Gary Gygax Dungeons & Dragons co-creator dies at 69

Discussion in 'Off-topic Zone' started by Duane, Mar 4, 2008.

  1. Duane

    Duane Well-Known Member

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    MILWAUKEE - Gary Gygax, who co-created the fantasy game Dungeons & Dragons and helped start the role-playing phenomenon, died Tuesday morning at his home in Lake Geneva. He was 69.

    He had been suffering from health problems for several years, including an abdominal aneurysm, said his wife, Gail Gygax.

    Gygax and Dave Arneson developed Dungeons & Dragons in 1974 using medieval characters and mythical creatures. The game known for its oddly shaped dice became a hit, particularly among teenage boys, and eventually was turned into video games, books and movies.

    Gygax always enjoyed hearing from the game's legion of devoted fans, many of whom would stop by the family's home in Lake Geneva, about 55 miles southwest of Milwaukee, his wife said. Despite his declining health, he hosted weekly games of Dungeons & Dragons as recently as January, she said.

    "It really meant a lot to him to hear from people from over the years about how he helped them become a doctor, a lawyer, a policeman, what he gave them," Gail Gygax said. "He really enjoyed that."

    Dungeons & Dragons players create fictional characters and carry out their adventures with the help of complicated rules. The quintessential geek pastime, it spawned a wealth of copycat games and later inspired a whole genre of computer games that's still growing in popularity.

    Born Ernest Gary Gygax, he grew up in Chicago and moved to Lake Geneva at the age of 8. Gygax's father, a Swiss immigrant who played violin in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, read fantasy books to his only son and hooked him on the genre, Gail Gygax said.

    Gygax dropped out of high school but took anthropology classes at the University of Chicago for a while, she said. He was working as an insurance underwriter in the 1960s, when he began playing war-themed board games.

    But Gygax wanted to create a game that involved more fantasy. To free up time to work on that, he left the insurance business and became a shoe repairman, she said.

    Gygax also was a prolific writer and wrote dozens of fantasy books, including the Greyhawk series of adventure novels.

    Gary Sandelin, 32, a Manhattan attorney, said his weekly Dungeons & Dragons game will be a bit sadder on Wednesday night because of Gygax's passing. The beauty of the game is that it's never quite the same, he said.

    Funeral arrangements are pending. Besides his wife, Gygax is survived by six children.
  2. zrinkill

    zrinkill Diamond surrounded by trash

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    4th edition is coming out in May.

    He will be missed by us nerds
  3. Yeagermeister

    Yeagermeister Active Member

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    I may be a bit of a computer nerd but thankfully I can say I was never a D&D nerd. :geek:
  4. Sasquatch

    Sasquatch Lost in the Woods

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    Are there any high-level clerics in the house? :D

  5. gollum

    gollum Member

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    One of the funniest things I've ever heard! :lmao:

    D&D is one of those games you either get it or you don't. Glad I was around for the beginning.
  6. Duane

    Duane Well-Known Member

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    I haven't played in 25 years but I still have some of the old rule books from the 70s.
  7. gollum

    gollum Member

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    Me too...even the basic set before AD&D came out. A few years ago, I bought the 3rd edition(didn't know they had a 2nd one) for a collectable item. Today I'm finding out that there's a 4th edition coming out and I never got try the 3rd...LOL.

    I've kind of moved over to the PC genre which so many people have no clue where it got its roots from.
  8. jksmith269

    jksmith269 Proud Navy Veteran 1990-1995

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    The original books can be worth some money depending on the condition...
  9. AbeBeta

    AbeBeta Well-Known Member

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    I hate to admit that when I saw the name, I recognized it immediately.

    I am so much cooler than 14 year old abersonc.
  10. Wolfpack

    Wolfpack Well-Known Member

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    Still play once in awhile. Big part of growing up...thanks Gary!
  11. AmarilloCowboyFan

    AmarilloCowboyFan Well-Known Member

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    that is absolutely terrible.

    I was a huge D&D nerd in the day of paper and pen and still am today.


