Thursday, March 6, 2008

E. Gary Gygax: July 7th, 1938 - March 4th, 2008

I was someplace between 8 and ten years old when I discovered Dungeons & Dragons. It was at a flea market, here in Ohio, and it was two Dragon magazines and the adventure module B1: The Keep On The Borderlands. I was with my oldest sister and we were walking down the row of card tables and trestle tables looking for something cool. Two elderly people, a couple if I remember right, had set up a couple tables out side their RV to sell off some stuff they had accumulated. Underneith one of the tables was a couple milk crates with magazines and books, in amongst these were the beginnings of a life time of adventure. They were a nice couple, I'd wager in their sixties, and they sold the three paper back volumes for a mere dollar twenty five. I asked my sister if she knew what they were and she said she did, that it was a game called D&D. It sounded amazing, looked funner than anything I had played before, and asked her to teach me and she said she would.

Later that afternoon she sat with me, and my unofficial brother, and the module and magazines and taught us to play the game with a few pilfered monopoly d6's. I played a magic-user named Thife, because I didn't know how to spell thief, who had 20 hit points and could cast any of the spells on the 'sheet.'

The 'sheet' was a double sided reference sheet meant for new players who were using the Basic (redbook) rules. It listed weapons, armor, equipment, a combat matrix, how to figure your armor class, and listed some first, second, and three third level spells.

We explored the keep map, which incidentally was NOT where the monster lay in wait in the regular adventure, and my sister made up the rules on the fly. I'd wager a Deck of Many Things right now that Gary would have approved of our play even though we were butchering the rules. My brother played a fighter and we went room to room fighting monsters like werewolves, minotaurs, and goblins and found gold coins and gemstones aplenty. We were hooked right then for a life time. I think probably part of what sunk the hook in was that at one point that evening my Mom joined in the game. She played a Cleric (which is probably an aspect of why I like Clerics the most) and sprinkled holy water about the rooms where we slew these horrible beasts. She grew borde quickly though and went to do something else. I'm pretty sure she was just making sure the game was 'okay' and considering the press it got at that time who can blame her?

Gary Gygax was not my hero, and nor was he and icon to me, he was something else, something closer. Heroes die or go away and icons continue unchanging always and inhuman in a way. Gygax was someone I could relate to, someone who I was like in many ways, someone who shouldn't have died at a young age of 69. His death hit me pretty hard, harder than it should have considering I did not have the fortune of meeting him in person much less mourn him, but it did. I think because of the relativity I had for him, it was like having a litle bit of my own mortality thrown back at me.

His game of course changed my life, there are thousands of us, if not hundreds of thousands, who can say the same. But more than his game changing my life, his life changed my life. It showed me something that right now I can't put my finger on but I think has something to do with opportunity and enjoying life. It's...complex.

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