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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Ask not for whom the dice roll, they roll for thee

Gary Gygax is dead. Yes, he created Dungeons and Dragons, and yes, I never knew him in person. But I have played 3.5 edition of D&D and I loved it.

Is it possible to mourn a man's death never having known him in person?

For me, this isn't something everybody will mourn about, like what happened to Heath Ledger's death and subsequent media circus. Gygax will probably not get a fancy funeral (but he deserves one) and most people I know don't even know his name or what he did for the Fantasy genre games market.

I did not know him, but I played some version of the game that he gave life to. It's like how you can love an author having never met them in person, but you know them from the books they wrote. 3.5 edition D&D was not made by Gygax, but if it wasn't for him, D&D would not exist.

Unlike Heath Ledger, there are no suspicious circumstances to his death. He will get no media circus picking his bones. And this enables the right people to mourn his passing, not out of socially acceptable pity, but out of genuine emotion.

This man's contribution to Fantasy inspired me to write in the genre, and develop my research further than the Monster Manual to see where the many legendary beasts came from. I came across the game at a time in my life where my imagination was prepared to be sparked by something, something I could interact with, not a videogame, but a game purely powered by the imagination. And I thank you for the new direction you set my life in, Gygax. Without you I'd still be writing copy-cat LOTR dreck that I was working on in Year 8 High School.

I never knew you, Gygax, but I will still mourn your death, that came not at the hands of a Beholder or some monster like that, but a more mundane slaying from a medical condition. Maybe a Level 20 Necromancer cast a spell on you, I wouldn't be at all surprised. But it's odd, when you contemplate how simple and mundane the deaths of Fantasy writers and guardians of imagination are.

Terry Pratchett got Alzheimer's earlier this year. He's not dead yet, and is still useful, but we must remember that no mortal creator will live forever, and they must be cherished while they live. Gygax, you'll be rolling d20s in heaven, I know you're doing it right now, you lovable old geek-king.

- Jacob Martin
AKA Jake of All Trades

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