STICKY: Favorite Gary Stories

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Donal, Mar 25, 2009.

  1. jeffery st. clair

    jeffery st. clair Troubadour

    Here's one that I tell when people ask me what Gary was like in person, not online:

    I was part of Gary's last Thursday night game group. One evening I showed up ready to play, but nobody else wound up making it that night. Rather than send me packing until next week, he invited me in, and asked if I'd like to play some board games. Now, I hadn't played many board games, with my home group being a D&D/Car Wars/Star Frontiers kind of group, and I told Gary that whatever game he wanted to play, he'd most likely have to teach me. He said no problem, and he taught me how to play Settlers of Catan, and we wound up splitting two games. He also taught me Senet, and ordered us some pizza from the Next Door Pub. I offered to pay my share but Gary wouldn't let me. It was a great way to spend an evening.

    This scenario would happen from time to time, either because I didn't get the memo that the others weren't coming, or because I'd be the only one to show, and Gary always invited me in, and usually wound up teaching me more (new to me) games.

    In addition to Settlers and Senet, Gary wound up teaching me cribbage, Adventurer, canasta, and shogi, and probably one or two that I've forgotten. When we had too few players to play an RPG, I also learned how to play Rail Baron, Ticket to Ride, San Juan, Puerto Rico, Dungeon, and several other games that I've forgotten the titles to. In fact, just about every thinking man's board game I've ever played, I learned how out at Gary's house. He was always patient while teaching me something new, although he did deride me gently from time to time if I took too long to make my move. :oops:

    Another good Gygax memory falls in that same category, and Luke will remember this one - I showed up to play, again, and nobody else did, again. Luke and his family were home for a visit, so I was going to excuse myself so as not to interfere with their family time, but instead wound up playing San Juan and Settlers at a table full of Gygaxes - Gary, Alex, Luke and his wife (whose name I don't dare try to spell ;) ).

    I appreciated that sort of hospitality more than I can describe during those last few years of Gary's life. Thursday nights just aren't the same.
  2. gt1

    gt1 Level 0 Character

    Besides the pleasure of getting to play the "bad guys" while Gar-Bear GM'ed with Luke and his friends and a couple of my buddies on a space station ^__^... Once while working on some Mythus projects (specifically, level of power for extra-planar monsters), I and a couple of friends from down here (Indiana) went up to visit Gary, and he showed me the "roughs" for the soon-to-be-released Necropolis! He was explaining the critters and I was going "Wow!! That'll scare the crap outta the players!", and we looked over at my eavesdropping buddies who were staring at us with worried expressions. Gary and I made eye contact and with the most wicked of expresssions chuckled! The looks on those faces should have been photographed! A combination of "we can't wait!" and that worried expression one gets before going over a really tall roller coaster! This illustrates two things: How players would hang on Gary's words, and his great sense of humor! There was also the time Gary first showed me his library. I had a rather large sense of hubris at my own collection, but when he showed me his my jaw dropped to the floor! I vowed to strive for such a collection, and a few thousand volumes later I believe that I am beginning to do him justice! ^__^
  3. gt1

    gt1 Level 0 Character

    Another postnote to the "Library Experience"... coming from the 70s/80s sci fi/fantasy scene, many people were VERY elitist about their book collections, and where they acquired hard-to-find tomes--this was before the internet made finding a rare book the work of an instant! Gary was always very open and sharing about great books and their sources. I always admired the fact that he was so willing to sacrifice any personal prestige of "priveledged knowledge" in the interest of the fun shared by others being informed. As I said, this doesn't hold true so much any more with the advent of instant information, but if you were around pre-internet, you might appreciate this! ^__^
  4. gt1

    gt1 Level 0 Character

    Oh, yeah... And lest I forget: Here's one for Luke... "Now that we had our own island..." ^__^
  5. ghul

    ghul Chevalier

    Great stuff, GT. Thanks for sharing.
  6. Melf

    Melf Administrator Staff Member

    Hmmm. I am suffering of early onset old timers disease. Please jog my memory a bit more on this. If it was when I was in college- I averaged 4 hours of sleep a night. I was on autopilot most game nights by 7 or 8 since I got up at 3 am to start work. Glad that is in the past!
  7. Melf

    Melf Administrator Staff Member

    Since today is Dad's birthday, I figured I would share this story. We were living in Beverly Hills at the D&D Entertainment Corp offices/ house, so it was most likley 1985. It was always hard to buy a good birthday present for him, so I ended up going with the standard option- I bought him a book. A hard bound copy of Larry Niven's Foot Fall if memory serves me right. Dad had to leave and go on a business trip somewhere right after his B-Day and when he got back he asked me to sign the book. He said that I should make a brief inscription when I gift a book to someone.

