The memorial service for Gary Gygax was today, an event I wish I could have attended. He passed away earlier this week and I have found myself more saddened by it than I would have expected. During the past few days there have been many tributes and expressions of what Gary meant to his fans, his friends, and those who had the opportunity to work with him. In these same few days I’ve thought hard about why the news affected me so and the deeper significance of what Gary meant to me.

I finally realized today that for me Gary occupied a truly unique position, one I think only a few others might have. With the exception of my family, I can’t think of a person who played a greater part in shaping the life I now have, moreso than any other mentor, friend, or boss I have known.

It was more than just his role in creating D&D. Every gamer who played has Gary to thank for that. But for me, Gary not only created a game, he created an industry, and then he hired me to be a part of that. I remember sleeping on the couch in his den when I came out for my interview. Because he thought I had talent, I was given a chance in the first place and it was while working for him and with him that I learned many of the skills of how to be a game designer. He instructed without trying, teaching through his games, his words, and his actions. And because he trusted my skills, I was able to grow and improve. If it had not been for that time at TSR, I do not think I would be as good a designer as I hope I am today. Quite simply, if Gary had not hired me, I would have been a burned-out English teacher somewhere by now. Instead his actions launched me on a path of opportunities and adventures I never could have dreamed of all those years ago.

And that is what I realized today — that my life was more linked to Gary than I understood. I cannot claim that we were close or good friends; since the years that I worked for him my life has gone in different directions. But that does not lessen the importance he played in my life and the respect I still hold for him.


I’m going to be part of “Slide Slam: Designing Video Games” at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMOCA) on the 28th of this month. I have no idea what I’m supposed to do except that I’ve got 15 minutes or so of stage time to talk about designing video games. I guess I’ll have to talk really, really fast.

Interested folks should come by and check it out. It might be really fun. If nothing else I’ll try to pontificate really well.

I’ve been plunging back into painting miniatures after a break of many years. It’s been so long that I discovered much of my old supplies were no good anymore and naturally that’s the kind of discovery I make right at the moment I need that particular paint, glue, or tool and I’m forced to improvise.

My latest discovery came as I was getting ready to put fill around the bases of some Masked Minions (from Paroom Station) and discovered my normal modeling stuff had dried out. Rummaging around I found a tub of “pre-mixed sanded ceramic tile adhesive and grout” from a table-building project I’d done before. With a little experimentation and practice I discovered it makes a really good basing compound. It’s thick and spreadable, dries slowly and works as a glue for anything you set in it. The sand gives it texture so it makes a good dirt surface. To work it I use a plastic-tipped bobby pin and a flat wooden stick with one end carved to a narrow tip. It helps to keep the stick damp for smoothing — until it dries the grout is water-soluble. It’s really good at filling gaps in a base, covering large surfaces, and building up a thick layer. The only drawback is that it doesn’t carve well when it’s dry.

You can find ceramic grout/adhesive at any hardware store for probably $5 to $10 a tub. One tub should last quite a long time.