E. Gary Gygax, the inventor of Dungeons and Dragons (with Dave Arneson, of course), is dead.
I have a lot for which to thank him. Because of him I got interested in architecture and art history, because it was a way of learning how to be first a better role-player, and then a better game-master. I learned about graphing and most of what I know about math I learned so that I could be a game-master. I learned about history in order to craft realistic scenarios in games. I think a fair amount of my present career choice — as a teacher, and as a ‘cleric’, for lack of a better term, has much to do with having played Dungeons and Dragons as a young man.
There’s a larger sense in which D&D helped me find a place in the world. For a long time I tended to imagine myself moving through a world of elves, dwarves, and the rest. Bicycling around my hometown with my friends, we fought imaginary undead in the town graveyards, and faced elemental powers at the town beach. We quested for wonder in the very ordinary downtown. It may have been the case that my friends and I would have fought each other, if D&D had not given us a form to express ourselves in — the band of heroes, saving the world from dark terrors that ordinary people understand.
It’s a world that to some degree, I still live in. I see the possible future lives of my students, and I think that I owe it to them to defend them against that possibility. Education, like magic, has the potential to open doors into other worlds, and call forth beings of supernal power as our allies and guides. There are other parts of D&D that live inside me still, and I’ll save those for another day. I’ll merely add that D&D did not send me rushing into the arms of demons; it probably saved me from them.
Thanks, Mr. E.G.G.