A Legend Passes

So, as most of the gaming world knows, E. Gary Gygax died today.

This begins John C. Welch’s paean to the more famous of the creators of Dungeons and Dragons. I haven’t read a lot of them, but I really liked John’s and really think it’s worth reading. Wil Wheaton also has some really cool things to say.

Like many other geeks, I grew up playing D&D. I don’t remember exactly when I first played, but I know that like Wil, it helped me survive with a few of the other geeks at First Baptist Church School in Charleston, South Carolina. It gave me a ready-made group of friends when we moved to San Antonio, Texas and I was starting at Judson High School. I remember long hours of play with Travis, Randy, and Von. We explored not only D&D, but various other games including Star Frontiers.

D&D was one of the things that helped me survive at Boston University where I knew no one (the other was an early exposure to the Internet of 1989, where IRC channels were numbered, and I played my first MUD—largely based on a mix of D&D and Adventure). Without D&D, there would be no World of Warcraft.

My favourite module to run as a DM has always been Ravenloft. At Boston University, I played with a group of Monty Haulers (one of them had three Wands of Wonder, fully charged, ok?) and they were quite cocky. They hadn’t met someone who could match them in using the rules. I boosted Strahd—a vampire as nasty as they come, and the main villain of the module—to their power. He was powerful enough to cast Anti-Magic Shell. This spell, for those of you not familiar with D&D, nullifies all magic in a radius of 14 feet for 60 minutes and vampires can only be damaged by silver or magic weapons of a certain strength (+2, I think). What was left unsaid in the rules, and I made a call on, was that vampires weren’t powered by magic.

Strahd attacked them early on and devastated them by casting Anti-Magic Shell, leaving them with no way to damage him. How did they drive him off? Through an innovative use of their combined magical items. The wizard cast Tensor’s Floating Disk and then used a Ring of Telekinesis to invert it. They poured five or six bottles of holy water into the inverted disk and then used telekinesis to float the disk over Strahd’s head. They dispelled the disk and dumped the holy water on his head.

I ran Ravenloft twice more with different groups, and always had a lot of fun. I played more than D&D, getting into Cyberpunk and various super hero games (I always thought Villains and Vigilantes was the best), and kept playing until just over ten years ago. But it was an important part of my life, and something that I won’t forget. And, as John said:

Goodbye Gary, and thanks. My life wouldn’t have been the same without you.

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