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Gary Gygax, R.I.P.

Potts-DnD.jpgSince I've already inserted myself into two different conversations about this topic today, I might as well formally blog about it here: the New York Times has a heartfelt and funny op-obit* for Dungeons & Dragons co-creator Gary Gygax, written by Wired's Adam Rogers—and an equally funny diagram of D&D's influence on the average role-playing-game aficionado, by designer Sam Potts.
Mr. Gygax's genius was to give players a way to inhabit the characters inside their games, rather than to merely command faceless hordes, as you did in, say, the board game Risk. Roll the dice and you generated a character who was quantified by personal attributes like strength or intelligence.

You also got to pick your moral alignment, like whether you were "lawful good" or "chaotic evil." And you could buy swords and fight dragons. It was cool.

Yes, I played a little. In junior high and even later. Lawful good paladin. Had a flaming sword. It did not make me popular with the ladies, or indeed with anyone. Neither did my affinity for geometry, nor my ability to recite all of "Star Wars" from memory.

Yet on the strength of those skills and others like them, I now find myself on top of the world. Not wealthy or in charge or even particularly popular, but in instead of out. The stuff I know, the geeky stuff, is the stuff you and everyone else has to know now, too.

Though we've never asked, I have to assume that former and current Dungeons & Dragons fans figure prominently among the readership of the World Almanac. And to all of you, I can only say: I'm jealous. Seriously. No one in my small circle of childhood friends had any interest in the game, so I had to content myself with rolling up characters on my own, paging wistfully through the Monster Manual, and dreaming of the day when I could be a full-fledged D&D geek, too. (Then Zork came along and made it all better.)

Yet here I am, a couple of decades later, still messing about with charts and statistics on a daily basis. Coincidence? I think not.

Note: * Can I claim copyright on that phrase?

From the NY Times:
Geek Love (op-ed by Adam Rogers)
D&D Flowchart (op-art by Sam Potts)


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