Wednesday, March 5

E. Gary Gygax died yesterday.

Nearly everybody who still hangs out here should be a big enough geek to at least know who he was. As my old friend Eric posted on his blog:


And thanks.

Most folks 'round here should know, too, that the genesis of the whole Acts of Caine/Overworld cycle sprang from an attempt to "SFnalize" the experience of playing in a truly immersive AD&D campaign. In my original gaming days, our players and game-masters were all actors and writers . . . so the games were, at their best, exactly what Gygax was shooting for: interactive novels, created on the spot and in the moment by a bunch of geeks fueled by two-liter bottles of Mountain Dew, Dr. Pepper, and vast amounts of accumulated fatigue toxins.

I still miss them, too. As many folks around here know, I am not a particularly happy person. Those long nights hanging out in somebody's basement or living room over sheets of paper and high-impact polyhedra were pretty much the most fun I've ever had in my life, before or since.

It was also a transformative moment that has determined the course of my life: because one day it came to me that plotting a novel well involves the same skills as planning a campaign: devising exciting problems for your characters, and making sure they are personally invested in solving them . . . It really is a powerful defense against idiot plotting, because you can never depend on your players to do something stupid just to advance the story.

That's all.


EricC said...

ACTUALLY ... that was a message to you, for pulling me into the game, not to Gygax. But it serves just as well either way.

Man I miss those days, from the G-K basement to all of our various apartments ...

Gregg Dale said...

Matt, when I heard, this is the first place I came.

I remember those days.

I remember when I first realized that D&D wasn't just a kids game, but a framework for something much bigger.

You were there.

The best friends I have ever had in my life almost always came to me through the game. Many have gone their separate ways, but on the rare occasions these days when I get to play, they are all there with me.

Be happy, Man.

MWS said...

Gregg fucking Dale . . .

This is a guy who knew me in the OLLLLLD days . . .

You be happy too, buddy.

Aaron said...

Same. Dungeons and Dragons was the start, the instigation of each and every creative impulse I now indulge.

I still play every Sunday and regularly crank out content for my players; it helps me focus and maintain in the crazy world of computing.

Glad to see you're in the same boat Matt. Too bad you don't revisit those days sir - it can still be a blast, no matter how old you get.

Rob Locke said...

Penny Arcade has a tribute comic up... I love the epitaph (keep in mind the man responsible a HUGE fan)

MWS said...

I saw the Penny Arcade thing already, and I'm not ashamed to admit that it made me a bit misty.

Also, on the Colbert Report the other night, Stephen Colbert closed his show with his own very elegant Gygax tribute.

"How much will you be missed?"

At which point he rolled an honest to God d20.

DanJ said...

It's interesting the extent to which Gary Gygax's death has affected me, considering I've only interacted with D&D in video game form. As a gamer, and a fan of RPG games in particular, I feel I still owe him a huge debt of thanks because D&D has shaped video games to a fairly significant extent. Odd, considering I had to look him up before I even understood the Penny Arcade tribute.

Though obviously I'm not the best judge, having not played D&D proper, I think you did a great job, Matt, in turning things I'm used to seeing as sharply segregated game mechanics into an incredibly organic aspect of Overworld. It's very much influenced the way I approach similar things when writing (*wince*) fanfiction.

Steve said...

Matt, I've always been a fan of Heroes Die/Blade of Tyshalle, and what was always running in the back of my mind was "Wow, this would make an amazing campaign".

RIP Gary, your game helped me understand that there are many ways to view the world, and a developed imagination is the greatest weapon one can ever carry.

MWS said...

Hey, that's a pretty good line.

I'll probably steal it.

steve said...

Haha, I'd be honored, and I won't even climb up your ass for royalties to boot.

EricC said...

To Steve and others

As someone who played in Ankhana (or the city that was it's predecessor). You have a good idea of what playing under Stover was like by reading these books.

Matt was the 2nd best GM I ever played under ... and both he and Robyn and I know who will always be #1. (bowing to Lord Charles)

If he's still in the area, I have to get up there sometime and we have to have a gaming weekend. I miss gaming so much. All I have around here are "daddy tell me a story" game groups.

MWS said...

This may well be a plan.

