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Gary Gygax

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Gary Gygax
A man in his late sixties. He has a beard, glasses, and is wearing a Hawaiian shirt.
Gygax at Gen Con Indy 2007
Born Ernest Gary Gygax
(1938-07-27)July 27, 1938[1]
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Died Script error: The function "death_date_and_age" does not exist.
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, US
Nickname "Father of role-playing games"
Occupation Writer, game designer
Nationality United States
Period 1971–2008
Genre Role-playing games, fantasy, wargames
Spouse Mary Jo Powell (m. 1958)
Gail Carpenter (August 15, 1987 – March 4, 2008)

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Ernest Gary Gygax (/ˈɡɡæks/ GY-gaks) (July 27, 1938 – March 4, 2008)[2] was an American game designer and author best known for co-creating with Dave Arneson the pioneering role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons (D&D). Gygax has been described as the father of D&D.[3]

In the 1960s, Gygax created an organization of wargaming clubs and founded the Gen Con gaming convention. In 1971, he helped develop Chainmail, a miniatures wargame based on medieval warfare. He co-founded the company Tactical Studies Rules (TSR, Inc.) with childhood friend Don Kaye in 1973. The following year, he and Arneson created D&D, which expanded on Gygax's Chainmail and included elements of the fantasy stories he loved as a child. In the same year, he founded The Dragon, a magazine based around the new game. In 1977, Gygax began work on a more comprehensive version of the game, called Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. Gygax designed numerous manuals for the game system, as well as several pre-packaged adventures called "modules" that gave a person running a D&D game (the "Dungeon Master") a rough script and ideas on how to run a particular gaming scenario. In 1983, he worked to license the D&D product line into the successful D&D cartoon series.

After leaving TSR in 1985 over issues with its new majority owner, Gygax continued to create role-playing game titles independently, beginning with the multi-genre Dangerous Journeys in 1992. He designed another gaming system called Lejendary Adventure, released in 1999. In 2005, Gygax was involved in the Castles & Crusades role-playing game, which was conceived as a hybrid between the third edition of D&D and the original version of the game conceived by Gygax.

Gygax was married twice and had six children. In 2004, Gygax suffered two strokes, narrowly avoided a subsequent heart attack, and was then diagnosed with an abdominal aortic aneurysm, from which he died in March 2008.

Early life and inspiration

Gary Gygax was born in Chicago within a few blocks of Wrigley Field[4] on July 27, 1938. He was the son of Almina Emelie (Burdick)[5] and Swiss immigrant and Chicago Symphony Orchestra violinist Ernst Gygax.[6][7] Gygax spent his early childhood in Chicago, but in 1946 he was involved in a brawl with a large group of boys,[8] and his father decided to move the family to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin,[9] where Gary's mother's family had settled in the early 19th century.[7][10][11]

During his childhood and teen years, he developed a love of games and an appreciation for fantasy and science fiction literature. When he was five, he played card games such as pinochle and then board games such as chess.[12][13] At the age of ten, he and his friends played the sort of games that eventually came to be called "live action role-playing games" with one of them acting as a referee.[14] His father introduced him to science fiction and fantasy through pulp novels.[7][13] His interest in games, combined with an appreciation of history, eventually led Gygax to begin playing miniature war games in 1953 with his best friend Don Kaye.[13] As teenagers Gygax and Kaye designed their own miniatures rules for toy soldiers with a large collection of 54 mm and 70 mm figures, where they used "ladyfingers" (small firecrackers) to simulate explosions.[15]

Gygax dropped out of high school in his junior year and worked at odd jobs for a while, but he moved back to Chicago at age 19 to attend night classes in junior college.[11] He also took anthropology classes at University of Chicago.[6][7] The following year he married Mary Jo Powell.[16] Their marriage produced five children: Ernest ("Ernie"), Lucion ("Luke"), Heidi, Cindy, and Elise.[14] Gygax continued his night-school classes and made the college Dean's List. At the urging of his professors, he applied to the University of Chicago and was admitted. However, because he was married, he decided to take a full-time job in insurance instead.[17]

By December 1958, the game Gettysburg from the Avalon Hill company had particularly captured Gygax's attention.[18] It was also from Avalon Hill that he ordered the first blank hexagon mapping sheets that were available, which he then employed to design his own games.[19] Gygax became active in fandom and became involved in play-by-mail Diplomacy games, for which he designed his own variants.[15] By 1966 he was active in the wargame hobby and was writing many magazine articles on the subject.[20] Gygax learned about H. G. Wells' Little Wars book for play of military miniatures wargames and Fletcher Pratt's Naval Wargame book. Gygax later looked for innovative ways to generate random numbers, and he used not only common, six-sided dice, but dice of all five platonic solid shapes,[21] which he discovered in a school supply catalog.[11]

In 1967, he and his family moved back to Lake Geneva.[6] Except for a few months he would spend in Clinton, Wisconsin,[22] following his divorce, and his time in Hollywood while he was the head of TSR's entertainment division, Lake Geneva would be his home for the rest of his life.


