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Ernest Gary Gygax (July 27, 1938 - March 4, 2008) was an American game designer best known as co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons. He is the founder of TSR and author of numerous Dungeons & Dragons sourcebooks and novels. A pioneer of the roleplaying game industry, he is affectionately remembered by many as the "father of roleplaying games".

Life and career[]

Early life[]

Gygax was the son of Swiss immigrant Martin Gygax and an American mother. His love of gaming began at the age of five, playing pinochle and chess as well as the imaginative games of any child, similar to live action role-playing. He played with Jim Rasch as referee/game master and John Rasch and Don Kaye as fellow participants. It was during this timeframe that Gygax began exploring science fiction with Ray Bradbury's "The Veldt" in Bluebook and Robert E. Howard's Conan the Conqueror.

In 1953 Gygax began playing miniature war games with Kaye. The game Gettysburg from the Avalon Hill company captured Gygax's attention. It was from Avalon Hill that he ordered the first blank hexagon mapping sheets that were available. He began looking for innovative ways to generate random numbers, and used not only common dice (with six sides), but dice of all five platonic solid shapes.

Gaming career[]

In 1966, the International Federation of Wargamers (IFW) was created with the assistance of Gygax.[1]

Gygax organized a 20-person gaming meet in 1967. It was held in the basement of his home and later became known as "Gen Con 0" as this meet birthed the annual Gen Con gaming convention in 1968. Gen Con is now North America's largest annual hobby-game gathering.[2] Gen Con is also where Gary Gygax would meet Brian Blume and Dave Arneson. Blume later partnered with Gygax and Kaye in the TSR enterprise.

"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."[3]

Together with Don Kaye, Mike Reese and Leon Tucker, Gygax created a military miniatures society, Lake Geneva Tactical Studies Association (LGTSA), with its first headquarters in Gygax's basement.[2]

In 1971, Gygax and Jeff Perren wrote Chainmail, a miniatures wargame from which the role-playing game (RPG) Dungeons & Dragons (aka D&D) was developed.[4]


File:Tsr logo GK.png

Original logo for Tactical Studies Rules, 1973 – 1974. The G stood for Gygax, the K for Kaye

Gygax and Kaye founded the publishing company Tactical Studies Rules in 1973 and published the first version of Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) in 1974. Gygax was inspired by Jack Vance while developing the spell systems and also drew upon the work of such renowned fantasy authors as Robert E. Howard, L. Sprague de Camp and Fritz Leiber. The hand-assembled print run of 1000 copies sold out within nine months.[2] In the same year, Gygax hired Tim Kask to assist in the transition of the magazine The Strategic Review into the fantasy periodical, The Dragon, with Gygax as author and later as columnist.[2]

After the death of Kaye in 1976, his widow sold her shares to Gygax. Gygax, now controlling the whole of Tactical Studies Rules, created TSR Hobbies, Inc. Gygax, coming into financial troubles soon after, sold TSR Hobbies to Brian Blume and his brother Kevin. The Blume family would own roughly two-thirds of TSR Hobbies by late 1976.

Tactical Studies Rules published the two first printings of the original D&D and TSR Hobbies, Inc. continued on with the game.

Beginning in 1977, a new version of D&D was created, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D).[3] The Monster Manual would be the first rule book of the new system, with many books to follow. The AD&D rules were not compatible with those of D&D and as a result, D&D and AD&D would have distinct product lines and expansions.

Gary Gygax left TSR in 1985 during changes in TSR's management. This development arose while Gygax was involved in the making of CBS cartoon series Dungeons & Dragons.

"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 - ed.). Then my partners, in retribution for that, sold his shares to someone else (Lorraine Williams - ed.). 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."[3]

Late career[]

After leaving TSR, Gygax created Dangerous Journeys, an RPG spanning multiple genres.[3] He began work in 1995 on a new RPG, originally intended for a computer game; however, it was released in 1999 as Lejendary Adventure. A key goal of its design was to keep the gaming rules as simple as possible, as Gygax felt that role playing games were becoming discouragingly complex to new users.

