Gary Gygax, creator of the tabletop RPG Dungeons and Dragons, died today at the age of 69. There is never someone around with a resurrection spell when you need one.
I have several immediate reactions to this. First is sadness. I played Advanced Dungeons and Dragons continuously from about 1981 until 1987. After I went to college, my background in AD&D led me to try other tabletop RPGs. I continued to play tabletop games of one type or another until I got hooked on WoW. While I have not actually played a D&D product since the late 80′s, all of the games that have come since then are derivative of Gygax’s work. I can link a huge portion of my life directly to the influence of Gary Gygax.
The second thing I note is that there are a number of others in the WoW blogosphere that are honoring the memory of Mr. Gygax today. I’m surprised at the number of thirtysomethings that comprise our blogging community.
Then I also realized that there are a significant number of people who have never played tabletop games and have no idea what the big deal is. D&D was WoW but without the technology. When your character fought a monster, it went through very similar mechanics to what happens behind the scenes in WoW. You swing… your attack was compared against his defense (remember THACO?) and a die was rolled to determine if you hit. If you hit, then another die was rolled to determined damage. Later, systems were added to incorporate critical hits. You had mages with spells and priests who could heal.
Even back then, all of us D&D nerds imagined the day when computers would make gaming easier. Some of us programmed random number generators on our Commodore 64s to replace the dice, but it wasn’t the same. Later, we played TSR-brand computer games on our IBMs – Pools of Radiance holds a special place in my memory. Then there was Ultima I-whatever, and later UO. When EQ was released it was like everything we had ever dreamed of – all the mechanics of a tabletop game in a smoothly running (?), nonlinear computer game. Then WoW, as the next generation, has gone leaps beyond that.
Thanks, Gary Gygax, for creating a bloodline of gaming so enduring that it has flourished far beyond the dreams of its maker.