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During the 1960s, Gygax worked as an insurance underwriter for the Firemen's Fund[11] in Chicago.[23] In 1967, Gygax co-founded the International Federation of Wargamers (IFW) with Bill Speer and Scott Duncan.[20] The IFW grew rapidly, especially by assimilating several pre-existing wargaming clubs, and aimed to promote interest in wargames of all periods. It provided a forum for wargamers, via its newsletters and societies, which enabled them to form local groups and share rules. In 1967, Gygax organized a 20-person gaming meet in the basement of his home; this event would later be referred to as "Gen Con 0".[21] In 1968, Gygax rented Lake Geneva's vine-covered Horticultural Hall for US$50 to hold the first Lake Geneva Convention, also known as the Gen Con gaming convention for short.[11] Gen Con is now one of North America's largest annual hobby-game gatherings.[24] Gygax met Dave Arneson, the future co-creator of D&D, at the second Gen Con in August 1969.[11][25]

I'm very fond of the Medieval period, the Dark Ages in particular. We started playing in the period because I had found appropriate miniatures. I started devising rules where what the plastic figure was wearing was what he had. If he had a shield and no armor, then he just has a shield. Shields and half-armor = half-armor rules; full-armor figure = full armor rules. I did rules for weapons as well.

— Gary Gygax[26]

Together with Don Kaye, Mike Reese, and Leon Tucker, Gygax created a military miniatures society called Lake Geneva Tactical Studies Association (LGTSA) in 1970,[27] with its first headquarters in Gygax's basement.[13] Shortly thereafter in 1970, Robert Kuntz and Gygax founded the Castle & Crusade Society of the IFW.[28] Late in October 1970, Gygax lost his job at the insurance company and then became a shoe repairman, which gave him more time for pursuing his interest in game development.[23] In 1971, he began working as editor-in-chief at Guidon Games, a publisher of wargames,[14] for which he produced the board games Alexander the Great and Dunkirk: The Battle of France. Early that same year, Gygax published Chainmail, a miniatures wargame that simulated medieval-era tactical combat, which he had originally written with hobby-shop owner Jeff Perren.[11][29][30] The Chainmail medieval miniatures rules were originally published in the Castle & Crusade Society's fanzine The Domesday Book. Guidon Games hired Gygax to produce a "Wargaming with Miniatures" series of games, and a new edition of Chainmail (1971) was the first book in the series.[31]:6 Gygax also collaborated on Tractics (WWII to c. 1965, with Mike Reese & Leon Tucker) and with Dave Arneson on the Napoleonic naval wargame Don't Give Up the Ship![25]

The first edition of Chainmail included a fantasy supplement to the rules.[30] These comprised a system for warriors, wizards, and various monsters of non-human races drawn from the works of J. R. R. Tolkien and other sources. For wizards, Gygax included six spells that could be used to affect a battle, plus two "missiles" (fire ball and lightning bolt).[32] Dave Arneson adopted the Chainmail rules for his fantasy Blackmoor campaign.[11] While visiting Lake Geneva in 1972, Arneson ran his fantasy game using the new rules, and Gygax immediately saw the potential of role-playing games.[11][33]

Gygax and Arneson collaborated on "The Fantasy Game", the role-playing game which later became Dungeons & Dragons, basing their work on Arneson's modified version of Chainmail for his Blackmoor campaign.[2][11][34] Several aspects of the system governing magic in the game were inspired by The Dying Earth stories of fantasy author Jack Vance (notably the fact that magic-users in the game forget the spells that they have learned immediately upon casting them, and must re-study them in order to cast them again),[35] and the system as a whole drew upon the work of authors such as Robert E. Howard, L. Sprague de Camp, Michael Moorcock, Roger Zelazny, Poul Anderson, Tolkein, Bram Stoker, and others.[35] In 1972, Gygax and Arneson mailed the first 50-page copy of their Dungeons & Dragons rulebook to interested parties, which was followed by a second 150-page amateur edition of the rules that they mailed the next year.[31]:7 In 1973, Gygax attempted to publish the game through Avalon Hill, who turned down his offer.[36] Gygax's D&D group had started off with himself, Ernie Gygax, Don Kaye, Rob Kuntz, and Terry Kuntz in 1972; the group had grown to a dozen players in 1973, and by 1974 it sometimes included over 20 people, with Rob Kuntz becoming the co-dungeon-master of Gygax's "Greyhawk" game so that each of them could referee groups of only a dozen players.[31]:7


Gygax left Guidon Games in 1973 and, with Don Kaye as a partner, founded the publishing company Tactical Studies Rules (later known as TSR, Inc.) in October.[36][37] The two men each invested US$1,000 in the venture—Kaye had borrowed US$1,000 on a life insurance policy—in order to finance the start-up of TSR.[15] However, this did not give them enough capital to publish the rules for Dungeons & Dragons, and they worried that other companies would be able to publish similar projects first.[38] The two convinced acquaintance Brian Blume to join TSR in December 1973 as an equal one-third partner.[38] This brought the financing that enabled them to publish D&D.[34] Gygax worked on rules for more miniatures and tabletop battle games, including Cavaliers and Roundheads (English Civil War, with Jeff Perren), Classic Warfare (Ancient Period: 1500 BC to 500 AD), and Warriors of Mars.[15]

