Originally published in The Daily Toreador.
Since 1974 millions of people across the globe have taken part in an extremely enjoyable use of the imagination. After school or work, young and old alike will gather together with loved ones – sometimes even in costume – find a dark cellar, lock the doors, and role-play.
Maybe I should be more specific about what I’m talking about.
I’m talking about Dungeons & Dragons, and other role-playing games like it. Pen and paper, ten sided dice… You know, the kind of role-playing that you don’t have to be attractive or intoxicated to take part in. Well, okay, some of you may prefer to be intoxicated, but the more nerdy of us would rather have our minds free and clear when we enter the dark, dank chambers full of ogres, only to realize with horror that we forgot to cast our Magical Watchdog spell, and the only party member with a knife that does +3 damage to ogres is in the tavern getting drunk.
I mention the famous fantasy tabletop game because its co-creator, Gary Gygax, tragically passed away on Tuesday, March 4th, at the age of 69. He leaves behind him a legacy that has influenced and entertained millions of people. The D&D name alone is massive enough, including not only the extremely expansive worlds of the tabletop game, but also a variety of books, video games, a TV show, and movies.
And the influence is more expansive than that. Traits of D&D can be found in the renowned text adventure Zork, the Ultima RPG series, and a vide variety of fantasy novels. It was also a D&D inspired game released in 1991, Neverwinter Nights, that was the first graphical Massively Multiplayer Online RPG (it would later be remade by BioWare in 2002). So when you’re playing World of Warcraft at two in the morning when you should be studying, remember: Dungeons & Dragons helped shape the experience.
And you can thank Gary Gygax in part for that.
Sure, the game has seen more than its share of controversy over the years. The 80s in particular played host to religious and moral uproar when D&D was blamed for introducing people to witchcraft, Satan worship, and inducing suicidal thoughts. While it’s certainly possible to see where the religious angle came from, claims such as these were largely unfounded. In truth, the game flexed and strengthened the imaginations of many, and provided a great social experience. While the number of tabletop role-players has dwindled in recent years, the traditions still live on, and people still play. From the casual players to the LARPers and convention goers, D&D is still played all over the place.
If you’ve got to leave this earth, that’s quite the resume bullet point to leave behind. So here’s to Gary Gygax. The man always rolled twenties.