    ROMOSAPIEN9 Proud Grandpa

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    Never played any D&D at all. Had a couple books back in the 80's, just never met anyone else interested.
  13. Zaxor

    Zaxor Virtus Mille Scuta

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    Same here..or there about.. I guess 1982 or 1983 was the last go round...we all got transfered to different Army Posts :( It was a great time while it lasted.
  14. jterrell

    jterrell Penguinite

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    It was a lot of fun playing with real life friends who are all now spread all over the place. Good times. Nerdy, but good.

    Our DM was a rock musician and he was very weird, lol. 6'6" about 120 pounds and that dude was always killing one of us off, rofl.
  15. zrinkill

    zrinkill Diamond surrounded by trash

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    I still play every other weekend.


    The monster in my sig was a creation of Gary Gygax.

    Sure am gonna miss reading his guest articles.
  16. mr.jameswoods

    mr.jameswoods Active Member

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    I had the Marvel comics version in 1986 which was made by TSR the same company that makes D&D. I played it once and it was pretty fun. However, the person who was the judge/DM got kinda screwed because he had to make up all this stuff while we got to roll the dice and play.

    I'm the geeky version of a Renaissance man. I like video games, sci-fi movies, animated movies, RPG's and comics. I'm a jack of all trades and a master of none. The problem is I no longer have time for all those interests so now I just watch movies, tv and will occasionally pick up a comic. I don't play video games any longer. The games are too complicated and you need a book and tons of time to master them.
  17. gollum

    gollum Member

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    I saw this posted today

    Farewell to the Dungeon Master
    How D&D creator Gary Gygax changed geekdom forever.
    By Jonathan Rubin
    Posted Thursday, March 6, 2008, at 12:17 PM ET

    Gary Gygax was the salvation and curse of nerds worldwide. The co-founder of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise, who passed away on Tuesday at 69, created a form of fantasy escapism that you could share with others. D&D unified geeks, giving them accoutrements (multisided dice, colored figurines) and a language that bound them together. It was a secret club of sorts, a playground where social outcasts could be themselves and vent over life's frustrations. That wasn't always a good thing—playing Dungeons & Dragons didn't generally lead to activities like going outside or talking to girls. Still, a caffeine-fueled marathon D&D session was a place where your geeky tendencies were something to be celebrated rather than an affliction to be overcome.

    Yes, we all knew, deep inside, that D&D wasn't cool. Being able to say, "I cast a Level 3 lightning bolt at the basilisk while averting my eyes so I don't turn to stone" doesn't have the social pull of "I know a guy who will buy us some alcohol." Even despite the social stigma, millions of people, me included, wouldn't have made it through adolescence without Dungeons & Dragons. A dedicated bookworm, I devoured D&D's rule books. It was more important for me to know how to repel the undead or make a flesh golem than to watch baseball or learn karate. Becoming a dungeon master, the equivalent of a Ph.D. in geekery, gave me a sense of mastery and accomplishment, not to mention my first real leadership experience.

    Gygax thought a gaming experience wasn't complete without a good group of people to play with. He co-founded the International Federation of Wargamers in 1966. A year later, the first meeting of Gen Con—now a huge gaming convention—was held in his basement. In 1974, Gygax and his collaborator Dave Arneson published the Fantasy Game, later renamed Dungeons & Dragons.

    The game Gygax created is easy to describe but difficult to imagine. My D&D pals and I basically sat around a table "role-playing"—i.e., pretending to be people with more interesting lives. Using dice and figurines, we brought to life the fictional characters we'd created on paper. Like life, Dungeons & Dragons doesn't have specific goals. The game never quite ends. Rather, you choose your path, grow, and suffer setbacks. Sometimes you have to start all over. Most of the game takes place in your head, with the dungeon master acting as referee and director. He sets the scene by describing what your character sees or, in the case of a spear thrust into your neck, feels.

    The genius of D&D is the way it parcels out rules and fantasy. The game tethers the imagination just enough to keep you focused on an imaginary world (main goal: slaying nasty things for profit) without putting limits on what you could do inside that world. Dungeons & Dragons is like the greatest Etch A Sketch on earth: It gives you the tools to create whatever you want.