D&D appeared in 1973 at Eastercon, and pre-release copies of the game were in circulation by the end of the year.[39] The first commercial version of D&D was released by TSR in January 1974 as a boxed set.[40] A hand-assembled print run of 1,000 copies, put together in Gygax's home,[29] sold out in less than a year.[6][7] In the same year, Gygax created the magazine The Strategic Review with himself as editor,[14] and then he hired Tim Kask to assist in the transition of this magazine into the fantasy periodical The Dragon,[21] with Gygax as writer, columnist, and publisher (from 1978 to 1981).[41] The Dragon debuted in June 1976, and Gygax commented on its success years later: "When I decided that The Strategic Review was not the right vehicle, hired Tim Kask as a magazine editor for Tactical Studies Rules, and named the new publication he was to produce The Dragon, I thought we would eventually have a great periodical to serve gaming enthusiasts worldwide... At no time did I ever contemplate so great a success or so long a lifespan."[42] Gygax wrote the supplements Greyhawk, Eldritch Wizardry, and Swords & Spells for the original D&D game. With Brian Blume, Gygax also designed the wild west-oriented role-playing game Boot Hill in 1975. The Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set (released in 1977) was a variation of the original D&D geared towards younger players and edited by J. Eric Holmes.[29]

In 1975, Gygax and Kaye were only 36 years old, and Kaye had not made any specific provision in his will regarding his one-third share of the company, when he unexpectedly died of a heart attack in January 1975.[43] His share of TSR passed to his wife, a woman whom Gygax characterized as "less than personable... After Don died she dumped all the Tactical Studies Rules materials off on my front porch. It would have been impossible to manage a business with her involved as a partner."[43] TSR relocated from Kaye's dining room to Gygax's basement.[31]:7 Neither Gygax nor Blume had the money to buy the shares owned by Kaye's wife, and Blume persuaded Gygax to allow his father, Melvin Blume, to buy the shares and take Kaye's place as an equal partner.[44] In July 1975, Gygax and Brian Blume officially formed TSR Hobbies Inc., a new company controlled by Gygax, Brian Blume, and Melvin Blume.[31]:8 Gygax originally held 60% ownership of this new TSR, but as part of the reorganization the new partners had to buy out Kaye's widow and pay other fees, and Gygax was unable to contribute a fair share of these costs. His ownership eventually dropped to 30% of the company, leaving him a minority stockholder.[31]:8 Gygax was hired on as TSR's first full-time employee in mid-1975.[31]:8 In 1976, TSR moved out of Gygax's house into its first professional home, known as "The Dungeon Hobby Shop".[31]:8

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons

In 1977, a new version of D&D, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D), was first published. The Monster Manual, released later that year, became the first supplemental rule book of the new system, and many more followed.[34] The AD&D rules were not compatible with those of D&D, and as a result, D&D and AD&D became distinct product lines.[citation needed] Splitting the game lines created a rift between Gygax and Arneson as Gygax claimed AD&D was his own property and Arneson was due no royalties from it; in 1979, Arneson filed a lawsuit against TSR as a result, which was settled in March 1981 with the ruling that Arneson was not due compensation for the AD&D game.[31]:11

Gygax wrote the AD&D hardcovers Players Handbook, Dungeon Masters Guide, Monster Manual, Monster Manual II, Unearthed Arcana, and Oriental Adventures. Gygax also wrote or co-wrote numerous AD&D and basic D&D adventure modules, including The Keep on the Borderlands, Tomb of Horrors, Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, The Temple of Elemental Evil, The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun, Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure, Isle of the Ape, and all seven of the modules later combined into Queen of the Spiders. In 1980, Gygax's long-time campaign setting of Greyhawk was published in the form of the World of Greyhawk Fantasy World Setting folio, which was expanded in 1983 into the World of Greyhawk Fantasy Game Setting boxed set. Sales of the D&D game reached US$8.5 million in 1980.[6] Gygax also provided assistance on the Gamma World science fantasy role-playing game in 1981 and co-authored the Gamma World adventure Legion of Gold.

In 1979, a Michigan State University student, James Dallas Egbert III, allegedly disappeared into the school's steam tunnels while playing a live-action version of D&D. As a result, negative mainstream media attention focused on D&D as the cause. In 1982, Patricia Pulling's son killed himself. Blaming D&D for her son's suicide, Pulling formed an organization named B.A.D.D. (Bothered About Dungeons & Dragons) to attack the game and the company that produced it. Gygax defended the game on a segment of 60 Minutes,[7] which aired in 1985. When death threats started arriving at the TSR office, Gygax hired a bodyguard.[6][11] In 1982, however, TSR's annual D&D sales increased to US$16 million,[11] and in January 1983, The New York Times speculated that D&D might become "the great game of the 1980s" in the same manner that Monopoly was emblematic of the Great Depression.[45]

In the early 1980s, Gygax and Mary Jo divorced, and he moved to Clinton, Wisconsin, for a short time.[46]

Brian Blume persuaded Gygax to allow his brother, Kevin Blume, to purchase the shares from their father Melvin. This gave the Blume brothers a controlling interest at TSR, Inc.[44] By 1981, Brian Blume was increasingly unhappy with Gygax's conservative approach to the business, so using their greater stock ownership, the Blume brothers effectively took control of TSR; in 1982, Gygax was forced to step down as CEO and was replaced by Kevin Blume and then forced out to the west coast to deal with potential TV and movie opportunities.[31]:13 After TSR was split into TSR, Inc., and TSR Entertainment, Inc., in 1983, Gygax became the President and the Chairman of the board of directors of TSR, Inc.,[47] and the President of TSR Entertainment, Inc.[15] As part of TSR Entertainment, Inc., which was later known as Dungeons & Dragons Entertainment Corp., Gygax went to Hollywood, where he became co-producer of the licensed D&D cartoon series for CBS.[48] The series led its time slot for two years.[2]

One of Gygax's creations during this time was Dragonchess, a three-dimensional fantasy chess variant, published in Dragon No. 100 (August 1985). It is played on three 8x12 boards stacked on top of each other – the top board represents the sky, the middle is the ground, and the bottom is the underworld. The pieces are characters and monsters inspired by the D&D setting: King, Mage, Paladin, Cleric, Dragon, Griffin, Oliphant, Hero, Thief, Elemental, Basilisk, Unicorn, Dwarf, Sylph, and Warrior.

