Gary Gygax reportedly passed away today at the age of 69. He was, and still is, a legend. As co-creator of D&D and co-founder of TSR, there probably aren’t many RPGs that haven’t been influenced in some way by Gary and what he started, not to mention his being responsible for Gen Con and the consumption of countless bags of Cheetos and gallons of Mountain Dew. Personally, I have never been able to look at a Crown Royal bag without thinking “dice bag.” I spent my first all-nighter playing a game because of AD&D.
We asked around the team for thoughts on the influence Gary and D&D/AD&D had on them. Here’s what folks had to say:
Erik J. Caponi, Dwarven Game Designer: Gary Gygax was a pioneer and one of the fathers of the art of interactive storytelling. Let us all observe 1d6 moments of silence in his honor.
Jeff Gardiner, Producer: I got into D&D about the time video games were invented. I was 6 years old, and my best friend and I (David Beal,) â€˜borrowed’ his big brother’s red Basic D&D book. That moment started a 10 year odyssey that allowed me to develop most of my skills as a video game Designer/Producer; on top of gracing me with several life long friends. Gary Gygax created something unique in the world to which every game today should tip their hat. My office and work is crammed full of Dungeon Modules, worn hardback 2nd Edition D&D books, and Dragon magazines I just can’t seem to part with. For me, and icon died today. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.
Matt Grandstaff, Community Manager: Before really getting into videogames, I had an unhealthy addiction to Dungeons and Dragons starting around the time I was seven-years-old. Introduced to me by my stepmother, she served as the dungeon master for my brother and I for a couple of years. I have fond memories of the quests my character, Demolisher, went on. More than anything though, I’ll never forget the day I stopped playing D&D. After my stepmom retired from her duties, my brother took over and spent months creating his own quest for our characters. It was a great quest, but after one memorable battle, my character was given the opportunity to open one of three treasure chests. The one I opened had poisonous bees and killed Demolisher. I got in a fight with my brother and we never played again. Though my D&D years were cut short prematurely, I had a blast.
RIP Gary…thanks for everything you did for the RPG genre.
Chris Krietz: D&D always has and always will be a large part of my life. Thanks Gary, and good luck in the Outer Planes.
Dane Olds, Artist: I started reading the Dragonlance novels when I was in middle school. They introduced me to Dungeons and Dragons and from there I learned more about role playing and how I had actually been playing RPGs since I was a kid. My interest in RPGs grew and I began to play D&D in high school. The creative atmosphere and the expression these games allowed helped propel me toward my career as a game developer. The influence of Dungeons and Dragons on modern gaming is practically incalculable. RIP Gary, thank you for all the adventures.
Dan Ross, QA: I distinctly remember getting into AD&D in the 5th grade because my teacher caught me with one of the rule books in class and was so concerned that she called my parents over it. Their response was “Yeah, we bought it for him. He’s reading now right? Don’t worry about it.” Years and several editions later I think I can honestly say it greatly influenced the person I am today. Thanks for the memories Gary.
Fred Zeleny, Designer: I never met the man, but like many of my fellow game players, my first role-playing game experience was playing D&D 20 years ago with the old, blue box set. Unlike many, I was fortunate enough to have a family that appreciated and even encouraged games â€“ they were my first adventuring party, all gathered around the family dinner table. Over the years, I’ve played RPGs of all types with all kinds of people, from the harshest tactical dungeon delves to parlor LARPs full of intrigue and manipulation to play-by-email RPGs of world-spanning politics, and I eagerly anticipate future RPGs, including a new edition of D&D. But I can trace it all back to one family game night when we decided to try out a new game in a blue box with Gary Gygax’s name on it.
Dan Geske, QA: I didn’t get started with D&D until college. It was a little confusing at first, because I had never played any game like it before. Even the computerized RPGs didn’t prepare me for it, because even though they work hard to give the player as many options as possible, it can’t reach the infinite possibilities the table-top freedom gives you. As soon as I caught on to the playstyle, I was a fan. When I transferred away from that college, I experimented a few times with new DMs, but most of them were (I’ll be nice here) unfortunately unskilled at the position. As I’m sure most of you who’ve played are aware, the DM is key to having a fun, successful campaign. When I finally found a friend who was great at the position, we had a blast. We even had a few “marathon D&D days” when we met at about 10 in the morning (usually on a weekend), and played until the wee hours of the morning of the next day. I’ve had characters adventure in a world with no sun, in barren wastes being torn apart by different dimensions, snuck around at night stealing from fellow members of a caravan, led armies into battle, recovered and reclaimed lost civilizations, and much more. As fun as that all is, the best aspect of the game for me is the way it brings a bunch of friends together, and gives them a great, fun way to hang out for a “marathon” day, or even just five minutes. All of this was made possible by a little imagination teamed up with the game Gary helped create.
