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I hope you'll forgive me for posting this here. I don't know where else to say what I've got say, and besides, I know at least a few of you here got into computer RPGs because you were first into, um, meat RPGs.


When I was a kid I didn’t belong. My family didn’t get me, and although some teachers did, there’s only so far that really goes. The other kids sure as hell didn’t get me, and I spent almost all of my time alone, or with one or two other total outcast kids.

But there was something that the group of smarter-kids-with-friends had discovered in my class: Dungeons & Dragons. They kept it to themselves, met in secret during lunch, and basically wouldn’t talk about it, and wouldn’t share it with me.

The first thing I learned about it was how expensive it was. I could only afford the Basic Set, a colorful cardboard box with chits you cut out of plastic and drew from cupcake cups, in lieu of actual dice. It only had rules up to the third level, but it opened the door, if just a little, into a new world. My only real friend and I played every day after school in the 6th grade, and it wasn’t long before I knew what I wanted for Christmas: The Advanced D&D books. Every one they had.

My parents may not have been there for me much in person, but they shelled out for Christmas, and after a few months (basically eternity), I had The Books. It was the best Christmas or anything else I had as a boy, better than when I got the bicycle I wanted for my birthday. I knew there was so much more, and I waited so long for it. My parents just shook their heads (“Don’t you want anything different?” “Yes! Greyhawk is coming out!”), and I was set.

I read the books over and over, essentially memorizing pretty much everything. As I first studied them intently, one thing became clear: The Basic Set was just a sales job for the Advanced set, really -- they didn’t even have that much to do with each other in practice. Did I mention that EGG wasn't perfect? But I didn’t care. Everything was there, and I soon had a group. By now it had been determined that I was Dungeon Master, something everyone else seemed to think was this horrible job. It was constantly challenging, demanded endless creativity and excruciating mental flexibility. I could -- in fact, had to be -- anything. I never stopped loving it.

I ran a weekly (and often during the week, at school) gaming group from Middle School all the way until I left home to go to UC Berkeley. As that was only after bumming around at a Junior College for a few years, that meant my group met every week almost without exception for ten years. All the players changed, except for my very first one: My grade school friend was there for every single gaming session.

Through that time my family became mostly convinced that I was living in a fantasy world, but, consistent with their policy of general negligence, they left me alone. There were large gaming groups and small ones, either way made up of players who developed a character from the very beginning for a duration of eight or ten months or so until it was time to retire them and start a new campaign. There were campaigns that were a constant topic of conversation for their own sake for months at a time, and often after the campaign was over, replete with legendary moments and shocking plot twists. I still think of a few. I'm proud to say that I often succeeded in keeping my players guessing, frantically, as to how they might stay alive, or prosper, or hang onto their prosperity, and I gave them quite a run for the success they sometimes enjoyed. I gave them new, original items and twists that aren't found in any books, from creating their characters to found items and minor NPCs, spontaneously and unremittingly. Also, I occasionally flamed out. Hey, it happens to us all.

Up until AD&D occupied my life, I didn’t have a place in the world. Fantasy gaming let me create my own. With my imagination, and the imagination of people who would otherwise have never been my friend, we explored everything, the believable and the incredible, undeniable evil and profound self-sacrifice, what people were willing to do for their own agenda, whom you could trust, how complicated the world could become in the most unexpected ways, to all of us. Our parents thought we were merely sitting around a kitchen table or cobbled together in the garage, hatching vain empires, but the truth is we were growing up. Instead of running around painting graffiti and hooting at girls and getting in fights we were exploring imaginary yet very real worlds, the reality of what we could imagine.

I’d joke about us, sometimes. I’d say, “Let’s play pretend,” and everyone would look at me darkly. Some felt crushed. But I felt invincible. To me the unreal was the real. Here, look around. Every single thing you see in whatever room you’re in once existed only in someone's imagination. From that vision has sprung the reality of every artifact in the entire world. Take an inventory of a handful of things you could never have designed nor engineered, just the things you can touch right now without moving from your place. It’s humbling, but someone did do it, someone with imagination, someone living in a fantasy world that helped to create the fantasy world we now live in, a world composed of our own imagination and design. It’s easy to see that children live in a waking dream. It’s another thing to acknowledge that we do the same. The difference is that we mostly agree, often, on what that dream is, which is just to acknowledge that we're not as creative as we were as children. Fantasy role-playing was the dream I shared with my closest friends for ten years, the ten years during which I stopped being a lost child and grew up to believe in the person that I am today.

Without E. Gary Gygax, that dream would have never been born, and I would never have found a way to give myself expression. I can’t do the man justice. I can’t say enough. So I’ll stop.

Just this: Thank you, Mr. Gygax. Without you, I’d have never dared, never dreamed, never come alive. I’ll remember you always.

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