11 April 2009

Gygax and Arneson, in Memorium

In the spring of 1978, I began a most interesting journey. One of those journeys that changes your life. Two of them actually.

Wideview Utah desertOne was a school trip, with about 40 kids and chaperons packed into 8 station wagons, setting off on an 11-day tour of Wyoming and Utah. Great fun. Memories to last a lifetime. A story for another day, perhaps. [Image Wideview]

Then there was the other journey. Five 13-year-old boys in a car on a long drive across the desert do get bored. There were two pretty girls in the car too (S and J), but we hadn't figured that stuff out yet. What we did have was a box. A game in a blue box that none of had seen before.

Basic D&D Dungeons and Dragons AcaeumWell, that's not exactly right; one of us had. Matt pulled this blue box out of his knapsack and introduced us to a game that had no board and no pieces to move. It used pencil and paper, but we had that in abundant supply (school trip, you know). It also used some dice I'd never seen before, with 4, 8, 12, and 20 sides, in addition to the usual 6 sided dice. We created "characters" by rolling attributes and decided what classes they should be. [Image Acaeum]

Characters needed names, and fortunately we had all recently seen the Ralph Bakshi movie Wizards which provided a lot of inspiration.
Sean had high wisdom and became a Leric? the cleric. Manus got high intelligence and was a magic user (name?) with a unique fashion sense. Taylor got the highest dexterity and was Avatar the thief. John and I got good strength and constitution and took the fighter roles of Elric? the elf and Peace the dwarf. Matt ran the show as the game master.
[Image IMDB, and if you are an RP gamer and have never seen Wizards, shame on you!]

Wideview Utah Glenn canyon damAnd so we passed the time on the long long drives between stops on our trip. Battling skeletons, stirges, and other perils, and gathering up all the loot we could carry. I have a lot of good memories of that trip, which was really extraordinary by any measure. Some of those memories happened in the back of a station wagon, rolling down the Utah highway. [Image Wideview]

In the past 13 months we have lost Gary Gygax and David Arneson, the two people who created Dungeons & Dragons, and who enabled a lot of those good memories I've been writing about. That is the way of things; people pass on leaving only memories.
Though I gave up this particular game long ago, gaming remains a part of my life. I am not alone, because a lot of other people have been drawn to role playing games as a pastime and hobby. A lot of them started with the blue box or something very like it, just like my friends and I did in the back of that station wagon. Somehow I think the influence these two men had on so many people will not be forgotten any time soon.
GBR Giant Battling Robots Favicon

[Update: With some help from Matt, we determined this must have been the spring of 1978, not 1977. Therefore most of us were actually 14 years old, not 13. There are some additional comments on Facebook.]
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