251: Honoring the Man Who Started Everything

Honoring the Man Who Started Everything

There are two competing factions of the Gygax family who disagree on how to properly memorialize the life and work of the inventor of D&D. Somehow both groups have lost sight of the fact that, as Allen Varney explains, the entire roleplaying industry is his memorial.

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I really like the D&D table memorial idea...That's never gonna happen.

But alas, I must side with the children.

Either way, he deserves some monument.

That quote on a marble table.

I liked the idea of Gygax holding a D20 on his shoulders. Very Atlas Shrugged.

In any event, thanks for writing such a great piece, Allen!

I have a memorial to Gygax and Arneson already. It's the weekly game I'm in with good friends and fellowship. It's the clatter of the dice as we roll to hit and damage. It's the meta-game and house rules discussions that take up many an idle hour. All of these things make up their memorial in my heart. It may not be a physical memorial, but it's real, and it's meaningful. And I think the great men would have approved.

I may not be a tabletop gamer, but hey, if Tolkein was the one who planted the garden, Gygax is the one who let us play in it, videogamers or tabletop gamers alike, and so as far as I'm concerned, almost every fantasy game has some mark of him in it.

If when I died I had even half of a legacy that wide reaching I'd be pleased.

Grab your friends.
Kill Dragons.
Roll dice.
Get loot.


This is and was the sort of thing that made me regret not being able to find any roleplaying groups, or groups that would be willing to stick together and meet more than once. I (personally) don't want to play anything newer than the 3.5 series, as 4.0 just seems to have lost a good deal of the heart (the roleplaying).

When it comes to rules and knowledge of the game, I'm not the guy to go to. But still, D&D always fascinated me. Maybe that was partly because I could never get a good game going, but I also think it was the whole world revolving it... the stories, the laughter, the people, and the inventor.

"Hello Fry, it's a ... [stops mid-sentence, throws two ten sided dice] pleasure to meet you."

Regardless of how "tasteful" it turns out being, I really hope they get a statue of him out there soon, preferrably somewhere he would've liked.

Onyx Oblivion:
I really like the D&D table memorial idea...That's never gonna happen.

But alas, I must side with the children.

Either way, he deserves some monument.

I'm sure most of us agree that the dragon idea is the best.As for the D&D table...I don't know...it just seems a little greedy.Like saying he will never rest or something.Well what ever they decide,I'm sure one day I will go to it and pay my respects to the master of all that is based in the realm of fantasy.

As someone who's been table top RPing since I was 10, I have to say, more than any other single person, Gary Gygax has helped shape the person I am today. I don't play D&D itself anymore (3.5 was really me hitting a frustration point, but the games I do run still owe their existence to Gygax.

Whatever memorial does go up, it will never be over the top enough, but it'll be nice to know that it exists.

I'm going to read this fully, in a little bit, but I have to talk about my memorial to Gary Gygax (and soon Dave Arneson). I was playing World of Warcraft at the time, contemplating my Death Knight character for the upcoming expansion (which was still MONTHS AND MONTHS away) and I heard the news that Gary Gygax had died.

Originally I had been intending to make my DK a remake of an old character of mine.. but upon hearing of Gygax's passing, I knew what I had to do. I logged onto WoW, and parked on the name Gygax.. Then when Wrath of the Lich King was released.. I made my Death Knight Undead named Gygax.

In Cataclysm, I plan to make a troll druid named Arneson as a memorial to Dave Arneson, as well as change my DK into a Goblin, as Gygax sounds like a very Goblin Name.

Hey, hotshot, who's gonna build a statue for you?

Totally. Love him, hate him or are indifferent to him - there's no-one (Not even Dave Arneson) who's done more to create the world we live in today.

- on a plaque underneath it says "YOU'RE WELCOME, BLIZZARD!" -

And Sony, Nintendo, Valve, Bungie, Microsoft...anyone who's ever made a buck out of a fantasy world.

He may have been trained by Vance, Moorcock and Tolkien, but the sheer force of D&D is like Micro$oft, but actually caring about their customers and employees.

Met him once. Wish I'd had the chance to game with him. But yeah, *sigh*, it's going to be tasteful. And probably surrounded by B.A.D.D. morons.

Personally, I think they should scrap the statue idea and just put his face on the 20 dollar bills. :)

When he's finished rolling though:


All Hail the First patron saint of gaming!

As a former tabletop player, from the bottom of my heart;
Thanks dude, you rock!


read it, great article as always allen

Anyone else getting some screwed up links in the article, or is it just me?

As to the article itself, really well done. I've never been much of a tabletop gamer myself, but I've played many, many video games that are either flat out RPGs or have some RPG nature to them. Hell, it's getting pretty hard these days to play a game without at least a little bit of RPG tint, what with upgrading powers and weapons and skill sets.

