So farewell to E. Gary Gygax the father of the modern table-top role playing game and genre who passed away on Tuesday (the 4th). Probably most fondly remembered as the man behind ‘Dungeons & Dragons‘, ‘Advanced Dungeons & Dragons‘ and ‘TSR Inc.‘ (now incorporated into ‘Wizards of the Coast‘).
Probably no surprise that I spent a significant amount of time playing (and thinking) about role-playing games, mainly during my school years and just after, and that most of my school pals were members of the school RPG club, kindly hosted by Mr. Watkins, our Geography teacher.
I ‘got into’ RPG-ing almost as soon as I arrived at senior school (at eleven), in part because of the recently opened ‘Games Workshop‘ store. It had appeared, almost magically, like Mr. Benn‘s mysterious shop keeper, in the Pallasades part of the Bull Ring, over New Street Station. It was sort of opposite from the Hoover store, which was on the corner and the only place you could buy replacement Hoover bags, and round that corner to the Beatties model shop, which I went to semi-regularly because of my Dad’s passion for model building (unlike every other Beatties that were Departments stores, and appeared to mainly sell ‘Homewares’ it only sold models, who knows what the manager told the head of the chain).
The Games Workshop mesmerised me and I was absolutely in awe of the the metal fantasy miniatures, made by the recently formed ‘Citadel‘, the Dragons, Chimera, and other Fantasy creatures, especially, as I had spent the last couple of years obsessing over a large variety of Legends and Ancient Mythologies (mainly Greek, Norse, Celtic and British).
Once at school, and having found there was an RPG club (to which a number of my Chess Club pals were also in), there wasn’t much stopping me joining and learning more. I recall my first D&D; set (not AD&D;, that came at least a couple of months later) was bought for me by my Nan, Gladys, in Blackpool on a ‘Day Trip’ whilst on Holiday visiting her home in Cumbria (I went to visit her, my Grandad, Bill, and my Aunt Chris, almost all of the six weeks holidays each year, and for much of the other school breaks too). Mom was with us that day, and I’m ashamed to say I suspect I badgered my Nan into getting it for me, as I’m sure she would have preferred to get me something less ‘virtual’ than a game that you mainly played in your imagination.
And so for the next three or four years RPG’s were my main hobby, from AD&D;, T&T;, Traveller, MERP, RoleMaster, to CoC and Paranoia, I had the rulebooks and I played them all, even joining the RPG and Wargaming club held in Kingstanding at the Community Centre that met every Wednesday evening and all of each first Sunday of the Month.
Needless to say Gary Gygax was an absolute hero within the RPG community I found myself in, and like all fan boys we’d imagine what treasures the great man might be dreaming up next.
I really enjoyed playing the advetures Gary created, from the original ‘Temple of Elemental Evil’ (T1), the ‘Against the Giants Trilogy’ (G1, G2 and G3), the ‘Against the Drow Triology’ (D1, D2 and D3) following it and followed by the ‘Queen of the Demonweb Pits’ (Q1), and the ‘Special’ series (S1, S3, and S4, I enjoyed S2 as well but this was written by Lawrence Schick). I even enjoyed Mordenkainen’s Fantastic Adventure (WG5) which killed off my level 20 lizardman in the first half hour, not that I’m bitter or anything, it’s only been twenty years or so (lol).
Many years later, having left table top RPG-ing for the time being, I was pleased to see Gary turn up again on the ‘Anthology of Interest‘ episode of Futurama, along with a +1 Mace (RPG joke). I was glad to see him on something I liked as much as Futurama, and was pleased to see that he appeared to be doing ‘OK’ despite his being ‘ousted’ from TSR in the mid-80’s.
Gary’s work, and play, in translating Wargaming rules innovatively into what became the beginning of RPG rules in D&D; and AD&D;, followed by socialising them directly by play shouldn’t be underestimated, especially in the effect it has had on it’s major offspring: the Computer role-playing game and the massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG).
So if you’re a fan of Neverwinter Nights, Baldur’s Gate, Elder Scrolls, Diablo, World of Warcraft, Runescape, or any of the ilk, then you’ve got Gary to thank for starting the whole RPG revolution which led to these games.
The E stood for Ernest, which I discovered when I excitedly found what can only be described as a primeval ‘easter egg’, Gary’s initials included in the map for ‘Expedition to the Barrier Peaks‘ (S3), the one about the crashed space ship in the AD&D; universe (the original ‘Greyhawk’ one). Yes finding the letters E G G in a map for a RPG adventure was pretty exciting to me when I was twelve.
I made a lot of good friends during the time of my life when I was table-top RPG-ing, and look back on it fondly, for that I’m really grateful, so thanks for all the good times gaming Gary and ‘Goodbye’.