I’ll never forget the day I met Gary Gygax, the geek-culture icon who created Dungeons & Dragons, and who just passed away this morning. It was at Gen-Con, which at the time was the country’s biggest game convention. My parents--in what they still consider one of their worst parenting decisions--had allowed me to make the trip with a friend, on a Greyhound Bus, from Pittsburgh to Racine, Wisconsin. Monster Manual II had just come out, and he stopped me to ask if he could see my copy. It turned out that something that he wanted to be included wasn’t, or something that he wanted left out was included, or something like that. I wasn’t quite following what he was saying. For me, a pimply-faced kid about to start high school, it was like meeting Elvis. He thanked me, signed my book, and went on his way. That made the whole trip worthwhile.
That was nearly thirty years ago. Last summer, when my nephews came to visit, we played their version of D&D, which was a far cry from the game I remembered. I don’t think Gary’s name was even on the box; he had sold the rights long ago to a company called Wizards of the Coast.
I sold all of my old D&D stuff about fifteen years ago, but I still look back fondly on my years of near-obsession with the game. It was a great creative outlet for me and my friends. It also gave me my first exposure to what would probably be called "social conservatives" around here. They tried to close down our local club, charging that the game promoted devil worship or some such nonsense. They failed; we got to keep our group, and we played every Saturday until somewhere around my junior year of high school, when I moved on to other interests. But Gary Gygax’s passing makes me sentimental for those days. So, in my best uber-geek voice, I proclaim: "I raise a flagon of mead to you, my liege, and hope that the afterlife brings you nothing but natural 20s."