05 March 2008

Another memorial to EGG

One E. Gary Gygax, the principal contributor to the early form of the Dungeons & Dragons games, passed on yesterday.

Like a lot of tech-oriented types I had tons of exposure¹ to his game as a teenager — by the time I was thirteen I had a complete set of First Edition rulebooks² — so I cannot understate the game’s influence (and by extension, the influence of Gygax) on the formation of my worldview.

Lessons learned from D&D: a list

  • There are lots of different ways to believe, and most of them are silly. Better to deal with it sooner than later.

    Seriously. Get your hands on a copy of Deities and Demigods and thumb through it, keeping in mind that it was sourced to a faretheewell.

  • If you want people to do something, you need to give them the tools and the incentives requisite to the task.

    “Running a game” is just an obscure synonym for “herding cats.”

  • Work smarter, not harder.

    …Because it doesn’t make sense to spend more time designing a locale than you’ll spend playing in it.

  • The ability to walk in someone else’s shoes is valuable beyond price.

    On Saturday afternoons that talent for ideation makes the difference between an okay game and a great one. In life it makes the difference between using mirrors and avoiding them.

  • It took a long time for us to get to where we are, and in the meantime we thought up plenty of imaginative ways to betray, abuse and kill one another.

    Digging into the game expanded my interest in history, by way of finding out why. What I learned was humbling.

  • Computers. So. Very. Rawk.

    When I was into playing, I went through unbelievable amounts of paper and mechanical pencil lead, to say nothing of the calories I burned toting around rulebooks. If I woke up tomorrow and decided to become a gamer again, it'd all be going on the laptop in a New York Minute.

…And those are just the ones that come immediately to mind.


¹The last time I played was in May 1998, for better or worse.

²Before I moved to Lawrence I retrieved them from their closet and gave them to a colleague with lots of active gamer friends. He in turn gave them to his little brother, who at last report gets steady use from them. Total win.

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