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Mar 10, 2008, 11:30AM

Elegy for the Dungeon Master

Dungeons & Dragons founder Gary Gygax has passed on, but his legacy looms as large as Mystara. A friend eulogizes.

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I would like to commemorate the life of one Gary Gygax, friend to many, Dungeon Master to all. Not even a 20th level Paladin can defeat the Old Wyrm that is Time, and despite fighting with the tenacity of a Dwarven berserker, last Tuesday at roughly 10:00 a.m. Gary failed his saving throw versus cancer.

We cannot know where Gary has gone; perhaps he lies supine on the misty mountain plateau of Mystara, talking quietly with sages from far off worlds; perhaps he rests comfortably in the Elysian field with vaguely erotic fox-women to attend to his every need. Wherever he is, I know that he is looking down on us with the joy one gets from looking at a well-painted pewter knight figurine.

Though Gary’s was a life that ought rightfully to be remembered in mead-hall songs sung by the finest of skalls, it falls to me, with a somewhat but not exceptionally above-average Charisma of 12, to tell his tale. So be it. I accept this burden.

Gary was the sort of man who cast a charm spell on everyone he met. You would follow his light into the deepest dungeons of Thranagaar with nothing but a rusty short-sword to defend yourself if he asked you. Not that he would ask you to so something so absurd, as he had an excellent grasp of appropriate battlefields befitting a D.M. of his stature.

But there was more to Gary then the pure magnetism of an Elven bard; he was also as wise as a high-priest of Ogron. I remember during our last game, sitting with the rest of our party in his hospital room using his heart medication to represent goblins on our hexagonal map, when he looked at me and spoke, "This is how I want to die; defending the golden city of Arbor from the foul minions of Moloachi one last time.” To be able to appreciate what’s really important in the face of such terrible despair…it must truly be said that Gary had a heart as grand as any Gryphon’s. But then I have many fond memories of Gary pretending to do things. I can remember the way Gary used to pretend to laugh when someone he was simulating killed something that didn’t exist, or the stern look of his pretend character he would describe as he stared down some cruel villain. 

More even than the imaginary creations he feigned the existence of, though, I can remember the man who was Gary Gygax. He showed uncommon kindness and warmth to a doe-eyed youth straight out of college who was desperate to make it in the big leagues of fantasy role-playing games. I prefer to remember him from the very first time we met, his bulbous fingers combing cheese-flavored crumbs out of his unkempt beard and a twinkle in his eye as he said, “You slip on a piece of green moss and the goblin awakens with a start. Roll for initiative.”

Go with Pelor, sweet Gary. Go with Pelor.


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