    While D&D certainly encourages creativity, the ingredients Gygax conjured weren't exactly original. The game's stew of swords, sorcery, and mythological beasts was mostly appropriated from pulp writers and fantasy greats like H.P. Lovecraft and J.R.R. Tolkien. Gygax's skill in integrating fantasies, however, was unparalleled—the world of D&D may have medieval trappings, but its creatures were unbound by time or place. He took monsters from every culture and folklore, from the Greek Pegasus to the Japanese Kirin dragon to the Egyptian sphinx, and made them coexist in a single aggregate world.

    Gygax was responsible for creating or adapting the game's spells, races, and character classes (cleric, fighter, etc.). Perhaps his essential contribution was to develop a way to translate physical characteristics into numbers. An American Gladiator, for example, might have a "strength" of 18, while a Woody Allen-like character might have a four. In combining math and fantasy, Gygax engineered a cocktail that no geek could resist. It was also his idea to create "levels" and "experience points," allowing a character to become more skilled as you spend more time with the game. This idea made the game impossibly addictive and helped yield $1 billion in worldwide sales (according to the BBC), scores of books, miniature sets, board games, a cartoon show, and a pretty crummy movie.

    D&D fans were often super fans. Many painted their own figurines, went to conventions dressed up as orcs, or spent nights and weekends gaming. As opposed to other geeky addictions, though, this one was social (kind of). While it might have been socially detrimental to be known as the best dungeon master in all of middle school, it's also true that some people just don't fit in very well. D&D can provide a social outlet and a way to kick *** without being afraid of getting your *** kicked. Running a D&D campaign took a lot of paperwork, a lot of organization, and a lot of focus. I spent hours creating creatures, towns, and dungeons that that I didn't always end up using. I liked some of these scenarios so much I turned them into stories, and these experiences were one reason I decided to become a writer.

    While Dungeons & Dragons has been a source of inspiration for innumerable people in the last three decades, none of Gygax's post-D&D projects proved particularly successful. Quarrels with staff led to his departure from his company, Tactical Studies Rules, in 1985. Both he and TSR failed to take the lead in the newest role-playing sensations, most notably video games (some of the D&D games did well, but Gygax's online RPG Lejendary Adventure Online never got off the ground) and collectible card games (TSR was eventually bought by Wizards of the Coast, owner of the mega-successful Magic: The Gathering franchise).

    Some people have blamed Gygax's failings on the fact that he was always more gamer than businessman. He grew unhappy with later versions of D&D, declaring them "rule intensive" and more focused on singular achievements than group cooperation. Perhaps his purist belief in an anything-goes fantasy world became out of fashion in the greedy 1980s and disaffected 1990s. For whatever reason, people grew more interested in turning their characters into godlike beings and got less focused on the intricacies of team play. (Sort of like the NBA.)

    Despite his late-career failings, Gygax's innovations have continued to spread. In creating the greatest nerd hobby of all time, he built the foundation of every future role-playing game. His idea to assign numbers for health, armor, stamina, and magic has also provided the backbone for innumerable video games, including the Final Fantasy series and the blockbuster World of Warcraft. Wherever geeks cluster, whether playing a Pokemon card game or a video game like Oblivion, they're playing by the rules that Gary Gygax laid out. It's fitting that through Gygax's creativity and inspired descendents, the realm of nerddom has found eternal life.
  18. BrAinPaiNt

    BrAinPaiNt Backwoods Sexy Staff Member

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    I was a D&D nerd for a short time back in the day.
  19. Sasquatch

    Sasquatch Lost in the Woods

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    Loved the amateurish nature of the original game art. It all feels a bit too corporate and gentrified now, more fantasy than occult.

    Thanks for the memories, Gary.

  20. zrinkill

    zrinkill Diamond surrounded by trash

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    I still have that book.

    That is on page 42 right after Gargoyle and right before Gelatinous Cube.


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