and the father of role-playing games, passed into the west at the age of 69.

The role-playing boards I frequent, including EN World, RPGnet, and Dragonsfoot, are full of threads about his passing. As I read them, I was struck at how many people this man touched. More than once I felt my eyes sting with tears.

My brush with the man came not in person--and I'm kicking myself hard for not making it to Gencon and shaking his hand--but over e-mail. Back on January 12, 2002, I sent Gary the following message. It sums up pretty much the impact D&D has had on my life:


As a longtime (18 years or so) player of Dungeons and Dragons, I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for creating the hobby that has been such a rewarding part of my life. I came across your name on the EN World boards and felt compelled to write.

D&D introduced me to a great new bunch of friends; it got me to read, inspired me to write (and think) creatively. I can't begin to tell you how many times I've referenced and read the old DM's guide, Player's Handbook and Monster Manual. Though AD&D has given way to new editions, I still turn to those great old tomes for inspiration and wonderful memories. In my opinion, they are still the best books the hobby has ever produced.

And your modules, especially the Against the Giants--Drow--Demonweb series, are still unsurpassed. I plan on converting them for 3E and running them for my current group. They will last forever.

Again, I thank you for your creative vision, and the courage to launch a hobby that has stood the test of time, the computer age, and even misguided religious fervor. You've made millions of people happy.

Brian Murphy

I honestly expected no reply, but just wanted to thank him for his labors in the hobby that he, for all intents and purposes, created. But, shock of all shocks, less than two hours later I recieved this reply:

Shucks, Brian...

Okay, thanks for those good words. You know I had a lot of fun both in writing and playing OA/D&D too, of course. Fact is, my love for writing and games burns as brightly as it did back in 1970 when I cut loose from the world of suits and "other business" to concentrate on what I wanted to do (^_^).

Come on back anytime,


I will save and treasure this simple message from Gygax, a man who changed my life for the better. I only wish I could break out a game of AD&D first edition tonight--perhaps the Tomb of Horrors--and honor him with a proper tribute.

But in the meantime, God speed Gary. I raise a tankard of ale in your honor.


Chris said...

Good writup, Brian. I'm amazed at how approachable and communicative he was with the fans. He answered every e-mail sent, and responded to every question in a message board post.

He will be missed...

Falze said...

Is any of his fiction worth reading?

Brian Murphy said...

Hey Chris, you're absolutely right about that. In fact, Gary kind of reminded me of Tolkien in that way: Throughout his life, Tolkien took the time to answer letters from us "regular" folks (except that Tolkien was writing before the days of e-mail and message boards). As I wrote about in some previous posts, it's amazing to me to see the time and genuine interest Tolkien poured into these letters to his readers.

As with Tolkien, my first thought with Gary was, why? Why would someone with his resume and an active writing schedule take the time to post at EN World, or respond to e-mails to geeks like me? I knew that Gary was heavily involved with Castle Gygax and other projects, and selfishly I wanted him to spend all his time finishing them.

But it's foolish of me to think that way. Gary answered letters and responded to questions on message boards because that's who he was, and he loved doing it. RPGs were not just art or a way to make a buck for Gary, they were his livelihood and his joy and he loved the social aspect of it as much as anything else (or so I gather).

So I salute him for being so approachable and friendly and willing to correspond with the fans. And as I said before, his e-mail to me is one that I'll never delete.

Brian Murphy said...

Hey Falze, I must say that I've never read any of Gygax's fiction, save for one short story that appeared in Dragon magazine back in the day ("At Moonset Blackcat Comes," I think it was called). I remember it as being pretty good.

Falze said...

16 Gary Gygax Jokes We Better Not Catch You Making


Rick said...

A sad day indeed. Nicely said Brian. Gary was certainly an interesting fellow. There is no doubt his work on the famous game was because he loved the game, and to game with people. I am as grateful as the next RPGer that he planted the seed and watered it with his unique mix of ideas, quirky tables, uneven rules and high language. Who will ever forget the random city encounter table - I rolled for a harlot and now let me see... is she a slovenly trull, brazen strumpet, cheap trollop, or a wanton wench? There are a number of touching and elegant tributes out there but I kind of like these two.

The mods game at the last GenCon

OOTS the tribute strip

godspeed Gary as you travel the many planes.

Brian Murphy said...

Agreed Rick. I think we should have some sort of tribute at our next game: Maybe a few rolls each on the wandering harlot table, or perhaps Arden will go into battle armed with a guisarme-voulge or a lucern hammer. I never did figure out what those were, but polearms were Gary's favorite, it seems :).

Rick said...

I have a couple of old paperback style books that have some of those old tyme pole arms in them. Remind me and you can browse them.

Even better the wandering harlot may have a Spetum, or perhaps a +1 Ranseur!