Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Ernest Gary Gygax, co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons, died in his Lake Geneva, Wisconsin home on Tuesday at the age of 69 due to heart problems.

Dave Arneson’s Blackmoor was the first role-playing game, a genre in which players describe their characters in thorough detail and can attempt almost any action the character plausibly could. Gygax, then a close friend of Arneson, worked with him during 1972-73 to develop the extensive set of rules (in this case three volumes) that such a game requires. This became the first edition of Dungeons & Dragons. He also fleshed out the default setting for the game, a “sword-and-sorcery” world inspired primarily by fantasy fiction such as Three Hearts and Three Lions. He then founded TSR Inc. to publish the game; although it was a runaway success, financial difficulties ultimately forced the company to sell itself to Wizards of the Coast, which currently publishes the game and is now a subsidiary of Hasbro.

Although not involved with later editions of D&D, Gygax later worked on other role-playing games and wrote fantasy novels. He also designed niche-market board games.

Dungeons & Dragons is considered a tabletop RPG, since it is played with pen, paper, dice and miniature figures. It inspired other tabletop RPGs (such as GURPS), as well as video RPGs (such as the Final Fantasy series). The most recent form of RPG is the massively-multiplayer online roleplaying game, such as World of Warcraft. An estimated 20 million people worldwide have played the game. Magazines, print and web comics and independent bands have been dedicated to the game, as have thousands of fan websites.

Gygax’s death comes mere months before the scheduled release of the 4th Edition of D&D in June, as well as a scheduled “GM Day” among D&D fans on the internet.