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...

Gary Gygax Creator of Dungeons & Dragons

Interview Listing
 Interview home
 Jon Huston, Toyvault
 Marlow, Round 1
 Marlow, Round 2
 Terry Brooks
 Gary Gygax
  more coming soon

Before I begin answering, I want to thank all concerned for taking the time to develop the questions below, and for allowing me to virtually speak to you:)

1. Do you enjoy the works of JRR Tolkien? If so, How did he influence your work?

Oh-oh! I am going to be in trouble from the get-go! I loved THE HOBBIT, read it once to myself, then about three or four times aloud to my children.

As a Swords & Sorcery novel fan from way back–I read my first Conan yarn about 1948, was a fan and collector of the pulp SF and fantasy magazines since 1950, I was not as enamored of The Trilogy as were most of my contemporaries. While I loved Bombadil, the Nazgul too, the story was too slow-paced for me.

How did it influence the D&D game? Whoa, plenty, of course. Just about all the players were huge JRRT fans, and so they insisted that I put as much Tolkien-influence material into the game as possible. Anyone reading this that recalls the original D&D game will know that there were Balrogs, Ents, and Hobbits in it. Later those were removed, and new, non-JRRT things substituted–Balor demons, Treants, and Halflings.

Indeed, who can doubt the excellence of Tolkien’s writing? So of course it had a strong impact on A/D&D games. A look at my recommended fantasy books reading list in the back of the original DUNGEON MASTERS GUILD will show a long list of other influential fantasy authors, though.

2. Did you actively base D&D on Tolkien's world, adopting some of the preferences of the species, and their behaviours and all that from Tolkien?

No. As a reader of fairy tales and myth from childhood, and later fantasy and history too, I used all manner of interests I had to create the D&D game. It sprang from an amalgam of medieval history and miniature wargames set in that period, then the fantasy material as originally covered in the supplement of the CHAINMAIL rules as published in 1971.

The initial treatment of "Law" and "Chaos" was inspired by Michael Moorcock’s treatment of good and evil in his "Elric" and other fantasy books written prior to 1970.

The world setting I used, "Greyhawk", was likewise a sort of conglomerate of history and fantasy.

Frankly, I used as many sorts of fantasy and horror concepts as I could, spread them liberally but not in depth, so as to cover as much as possible in a small work, thus make it as appealing as possible to the potential audience.

3. As many D&D fans know, the game has taken flak in the past from Christian and "concerned parents" groups regarding the game and its supposed occult/Satanic influence on some of those who play it. How would you respond to those that say D&D is a "gateway" to Satanic or dangerous practices?

By saying, "Utter rubbish!" there isn’t a single documented instance of any such "Satanic or dangerous practices" anywhere. Frankly, this subject is one that deserves a rather long and complex answer, and that’s quite out of the question here, of course.

That dedicated Christians might believe that the mention in a game of "magic", and "Demons and devils" and the like is bad can be understood. However, in all, it is actually nothing more than a game. The "magic spells" are all make-believe, don’t work. They, along with the demons, devils, dragons, swords, thieves, gold and gems–the whole kit and caboodle–are fictitious. Imaginary things are not evil nor harmful. As to "occult", how can a game played by millions be "hidden", "Secret" and the like? Complete nonsense.

As to being dangerous to the minds of players, there is no basis for such assertions either. The vast majority of qualified mental health experts have no such concerns in regards normal persons. That a group playing a fantasy RPG will lose touch with reality, or become "mind-controlled" is completely fatuous. This is obvious to any observer of or participant in RPG activity. Those who claim such an effect is possible are the ones who have lost touch with reality.

In all, the majority of attacks on RPGs seem to have stemmed from cynical media exploiting matters so as to take advantage of sensationalism to attract viewers and readers, a small group of persons who likewise sought to exploit the sensationalism for profit, and then some larger number of sincere but misguided persons reacting to the initial coverage. Of the lot, concerned parents are the main element, and the group that can be most easily shown that the game is at worst entertaining, at best developmental and educational.

4. Are you surprised that D&D and games like it have been as popular as they are? Were you aiming for a much smaller market, or did you imagine that this many people would enjoy what you enjoy creating?

When I wrote the D&D game in 1972-3 I envisaged an audience of military boardgamers, military miniatures players, and fantasy, SF and horror fans only. This was indeed the initial core audience, and it wasn’t until 1976, two years after the game was first sold, that I began to realize that the appeal was more universal.