Thanks for giving me and countless others the opportunity to have such fun and fellowship with friends. May you always roll 20s, and may your DM always be fun.
Nate Ellis, Design Intern: My first introduction to D&D was through the red box basic rules set but it wasn’t until second edition came out that I started really getting into it. In the years following I graduated from playing to DM’ing to creating and running my own systems. What’s more the group of people I met through roleplaying and the people they introduced me to were to become the core of a large group of close, close friends I still keep in touch with today. It’s not something I normally think about and I don’t really tabletop roleplay anymore but there’s no doubt in my mind that D&D has had a profound influence on my life.
Orin Tresnjak, Graphics Programmer: I discovered a copy of the original white box D&D set by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson buried in my dad’s closet when I was 10 or so, living in Brazil. Later, a math teacher let us have a complete set of first-edition AD&D books she had kept in her desk for ages, and later still, I finally managed to find a set of the then brand-new 2nd edition when we discovered found a game shop in Sao Paulo. I got to experience the entire evolution of Dungeons and Dragons in two years of my childhood. I was already programming at that age; the experience got me interested in making games and in writing, and before long, I was combining these elements to create simple text-based cRPGs on my dad’s Tandy.
When I was 12, my family moved back to the United States and I started junior high. Already a shy kid, and very intimidated by the sights and sounds of an American public school, I ate lunch alone at a table with my books for the first few weeks. One day, I got up to get a soda from the machine, leaving my 2nd-edition Monstrous Manual at the table, and when I got back, an unfamiliar kid was sitting there looking at it; he asked me if I played. 14 years of friendship later, he and I both work here at Bethesda, making RPGs for a living. Although my life is now incredibly busy and I really don’t have much time for pen-and-paper gaming anymore, I still occasionally run an ongoing D&D game for a few coworkers here.
I guess what I’m saying is that in a roundabout way, Gary’s invention has shaped deeply the way my life has turned out so far; I can’t imagine where I’d be now or what I’d be doing with my days without Dungeons and Dragons and those three little books of typewritten text and crude line-art that I brushed the dust off of so long ago. I wish I’d gotten a chance to meet the guy and thank him.
Alan Nanes: As I was walking through the pavilion at my summer camp (I was only nine at the time), I noticed a group of four kids sitting at a picnic table inside. What had caught my eye were the odd sparkling dice they were picking up and rolling. I approached and heard one of them speaking to the others. He was describing a dark dungeon passage with a door at the end being guarded by some sort of menacing “elven” being with a glowing pair of boots. As I stood transfixed at this odd sight, the others spoke up and described what they were going to “do” in this place he was presenting to them and they were reacting as if they were actors in an invisible play. They noticed my curious stares and invited me to sit down. After nearly an hour of a tale spun with dazzling spells, whistling blades and encounters with fantastic creatures, I realized I had stumbled onto something special. Two months later, I used all my birthday money to buy my first Basic Dungeons & Dragons set (much to my mother’s chagrin at the time) and some polyhedron dice. Since then, the interest turned into a hobby, then the hobby became an addiction and finally the addiction gave way to obsession. The skills I gained from being able to channel my imagination helped place me where I am today. It’s ironic to think that I wouldn’t be here at Bethesda if it weren’t for those crystal dice glittering in the sun on some lazy summer day.
I’d like to take this opportunity to say thank you Mr. Gygax, you will be sorely missed and may you rest in peace.
Bruce Nesmith: I worked at TSR during the early 1980’s when Gary was still owner and president. I was a lowly peon at the time and I’m sure he barely knew my name. I always admired Gary for doing the one thing I will probably never do in my career. He invented something totally new and different. The entire concept of role-playing games was born on the tables of Gary’s fantasy miniatures games. Nobody had ever seen anything like it before and it swept through the gaming community like wildfire.
My first job out of college was at TSR. To a large degree, I owe my whole career to him. I would probably be sweating away in some corporate programming position instead of being a video game designer. There is no way to repay that kind of debt. All you can do is honor it. In my case, I will honor by making the best damn role-playing games I can.