Canon:Gary Gygax

From Dungeons and Dragons Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search
File:Gary Gygax.jpg
Gary Gygax in 2004

Ernest Gary Gygax (born July 27, 1938, in Chicago, Illinois; died March 04, 2008) is best known as the author of the well known fantasy role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), co-created with Dave Arneson and co-published with Don Kaye in 1974 under the company Tactical Studies Rules. Gygax is sometimes described as the father of the role-playing game.[1]


Gygax is the son of Swiss immigrant, Martin Gygax and an American mother. His gaming experiences began at the age of five and six with playing pinochle and chess as well as the usual pretend games of any child that could be likened to live action role-playing together with Jim Rasch as referee/game master, John Rasch and Don Kaye as fellow participants. At about the same time Gygax began educating himself in science fiction novels with Ray Bradbury's The Veldt in Bluebook and Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Conqueror.

"I've been reading fantasy since 1950."[1]

In 1953 Gygax first started playing miniature war games with Don Kaye.

The game Gettysburg from the Avalon Hill company captured Gygax's attention. It was from the same company that he placed an order for the first blank hexagon mapping sheets that were available. He was also looking for new ways to generate random numbers. To that end, he used not only the usual cubical (six-sided) dice, but dice of all five platonic solid shapes.

In 1966, the International Federation of Wargamers (IFW) was created by Gygax and others.[2]

In 1967, a 20-person gaming get-together was organized by Gary Gygax at his home including the basement sand table. This was later called "Gen Con 0" as it led to the start of the annual Gen Con gaming convention the following year, which is now the world's largest annual hobby-game gathering.[3] Gen Con is also where Gary Gygax would meet Brian Blume and Dave Arneson. Brian Blume would later enter into TSR as partner with Don Kaye and Gary.

"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."[1]

Together with Don Kaye, Mike Reese and Leon Tucker, a military miniatures society would be created under the name Lake Geneva Tactical Studies Association (LGTSA) which at the time also met in Gary's basement.[3]

Gygax and Jeff Perren wrote Chainmail, a miniatures wargame from which D&D was developed, in 1971.[4]

Gygax and Kaye then founded the publishing company Tactical Studies Rules (TSR) and published the first version of D&D in 1974. For the spell systems, Gygax would be inspired by Jack Vance, but also draw upon 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 in nine months.[3] In the same year, Gygax hired Tim Kask to help make the transition of The Strategic Review to the fantasy periodical today known as Dragon Magazine with Gygax as author and later as columnist.[3]

After the death of Kaye in 1976, his widow sold her shares to Gygax. Gygax then owned a controlling share of the whole partnership Tactical Studies Rules, and created TSR Hobbies, Inc. He sold it soon after to Brian Blume and his brother Kevin because of money problems. The Blume family owned 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. went on with the game.

A few years later a new version of D&D was created, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D) (1977–9).[1] The Monster Manual would be the first rule book of the new system. The new rules were not compatible with D&D. As a result, the D&D and AD&D had distinct product lines and expansions.

Gary Gygax left TSR in 1985 during changes in TSR's management. This development arose while Gary was preoccupied with making the 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."[1]

After leaving TSR Gary Gygax created Dangerous Journeys, an advanced RPG spanning multiple genres containing almost every rule that Gary could think of.[1] He began work in 1995 on a major new RPG, originally intended for a computer game, but in 1999 released as Lejendary Adventure which some consider to be his best work to date. A key part of its design was to keep the gaming rules as simple as possible, as Gygax felt that role playing games were becoming too complex and discouraged new users.

He is now in semi-retirement[1], having almost suffered a heart attack after receiving incorrect medication[3] to prevent further strokes after those on April 1 and May 4 2004. Although working hours have declined gaming is still very much a part of Gary's life. Together with James M. Ward, creator of Metamorphosis Alpha and Gamma World, Thursday night is RPG night.[3] Gygax is still active in the gaming community and has active Q & A forums on gaming websites such as Dragonsfoot and EN World.

In 2005, Gygax returned to the Dungeons and 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, the original dungeon setting for D&D.

