So today someone came up to me and said, "Have you heard the news?"
"Yeah," I said.
"Yeah," he sighed, "the end of an era."
"To tell you the truth," I said. "I can't quite believe it. I'm a little shook up."
My friend looked at me, surprised. "I didn't know you were that into football. You never struck me as the the type."
"What does football have to do with this?"
"Brett Farve announced his retirement today."
"Fuck Brett Farve," I said. "Gary Gygax is dead."
"Who's that?" they said.
For those of you who don't know your roots, Gary Gygax created D&D. That means he pretty much created roll playing. It's fair to say that Gygax's work has had as much impact on the fantasy genre as anyone. He wasn't just a cornerstone, he was a keystone.
I found out about D&D back in the fifth grade. D&D has always been the refuge of the geeky and unpopular kids. But I was below even that low social strata. I was the kid that wasn't cool enough for the D&D kids to play with.
I checked out a copy of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons from the library and read it all the way through. That was back when AD&D was... well... Advanced.
Monsters and treasure and dungeons. Goblins. These days it all seems cliche, but back then.... it was all wondrous and strange. It wasn't just that someone had given you an world to play in, regular books do that. No, with D&D someone had given me the tools to make my own world, and I realized I liked doing that. I liked it a lot...
Eventually I found people to play D&D with. Some of my best memories from high school are playing D&D with my friends, Steven and Ryan. After all these years, they're the only two high school friends I really keep in contact with.
I remember getting the Master D&D rules for Christmas one year. I was maybe 10 or 12. Remember the black box? I read them at my Grampa's house the next day when we went there for breakfast on Christmas day.
"This game requires no gameboard because the action takes place in your imagination."
I learned what a ballista was, and a mangonel. I used to make maps on grid paper. I designed a huge walled city with elaborate fortifications. I made plans for trying to defeat a Tarasque. Instead of a high school graduation party, I asked my parents if I could go up to our cabin for a week with Steve and Ryan. For that week, pretty much all we did was play D&D.
What was my character's name that weekend? His name was Kvothe.
That early Kvothe really didn't have much in common with the modern version. Except, perhaps, that his wisdom was rather low. I started him at first level, too. You nerdcore folks out there know what I'm talking about. The rest of you can't know what that's like, playing a first level wild mage with three hit points and only two spells a day: both of them Nahal's Reckless Dwoemer. He spent a lot of time unconscious.
When I roll play these days, I use a different system. I know I can't go back. If I tried to play basic D&D again, it wouldn't work out. It would be like trying to hook up with my old high-school crush. But the truth is, you love best what you love first. And I loved D&D before I was cynical, before I knew what a cliche was, and before I understood about death. I can't go back. It wouldn't work.
But still, I wish I could.
One of my favorite comics, Order of the Stick, did a tribute strip to Mr Gygax, you can CHECK IT OUT HERE. It states the case pretty well. Thanks Mr. Gygax. I wouldn't be a writer if not for you... And even if I were, I wouldn't have written this book.
Rather than a moment of silence, why don't those of us who used to play the game share a little D&D story in the comments below.
posted by Pat at 11:30 PM