Luke Gygax, son of the late Gary Gygax — the co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons — is building his next tabletop role-playing game on the open-source version of 5th edition D&D. Called Strange & Grim, the dieselpunk setting is the first project announced for Everyday Heroes’ third-party licensing platform. A crowdfunding campaign is expected to launch in October. Gygax’s friend, designer Matt Everhart, is co-developing the game with Gygax.
Everyday Heroes is the first TTRPG published by Evil Genius Productions, founded by serial entrepreneur and author David Scott. Created with the help of game designer Jeff Grubb, it is the spiritual successor to d20 Modern, a spinoff of D&D first published in 2002. A crowdfunding campaign earned close to $400,000 in June. The announcement of Gygax’s involvement was made just prior to Gen Con, the United States’ largest tabletop gaming convention.
In an interview with Polygon, Gygax described Strange & Grim as a world where magic is tempered by science. The vibe is similar to the U.S. of the 1920s and 1930s, with all of the industrialization of warfare and political overtones that period brings with it.
“Magic has become more accessible,” Gygax said. “So you’re seeing industrialization of magic. So besides high fantasy magic — like somebody who could cast spells or throw a lightning bolt from their hands — there’ll also be that magical science, that aethertech, which is essentially magical technology. So you might have a lightning-bolt gun that a craftsman is able to manufacture.”
“It’s kind of a mix of Hellboy meeting Indiana Jones and throwing in a layer of a little bit of a horror touch in there as well,” he added.
In addition to Strange & Grim, Gygax is also known for creating the world of Okkorim, which has been the setting for multiple published adventures.
“Back in 2013, we hadn’t seen 5th edition yet,” Gygax said. “We weren’t in this beautiful renaissance of D&D, this explosion of D&D that we’re experiencing now. I was looking for a way, something to reach down and capture the attention of gamers who were probably seasoned players for some time.
“I wanted to take it away from a traditional European setting and think of a place that was more of a crossroads of cultures — sort of like a Bosphorus area in the real world — and give it a flavor that would be a little bit different,” he continued. “So I came up with [the] world of Okkorim. And, you know, my wife is Moroccan and, don’t tell anybody, but Okkarim backwards is kind of like Morocco, right? I totally talked to her about it [and used] my experience in Iraq, as well as visits to Morocco, to help inform some of the features that might be of interest.”
Gygax recently retired from the U.S. Army, where he served for 33 years. Since 2009 he’s also been responsible for hosting the annual Gary Con event in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, which is a celebration of the life and legacy of his father. The first Gary Con was relatively informal, but it has grown to become a mainstay of the global gaming convention circuit.
“The amount of people who came and expressed to me how important my father was to them,” Gygax said, “[and to tell me how] even if they didn’t know him personally [...] how transformational the game Dungeons & Dragons was and how, in a sense, he played a role in their development as well. Maybe not as a father per se, but certainly as an influential figure who informed their thinking and who they became. So for that reason the people who come to Gary Con are very passionate.”
It’s that passion that has helped Gary Con to flourish, even in the face of an ongoing pandemic.
“People got outside of their comfort zone to make it happen,” Gygax said. “Well, you know what, I’ve never done a game on Zoom, or you know, Roll20 or [another virtual tabletop] but I’m going to try it because I want to celebrate Gary Con and I want this to happen. And so they did, and it really was an amazing feat. So I think it helps show other conventions that you didn’t have to cancel. You could go virtual and it could work.”
The next Gary Con is slated for March 23, 2023.