5. How old were you when you actually began to create AD&D?

I began writing the game in 1972 at the age of 34. Of course I had designed games before that. My first attempts were chess variants way back in the 1950s, then wargames and military miniatures rules and the like in the 1960s. There are still one or two of my DIPLOMACY Game variants from the 1960s somewhere online, BTW.

6. I would imagine, that you invented D&D, and played it for a long while before actually going to market with it, who, if anyone, inspired you to market the game?

Not so. I had been working with a small game publisher, Guidon Games, from 1970 on. I was determined to be involved in the creation and publication of games from around 1965, in fact. So when I drafted the initial manuscript for the D&D game in 1972 it was indeed an effort to get a publishable game product to market….eventually. I sent out about 20 or 30 copies of the initial draft ms, to gamer friends all over the USA, and their incredibly enthusiastic response made me certain that what I was doing was on target. So later on, in 1973 when I did the draft that became the original three booklets of the D&D game, I was planning to publish as soon as possible. Don Kaye and I formed Tactical Studies Rules company in October of 1973, and the D&D game was published at the end of January 1974.

7. I imagine you read fantasy novels quite a bit; do you have any favorite authors, or any favorite books in general?

Whoa, do I! It’s a long laundry list, and I recommend you check the original AD&D game DMG. If you can’t find that easily, try the MYTHUS game list of inspirational reading.

8.In a recent issue of Dragon magazine, you said you would have developed a 2nd edition of AD&D differently than what TSR eventually came out with in 1989. What would have been your vision of a 2nd edition had you worked on it?

Well, some of the material in UNEARTHED ARCANA sure gives a clue. I was going to change characters and stats around a bit so as to enable easy movement from the fantasy genre to others, so as to make AD&D a multi-genred game. My first step, and one that I left with my whole program outline at TSR when I parted from there in 1985, would have been to compile all the "monster" books into an encyclopedic set, one that would be updated with packets of additional monsters, redone in new editions about every five years or so as volume of new material warranted.

As for the rest, it is water so long under the bridge as to not matter. Somewhere in WotC’s archives there is likely a file on my suggestions and notes for the project. I began urging it in 1983, and yes. Skills were to be added.

I’ll take this opportunity to plug my new game system, the LEJENDARY ADVENTURE RPG. It is "Rules lite" and skill-based, with a character creation system that is quick, easy, and allows the player to develop just about any sort of game persona that is imaginable and desired. Although it is about a polar opposite from the AD&D game approach, it does show some of the general concepts I had in mind for the latter system, although presentation would perforce have been far different. The LA game will become multi-genre next year too, when we publish the first expansion into "fantastical Science", with "Hard SF" and "Weird Science" working and more to come.

9. The Dungeon and Dragons game used to be billed as a "simple" game as opposed to those games like G.R.U.P.S and Wizards and Warriors. Why has it become so complicated??

That’s better answered by the designers who were with TSR after I left, and now those at WotC. However, from what I can observe, not a little of that complexity and complication has occurred because of the demand of the hardcore fans…

10. What do you have in the works as of now?

Besides about 20 games aimed for computer presentation, and unlikely to ever see publication, my main creative efforts are directed at the LA game system, the development of its LEJENDARY EARTH World Setting, additional genre rules and information, adventures. I oversee all the creative production for Hekaforge. We have in the pipeline 10 books that I have written plus about as many other works–adventures and sourcebooks–from freelancers. This is ongoing. I am currently working on three more books, supplemental core material and source works, plus a handful of adventures. Freelancers are likewise in contact, and I am directing their efforts in regards like materials.

In time I will likely be writing a sort of "how to" book for Wizards as well, although it is about a year or so before I will be able to begin drafting it as I’ll need to DM and play a good deal of 3E before then (^_^).

11. Thinking back, I seem to remember a Middle Earth role playing game. Were you involved in this? Is it still available?

There was indeed a MERP game, but I was not involved in its creation or production. Some of my fellows here played it a bit.

One of the problems with a game using an novelist-authored setting is the basis of the underlying work. That is, the environment for the game must pretty well meet that of the book(s), and what happens in the game must more or less reflect the story environment. This seems too limiting to me to use as a basis for a vital RPG. Some problems were evident in DRAGONLANCE adventures because of this very fact. The STAR TREK and STAR WARS RPGs are likely going to avoid much of the problems, I am told, by expanding the story universe to accommodate game activity, not feature the same specifics, just enough to make sure the underlying appeal of the initial universe remains to satisfy the fan of both the story and the game.

