TORN Guest Blogger Ethan Gilsdorf writes: The extent to which the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons was inspired by Tolkien has been debated, but it’s clear that D&D’s co-founders Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson had read the trilogy. And it’s more than clear that the ongoing success and appeal of Lord of the Rings fueled interest in D&D, as well as vice versa.

This past week (July 27) would have been Gygax’s 73rd birthday. Folks have been working to immortalize his legacy and the impact of D&D by building a memorial statue in Gygax’s hometown of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. The next step is to raise money. This coming week at Gen Con in Indianapolis (the now massive gaming convention that Gygax founded), using the birthday as the impetus, the Gygax Memorial Fund will be at booth #1541 (the Old School Renaissance Group) to accept donations to get this statue built.

Come by and give it up for Gary! Donor rewards include T-shirts with the Gygax Memorial logo; a book called “Cheers, Gary“ which selects the best of Gygax’s correspondence with fans; and signed copies of Ethan Gilsdorf’s Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms, his travel memoir investigation into fantasy and gaming subcultures. The authors will be in attendance at Gen Con to sign copies.

Gary’s widow, Gail Gygax, will also be on hand, sharing stories about Gygax and how he wanted to be remembered.

Even if you can’t make it to Gen Con, please pay tribute to Gary’s birthday and the role D&D played in your life by posting news to your blogs, social networks, and communities that the Gygax Memorial Fund will be at Gen Con booth number #1541, and that folks can donate in memory of Gary at Gen Con, or directly on the Gygax Memorial Fund website. Thanks for your support.

Ethan Gilsdorf is the author of the award-winning book Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms, his travel memoir investigation into fantasy and gaming subcultures the Huffington Post called “part personal odyssey, part medieval mid-life crisis, and part wide-ranging survey of all things freaky and geeky,” National Public Radio described as “Lord of the Rings meets Jack Kerouac’s On the Road” and proclaimed, “For anyone who has ever spent time within imaginary realms, the book will speak volumes.” Follow Ethan’s adventures at


  1. Sweet, my home town can be nerd-central as opposed to just being mini-Chicago if they put up a Gygax statue… sweet!

    BTW, I used to work with his daughter, Elise, and she’s a nice lady.  If I were an uber-nerd I would have been freaked out to work with some one so close to the TSR-ness (not to mention someone who was even featured in some D&D ads), but it turns out I’m not THAT big of a nerd.

    I know some people may hate on D&D from borrowing greatly from LOTR, but their ‘stealing’ is nowhere close to as blatant as World of Warcraft… at least D&D borrowed with some class.

    • Jaidoprism7

      I agree.  World of Warcraft definitely took from Gygax, of that there is no question.  I revere D&D and only have Gygax to thank for all the hours and sometimes days of fun and game-play and for that, he deserves a monument in my book.  I hope to visit it one day with my former campaigners.

  2. From what I remember in the first D&D books from 1976 the example of dungeon adventuring was fairly close to scene in the mines of Moria when they were in the room where Balin’s tomb was found.

    • Jaidoprism7

      My thoughts exactly.  I DO want to go on record as saying: I am a huge fan of D&D and played it often.  I just can’t see where else he would pull his parameters from.  As far as I’m concerned Gygax DID massive work on the Die and Point system…blah blah blah, so on so forth.  I think you get the picture. 

  3. Gary was actually not a very big fan of LOTR, or so he claimed in an article he wrote for Dragon Magazine (issue #95, although I can’t find a link to it), detailing why he felt the influence of those books on his game was overstated.

    Granted most of his reasoning was pretty weak. 

    • Jaidoprism7


  4. Jaidoprism7

    There was no way Gygax wasn’t influenced by LOTR. Tolkien gave awesome parameters for creatures and warriors and even though Tolkien didn’t create the creatures and races he used, he sure the heck put them in a world of his own creation, giving our world, including Gary Gygax something tangible to work from.  Before then what was the popular reading?  Beowulf?  Dante’s Inferno?  The Illiad?  If it wasn’t LOTR than D&D would’ve been greatly different.  We’d have more Gods and Greek influence then.  I D&D’d before I even read the LOTR series but once I did it was easy enough to see where it might have stemmed from.  Gygax does deserve recognition because he created the volumes of regulation and rules that harnessed a good dungeon master’s imagination so the game wouldn’t be based on “Willie-Nilly”  BS.  I bet someone who read LOTR complimented Gygax by mentioning the books to which He soured and disassociated himself immediatly.  He deserves recognition for sure, but c’mon!

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