(Ernest) Gary Gygax
In 1938, the "Windy City" of Chicago brought forth the most powerful wind of change to the world of fantasy - the year Ernest Gary Gygax was born. He later moved to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, where an abandoned insane asylum on the hill overlooking the city nurtured his "adventuring." It is easy to see why he is one of the gaming world most influential figures since he was playing chess at age six and with miniatures by age fifteen. In 1948 Gary read his first Conan story and was a collector of the pulp SF and fantasy magazines by 1950. During the 1950s, Gary tried to invent variants to chess. In the 60's he moved to the genre of wargames and military miniature rules. One of these such games was a variant of Diplomacy. Then in 1970 he was hired by Guidon Games.
In 1972, at the age of 34, he began work on what would be the patriarch of fantasy games - Dungeons & Dragons. After finishing the initial game manuscript, within the same year, Gary states he sent "20 or 30 copies... to gamer friends all over the USA, and their incredibly enthusiastic response made me certain that what I was doing was on target." In 1973, after completing the draft that became the original three booklets of Dungeons & Dragons, he joined with Don Kaye to form Tactical Studies Rules (which became TSR Hobbies Inc. in 1976), and the game was officially published in late January 1974.
At just over a year old, Dungeons & Dragons(D&D as called by his daughter, so he made it synonymous) began to spread Gary's vision, and influence, to Europe. After obtaining a copy of "Owl and Weasel," a gamers' newsletter from England, Gary immediately sent a copy of D&D to another fledgling company - Games Workshop Limited. In February 1975, Ian Livingston (now of EIDOS Interactive), Steve Jackson (of Lionhead Studios) and John Peake sat down and played what Gary sent. After an original order of just six games, D&D became a staple product of Games Workshop Limited with an exclusive three year distribution contract.
During the next few years, Gary had a hand in developing several other role playing game genres for TSR. Some of these works included Gamma World (a post-nuclear war era game of mutant societies, genetically altered animals, and killer robots) and Boot Hill (a quick draw-style Western game). But these games did not have the staying power, nor the mass appeal, that was D&D.
Gary's love for fantasy and D&D is best shown by his own gaming characters involvement with the evolution of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons(AD&D). To answer what Gary calls "another 'which child do you love most' sort of question," he states "Gord was a lot of fun. So were the Drow and Eclavdra. And Iuz had his moments. Wastri could have been amusing, had I ever done as much with him as I had planned. Playing Mordenkaning is exciting, especially now that he's very potent and I dread losing such a PC." Gary's love for playing Gord was greatly expressed in the five books he wrote telling the tales of Gord's adventures.
In 1984 Gary parted ways with TSR. The facts behind this separation are quite confusing and very long and detailed. Needless to say it wasn't on very pleasant terms. But that has not stopped his working in the fantasy role playing world. As of December 2000, he has written over ten "rule" books for the system he began work on in 1995 - Legendary Adventure RPG. He has also help create nine other game systems and several rule books for still others. Also he has had his part in the development of several different computer games.
Gary's works of fiction and articles about gaming seem too numerous to count. With over twenty articles, ten novels, and four novellas, he has inspired many authors of varying fields. One of these is Rie Sheridan of Verge Magazine. "True story - I started writing my first fantasy novel when I was nine years old. We've grown up together, those characters and I. In 1992, I thought I had finished the novel, and submitted it to TSR, Inc. because I really liked Gary Gygax's "Gord the Rogue" novels and I thought mine fit right in."
As for now, Gary keeps himself busy with 5-6 days a week of 10-12 hour workdays. He posts several times a week to different websites and makes guest appearances to different gaming conventions (he founded GenCon in 1968, the world's longest running annual hobby gathering).
Throughout his life he has always honored those who have influenced him, especially J.R.R. Tolkien. Some of his special likes include fine dining, dry martinis, Orson Welles, original EC Comics, Sherlock Holmes, good coffee, and Camel cigarettes.
Editor's note: E. Gary Gygax died March 4, 2008.
*www.dragoncon.org/people/gygax.html *www.eidosinteractive.co.uk./ian_livingstone/biography/part2.html *www.theonering.net/features/interviews/gary_gygax.html *www.gamesdomain.com/gdreview/zones/previews/may00/bg2.html *www.locusmag.com/index/s321.html#A7055.9 *www.vergemag.com/1200/writer/1200w01.html