AD&D and the End of an Age

March 11, 2008

PHCoverBy now those of us in the know have heard the news. For those who don’t a man I never met, but who had a profound impact on me growing up, died recently. His name was E. Gary Gygax.

I remember vividly the first time I heard the term. My cousin and I had always had wild imaginations and we often took our creativity even beyond the realms of cowboys and indians or war buddies or storm the beach at Normandy. One such visit he mentioned this game he’d heard about. I barely gave it passing notice.

One year later, (and if I gave the actual year it would seriously date me) sitting in my sophomore Math Analysis class (the prerequisite for taking calculus) I was reading a copy of Lord Foul’s Bane by Stephen R. Donaldson and the guy in front of me, Eric, turned around and struck up a conversation. He was a junior so this was sort of a big deal as he was actually deigning to talk to a sophomore. Anyway, we talked all things fantasy, my favorite was Elric of Melnibone, he was partial to Conan and the Lord of the Rings. By the end of the day he made me an offer, come down to Mark Twain Hobby and join him and some others in playing this “new” game.

Dungeons and Dragons.

That Friday I talked my parents into taking me down there and I spent the next three hours having the time of my life. I played an elf assassin who had it in for this monk that was a total snot.

Over the next 20 odd years I would become a role-playing fanatic. I played all through high-school, played a few months on and off in the military, had what I consider the pinnacle of my role-playing days in college (CJ, or the buttstain that was formerly known as Mindcrime is still so afraid of me he actually calls me a friend) when free time was vast and responsibility rather minor.

I still continue to game today, though with much less frequency because of real-life commitments. I even co-authored a gaming source book as well as contributing to another.

Heck, six months ago I even made a movie about gamers, written by the best of friends imaginable (see above).

I don’t play Dungeons and Dragons any more, at least not the incarnations it has become (a fourth edition is due out this year). It no longer appeals to my tastes, but despite having moved on to different role-playing games, every single one I do play today owes its existence to Gygax and his often under-represented cohort Dave Arneson. No question. It’s like rock and roll respecting the blues. You just don’t turn your back on your history. I don’t like the Beatles but I fully respect what they did for music.

Gygax was an icon. A visionary. Sometimes crusty, sometimes the grandfatherly ol’ Bombadil. Whatever he was, he gave me the opportunity to create so many memories and to stretch my imagination that to this day I still give a great deal of credit to those games for my abilities as an actor and director.

Thank your very much, Mr. Gygax. Thank you for all those wonderful memories and an imagination that has yet to find its limit.