I have a list of role models that I cite to the public with frequency. It includes fictional characters (Willy Wonka), people of questionable morals (Vlad Tepes), and geniuses of all levels (from Einstein to Alton Brown). However, if you were too ask me to name only people who have had a serious impact on my life, my personality, and my worldview, only four people come to mind: Jesus Christ, J.R.R. Tolkien, Jim Henson, and Gary Gygax.
I'd to take a moment, on his birthday, to thank one of these people. He has helped me learn to solve my problems without fear or violence, he has shown me that there are a near-infinite number of solutions to almost every problem, and he has encouraged me to think outside the box.
He has helped me to make the greatest friendships with the greatest people I have ever known. He has given me a safe place to explore my personality, from either side of the cardboard screen. He's given this nerd boy something to do all those Saturday nights I could never get a date, and a place to show just what kind of person I can be. He's helped me tell stories in grand ways, and taught me the value of random chance. The worlds he created have been my imagination's playground for years, and I can only hope that my children, and their children, will appreciate them the way that I do.
Ernest Gary Gygax, wherever you are, whatever you're doing, thank you. Thank you for giving me a place to ask all those questions that don't fit into a normal day. Thank you for letting me use dice to understand that life isn't always fair, and to use my INT and CHA scores to overcome that. Thank you for showing me that DEX is far more useful than brute STR, that Craft (anything) really is worthwhile, and for helping me improve my Perform checks. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to meet the greatest adventuring party a guy could have, and letting this guild of wayfarers spread the joy of the worlds you've created to others.
I don't think it's a coincidence that you share initials with the phrase "good game." I think there's some cosmic humor in that fact that underlines the importance you've had in the industry, and in our hearts. I don't think I'd be the same without that printed cardboard screen, or those plastic dice in my hands. I don't think I'd be the person I am without the influence of Dungeons & Dragons, and your sense of adventure and wonder.
Thank you, Gary Gygax. Happy birthday, and until we can meet in the other plane, gg GG.