Thursday, March 6, 2008

D&D Co-Creator Gargy Gygax Passes On

Many of you have probably not heard of Gary Gygax, but I rather suspect you have heard of the game he co-created with Dave Arneson, Dungeons and Dragons. Gary Gygax died Tuesday at the age of 69 He had suffered from an abdominal aneurysm recently.

Gygax was born in Chicago, Illinois on July 27, 1938. Gygax's family moved to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin when he was eight years old. He developed an interest in gaming while still young. He was around 15 years of age when he started playing miniature war games, including the legendary war game Gettysburg from Avalon Hill. It was in 1966 that Gygax, Bill Speer, and Scott Duncan founded the International Federation of Wargamers. It was in the late Sixties that Jeff Perren and Gary Gygax created the medieval miniatures wargame Chainmail. In 1971 they introduced a fantasy supplement for Chainmail, covering the use of fantasy creatures and spells. It was by that time that David Arneson and Gary Gygax began developing what would become Dungeons and Dragons. In 1973 Don Kaye and Gary Gygax founded Tactical Studies Rules, better known as TSR, as a partnership. Brian Blume and, for a short time, David Arneson, would later join the partnership. Initially publishing a board game called Cavaliers and Roundheads, TSR published the first edition of Dungeons and Dragons in 1974.

Although it may not have been the very first role playing game, Dungeons and Dragons was perhaps the fist to be widely available. Quite simply, role playing games are games in which the players create fictional characters, each with their own histories, personalities, and motivations distinct from their own. Another individual, the game master (GM for short), controls the imaginary enviroment in which the player characters exist (anything from a Tolkienesque fantasy world to World War II Europe), from playing non-player characters (NPCs) to creating the settings for adventures. The game master also acts as referee for the game.In many ways they are simply modern, adult variations on the old children's games of "cops and robbers" or "cowboys and Indians."

As one of the earliest role playing games, Dungeons and Dragons took the wargaming world by storm. Other role playing games, such as Game Designer's Workshop's sci-fi game Traveller and Flying Buffalo's Tunnels and Trolls, appeared almost immediately. Don Kaye died from a stroke in 1975, whereupon his widow sold his shares in the partnership to Gygax. Entering financial difficulties, Gygax would later sell shares to Brian and Kevin Blume. By 1977 they would own controlling interest in the company. It was that year that the company introduced Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, which would ultimately prove more successful than the original Dungeons and Dragons. Gygax would also co-create Boot Hill, TSR's popular role playing game set in the Wild West.

With changes in management in the company, Gary Gygax left TSR in 1985. After leaving TSR, Gygax created the game Cyborg Commando, published in 1987. It did not prove successful. He later created the role playing game Dangerous Journeys, published in 1992. Dangerous Journeys was meant to cover several different genres. Unfortunately, the system would not last. Lawsuits from TSR alleging that Dangerous Journeys infringed upon the Dungeons and Dragons trademark, even though the two gaming systems were notably different. In 1995 Gygax started work on yet another new role playing game. Originally meant to be played on a computer, Lejendary Adventure appeared in 1999 as an old fashioned, pen and paper role playing game. Lejendary Adventure is still in print. In 2004 Gary Gygax used the original rules for Dungeons and Dragons and Advanced Dungeons and Dragons as the basis for the role playing game Castles and Crusade.

As co-creator of Dungeons and Dragons, Gary Gygax also appeared as himself on the TV series Code Monkeys and Futurama.

It was in 1981 when my brother returned from college that I was first introduced to Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. The next many years would not only see me playing a good deal of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, but other role playing games as well (including Gary Gygax and Brian Blume's Boot Hill). And I think I actually owe a good deal to the role playing games in which I took part. I think role playing games helped energise my imagination, improved my ability to develop plots, and improvedmy ability to develop characters. Quite simply, I think that they made me a better writer. While I don't play role playing games any more, I must admit I owe a good deal to them. And because he co-created the game that started it all, I therefore owe a good deal to Gary Gygax. I must say I am truly saddened by his death.

1 comment:

Bobby D. said...

One of the interesting elements of D&D is the fact that two adult former D&D'ers who are meeting for the first time, can discuss past games at length with each other and have quite an animated discussion about gaming.