Gary, may Orcus greet you with open arms.
I'll skip most of the maudlin stuff. Gary Gygax has died, or failed his Save vs Death, as the Fark.com headline read. Somehow I don't think Gary Gygax would be too angry at that bit disrespect.
That most folks reading that headline understood what it meant says something. There was never anything called a Saving Throw prior to Dungeons & Dragons, a game dreamt up by two college students, and now it is part of the American lexicon.
The word dungeon. Prior to D&D it meant a place you strung up people who pissed off the king, not a maze of tunnels through which you explored, once again a now part of the American lexicon.
Gary Gygax did something incredible, along with Dave Arneson when they created D&D. They opened people's imaginations like few before them, mostly without the help of pharmaceuticals. They shaped the mentality of the late 70s and early 80s.
What? You don't see it? The first computer games that many of us typed in BASIC on old TRS 80 computers back in the bad old days were dungeon simulators.
Thanks to Gary Gygax and his game, Tom Hanks got his first big screen role in Mazes and Monsters, a movie that would never have come about without D&D. Tom Hanks is a geek too, but we knew that already.
Gary Gygax was the springboard for our imaginations and our intellects. He was the inspiration for me to read. Living on a small military base most of my teen years, I read every trashy sci-fi novel and fantasy novel (many of them multiple times over) that the base library had in stock, and stole more than a few of my favorites.
Maybe my thieving skills are not such a great example of Gygax's influence on me, but that I felt so driven by the worlds D&D opened my eyes to is a great testament to the man.
And the Gods know I was not the only one. I remember my mother reading a notice that appeared in the base bulletin to me. "Library requests the return of books."
During the space of two years or so since D&D had been introduced to the base almost two thirds of the library's paperback collection of sci-fi and fantasy had been stolen.
People, mostly teens and young military bachelors stealing books? What? Books? Are you smoking dope? I sure as heck didn't take them all.
And that is the fact. We weren't smoking dope, and we weren't indulging in copious amounts of teen drinking. We weren't drawing graffiti or causing trouble or getting the teen age girls pregnant (or wearing ourselves out trying).
We were hunkered down in the library, the local fast food joint or the recreation center or the Officers Club rolling dice and consulting tables and proclaiming the "Theophus Leathertoes backstabs the evil anti-paladin!" or "Emeril the Dark casts lightning against the horde of charging orcs!"
Despite the stereotype, it was not just a bunch of dorky guys who couldn't get laid outside of the military base with a hundred dollar bill tied around their necks. The chicks played too! Ah the joy of a semi-closed enviroment like a military base.
Thanks to D&D I got a hankering for the myths and legends of the country I was in (England) and I found a direction for my art, which I still pursue to this day, some thirty years later.
Good-bye, Mr. Gygax. You'll be missed. May Orcus bash you once or twice with that skull-headed sceptre of his and welcome you to the Abyss.