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Dungeons & Dragons creator dies

Gary Gygax, cocreator of the pen-and-paper game that directly spawned Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights and influenced the entire RPG genre, has died at age 69.


Before there were any role-playing video games, there were pen-and-paper role-playing games. This week brings the sad news that one of the founders of the most famous analog RPG has passed way. Gary Gygax, cocreator of Dungeons & Dragons, died on Tuesday at the age of 69. He had suffered from heart problems.

Gary Gygax: 1938-2008  (photo: Alan De Smet)
Gary Gygax: 1938-2008 (photo: Alan De Smet)

The news was first announced on the forums of Troll Lord Games, the publisher of Gygax's most recent works. It has since been directly confirmed by the company, which will post an announcement on its Web site later today.

Gygax was best known for helping create Dungeons & Dragons and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, and pioneered tabletop RPGs. The first D&D rulebooks were released in 1974 by TSR, Inc., the tabletop RPG company Gygax founded with Don Kaye the year prior. Since then, there have been three full-fledged reworkings of D&D, numerous revisions and updates, and dozens of additional rulebooks, settings, and campaigns.

Since TSR was purchased by Wizards of the Coast in 1997, the game has seen even more expansions and updates. The company released Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition in 2000, and Dungeons & Dragons 4.0 is scheduled to ship this coming June. Although Gygax hadn't had much direct involvement with D&D for many years, he developed and contributed to many RPGs, such as Gary Gygax's Fantasy Worlds from Troll Lord Games.

If not for Gygax's contributions, video games would look much different than they do today. D&D's systems and mythos led directly to many marquee video game RPGs, including the Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights series from BioWare. Its influence can also be seen in many other modern fantasy RPGs, including The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and World of Warcraft. Another of TSR's pen-and-paper RPGs, Star Frontiers, was the precursor to many science fiction RPGs, such as Mass Effect.

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