TSR, WotC, & Paizo: A Comparative History

This chart lists major events in the RPG industry in a timeline, including TSR, Wizards of the Coast, Paizo Publishing, and General RPG.


Also see From TSR to WotC: A History of D&D
Wizards of the Coast
(founded 1990)

Also see Ex-WotC Employees
Paizo Publishing
(founded 2002)

Also see Paizo Restrospective
(founded 14 billion years ago)

Also see The Internet
1812In 1812, Lieutenant Georg Leopold von Reiswitz creates the Kriegsspiel wargame to train Prussian officers.
1898The first non-military gaming convention is held by Naval enthusiast and analyst Fred T. Jane in Oxford, Engand.
1913H.G. Wells' creates a set of rules for playing with toy soldiers called Little Wars, ushering in miniature games.
1952Avalon Hill is founded by Charles S. Roberts, "the father of board wargaming".
1958The modern commercial board wargaming industry is considered to have begun with Avalon Hill's publication of Tactics II.
1967The first "Gen Con" is a gathering of 12 wargaming enthusiasts at Gary Gygax's home in Lake Geneva.

Gen Con established as a wargames convention in the Horticultural Hall at Lake Geneva by Gary Gygax.

Dave Arneson creates Blackmoor, the first fantasy RPG campaign.
Don Kaye, Mike Reese, Leon Tucker, and Gary Gygax create a military miniatures society called Lake Geneva Tactical Studies Association. Robert Kuntz and Gygax found the Castle & Crusade Society.
Chainmail -- "The progenitor of Dungeons & Dragons. Ostensibly a straight-wargaming rulebook for miniatures, its "Fantasy Supplement" sparked a phenomenon."
1972Dave Arneson visits Gen Con at Lake Geneva and adapts his Blackmoor campaign to the Chainmail rules. The Fantasy Game is written by Gygax and Arneson. This is what would later be published as D&D.
1973Avalon Hill turns down Gygax's offer to publish the new game. Gygax quits his job in insurance and he and Don Kaye form Tactical Studies Rules, an equal partnership.
1974Original D&D (OD&D) Released, based on The Fantasy Game. A D&D review from 1974 by Arnold Hendrick. ".... I do not suggest these to the average wargamer." Brian Blume becomes a partner in the new Tactical Studies Rules.
1975Supplement I: Greyhawk published as an expansion for D&D. The Strategic Review magazine is launched.

Don Kaye passes away. His widow dissolves Tactical Studies Rules dissolved and Gygax and Blume found TSR Hobbies.

Dungeon! boardgame is launched, along with Aneson's Blackmoor supplement and the Boot Hill game.

Games Workshop is founded by John Peake, Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson. The Origins Game Fair launches in Baltimore.

The Dragon
magazine is launched. Palace of the Vampire Queen is the first free-standing adventure ever released.
Metamorphosis Alpha is the first sci-fi RPG.
Gen Con is now managed by TSR.

Brian and Kevin Blume gain majority control of TSR. Dave Arneson leaves TSR.
Judges Guild founded by Bob Bledsaw and Bill Owen. City State of the Invincible Overlord is released.
1977Dungeons & Dragons Basic Boxed Set (Holmes)

White Dwarf Magazine
is launched by Games Workshop. Game Designers' Workshop (a different company) launches the Traveller RPG. Winter Fantasy convention launches.
1978Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (1st Edition)

Gamma World is launched.

is launched by Chaosium.
1979The Forgotten Realms makes its first appearance as an article in DRAGON Magazine.

David L. Arneson, Plaintiff vs. Gary Gygax, Tactical Study Rules, a partnership consisting of Gary Gygax and Brian Blume, and TSR Hobbies, INC., a corporaton, Defendants.
Villains and Vigilantes published by Fantasy Games Unlimited.

James Dallas Egbert III attempts suicide under the steam tunnels of Michigan State University. D&D is blamed.

Choose Your Own Adventure is launched.

