Gary Gygax, D&D creator, rolls a natural 1 on a saving throw

One of my favorite episodes of the TV show Futurama has the lead character, Fry, wondering what would happen if he had never gone into the future. A machine shows him that it would have caused a rift in the time and he is abducted and introduced to the “Vice Presidential Action Rangers”, led by Al Gore, whose task is to protect the space-time continuum. Fry soon causes the universe to collapse into a space-time rift. The scenario ends with the characters playing Dungeons and Dragons gary_gygax.jpg for the next quadrillion years with Al Gore playing a role of Vice President rather than a typical role in D&D.

Dungeons and Dragons creator, Gary Gygax, made an appearance during show alongside Al Gore. This is something of an inside joke since Gore’s wife, Tipper Gore, hates Dungeons & Dragons and has been publicly critical of it.

The groundbreaking role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons spread to high schools and college campuses across the nation starting in 1974.Initially players were isolated in communities of socially awkward young men listening to heavy-metal music and pretending to be goblins. Today they have grown to include millions of different people, of all ages and sexes and musical tastes, connected by the Internet and pretending to be everything from gnomes to glamorous models.

The game has helped many people get over being shy or awkward and given them the ability to become doctors, lawyers, police or any other job they might have stayed away from.

It is Ernest Gary Gygax, the father of the fantasy role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons, whose has taken his Final Taxi as the age of 69.

Born July 27, 1938, in Chicago was taught to play cards at the age of five, and chess a year later, by his mother. Gygax grew up reading science fiction and fantasy works by Ray Bradbury, Robert E Howard (the creator of Conan the Barbarian) , and H.P. Lovecraft. After dropping out of the University of Minnesota, he became an insurance underwriter. In his spare time, he helped found the International Federation of Wargamers, a group of gamers scattered around the Midwest. There he met Dave Arneson and the two developed a game where the gamers played roles. The result was a game heavily influenced by J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. They called it Dungeons & Dragons. Among the game’s signature items was a die with 20 sides.

The game was marketed mainly by word of mouth as D&D sold its first thousand units in less than a year and then jumped dramatically. Gygax co-founded the company Tactical Studies Rules (TSR, Inc.) with Don Kaye in 1974 and in 1977 he developed a more complex version of the game that was released with a thick rule book.

The game became the focus of controversy in 1979 when a Michigan State University student went missing in steam tunnels below the school’s campus and was rumored to have been playing D&D. Role-playing games were denounced by Christian groups, and a “60 Minutes” report seemed to link D&D to a pair of suicides. Gygax received threats and hired a bodyguard, but the publicity only increased sales.

Gary Gygax was a producer and writer for the Marvel Productions, Ltd. cartoon series Dungeons & Dragons, which aired on CBS in 1983-84. He also still hosted a weekly game of Dungeons & Dragons as recently as January.

Among the tributes of his career was when fans named a species of bacteria for him: Arthronema gygaxiana.

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Wham-O’s toy inventor of the Frisbee and Hula Hoop – Richard Knerr

There was a group of us kids from the neighborhood that rode our bicycles all day long through the street of my small Alabama home town. We knew short-cut and could get anywhere. We loved our bikes. We all had the high handlebars with the banana seats. A few even had the wheelie bar on the back of the bike. This was a bar that attached to the rear tire and frame of the bike so you could ride around on the back tire. 

This wheelie bar was something kids my age loved and it was popular because of cartoon drawing we had seen called “Rat Fink.”  He was a hot-rod car that was a green, depraved-looking mouse with bulging, bloodshot eyes, an oversized mouth with yellowed, narrow teeth, and a red T-shirt with yellow “R.F.” on it. Rat Fink use the wheelie bar and so did we. The bicycle attachment was made by a popular toy company called Wham-o.

Wham-o has made many of the toys from my childhood besides the wheelie bar. The Superball, Slip ‘N Slide and Silly String are just a few. One of the most popular, of course, has the be the Frisbee.

The Wham-O toy company was started by Richard Knerr and Arthur “Spud” Melin, two college graduates unhappy with their employment, who began the company in a Los Angeles, California, garage in 1948.

It is Wham-O founder Richard Knerr who has taken that Final Taxi at the age of 82.

The two toymakers first market idea was a slingshot. The idea came up as the young men hurled meat into the air for the training of pet falcons and hawks. The slingshot was called Wham-O to resemble the sound of a target being hit. It stuck as the name of the company.

They branched into other sporting goods, including boomerangs and crossbows. When a friend told them in 1958 about a large ring used for exercise in Australia, they devised their own version and called it the Hula Hoop. Before  they knew it the toy had created one the biggest fads in history. 25 million were sold in less than four months, and in two years sales reached more than 100 million units. By the end of 1959, after US$45 million in profits, the  Hula Hoop fad slowly was dying out.

Around the same time, they bought the rights to a plastic flying disc invented by Walter ”Fred” Morrison, who called it the Pluto Platter.  Wham-O bought the rights and renamed it the Frisbee and sales took off in 1959.

In the early 1960s, they created the Super Ball®. It was made of a relatively hard elastomer alloy dubbed Zectron®, exhibiting a remarkable 0.92 coefficient of restitution when bounced on hard surfaces. They sold some 20 million of them during the 1960s.

Knerr had other products that tried to take advantage of existing national trends. In the 1960s, Wham-O came out with a US$119 do-it-yourself bomb shelter. In 1962, they sold a limbo dance kit to take advantage of that fad, and in 1975 when the movie Jaws was released, they sold plastic shark teeth.

Of course for me my favorite thing Wham-O made as a comic book. This one was one you could share with others. Most comic were so small only you could look at it, but with Wham-O Giant Comics you could lay in a floor and spread this 3 foot tall book across the living room floor. The art was great and stories were well written.

Other products invented by Richard Knerr included: The Hacky Sack, Super Elastic Bubble Plastic, Magic Sand, Boomerang, Water Wiggle, and so much more.