Tuesday, March 4, 2008

You enter a tunnel of blinding white light...

Gary Gygax died today.

I thought of the time during that ridiculous battle that we were losing badly; I levitated Karl up to that floating purple dragon, Mortus, and he rolled a supercritical and killed it. We were in the gym back in high school. I think I actually shouted out loud when he rolled that 20. Destroying Mortus removed quite a few obstacles, including, in a strange way, the good dragon guy whose name escapes me. In any case, we came away from that battle with more money that we knew what to do with. Of course, it also set in motion a chain of events that would push Karl's character further and further away from mine, and eventually lead to me being installed as DM.

Then there was the Ice Cave expedition with my cousins and the twins.

Filling coffee mugs full of dice at Gen Con 1999.

Downloading maps from wizards.com with every intention of using them.

Playing Baldur's Gate all the way through in three weeks during detasseling season.

Attempting to write a full history and theology for the world that I inherited from Ian.

Tying cloth around my monk's fists, dipping them in grain alcohol, and lighting them on fire in the hopes of causing extra damage to a squad of assassins, only to burn myself half to death.

Drawing the World map with Karl in his basement. I wonder if it is still there.

Sifting through vintage guidebooks at Paper Escape.

Finding my uncle's First Edition rulebooks in the basement at the old farm.

Years later, bringing those same rulebooks to Gen Con 2001, where I had them signed by the man who hosted what would become the first Gen Con in his basement in 1966. Telling that man what an honor it was to meet him, just like thousands of kids that day had already done, and still being treated as warmly as I could have hoped.

Despite all its pop-culture baggage, Dungeons and Dragons has been, and will be, a significant part of the development of a great many people. For some, it was a way to escape the doldrums of daily life. For others, becoming someone (or something) else was a dangerous, exciting proposition. Say what you will, but D&D is an ingrained part of the lives of many successful people.

And we joke about the passing of Mr. Gygax, as I'm sure he would expect, with classic lines: "I guess he failed his save vs. death!" or "Must've run out of HP…"

He's gone to the great inn in the sky, to relax in front of a roaring fire with elven rangers and Halfling thieves, evil human wizards and paladins of pure heart, mysterious sorcerers and half-orc berzerkers. They will quaff tankards of mead, and recount the glory days of d20s and diamonds, goblins and gold pieces, and the overwhelming happiness that can come from sitting with friends and imagining yourself to far away lands.

Rest in peace, Mr. Gygax.

(July 27, 1938 – March 4, 2008)