The World of Greyhawk
folio edition released. Frank Mentzer creates the RPGA.

TSR launches Top Secret.
Steve Jackson Games in founded. FASA is founded. Iron Crown Enterprises is also founded.
1981BECMI Editions of D&D (Moldvay). Polyhedron Magazine is launched.

Call of Cthulhu
is launched by Chaosium. Paladium Books is founded by Kevin Siembieda. Hero Games launches Champions.

Mazes and Monsters, a fictionalized account of the James D. Egbert “steam tunnel incident”, published by Delacorte Press, exacerbating anti-D&D sentiment.
1982Star Frontiers and Gangbusters launched.

ICE launches Rolemaster. FASA launches the Star Trek RPG. Warlock of Firetop Mountain is the first of a series of Fighting Fantasy books by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone,
which add dice and combat to the Choose Your Own Adventure concept.
Mayfair launches the Role Aids line of D&D-compatible products.

Mazes & Monsters becomes a TV movie starring Tom Hanks.

Irving Lee “Bink” Pulling kills himself. According to his mother Patricia, “hours after a D&D curse was placed on him during a game conducted at his local high school”. She sues the principal and then latter TSR over the death of her son.
1983D&D cartoon series.

The company becomes TSR, Inc.

Gygax loses control of TSR -- "I was pretty much boxed out of the running of the company because the two guys, who between them had a controlling interest, thought they could run the company better than I could." (see Gary Gygax Interview and Gary Gygax Interview Pt. 2)

Games Workshop launches Warhammer Fantasy Battle. The Palladium Role-Playing Game is launched.

Patricia Pulling creates the Bothered About Dungeons & Dragons (BADD) advocacy group.

Dragonlance Chronicles
novel series launched, based on the Dragons of Despair adventure module.

Lorraine Williams hired as manager of TSR.

Marvel Super Heroes launched, as is the Indiana Jones RPG.
The first mass-market Apple Macintosh ushers in widespread desktop publishing.

Iron Crown Enterprises launches Middle-earth Role Playing (MERP). FASA launches Battletech.

Jack Chick writes the Dark Dungeons tract, adding to the anti-D&D hysteria.
1985Lorraine Williams gains control of TSR after purchasing a majority of shares. Gygax leaves in December 1985.

Gen Con moves to Milwaukee.

setting launched. Dungeon Adventures magazine launched.

Steve Jackson Games launches GURPS.

Forgotten RealmsCampaign Set
launched based on Ed Greenwood's home campaign.
Lisa Stevens joins Jonathan Tweet and Mark Rein-Hagen in Lion Rampant, which launches Ars Magica.

Games Workshop launches Warhammer 40,000. WEG launches Star Wars d6.
1988The Pool of Radiance video game is released.

The Crystal Shard marks the first appearance of Drizzt Do'Urden.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition. Spelljammer settng released.
View attachment 61902

FASA launches Shadowrun.

setting launched.
WotC founded by Peter Adkison
Lion Rampant merges with White Wolf.

RIFTS is launched by Palladium Books.
dark sun.jpg

Dark Sun
setting launched. Sweetpea Entertainment first options the rights to a D&D movie.
Lisa Stevens leaves White Wolf and joins Adkison's new company, WotC

White Wolf Publishing is founded. Vampire: the Masquerade is launched.
1992Al-Qadim setting launched.The Primal Order; Talislanta 3E
1993TSR v Mayfair Games

Magic: The Gathering
is launched.

Council of Wyrms
setting released. Planescape setting released.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition revised. Birthright campaign setting released.
The Primal Order revised edition
1997Acquiring TSR by Ryan Dancey. "In the winter of 1997, I traveled to Lake Geneva Wisconsin on a secret mission... I found myself standing in the snow outside of 201 Sheridan Springs Road staring at a building bearing a sign that said "TSR, Incorporated". Inside the building, I found a dead company."WotC Acquires TSR -- "Wizards of the Coast Inc. today announced the completion of its acquisition of TSR Inc., finalizing a transaction that began in April when the two leaders of the adventure gaming industry announced the signing of a letter of intent. Both companies are privately held, and financial terms of the deal are not being disclosed."

