E. Gary Gygax
Who is this guy, and why is he so important?
You... *BLAM!* You... *BLAM!* I have no words! No words!
No, but seriously?
Long story short, Ernest Gary Gygax is the guy who started it all. Without him, there would be no /tg/ as we know it. He didn't exactly invent roleplaying games (and storytelling, boardgames and wargames are as old as mankind), but he's the guy who got the ball rolling in the late sixties with his pal Dave Arneson and made the concept popular, generating immense interest and inspired a truckload of other people to play and/or create their own systems/settings/what have you.
He's "the father of roleplaying games", the godfather of role-playing neckbeards around the world. No matter what particular flavour you pick, he's the guy behind it all. So, whenever you gather 'round the table (or sit behind your computer) to roll dice and have fun, spare a second in memory of Gary, the greatest neckbeard to ever have lived.
Body of Work
- Cavaliers and Roundheads
- Classic Warfare
- Don't Give Up The Ship!
- Alexander the Great (system and expansions)
- Baku (extension for Stalingrad)
- Dungeons and Dragons (with Dave Arneson)
- Boot Hill
- Little Big Horn
- Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (this time without Dave)
- AD&D was really his baby, he wrote a shittonne of supplements, splats, expansions, and modules. Highlights include The Village of Hommlet/The Temple of Elemental Evil, Tomb of Horrors, and G/D/Q.
- The World of Greyhawk campaign setting was a codified version of what he would play with his friends and children.
- Dungeon! (board game)
- Gamma World
- Cyborg Commando
- Dangerous Journeys
- Lejendary Adventure (earning him the name Jary Jyjax amongst the extremely geeky)
- Castles and Crusades (3 out of 7 planned books)
- ... and some sourcebooks for the OGL d20 system
Obituary from the UK Times
What follows is Gary's actual obituary. It has only been edited for proofing and wikification. Notes for clarification or where the original writer fucked up will be in bold.
Affable avatar of the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game which became a worldwide cultural phenomenon
As the creator of Dungeons & Dragons, Gary Gygax was an idol to millions of geeks around the world. But he was also the visionary inventor of a new type of interactive hobby, the role-playing game, one that sparked a rekindling of interest in the fantasy genre and was a key inspiration for the billion-dollar computer game industry. As such, Gygax’s influence spread beyond the legions of pallid school misfits who knew his name, and came to permeate popular culture as a whole.
Ernest Gary Gygax was born in Chicago in 1938, and moved to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, aged 8, where he lived until his death. His father, a Swiss immigrant violinist in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, introduced him to fantasy novels at a young age.
Gygax dropped out of high school, although he took anthropology classes at the University of Chicago, and worked as an insurance underwriter in the 1960s. He became an avid fan of traditional board-based war games, particularly medieval battles. The first step towards Dungeons & Dragons came when Gygax introduced fantasy elements from the pulp authors he devoured.
“The guys were getting a little tired of military miniatures, so one day I put a troll under the bridge, had a giant dragon and all that kind of good stuff,” he said in 1987. “Well, they loved it. They absolutely went crazy for it.”
This evolved into Chainmail, a fantasy war game still played with miniature pieces. This was stripped down by Gygax’s fellow gamer, Dave Arneson, into a game where each player was represented by just one piece. The pair then codified this into an early version of Dungeons & Dragons.
The game did away with the board, relying only on graph paper, pencils, imagination and many-sided dice. Each player created an avatar from a class — warrior, wizard — and a race — dwarf, goblin, elf — and set off on a fantasy expedition guided by the Dungeon Master and his thick book of rules.
The goals included finding a hoard of treasure, or defeating an evil magus, and making sure to kill everything along the way. Games could last for several days, and there was no obvious way to win. It seemed an unlikely hit. “People said, ‘What kind of game is this?’ You don’t play against anybody. Nobody wins. It doesn’t end. This is craziness’, ” Gygax said in 1983.
Undeterred, in 1973 Gygax and Donald Kaye founded a company, Tactical Studies Rules, to develop the game. Dungeons & Dragons hit the shelves in early 1974. The game sold only 1,000 copies in its first year. (Note: While the obit implies that D&D sold poorly at first, TSR's first print run was only 1,000 copies so the game actually sold out. Most of these sales were made at Gen Con that year.)
Gradually though, as teenagers across American met for furtive games in their parents’ basements, D&D became an underground hit. A tournament version, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, was introduced in 1978, and the game became a phenomenon on college campuses. Gygax began receiving late-night phone calls from players asking for clarification of the rules. Sales of the game reached $8.5 million in 1980 and $29 million by 1985.
Many adults, however, were suspicious of the new craze. Religious groups accused the game of spawning satanic cults. Newspapers linked it to a variety of teen murders and suicides. Although he later joked “that really pushed the sales up”, at the time Gygax received death threats and for a while had to employ bodyguards. He always insisted that the claims were absurd, and that D&D was good for imaginative development.
Although the furor passed, and a D&D spin-off cartoon became popular, the game itself seemed to have peaked. Gygax lost control of TSR in the mid-80s after a legal tussle. The company was sold in 1997 to Wizards of the Coast, which later became part of Hasbro. There followed a D&D film, with Jeremy Irons, and a computer game, both had poor reviews. (We have no idea what the hell this guy is talking about.)