In 2005, Gygax returned to the Dungeons & Dragons RPG with his involvement in the creation of the Castles & Crusades system with Troll Lord Games. Troll Lord Games has published Castle Zagyg, the previously unreleased, original version of Gygax's Castle Greyhawk with the original dungeon setting for D&D.

Television appearances[]

In 2007, Gygax had a special guest appearance as himself on the G4TV show Code Monkeys, when Todd sought him out and offered actress Molly Ringwald as a "virgin sacrifice" to Gygax to restore Todd's Charisma points.[5][6]

He also lent his voice to his cartoon self in the episode "Anthology of Interest I" of the TV show Futurama.

Other appearances[]

Gygax performed voiceover narration as a guest dungeon master in the massively multiplayer online role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach. He narrates "Dead Girl's Spellbook" in Valak's Mausoleum as well as all of the dungeons in the "Mystery of Delera's Tomb" quest chain.

Personal life[]

Gygax married Gail Carpenter on August 15 1987, coincidentally the same day as his parents' 50th anniversary. As of 2005, he was father to six children and grandfather to seven. His first five children are from his first marriage to Mary Jo Gygax, and the last child is from his second marriage.[2] Gygax resided in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. He described his studio in his typical narrative fashion as

A small but sunny upper room — cluttered with books, magazines, papers, and who-knows-what else. Right now, pending the redecorating of that room, I am lodged in the downstairs dining room at a long table that holds two computers and a scanner, with the printer hiding to one side below it. The radio there in the studio was usually tuned to a classical music station, but the station was sold, programming changed, so now I work sans music, or now and then with a CD playing through the computer. While there are bookcases in the upper studio, elsewhere on the second floor, and on the first floor, the main repository of printed lore (other than that piled here and there) is my basement library which includes thousands of reference works, maps, magazines, and works of fiction.[2]

Illness and death[]

Template:Wikinews Gygax died the morning of March 4, 2008, at his home in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.[7] He was in semi-retirement,[3] having almost suffered a heart attack after receiving incorrect medication[2] to prevent further strokes after those on April 1 and May 4 2004. He was diagnosed with an inoperable abdominal aortic aneurysm. Even while his health failed, gaming remained very much a part of his life.[2] Gygax was still active in the gaming community and had active Q & A forums on gaming websites such as Dragonsfoot and EN World.


Reception and influence[]


In 2013, early TSR employee Jim Ward praised Gygax's descriptive ability:[8]

He would get into voices sometimes, but he was such a good storyteller and he spent a great deal of time describing things using all the five senses. We could smell, and feel, and hear his dungeons. I know people (and I'm one of them) who work hard at talking like some of the NPCs, but Gary was so good that the "talking part" was only a small percentage of the whole.

Awards and honors[]

Gary Gygax received several awards related to gaming:[2]

  • Strategists Club's "Outstanding Designer & Writer" for the creation of D&D
  • Origin Game Convention's "Adventure Gaming Hall of Fame"
  • Origins Award, Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design Hall of Fame Honors (2004)
  • Four time winner of Games Day's "Best Games Inventor" (1979–82)
  • GenCon 2007 (40th Anniversary), Premiere Guest of Honor

Gary Gygax was tied with J. R. R. Tolkien for #18 on GameSpy's 30 Most Influential People in Gaming (Gamespy Magazine, March 2002).

As of March 13 2003, Gygax was listed under the entry Dungeons and Dragons in the Oxford English Dictionary.

A strain of bacteria was named in honor of Gary Gygax, namely "Arthronema gygaxiana sp nov UTCC393".[9]

Sync Magazine named Gary Gygax #1 on the list of "The 50 Biggest Nerds of All Time".[10]

SFX Magazine listed him as #37 on the list of the "50 Greatest SF Pioneers".[11]

In 1999 Pyramid magazine named Gary Gygax as one of The Millennium's Most Influential Persons "at least in the realm of adventure gaming."[12]

Gary Gygax was commemorated in webcomics series xkcd's comic #393 "Ultimate Game", Penny Arcade's "Bordering On The Semi-Tasteful" and Dork Tower's "Thanks for the Worldbuilding Rules", on Order of the Stick and in GU Comics' "The Journey's End".

