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A Legacy of Gaming at Gaxx Worx

As a son of Gary Gygax, the cofounder of Dungeons & Dragons, Luke Gygax literally grew up in the shadow of tabletop roleplaying games. After serving in the military, Luke founded Gaxx Worx in 2018 to create new games and accessories for tabletop roleplayers. Recently, the company completed a successful campaign to bring The Heart of Chentoufi to gamers around the globe. Now, Gaxx Worx is using Everyday Heroes by Evil Genius Games to build rules for their newest project, Strange & Grimm—which was play-tested at this year’s ,Gary Con.

Luke shared with Evil Genius Games about his family’s gaming legacy, Gaxx Worx, and the fun of collaborating on a game that builds on the Everyday Heroes core rulebook.

Evil Genius Games: Tell us about your background in gaming. How did it begin?

Luke Gygax: I’m like patient zero of the role-playing game generation. There is not a time I remember where I wasn’t rolling dice and sharing that camaraderie around the table, so it’s really core to who I am. It certainly didn’t hurt that gaming was my dad’s primary occupation for most of my life. It was something I grew up with.

Of course, it can be difficult to grow up in someone’s shadow. In my teenage years, I decided that something I identified myself with and that I enjoyed was the military. So, I enlisted when I was 18. I did 24 years active duty, and about 8 years part-time. I still gamed, but it wasn’t my occupation until later in life.

EGG: What makes TTRPGs such a popular activity, in your view?

Gygax: Games like Dungeons & Dragons are more than just a way to have fun with your friends. They’re also a way to model behaviors. They provide motivation to overcome difficulties. Being able to assume a heroic persona and have agency in your life is a way to practice asserting yourself. When I reflect upon it, I did well in the military and it’s because I was practicing these skills since I was a kid—being persistent, being willing to take the lead, improvising, reacting quickly to a problem. That’s when I discovered how important my father was. Whether people knew him personally or not, he influenced their lives.

EGG: How has your dad’s legacy with D&D influenced you?

Gygax: When my dad passed away in 2008, that was a seminal moment for me. I knew my dad enjoyed it when I worked with him, and I knew he was important in the gaming space. However, what I didn’t realize until that point in time was how impactful he was in a broader sense, and how much his game had helped people through difficult times. I realized his legacy and I didn’t want him to be forgotten.

When he passed away, there was an outpouring of support. So I thought, why not have a gathering so anyone can come? I rented the American Legion Hall, we set up a podium so people could share their favorite stories about my dad, and everyone played games. People had a good time. Someone said we should do this again next year. That’s how Gary Con was born, and it has grown considerably since then.

EGG: That’s sort of how Gaxx Worx was born too!

Gygax: Yes. I started writing a module every year for people to play while they’re at Gary Con. That was a lot of fun. So, when I was getting out of the army and thinking about what would I like to do in my time, I decided I really enjoyed interacting with this community. I love the camaraderie. Gamers are good people. The vast majority of gamers are just good, generous folks that I like being around. I want to continue to create for them. And to do that, I realized I should establish a company and start working with people in the gaming industry.

EGG: How did you get connected with Evil Genius Games?

Gygax: I partnered on Gaxx Worx with Matt Everhart, my co-author for the World of Okkorim. Matt began kicking around an idea for a dieselpunk game we’re calling ,Strange & Grimm. It’s kind of like The Rocketeer meets Indiana Jones with a dash of Cthulhu.

I didn’t want to make up rules entirely from whole cloth; there are so many systems out there, and that becomes a great barrier to entry. Then we stumbled across Everyday Heroes from Evil Genius Games. I saw they had Jeff Grubb associated with them—he’s an old TSR game designer, a respected guy, and I was familiar with him. Plus, Everyday Heroes builds on the heritage of the d20 Modern system.

I took a look at Everyday Heroes and I was intrigued. This is essentially a familiar system, and we’re going to apply rules to guns and that sort of stuff to it. The core rulebook is d20 Modern, and it’s cinematic. It looked like something we could work with.

EGG: Why did you decide to join the Evil Genius Games 3rd party licensing program?

Gygax: I approached the owner of Evil Genius Games, Dave Scott, and he was very gracious and very welcoming. He said, “I’d love to have you involved.” He sent us the Everyday Heroes rules, and Matt and I started looking at them. As we did, we realized we needed to work on other rules too—because magic isn’t addressed fully and there are a few things we want to make optional rules for. That’s part of the beauty of Everyday Heroes. You can use it as is, or you can add some layers and optional rules. And I really have enjoyed the openness and willingness of the design team. Sig Trent and “Goober” Ramsley are just really good people.

EGG: What’s next for Gaxx Worx?

Gygax: My co-creator Matt Everhart and I are still working on Strange & Grimm, and knock on wood, we’ll be ready to take it to a Kickstarter sometime in 2023. We’re still building the world and doing some collaboration on the magic.

Now, it’s all about play-testing because there’s so many great ideas and complex spellcasting ideas. However, how much does it take to communicate to the player? How much is that a barrier to entry? Is it really so cool that we can’t live without it?

I love wonky game design because for me, it’s fun—but I’m a person who’s been gaming all my life. You really don’t want to design a game for a person like me. You want to design a game for the casual player to get in and enjoy, but still have enough depth that serious players will enjoy it.

EGG: You’re play-testing it at Gary Con, right?

Gygax: Yes! We play-tested Strange & Grimm at Gary Con this year (March 23-26, 2023), and Dave Scott, the owner of Evil Genius Games, was a guest at the con.

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