There are two more great articles released in the wake of Gary Gyx's death that I wanted to call your attention to:
Jeremy Parish and the 1UP.com editorial staff compiled a wonderful article entitled Five Things Games Have Learned from Dungeons & Dragons that shows just what sort of far-reaching effects on video games and computer games Gary Gygax has wrought.
From the 1Up article:
It's taken three decades, but videogames are finally catching on to one of the most fundamental elements of D&D: emergent gameplay. Because the rules and guidebooks for the tabletop game were merely a suggestion, a set of conditions and constraints for building an adventure, the actual content and outcome of every group and every session varied wildly. This wasn't a matter of the random math, though -- it was the human factor. The dungeon master was a sort of guide, nudging the heroes in the right direction and adapting rapidly when they strayed. Not surprisingly, videogames have generally kind of sucked at this. The computer serves as a dungeon master by proxy for the creators, and computers aren't known for their boundless imagination. But they're catching up thanks to canny design. MMOs are very much the successors to D&D, bringing people together to deal with the randomness that results from so many real players gathered in a single place (not to mention the occasional interference of the game masters). But even smaller-scale games like Battlefield and Halo 3 have become sandboxes for goofing around, and single-player games like The Sims and Grand Theft Auto give players enough freedom to make their own fun.
And Wired has a great article chronicling the life of Gary Gygax, and includes lots of little-known games and some photos from Gygax's family. A choice personal bit of trivia from the article:
Gygax and a few of his buddies carried that DIY spirit even further, devising a game of their own around WWII tank combat. He was determined that his game would avoid the "goofy bell curve"that resulted from rolling a pair of six-sided dice (2s and 12s are rare, while 6s, 7s, and 8s are comparatively frequent). To achieve a more linear curve, he determined that players must pluck 1 of 20 numbered poker chips from a hat, so that there was an equal 5 percent probability of each outcome. Gygax later found the perfect replacement for this clunky system: In a school supply catalog, he discovered dice shaped like all of the Platonic solids, including the icosahedron: A 20-sided die.
But don't just take my word for it; check 'em out!