Leaving TSR

During his time in Hollywood, Gygax left the day-to-day operations of TSR to his fellow board members, Kevin and Brian Blume.[11] In 1984, he discovered that TSR had run into serious financial difficulties.[49] By the time he came back to Wisconsin in 1984, the company was US$1.5 million in debt.[11] At this point, he hired Lorraine Williams to manage the company. He engineered the removal of Kevin Blume as CEO in 1984, but the Blume brothers subsequently sold their majority shares in the company to Lorraine Williams.[11] By this time, it was evident that Gygax and Williams had differing visions of the future of TSR, and Gygax took TSR to court in a bid to block the Blumes' sale of their shares to Williams, but he lost. In October 1985, TSR's board of directors removed Gygax as the company's President and chairman of the board. He remained on the board as a Director and made no further contributions to the company's creative efforts.[50] Sales of D&D reached US$29 million by 1985,[6] but Gygax, seeing his future at TSR as untenable, left the company on December 31, 1985.

I was pretty much boxed out of the running of the company because the two guys, who between them had a controlling interest, thought they could run the company better than I could. I was set up because I could manage. In 1982 nobody on the West Coast would deal with TSR, but they had me start a new corporation called "Dungeons and Dragons Entertainment." It took a long time and a lot of hard work to get to be recognized as someone who was for real and not just a civilian, shall we say, in entertainment. Eventually, though, we got the cartoon show going (on CBS) and I had a number of other projects in the works. While I was out there, though, I heard that the company was in severe financial difficulties and one of the guys, the one I was partnered with, was shopping it on the street in New York. I came back and discovered a number of gross mismanagements in all areas of the company. The bank was foreclosing and we were a million and a half in debt. We eventually got that straightened out, but I kind of got one of my partners kicked out of office. [Kevin Blume, who was removed as TSR CEO in 1984.] Then my partners, in retribution for that, sold his shares to someone else [Lorraine Williams]. I tried to block it in court, but in the ensuing legal struggle the judge ruled against me. I lost control of the company, and it was then at that point I just decided to sell out.[48]

Before leaving TSR, Gygax had authored two novels for TSR's Greyhawk Adventures series featuring Gord the Rogue: Saga of Old City (the first Greyhawk novel)[29] and Artifact of Evil. By the terms of his settlement with TSR, Gygax kept the rights to Gord the Rogue as well as all D&D characters whose names were anagrams or plays on his own name (for example, Yrag and Zagyg).[51] However, he lost the rights to all his other work, including the World of Greyhawk and the names of all the characters he had ever used in TSR material, such as Mordenkainen, Robilar, and Tenser. In October 1986, Gygax resigned all positions with TSR, Inc., and he settled his disputes with TSR in December 1986.[50]

After TSR


Immediately after leaving TSR, Gygax helped form the company New Infinities Productions, Inc.[52] Wargamer and accountant Forrest Baker had worked as a consultant for TSR during 1984 and 1985, and wrote up a business plan that convinced Gygax to try again with the business side of roleplaying; New Infinities was the results, with Baker as CEO and Gygax as Chairman of the Board.[31]:237 In October 1986, the company was publicly announced.[31]:237 Frank Mentzer and Kim Mohan were design executives and with Gygax formed the creative committee.[50] Before a single product was released, Baker disappeared when his promised outside investment of one to two million dollars failed to come through.[31]:237 Gygax had retained the rights to Gord the Rogue as part of his severance agreement with TSR, so he licensed Greyhawk from TSR and started writing new novels beginning with Sea of Death (1987); Gygax's Gord novels were the main things keeping New Infinities in business.[31]:237 Gygax's first role-playing game work for New Infinities (with Mohan and Mentzer) was the science fiction-themed Cyborg Commando, which was published in 1987.[31]:237 Gygax announced in 1988 in a company newsletter that he and Kuntz were working on a new fantasy RPG, and that the company's "Fantasy Master" line would detail the Castle and City of Greyhawk as they had originally envisioned them, now called "Castle Dunfalcon".[31]:239 Gygax and Kuntz's new game would be called "Infinite Adventures", and was envisioned as a multigenre RPG supported by different gamebooks for different genres.[31]:61 However, New Infinities' investors forced the company into bankruptcy, and the company was dissolved in 1989.[31]:239

From 1986 to 1988, Gygax continued to write a few more Gord the Rogue novels, which were published by New Infinities Productions: Sea of Death (1987), City of Hawks (1987), and Come Endless Darkness (1988). However, by 1988, Gygax was not happy with the new direction in which TSR was taking "his" world of Greyhawk. In a literary declaration that his old world was dead, and wanting to make a clean break with all things Greyhawk, Gygax destroyed his version of Oerth in the final Gord the Rogue novel, Dance of Demons.[53] During this time, Gygax also worked with Flint Dille on the Sagard the Barbarian books,[7] as well as Role-Playing Mastery and its sequel, Master of the Game.[citation needed] Gygax also wrote a number of published short stories.[citation needed]


