Gary Gygax Reaches Zero Hit Points

I just read on Reddit (where I lifted the joke in the title–there are many others) that Gary Gygax, the creator of Dungeons and Dragons, passed away at the age of 69.

I played D&D and sundry other role-playing games (hmm…BattleTech, Car Wars and a bunch of others) in my early teens. I credit it with broadening my vocabulary, invigorating my imagination and teaching me the basics of storytelling and public speaking. It also kept me out of trouble.

I played nearly every Sunday with a strangely international rogue’s gallery (+2 obscure D&D reference there) group of my fellow nerds. There was Richard, the emaciated British kid with a thick head of, well, pubic hair. There was Albert, the shy Chinese kid whose house smelled funny (though his Mom made awesome won ton soup). And there was Christian, this incredibly tall Swedish kid with an awesome accent. Oddly, he did some modeling on the side.

We rotated houses each week, and probably played for six hours during each session. We’d always order pizza (I expect that it was Pizza 222, which the locals will no doubt remember). Christian had a killer basement gaming room, with axes on the walls and the whole nine yards. In retrospect, he was probably a likely candidate to shoot up the school. Hurray for tight Canadian gun laws.

It was immensely dorky, but I have fond memories of that time before girls, summer jobs and World of Warcraft.

What’s your favourite D&D memory, ye fellow dorks? First commenter gets a -3 Cursed Keyboard of Public Shame.


  1. Never into D&D, but your Battletech reference really reminded me of the good ol’ days when we used to lay out the hex maps on a ping-pong table and spend a good couple of hours each weekend day rolling dice for mech damage.

  2. Double: I’m not sure, but I think that was an innovation (?) added in a later edition of the game. I think 0 HP = dead in the early versions.

  3. Hmm. From WikipediaA Player Character in some editions of Dungeons & Dragons with HP of zero is not dead; they are knocked unconscious at zero HP. In the range of -1 and -9, they are considered to be mortally wounded and dying, and their HP will steadily drop unless stabilized (naturally, or through healing). At -10, the character dies. Note, however, that a player who takes 50 points of damage or more in one blow (according to the “Death from Massive Damage” alternate rule), must make a saving throw based on the amount of damage even if they are not reduced to -10; failure of this check causes the player to die regardless of remaining HP. The exact value of the “Massive Damage” amount is based on the size category or total hit points of the character/monster being attacked. Notably, in some editions of Dungeons and Dragons, once a character is reduced to zero hitpoints, they perish.I trust that I’m amassing geek EP for this research…

  4. Whew, thanks for the research. So I guess the Basic edition didn’t have the -10 rule.

    And I believe you’re accruing geek XP, at least that’s the abbreviation we used. Another 400 XP and you can become a level 12 Dork Lord!

  5. And I believe you’re accruing geek XP, at least that’s the abbreviation we used.

    Crap, there goes my geek cred. EP, of course, was currency (like CP, SP, and GP), and XP was the stuff that got you to Godhood.

  6. What’s your favourite D&D memory, ye fellow dorks? First commenter gets a -3 Cursed Keyboard of Public Shame.

    To answer the original question, our group had a custom-made one-sided die, a painted marble, which was used to denote absolute certainty. For example, after being hit with a massive fireball, blasted off a 1000-foot high cliff into a sea swarming with sharks, the slightly dopey plate-mail-wearing fighter asks “Do I survive?”.

    The DM says “Let’s see” and rolls the one sided die in plain view. “Uhhhhmmmmmmm, no.”

  7. The man was a visionary, no doubt. D&D is truly a brilliant game, with so little hardware for the vast potential of game activity… I spent several years, Grades 6 to 9 probably, where I would come home from school on Friday and play D&D with my brother Andrew and our friend J. David, until Sunday afternoon some weekends. Also Gamma World and Battle Tech… My best memory is really at the very beginning of it all – walking into The Sentry Box game store in Calgary and buying the boxed basic set and the pre-written Keep on the Borderlands module… Like stumbling on a barely-understood grimoire from an unknown land. Compelling. 🙂

  8. A friend of mine tried to introduce me to D&D (probably AD&D, actually) once, and it bored the hell out of me. I never played RPGs of any sort, though I should have been a prime candidate given my geekiness otherwise.

    I was never much of a fan of of crosswords, jigsaw puzzles, Sudoku, or Martin Gardner’s columns in Scientific American either. Probably related.

  9. I played D and D and was one of the few girls that played. I attended Catholic school, but was not Catholic. My fondest D and D memory is the one day when all the Catholic kids went to get confirmed and the rest of us heathens stayed at school and played D and D.

  10. JohnB: That is the right company, but there’s no indication what happened to them, or when they went out of business. Those ad spots look pretty dated.

  11. Played D&D non-stop throughout my teens until our Dungeons (we started designing our own) required so many NPCs that the dice rolling for each round turned into a 30 minute event.

    A great game.

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