Wednesday, March 5, 2008

A legend in my mind

Yesterday Gary Gygax died in his home in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Any correlation between this and Brett Farve retiring has yet to be determined…

In all seriousness, for those of you nubs not in the know, he was the creator of Dungeons & Dragons.
As I read the articles about his death I started thinking about my early experiences of D&D and what an awesome time it was. Freshman year in high school I discovered this wonderful game. Using the mighty number two pencil and any paper (never use a pen, almost sacrilegious) I could get my hands on my friends and I created avatars, monsters, encounters, traps, puzzles, drama, conflict, resolution, reward, and death. No computers, TV’s, joysticks, or consoles needed, we used our minds and created worlds.

I can’t remember all of the D&D clones I’ve played over my life time. Some of the more memorable ones were Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles RPG (I know that sounds corny but their pen and paper game rocked the house), ShadowRun (A sci-fi / fantasy post-apocalyptic world set on the west coast), Marvel Superheroes, and Twilight 2000 (A WWIII infantry RPG).

My friend Jason and I played TMNT constantly for almost a year. Using the “Road Hogs”, “After the Bomb” and “Mutants Down Under” source books we reeked havoc with our mutated animal heroes, hands down my favorite RPG game. During that time the Nightmare on Elm Street movies were big and together we created an entire system and rule set for a dream warrior type game. Each hero had a specific nightmare type and using a unique power set had to battle his nightmares to stay alive. We spent hours building and playing this game. To this day my father mentions how impressed he was at the amount of material and the complexity of rules we created.

A low point was when my parents came and tried to forbid me from playing these games. Apparently the church I belonged to at the time (I’ve since become a free thinker and actually make decisions based on what I think) decided to tell its followers that D&D and games of this ilk were satanic! Bullshit and completely unfounded. God forbid the little sheep begin to think for themselves and use our imaginations. Another scathing post for another time.

Since then I’ve followed the genre as it has grown and morphed into what we have today. Video games (World of Warcraft), movies (most of them suck but I am working on that) and the occasional table top game (Warhammer 40k). I play a lot of these games and to my wife’s horror my son has also caught the gaming bug a bit. I am so proud… tears of joy I tell you.

I think for me it opened my mind into what can be accomplished, literally, out of thin air. All of my early writings were rooted in my gaming experience. It taught me how to imagine. It taught me how to create an avatar on paper and actually fear for its life as I navigated it through perilous adventures. Laugh; call me a geek or a nerd if you will. But I challenge anyone that loves a good movie or book to tell me that that is not what deep down they are looking for when they experience a story.

So I wanted to give Mr. Gygax his proper due. Without ever having met the man, he had a monumental effect on my life. Thank you sir.