Ah, good old Ernest Gary Gygax (July 27, 1938 — March 4, 2008). Where would we be without thee? Probably somewhere else, given the sheer number of different forms of media (and with them, a very large number of tropes) that originated from his work.
Back in the day, there were no Role-Playing Games. None. Only tabletop war games. Gygax (yes, despite sounding like the name of someone's own PC, that was his actual last name) didn't like that at all, so he asked his friend Dave Arneson to make one. Arneson rewrote all of the rules to Chainmail, a system that Gygax and the local shop owner Jeff Perren had developed, to create Blackmoor, the first tabletop RPG. Gygax then, along with Arneson, worked to expand this from a simple add-on to Chainmail to its own system entirely. And thus, Dungeons & Dragons was born.
TSR Inc. flourished off of the game, leading to multiple game modules, many alternate universes (Greyhawk, Planescape, Dark Sun, Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance, Eberron...), eventually even a cartoon adaptation and a few movies. However, eventually TSR fell under new management, causing him to leave the company. He continued to work on new tabletop RPGs and write novels afterwards, and remained affiliated with his original creation all his life. In March of 2008, Gygax died at the age of 69, and gamers the world over lost their saving throw against mourning.
Depending on who you ask, Gygax may be considered to be one of four things:
- The god of gaming made flesh.
- A genius who is effectively the father of modern role-playing.
- A sadistic and crazy man who liked watching people squirm.
- All of the above.
Media in which Gygax appears in some form or another includes:
- Gary Gygax has been referenced in many Dungeons & Dragons products, with many things named after him as an homage.
- The Bonus Boss of Baldur's Gate II is named Kangaxx. And, while not based on D&D anymore, Dragon Age: Origins featured a Bonus Boss Gaxkang, who's a reference to both Kangaxx and Gygax.
- The ring of Gaxx, a recurring artifact.
- Zagyg, the god of Humor, Ocultism and unpredictability, was named after him. By himself.
- The city of Gryrax in Greyhawk is named for him.
- Gygax's own Player Character, Mordenkainen, is a notable wizard in the lore, with various game supplements and spells bearing his name.
- The name of the prominent wizard Tenser, creator of spells such as Tenser's Floating Disc, is an anagram of "Ernest." (The character was created by Gygax's son, also named Ernest, making Tenser named after EGG at one level removed.)
- The dragon god Garyx is named after him. Garyx is an evil destroyer deity.
- He also voiced himself in an episode of Code Monkeys.
- Dexter's Laboratory tipped its hat to him in the episode "D&DD", with Dexter's God-Mode Sue character being named "Gygax".
- He's the DM/narrator for a series of quests in Dungeons & Dragons Online.
- A strain of bacteria was named in honor of Gygax, "Arthronema gygaxiana sp nov UTCC393".
- Blizzard Entertainment dedicated the 2.4.0 patch of World of Warcraft, "Fury of the Sunwell", to Gygax.
- Pathfinder features a prominent NPC named after Gygax — Lord Gyr of Gixx, the ruler of Absalom, the City at the Center of the World.
- In Acquisitions Incorporated, Gygax is the name of the Darkmagic family's cat, who turns out to be The Mole for the rival family and the Big Bad of season 5.
- In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, when time displaced ninja Lari asks Molly if her cell phone is a "magic item," she tells him, "Only in the Clarkean sense. Not in the Gygaxian sense."
- Had a posthumous cameo in The Order of the Stick.