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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Gary Gygax

Just the other day, I found out that Gary Gygax passed away.

Most folks who see this might well say, "Who the heck is Gary Gygax?"
Gary did paperwork of various sorts for an insurance company. And I'm
sure you're perfectly fine with not caring with happens to some clerk in
an insurance company.

But Gary also had a hobby, playing games, with rules, with miniature
soldiers. Simulating battles, simulating entire wars. Sometimes
simulating wars between figures that never existed, as far as you know.

This can really be kinda fun, and I gather You Young People sometimes play
games that involve simulated figures on computer screens. And how those
characters behave is driven often by some of the same statistics Gary and
his playmates used to figure out with pencil and paper, and sometimes by
throwing dice.

Naturally, when one is really involved in such games, one identifies with
one or more of those little fictional characters. So you want to
interject your own personality into those characters -- but without doing
more than the character is capable of. Now, one way to limit how much one
can actually do is by creating numeric scales indicating how much such a
character can, or cannot, do.

Gary, playing with his friends with little non-environmentally friendly
lead figures, found a practical way to do that. A practical way for one
person to pretend for a moment, that they are that magical figure, or
sword wielder, or elf, or dwarf, or mere human. He even came up with this
little book, that explained how to it for yourself, with your own friends.

Roll a few dice, so it's not just about you deciding you have super-powers
over every aspect of your life. You have strengths, you have weaknesses,
all over a bell-curve sort of scale, based on 3 six-sided dice. There was
Miniature gaming, then there was Fantasy Miniature gaming with all sorts
of odd characters in the game. Then there was Fantasy Roll-playing

Gary's idea. Mostly.

Once you have that idea, and once you play a bit and find out just how
much fun it is to be someone else for a little while, you never, ever go
back. So more and more people played more and more games, and trying to
recapture the Magic of what he'd created, used his rules. So he created a
company to give those rules in a consistent format to all of us. Tactical
Studies Rules, or TSR. And the game, eventually, was called "Dungeons and
Dragons," or simply D&D.

D&D was tremendously successful, and more people got involved, and the
company got bigger, and naturally, more folks got involved. And
eventually, the company TSR got overwhelmed by Orcs and demons who were
obsessed with numbers, we call them "accountants" and "bean counters."
And they ended up owning the company. And D&D became a trademark.

And lots of people made lots of money on games on the Interweb pretending
to have something to do with the real joy of playing make-believe with
your friends, and charging large amounts of dollars for the privilege of
playing in their little plastic playhouses.

And Gary Gygax took his ball, and went home, and created Something More
Fun. And if you look really carefully, you can go and find it, too.
Google Is Your Friend. Just wear your foil hat.

We miss you, Gary. I miss you. And, when I can, I still play make-

Rest in Peace. But I'd bet you can probably still get a game together up


Grizzly's Growls
The Life and Times of a Minor Local Celebrity
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