Gary Gygax Biography – Dungeons & Dragons Creator

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Gary Gygax Bio

Gary Gygax was the creator of the first commercially available RPG. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons.

  • Birth DateJuly 27, 1938
  • Birth Name Ernst Gary Gygax
  • Death Date04/03/2008
  • Also Known As The Father of Role Playing Games
  • Father's Name Ernst Gygax
  • Mother's Name Almina Burdick Gygax
  • Birth Place Chicago, USA
  • Birth Sign Leo
  • Nationality American
  • Profession Game Designer, Author
  • Net Worth $5 Million
  • Partner Mary Jo Powell (1958-1983), Gail Carpenter (1987-2008, his death).
  • Relationship Status Married
  • Eye Color Brown
  • Hair Color White
  • Children Luke Gygax, Ernest Gygax Jr, Cindy Lee Gygax, Heidi Jo Gygax, Alexander Hugh Hamilton Gygax, Mary Elise Gygax.
  • Awards Honors Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts and Design Origins Award Hall of Fame, 30 Most Influential People in Gaming
  • IMDB
  • Wikipedia

Ernest Gary Gygax, aka Gary Gygax, was an American game designer and author best known for his popular role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons. Known as the father of role-playing games, Gary sadly passed away on March 4, 2008, at 69. He co-founded Tactical Studies Rules (TSR) with his late friend Don Kaye.

Gygax and Kaye were childhood friends. They wrote Troll Lord Games together as they were interested in role-playing games. The duo started by playing miniature war games after developing mutual love and appreciation for fantasy and science fiction. Then, they began designing their own miniature rules for toy soldiers, including where they used firecrackers to simulate explosions.

Despite the vast popularity of the author, many still don’t know much about Gary’s personal life. So, let’s learn more about his career, family, games, and net worth in this article.

Troublesome Relationship With Kaye

On July 27, 1938, Gary was born to Swiss Immigrant and former violinist Ernst Gygax and his wife, Almina Burdick Gygax, in Chicago. He was named after his father, but his middle name was given to him by his mother after her favorite actor Gary Cooper. When Ernest Gary was eight years old, the family moved to Almina’s family home in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

After moving to a new location, Gygax became acquainted with Don Kaye and Mary Jo Powell. The trio started playing simulation games that eventually became their famous live-action role-playing games. The young boy also started getting obsessed with the stories written by authors before his time, such as Jack Vance, H.P. Lovecraft, Fritz Leiber, and others.

Gary Gygax Childhood
Gary Gygax became interested in role-playing games from earlier. Image Source: The Hobby Shop Dungeon’s Facebook.

Gary lost his interest in education after his father introduced him to science fiction and fantasy novels, and he dropped out of high school early on. Having joined the Marines, he wanted to take a firm hold on his career but was given a medical discharge after being diagnosed with Atypical pneumonia. Then, with a couple more jobs, he was introduced to a new wargame called Gettysburg.

Having been totally into the game, he began to order hex-mapping sheets to design his own game. Gygax started playing the game with his best friend Don, but their relationship soon became stranded as they both had feelings for Mary Jo. Kaye even went as far as not to attend Mary and Gary’s wedding. They had a troubled relationship but soon left the past behind after the marriage.

Unfortunately, Don died after suffering a heart attack at 36, on January 31, 1975.

Also Read: More About Video Game Director Hidetaka Miyazaki

Gary Gygax Net Worth – $5 Million

The primary source of Gary’s income was his role-playing creation, most notably Dungeons & Dragons. However, his firm also helped increase his wealth. Hence, Gary Gygax’s net worth was estimated to be a whopping $5 million.

The self-publishing company TSR earned $16 million in revenue at the end of 1982. But, Gary left TSR in 1985 and started focusing on fantasy stories and novels. With his contribution to role-playing games (RPG), the electronic RPG’s price has elevated in today’s market.

Gygax is quite a celebrated icon in the gaming field, and his works have inspired many other games. For instance, Dungeons & Dragons was adapted into movies in the early 2000s, along with a famous animated show of the same name in 1983, which he co-produced, making him more money.

In addition, a new movie about the game is set to release in 2023, starring Chris Pine. Gary’s influence grew so much that the famous animated show Futurama made a cameo about him.

Aside from that, the game designer has created other games like Dangerous Journeys, Lejendary Adventure, Castle Crusades, etc. He has also authored many books and some of their prices are tabulated below:

Books Prices
Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual: Special Reference Work $55.92 (Hardcover)
Official Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, Unearthed Arcana $35 (Hardcover)
Players Handbook (Advanced Dungeons & Dragons) $219 (Paperback)
Dungeon Masters Guide $439 (Hardcover)

Table Source: Amazon

With all these projects, it’s safe to say that Gary Gygax’s net worth of $5 million is significantly reasonable. Jack Lisowski is another famous personality with immense wealth.

He Was Married Twice

Gary was married twice in his life. He married his first wife, Mary Jo Powell, at the age of 20. As mentioned earlier, she was also his childhood friend and bonded with him over role-playing games.

At first, Mary was also into RPGs but later got tired of her husband’s obsession with them. Gary Gygax’s first wife suspected he was having an affair but found out he was planning for the game with maps and sheets all over the place. Furthermore, the ex-pair divorced in 1983.

Afterward, Gary married Gail Carpenter in 1987. She had always supported her husband’s creativity. In addition, Gary Gygax’s second wife founded the Gygax Memorial Fund after his death.

Had Six Children

Gary is survived by his six children. He and his first wife had five children, Luke Gygax, Ernest Gygax Jr., Cindy Gygax, Heidi Gygax, and Mary Elise Gygax, before their divorce. Moreover, Gary Gygax’s son, Luke, is following in his footsteps and is an author of a book called ‘The Eye of Chentoufi.’

Gary Gygax Son Luke Gygax
Gary Gygax’s son Luke has written a book, The Eye of Chentoufi. Image Source: Luke Gygax’s Instagram.

With his second spouse, Gary has a son named Alexander Gygax. He is the CEO of Gugax Games and is working to promote his dad’s legacy of gaming.

Having lived a successful and comfortable life, Gary’s cause of death was very severe. He suffered two strokes before he had an abdominal aortic aneurysm. Although the world has lost a game designing genius, Gary will forever remain in everyone’s memories.