He was the man with the name that stood out in a crowd and in grade school, high school and early college he was a kind of Jerry Garcia to me and those interested in role-playing games. I always wanted to meet him, but never had the chance and in 2008 I learned I never would. Hearing of his passing that year made me want to do something I hadn’t done in close to ten to twelve years… break out a Players Handbook and roll up a character and now, on the 5th anniversary of his death, I’m filled with good memories handed me by the game he created.
I started playing Dungeons and Dragons at a very early age (nine years old) and how I got started is a bit of a funny story. It was Christmas at my grandmother’s house in 1978. We were opening presents and I unwrapped a blue box with a sorcerer and a dragon on the cover. Inside were a couple books, a few dice, a crayon and a module; Keep on the Borderlands. My grandmother looked utterly confused by the contents and started leafing through the books. Minutes later, I learned that she thought she had purchased a jigsaw puzzle and hadn’t understood what she was buying. She offered to return it, but I would have nothing of it. I was fascinated from the first moment I saw those books.
From 1977 to the mid-90’s, this game would be an on again/off again part of my life. In later years I became much more devoted to playing Hero Games Champions (a super-hero role playing game) with friends, but the sideline AD&D game was always there lurking in the shadows (right beside Battletech and Call of Cthulhu). These games became, over the years, more of a good excuse for friends to gather than a serious hobby. That was just fine by me as it was a good excuse to take an evening (or sometimes and entire weekend) and just have fun. I’ve never laughed so hard as I’ve laughed while role-playing.
I owe a debt of thanks to Gary for the game he co-created, if not for the creativity it fostered then for the friendships it brought into my life.