Following the announcement of his death and as a tribute to him, several Dungeons and Dragons players proposed to call a natural 20 dice roll (on the Dungeons and Dragons emblematic 20 sided die) a "Gygax".

Job titles[]

  • 1970–73 – Editor-in-Chief, Guidon Games (publisher of Wargaming rules and wargames)
  • 1973–83 – Partner of TSR and then President of TSR Hobbies, Inc.
  • 1983–85 – President, DUNGEONS & DRAGONS Entertainment Corporation
Co-Producer, Dungeons & Dragons animated television show
  • 1983–85 – Chairman of the Board of Directors of TSR, Inc.; also President (1985)
  • 1986–88 – Chairman of the Board of Directors, New Infinities Productions, Inc.
  • 1988–94 – Creator/author under contract to Omega Helios Limited
  • 1995–2008 – Creator/author under contract to Trigee Enterprises Corporation
  • 1999–2008 – Partner, Hekaforge Productions


Role-playing games[]

  • Boot Hill - role-playing elements in the Wild West, with Brian Blume, 1975
File:D&d original.jpg

Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set

Dungeons & Dragons[]

See also: Dungeons & Dragons
  • Supplements:
    • Greyhawk (with Rob Kuntz)
    • Eldritch Wizardry (with Brian Blume)
    • Swords & Spells
  • Accessories:
    • The Book of Marvelous Magic (with Frank Mentzer)
  • Adventures:

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons[]

See also: Dungeons & Dragons

S1 Tomb of Horrors

Gamma World[]

See also: Gamma World
  • GW1, Legion of Gold by Gary Gygax, Luke Gygax, and Paul Reiche III (ISBN 0-935696-61-X) TSR 1981

Cyborg Commando[]

  • Cyborg Commando, New Infinities, 1987

Dangerous Journeys[]

See also: Dangerous Journeys
  • Mythus – (with Dave Newton), Game Designers Workshop, 1992
  • Mythus Magick – Book II of the MYTHUS Game (with Dave Newton), GDW, 1992
  • Epic of Ærth – Companion Volume to the MYTHUS Game, GDW, 1992
  • Necropolis – Adventure Scenario, GDW, 1993
  • Mythus Bestiary, Ærth Animalia – (with Dave & Michele Newton), GDW, 1993
  • Changeling – Weird Science Fantasy Role-Playing Game, published in part in Mythic Masters Magazine (see Periodicals)
  • Unhallowed – Supernatural Horror Role-Playing Game (with Mike McCulley), GDW (manuscript, unpublished) 1992.

Lejendary Adventures[]

See also: Lejendary Adventure
  • Rule books:
    • Lejendary Rules for All Players - Hekaforge Productions, 1999
    • Lejend Master's Lore - Hekaforge Productions, 2000
    • Beasts of Lejend - Hekaforge Productions, 2000
  • World Setting sourcebooks:
    • Lejendary Earth Gazetteer - Part 1, Hekaforge Productions, 2002
    • Noble Kings & Dark Lands - Part 2, (with Chris Clark) Hekaforge Productions, 2003
    • The Mysterious Realms of Hazgar – Part 3, (with Chris Clark) Hekaforge Productions, 2005
  • Adventures:
    • Living the Lejend - Campaign Setting & Expansion for the LA Essentials Boxed Set, Troll Lord Games (2005)
    • Forlorn Corners - included serially as a part of the Author’s and Collector’s Editions of the three core rules noted above (1999-2000)
    • Hall of Many Panes – Module Boxed Set with D20 stats included, Troll Lord Games 2005
  • Lejendary Adventure Essentials - Primer Boxed Set for the LA RPG, Troll Lord Games, 2005

Castles & Crusades[]

For Castles & Crusades, the Castle Zagyg series is a planned series of seven sourcebooks based on the Castle Greyhawk from Gygax's original campaign. For trademark reasons they are not actually published under the name of Greyhawk.