WotC granted US patent on collectible card games.
1998TSR attempts to sue Sweetpea for the D&D movie rights, but they are re-licensed to Sweetpea.

WotC starts publishing the Pokemon CCG. WotC acquires The Game Keeper chain of gaming stores, changing its name to Wizards of the Coast. Hasbro Acquires WotC.

The Dragon Magzine CD-ROM Archive is released.
Eric Noah's Unofficial D&D 3rd Edition News opens. The EverQuest MMORPG is launched.

Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition
released, as well as Star Wars d20; plus Ryan Dancey introduces the d20 System and the Open Gaming Movement

Kenzer & Co. gains a 7-yr license to use the D&D branding on its Kalamar products as part of a settlement with WotC due to their use of Kenzer's IP in the Dragon Magazine CD-ROM Archive.
Lisa Stevens (WotC Star Wars brand manager) leaves WotCDungeons & Dragons movie released. Everyone cried a little inside.
2001Peter Adkison (founder) leaves WotC; press release and his open letter. "Effective January 1, 2001, Vince Caluori, current President, will assume the duties of CEO. Peter Adkison, current Wizards of the Coast CEO, has made the decision to leave the company and enjoy some well-deserved time off to pursue new interests."

EN World opens on Jan 1 2001; Eric Noah's site closes later that year. The first ENnies ceremony takes place, hosted by Gary Gygax.

RPGNow launches, ushering in the age of easy RPG PDF publishing.

d20 Modern
is launched. DRAGON and DUNGEON magazines are licensed to Paizo. Chuck Huebner becomes President and CEO.
Paizo Publishing founded by Lisa Stevens. Paizo Publishing acquired the rights to publish both DRAGON and DUNGEON under license from Wizards of the Coast.

Gen Con is sold to former WotC CEO Peter Adkison. Mutants & Masterminds is launched by Green Ronin.
2003Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition revised (v3.5) released.

D&D collectible pre-painted plastic miniatures launch.
2003: Fine-Tuning the Magazine Business
--Johnny Wilson leaves Paizo.

Eve Online
is launched by CCP. Gen Con moves to Indianapolis.

All WotC stores closed. Eberron campaign setting launched. Loren Greenwood becomes President and CEO.
2004: The Worst of Times -- Star Wars magazines cease production.

World of Warcraft
MMORPG is launched by Blizzard Entertainment.

Facebook is launched, changing the way gamers communicate online. It will soon be followed by Twitter and Google+.
2005: Laying the Foundation
-- The Age of Worms adventure path debuts in DUNGEON magazine.
2006WotC sues Daron Rutter, administrator of the MTGSalvation website for posting confidential prototypes for Magic: The Gathering card sets.2006: Battling Headwinds -- The DRAGON and DUNGEON licenses are cancelled; Paizo almost closes.

White Wolf merges with Eve Online publisher CCP. Dungeons & Dragons Online (DDO) launches.

DRAGON and DUNGEON magazines cease print production after a 32-year run. D&D Insider announced at Gen Con as a subscription-based electronic supplement to D&D. Star Wars SAGA Edition is released. D&D 4th Edition is announced.
2007: The Year Everything Changed -- Jason Bulmahn works on the new Pathfinder RPG.
2008Gary Gygax passes away.

Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition
released. Greg Leeds becomes President and CEO.
2008: Forging Our Own Path -- With lack of info on a D&D 4E license, Paizo decides to forge ahead with its own RPG, Pathfinder.
2009Dave Arneson passes away.WotC pulls all PDF versions of its products from online stores in order to "combat piracy".pathfinder.jpg
2009: Launching Our Own RPG
--Pathfinder officially launches to great success.