Game Designers' Workshop saw an opportunity in the game Gygax had been developing, so they began working with him on what was called "The Carpenter Project" in 1992.[31]:61 GDW planned a multimedia blitz where Roc would do fiction publication while JVC would produce a computer game; JVC did not like the name, so they suggested calling the game "Dangerous Dimensions".[31]:61–62 The name was changed to Dangerous Journeys in response to a threat of a lawsuit from TSR, that the "DD" abbreviation would be too similar to "D&D".[54] Gygax authored all of the products for Dangerous Journeys, including Mythus, Mythus Magick, and Mythus Bestiary. When the product was released by Game Designers' Workshop,[7][55] TSR immediately sued for copyright infringement. The suit was eventually settled out of court, with TSR buying the complete rights to the Dangerous Journeys system from New Infinities and then permanently shelving the entire project.[56]

In the 1990s, Gygax wrote three more novels, released under publisher Penguin/Roc and later reprinted by Paizo Publishing: The Anubis Murders, The Samarkand Solution, and Death in Delhi. Paizo Publishing also printed Infernal Sorceress, Gygax's "lost" novel.[57] During 1994, he was the primary author for six issues of the entire 64-page Mythic Masters (Trigee) magazine.[citation needed]

In 1995, he began work on a new computer role-playing game.[21] He called this game Lejendary Adventures, and it was a game system intended to support multiple genres; when releasing the game for computers did not work out, he instead designed it as a tabletop game.[31]:380 Christopher Clark of Inner City Games Designs approached Gygax in 1997 to suggest that they produce some adventures to sell in game stores, as TSR had largely stopped production due to severe financial problems; the result was a pair of fantasy adventures published by Inner City Games: A Challenge of Arms (1998) and The Ritual of the Golden Eyes (1999).[31]:380 Gygax introduced some investors to Clark's publication setup, and although they were not willing to fund Legendary Adventures, Clark put together a business plan that would allow Clark and Gygax to publish the books themselves by forming a partnership called Hekaforge Productions.[31]:380 Gygax was thus able to return to writing role-playing games in 1999 with Lejendary Adventures.[7] The game was published as a three-volume set: The Lejendary Rules for All Players (1999), Lejend Master's Lore (2000) and Beasts of Lejend (2000).[31]:380 Peter Adkison of Wizards of the Coast was able to write Gygax a cheque and clarify some issues of ownership regarding D&D; Gygax did not write any new supplements or books for TSR but he did contribute an "Up on a Soapbox" column from Dragon #268 (January, 2000) to Dragon #320 (June, 2004).[31]:282 He also contributed the preface to the 1998 adventure Return to the Tomb of Horrors.[42]


Gary Gygax at ModCon Game Fair in 1999, Modena, Italy. His t-shirt advertises the 3.0 edition of D&D, announced for the following year

Gygax lent his voice to cartoons and video games in his later life, including providing the voice for his cartoon self in the episode "Anthology of Interest I" of the TV show Futurama which aired in 2000.[6][58] Gygax also performed voiceover narration as a guest Dungeon Master in the Delera's Tomb quest series of the massively multiplayer online role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach.[59]

Gygax also worked on a number of releases with the d20 System under the Open Game License. These included the generic adventure module A Challenge of Arms; The Weyland Smith & Company Giant Fun Catalog, a book of "joke" magic items; and The Slayer's Guide to Dragons sourcebooks.[citation needed]

Gygax offered to Stephen Chenault and Davis Chenault of Troll Lord Games to write books for Troll Lord, and on June 11, 2001 Troll Lord announced this fact.[31]:378 On October 9, 2001, Necromancer Games announced that they would be publishing a d20 version of Necropolis, an adventure originally planned by Gygax for New Infinities Productions and later printed in 1992 as a Mythus adventure by GDW; Necromancer took a year to produce Gary Gygax's Necropolis (2002), and he did not do any more work with them.[31]:366–367 Gygax's early work for Troll Lord included a series of hardcover books that eventually came to be called "Gygax Fantasy Worlds", which included The Canting Crew (2002), a look at the roguish underworld, and World Builder (2003) and Living Fantasy (2003), generic game design books usable in many different settings; after the first four books in the series, Gygax dropped back to an advisorial role, though they still carried his name as part of the series logo.[31]:379 Troll Lord also published a few adventures as a result of their partnership with Gygax, including The Hermit (2002) an adventure intended for d20 and also for Lejendary Adventures.[31]:379 By 2002, Gygax had given Christopher Clark an encyclopaedic 72,000-word text describing the Lejendary Earth; Clark split the manuscript up into five books and expanded it, with each of the final books coming to about 128,000 words, which gave Hekaforge a third Lejendary Adventures line, to supplement the core rules and adventures, and managed to publish the first two of those Lejendary Earth sourcebooks: Gazetteer (2002) and Noble Kings and Great Lands (2003).[31]:380 By 2003 Hekaforge was having financial difficulties that led Clark to ask Troll Lord Games to become an "angel" investor by publishing new Lejendary Adventures books.[31]:381 Gygax was the editor-in-chief for Troll Lord Games' series of fantasy reference books, Gygaxian Fantasy Worlds.[60] After Gygax's stroke in 2004, he was never able to commit the same time or effort to writing that he had previously, and beginning with Gary Gygax's Extraordinary Book of Names (2004), the Gygaxian Fantasy Worlds series was only overseen by him, and after that, the line only lasted two more years, through the publication of Gary Gygax's Cosmos Builder (2006).[31]:381 As a result of their agreement with Hekaforge, Troll Lord was able to publish about a dozen additional Lejendary Adventures books from 2005–2008.[31]:381

