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Alex Hamlyn

Arts & Life Editor

Gary Gygax, co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons, died at home Tuesday morning last week. After creating the game in the early ‘70s with a handful of his friends, Gygax spent the next 30 years creating a universe that now spans agazines, novels, websites, video games and one really horrible movie.

D&D is one of those elements of our culture, like Nirvana or Star Trek, that is often tainted by early experiences with someone who’s really into it. These D&D disciples stereotypically take the form of an irritable Satanist with long hair, an aversion to deodorant and a love for Megadeth.

Even sex would have trouble finding fans with advocates like that, never mind a pen and paper role playing game. But this hasn’t stopped millions of people who just weren’t that interested in playing touch football.

I won’t lie, I was a player. I spent many a school lunch hour or Friday afternoon embroiled in arguments over whether I could get the first strike on a giant spider, or if my half-elf mage could properly lift his sword. Strangely, I was never voted “most popular” at my high school.

Back then, all we needed for a good time was a ballpoint and some 20-sided dice.

Mr. Gygax may have helped to create one of the lasting symbols of nerd-dom. He gave hope to studly dragon-slayers with the bad luck of being born in the wrong century.

For me, the most appealing part of the game was the character creation.

Believe you’re good-hearted and noble? Make a paladin, a stereotypical knight in shining armor. Rather keep your party (team) guessing where your allegiances lie? Play a dastardly rogue and thieve from your own. You could be a fighter, maybe — barbaric, strong, square-chinned. Or you could be a bard: weak, constantly singing and useless. But then you’d be madly lame.

All of this jargon is secondary to the imagination and creativity of the players. Without that, D&D is just sitting around in somebody’s basement doing math really slowly. Awesome.

The rules are only there to give your inventions structure and to keep you focused. Putting up these barriers to creativity is the game’s conceit.

A lot has been written about video games and the Internet giving the common person the ability to create their own fun, but this revolution lost its initiative roll to a bunch of socially awkward, bespectacled, wizard-hatted dungeon crawlers three decades before anyone used the phrase “lolololol pwnzorz!!!!.”

I don’t want to come off as crotchety here. I give credit where credit is due. And credit is due. R.I.P. Gary Gygax. I’ll dedicate my next critical hit to you.

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