Zero hp: Gary Gygax, 1938-2008

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gary_gygax_gen_con_2007.jpgGamers everywhere should pause their endeavors for a moment of silence: AP is reporting that Gary Gygax, the co-creator (with Dave Arneson) of the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game, has died at age 69.

If you play any RPG, whether it be D&D at a kitchen table with pencils and paper, online with World or Warcraft or on a console such as the Xbox 360 with Mass Effect, you should know that none of it would have been possible without this man. He started it all with the miniatures wargame Chainmail in 1971, the foundation upon which D&D and all of modern roleplaying would rise three years later.

I still have my big brother’s 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons hardcover books. The Dungeon Master’s Guide, in particular, is a marvel to behold: a labyrinthine tome full of treasure descriptions, treatises on game theory, the underlying math and reams of dice charts for randomly generating just about anything that could ever happen, anywhere. I think it even talks about spaceships. It’s glorious.

Gygax remained influential in the game and the games industry long after he was forced out of the company he helped found in 1985. While the current incarnation of the game bears less and less resemblance to the D&D he created with each new edition (a fourth is due to be published in June), endless tributes are often paid to Gygax by the writers and developers of today as well as by those outside the gaming industry. He even has a strain of bacteria named after him, and he was animated into episodes of Futurama and Code Monkeys.

GameSpy is just one of many sites with a fitting tribute that has remembrances from many in the industry as well as a link to a chat with Gygax himself. Penny Arcade!, CNET, The New York Times and the official D&D Web site are also worth checking out.

But this is no time to be sad! Gaming has never been as diverse or fulfilling, and because of that the legacy of Gary Gygax will live on forever.

Related posts: Real men hunt orcs with dice, not mice; Dungeon Masters don’t have levels, dork!

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