E. E. Knight (eeknight) wrote,
E. E. Knight

A tribute to E. Gary Gygax

I've been meaning to do a lengthy post on Gygax and what gaming has brought to my life. I've been muchly inspired by the post they put up at Black Gate.

I really liked this quote from John O'Neill, so I'm reproducing it here:

"For myself, I learned a great deal at the gaming table, and it has served me extraordinarily well. I'd been a Dungeon Master for over a dozen years by the time I entered the workforce, which meant that I had copious experience bringing people together around a table, gently guiding an argumentative team to the conclusion I wanted, running meetings and giving presentations with virtually no advance warning, and looking poised and in control when dealing with wildly unexpected situations.

"Years later, sitting in Dave Kenzer's office at Motorola as we worked together on a complex investment scheme, I put my feet on his desk and confided, "You know, I've negotiated to buy companies for a quarter of a billion dollars. I've started a few companies, and been on the Board of Directors of more. I've managed teams of salesmen. I studied English in Canada, and got a Ph.D. in Engineering in Illinois. And none of that — none of it — has prepared me for this job as much as being a Dungeon Master."

"That's the first thing you've said about this deal that's made complete sense," said Dave.

Today's the day for my own tribute. But beware.

At the start, it didn't seem like much

(At least, for those of us old enough to remember the start)

Back before fangirls existed anywhere but our imagination

(for good and bad)

We all got into it for various reaons

Because our friends introduced us to this wonderful world

Or we wanted to escape this one, at least for a couple hours

And let he who never bought a game because of the hot chick on the cover cast the first stone

And yes, times and technology have changed

But we're still doing cool stuff in our imagination that probably wouldn't work out in real life

Yeah, we're the butt of jokes that are often all too true

But as the A-Team taught us, you gotta love it when a plan comes together

And there's the Philip K. Dick style question of whether an imaginary memory of an awesome triumph is any less pleasing than the memory of a real one

RPGs taught us so many lessons

Even if the DMs weren't always the greatest

Or the players had different goals for the party

We learned that life didn't always end up like the cover art

And that what sometimes seemed like an awesome idea

Didn't always turn out

But when you had a great GM

And some players who wanted real roles

You tasted at least one form of alchemy that works in the real world

In other words, fun

With a 100% chance of at least one conversation about boobs

And plenty of laughs

We put a little of ourselves into our characters

Made ourselves better, stronger, faster, and way more badass

Without harming the real world

We put up with different personality types

We stole paid homage to source material great

And questionable

(And I daresay improved on a few)

Making it our own

Dealt with people who always wanted to play hot-assed ninjas

Or booty-seeking pirates

Or even bards

Or those who'd eat ninjas and pirates for breakfast while they smacked around a bard

A little diversity helps a party, after all. Or not.

Sometimes what came out on the tabletop was rather, errr, revealing

Made me wonder, sometimes

But we rolled with it, because there were advantages

We took on noble (and dangerous) creeds

In service of nobles or scoundrels, depending on the paycheck

Dealt with rules lawyers

Backed them up

Or told them to shut the hell up and let us enjoy the experience

Or not

We created unique characters

Because by the Power of Greyskull, even if it doesn't exist, it oughta

Dressed them up in cool costumes.

Well, mostly.

(Of course, there's some outfits you just can't hope to beat)

Don't forget armor!.

Or something we called armor.

But I'd always welcome out-of-the-box thinking, like dispensing with both.

An awesome enough PC doesn't even need a name.

Because, in the end, it's just a game -- or it had better be.

We faced strange adversaries

Bizzare encounters

(frequently with Ninjas)

And learned that the difference between "ridiculous" and "too cool for words" was all in your attitude.

I think the real world could use a little more of that attitude.

On second thought.

But then on the third hand

Oh, now I'm lost in my imagination again, am I at the end or the beginning?

So off we'd go with our players and companions

Allied NPCs who were sometimes even cooler than we were

Into those strange new worlds

We'd unfurl our banners

Take weird or impractical weapon in hand

And go explore an impossibility (or at least an improbability)

Where a failure could often be more exciting than a success

And you'd meet people and things you'd never get a chance to see in real life, and probably wouldn't want to

Sometimes we'd fight

Sometimes we'd run

We'd change things wherever we went

And eat enough junk food to choke a unicorn.

But we usually made it to the end. Sometimes we'd even be shocked.

Even if the GM's description left a little to be desired.

We'd invent way cool stuff

Newbies would learn a few hard lessons

But we'd teach them how the world worked (or how to work the world)

Just when and how to deal with a trap

And more importantly, to expect a trap exactly because it doesn't look like a trap

Improvise your way to victory

By exploiting your opponents' weakness, be it obvious or no

With creative use of the carefully chosen abilities


We'd accept slightly weird outcomes

Or definitions of a reward

As long as it kept to your character's alignment

We'd cheer on great bits of roleplaying

And laugh in the face of failure.

And fall on the floor and hyperventilate over a truly epic failure

And learn to roll with the punches

Because after midnight you never know what a tired DM might come up with

We assimilated a little bit of our characters, sometimes even took bits of them into the real world

Some of us even ended up with people we met gaming

And saw life in RPG terms. Maybe for the better.


Some might benefit by working a few things out on tabletop where they wouldn't bother the rest of us.

We sometimes wish we had some of the skills our characters do

Or their balls

But even if we don't let out a battle cry and draw sword, we're at least suspicious of stuff that looks or sounds too good to be true

And we're good at forming our own ideas and philosophies, thank you very much

We make sure we've got the right tools and a plan before sitting down to an important task

And have definitions of beauty and possibility that don't come out of a glossy magazine

It all comes down to you and your friends having a good time, not hurting anyone but a few bags of Cheetos.

For all we've learned, for all we've laughed, for all we've won and lost and become.

Thanks, Gary.

Tags: gaming

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