Dungeons & Dragons: Goodbye to Gary Gygax

I remember my first exposure to Dungeons & Dragons. It was the “it” game in the 1970’s and because it was the “it” game my mother grabbed a copy from the local Toy Box (it was the overpriced mall version of Toys R Us back in the day – before Kaybee). Knowing my mother, she probably had to explain we’d be trying it out because it was incredibly popular (and Parcheesi and Monopoly weren’t cutting it). I remember Mom opened the box and started reading the rules, “it says I have to be something called a Dungeon Master.” Hmm. “I’m supposed to create a dungeon with monsters in it and you walk around and discover things.” Hmmm. “It says the game can go on indefinitely.” Umm? My Charlie’s Angels board game was sounding more appealing by the minute. Within days that box (aka – future collector’s item) was returned to the store. (See, back then D&D came in boxes – not those fancy hard bound books – these books were probably hand stapled… by real dwarves…)

That’s where I left roleplaying until 11th grade came along and I was being forced to come to terms with my dorkiness and social inadequacies. (I was SOOOO not the homecoming queen.) A group of guys approached me with a little “psst” and a “hey, wanna play Elfquest?” Sure, it sounded like a creepy come-on line, but I could hurt most of them and it’s not like my Saturday social calendar was full. I remember they handed me my character sheet with the drawing of a buxom midget elf leaning against a mace. And then I acted like I’ve seen a lot of new gamer girls act. “What do I do?” they made some noise about dice and skills – honestly, who could follow that nonsense? “Ok,” as I twirled my hair and feigned being geek cute. (I’d seen actual cute people pull this off – me, it’s a lot like a Joan Cusack in any 80’s movie rip-off – kind of awkward and a tad spastic, but hell they were glad to have a REAL LIVE GIRL.) “I don’t get it. Can you guys just tell me as we go along?” I was NOT about to read a rule book. I scanned my sheet a little more closely, “umm… does this mean she’s pretty?” The guys who had obviously voted against girls in the club house groaned. “I mean, it is an 18 in pretty isn’t it? Can I attack the bad guys with my hotness?” To this day I’m not sure why they didn’t boot me out of the house. But, as I said, I was a real girl – and for me, there were BOYS that actually noticed me – a win-win. So, among the many reasons I thank Gary Gygax, it’s for giving me a dating outlet. D&D and every game that followed meant that I had a date not only for prom (I’d share the picture, but it was a bad hair day that pounds of Aquanet couldn’t fix – you can thank me for global warming, too – it all started thanks to flat hair) but that I could date through college – heck, and even meet this really great guy that I married.

So, on this day (only a couple of days late) I mourn the loss of Gary Gygax, the co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons and co-founder of TSR. You allowed us to continue playing pretend long past the time we moved out of our playhouses and sold our Hot Wheels, holstered our toy guns and waved goodbye to Barbie as she made her final move into a cardboard box (ok, so they call us Kidults – there’s still a place for us).

 You gave me a reason to draw so badly (and share). (NOTE: This is 20+ years old and something obviously died under the laminate – and yes, 20+ years ago, I decided laminating was a COOL idea.)


You gave my friends a reason to to set some paper on fire and choose the blood red font color. All for the sake of giving a lost Orc leader the means to recapture her pride, honor her father and save her people.

 You helped introduce me to new friends.

 Commission art.

  Say hello to my cousin online because I’m too cheap to call (hello, the internet is CHEAPER – and this way I can loom over him – he’s a halfling!) and I can also remind him, one more time, about one of the 101 reasons he loves me – LOVE YOU!

… and have an excuse to be around the people I love – my husband and friends. (HUGS PEOPLES!)

Oh, and how could I end without thanking you for teaching us about baby sacrifices, because everyone knows that’s what we’re really up to when we’re not scampering around sewers having hallucinations about being our characters. (A small nod to Tom Hanks and his movie “Mazes & Monsters” you do the 700 Club proud. For those not familiar with the flick, it’s the geeks version of “Reefer Madness”.)

Thank you, Gary Gygax!

(Psst, the photo above – that’s what gaming looks like – a bunch of paper, pencils, dice and a hex map. All babies sacrifices are conducted in the antechamber or a cellar, which is the right and proper place to do it if you have the correct amount of candles, dark hooded robes and one of those wiggly knives. You don’t want to ruin a perfectly good character sheet by making a mess in the kitchen.)

3 thoughts on “Dungeons & Dragons: Goodbye to Gary Gygax

  1. Beth says:

    Good comic! Jonathan?The NPR piece was nice. I was surprised to hear it on All Things Considered and then it was mentioned again during Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.… and how could you not love Carlos the Dwarf from Freak & Geeks. 🙂I do give Gary Gygax credit. I wouldn’t let the majority of those guys into my house, much less let them play a game. Gamers can be an awkward, smelly lot, but they’re rarely boring. The best people watching you can do is at your local gaming shop.

  2. Charla says:

    I thought of you when I heard that piece on NPR…what a special man to open his door to fans & invite them in to play a game. I loved the way D&D was a part of Freaks and Geeks…bringing those two disparate groups together. D&D’s legacy is not the freaky weirdness of those days of rumored death & hiding in tunnels, but the beginning of a way to bring groups of friends together, face to face…competing, laughing, having snacks. Well written post Beth.

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