Author and gaming historian Jon Peterson’s upcoming book will detail the infamous falling out between Dungeons & Dragons co-creators Gary Gygax and the late Dave Arneson.
In his latest book, Game Wizards: The Epic Battle for Dungeons & Dragons, Peterson details the lengthy dispute that resulted in a lawsuit causing Gygax to lose his place in the company. The legal battle is also largely responsible for the subsequent closure of TSR Inc., the original D&D publisher that was co-founded by Gygax in 1973. In the book, Peterson tells the full story behind the turbulent relationship of the D&D co-creators, from the release of the revolutionary tabletop classic in 1974 to their eventual fallout.
Peterson recently sat down for an interview with Polygon, where he discussed the upcoming publication ahead of the D&D’s 50th anniversary. Peterson talked about his methodology behind documenting Gygax’s blustery departure, saying, “That was my initial look at mechanically how it was Gary lost access to the company. In the intervening seven years that I’ve been working on this, I get stuff from wherever I can. From private collections, sometimes people are selling things on Facebook or on eBay, that I can pick up.” One of the most notable documents Peterson uncovered is an account of D&D’s first quarterly sales handwritten by Gygax himself. The small pink slip of paper reveals that the game earned just $106 in royalties during its first quarter.
As Peterson continued to preview his upcoming publication, he discussed the different schools of thought that have developed in the years since Gygax’s departure. “In the past few decades there have been people who have volunteered that perhaps Gary Gygax did all the work on D&D, or perhaps Dave Arneson did the work on D&D; or how Dave Arneson was being cheated on royalties; and what exactly the substance of his lawsuit was with TSR,” said Peterson.
Peterson went on to mention that some opinions on the feud have been subject to historical revisionism and that his new book will be his attempt to present an impartial account of the dispute. “A lot of these things were said long after the fact, and they were colored by all kinds of factors, [including] the vagaries of memory. They were [also] colored by long-standing animosity that had been festering for so many years, and this is my attempt to really penetrate that,” explains Peterson.
Peterson’s 2020 publication Heroes’ Feast: The Official D&D Cookbook, became a New York Times bestseller. He was also nominated for a Hugo Award following the release of Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana: A Visual History in 2018. Game Wizards: The Epic Battle for Dungeons & Dragons will release on Oct. 12, and can be pre-ordered in local bookstores or online, for those interested in his full account of the infamous D&D feud.
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