The Epic Battle for Dungeons & Dragons
408 pp., 6 x 9 in, 30 b&w illus.
- Published: October 12, 2021
- Publisher: The MIT Press
- Published: October 12, 2021
- Publisher: The MIT Press
The story of the arcane table-top game that became a pop culture phenomenon and the long-running legal battle waged by its cocreators.
When Dungeons & Dragons was first released to a small hobby community, it hardly seemed destined for mainstream success—and yet this arcane tabletop role-playing game became an unlikely pop culture phenomenon. In Game Wizards, Jon Peterson chronicles the rise of Dungeons & Dragons from hobbyist pastime to mass-market sensation, from the initial collaboration to the later feud of its creators, Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. As the game's fiftieth anniversary approaches, Peterson—a noted authority on role-playing games—explains how D&D and its creators navigated their successes, setbacks, and controversies.
Peterson describes Gygax and Arneson's first meeting and their work toward the 1974 release of the game; the founding of TSR and its growth as a company; and Arneson's acrimonious departure and subsequent challenges to TSR. He recounts the “Satanic Panic” accusations that D&D was sacrilegious and dangerous, and how they made the game famous. And he chronicles TSR's reckless expansion and near-fatal corporate infighting, which culminated with the company in debt and overextended and the end of Gygax's losing battle to retain control over TSR and D&D.
With Game Wizards, Peterson restores historical particulars long obscured by competing narratives spun by the one-time partners. That record amply demonstrates how the turbulent experience of creating something as momentous as Dungeons & Dragons can make people remember things a bit differently from the way they actually happened.
“Jon is the great gaming librarian, the dramaturg of D&D. He is always my first call when I'm researching anything related to the history of tabletop gaming. If he doesn't know, most likely no one else does, and this book is no exception. With it, Jon sets straight the 'canon' of the tragic history of how Dungeons & Dragons and TSR were ripped from the very grasp of the man who dreamed them up.”
Joe Manganiello, actor, producer, Dungeons & Dragons ambassador, and writer/game designer for Wizards of the Coast/Hasbro
“Like an intrepid adventurer, Jon Peterson delves deep into the labyrinth of TSR's checkered history and the controversies surrounding Dungeons & Dragons. His broad knowledge of the subject and impeccable research allow you to share in his discoveries, with a focus on the colorful characters who were swept up in the D&D phenomenon and transformed by their experiences. Along the way, he uncovers many of the elements that led to the company's demise, including nepotism, hubris, poor management decisions, and unfulfilled promises. It's a compelling story.”
Mike Carr, TSR game designer, editor, writer, and executive (1976–1983)
“I thought I knew well the story of the meteoric rise of Dungeons & Dragons. Jon Peterson proves me half wrong as he reveals the labyrinth beneath the castle that Gygax and Arneson built. This book is the essential history of the personal perils, business pitfalls, and legal combats risked in the creation of the world's first roleplaying game.”
Sam Witwer, actor, Dungeon Master, part-time Sith
“While we were busy exploring the Tomb of Horrors in the 1980s, little did we know that the creators of Dungeons & Dragons were on a real-world adventure of their own—filled with tricks, traps, treasure hoards, and illusions—that nearly resulted in the dreaded Total Party Kill. Game Wizards is a gripping read and the definitive account of their quest.”
Ray Winninger, Executive Producer of Dungeons & Dragons, Wizards of the Coast
“Every great empire needs a legendary historian. For Dungeons & Dragons, the foremost authority is unquestionably and without a doubt Jon Peterson. After tireless research and interviews, Jon now brings us the most harrowing quest ever to happen in D&D—and it's anything but fantasy. Jon meticulously documents the true story of the triumphant rise of the timeless tabletop game, and its even more utterly fascinating and heartbreakingly dramatic demise. This real life saga will be a page turner for hardcore tabletop gamers, but the mind-blowing events that Jon documents will absolutely captivate any reader.”
Adam F. Goldberg, TV showrunner, writer–producer, Half-elf Ranger proficient in bows and short swords
"The battle Over Dungeons & Dragons was the ultimate geek war."
"A deep dive into a significant controversy in the gaming world: who deserves credit for the meteoric rise of Dungeons & Dragons and blame for the subsequent avalanche of public spats, lawsuits, and business bungling...A good dungeon crawl... treasures abound for experienced adventurers."
"In Game Wizards: The Epic Battle for Dungeons & Dragons, historian Jon Peterson hopes to lay to rest the rumors and speculation that have plagued the early history of D&D. At the center of this new book is the feud between co-creators Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax. His work relies on a treasure trove of firsthand interviews and primary documentation, as well as remnants from the lost archives of D&D's original publisher, TSR."
“Jon Peterson's “Game Wizards” is an in-depth history – and I really do mean in-depth – of the creation of Dungeons and Dragons and in particular the ugly struggle for control of TSR. It's vivid and incredibly well-researched, although this particular niche is… well, it's very niche.”
"Game Wizards makes a fascinating reading. We have never, ever seen such a level of detail and documentation regarding the inner workings of TSR down to board meetings and executives' plans and ideas. The book shines a really strong light on the 'secret history' of the company"
Dungeon Master Magazine
"a lively and readable history of the game, its first owners, and their fumbling attempts to run a business."