Just the Gary Gygax-written portion of that thread is huge – it could be published as a ten-volume set. I cut it down to what I think are the most interesting questions, answers, and anecdotes, and it’s still over 300 pages.
The book will be available at Gencon, at the Old School Renaissance Group booth (#1541). Get this: Gail Gygax and I will be at the booth, autographing copies of the book. Think about what this might mean to you. Your very own autograph from that blogofholding guy!!! Plus Gail Gygax. Past performance is no indication of success, but other things I have autographed (like checks) have gone up in value as much as $1000.
The other hilarious thing about this project, besides the fact that I’ll be autographing something, is that I’ll be volunteering at the OSR booth. I like OD&D, but my group plays fourth edition. Come on by the booth and say hi. You’ll know me because I’ll be the only guy at the OSR booth talking about his dragonborn ardent.
Here’s a sneak preview of the book: my introduction.
The Gary Gygax Q&A began as an hour-long chat session on enworld.org. And with pretty much anyone but Gary, that’s where it would have ended.
Starting August 30, 2002, ENWorlders posted questions to a “Q&A with Gary Gygax” message board thread. The plan was that a moderator would ask Gary the very best questions during a Sept. 4 chat. The problem was, Gary couldn’t wait. On Sept. 3, he started answering the questions–all the questions. And he didn’t stop after the chat, either.
Gary Gygax imposed upon himself the goal of answering every question asked of him (and there were a lot of questions), and acknowledging every thank you (and there were a lot of thanks). And so the Q&A grew. It ended up spanning 13 threads, 600 pages, 9000 posts (a third of them by Gary), 1,000,000 words (half of them by Gary), and six years. Gary’s last post was on February 21, 2008, two weeks before he died.
To put Gary’s 500,000 words into perspective, that’s about the same word count as War and Peace. What did he do in those half-a-million words? Besides patiently answering hundreds of (often repetitive) D&D questions, Gary shared anecdotes, puns, barbs, his love of Camel cigarettes and Bombay Sapphire gin, gloomy commentary on the Chicago Bears, and, most of all, good fellowship. He routinely offered his hospitality and a seat at his game table to anyone who could make it to Lake Geneva–and he meant it, too. He joined in edition wars. He told stories of how his beloved PC Mordenkainen subdued a couple of red dragons.
Sure, it’s not Tolstoy. But on the other hand, I’ve read the Q&A threads, and I’ve still never finished War and Peace.
Most of us are best acquainted with Gygax through the D&D rulebooks. He never got around to writing an autobiography, and most of us never managed to make it down to Lake Geneva. This Q&A is the closest thing we’ll ever get to hanging out with him. And you know what? It’s not a bad substitute. Here, in Gary’s relaxed chatting with other fans, we can find a portrait of a talented, likeable guy–by turns brilliant, crabby, funny, inspired, regretful, generous–someone who I would have liked to know, and who’d have given me a chance, as well.
Gary said repeatedly that he was just another gamer, and he meant it. He wanted nothing more than to talk to other gamers, and to talk (or quarrel, or joke) on an equal footing. He insisted that people call him Gary, not Mr. Gygax. Most posts were ended with an informal closing: “Cheerio”, “Heh”, “Ciao”, various smileys, or, most often, “Cheers, Gary.”
I never posted to the Q&A threads. I started reading them sometime in the mid-2000s, but I didn’t want to waste Gary’s time by repeating a question, and I never managed to work my way through the hundreds of old pages to see what had been asked. I could have, as so many other ENWorld posters did, just said “Hi”, or “Thank you”, and Gary would have given me a gracious acknowledgement. I never did, though.
Over the years, I’ve thought of lots of questions I’d like to ask. I even compiled all of Gary’s Q&A posts onto one page, so I could find the answers more easily, without having to Control-F through 600 ENWorld pages. If I have any outstanding questions left unanswered, it’s too late for me to ask them. It’s not too late, though, to say what I could have said when he was alive: “Hi, Gary. Thanks for the game.”
And, since Gary enjoyed a fine cocktail, let me lift a Bombay Sapphire martini and propose a toast: “To Gary. Cheers.”