Wednesday, March 5, 2008

He missed his saving throw

The inventor of Dungeons and Dragons died yesterday.

As much as I am a poker player, I am, in reality, a gamer by nature. That means that I greatly enjoy all sorts of games, physical or not. In my life, I've played competitive Backgammon, Poker, Chess, Fencing, Football, Basketball, Baseball, Monopoly, Risk, Life and Payday. But Dungeons and Dragons (hereinafter known as "D&D") was different from all of those games. It didn't have a score. It didn't have a 'purpose'. It was purely imaginative.

I'll never forget the first time I saw it being played. I was in summer camp (Go Scatico!) and it was about 6:30 PM, the lull time just after dinner. We normally got time to ourselves at this point in the day and some of my bunkmates had set themsleves up on the floor. They had book scattered all around them with folders propped up in front of them. The folders were brightly illustrated and had tables and graphics on every square inch of them. Three of them were sitting in a semi-circle, facing Nick, who had set himself up across with them with similar paraphanelia. Nick had a tape he was playing of mood music and he was weaving a story. Something about goblins at the end of a hallway. My bunkmates sat enraptured as Nick quiety rolled these strange dice every so often and called out events that were happening in the story. "The lead goblin pulls out his sword and attacks you".

I remember being very very curious about the whole thing and completely envious of all of this great 'stuff'. The folios, the dice, the books. It all looked sooo cool. We all had board games at camp (Strat-O-Matic Baseball being the best one by far), but this was an entirely different thing. There was no 'board'. There were no 'cards'. Just a storyteller and some friends hanging out. I wanted so much to be a part of it.

I got into the game eventually, which inspired a lifelong fascination with the fantasy genre. I bought up all of the D&D books, each one as they were released, and bought dozens of 'modules', which were separately sold pre-written stories that you could adventure with. I read the Dragonlance Chronicles religously and caught up on all of the fantasy inspired movies: Legend, Labyrinth, Willow, etc... Yes, I knew I was a complete geek, nerd, dork, whatever, but I really never cared about that. I was completely lost in the fantastical element of the whole thing. The idea of magic, chivalry, sword and sorcery were very powerful to me. And the obsession spun off into tangible real world benefits.

Without D&D, I would never have taken up fencing.
Without D&D, I would never have taken up acting.
Without D&D, I would never have read up on Greek, Roman and Norse mythology.
Without D&D, I would never have learned computer programming.

D&D is a dead fad these days. Yes, it's still around, kept alive by cult enthusiasts, but it's dead. It's been done in by the natural evolution of D&D, which is Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPG) like World of Warcraft. Oh yeah, if not for D&D, there wouldn't be those either.

Rest well Gary Gygax. You're little experiment in a different type of social game has brought joy, obsession and profit to countless people all over the world. That's not a bad legacy to leave in the least.

1 comment:

Krishnan said...

What a sad day... I too was a big RPG enthusiast way back when. I remember the exitementI of the old dragonlance and forgotten realms series. And now come to think about out, that was a major factor in me learning how to programme.