Tag Archives: Gary Gygax

The Golden Age of RPG Games

Hi gang, Mac here from Dark Elf Dice. Last Friday I was busy counting inventory for a new shipment of dice we received when Calvin (one of my cheeky employees) referred to me as the “old man.” At first, I didn’t know who he was referring to. I stopped my counting and looked over my shoulder to see if someone else had walked into the room. No one had of course. It was just me, Calvin, shelves loaded full of rpg dice, and a nickname that I didn’t think I’d ever hear in my lifetime…

I hear it all the time, but I'm NOT He-Man!

Now don’t get me wrong — there’s nothing the matter with growing older or being considered old for that matter. It’s just that I’ve only had one other nickname in my life. In grade school I was known as “Lightning” because I could run faster than my classmates and won all sorts of ribbons for track and field (I suppose you could say my agility score was a natural 16 — not bad for a gawky kid who had no greater ambition than to play Atari 2600 after school and watch Thundarr the Barbarian on Saturday mornings). I have to be honest though — it’s a little hard jumping from “Lightning” to “Old Man.” To make matters worse, I read that Mark Hamill just turned sixty years old this week. Somehow, I just can’t wrap my brain around Luke Skywalker being sixty. It’s like an evil Sith Lord mind-trick…

Oh well. As Calvin stocked the shelves, grinning to himself at his perceived cleverness and listening to his iPod, I realized that he was correct in some ways. Even though I’m only in my forties, in his teenager eyes I am the “old man” and always will be. I also realized that I felt a little sorry for Calvin. He may not realize or appreciate it, but he missed out on one of the greatest decades ever — the 1980’s.

Take heed 'cause he's a lyrical poet

All right, I fully admit the 80’s weren’t without fault (Vanilla Ice and parachute pants anyone?), but if you were a gamer the decade was righteous. Dungeons and Dragons became a part of our very culture and literally hundreds of companies (both large and small) were creating role playing games and unique gaming accessories. Just flip through a back issue of Dragon magazine from this era and take a look at the obscene amount of companies advertising not only their products, but gaming conventions as well. The 1980’s were in fact the golden age of tabletop role playing games, and I’m afraid we’ll never see the like again.

Which brings me to something that I wanted to mention. Much of the success of role playing games (both from the 1980‘s and today) can be attributed to Gary Gygax, the co-creator of Dungeons and Dragons. It’s safe to say that Dark Elf Dice wouldn’t be in business today if it wasn’t for the creative genius of this one man. It was with pleasure then that I learned that a Gary Gygax memorial is in the works in his hometown of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. The project is moving along and the memorial will be placed in Donian Park. Stefan Pokorny (founder and chief sculptor of Dwarven Forge) has volunteered to sculpt the memorial (apparently the design will include a castle turret with a bust of Gary on top and possibly a dragon wrapped around the turret). You can read more about the project by going to the Gygax memorial website.

Until next time faithful readers! In the meantime check out this week’s installment of That’s How We Role and our blog poll.

Click on comic to enlarge


Favorite Gen Con Memory

Gen Con Indy 2011, the world’s greatest gaming convention was held this week in Indianapolis. If you’re a fan of rpg games you really owe it to yourself to go at least once in your life. It’s like Christmas on steroids. There are hundreds of the industry’s best game designers and manufacturers showcasing their latest wares and demoing new products. There are art exhibits, writing exhibits, and of course games. Lots and lots of role playing and board games hosted and run by fellow gamers from around the world. Gen Con truly is the four best days in gaming.

My favorite memory of Gen Con goes way back to 1987 when I had just graduated from high school. Gen Con was held in Milwaukee at that time, and would be until the convention became a victim of its own overwhelming success and simply grew too large to be hosted in Wisconsin anymore. My best friend Mike and I chugged north along I-94 in my beat-up Ford Pinto (hey, at least it was paid for!) and we arrived early for the festivities.

My favorite Ral Partha minis painted 1987

In 1987 I didn’t actually play in any of the hosted games. I did however contribute an original Dungeons and Dragons adventure co-written with Mike and hosted by a mutual friend titled “The Tesseract and the Abyss” — a far out adventure whose main focus was to challenge a player’s sense of reality while being trapped inside a vast, four-dimensional hypercube (oh, to be young and creative again!). Instead of playing at Gen Con, I spent a lot of time exploring and shopping. In those days I collected Ral Partha lead miniatures and I spent a lot of time at the company’s huge display looking for new figures. I was like Sinbad stumbling upon a huge treasure — online shopping didn’t exist back then and my local hobby store only carried a fraction of the minis on display at Gen Con. So it was with pleasure that I blew two week’s pay and filled a shopping bag with blister packs of elves and dwarves and still had enough dough left over to score a prerelease of West End Games’ Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game.

The game that launched an entire industry.

My friend Mike was more careful with his money. Instead of shopping at the vendor exhibits he saved his cash for the live auctions held on the second floor of the convention center. Even then he only bought one thing, but man it was cool! I can’t remember what he paid, but Mike won at auction a 1974 first edition of the Dungeons and Dragons game in unbelievable condition. The game’s first printing was simply an unassuming white box holding three softcover booklets. The game looked completely alien compared to the hardcover TSR books I was used to.

By the time the auctions were over it was getting late. Before leaving Gen Con though we decided to take one more run through the exhibits. As it turns out our decision to hang around a little longer was brilliant, because Mike and I had the pleasure of meeting the one and only Gary Gygax at one of the publisher booths. By this time Gary had achieved worldwide fame with Dungeons and Dragons and had left TSR to promote his new company, New Infinities Productions. We chatted for a good 20 minutes about the history of role playing games, D&D, and his new creation Cyborg Commando. During our conversation I was truly impressed at how genuinely nice Gary Gygax was. Here was the co-creator of the greatest and most commercially successful rpg franchise in history taking the time to talk with two gawky (and admittedly starstruck) teenage boys. Gary was as intelligent as he was soft spoken and in my mind he was the Gandalf of the role playing universe. Before we left he signed my convention program and Mike’s first edition D&D booklets. More importantly though, looking back these twenty-four years, Gary gave me my best memory of Gen Con that quite honestly will never be topped.

Did you attend this year’s Gen Con or do you have any favorite Gen Con memories? Post a comment in the reply section below and share your thoughts with your fellow gamers.