In 2003, Gygax announced that he was working with Rob Kuntz to publish the original and previously unpublished details of Castle Greyhawk and the City of Greyhawk in 6 volumes, although the project would use the rules for Castles and Crusades rather than D&D.[61] Since Wizards of the Coast, which had bought TSR in 1997, still owned the rights to the name "Greyhawk", Gygax changed the name of Castle Greyhawk to "Castle Zagyg", a reverse homophone of his own name.[citation needed] Gygax also changed the name of the nearby city to "Yggsburgh", a play on his initials "E.G.G."[citation needed]

This project proved to be much more work than Gygax and Kuntz had envisioned.[citation needed] By the time Gygax and Kuntz had stopped working on their original home campaign, the castle dungeons had encompassed 50 levels of cunningly complex passages and thousands of rooms and traps. This, plus plans for the city of Yggsburgh and encounter areas outside the castle and city, would clearly be too much to fit into the proposed 6 volumes. Gygax decided he would compress the castle dungeons into 13 levels, the size of his original Castle Greyhawk in 1973[62] by amalgamating the best of what could be gleaned from binders and boxes of old notes.[63] However, neither Gygax nor Kuntz had kept careful or comprehensive plans. Because they had often made up details of play sessions on the spot,[64] they usually just scribbled a quick map as they played, with cursory notes about monsters, treasures, and traps.[65] These sketchy maps contained just enough detail that the two could ensure their independent work would dovetail. All of these old notes had to be deciphered, 25-year-old memories dredged up as to what had happened in each room, and a decision made whether to keep or discard each new piece.[66] Recreating the city too would be a challenge. Although Gygax still had his old maps of the original city, all of his previously published work on the city was owned by WotC, so he would have to create most of the city from scratch while still maintaining the "look and feel" of his original.[67]

Even this slow and laborious process came to a complete halt in April 2004 when Gygax suffered a serious stroke.[citation needed] Production came to a halt due in part to Gygax's health, so Gygax put together a team of people to continue with the creation of Zagyg background material.[31]:381 Although he returned to his keyboard after a seven-month convalescence, his output was reduced from 14-hour work days to only one or two hours per day.[68] Kuntz had to withdraw due to other projects, but he continued to work on an adventure module that would be published at the same time as the first book. Under these circumstances, work on the Castle Zagyg project continued even more slowly.[69] The Castle Zagyg line kicked off with CZ1: Castle Zagyg Part I: Yggsburgh (2005), a 256-page book.[31]:381 This 256-page hardcover book contained details of Gygax's original city, its personalities and politics, and over 30 encounters outside the city.[citation needed] Later that year, Troll Lord Games also published Castle Zagyg: Dark Chateau (2005), the adventure module written for the Yggsburgh setting by Rob Kuntz.[31]:381 Jeff Talanian helped with the creation of the dungeon, eventually resulting in publication of the limited edition CZ9: The East Marks Gazetteer (2007).[31]:381

Book catalogs published in 2005 indicated several more volumes in the series would follow shortly, but it wasn't until 2008 that the second volume, Castle Zagyg: The Upper Works, appeared.[citation needed] Troll Lord Games revealed in 2006 that they now had the rights to Gygax's Gord the Rogue novels, to be a fourth Gary Gygax product line; the first, Tale of Old City (2008), would be one of Troll Lord's final Gygax publications.[31]:382 CZ2: The Upper Works (2008) was to have been the first of three massive boxes entirely detailing the dungeons beneath Castle Zagyg.[31]:381 The Upper Works described details of the castle above ground, acting as a teaser for the volumes concerning the actual dungeons that would follow.[citation needed] However, Gygax died in March 2008 before any further books were published.[citation needed] Three months after his death, Gygax Games – a new company formed by Gary's widow, Gail – pulled all of the Gygax licenses from Troll Lord;[31]:382 and also from Hekaforge.[31]:381 Gygax Games took over the Castle Zagyg project, where it continues to be under further development.[citation needed]

Personal life

From an early age, Gygax hunted and was a target-shooter with both bow and gun.[70] He was also an avid gun collector, and at various times owned a variety of rifles, shotguns, and handguns.[71]

Gygax married his first wife, Mary Jo Powell, in 1958.[72] By 1961, they had two children who would later assist with play-testing D&D.[11] Gygax and Mary Jo had three more children before separating in March 1983.[73] In August 1986, Gygax's sixth and last child, Alexander, was born to Gail Carpenter.[16] Gygax married Carpenter, his second wife, on August 15, 1987, the same day as his parents' 50th wedding anniversary.[19] By 2005, Gygax had seven grandchildren.

Gygax described himself as a Christian, but for much of his life had been reluctant to discuss his beliefs, citing fears that he would hurt the reputation of Christianity because of his connection to the moral panic that some people associated with D&D as a reason for not having been more vocal about his faith.[74]

Gygax went into semi-retirement after suffering strokes on April 1 and May 4, 2004,[3] and almost suffered a heart attack after receiving incorrect medication[14] to prevent further strokes. He had been a lifelong cigarette smoker but switched to cigars after his strokes.[19] In late 2005, he was diagnosed with an inoperable abdominal aortic aneurysm.[21] Despite his reduced workload, Gygax continued to be active in the gaming community and regularly contributed to discussion forums on gaming websites such as Dragonsfoot and EN World.