    I said OK, and being a kid, I really just wanted to get going and play with my friends or something. I started writing in the date and Happy Birthday. Of course it was August when I was making the note, so I ended up writing "Happy Birthday Dad. Au-July 27th, 1985. Your Favorite Son, Luke". I tried to sell the mistake by saying his birthday was like gold (AU on the periodic table)- but he wasn't buying that. He enjoyed busting my chops about that for many years afterward. From that point forward he would refer to his birthday as "Aw-July 27th" when talking to me. I never forgot his birthday after that experience.
  8. prolificvoid

    prolificvoid Troubadour

    And quintessentially 'teenager' in the "Your Favorite Son" bit! ~lol~


    **EDIT** Gotta give ya cred though for being a teenager, AND GETTING YOUR DAD A B-DAY PRESENT!
    Now THAT was very UN-teenagerly of you! =]]
  9. ScottyG

    ScottyG Chevalier

    One fond memory that stands out came after reading one of Gary’s Gen Con reports:
    “…I saw a number of folks at the con but had little time to chat. Ernie was there, so was Rob Kuntz, Mike Gray of Hasbro, Michael Vrahola (author) and Bob Salvatore, Dave Arneson, Greg Timm, Gene Weigel, and the Much Beloved Scott Gregg too (the latter handing me a pale blue bottle of a favored elixir:). I was so busy and distracted I didn't get to check in who was there from Infogrames, didn't see Peter Adkison, mine host, or check on Lou Zocchi. In facxt I had no time to walk the exhibit hall. …”
    I’d been a fan for 25 years or more at that point, so reading that was pretty cool. The ‘elixir’ was a bottle of Bombay Sapphire, by the way, which he recognized by touch through the bag it was in.

  10. Melf

    Melf Administrator Staff Member

    Bombay Sapphire was definitely his preferred gin. However he actually drank beefeater more regularly. He had Swiss, Welsh and Scottish blood in his veins, so he was wont to be a bit thrifty :p
  11. christyw744

    christyw744 Level 0 Character


    That was really a nice story, I guess you now have a lot of new games to play. Canasta is one of my favorites, I play online I could not imagine playing with cards, so I hope he taught you this long game online.

  12. amalric

    amalric Level 0 Character

    Hey! I resemble that remark! :?
  13. jeffery st. clair

    jeffery st. clair Troubadour

    Thanks. Yes, I now can hold my own in a lot of games, thanks to Gary. But yes, we sat at the table playing cards - nothing online for us!
  14. kaskoid

    kaskoid Chevalier

    I have one from the very first time I met Gary face-to-face.

    At GenCon in 1974, Gary taught me that half the game is in the other guy’s head.

    We had been discussing some historical battles in which “the wrong side won”; battles that were inexplicably lost by the side that should have won, in some cases handily. We talked about generals losing their nerve, getting bad intelligence or generally misreading the course of a battle. He referred to the “worm of doubt” that got into their heads and caused them to second-guess themselves or overlook the obvious.

    I opined that perhaps he was being a bit simplistic when he offered to show me what he meant. As it so happened, I was signed up for a big ancients miniatures battle in a short while, He marked when it started and where it was being played and told me that he would prove his point later.

    The game was a little over halfway through its scheduled four hours and still very much in doubt when he stopped by to “chat”. He made a big show of looking over the battlefield, studying the troops deployed and “assessing”. Then he made a very ill-disguised move to congratulate me on the way I had fought the battle up until that point, and said just loud enough for one or two of the other side’s guys that were playing that I had certainly “earned” my impending victory and said that it could likely end up a rout before it was all over. He smiled real big, clapped me on the shoulder and went on his way. The whole exchange could not have lasted more than four minutes, but the “worm” had been introduced.

