March 5th, 2008

geekier than thou


Something must be very wrong with me when I can click through to an article titled "Gary Gygax, 'Father of D&D,' Dies at 69," take one glance at the page, and my first thought is:

"Holy crap! Lore Sjoberg* ** *** writes for Wired now!"

To be honest, I'm not hit especially hard by Gygax's death. I got started with D&D (my older brother's box sets -- "Advanced" came later) as a precocious pre-teen, devouring the rulebooks and reading through the adventure modules, but by the time I actually got around to playing any RPGs, I was addicted to the flexibility and obsessive-compulsive tinkering of GURPS.

And, frankly, the original D&D ... just isn't very good compared to today's RPGs. Apologies to the old-schoolers out there, but it's true. The rules are arbitrary and strange. It took them three editions to finally flip Armor Class to positive numbers and do away with the iconic, idiotic "THAC0". Characters have no flexibility (no skills until 2nd ed.!) and the Vancian spell system is a joke. The game is ruled by hack-n-slash munchkining and gotcha GMing, and the module that redefined the word "paranoia" is seen by many as its crowning achievement.


Gygax built a foundation. He put the ideas out there. And 98% of the entire "fantasy" genre lies within crossbow-bolt range of Gygax and/or Tolkien.

Like it or not, he's a titan**** of gaming. He deserves all the attention he's getting, and it's worth taking a moment to reflect on his legacy.

Or just, y'know, make tasteless but funny jokes.*^6

* The link from his name to his Wikipedia article is entirely deliberate.
** Even if you're not internet-old enough to recognize him as the genius behind Brunching Shuttlecocks, then you have almost certainly seen his work. I will cite as an example (since it seems most relevant to the current post) the Geek Hierarchy.
*** Cramming multiple footnotes onto a single reference point has got to be a new high and/or low for me.
**** AC 0, HD 20, THAC0 5, dmg 7d6 + 14, treasure type E,Q(x10), R.*****
***** C'mon. You saw this coming. Admit it.
*^6 Best of the lot, seen on 1.2 billion sites on the Internet: "Gary Gygax fails saving throw vs. death."