"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."[1]

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 get him to restore Todd's charisma points.

Gygax says he has been diagnosed with an inoperable abdominal aortic aneurysm.[5][6].


Gygax married Gail Carpenter on August 15, 1987, which was the same day as his parents' 50th anniversary. As of 2005, he is father to six and grandfather to seven. His first five children are from his first marriage to the former Mary Jo Gygax. His latest is through his current marriage, and was born on 1986.[3]. Gygax currently resides in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Gary describes 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.[3]


Gary Gygax has received several awards related to gaming:[3]

  • Strategists Club's "Outstanding Designer & Writer" — for creating 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 is listed under the entry Dungeons and Dragons in the Oxford English Dictionary.

A strain of bacteria has been named in honor of Gary Gygax, namely "Arthronema gygaxiana sp nov UTCC393".[7]

Sync Magazine named Gary Gygax #1 on the list of "The 50 Biggest Nerds of All Time".[8]

SFX Magazine listed him as #37 on the list of the "50 Greatest SF Pioneers".[9]

Job titles[edit]

  • 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—   – Creator/author under contract to Trigee Enterprises Corporation
  • 1999—   – Partner, Hekaforge Productions

Role-playing games[edit]

Dungeons & Dragons[edit]

See also: Dungeons & Dragons

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons[edit]

See also: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons

Other d20 System games[edit]

(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


  • The Crusader – magazine, column on the creation of the D&D game beginning 2005
  • Dragon Magazine - author to 1985, and a columnist therein 1999 to 2004
  • 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 Magazine 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.


Author Publication List
Publication System Publisher
Against the Giants Dungeons and Dragons 1e TSR
Descent into the Depths of the Earth Dungeons and Dragons 1e TSR
Dungeon Masters Guide Dungeons and Dragons 1e TSR
Expedition to the Barrier Peaks Dungeons and Dragons 1e TSR Hobbies, Inc
Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl Dungeons and Dragons 1e TSR
Greyhawk Dungeons and Dragons Oe TSR
Hall of the Fire Giant king Dungeons and Dragons 1e TSR
Isle of the Ape Dungeons and Dragons 1e TSR
Monster Manual Dungeons and Dragons 1e TSR
Monster Manual II Dungeons and Dragons 1e TSR
Oriental Adventures Dungeons and Dragons 1e TSR
Player's Handbook Dungeons and Dragons 1e TSR
Queen of the Spiders Dungeons and Dragons 1e TSR
Shrine of the Kuo-Toa Dungeons and Dragons 1e TSR
Steading of the Hill Giant Chief Dungeons and Dragons 1e TSR
The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun Dungeons and Dragons 1e TSR
The Keep on the Borderlands Dungeons and Dragons 1e TSR
The Land Beyond the Magic Mirror Dungeons and Dragons 1e TSR
The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth Dungeons and Dragons 2e TSR
The Village of Hommlet Dungeons and Dragons 1e TSR
Tomb of Horrors Dungeons and Dragons 1e Wizards of the Coast
Unearthed Arcana Dungeons and Dragons 1e TSR
Vault of the Drow Dungeons and Dragons 1e TSR
World of Greyhawk Fantasy Game Setting Dungeons and Dragons 1e TSR


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Gamespy interview with Gary Gygax Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "gamespy" defined multiple times with different content
  2. "1966 * International Federation of Wargamers formed by Gary Gygax and other wargamers." The History of TSR, Wizards of the Coast (URL accessed on August 20, 2005)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 Gary Gygax, "LONG BIOGRAPHY of E(rnest) GARY GYGAX", revision 6-05, ©2005
  4. Chainmail
  5. Gary Gygax posting as "Col_Pladoh", Q&A With Gary Gygax, Part V
  6. Paul La Farge, Destroy All Monsters in The Believer Magazine
  7. "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
  8. 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
  9. SFX Magazine March (#128) 2005

External links[edit]

Smallwikipedialogo.png This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).

Back to Main PageDnD EncyclopediaPublishers and Writers