Game Wizards: The Epic Battle for Dungeons & Dragons

Book review by Deane Barker tags: rpg

This isn’t so much a book about role-playing games as much as it’s a book about the business of role-playing games. Or, just business in general.

It’s the history of D&D and Tactical Studies Rules (TSR), for sure, but from a purely business standpoint. It follows the rise of the company from something Gary Gygax came up with and sold for about $300 in revenue in its first year, to when it was an international company negotiating movie rights and selling $50 million worth of the product.

Along the way, Gygax got into a massive legal disagreement with Dave Arneson. He had contributed to the original rules and held partial copyright. He sued Gygax and TSR repeatedly over the course of a decade.

In the mid-80s, D&D had exploded into so many other things – movies, cartoons, action figures, etc. And then it all kind of imploded. They expanded too fast, tried to do too many things, and had too many arguments and legal problems.

Gygax was eventually kicked out by other board members, and the whole thing came tumbling down. The book ends when Gygax leaves the company, so it doesn’t spend any time on the Wizards of the Coast years.

It’s incredibly well-researched. The author has original documents – all the contracts, notes, etc. Nothing is left out. He approaches the subject like a serious historian, and did loads of primary research for it. I enjoyed the book, but it’s clearly for a niche audience. Very few people are interested enough in the subject to dig through 300+ pages of it. But this has to be considered the exhaustive work on the topic.

The author, Jon Peterson, has to be considered the seminal expert on RPG history. He also wrote The Elusive Shift

Book Info

Jon Peterson
  • I have read this book. According to my records, I completed it on .
  • A softcover copy of this book is currently in my home library.

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