Gygax died the morning of March 4, 2008, at his home in Lake Geneva at age 69.[7][75]

I would like the world to remember me as the guy who really enjoyed playing games and sharing his knowledge and his fun pastimes with everybody else.

— Gary Gygax[76]

Awards and honors

A plaque dedicated to Gary Gygax at Gen Con 2008 reading:
The first DM,
He taught us to roll the dice.
He opened the door to new worlds.
His work shaped our industry.
He brought us Gen Con,
For this we thank him.

In fond memory of Gary Gygax
and in celebration of his spirit and accomplishments.

As the "father of role-playing games", Gygax received many awards, honors, and tributes related to gaming:

  • He was inducted into the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design Origins Award Hall of Fame in 1980.[77]
  • Sync magazine named Gygax number one on the list of "The 50 Biggest Nerds of All Time".[78]
  • SFX magazine listed him as number 37 on the list of the "50 Greatest SF Pioneers".[79]
  • In 1999 Pyramid magazine named Gygax as one of "The Millennium's Most Influential Persons" "in the realm of adventure gaming."[80]
  • Gygax was tied with J. R. R. Tolkien for number 18 on GameSpy's "30 Most Influential People in Gaming".[81]
  • Numerous names in D&D, such as Zagyg, Ring of Gaxx, and Gryrax, are anagrams or alterations of Gygax's name.[82]
  • A strain of bacteria was named in honor of Gygax, "Arthronema gygaxiana sp nov UTCC393".[83]
  • Blizzard Entertainment dedicated the 2.4.0 patch of World of Warcraft, "Fury of the Sunwell", to Gygax.[84]
  • Electronic Arts dedicated Publish 51 in Ultima Online to Gygax. This included a new room in the dungeon Doom containing a special encounter and unique decorations.[85]
  • Turbine, Inc., included two tributes in the Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach Module 7, released June 3, 2008.[86]
  • A new area in the Dungeons & Dragons Online region "Delera's Graveyard", which contains a memorial marker and a new unique item (Voice of the Master, which improves the wearer's experience awards).[87]
  • Stephen Colbert, an avid D&D gamer in his youth,[29] dedicated the last part of the March 5, 2008, episode of The Colbert Report to Gygax.[88]
  • Gygax was commemorated in a number of webcomics, including xkcd's comic No. 393 "Ultimate Game",[89] Penny Arcade's "Bordering on the Semi-Tasteful",[90] Dork Tower's "Thanks for the Worldbuilding Rules",[91] Order of the Stick No. 536 "A Brief Tribute",[92] UserFriendly's cartoon for March 9, 2008,[93] GU Comics' "The Journey's End",[94] and the Unspeakable Vault.[95]
  • The 2008 film Futurama: Bender's Game contained a post-closing-credits title card paying tribute to Gygax and a clip of him from the episode "Anthology of Interest" saying, "Anyone want to play Dungeons and Dragons for the next quadrillion years?" Many people involved in the show, including David X. Cohen, were D&D fans and played the game during production of the show.[96]
  • He was honored as a "famous game designer" by being featured on the king of spades in Flying Buffalo's 2008 Famous Game Designers Playing Card Deck.[31]:40[97]
  • Gygax's voice appears as his 8-bit self on Code Monkeys.[98]
  • All three D&D 4th edition core rulebooks are also "dedicated to the memory of E. Gary Gygax."[99][100][101]
  • Gygax and his love of gaming are celebrated at Gary Con, a Lake Geneva gaming convention hosted annually by family members and fans as a tribute.[102]
  • Gail Gygax, the widow of Gary Gygax, has been raising funds to construct a memorial in her late husband's honor by establishing the nonprofit 501 (c) 3 Gygax Memorial Fund. As of January 2010, plans were to secure a location on the lakefront in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.[103] As of March 28, 2011 the City Council of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin approved Gail Gygax's application for a site of memorial in Donian Park. The statue monument will include "a castle turret with a bust on top and possibly have a dragon wrapped around the turret."[104]

I played Dungeons & Dragons as a kid. A lot of us did, actually, a lot of writers I know did. In the bars late at night at literary festivals, sometimes the conversation will get around to—with sort of a huddle of us in the corner, saying, ‘So, did you play Dungeons & Dragons?’ And it’s amazing how many say yes. So Gary Gygax has a lot to answer for. There’s probably a PhD thesis out there, in the realms of possible PhD theses that someone could write somewhere, on Gary Gygax’s influence on the 20th century novel. Because it would not be negligible.