12. Did you ever consider making the Lord of the Rings into a module?

No, because it seems to me that the RPG system would have to be tailored to accommodate the environment, its magical features. Perhaps more importantly, what JRRT fan would want to alter the plotlines and outcomes of the underlying work?

What could be done is to create "later-time" spin-off material for Tolkienesque adventuring. That sort of approach might be viable, given licensing and some really good writers and game-adventure designers.

13. What is your favorite book of all time? (excluding your own)

My own? I haven’t read them since finishing the edits of the final mss.! Asking what book is my favorite is like asking which of my six children I love the most. Depends on the genre–I love history, historical novels, mysteries and detective yarns, SF, fantasy, horror, and imaginative adventure for "escape reading".

Some authors that spring to mind are Bruce Catton, C.S. Forrester, Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert E. Howard, Edgar Allen Poe, Sax Rhomer, H. Rider Haggard, H.P.Lovecraft, Jack Vance. My main problem with being creative is that I haven’t nearly the time I would wish for reading. Once long ago I would read a book or two a day, and now I am lucky if I manage to finish one a month.

14.Who is Gary Gygax? What makes him tick?

If you go to http://www.gygax.com and click on the Virtual Residence, go to the Hall, click on the doorknob of the Closet door there, you’ll find a long bio on me. It is about three years out of date, but…

What makes me tick? Ah, it’s a wise man who knows himself. But I can say for certain that I love games and gaming!

15. In all of your world, who is your favorite creature or character you have created?

Another "which child do you love most" sort of question…

Gord was a lot of fun.

So were the Drow and Eclavdra.

And Iuz had his moments. Wastri could have been amusing, had I ever done as much with him as I had planned.

Playing Mordenkainen is exciting, especially now that he’s very potent and I dread losing such a PC ;-}>

My son Ernie and I developed a couple of PCs in James Ward’s METAMORPHOSIS ALPHA RPG, characters GMed by Jim himself, that became potent forces on the "Starship Warden" founded the "Vigilists", and doing all that was much like writing an adventure novel of sorts.

Setne Inhetep for the MYTHUS game-based novels had potential, I thought.

Enough!

16. I know you have not seen the trailer because you don’t want to spoil it, but what do you think of the Lord of the Rings movies being produced? What are your hopes for it?

I am more excited about the JRRT-based films than I am about the D&D movie also in the works. I am very anxious to go to the theater, sit back, and be blown away by the Lord of the Rings show!!! From what I have heard, they are doing it right, and, at long last, there is hope for a really GOOD fantasy film.

I really loved the first STAR WARS movie, and I am hoping that the Tolkien film will surpass it. If that happens, then we can expect some other good fantasy movies to follow. Hooray!

If by chance the D&D movie is also a winner, then so much the better, and we are all in for some good viewing.

17. Do you think the Lord of the Rings movies will create a surge in new fantasy fans?

If it rocks, sure:) If it is a failure, well, it won’t hurt the RPG market much, if at all, so its is a no-lose situation.

WotC is planning an introductory boxed 3E D&D game, and if they have their act together, that should hit about the time the D&D movie premiers. The only company capable of really bringing a lot of new players into RPGing is WotC, and I dearly hope they will succeed. If they do, and the JRRT motion pictures hit, the D&D film doesn’t bomb, there should be a pretty substantial influx of young gamers into the ranks, and we need them badly!

18. When first creating D&D, did you ever expect to make a living at it?

Absolutely. When I left the insurance field in 1970 I was determined to make a career in games and fiction writing. I worked hard, wrote and designed a lot for nothing more than name credit and recognition, for about seven years before that. So I starved for a lot of years, then did okay, then really good, and am back to subsistence living again sorta…So what? I am doing what I really love (^_^).

19. What was the book that you read that got you hooked on fantasy?

It was a combination of writings in the fantasy and SF genres. First were fairy tales, though. Then adventure stories. I read Burrough’s CAVE GIRL when I was about nine, thought it a smashing yarn. Then I read "The Veldt" by Bradbury around 1948, and followed up with the "Conan" tale read in a pulp zine that was lying around in a garage I liked to hang out in. When I was bored at a summer place in Michigan in 1950, picked up a copy of STARTLING STORIES magazine then, that’s when I was totally hooked.

20. And finally, What do you think of TheOneRing.net?

It is binding for sure!

Seriously, I find it excellent. We all owe so much to the computer and the internet it is hard to express. No question in my mind that soon the net will dominate gaming in that most play and information about games, gaming, and all to do with it will come from websites….linked ones.

Thanks again for the chance to share with you all,

Gary

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