The creator of Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), Gary Gygax, died yesterday. I was a HUGE D&D nerd in high school, no matter how much my friends and I tried to hide it from girls that we liked. I spent countless hours (not one of which I consider misspent) serving as Dungeon Master for a close couple of buddies, not to mention hundreds of dollars in materials and supplements (some of which, I will now admit, may have been misspent). Once, the week before I graduated from the 8th grade, my friends and I convinced our teachers to let us out of class so we could go play D&D in the teachers' lounge. Since I left for college and was subsequently separated from those friends, I have never picked up the dice again, which I regret from time to time.
But you are probably interested in how Gary Gygax made me a Mormon. I will confess that I have never met Mr. Gygax in person, and knew almost nothing about him until he died yesterday. However, his most significant invention, D&D (or rather AD&D, 2nd edition), has profoundly influenced the course of my life.
It was through D&D that I came to know my best friend ADW (full name withheld). ADW and I had very little in common aside from D&D. Come to think of it, we had absolutely NOTHING in common other than D&D. He was a ladies' man; I had only one girlfriend in high school (and that for only two weeks). He was strong and athletic; I was anything but. But for D&D, I am confident in saying that we would never have associated in any meaningful way.
We had one other important difference- ADW was Mormon; I was not. We grew very close over the 4+ years that we played D&D, even as the rest of our group shifted and changed. We spent the night at one another's house almost every weekend during the school year and every day during the summer. If it was 1am in the morning on a Saturday, you could find us in the living room with a d12 and d20 in our hands. When we were sophomores, ADW gave me a Book of Mormon and explained to me about patriarchal blessings. I admit that, at the time, I did not think much about such things. I put the Book of Mormon in a drawer, only pulling it out occasionally to marvel at the unfamiliar names assigned to each book.
When we were seniors and anticipating our imminent separation (he to a mission, I to the university), he got more serious. Now he spoke in earnest of the missionaries, the plan of salvation, and the mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith. For whatever reason, now I was interested. Even as we each moved away from our D&D games, we grew closer together in more significant and eternal ways. As soon as I was out from under my parents' roof and safely in the confines of the university, I looked up the local LDSSA president and got in touch with the missionaries. I was baptized in early October, just two weeks before ADW left to serve a mission. He performed the ordinance.
So in a funny way, I have Gary Gygax to thank for my membership in the Church. So I take this time to bid the Dungeon Master of all Dungeon Masters farewell.
And for the record, I have never participated in any blood sacrifice (other than the Atonement), nor any Satanic ritual. I saw a Oujia board once (in another context), but never played with one. And while I can probably name all of the deities within the Forgotten Realms pantheon for you, I have never worshiped any strange or foreign gods.