Gygax moved on to other projects. He developed two more games, Dangerous Journeys and Lejendary Adventures, and wrote a series of fantasy novels. He also remained involved with Gen Con, the gaming convention he had started in 1968 and which last year attracted 26,000 devotees. In 2000 he appeared, alongside Al Gore, in a episode of Futurama. He worked consistently until health problems began two years ago, commenting in 2005: “What money I made I gave to charities and needy attorneys, the IRS and my ex-wife.”
Although D&D struggled as computer games chipped away at role-playing’s fanbase, it proved a huge influence on the emerging gaming industry, and generations of hugely popular games like Everquest, Halo and World of Warcraft owe a debt to Gygax’s original. Even though he never made one himself, Gygax was named 17th most influential person in computer game history by Gamespy.com. In their book of the rise of the computer game, Dungeons & Dreamers, John Borland and Brad King credit Gygax as an inspiration: “Scratch almost any game developer who worked from the late 1970s until today and you’re likely to find a vein of role-playing experience.” (What the blue fuck does Halo have to do with D&D?)
Gygax himself though, was no fan of online gaming, which he said destroyed the social bonding of D&D. “The game offers camaraderie, imagination, socialisation,” he said in 2005. “Computer games can be so isolating. They’re not anything like sitting in a group and laughing, telling stories. You can’t share a bag of Cheetos online.”
As the generation that grew up with D&D came of age, the fantasy aesthetic that Gygax popularised spread through film, television and graphics, with many of the writers of his youth enjoying a renaissance. His world of wizards, elfs and unending quest became part of popular culture, and contributed to the receptive climate for the Harry Potter novels and the Lord of the Rings films.
“The story of the hero being called forth, usually unwillingly, and adventuring and undergoing a change has been with us probably since stories were told round campfires,” he said in 2005. But although many detected the influence of Tolkien in D&D, Gygax told Gamespy.com that he was never a fan: “I yawned through the books. I found them very droll and very dull. I still don’t give hoot about Hobbits.”
He is survived by his wife, Gail, and six children. Gary Gygax, co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons, was born on July 27, 1938. He died after a long illness on March 4, 2008, aged 69
Gary Gygax and David Arneson were the very first role playing neckbeards and it's quite likely that without them tabletop games would be limited to shitty board games like monopoly (which takes forever to play) and wargames, which are awesome but very expensive (you can get by on most role playing games with 50 or so bucks, good luck trying to get by in a wargame with less than $500.) When Gary Gygax died all of /tg/ wept, for the greatest of role playing neckbeards had passed. Even the war gamers cried a little, and we did, we did a lot.
Gygax Death Jokes
- "He failed his save vs. Death"
- "He's rolling a new character"
- "He's 'rolling' in his grave"
- “Quick! Someone cast Raise Dead!”
- “I wonder how they’ll divide up his XP.”
- “4th edition - bad enough to kill Gary Gygax.”
- "He will be critically missed"
- “Don’t worry – he’s just playtesting the Astral Plane for the next edition.”
- “Analysts warn of a free-fall in Mountain Dew futures.”
- “Now who will lead our young people to Satan?” (this one's particularly egregious as Gary Gygax was a devout Jehovah's Witness)
- “With his last breath, he cursed the name of Marlon Wayans.”
- "At least he didn't live to see Disney's Greyhawk On Ice."
- “Lorraine Williams is behind this somehow, I just know it.”
- “Is there anything in the will about electrum?”
- “Heart condition? Wow, I always thought it’d be owlbears that got him.”
Jokes that are so bad, they're good.
- “When I heard, I cried 2d10 tears.”
- “Pallbearers, make a Bend Bars/Lift Gates roll.”
- “In the next town, you meet a stranger named B. Barry Bygax.”
Gygax & Humanity
Something /tg/ doesn't talk about much is that Gygax was one of /tg/'s earliest believers in Humanity Fuck Yeah: he had a genuine concern that unless humans were the strongest race, both mechanically and flavorwise, then nobody would play them and instead everybody would go for the non-human races. There are contradictory stories as to whether or not he even liked the idea of non-humans being playable; one story says he basically had to be coaxed into allowing dwarves, elves and halflings into his game, whilst another story claims he invented the cleric class to deal with one asshole player whom he had allowed to play a vampire and who then went on to abuse his PC's racial powers.
Regardless, this concern about humanity's viability is seen in two distinct areas.
Firstly, this was the root of his idea that class option & level range should be directly tied to race; that's why, in AD&D, only humans can take every class and reach whatever level they want in any class they want. He even stated as much in some interviews in Dragon Magazine that this was his reasoning.
Secondly, this is why every "classic" D&D campaign setting has a human-dominated world. Whether you look at Greyhawk, the Forgotten Realms, Mystara, Birthright or Dragonlance, you've got a world where the known lands are divided into distinctive realms, and where those realms are largely dominated by humans. Whilst this can be arguably tied into their origins as a neo-Medieval wargame, the fact of the matter is that classic D&D settings always presume that humans run the world - this is why humans come in many different cultures, whilst non-humans tend to be more mono-cultural.
But, this trait has lessened as the years have gone by without Gygax at the helm. Eberron really shook things up, even going so far as to have Droaam, whilst "Worlds & Monsters", a designer's teaser book for Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition, outright features a segment on page 24 titles "The End of Human Dominion", emphasizing that the lack of "human nations" being the norm was intended to make the Nentir Vale world feel more fantastical. 5e brought the trait back into prominence by striving to push the Forgotten Realms as the default setting, but who can say how the future will turn out?