Daily Illuminator

March 5, 2008: Gary Gygax

Gary Gygax, co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons and a gaming icon for more than 30 years, died yesterday after repeated strokes and heart problems. He was 69.

Like the rest of my generation, I was introduced to roleplaying via Dungeons & Dragons because there wasn't anything else back then. My first, very lame, Dungeons & Dragons game was in college. Shortly after I became a (semi)professional and joined the Metagaming group, we started a D&D campaign, with Robert Taylor as the GM, and it was excellent. Decades later, I can still say that my biggest-ever thrill in roleplaying was when my first character got chainmail. No longer would I face certain death if I met an orc.

If not for Dungeons & Dragons, "adventure game" would still mean "cardboard chits on a hexmap." Which I love dearly, but would it ever have gotten out of the garage? And that's the least of it. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson didn't just remake a hobby. They impacted all of Western culture. Fantasy fiction would still be a backwater had not D&D built an audience and a new generation of writers. Lord of the Rings would be something taught in college English classes, not a blockbuster movie trilogy. And consider: The direct lineal descendant of D&D is Worlds of Warcraft, which is, all by itself, what? A billion-dollar business now?

For the last few years, roleplayers have celebrated March 4 as "GM's Day." And now it's the day when the best-known GM of all time put down his dice. Going forward, this should also be a particular date on which we recall Gary and his contributions.

-- Steve Jackson

Relevant links:

AP news report on the CNN site
Wired news report
Wikipedia entry
The Order of the Stick tribute
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