Sad news today. E. Gary Gygax, the man widely considered the “Father of Role-Playing-Games,” has died. He was 69 years old. I already wrote a piece about Gygax and his death over at ComicMix. What I didn’t mention in that piece was that, like ComicMix’s Glen Hauman, I also had a personal connection to the man.
I was fortunate to meet Gary Gygax after some friends of mine and I decided to have a D&D marathon at my house one Summer weekend in the late ’70s. We decided to invite Mr. Gygax to join us by writing him a personal letter. We even enclosed an article from the local paper (the Coast Dispatch in case you’re curious) featuring our upcoming marathon in order to try and entice his participation a bit more.
Sadly, he wasn’t able to attend, but he did write me a personal letter with his regrets and also graciously included several D&D adventure modules, as yet unpublished, for us to use during the game. We used them and had a great time, all the while praising Gygax for being cool enough to not only respond to us, but for caring enough to send us stuff to help make our marathon D&D session a success.
Several years later, I was able to actually meet Gygax in person at GenCon after I had convinced my parents it was a good idea to drive me across country so I could play D&D with a bunch of other kids in Wisconsin. My parents were cool like that and did it not only once, but twice.
When I met him the first time at GenCon we spoke for several minutes and he even remembered me from when I had invited him to our game. He was a great guy to talk to. Over the years I would run into him again at various events and each time he would, somehow, remember me and we would have another very nice conversation. At each and every meeting he was gracious and generous with his time.
The magnitude of Gygax’s influence on gaming and pop culture, both directly and indirectly, isn’t something that can easily be measured. He was extremely popular among those who played his games, of course, but his creations, particularly D&D, also had a profound effect on kids of my and later generations.
D&D helped us learn to think logically, to solve problems, to work as a team and, more importantly, to use our imaginations. As someone who has the privilege of using his imagination on a daily basis and gets paid for it, I , for one, have a debt to Gary Gygax that can never be repaid.
I feel confident there are others out there working away creating the current and next generations of games, comic books, movies and TV shows that feel the same way I do.
Thanks for the help and inspiration Gary. We need more people around like you. You will be missed.