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  53. Q: "After you left TSR, you finished the Gord the Rogue books. At the end of the cycle, Oerth bites the bullet. Was this your way of saying that Greyhawk is dead and that fans should turn away from TSR's version with disdain?" Gygax: "More my way of saying that since T$R had killed the setting with trash releases, it was time to wipe out the shame by obliterating the setting.""Gary Gygax: Q & A (Part VII, page 2)". EN World. November 19, 2004. Retrieved March 15, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  56. Gygax: "When the new [fantasy roleplaying game] was introduced at the GTS, a lawsuit was filed by TSR, they claiming it violated the copyright of AD&D. Quite a stretch that, but only a judge intimately familiar with RPGs would know that and dismiss it. So what followed was a long period of discovery and depositions that ran up a huge lawyers' bill—far more on the TSR end than on ours, four to one is likely. Eventually the suit was settled. TSR paid us a very large sum and they got all the rights to the DJ system and Mythus. I suggested to TSR (Lorraine Williams) that the next time I wrote a new RPG they just offer me US$1 million for the rights to it, thus saving at least that much money.""Gary Gygax: Q & A (Part V, Page 4)". EN World. January 4, 2004. Retrieved May 12, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  61. Gygax: "I have laid out a new schematic of castle and dungeon levels based on both my original design of 13 levels plus side adjuncts, and the 'New Greyhawk Castle' that resulted when Rob and I combined our efforts and added a lot of new levels too. From that Rob will draft the level plans for the newest version of the work. Meantime, I am collecting all the most salient feature, encounters, tricks, traps, etc. for inclusion on the various levels. So the end result will be what is essentially the best of our old work in a coherent presentation usable by all DMs, the material having all the known and yet to be discussed features of the original work that are outstanding... I hope.""Gary Gygax: Q & A (Part IX, page 81)". EN World. December 15, 2005. Retrieved March 15, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  62. Gygax: "The whole of the combined material Rob and I put together would be far too large for publication, 50 levels or so. What I have done is gone back to my original design of more modest scope, because I doubt the work will need to accommodate groups of 20 PCs delving on a daily basis.""Gary Gygax: Q & A (Part IV, Page 9)". EN World. November 2, 2003. Retrieved March 15, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  63. Gygax: "...the original upper and lower parts of Castle Greyhawk changed many times over the years they were in active use. What we will do is to take the best of the lot and put that into a detailed format usable by anyone.""Gary Gygax: Q & A (Part IV, Page 9)". EN World. November 2, 2003. Retrieved March 15, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  64. Gygax: "I did indeed create details for the PC party on the spot, adding whatever seemed appropriate, and as Rob played and learned from me, he did the same, and when we were actively co-DMing we could often create some really exciting material on the spot, if you will.""Gary Gygax: Q & A (Part IX, page 81)". EN World. December 15, 2005. Retrieved March 15, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  65. Gygax: "As Rob learned from me, he too DMed by the proverbial seat of the pants method. A single line of notes for an encounter was sufficient for either of us to detail a lengthy description, action, dialog, tricks or traps, and all the rest.""Gary Gygax: Q & A (Part IV, Page 9)". EN World. November 2, 2003. Retrieved March 15, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  66. Gygax: "What our challenge is going to be is to cull the extraneous, take the best, and re-create the details we made up on the spot. Of course the most famous things will be there, along with most of the best parts that are not well-known through story and word of mouth.""Gary Gygax: Q & A (Part IV, Page 9)". EN World. November 2, 2003. Retrieved March 15, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  67. Gygax: "Yggsburgh was a pain in the rump to write because I wanted to include as much detail as possible for the GM interested in using it as a campaign base. So there are sections on history, costume, monetary system and economy of the area, and complete descriptions of the town, its main locations, and the outstanding geographical areas all with encounters or suggestions for same.""Gary Gygax: Q & A (Part VII, Page 23)". EN World. February 18, 2005. Retrieved March 15, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  68. Gygax: "the problem is that I tire out after about an hour.""Gary Gygax: Q & A (Part IV, Page 9)". EN World. November 2, 2003. Retrieved March 15, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  69. Gygax: "Rob has finished his add on module, but I have not been up to doing the work needed to create the upper works of the castle proper, let alone the dungeon levels below them. When my oldest friend died in late November, it was quite a setback for me. Anyway, I am feeling a good deal better if late, and I will attempt real creative work as soon as I feel up to it—likely March.""Gary Gygax: Q & A (Part VII, Page 23)". EN World. February 18, 2005. Retrieved March 15, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  70. Gygax: "I got my first BB pistol when I was about 10, a Daisy BB gun when I was 11, and my first .22 rifle, a single-shot, bolt action Winchester for my 12th birthday—thanks to my grandfather, for mother was not keen on that. I loved plinking and hunting, and how badly I wanted a .25 lever action carbine I used to gaze at in the local Gamble's store is difficult to express in words. Never did get it. I did get a fine lemonwood bow made by Bear Archery, though. It had only a 38-pound pull, so my range was only about 120 yards with a hunting arrow.""Gary Gygax: Q & A (Part VII, Page 23)". EN World. February 18, 2005. Retrieved March 15, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  71. Gygax: "Yes I own a number of handguns and shoulder weapons... over the next few years I did add several more .22 rifles, a bolt-action, three shot Mossberg 16 gauge shotgun, a old single-barreled 12 gauge, and a .32 pistol. The rifles were used for squirrel, rabbit, and varmint hunting, the shotguns for pheasants, ducks, and geese, and the revolver for target shooting. In later years I got rid of the old weapons, added a 7.62 Argentine Mauser, a 30–30 carbine, and various other rifles, shotguns, and quite a few handguns. Years later, when I used to get death threats because of D&D I always had a .357, 9 mm, or .45 caliber pistol handy. If those were too conspicuous, a little .32, .25, or .22 derringer from Defender Arms was around. Sure glad I didn't need to use them....""Gary Gygax: Q & A (Part VII, Page 23)". EN World. February 18, 2005. Retrieved March 15, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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