Dungeons & Dragons creator’s unpublished work to be turned into video games

Elastolin figures from the Siege of Bodenburg set. These figures were part of Gary Gygax’s inspiration for Dungeons & Dragons, the original role-playing game. This set was displayed inside Lucas Oil Stadium in 2017 as part of the 50th anniversary of Gen Con.
Charlie Hall/Polygon
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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 Now, Gygax’s family, through the auspices of the Gygax Trust, wants to bring his unpublished works to life as video games.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.

A Gygax family photo showing Gary Gygax with one of his gaming groups. Left to right: Jeff Burklow, John P. Seibwl, Gary Gygax, Brad Burklow and Bill Johnson.
Gygax Trust

“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.”

Alex Gygax was one of the first playtesters of Lejendary Adventure, a role-playing system by Gary Gygax and published for a time by Troll Lord Games. You can still find the quick-start rules at their website.
Hekaforge Productions and Troll Lord Games

“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 pitches@fig.co 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.”

Comments

Bioware of old would be awesome for this. I loved Neverwinter Nights and Baldur’s Gate.

Pen and paper is a dying art. Computer games, video games, they’re the next generation…

Speaking of out of touch…

Just now tweeted about that line… I’m not in a place to know, but I mentioned it doesn’t SEEM to be dying, and I certainly hope he is wrong.

It isn’t tabletop roleplaying has had quite considerable resurgence within the past few years thanks to stuff like Critical Role.

The internet—and computers—have been a huge boon to roleplaying games, even if they’re not necesarily run on the typical ‘tabletop’. Roll20, Fantasy Grounds, other ‘virtual tabletops’, the easy distribution of gamebooks as PDFs/e-pubs instead of having to haul actual books around (though I will freely admit that flipping through an actual book is far preferable to scanning through a PDF, at least for me, when I’m dealing with looking for rules), the aforementioned boom of Critical Role (and other shows like it)…

That quote blows my mind, and really makes me question whether his heart is in this or if he’s just looking to monetize his father’s unpublished work. Take a look at kickstarter, take a look at youtube and/or twitch, and then tell me that in the year 2018 pen and paper is a dying art. This son of a Gygax may have simply suffered a brain fart and said some stupid shit; or else he’s an out of touch imbecile.

The son is not even looking to create something with his father’s work… he’s looking to sell a license to someone else to create something. Talk about a low-effort project to profit from his dead dad.

That said, I do think it’s very likely that some great products could come from this, and I look forward to the results, even if I don’t have a ton of respect for the ‘selling dead relatives’ unpublished IP’ process.

I wish copyright was 14 years. Period. Not ‘lifetime of author + 70’. Ah well.

So let me get this straight. You made three very vague references to DIGITAL ONLY mediums to "prove" that pen and paper aren’t dead and yet it is the Gygax kid who is out of touch? O.k. suuuure.

Are you being intentionally obtuse? Those are three digital places where you can see for yourself that Pen and Paper RPG’s are thriving. New ones are being written and published all the time. People are playing them extensively, and producing podcasts/video about playing them for other players to enjoy. Do you think that because RPG.net is thriving that that somehow means Pen and Paper are dead?

You could also go check out your local Gaming Store or GenCon, but those a touch more difficult to do that browse YouTube.

Both daddy Gygax and his kid were/are out of touch. The father for releasing this (frankly, quite terrible) RPG in 2005 when the traditional RPG market was cratering and the indie RPG scene was taking off. And his son for insisting that "PNP is dead" in a day where D&D/RPGs are literally more popular than ever. The new edition of D&D is pretty consistently on the top 20 list of books (not RPGs, but books in general) at Amazon, and it’s sold more copies than the last 3 editions combined.

Kickstarter – Go look in the games section and see how many roleplaying games are on there.
Twitch – Critical Role, various other streamed RPG’s
Youtube – Actual plays of tabletop games etc.
Actual play podcasts of tabletop RPG’s of which there are a lot.

Yet it’s patently obvious that pen & paper/tabletop RPGs are getting a resurgence because of digital media, not in spite of it. Alex Gygax isn’t exactly correct to say pen & paper is dying, but he’s not exactly wrong either – it’s just way more digitally augmented and integrated now.

There’s definitely more use of things like tablets and roll20 to play today, but I’m not sure that’s what’s driving this. I mean, boardgames are enjoying the same renaissance, but without all that associated digital stuff.

SERIOUSLY! i’ve been into ttrpgs since the 90s, but i have been playing FAR more games, FAR more often, since roll20 came on the scene. digital tools have made ttrpgs much easier and more accessible than ever before.

unless by "pen and paper" he means people literally sitting around a table with literal pens and literal paper. even when i do play in person, i’ve been using an ipad for sourcebooks and character sheets for almost 10 years at this point. so yeah, maybe THAT aspect is dying out… but from where i’m standing, the games themselves look like they’re thriving.

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