Gary Gygax (1938-2008)

Gary Gygax, who co-created the fantasy game Dungeons & Dragons, died March 4 at his home in Lake Geneva, WI. He was 69. The publication of Dungeons & Dragons in 1974 fostered explosive growth in the popularity of role-playing games. D&D also became the cornerstone of a publishing and marketing phenomenon, TSR, Inc. When Gygax and TSR parted ways in the mid-1980s, he went on to create new RPGs.

Rob Hansen’s well-regarded fanhistory Then claims that Gygax’s early experiences with role-playing games included Coventry. This was the role-playing universe originated in the late 1950s by Paul Stanbery, with some input from rich brown. Stanbery introduced it to LASFS, and under gamesmaster Ted Johnstone it attracted well-known Southern California fans as players. Some of them, for example, Jack Harness, wrote Coventry fan fiction and published related zines, drawing interest from out-of-town fans like Ruth Berman (Minneapolis) and Bruce Pelz (then living in Florida). Stunts some members played on others ended with Coventry self-immolating in a spate of bad feelings made even more noteworthy by its participants’ uncharacteristic reluctance to say anything about the topic in later years.

Then says that D&D’s co-creators were two L.A. fans who had played Coventry. However, research shows it is likely that when the co-authors of Dungeons & Dragons first met, Gygax lived in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, and Dave Arneson was enrolled at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and their first meeting occurred at a war-gaming tournament attended by their respective clubs.