Has anybdy around here played Gygax's Late Magnum Opus, Lejendary Adventures?

MWS said...

And it wasn't an early version of Ankhana. It was Ankhana.

When I started writing HEROES DIE, I wanted to have a detailed city map for reference, so I could keep track of geographic relationships (upstream, downstream, the specific neighborhoods, etc.) and I had this map I'd created, loosely inspired by medieval Paris, as I'd just finished reading THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME.

This city was called Ankhana, and I ended up just keeping the name. The map I created still exists; the one in the front of HEROES DIE is a simplified version, created by photocopy reduction of the original, and liberal use of white-out to erase street names and the names of all the individual businesses.

I wanted my city to have a certain texture . . . to feel like a place you could go to and recognize, even find your way around, after having read the book.

Then my editor at Del Rey bullied me into including the map (which I resisted). She told me -- this was 1997, understand -- that fantasy novels don't sell very well unless they have maps in the front. So we added the map.

Didn't help.

Shane said...

You should consider putting the more robust map online.

steve said...

Yeah I'd love to see the "true", in a sense of the word, version of Ankhana, but I can see why you may be adverse to releasing it.

Also, you mentioned the Penny Arcade and Colbert Report tributes to Gary, and there's one other that stood out for me, over at, one of my favorite comic strips on the web.

Aaron said...

Okay. I'm curious. You've mentioned it multiple times in your Blog Matt - what sort of general numbers are we looking at for Caine novels verses Starwars novels and what do you need (numbers wise) to really have a push?

I'm not busy this week, might as well start a campaign.

MWS said...

My Star Wars books outsell my Caine (and Barra) books by anywhere from roughly five-to-one (for SHATTERPOINT) to over ten-to-one for REVENGE OF THE SITH, if my memory of the most recent royalty reports can be trusted.

We are expecting CAINE BLACK KNIFE to do a bit better than BLADE (which outsold HEROES DIE by a factor of two, itself) due to a Star Wars-related "bump" of about two to three percent of my Star Wars readership -- say, an extra eight or ten thousand copies overall, if I'm lucky.

I say "if I'm lucky" because even my most devoted Star Wars fans often have some reservations about how dark my SW books are . . . and the darkest of them are a summer afternoon in a park compared to the February-midnight-in-a-war-zone of the Caine books.

Andrew said...

He shall be missed. I think this XKCD said it best.

steve said...

The webmaster put up a new strip today, if you want to see the Gygax one the link for it is

I hope Caine Black Knife gets out to your Star Wars readers Matt, not only because money is an excellent motivator, the "February-midnight-in-a-war-zone" darkness is nothing to be wary of. It invokes a level of seriousness in the books that is hard to come by these days and shouldn't go unnoticed.

I believe you quoted Sturgeon's Law in an interview and I couldn't agree more. It is damn near impossible to come by honest to God in your face writing in today's world.

Aaron said...


So, I want to be more active and help you write more Caine novels. I'm sure your publicist has all sorts of data and crap...and I know you'll have a better idea, but here goes.

What do y'all think of the Asshole Maneuver:

1: Bombard popular blogs with content and quotes related to MWS work.

2: Subsidize tattoos or other forms of advertisement that will glean public attention.

3: Go from store to store inserting slips of paper into each and every book with clips from MWS work and indicate that they should read that work "or else."

4: Get published and dedicate our stuff to MWS.

5: End the war in Iraq - dedicate it to MWS. How?...

Make them all wear bikini clothes and shoot those who do not. No room for hidden bombs when you're mostly naked.

With these key points, I suspect change is in the wind my friends!

Robert said...

It is really astonishing, when we take a look at it, how his work influenced so much of our modern entertainment culture. Novels, videogames, tabletop games, even some movies. None of which would have existed in their current form (or possibly existed at all) without him. I wish I had the time to enjoy a true D&D campaign like Ankhana; but I definitely owe him for the Baldur's Gate series of PC games. I just wish I had snuck into to the Game Design classes while I was at Full Sail so that I could have met him before his passing. RIP Gary, you gave us a sandbox and let our imaginations run wild.

Shehzad said...

I said it before, I'll say it again: I wish I could play with Matt as GM.