Every Man a Warden

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As Dave Weigel blogged below, Dungeons & Dragons creator Gary Gygax has died. It was Gygax, more than anyone else, who turned Tolkien fandom from a premodern pose into a postmodern, participatory phenomenon: Rather than merely reading about hobbits and elves, fantasy fans could enter Middle Earth themselves and create their own adventures. Granted, most of those adventures tended to sound the same. (If you've ever endured a D&Der's detailed account of how he spent his weekend, you'll understand what I mean.) But we knew that from the title, right? On one level it's a liberatory vision, one where anyone can create a world for everyone else to play in. But Gygax gave it a Foucauldian twist: In the end, each of those worlds is still a dungeon.

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  1. But Gygax gave it a Foucauldian twist: In the end, each of those worlds is still a dungeon.

    Uh, did you ever play, Jesse? Dungeon crawls were usually the way people got introduced to the game but a campaign could take place absolutely anywhere.

    But if you are trying to say that D&D players’ minds/imaginations are like filthy damp dungeons, that would be funny.

  2. JW:

    …each of those worlds is still a dungeon.

    But, you could state with equal validity “every man a king.” Guess it depends on your worldview.

    Don’t really see that your post adds anything useful to the discussion of Gygax’ death, or the legacy he left.

  3. No one ever likes my Foucault jokes…

  4. Who would had guessed that people who regularly visit a libertarian blog would be so torn up after the Pope of Nerds died?

    What’s next, gushing over Robert Heinlein while crappy progressive rock plays in the background?

    Oh, wait.

  5. You know, nobody here needs you knocking their Hawkwind albums, Jonathan.

  6. All nerds need games like that before they have drivers licenses. I wonder if he made a lot of money off the franchise?

  7. Not much money, but he did get a few gold pieces and a displacer cloak out of the deal.

  8. Jesse:

    It’s not a Foucault joke unless it involves a pendulum.

  9. One of the sad stories in the history of D&D was the falling out between Gygax and other developers, which led to legal squabbles and selling the rights to the game at rock bottom price. So Gary Gygax didn’t make as much money as he could have.

  10. RIP, Dungeon Master. You will be missed.

  11. My friends in highschool made a band called Bear Wolf that sang nothing but Dungeons and Dragon-themed songs. They called themselves “Bear Wolf” in honor of the epic poem in which the hero kills the monster Grendel, unaware that the poem was actually called “Beowulf.”

    1. Supposedly, Beowulf means ‘Bee Wolf’, and is presumed to be a poetic name for Bear.
      So in a way they weren’t too far off.

  12. They called themselves “Bear Wolf” in honor of the epic poem in which the hero kills the monster Grendel, unaware that the poem was actually called “Beowulf.”

    For years, my idiot friends and I pronounced “pseudodragon” with a hard “p” sound, as in “puh sue do dragon.” The most embarassing part was that I was aware this pronunciation was wrong, but caved into the peer pressure of my fellow dorks’ mispronunciation.

  13. I go easy on people who commit easy mispronounciations after a couple years ago I ate crow when a ditzy airhead blonde told me that hyperbole is pronounced “hi-per-bo-lee” as opposed to “hyper-bowl”

    For Bear Wolf, none of us (me included) realized the mistake until well after the band broke up.

  14. Anybody who read a lot as a kid, and got their extended vocabulary from that, will have pronunciation fuckups over the years. Which suck, because you know the word and what it means, you’ve just never heard it spoken aloud.

    You’re trying to be a braniac and you end up looking like a Poindexter at best and an idiot at worst.

    1. I was really thrown off by ‘annihilate’. For years I knew the word as spoken, and as written, but never realised they were the same word.

  15. oh, well I’m illiterate.

  16. No one ever likes my Foucault jokes…

    jesse, i deeply appreciate your foucault jokes.

  17. I like the band name “Bear Wolf”.

  18. I am not ashamed to say, I was a Dungeons and Dragons player. It practically was my social life in college. I even played some in the Navy. It was a great game and suffered from only two drawbacks.
    1. It soaks up way too much time
    2. It’s harder to keep your D&D group going than keeping your band together.

    I still have my box of D&D. I started an epic adventure, got maybe 15% written up. It was going to be a quest that would start with zero level characters and by the time they were finished they’d be 8-12. I was taking a very Tolkien approach, inventing the whole world and it’s history. Instead of describing stuff, I made as many objects as I could, especially scrolls and letters. One special item was a journal kept by one of the key NPCs that four years of entries. [sigh]

    BTW Jesse, if your D&D playing friends always sound alike, there’s something wrong with that. Our adventures were as different as Conan the Barbarian was from Ladyhawk.

    I remember just about the time I was getting out of D&D there was a popular line of books where people wrote up adventures they had played as novels.

    Peace to you Gygax. You made a better world, lots of them.

  19. My future band name will be, and will forever remain, Oedipus and the Mama Boys.

  20. I’ve played in D&D campaigns where we’d go days of actual gameplay without ever setting foot in a Dungeon. Much like it’s inspiration, D&D is not just Dungeons and Dragons, it’s the personalities of the party. Will the party adventure together all the way to Mordor, or will betrayal, greed and personal weakness tear it asunder only to see it borne anew in the epic heroics of a few?

  21. I’m surprised no one has brought up This Video as a description of what goes on in an actual gaming session.

  22. Dungeon crawls were usually the way people got introduced to the game but a campaign could take place absolutely anywhere.

    Episiarch, your geekness is so busted. You outed yourself.

    Look at you, all Kevin Smith!

  23. For years, my idiot friends and I pronounced “pseudodragon” with a hard “p” sound, as in “puh sue do dragon.” The most embarassing part was that I was aware this pronunciation was wrong, but caved into the peer pressure of my fellow dorks’ mispronunciation.

    My brother always pronounced pseudodragon as “suede-o-dragon”

  24. I once DMed the Citadel by the Sea module, and I kept pronouncing it Sah-tee-dal. I got called on it by the one military school delinquent in our group. Today, he sits in the same prison for life as Charles Manson for murdering a guy in California than fleeing cross country and ultimately getting caught in the back woods on the base of Fort Bragg. Who is laughing now, ha ha ha.

    I didn’t really think of my D&D friends as nerds. We were pot heads for the most part, except for the one dude who was into musicals . . .

  25. The hours spent arguing whether drow rhymed with “cow” or “know”…

    Anyone who says know has the brains of a carrion crawler!

  26. What a bummer! I’m going to go pour two d20’s on his grave instead of a 40 ouncer.

  27. All this talk about mispronouncing words reminds me of the Road Runner cartoon, where two kids are watching it on TV. One of them wants to be a puh-sss-ie–chiatrist when he grows up.

  28. “Bear Wolf” is a cool name, regardless of its origins. But, if one wants to me a tad more contemporary, one must name his/her band “ManBearPig.” Just sayin…

    On a somewhat more serious note, I started playling D&D again two years ago and have to say that at 37, I’m having a blast. I’m glad I started again, it’s been a lot of fun.

    Thank you, Mr. Gygax.

  29. Mr Gygax missed his saving throw.

    RIP. May all your rolls be +20.

  30. That video borrows the audio from this older video, I think originally posted at Gamespot years ago.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8Rop4Zt-S0&feature=related

  31. Paul, your coolness is so busted. You outed yourself.

    Look at you, all edgy and clever because you can sarcastically mock gamers!

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