    Over the course of the next four turns, the other side made three or four serious mistakes as they tried to figure out what they had done wrong up to that point; they weren’t just second-guessing themselves, they were third- and fourth-guessing which led them to abandon their strategic plan (which was brilliant), and correct non-existent mistakes. It felt like I was almost cheating.

    Afterwards he and I had a good laugh about it, and he told me to do it on my own next chance I got. That chance presented itself about three or four sessions into the new fall semester. We had two very well balanced sides and equally well balanced teams of players. I had a big Joya de Nicaragua stogie in my shirt pocket and had, just in passing, mentioned that I planned to enjoy it later as a “Victory Cigar”. I think we were probably playing a Seven Years War scenario, but it might have been CHAINMAIL.

    Whatever it was, it was a close-run thing for several hours. I decided to test his theory and made a silent show of looking at the table, smiling “discreetly” and unwrapping and lighting up the cigar. The whole time I was doing this, all of the opposing eyes were on the cigar and the game nearly forgotten. Within two or three turns they made a tragic mistake and we soon rolled them up and routed the survivors.

    During our next phone chat, I related all of this to him and I don’t think he quit chuckling (that evil, “I know something you don’t” chuckle) for a full minute. He didn’t need to say “I told you…”; the point was made and I never forgot it.
  15. geekpreacher

    geekpreacher Spellbinder


    That was a great story and now I'm seriously thinking how I'm going to use that very thought in the next strategy game I play. Yes, now I will rain down terror upon my enemies through subtlety and subterfuge! Wooohoooo!
  16. Melf

    Melf Administrator Staff Member

    This works quite well and I know from first hand experience. I was on the receiving end of this tactic! I was playing Operation Overlord with Dad in the late 80s. This was one of his favorite wargames and we probably played it 5 or 6 times together. It took us several days to play usually- each player taking a turn in the morning, then after school a turn or two. And on weekends we would play several turns.

    I always played the Germans and my Dad always played the Allies. The game is a challenge for the German player. The Allies have overwhelming airpower and naval support on the beach heads. It was probably turn 3 or 4 and I had stacked up some good units near Caen and to the west of Caen in the bocage areas. I had a couple good attacks and had the Allies pressed up to the Channel. The 2nd SS stacked up and attacked some Brits and Canadians and maybe a US unit too. I had a 2 or 3 to 1 advantage for the attack. I rolled poorly and got an exchange. I was very disappointed at the results. My Dad started heckling me about how I had blown it and there was no hope for the evil Nazis. It was only a matter of time and he was going to crush me. Of course this is not exactly subtle- as the tactic that Tim discussed- but it worked!

    I became disheartened and played not to lose for a couple turns during which I was subjected to more verbal harrassment from Dad. I called it quits within two turns and he accepted my capitulation. Once enough chits were off the board, so there was no way to keep playing that game- he said, "Whew, good thing you gave up. You had me pinned up on the beaches near Caen and I hadn't broken through the bocage on the other side (Cherborg area). You were going to kick my butt." I was furious! Although we played a couple more times over the years, I never did get close to beating him again. Grrrrr!
  17. dndgeek

    dndgeek Troubadour

    Great story. Thanks for sharing, Luke.
  18. dancross

    dancross Level 0 Character

    I met Gary in person only twice, but worked with him on various projects for eight years. The first work I wrote for him was The Sundering adventures, which he edited, and was intended for the Lejendary adventure game. The next two were World Builder and Insidiae. I have many memories of working with him on these projects, but one memory stands out in particular, and it didn't have to do with RPGs.

    I asked him what he thought of children, knowing that he had a big family, and that I wasn't sure if I wanted any (my wife was all about kids, and I was having doubts). He said something along the lines of,

    "...oh sure, let the cretin spawn, while you'd actually have something to contribute to the life of a child"...that's not verbatim, but a really cool thing to say. Gary had quite a way with words. Gary told me several times (in correspondence) that there was nothing more wonderful than having kids, and I'm sure his children knew that love well.

    It's a great response I'm happy to relate to my son and daughter today.
  19. geekpreacher

    geekpreacher Spellbinder

    I'm sure they're glad you listened to Gary! I've had similar advice from others but, sadly, I think we've gotta stop at two. No way I can see handling anymore at this time.

    Thanks for relating that story.

