Mar 05

Tributes to Gary

Wizards of the Coast posted this notice on the front page of its D&D website yesterday:

JULY 27, 1938 – MARCH 4, 2008

Today, Wizards of the Coast was deeply saddened to learn that Gary Gygax passed away in his home at age 69. Gygax was a co-creator of the Dungeons & Dragons game. His innovation created an entirely new type of hobby that now attracts millions of players worldwide to face-to-face and online roleplaying games. Gygax was a grand storyteller renowned for his unique style, sprawling “Gygaxian” adventures, and the fantastic World of Greyhawk. He inspired generations of players, designers, and authors, and he will be sorely missed by legions of fans. We extend our sincerest condolences to his family and friends.

Aaron Williams departed from the normal schedule for his Full Frontal Nerdity webcomic in order to post a special strip and a written tribute. John Kovalic did likewise in today’s Dork Tower cartoon. The mainstream news media covered Gygax’s passing (Ruth reports hearing a story about it on All Things Considered) and the leading geek sites (Wired, Ars Technica, CNet, GameSpy) all posted sentimental eulogies. Everyone seems to have a story about how the man and his game gave them uncountable hours of joy and adventure as they grew up.

In a 2004 interview, Gygax said, “I would like the world to remember me as the guy who really enjoyed playing games and sharing his knowledge and his fun pastimes with everybody else.” I don’t think there’s any question about it: his wish has been granted.

I think the best Gygax tribute of all is an eight-year-old episode of Futurama in which he appears (alongside Nichelle Nichols and Stephen Hawking) as a member of Al Gore’s Vice Presidential Action Rangers, charged with protecting the space-time continuum.

Sometime in the fall of this year, I will have been playing D&D for thirty years. Except that I don’t really play it anymore. Everyone in my gaming group is very busy, myself included, and in recent months finding a time when we’re all available has become virtually impossible. Thinking about this a few days ago, I found myself wondering if it wasn’t time to accept the fact that D&D was a thing of the past for me. Nothing lasts forever, and perhaps this part of my life was finally over.

Well, I’m not gonna do that. Not now. Not when Gary Gygax isn’t even cold yet. Not with the 4th Edition about to arrive in stores, and my 30-year anniversary as a D&D player mere months in the future. Hell, no! I refuse to just let it slip away. Somehow, somewhere, I will play this game again. And today, just to prove to myself that I’m still a D&D player, I’m going to buy some new dice.

UPDATE: The 4th Edition of D&D will be dedicated to Gygax.

More tributes: Penny Arcade, The Order of the Stick (comic, blog), Salon, Wil Wheaton, Steve Jackson, XKCD, New York Times

Mar 04

The Dungeon Master departs

E. Gary Gygax, co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons and father of the role-playing game, has died.
Farewell and Godspeed, Gary. You may be gone, but the game you helped create is alive and well, with the Fourth Edition almost ready for launch. And that’s as good a legacy as anyone could ask for.

Feb 29

What you need to know about D&D

If you’re wondering how D&D 4th Edition is coming along, there have been some interesting news items on the Wizards of the Coast D&D website. A recent editorial in the online version of Dragon Magazine (yes, it still exists!) said “4th Edition is close on the horizon — and fast approaching.” A February 13 news item on the website was a bit more specific:

For the next several weeks, you’ll be seeing fewer 4th Edition Design and Development columns than normal. This is because the writers, all of whom are members of the R&D staff, are busy finalizing the Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and Monster Manual. As a result, we’re scaling back the number of online articles. Once the three core rulebooks are off to the printer, we’ll get the R&D staffers back on their regular schedule.

