Gary Gygax - Rest in peace, Dungeon Master

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THE online community is in mourning after the death of Gary Gygax, the co-creator of iconic role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons, aged 69.

Thousands of comments have been posted to news and gaming websites such as Digg, Slashdot and Kotaku, along with tributes on Flickr, YouTube and role-playing game forums.

Gygax designed the first version of Dungeons & Dragons with Dave Arneson in 1974. The game became enormously popular and spawned the role-playing genre, as well as a host of followers including RuneQuest and Vampire: The Masquerade.

For his role in the creation of Dungeons & Dragons, Gygax was regarded as one of the fathers of modern gaming and had become a celebrity icon in geek culture.

"He was like the cool uncle that every gamer had. He shaped an entire generation of gamers," Mike Meals, the lead developer of the 4th edition of Dungeons & Dragons, told Wired.

Gygax had been suffering from heart problems in the years before his death, his wife Gail said.

"It really meant a lot to him to hear from people from over the years about how he helped them become a doctor, a lawyer, a policeman, what he gave them," she told the Associated Press.

Instead of using a traditional board, Dungeon & Dragons is an open-ended game that allows players to embody characters and set off on adventures by conversing with the Dungeon Master – who acts as both referee and storyteller.

Developments in the story, such as the success of a particular action or the outcome of combat, are decided by the game's famous use of multi-sided die.

The game's legacy can best be seen today in World of Warcraft, the hugely popular massively-multiplayer online role-playing game – or MMORPG – that has more than 10 million subscribers.

Dungeons & Dragons was at once a blessing and a curse for some of its devotees, as it became synonymous with geek or nerd culture – and the butt of many jokes.

In 2000 Gygax appeared as himself in an episode of cult sci-fi show Futurama, as a member of the "Vice-Presidential Action Rangers" led by former US vice-president Al Gore.

Upon meeting the show's main character, Gygax rolled a 10-sided die to determine which greeting to use: "Hello! It's a... pleasure to meet you!"

Gaming webcomic Penny Arcade today posted a tribute to Gygax which the authors described as "semi-tasteful".

"Gary Gygax, 1938 – 2008," the caption read, over a picture of a crying dragon.

"Rolling in his grave."

The rattling of dice across tabletops around the word falls silent today with the news that co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons and TSR, Gary Gygax, has passed away at the age of 69. The news came via the forums of Troll Lord Games, who publish Gygax's Lejendary Adventures and Castles & Crusades sourcebooks, delivered via his son Ernie Gygax. He died in his home, having been in failing health for some time, suffering several strokes and a near heart-attack. Gygax was an inspiration to the gaming industry, with his work directly or indirectly influencing entire genres - role-playing games and MMORPGs specifically. I probably wouldn't be writing this right now if the thought of missing my weekly D&D games hadn't kept me from allocating my 6'6" frame towards more sporting endeavors. Gary Gygax may have passed on, but the legacy he leaves to gaming will live on forever. Rest in peace, Dungeon Master.

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