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Dee and Dee

I suppose every blogger has to, upon learning of the demise of Gary Gygax, post a reminiscence of happy days spent rolling 2d8. I have no such.

Oh, I played a couple of games, but I never enjoyed them, much. I liked the role playing aspect, but I didn’t like the mechanics, and the mechanics were what Gary Gygax (and Dave Arneson) actually contributed.

I wonder, sometimes, to what extent Dungeons & Dragons just happened to hit a moment, or rather a succession of moments, appropriate for the game first becoming a nerd commonality, then a mainstream byword for nerdocity, then a part of mainstream culture. Or to what extent the mechanism, the imposed structure and the vocabulary that they codified were in themselves responsible for creating those moments. There were always other role-playing games; none of them became the name for that type of play. Why D&D?

There were so many dice. They were cheap, but then you had to keep them in a little velvety sack with a drawstring so you wouldn’t suddenly discover you were missing a four-sided die and be unable to do some sort of thing. There were so many books, and they were big, and fairly expensive. It’s true you didn’t have to buy them, but it wasn’t actually easy to run a game without them (I’m told). And the game play, with charts and turns and figuring out who went when, and mapping as you went, or not mapping and having to deal with not having a map, and keeping track of so much crap, all on pieces of paper. Role playing doesn’t require any of that. D&D does. But role playing games, although they did have some currency, particularly those host-a-murder evenings that I quite liked, didn’t become a huge deal, and D&D did.

Now, there are computers, and it’s all much easier and nicer, and the people who liked the combat can find games that feature the combat, and the people who liked the story-telling can find games that feature the story-telling, and the people who liked mapping can find games that feature the mapping, and the computer keeps track of it all. Not that people can’t enjoy the dice and paper, but for people who couldn’t enjoy the game because of the dice and paper, there are options.

I suspect that there will be a lot of stuff written this week that gives Mr. Gygax credit for people pretending that they kill dragons. That’s just silly. My Perfect Non-Reader pretends she kills dragons (or that she is a dragon, or that she’s a half-dragon half-knight with a magic hat) because dragon slaying is an important part of our cultural heritage. D&D exploited that, it didn’t invent it. On the other hand, people playing games with complex rules and nearly infinite options, pretending to kill dragons, that’s the D&D thing, and there’s a lot of it about.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


Yub. Bek ib my bay .. (pauses to reinsert teeth) Back in my day, we didn't have no fancy paper and pencil. We used to have to scratch our personal data on clay tablets with flint knives. It built character (bu-dump bump). And we didn't have any of those new-fangled books, neither. We used to memorize the rules by ritual chanting in iambic hexameter with blood sacrifices. Young kids today, I dunno.

One of my old D&D cronies sent me an email with a link to the obit, and before I followed the link, I couldn't remember who Gygax was. Not even a glimmer or déjà vu or "Hmm, that names seems familiar." Nothing. A total blank. I blame it on the severe mental block engendered by our dungeon master killing off my 18th level druid in 11th grade.

i liked the spaceships game better. what was it called, travelers? ah. traveller.

I had to say something about Gygax after reading your post, but I decided not to use your comments to do it, after I'd typed a few paragraphs. You can thank me later, 'cause I go on and on...

Lost the draft in a horrible cut and paste accident, but I re-wrote it this evening, over at my place. Feel free to join the wake over there, if you're so inclined.


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