Ernest Gary Gygax
Gary Gygax Gen Con 2007
Gygax at Gen Con Indy 2007

Born July 27 1938(1938-07-27)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.
Died March 04 2008 (aged 69)
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, U.S.A.
Occupation writer, game designer
Nationality United States
Writing period 1971–2007
Genres role-playing games, fantasy, wargames

Ernest Gary Gygax (July 27, 1938March 4, 2008) (IPA: [ˈɡaɪ.ɡæks][2]) was an American writer and game designer,[3] best known for co-creating the pioneering role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) with Dave Arneson, and co-founding the company Tactical Studies Rules (TSR, Inc.) with Don Kaye in 1973. Gygax is generally acknowledged as one of the fathers of the tabletop role-playing game.[4]

Early life and inspirationEdit

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 careerEdit

In 1966, the International Federation of Wargamers (IFW) was created with the assistance of Gygax.[5]

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.[6] 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."[4]

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.[6]

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.[7]


Tsr logo GK

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.[6] 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.[6]

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).[4] 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."[4]

Late careerEdit

After leaving TSR, Gygax created Dangerous Journeys, an RPG spanning multiple genres.[4] 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 appearancesEdit

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.[8][9]

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

Other appearancesEdit

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 lifeEdit

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.[6] 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.[6]

Illness and deathEdit

Gygax died the morning of March 4, 2008, at his home in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.[10] He was in semi-retirement,[4] having almost suffered a heart attack after receiving incorrect medication[6] 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.[6] Gygax was still active in the gaming community and had active Q & A forums on gaming websites such as Dragonsfoot and EN World.

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.[4]

Awards and honorsEdit

Gary Gygax received several awards related to gaming:[6]

  • 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".[11]

Sync Magazine named Gary Gygax #1 on the list of "The 50 Biggest Nerds of All Time".[12]

SFX Magazine listed him as #37 on the list of the "50 Greatest SF Pioneers".[13]

In 1999 Pyramid magazine named Gary Gygax as one of The Millennium's Most Influential Persons "at least in the realm of adventure gaming."[14]

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 titlesEdit

  • 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 gamesEdit

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

Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set

Dungeons & DragonsEdit

Advanced Dungeons & DragonsEdit


S1 Tomb of Horrors

Gamma WorldEdit

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

Cyborg CommandoEdit

Dangerous JourneysEdit

  • 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 AdventuresEdit

  • 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 & CrusadesEdit

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.

Generic d20 SystemEdit

(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 gamesEdit

Rules for miniatures/table top battle gamesEdit

Board gamesEdit

  • 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 variantsEdit

  • 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[20] – Not to be confused with the historic board game of fidchell (various spellings) from Ireland.


Fantasy novelsEdit


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 storiesEdit

  • 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.[21]
  • 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.

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. Gygax, Gary (March 1985), "On the influence of J.R.R. Tolkien on the D&D and AD&D games", Dragon (95): 12-13 : "A careful examination of the games will quickly reveal that the major influences are Robert E. Howard, L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt, Fritz Leiber, Poul Anderson, A. Merritt, and H.P. Lovecraft."
  2. "Dungeons & Dragons FAQ". 
  3. Post Chronicle (2008-03-05). "Photo of Gary Gygax, Dungeons & Dragons Creator Icon Dies". Retrieved 2008-03-05. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 Allen Rausch. "Gary Gygax Interview". GameSpy. Retrieved 2005-01-03. 
  5. "The History of TSR (1966 * International Federation of Wargamers formed by Gary Gygax and other wargamers.)". Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved 2005-08-20. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 6.8 Gary Gygax, "LONG BIOGRAPHY of E(rnest) GARY GYGAX", revision 6-05, ©2005
  7. "Chainmail" (in English). 
  8. Gary Gygax (posting as "Col_Pladoh"). "Q&A With Gary Gygax, Part V" (in English). Dragonsfoot Forums. pp. 8. 
  9. La Farge, Paul (September 2006). "Destroy All Monsters". The Believer Magazine. 
  10. "Dungeons & Dragons co-creator Gary Gygax dies at 69". WKBT-La Crosse, Wisconsin. 2008-03-04. Retrieved 2008-03-04. 
  11. "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
  12. 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
  13. SFX Magazine March (#128) 2005
  14. Haring, Scott D. (1999-12-24). "Second Sight: The Millennium's Best "Other" Game and The Millennium's Most Influential Person". Pyramid (online). Retrieved 2008-02-15. 
  15. Gygax, Gary (1983). Dungeonland. EX1. World of Greyhawk: TSR, Inc.. pp. 32. 9072. ISBN 0-935696-50-4. 
  16. Gygax, Gary (1983). The Land Beyond the Magic Mirror. EX2. World of Greyhawk: TSR, Inc.. pp. 32. 9073. ISBN 0-88038-025-X. 
  17. Gygax, Gary (1982). Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun. WG4. World of Greyhawk: TSR, Inc.. pp. 32. 9065. ISBN 0-88038-002-0. 
  18. Kuntz, Robert J.; Gary Gygax (1984). Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure. WG5. World of Greyhawk: TSR, Inc.. pp. 32. 9112XXX1401. ISBN 0-88038-168-X. 
  19. Gygax, Gary (1985). Isle of the Ape. WG6. World of Greyhawk: TSR, Inc.. pp. 48. 9153XXX1501. ISBN 0-88038-238-4. 
  20. Fidchell, The Chess Variant Pages, accessed August 19, 2005
  21. The Dragon (TSR Hobbies, Inc.) Vol. II (13-24,26-48). April 1978 - April 1981. 

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