Kickstarter.com is launched, paving the way for hundreds of new products.

Dungeons & Dragons Essentials
launched. WotC's Star Wars license ends in May.
2010: Following Up on Our SuccessesPathfinder ties D&D for first place in the quarterly ICv2 hobby games survey.

Charles S Roberts, "The Father of Board Wargaming", passes away.
2011: Taking On the Role of Industry Leader

Goblinworks founded by Ryan Dancey, Lisa Stevens and Mark Kalmes to produce the Pathfinder MMO.​
In Q2 2011, Pathfinder becomes the top-selling RPG according to ICv2.

D&D 5th Edition
Announced and public playtest begins
2012: Laying Groundwork for the Future

Geek & Sundry launches the Tabletop web series.
2013WotC and DTRPG join forces to launch D&D Classics and a new PDF retail program.
2014D&D 5th Edition Release. The Starter Set launches in June, the Player's Handbook in August, the Monster Manual in September, and the Dungeon Master's Guide in December.Ryan Dancey leaves Goblinworks; Goblinworks lays off most employees.D&D regains the top spot in the ICv2 charts.
2015D&D 5E SRD released under the OGL; DMs Guild webstore launched.Critical Role launches.
2017Starfinder released.
2018Pathfinder 2E announced. Playtest launched.
2019Pathfinder 2E released at Gen Con.
2021WotC announces 'One D&D', a new edition of D&D coming in 2024.
2022WotC acquires D&D Beyond.

WotC announces OGL v1.2a and intention to revoke OGL v1.0.
2023D&D: Honor Among Thieves hits cinemas.
Also see From TSR to WotC: A History of D&D and Ex-WotC Employees. For the Top 5 RPGs in each year, see Top 5 RPGs Compiled Charts 2008-Present.
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Lord Rasputin

Other events:

1968?: David Weseley's first Braunstein
1996: 2.5e Players Options books (not that anyone ever played them)
Sometime in the 200s: merger of RPGNow and DriveThruRPG

The individual AD&D books were so monumental that they might each warrant a mention, until 2e. Unearthed Arcana especially. The whole bit with TSR UK, White Dwarf, and the Fiend Folio. End of non-GW content in White Dwarf in the Eighhties, as well as the run of Space Gamer.


Chaotic Looseleaf
Two "general" or possibly "TSR" items that may be worth including are the founding of the International Wargaming Foundation by Bill Speer, Gary Gygax, and Scott Duncan in 1966, and that organization's first convention in Malvern, Pennsylvania, in July 1967.



Note that the Gen Con archivists got the date for the Malvern IFW convention wrong -- it apparently did inspire Gary's August 1967 Gen Con 0, but it happened a month earlier, in July 1967; not a year earlier. There's a scanned image of the program in this Gygax memorial article at Wired.com, courtesy of Gail Gygax:


Here's a cool (if highly opinionated) secondary source, published by the original Avalon Hill Company as the cover story of Volume 4, Issue 3 of their "The General" magazine:



Chaotic Looseleaf
Also, just because there's so much misinformation about this event out there already: James Dallas Egbert III did not commit suicide in the steam tunnels under MSU. His /disappearance/ was blamed on the suspicion that he had died in the steam tunnels while playing live action D&D, but the private detective hired to find him eventually found him alive and well at the nearby house of a friend.

Egbert did eventually commit suicide, but that didn't make the news. Neither did his discovery, although the private investigator wrote a book about the case, The Dungeon Master: The Disappearance of James Dallas Egbert III, that exonerates D&D completely (in his professional opinion, of course). It might not be a bad source to cite just for an alternate perspective.
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formerly roadtoad
awesome list!

I might include the 1979 Avalon Hill release of Magic Realm on the list. While not really and RPG, it is interesting that 5 years after turning down Gygax, they advertised that the game was "an effort to out-D&D D&D" and "If you are a D&D enthusiast who thrives on endless game systems, you'll love MAGIC REALM."

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