Remembering Gary Gygax

Thank You, Gary!

Today is Dungeon Day — that day to get together with friends, roll some funny dice, make some lines on pads of graph paper, and quest in search of “glory and gold.” And we dungeon delvers all owe a debt of thanks to Gary Gygax for synthesizing all of the elements of tabletop miniatures, board, and wargaming, sword & sorcery stories and adventure fantasy, improvisational and narrative storytelling, and, yes, funny dice(!) into something completely fresh and unlimited in its potential for collaborative fun around a table. No goblin has been safe ever since.

Gary and Dave Arneson co-created Dungeons & Dragons, and Gary’s stamp — and authorship — can be seen in the three core books of AD&D: The Players Handbook, The Monster Manual, and the everything-but-the kitchen-sink uber-tome The Dungeon Master’s Guide. With just those three books, players were given the keys to a kingdom of the imagination that has unleashed the fury of a million Fireballs, forever altered things with a reality-defying amount of Wishes, and Charm Personed entire generations of gamers that would come to call themselves “role-players.”

On Dungeon Day, we especially like to kick it old school and “party like it’s 1974” with some challenging, perhaps a bit unforgiving, dungeon crawls — the way Gary liked them! Just one look at his seminal module Tomb of Horrors, the original deathtrap dungeon designed to test high-level and tournament play, shows a side to the original vision of Dungeons & Dragons that was perhaps diluted over the years:

“There were several very expert players in my campaign, and this was meant as yet another challenge to their skill—and the persistence of their theretofore-invincible characters.” The module was something Gary cooked-up to be “ready for those fans who boasted of having mighty PCs able to best any challenge offered by the AD&D game.”

Of course Gary was about more than the deathtrap dungeon, and classic modules flowed from his pen in the early years of TSR, the company he co-founded, many set in his own campaign world of Greyhawk. From the sci-fi infused Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, or the Against the Giants trilogy of dungeon crawls pitting the PCs against successively more powerful varieties of Giantkind and establishing the drow as a reoccurring evil that would take the players deeper into the Underdark with Descent into the Depths of the Earth, through the Vault of the Drow, to the final climax of a seven module odyssey with Queen of the Demonweb Pits, Gary wasn’t just stringing adventures together, he was creating an entire fantasy epic.

The Keep on the Borderland showed that he could design something for the new player, too, and was for years the classic gateway module into the AD&D system. Gary kicked off yet another classic run, from humble beginnings in a village called Hommlet, culminating in the four-module series co-written with Frank Mentzer that has since been acknowledged as one of the greatest RPG adventures of all time: The Temple of Elemental Evil.

Whether you are once-again cracking the spine on one of these old classics (or experiencing them for the first time in their new incarnations!), running an adventure from one of the hundreds of talented designers that have since followed Gary’s lead, or guiding your group through a session of your own design today, it’s only fitting to stop and reflect for a moment on the Father of the RPG and what he brought to life on dining room tables around the world on this, the first annual Dungeon Day.

Author: admin

Share This Post On