Saturday, March 15, 2014

About Gary Gygax

Paul Stormberg got me in contact with Anthony Savini.  Anthony is doing a movie about Gary Gygax and has been interviewing people.

Which brought me to a point most people missed about Gary.  Gary had a vision of gaming that was clean and that adjusted.

When he started writing D&D rules, he thought of them as a tool set that everyone would draw from to create their own games and their own rules.  A good example of that is Steven Brust's novels. If you did not know it, they are write-ups in his campaign world.  Those lizard-sorcerers?  His elves. 
Vlad Taltos -- a psionic assassin Player Character.

But he adjusted when he encountered the Chicago gamers, who were younger and who played 24/7 rather than a couple week-ends a month.  Greyhawk came from that and the first supplement.

That is the reason TSR prospered when Gary was in charge and was adrift when he was not.

It is what led to AD&D -- a set of rules that defined everything rather than a set that was a tool kit.  It also led to the D&D Expert Set.  A set of rules without all the granular detail.

There was a cycle at TSR and surrounding it.

Gary would grasp a vision, he would begin to execute on it and it would succeed.

He would succeed so much he would hit a cash crunch (in the beginning that was because sales doubled every year, or more and his buyers were mostly on 60 days, his suppliers on 30 days, so he had little or no float -- he had the reverse). 

He would bring on others for more capital.

At some point they would see a golden goose and be certain that Gary should not be left in charge for fear he would not take care of it.

Gary would lose control. 

Things would go off the rails.

Gary would be brought back in.


Rinse and Repeat.

That, combined with all the people circling around trying to figure out how to make money off of him created the tragedy that was TSR before Wizards of the Coast took it over.

Anyway, in this story there are no real villains (Savini was surprised that I hold malice only for some lawyers who are a side story).  There are lots of people who did not appreciate what Gary was bringing to the table.  Thousands who thought they could do it better.

I'm hopeful that Savini's film will capture the core of things.  Look forward to it when it comes out.

And was grateful to remember friends.


Side note.  I also got to explain the "blame Tim Kask" meme.  The key is that you blamed Tim Kask for things that went wrong -- but only for things that happened when Tim was not around (and so could not possibly have been at fault).  It was a joke, not a condemnation.  Savini asked me if anyone ever blamed Tim Kask for anything that happened while he was at TSR.  Of course not.  That would have ruined the joke and been unfair to boot.

But if you run into instances of that meme, now you will understand it.


  1. So much that would have been said or seen while Dad was still around. This appears to be a truthful account of a select period of time between TSR and it's founder E. Gary Gygax. I hope that it awakens many of the newer gamer's to the real treasure that was the inspired works of EGG Sr.

  2. Meh. I blame Kask for all sorts of stuff...why the fish aren't biting, why I roll ones, why my wheels fell off during Circvs Maximvs...... ;-) (Tim is at a Con right now, so it is the perfect time to blame him......and I hope he sees this before Gary Con.)

    On a serious note, thanks for the insightful article, Stephen.