Tag Archives: Gygax

Destroy All Monsters

Some of you may already have read it, but I came across a pretty interesting magazine article on D&D called Destroy All Monsters by Paul La Farge from the September 2006 Believer magazine.  It’s a pretty good “real journalist” look at D&D from someone who had played it as a kid.  As part of the article, they travel to Lake Geneva and play D&D with Gary Gygax!

Especially interesting is their look into Gygax – if you remove the blind hero worship that most D&D-types apply to him, you get a pretty interesting and complex character.  He delves into the sordid history of the rise and fall of TSR as part of the article, and gets quotes from the Blumes and Lorraine Williams too, and he’s pretty good about pointing out things he thinks are more self-serving than true coming from all involved.  You don’ t usually get things on D&D from an informed but professional point of view, so I found the article a really good read.

Role-Playing Mastery?

Lamentations of the Flame Princess is doing a great, in-depth many-part series on the Gygax book “Role-Playing Mastery.” I strongly recommend it.

I still have this book.  I can’t say I like it.  In fact, reading it was a bit of a watershed moment for me; it’s when I decided to bail on D&D.  I came back eventually, with the launch of 3e, but basically reading the book made me think, “If this is what D&D is really about…  I am going to try some of these other games I’ve heard about instead.”

It took a bit of playing other games and learning some other things to have the self-possession to say “Well, I’ll come back to D&D and play it how I want, instead.”  LotFP links to a rpg.net review that about sums up my take.   And in the non-Internet world, I didn’t know about the Gygax break with TSR, to me and other gamers in small town Texas, Gygax was D&D and his word was law.  And now reading him hold forth at greater length than ever before about what D&D is/should be – I rejected it.

What Gygax presented as being the acme of roleplay – essentially, gamist group competition – was not what I wanted.  I’ve done some RPGA over the years and those are always my least favorite RP experiences by far.   There are loads of small details of advice in the book, some good, some bad, but its overall zeitgeist was that- rule mastery, overcoming challenges – this is the acme of role-playing mastery.  I had even at that tender age started to value world realism, plot, character immersion…  None of which were reflected at all in his screed.  I reckon I figured you had to take it all or not, so I chose not.

I started obsessively collecting RPGs.  You don’t even want to know how many I have.  I wanted to do different things, and decried friends who wouldn’t play anything else as “D&D whores” stuck in the “D&D ghetto.”

Older and wiser, having learned much (I hesitate to call what I learned “role-playing mastery,” but IMO it was more worthwhile than what the book claimed under that rubric), I returned to play D&D.  Though to be honest, I’d prefer for it to be about 30% of my gaming diet, and it’s much more than that.  “I’m taking it back!”

So it all turned out all right.  With perspective, I regained my appreciation of D&D and Gygax.  Years later, after the rise of the Net, Gygax himself flamed me as “fatuous and jejeune” on his mailing list for daring to say… his game with lots of j’s in the name, I forget which one, there were a couple… was pretty derivative of D&D.   Sure, I thought “Deal with it, you coke-snorting old hack,” but it was with fondness.  (After looking up WTF “fatuous” and “jejeune” meant.)

4e Killed Gary Gygax

There seems to be quite a net furor on. Apparently several people, perhaps a gaming group, were at Gen Con wearing t-shirts saying “4e Killed Gary Gygax.” (There are further claims that a company was selling them at Gen Con, but as no one from the thousands of people at the con can quite remember which company it was, that stinks of wishful incorrectness.)

This immediately generated a wave of incorrect rumors that a company called Dragon Root was selling them at the con – they weren’t, but people are happily spreading the misinformation since no one wants truth to get in the way of “revenge porn,” as one ENWorld poster puts it. I’ve been treated to about a hundred forum posts by “offended” people who, claiming two or three more balls than they have in real life, want to “find whoever did it and beat them senseless.” (My ex, following along as I write this story, notes “There seems to be quite a lot of woodwork, doesn’t there!” with her trademark dry wit.)

1. Yes, it’s tasteless, and yes, it’s funny. It’s 2008, get over it. If you live in a flyover state that has a lower than usual irony/postmodern humor quotient, watch a Comedy Central roast or something.

2. 4e didn’t kill Gary, it just makes him roll over in his grave. Bonus Gamespy Interview quote:

GameSpy: Have you had a chance to play or even look at some of the current Dungeons & Dragons games?

Gygax: I’ve looked at them, yes, but I’m not really a fan. The new D&D is too rule intensive. It’s relegated the Dungeon Master to being an entertainer rather than master of the game. It’s done away with the archetypes, focused on nothing but combat and character power, lost the group cooperative aspect, bastardized the class-based system, and resembles a comic-book superheroes game more than a fantasy RPG where a player can play any alignment desired, not just lawful good.

Although I have my doubts about whether this is really a Gary quote, as it doesn’t use the words “fatuous,” “jejeune,” or “scrumdiddlyumptious.”

Anyway, all of you fruits feigning rage since of course YOU were the one who loved Gygax more than ANYONE – give it a rest, you’re passive-aggressively trying to cash in on his name yourself by publicly declaring yourself his biggest fan and posthumous defender. (Hey, Posthumous Defender, that’s a great name for a prestige class!)

All of you with real rage over it – and I say this in love – Jesus, get a grip and out of your parent’s damn basement, or the dark bungalow where you live singly (more common for older adult geeks). I’ve seen twenty people post “what must his FAAAAAAAAAAAMILY think.” Well, you’re not them, so keep it to your fucking self. How about instead, you show some sympathy and consideration to people you know when someone you actually *know* dies.

/PSA over.

Dungeon Master: The Life and Legacy of Gary Gygax

Wired Magazine has published an excellent article on the life of the departed co-creator of D&D, Gary Gygax.   His passing has generated a surprising amount of coverage from the media; just goes to show how far the influence of gaming has spread, really.   (I just saw an animated Gygax in a Futurama episode last week!)  For more, check out these older posts of mine: 

More Gygax Retrospective

A couple fun things in the wake of Gygax’ passing.  One, this huge D20 on the MIT campus (courtesy FARK). 

 Also, an unexpected place for retrospectives on Gygax – various Presbyterian pastors!  (Thanks to the Mad Doctor for these.)

The Old Grey Lady on the Elder God of Gaming

The New York Times, in last Sunday’s edition, published a nice article from Adam Rogers of Wired about D&D, E. Gary Gygax, and how D&D informs so much of modern geek culture (which is steadily taking over mainstream culture).  They have a big fun flowchart to follow your own journey of geekiness, too!

Geek Flowchart

(click to enlarge)