Gary Gygax, Co-Inventor of the (arguably first ever) role playing game Dungeons & Dragons died of unspecified causes Tuesday, at his home in Wisconsin. He was 69.
The inventor and rulebook author of multiple games, Gygax began in the game industry in 1972, after co-writing a book of rules titled: Chainmail: Rules for Medieval Miniatures. This book, which he wrote with Jeff Perren, went into multiple editions and inspired Gygax’s 1973 turn to publishing. The directly titled company Tactical Studies Rules, which he began with Donald Kaye, was a game publishing company which, in the early part of 1974, would unveil the first D&D game.
While they are always attached to the hero’s quest, Gygax’s games were not uniformly fantastical. An avid fan of pulp and fantasy, Gygax lists Hugo and Nebula Award winner Jack Vance as the most prominent inspiration for his work. In an interview with the website Gamespy, Gygax listed “Robert E. Howard, L. Sprague DeCamp, and Fritz Leiber” as other central influences. While many fans who share a love of D&D also share a love for Lord of the Rings, the two mythologies are mutually exclusive. Gygax says, “The magic system is based on Vance’s work.” Complimentary as he was of LOTR films, Gygax charmingly quipped, “I still don’t give hoot about Hobbits.”
As D&D grew in popularity, filling an increasing number of the country’s kitchens, garages and basements with clutches of dice rolling players, the game’s appearance in the media grew as well. D&D had a moment of infamy in the late 80’s when it was blamed for the suicides of a small number of teens. Sites can still be found indicting the game as a feeding program for witchcraft, but Gygax ritually stated that such was untrue, and while apologetic to the surviving families, he contended “games have nothing to do with real life.” He told Gamespy, “There are no real dragons, there’s no real magic, no real magic swords, and certainly no real treasure … or I would have retired at home by now.”
Gygax invented and published many games, multiple versions of D&D, Castles and Crusades, and Legendary Adventures, and also produced the D&D cartoon series. The Canadian Broadcasting Center noted though Gygax health was in decline he hosted weekly games of D&D in his home even through January. Ever the Dungeon Master, Gygax has begun his next great adventure.