  20. forgemeister

    forgemeister Footpad

    How I met Gary.. second greatest day of my life, so far.

    I might be hazy on the date, but I am pretty sure it was 1975. I was 15.

    The world truly was a different place then. People were a bit less grasping. Traffic was lighter. Cars were bigger. A quarter still bought something. The sunlight was yellower, less blue than today. Role-playing was a hobby that could still fit into the American Legion Hall.

    Of course, all of this is colored by the perceptions and innocence of a 15-year-old.

    I seem to remember that this particular event was held down by the lake, but again, my rememberance is a bit hazy on that aspect. It was called "mini" Gen Con, or just mini-con.

    I loved minis at that time, and had just started playing D&D some months prior.

    I came late to a miniatures event that was short but a single player. A rather friendly gentlemen in what appeared to be his mid-to-late 40s, with glasses, talked me into grabbing a seat at the table. They needed someone that could play a wizard in a miniatures combat that was using straight D&D rules for combat resolution. I always played wizards in the old days, so I was easily convinced.

    The battle commenced. I had several henchmen/guards that were outfitted as medium infantry. We were being attacked by a band of trolls. I had several spells that I used with moderate effectiveness as the battle progressed, and a secret weapon, a Wand of Frost with 3 charges, that I held in reserve. The battle was not going well. My wizard's guards soon lay dead several yards away, and my wizard retreated to a nearby hilltop.

    The trolls pursued. Thankfully, as a wizard, I could outrun them. I knew that soon the other players would rescue me and that we would then begin a blistering counter-attack.

    The same nice gentlemen that talked me into playing had been carefully following my activities. As I prepared to retreat for yet another turn, he put his arm around my shoulders and whispered in my ear:

    "A wizard that dies with his spells intact is an idiot."

    I gave him a quizzical look, not quitte comprehending his meaning. He pointed patiently at the troll champion that was charging up the hill towards my position.

    "Stick your wand in his belly button and pull the trigger!"

    I shrugged my shoulders and did as he suggested, creating Geneva's first Troll-cicle.

    After the event, I leaned over to my friend, Charlie Lewis, and asked him who that guy was.

    "You are an idiot. That's Gary-freakin'-Gygax!"

    I didn't believe him. I calmly walked back to the table as the rather friendly gentlemen in what appeared to be his mid-to-late 40s with glasses was cleaning up the accoutrements from our battle.

    "Thanks for the advice during the battle. I fear I am a bit of a novice on tactics. My name is Chris."

    "You looked like you could use the advice," he calmly replied. "I'm Gary Gygax."

    "THE Gary Gygax?"

    The rather friendly gentlemen in what appeared to be his mid-to-late 40s with glasses looked around as though searching for someone, smiled, and said, "as nearly as I can tell."

    Books immediately exploded from my book bag; a pen magically appeared in my hand.

    "Could you sign everything I have ever owned?"

    Gary smiled, sat down, and began signing 1st ed. books.

    "You know you are the greatest game designer ever to have been born!" I replied excitedly. I was, after all, only 15.

    "Just stop that. I am just a guy that likes to play games. While I sign, you could put those miniatures away in the case for me."

    "Uh... sure... thanks."

    I watched him signing my books, and I couldn't help but smile. He smiled back. I was amazed that the deity I had thought to be the Gawd of Gaming come to earth to grace us with his presence and wisdom was, basically, a regular guy.

    A played a few more games with Gary that weekend, and I think we got to be friends, but I wasn't sure until years later when I had lunch with him at Gen Con VI, for no readily apparent reason. He remembered me. We would bump hips in this fashion for the next decade or so, but I knew, even back in 1975, that this was a man to emulate; a man that made friends easily, and undoubtedly kept them.

    I also learned that consistently playing it "safe" was a good way to go to your grave unfullfilled, with, "your spells intact", if you will.

    I have never been timid in my life since that day. I'm just a somewhat poor farmboy, but I have owned several business, written a boatload of published games, worked with fortune 500 companies, and made more friends than I can remember. I raced autmobiles, been on television, and taken on city councils single-handed. Not all of it worked mind you, but I never regretted any of it.
    ...and I owe it all to Gary.

    Thanks Gary. Miss you. I promise to never to die with my spells intact.


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