  • Gary Gygax's Castle Zagyg: Yggsburgh Troll Lord Games, 2005 (ISBN 1-931275-68-8)
  • Gary Gygax's Castle Zagyg: Dark Chateau (by Robert J. Kuntz) Troll Lord Games 2005 (ISBN 1-931275-69-6)
  • Gary Gygax's Castle Zagyg: The East Mark Gazeteer (with Jeffrey P. Talanian) Troll Lord Games, 2007 (ISBN 978-1-929474-98-1)

Generic d20 System[]

(see also d20 System & Open Game License)

  • A Challenge of Arms - (Chris Clark with Gary Gygax) generic adventure module, Inner City Game Designs, 1999
  • Ritual of the Golden Eyes - (Chris Clark with Gary Gygax) generic adventure module, Inner City Game Designs, 2000
  • The Weyland Smith Catalog - ("Joke" Magic Items), short version, Hekaforge Productions, 1999
  • Gygaxian Fantasy Worlds Series from Troll Lord Games. Volumes IV, V, VI, VII are edited by Gygax.
    • Volume I Gary Gygax's The Canting Crew, explores the underworld of city life, "Gygaxian Fantasy Worlds, Volume II"
    • Volume II Gary Gygax's World Builder, a collection of organized definitions, lists, tables and charts, (with Dan Cross) – 2003
    • Volume III Gary Gygax's Living Fantasy, Everyday Life, – 2003
    • Volume IV Gary Gygax's Book of Names by Malcolm Bowers
    • Volume V Gary Gygax's Insidiae by Dan Cross 2004
    • Volume VI Gary Gygax's Nation Builder, by Michael J. Varhola – 2005
    • Volume VII Gary Gygax's Cosmos Builder, by Richard T. Balsley – 2006

Non-RPG games[]

Rules for miniatures/table top battle games[]

  • Cavaliers and Roundheads (English Civil War, with Jeff Perren)
  • Chainmail (Medieval and Fantasy, with Jeff Perren)
  • Classic Warfare (Ancient Period: 1500 BC to 500 AD)
  • Don't Give Up The Ship! (Sailing Ship Battles c. 1700 to 1815, with Dave Arneson and Mike Carr)
  • Tractics (WWII to c. 1965, with Mike Reese & Leon Tucker)
  • Foreword to the 2004 Skirmisher Publishing LLC edition of H.G. Wells' Little Wars

Board games[]

  • Alexander the Great (Ancient, the Battle of Arbela) – Guidon Games and reprinted by Avalon Hill
  • Alexander's Other Battles – Panzerfaust Publishing, 1972 – a Supplementary Kit For The Guidon Game Alexander the Great
  • Baku (WW II, Extension of Avalon Hill's Stalingrad board wargame), Panzerfaust Publications
  • Crusader (Medieval, Battle of Ascalon) – Panzerfaust Publications
  • Dunkirk (World War II) – Guidon Games
  • Little Big Horn (Western) – TSR Hobbies, Inc.
  • Dungeon! - TSR Hobbies, Inc.

Chess variants[]

  • Another of Gary Gygax's creations was Dragon chess, a three-dimensional fantasy chess variant, published in Dragon Magazine #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 Dungeons and Dragons setting: King, Mage, Paladin, Cleric, Dragon, Griffin, Oliphant, Hero, Thief, Elemental, Basilisk, Unicorn, Dwarf, Sylph and Warrior.
  • Fidchell[18] – Not to be confused with the historic board game of fidchell (various spellings) from Ireland.


Fantasy novels[]


Saga of Old City by Gary Gygax (TSR, 1985); Cover art by Clyde Caldwell

  • Greyhawk Adventures Series of Novels (TSR, Inc., featuring Gord the Rogue)
    • Saga of Old City (1985)
    • Artifact of Evil (1986)
  • Gord the Rogue Adventures (from New Infinities Productions, Inc., also published in Italian)
    • Sea of Death (1987)
    • Night Arrant (1987) – a collection of short stories
    • City of Hawks (1987)
    • Come Endless Darkness (1988)
    • Dance of Demons (1988)
  • released under publisher Penguin/Roc
    • The Anubis Murders (1992)
    • The Samarkand Solution (1993)
    • Death in Delhi (1993)

Miscellaneous books and short stories[]