WotC is running a convention-like event called D&D Experience in Arlington, VA this weekend, featuring the first public 4E games (and a seminar at which WotC’s 4E plans for the whole year will be laid out). A two-page handout titled “What You Need to Know About D&D” (but informally referred to as the Quick Rules Primer) was prepared for this event, and WotC has made it available for download in PDF format. It contains some intriguing information about what’s different in the new edition. Here are the section titles:

  1. Character roles are more clearly defined.
  2. Powers give you more combat options.
  3. Attacker rolls against a static defense.
  4. Standard, move, and minor actions.
  5. Healing gets an overhaul.
  6. Short and extended rests.
  7. Attack!
  8. Action points give you an extra action.
  9. Movement is quick and easy.
  10. Saving throws are straightforward.
  11. Durations are easy to manage.
  12. Reach (usually) isn’t as threatening.
  13. A trio of “c” rules you might want to know. (These are Combat Advantage, Cover, and Charging.)

This is going to be a very interesting year for D&D.

Dec 28

Wii sighting

Ben points out that it’s been a long time since my last entry. Fortunately, I had an experience yesterday that is relevant to his recent article about the supply and demand of the Nintendo Wii.

I was in a Wal-Mart when an associate came on the public address system and said, “We now have the Nintendo Wii in stock.” I wasn’t interested in buying a Wii myself, but I headed for Electronics anyway because I was curious. I hadn’t actually seen Wiis for sale before, and I wondered if a mob would form and start fighting over them.

What I actually saw was rather anticlimactic. There were indeed some Wii packages visible behind the glass of the game-console display case, and a woman in that aisle had one in her cart. No other customers were there. I shrugged and went back to my shopping. When I was ready to check out, I swung by Electronics again just to see if anything had changed. The Wiis were gone, but when I asked an associate how many the store had received that day, she said “Four”. So it’s not surprising that they sold out quickly.

So that’s my firsthand experience with Wii demand: enough to make them disappear in short order, but not enough to draw a crowd.

Sep 09

D&D Fourth Edition Q&A

Wizards of the Coast released Episode 15 of the D&D Podcast today, and this one has some solid information about the upcoming Fourth Edition. It’s a question and answer session in which Dave Noonan and Mike Mearls respond to two dozen questions from gamers about the new edition. You can see a list of the questions in the show notes, but here are some highlights:

  • How will players convert their 3E characters (and campaigns) to 4E?
  • Will action points be part of the core game?
  • How will encumbrance be handled?
  • Is the monetary system being revamped?
  • What about critical hits?

To hear the answers, you’ll have to listen to the show. What are you waiting for?
(If you don’t know what action points are, you haven’t played in the Eberron setting. But Ben has, and he’s promised to explain how action points work.)

Apr 20

Exit the Dragon

Dragon Magazine has been a part of the Dungeons & Dragons gaming hobby for over three decades. From its inaugural issue in 1976, Dragon was published every month — first by TSR Inc., then (after TSR went bankrupt in 1997) by Wizards of the Coast, and finally (after WotC outsourced its periodicals in 2002) by Paizo Publishing.
But later this year, the magazine will close its doors. Dragon and its sister magazine Dungeon will cease publication after their September issues. In its announcement, Paizo stated that WotC will be “moving to an online model” for publication of those kinds of content.

Mar 11

Gold Miner

I don’t know why I find this game so addictive. It makes no sense if you stop to think about it. I mean, mining for gold by shooting a mechanical claw into the ground and using a winch to pull up whatever it grabs? That would be silly even without the gophers that sometimes carry diamonds in their teeth. And the barrels of TNT that explode when you touch them (who buried those, and why?). But for some reason the game is fun, so I keep playing.
UPDATE: There’s also Gold Miner Special Edition, which seems to be exactly the same game with fancier graphics.

Mar 02

The power of Pong

Pong was one of the first video games, and it’s at least 35 years old (closer to 50 years if you consider Tennis for Two an early version of Pong). But even today, it inspires new variations and tributes. For example, Curveball is a Pong-based game that operates in three dimensions instead of two, and displays the action from a very different angle. Text-Pong shows us what Pong would be like if it were a text adventure game. And then there’s this video of a Pong game that uses people as pixels: