Thursday, July 27, 2017

Happy Gygax Day!

July 27th was Gary Gygax's birthday, and now it's Gary Gygax Day. I think that's a worthy thing for the RPG community; Gary didn't create RPGs but he was for all intents and purposes the first designer to put a rule set together. And as the face of early TSR he certainly put a personal mark on the young days of the RPG industry.

I don't idolize Gary Gygax like I did when I was 18 and thought the 1e Dungeon Masters Guide was the greatest RPG text ever written. But I have to acknowledge that through that book and his other work he helped shape me, particularly my taste in fantasy books. And I still think of Gary's game as a gold standard for what RPGs can be. I've gotten a lot of nuance - Gary the original DM was also Gary the dictator who put out those infamous editorials in Dragon. He took Dave Arneson's name off of AD&D and the hobby's history overlooks Arneson too readily - when it was Dave who created the roleplaying game. (I recommend his own account of the hobby's dawn.)

But Gary did a great thing: he took that original diamond in the rough of a game and made it something that survived and blossomed into a staple of not just gaming but pop culture as a whole. Hit points, classes, levels, armor class - these ideas are ubiquitous throughout games that have only the faintest resemblance to anything that was even envisioned in 1974. People know what "chaotic evil" means who have never rolled a polyhedron in their lives. He made his stamp in a most unique way and is rightfully remembered for it.

We should remember that Gary Gygax was a character, including the weird FBI dossier description from the 1990s or just the reminisces of his family and friends. He was very much "one of us" - and in his later years he embraced that. Gary got to be an elder statesman of sorts and handled that very well.

And Gary had a unique sense of what made a good module. Keep on the Borderlands, Village of Hommlet, and Tomb of Horrors will always be the classics, even if not everyone loves them.

Millions of people have enjoyed Gary's legacy, and it only grows. So roll a d20 for the old man, soon if not tonight.

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