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What Would Gary Do?

Gary Gygax was no saint.

I have never met a saint.

Gary was a person. People have faults. I personally interacted with him on four occasions, thrice in person and once by email.

I have heard anecdotes about his faults and some have dismissed him as an idea thief. I, in turn, dismiss their anecdotal grudges. What's true is Gary brought us THE game in a usable format and worked it tirelessly, trying his best to polish and embetter it. Further, his passion for gaming taught us something about people. By all accounts he was a competitive soul, but he recognized the way games draw people together.

During my last Ravens Fell North campaign session, I made the comment "What would Gary do?" and this spawned a small after-chuckle from the players on Slack.

It came about thus:

While I was setting up for a Saturday afternoon game, a knock sounded at my door. It turned out to be a guy peddling retirement packages for a major investment firm. Now, I'm a Bitcoin guy...

But the shorter version is I told him I was busy setting up for a game. My game room is JUST inside my front door. It is the front room of the house! Come to think of it, my wife * might * actually be a saint...hmmm.

His enthusiasm over the game room seemed genuine and he boldly expressed a desire to play, promising not to wear a tie to the game session.

This gave me a pang, as I recalled the testimonials of those who had played on Gary's front porch. Total strangers who had been welcomed to that airy veranda for an evening of dice and banter. I wished profoundly that one of my interactions with the old man had been thus.

This then is what prompted me to announce to my players that I scheduled a follow up with the salesman and had determined to guest seat him at our next game (which is coming up on Mon Oct 3rd) and had explained that my reasoning for doing so had stemmed from the simple and somewhat maudlin notion, "What would Gary do?"

This amused them.

Will the salesman be a good fit for a permanent seat at the table? I don't know yet. That will be up to my players. He seems nice though and that's hard currency in today's world.

There is a dearth of niceness. Especially online. Imagined slights. Open hostility. Self-aggrandizement. Exclusion.

The Electric Dreams Season 1, Episode 10: "Kill All Others" postulation sometimes doesn't seem so far-fetched.

Being nice has value. And so does showing some respect and gratitude for those that have come before, despite their flaws, for setting the table. After all, I don't want to roll dice on the floor.

I interacted with Gary three different times at Gen Con 19 in Milwaukee. It's fairly inconceivable that he would recognize me as the same person across the various interactions or show me deference. In one, he answered a question I posed about Igwilv in a Greyhawk forum.

In the second he signed my Dungeon Master's guide, which someone then stole.

In the third he AGAIN signed my Dungeon Master's guide, which I had to hastily buy in the exhibit hall. He was no longer signing but I caught him in the elevator up to his room. I heard the man he was with chuckle as I breathlessly explained what had happened to the other book.

Gary took the new book and signed it like so:

In my final interaction, Gary responded to an email I sent and did so with such warmth and graciousness (again, I was a stranger to him) that it felt like we were friends. This was only a few years before his passing.

I wish I had that email now, but it was lost to the abyss when I moved from Comcast to Gmail.

Point is, for most points there's a counterpoint. People are complicated. Life creates situations where frustrations boil up. But I think Gary did us all a solid. He brought wholly different people together at the table and gave them something through which they could become friends.

What do I, a game designer by trade, have in common with an investment guy? Turns out, D&D. Probably much more than that.

I've had so much luck with local players. Running two groups of players through Ravens Fell and the Silver Castle has been easier than I thought. I've lost some players to relocation, but look to be gaining others.

I have, in the past, said dumb things like, "I don't really need more friends." Now, however, I feel like this is a ridiculous mindset. We are all connected and should, imo, try to remember that. I think Gary understood this at least through gaming. His porch games have remained in my mind as an example of inclusion and acceptance when total strangers would ask to play with him.

So yeah, investment guy who knocked on my front door, this one's for you. Perhaps through happenstance and the example of a guy with a great porch for rolling dice, another friendship will be forged.

Here's to inclusion. May you can find face to face gaming friends wherever you are, because they really are the best and there is no substitute for being ranged around the table in the same room.

As for The Castle of the Silver Prince (for those that remember I've been working on it for over a year) work continues but I am relatively close to the end now, at least in rough draft form. My problem will be finding a method for publishing such vast tranches of content. It's getting stupid.

I might go PDF only this time around. Who knows? Regardless, I expect the very earliest I'd be ready to release would be late 2023.

Big thanks to you that have purchased my supplements or donated to the Blue Bard. The blog is intermittent now, but I remain very active in generating content that I hope to share next year.

Until next time,

Peace, and happy gaming.

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