  • Sagard the Barbarian Books (HEROES CHALLENGE Gamebook Series, co-author Flint Dille (with assistance from Ernie Gygax) - from Archway/Pocket books):
The Ice Dragon
The Green Hydra
The Crimson Sea
The Fire Demon
  • Role-Playing Mastery - instructional book, Perigee/Putnam (trade paperback bestseller)
  • Master of the Game - sequel to Role-Playing Mastery from Perigee/Putnam
  • "At Moonset Blackcat Comes" (Fantasy short story featuring Gord the Rogue appearing in Dragon #100)
  • "Pay Tribute" (Science Fiction short story in The Fleet anthology)
  • "Battle off Deadstar" (Science Fiction short story in Fleet Breakthrough anthology)
  • "Celebration of Celene" (Fantasy short story published in Michael Moorcock’s Elric, Tales of the White Wolf anthology) - White Wolf, Inc., 1994
  • "Duty" (Fantasy short story in Excalibur, anthology) – Warner Books, 1995
  • "Get on Board the D Train" (Horror short story in Dante’s Disciples anthology) – White Wolf, Inc., 1996
  • Evening Odds" (Fantasy short story with Gord the Rogue sharing Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champions universe) – White Wolf, Inc., 1997


  • The Crusader – magazine, column on the creation of the D&D game beginning 2005
  • Dragon Magazine - author 1976 to 1985, columnist 1999 to 2004, and publisher 1978 to 1981.[19]
  • Journeys Journal (GDW) - contributor in each of six issues published through 1993
  • Lejends (Total Reality Studios) – magazine, major contributor, 2001 to 2003
  • Mythic Masters (Trigee) - magazine, primary author of entire 64-page magazine for each of six issues published through 1994
  • The Strategic Review (Tactical Studies Rules) – newsletter, primary author of entire magazine for each of the initial four issues, and a major contributor to the balance of all issues until Dragon came into print.
  • La Vivandiere (Palikar Publications) – defunct wargaming magazine, contributing author (1974), significant contributions include "Fantasy Wargaming and the Influence of J.R.R. Tolkien", in which he defends D&D's inclusion of non-Tolkien fantasy into the game.

External links[]


  1. The History of TSR (1966 * International Federation of Wargamers formed by Gary Gygax and other wargamers.)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 Gary Gygax, "LONG BIOGRAPHY of E(rnest) GARY GYGAX", revision 6-05, ©2005
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Gamespy
  4. Chainmail
  5. Q&A With Gary Gygax, Part V
  6. Destroy All Monsters, The Believer Magazine, p.. . (Temporary fix for {{cite journal}}, please update to use {{cite dragon}} and similar templates.)
  7. Dungeons & Dragons co-creator Gary Gygax dies at 69
  8. Q&A with James M. Ward, page 91. Dragonsfoot, June 26, 2013.
  9. "Molecular and Morphological Characterization of Ten Polar and Near-Polar Strains within the Oscillatoriales (Cyanobacteria)", by Dale A. Casamatta, Jeffrey R. Johansen, Morgan L. Vis, and Sharon T. Broadwater, Journal of Phycology, 2005
  10. Number 1: Gary Gyrax: "Cocreator of Dungeons & Dragons and father of role-playing games.
    Defining nerd moment: With a last name that sounds like a barbarian warrior from space, is it any wonder this guy invented the 20-sided die? Between 1977 and 1979, Gygax released Advanced Dungeons & Dragons for advanced dorks, taking the cult phenomenon to new heights whilst giving himself a +5 salary of lordly might.
    " Sync Magazine, December/January 2004/05
  11. SFX Magazine March (#128) 2005
  12. Second Sight: The Millennium's Best "Other" Game and The Millennium's Most Influential Person, Pyramid (online), p.. 1999-12-24. (Temporary fix for {{cite journal}}, please update to use {{cite dragon}} and similar templates.)
  13. Fidchell, The Chess Variant Pages, accessed August 19, 2005
  14. , The Dragon, p.. April 1978 - April 1981. (Temporary fix for {{cite journal}}, please update to use {{cite dragon}} and similar templates.)

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