Today, July 27, happens to be a monumental day in the geeky calendar. July 27 is the birthday of Gary Gygax, who would have been 82 today. It may seem a bit random – or possibly overblown – to celebrate the creator of a game, but let me explain why this is so important to me and many others.
First, there’s Dungeons and Dragons. Gary, along with Dave Arneson, created Dungeons & Dragons many years ago, finally codifying things and bringing a version to market in 1974. I discovered it later, after a more consumer-friendly version was published. I bought this version – against my parents’ wishes – in 1977. The box looked like this:
The game wasn’t simple: it was quite complicated, and it took the teen-age me several tries to work out how to run a game. I was first introduced to it by one of my brother Mike’s college roommates, who bought the game on a lark and wanted to try it out. Even though that first game ended… poorly, I was smitten by the possibilities, leading to my purchase – with my own money – of the early D&D boxed set. It contained a book with the basic rules, an adventure module, and a set of cheap dice. I still have all of these components from my first D&D set, even though the game has moved on since then – in many ways.
Fast forward to a few years later: I moved to the big city after high school and got a job at a game store. That put me in a position to learn more about the business of games, and to come in contact with people who could help me work my way into writing in the burgeoning tabletop gaming industry. Since then, I’ve written for dozens of supplements and a handful of game systems including Vampire the Masquerade, Achtung! Cthulhu/Call of Cthulhu, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, Margaret Weis Productions’s Cortex System, and even D&D through the Scarred Lands setting.
Gary was a flawed human being – as are we all. Hero worship isn’t really a good thing – especially now, as with modern communication and the instantaneous exchange of information, we learn things about people we admire that make them less admirable. It’s often difficult to reconcile the people we want them to be with the people they are, but it’s important to remember the contributions they made to our lives, while not forgetting that they have flaws and failings too.
Had Gary and Dave not written and published their rules for this new concept of a tabletop roleplaying game, my life would have been very different. As things stand now, I’m happy with the direction my life has gone, and I definitely owe Gary, Dave Arneson, Sandy Peterson, Bob Charrette and Paul Hume, and many, many others, a sincere debt of gratitude.
I was obsessed with D&D as a kid. I spent hours poring over the Red Box and its components. I made intricate maps and deeply flawed characters to send to their potential doom.
I only lacked friends. My characters ended up being fodder for my first, albeit poorly written, novels.
Without D&D, I think there’s a lot fewer writers in the world.