Jim Ward

Drawmij the Wizard
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Jim Ward

Jim Ward

Drawmij the Wizard
I met Gary Gygax at a book store. He told me he had a game where I could play Conan and fight Set. Just like that I was hooked. I went over to his house and rolled up a wizard character in D&D. For the first adventure we went to Kong Island. Gary wanted to play test that adventure. I was first level and all the rest of the players were 5th and 6th. We wandered in the night a bit and found a...
You won't be surprised to know that the highly creative people at TSR often did amazing things in their game playing. I can distinctly remember having a fun lunch with Gary Gygax and he told me that he was very jealous of a few of the designer types at TSR because they ran their own home games. Gary explained to me that he was so busy running the company that he didn't have time to DM a game...
Let me give you a little background. I became the Director of Creative Services at TSR. Upper management wanted me to have that title so when I tried to manage the editors and designers my words carried a bit of weight. I had edited, designed, and worked on many types of production projects at TSR and other companies. This ensured that I spoke their language and I was difficult to give crazed...
First, let me correct a mistake I made when I wrote that Zeb Cook thought up the 'Baatezu' & 'Tanar'ri' demon and devil new names. My friend Jim LaFountain quite rightly pointed out that he was the creator of those terms. Sorry Jim. My blunder transitions perfectly into this article. When I was at TSR the process of naming products was very important. I spent many an hour with sales...
Let me start by saying that I believe Gary Gygax was a gaming genius. That genius included a lot of skills in crafting D&D designs. I have experienced literally hundreds of DM styles. Gary's style was head and shoulders better than the best of those. He was able to make the adventuring experience come alive in your minds. I have seen just as many written dungeons. I got a look at Gary's...
First, let me say, that every word of this is fact and I am not exaggerating one word of it.
Life at TSR was very good and very bad. It started out in 1983. TSR had 386 employees and nepotism had raised its ugly head. You couldn’t throw a rock anywhere in the TSR offices without hitting a cousin, daughter, son, uncle, wife or husbands of any of those, or aunt of the Blume brothers and the Gygaxs working or barely working at TSR. Off topic for a second, the person that replaced me...
We had a lot of design talent in the heyday of TSR. Zeb Cook and Jeff Grubb strode the world like giants and put together some amazing million dollar profit centers. There were other designers and editors and supervisors that also generated great stuff. However, I often had to get after those designers for something I called "Designeritus." Jeff Grubb bless his heart was the worst, but Troy...
In the very early to mid '80s religious nongamer people discovered AD&D had magical spells and demons and devils in its rules. The problems started with Sears and Penny's retail stores. TSR was selling thousands of Player Handbooks and Dungeon Master's Guides every month to both of those companies. I know this because I was in sales and inventory control at the time.
The time is about 1987. I had played Ultima and thought a computer game license could be great for TSR; besides I wanted to play a D&D computer game. I was surfing the net on a Commodore 64 and that was interesting and that effort gave me a little insight into the computer game industry. I went to upper management and pitched them the idea of searching for a computer game license. They didn't think much of the concept.
In the '70s and early '80s the United States military used a system of infrared beams called the MILES system. The beams would hit sensors on a chest set of units and start beeping. This would cause the hit soldier to know they took a deadly strike. Training with these systems was an effective way for troops to learn combat situations.
The time is 1975. I'm a substitute teacher and I've learned how to play D&D at Gary Gygax's house. He and his family are wonderful hosts. Every Saturday in warm weather we are playing on his side porch. The group is Gary's son Ernie in 9th grade; some of Ernie's friends, and some of Gary's adult friends including Brian Blume, Gary's partner in TSR.
One of the great joys of working at TSR was being part of the group that played in Gary Gygax's weekly game. Over the years we had been the test subjects for many of the now classic Gygax adventures.
The time is 1987 and I was the Vice President of the design and editors. It was a great job because TSR had amazing people doing the design and editing of product. I wasn't liked much by upper management at TSR after Gary left the company. I don't do well with authority figures that I do not believe know what they are doing. So I was fairly sure I didn't have long to work at TSR. However, I didn't count on the product schedule keeping me there for as long as it did.
Gods, Demigods, & Heroes was a D&D supplement that I suggested to Gary [Gygax] and it was published in 1976. It presented gods and heroes for D&D. In those days there was no google or internet research features and so I had to do a great deal of library research to get the book done. I used the Golden Bough for a great deal of the legendary treatment. I read all the novels of the authors I mentioned in the book. The concept was a first attempt at combining gods into the game and sold well.
As “Young Jim Ward” I started out in the sales department as the inventory controller. It was my job to order the boxes and parts for the games and especially the D&D box set. That game was selling 100,000 units a month. One of “Young Jim Ward’s” jobs was to make sure the Hong Kong dice came in on time to fill the next batch of 100,000 boxes.

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