It’s been 10 years since the death of Gary Gygax, the man who co-created Dungeons & Dragons. Now, Gygax’s family, through the auspices of the Gygax Trust, wants to bring his unpublished works to life as video games.
The Trust announced today that it has partnered with crowdfunding and investment website Fig. Together, they will begin a global search for the right developers to carry the legacy of Gary Gygax forward.
To accomplish their goal, the Gygax Trust has rejuvenated Gygax Games and installed Gary’s youngest son, Alex Gygax, as the CEO.
“I was gaming since I could walk and talk,” said Alex, who was raised in the family home in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. “My first D&D adventure I’d say was when I was four or five years old, running a solo campaign with my father on his work breaks. So I was playing D&D before I knew what any of that was.”
Alex told Polygon that at an early age he played an instrumental role in playtesting another creation of Gary’s, a tabletop role-playing game called Lejendary Adventure, which was licensed for a time to Troll Lord Games. The game is now out of print.
“I was playing in our Thursday group through the entire creation of the Lejendary product line,” Alex said, who is also one of the lead bartenders at a local pub called Sprecher’s. “Since then I’ve been working here in town, doing a lot of gaming, hanging out with the locals, going to my local game store. I’ve played everything from Xbox games to computer games, board games, over at my brother’s house or Magic: The Gathering events at the local game store.”
Alex said that his job will be to ensure that future projects based off his father’s work continue to retain the spirit of the original Dungeon Master. Right now the Gygax Trust is working to archive handwritten materials and Gary Gygax’s personal effects, some of which formed the basis for the creation of Dungeons & Dragons. Alex called the collection a “treasure trove.”
“One of the major ones that everyone knows about is his personal dungeon,” Alex said. “It was his personal D&D campaign that he had never released to the public. He didn’t want his game nights being destroyed by publishing his work and then having his group go out and buy it and find out all of his secrets. So that’s one of the main things that we have to use, and all the little side derivatives of that.”
More than anything, Alex said that he’s excited to find his father’s original work a new home in the future of digital role-playing games.
“I grew up playing this and I’m also a huge video gamer, so I’ve always wanted to see my dad’s work because I thought that they were some of the greatest stories and tough adventures,” Alex said. “I’ve always wanted to see them put out in the next level. Pen and paper is a dying art. Computer games, video games, they’re the next generation, the next wave of games and I’ve always wanted to see them on that new medium and I’ve always wanted to be working with someone who’s excited as I am about it.”
Alex said that many of the games that his father created were always meant to be digital properties, and the time is right to fulfill his wishes.
“He always had the intention of taking certain product lines and transferring them to the digital realm, it just never came to fruition,” Alex said. “There are a few lines that he created specifically with that in mind. So published or unpublished, there’s definitely the digital realm in mind with these lines. It’s something that has been talked about for a very long time, and I’m really excited to get this underway.”
Fig CEO Justin Bailey told Polygon that his company entered into a licensing agreement with the Gygax Trust with the intention of finding developers to pair with it. Ultimately, the Fig platform will be used to run the crowdfunding campaigns that will in turn produce the games.
“We’re running a full green-light process with our advisory board,” Bailey said, referring to the team of experienced game developers who help curate games on that platform. They include Randy Pitchford (Gearbox Software), Feargus Urquhart (Obsidian Entertainment), Tim Schafer (Double Fine Productions), Aaron Isaksen (Indie Fund), Alex Rigopulos (Harmonix Studios) and Brian Fargo (InXile Entertainment).
“Any developer who wants to propose something, get it in through firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll review it with our green light committee and with Alex to make sure that it’s a good fit. Once Alex is able to get the Gygax Games website up, that will be another avenue for submissions.”
So why did it take 10 years to bring these foundational pieces of Gary Gygax’s work to the digital space? Alex said that it was all simply a matter of timing.
“It’s just a combination of things,” he said. “Technology. Having the right group of people there. Wanting to have the fans involved and being able to keep some creative control. Maybe not full control, because we want a developer to be able to do what they’re good at, but making sure that it’s done with Gary’s spirit in mind. So being able to keep his spirit with everything is I think one of the really big parts of why we waited so long.”