Ernest Gary Gygax, co-creator of the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons and the RPG company TSR, died this morning at the age of 69 at his home in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. He'd long been suffering from poor health, although no cause of death has been announced yet. In 1974, Gygax and Dave Arneson devised D&D;'s complex system of character creation, dice-rolling, and world-building; by the end of that decade it had become a global success, and has since established itself as an industry standard as well as a cultural touchstone. The game–and Gygax himself–came under intense scrutiny in the '80s due to its alleged satanic overtones and connection to psychotic behavior in teens. Rona Jaffe's sensationalistic 1981 novel Mazes And Monsters, based on the urban myth of live and allegedly dangerous D&D; games played in underground tunnels, was turned into a TV movie the following year starring the young Tom Hanks. Since then, Gygax's creation has popped up in a Saturday-morning cartoon, films, and computer games, and has been an incalculable influence on the genres of horror and fantasy. It also inspired some of the best scenes from the final episode of Freaks And Geeks:

Gygax remained dedicated to his fans and his game until his death, hosting weekly D&D; sessions as recently as January. Roll on, Gary, roll on.

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(Please, no hit point jokes.)