It is a sad day in all of geekdom... Gary Gygax, the creator of Dungeons and Dragons, has passed at the age of 69.
I would write something myself, but it would just be rehashing what others have already said. Instead, I give you this fitting and totally loving tribute by The Underground Revolutionaries.
Gary Gygax Passes On
By the UnderGround Revolutionaries
The original Dungeon Master, Gary Gygax, has died. For those of you not familiar with the man, he is the creator of Dungeons & Dragons. As I write this, it is unknown how he passed. I'm going to assume he failed his saving throw against dragon breath. I also like to think that somewhere in the nether-realms, a battle for his immortal soul is being waged between the fell armies of Hez'rugoth, the Balor Arch-Duke of Bloodswill and the angelic forces of Silvergold the Favored Son. Be brave, Gary Gygax! You will soon be cradled in the bosom of the All-Mother. May Lord Ao watch over you.
Gary Gygax published the first edition of Dungeons & Dragons in 1974. Gygax and his buddies were table-top war gamers and in an effort to personalize their armies, they developed a method to expand their characters through math and storytelling. They invented the whole pen-and-paper role-playing phenomenon and their contribution to nerd-dom not only changed the way games are played, it added a mythos of monsters and heroes that ranks up there with the pantheons of Marvel Comics and the Star Wars Universe. Culling elements from numerous fantasy sources, the system created by Arneson and Gygax would lay the foundation for role-playing hobbyists around the world.
Dungeons&Dragons is pure heavy metal. Heavy metal would have never have of taken off if it wasn't for angry parents and the same goes for Dungeons & Dragons. The first rule of awesomeness is if it makes your parents uncomfortable, scared or upset, then it's probably awesome. Hence, D&D is awesome. The game received a huge boost in the public consciousness when it was deemed Satanic by uninformed parents in the 1970s and early '80s. Without that sense of taboo, many a nerdling would have never rolled a single dodecahedron. Look at the cover of the original Dungeon Master's Guide. It has a red, almost naked giant devil holding a blonde, almost naked warrior chick in his hand. The naked red devil also has a giant sword. That is pure heavy metal devil awesomeness.
What those parents (and the mainstream media, who never saw the game as anything more than an opportunity for sensationalist alarmism) were missing was the way in which Dungeons & Dragons brought people together and helped them develop important skills. Everyone talks about sports and the way in which they build character and develop socialization, but nobody ever gives D&D enough credit for uniting and educating the nerds of the world. To play D&D, you had to have an active imagination. You had to deal with math, creative writing, and the solving of complex puzzles and problems. You had to learn to work together in teams. And nothing got across the random nature of life and the need to be able to deal with hard knocks and disappointment better than one bad roll of the 20-sided die. Most importantly, everlasting friendships were forged over graph-paper maps, fold-out charts and reams of character sheets; all tools that gave many who might not otherwise have had the best communication skills a common language to speak and a way to relate to one another. When you met a fellow D&D player, you knew immediately that you stood on common ground. For a lot of kids (and, let's face it, no shortage of adults), the value of that kind of thing cannot be underestimated.
Of course, the legacy of Dungeons & Dragons isn't just emotional. Without Gary Gygax's contribution to mankind, we wouldn't have the video game RPGs of today, as the earliest examples of the form were directly inspired by pen-and-paper role-playing. No Mass Effect, no Final Fantasy, no World of Warcraft, no Everquest. There would be no Magic the Gathering. There would be no Shadowrun or Vampire: the Masquerade, no Ravenloft, no Rifts, no G.U.R.P.S.. Nerds worldwide might not have ever advanced past chess. The dude invented going up levels. He invented hit points, armor class and critical hits. All these concepts are born from Dungeons & Dragons and are cornerstones of modern gaming. From D&D came AD&D, the Monsters Manual and millions of hours of enjoyment for hundreds of thousands of people around the world. Finally, I would never have had the opportunity to purchase a +5 Shirt of Invisibility or a coffee mug that reads "Potion of Greater Restoration."
Thank you, Gary Gygax. Without you, there would be no Gelatinous Cubes, Rust Monsters, Displacer Beasts, Lurkers Above, Mimics, Githyanki, Githzerai, Mind Flayers, Umber Hulks, Archons, Beholders, Drow, Owlbears, Gnolls, Kobolds, Jon Irenicus, Drizzt, Slaads, Black Puddings, Green Jellies, Warforged, Ankhegs, Liches, Water Weirds, Tiamt, Platinum Dragons, Tieflings, Assymars, Ogre Magi, Baatezu, Iron Golems, Winter Wolves, Psuedodragons, Elminster, Hook Horrors, Effreeti, Eyes of the Deep, Xvarts, Bone Nagas, Ice Giants, Stone Giants, Fire Giants, Cloud Giants, Hill Giants, all Giantkin not mentioned herein and Grells. No d20s, magic missiles, knock spells, saving throws or any of it.
I will now be observing a 1D4+6 moment of silence for the grandfather of modern geekiness.
Goodbye, Gary. Without you, Doctor Z. would not be the man I am today and I most likely would have probably gotten laid a whole lot more in high school.
Requiescat In Pace, Gary.