The final act

gygax.jpgThe king of the role-playing games is dead at age 69.

Gary Gygax, who created Dungeons and Dragons, lived in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

Game Spy Magazine’s interview with him in 2004 ended by asking Gygax how he wanted to be remembered:


I was gonna say, “Better here than Philadelphia,” but I think somebody already did that. [Laughs] I would like the world to remember me as the guy who really enjoyed playing games and sharing his knowledge and his fun pastimes with everybody else.

Well, OK, but he’s also the guy who spawned the debate about role playing games. So depending on your point of view, Gary Gygax is either the guy who pushed Western civilization to a new depth of depravity, or the guy who pushed a new generation toward literature, database management, critical thinking, reasoning, and resource management skills.

Your choice.

Photo: Wikimedia

(h/t Julia Schrenkler)

  • Who’s the bigger D&D geek… Bob or Julia?

  • Bob Collins

    I’ve never played a role-playing game. I don’t even care for Scrabble.

    I can’t speak for Julia other than to say she’s much more in tune with “cool.”

  • Mark S. Jungmann

    Julia and Bob ain’t got nothin’ on me! I’m the bigger D&D geek by leaps and bounds since I played with the original first edition boxed set. Badge of honor or curse of the nerd.

    Your choice

    Mark S. Jungmann

    Member Benefits

    Minnesota Public Radio

    P.S. I heard about this an hour before your post.

  • bsimon

    Those links at the bottom are interesting. As a youth I dabbled in the d&d. I had the lead figurines, which I spent untold hours painting. I brought them to school, where we played with them during recess. Then one day I was told to take my ‘little friends’ (her words, not mine) home. A parent had apparently been informed that we’d been playing with them & notified the school that the devil had entered the building.

    As an adult, I read a bit, do database work to pay the bills, and spend time thinking about & discussing public policy, to kill time. None of my old d&d buddies have yet joined the occult, to my knowledge.

  • Bill Anstedt

    It’s a sad day for nerds every were. I didn’t start to play D&D until I was in 8th or 9th grade. And contrary to popular belief we didn’t play in someones basement. We played in my friend Ray’s Bedroom which was in the attic. Ray grew up to become Rock n’ Roll Ray and I grew up to Roast coffee for Caribou Coffee. None of our other friends have dabbled in the occult as well.

  • Bob Collins

    Steve Olson had a nice tribute here.

  • Well I’ll ‘fess up to being a D&D geek too, though I always managed to play with friends who had the necessary books, so I didn’t have to put much of my money into it.

    I’m still great friends with the guys who I played with, though we play other games now (Diplomacy our favorite). And none of us fell into the occult.

  • julio

    oh. so from reading the comments, one can assume that the super geeks of D&D get into skulls on their mantels and vampires and other occult wackery such as spanking?

  • MR

    I have played D&D in the past, along with various other games (of the board and computer variety).

    All the breathless “won’t somebody think of the children” talk gets old, and just reminds me of the song from “The Music Man:”

    Trouble, oh we got trouble,

    Right here in River City!

    With a capital “T”

    That rhymes with “P”

    And that stands for Pool,

    That stands for pool.

    We’ve surely got trouble!

    Right here in River City,

    Right here!

    Gotta figger out a way

    To keep the young ones moral after school!

  • Michael Wells

    If it hadn’t been for D&D, Tom Hanks would’ve never gotten his big break in the classic “Mazes and Monsters.”

    The basic plot was that a D&D-like game drove one one of the players insane, to the point where he couldn’t tell the difference between the game and real life. One would have assumed the distinct lack of Magic Missles may have helped keep him grounded in reality.

    There’s several clips of this jewel on YouTube.

    Much like Harry Potter, Rock and Roll, and anything else the kids are into, Dungeons and Dragons had a fair amount of parental backlash.

    Couldn’t ask for better marketing.

    – Michael Wells

    The Current

  • Ron Hudson

    Many times, when Gary’s parents were not at home, because his father worked and stayed in Chicago and his mother was often visiting her friends for an occasional evening of Mahjong, some of us would gather at Gary’s for an evening of games of all kinds. Gary was interested in many games, not only Mahjong (it is ma-jon in chinese), but also checkers, card games, and chess. We busily played every game in the Book of Hoyle, and we also played other card games from other books. We experimented with a 3-D type of chess where several players can play at the same time from all sides of the “board” which really was a big cube. We quickly learned that the game is not really possible because you cannot move the pieces that are in the middle of the cube. We spent many hours during many months and sometimes we invented new games. Most of them were clumsy and unrewarding. Later on in his life, Gary sometimes was in a position of needing money. He would do odd jobs for others, he cobbled shoes, and his family lived in a covered basement of an unfinished house for a period of time. He would make home-made board games to amuse and entertain his children. When he ran out of money he had to submit to the charity of the county to help support him and his children. Later, when D&D was successful, Gary paid back EVERY CENT of the welfare money. When I offered to help him by translating his D&D games into chinese (I had learned to speak chinese) language, he remarked to me that he had native chinese speakers living on his premises and had access to them on a continual basis. He had purchased a large commercial building with many living quarters in it and the family lived there with him. What a guy!! Again, when I offered to design an electronic version of his games that could be played on personal computers, he replied that he had others working on the same idea. Again, he was ahead of me in thinking about his D&D games. Do you feel that you now know Gary a lttle better? Throughout his life, although he was quiet, thoughtful, reticent, and introspective, he often made friends of others who might not make friends easily. He was a supporter of the “underdogs”. Let me add one more story and then I will end this harangue. Gary had on his property a tiny trickling spring which gushed out about two gallons of water per hour. Just a kind of a seeping spring. He got the idea that he wanted to divert the meagre flow of that tiny spring a few feet to the left to provide water for his flower garden. At that time, because he was being pummeled with lawsuits and bad press releases, he felt that he should clear his idea with the federal government and get permission before taking any action. He notified the Bureau of the Interior that he wished to divert the tiny stream. The Washington DC bureaucrats sent out two investigators to inspect his minuscule stream. They flew to Wisconsin, stayed in a plush hotel, drove out to inspect and map the project, they came, they looked, they pondered, they mumbled and discussed the situation, they told him “We will get back to you on this”, and they left. A long time later he received a formal and legal letter saying that he was NOT granted permission to deviate the flow of water through his garden. The missive said that the protection of the waterway was the resposibility of the federal government and that they felt that his interruption of the flow would be too serious to be permitted. He told me later that he felt that they thought that some day some Indians might want to paddle their canoes up and down his stream prabably to fish or hunt for something. What a guy!! He was so much like his games; colorful, complicated, thoughtful, fun, stimulating, rewarding. Many of us will miss him.