Gygax may not have been the biggest player, but he was the first, and without that, the rest wouldn't have followed. Every gamer, video or table, owes a debt to that man, and however they choose to honor him, it's well deserved.

in the Adventure of Deleras Tomb, there is a section off to the side with a monument to Gygax. check it out sometime.

As I do with all my fallen comrades and heroes, I light a candle and do something to commemorate their passing on their day - for the world has been a better place with people like them in it.

All Hail!

It's just a shame that Dave Arneson has passed too

Since Gary's a true American Icon (tm) whose genius started a nerd fad that continues to this day, maybe they should just put a massive D&D Museum (or "Nerdseum") on the National Mall? You could have a real dungeon with working traps and monsters (interns) in the basement (you know, for kids!), show the first set of rulebooks under glass, host tutorial 1st edition D&D sessions, and outside, a massive statue of Gary poised to fling his dice against the Washington Monument.

I know I'd contribute.

Great article, Allen you hit every point and described it correct except my resume'. Family,friends and gamers are e-mailing me to see your article..and laughed at me
Still a Bartender-part time for Cruise Lines in the summer
Sales and Marketing Manager for Plumbing and Heating company
MS Psychology, BS Horticulture
Chicago Paramedic, Lake Geneva and Elkhorn Firefighter (resigned)
I am stuck-up conceded bastard at times,not always right,but will give you the shirt off my back, yet I never waffle and love conflict resolution and damage control. (As many have seen on line)
I thank all of you for your comments and agree families are families yet not all are in the spotlight. I just want to remember Gary as my Father-in-law(Dad),friend and the guy who liked Stolen and a lb. of butter

Good article. Gary Gygax is truly a legend.

Gary Gygax is a legend and influanced the world in ways that will probably be felt to the end of human civilization: I think RPG mechanics in one form or another are here to stay.

On the other hand I can't help but remember a lot of the drama between him and TSR over the years, and how he was kept more or less on a leash even when he got to work with his own creation again with TSR's new owners.

I also remember a lot of the flak he got on message boards/echos and such back in the day, some of it quite justified. I especially remember during his falling out with TSR what happened with his last "Gord The Rogue" book. :/

It's odd because I both support him getting a monument for his contributions, but at the same time I think he's being unjustly lionized in other areas, and gamers should consider that while he was one of those who started it all, he wasn't an unquestioned positive influance on the hobby. To some extent I think him getting booted from TSR actually propelled things forward for a while... but it's all debatable.

We'll miss you, Gary. And while the statue they're gonna use to memorialize you with is going to be tasteless, I promise that I'll always imagine a much simpler one, of a man at a table, behind a screen, rolling some polyhedral dice to see if his players survive the trap, grinning because he's bound to get one of them in his cunning trick. May he DM with glee.

Gary Gygax's widow, Gail, has not seen my article but has asked me to pass along some information about her group, the Gygax Memorial Fund. -- AV
"1. I have gone before the Parks Board to request a site in Library Park. I have requested the section that is under no deed restrictions. At this time the Board is hesitant to put another memorial in the Park and has offered me an alternative site. Last week, I was assured of a site in Lake Geneva.

"2. The only "official" Gygax non-profit charity fund for the building of the memorial and for collecting donations is the "Gygax Memorial Fund"; see: gygaxmemorialfund.com. I started the fund and along with our son, Alexander, are the only Gygax Family members working with the city of Lake Geneva to erect the memorial. Luke Gygax, although he approves of the memorial as planned, has had to step back as his duties for the Army dictate his time. Gary and I discussed what he wanted just before he passed - a stone castle plinth with a bronze bust of him and a fitting memorial plaque. We may ask to incorporate a dragon element as well with reflective seating bench. The design concept is by Gary and Gail, with implementation by landscape designer and former roleplaying gamer JP Robson. JP understood the project and has incoporated some great features.

"I hope this will put the public at ease as to the status of project and the proper fund for getting this accomplished for Gary. It is going to be a long road - with site selection, design approvals and most importantly the cost of the memorial - which will be some $250,000 - $350,000. I anticipate at least two years before groundbreaking. So every $5 donation counts!

"The current board members of the Gygax Memorial Fund are Gail Gygax, Jody Mikkelson (Lake Geneva resident) and Jim Ward.

"I will be selling some of Gary's collection at GenCon 2010 to bring awareness to this most important project.

"My campaign slogan: 'He gave millions of men and women a reason to open a book. He led them on a journey of mutual respect that developed lifelong relationships - all through the guise of a game.'"

- Gail Gygax


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