Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Gygaxian Fantasy Worlds: An Introduction

For several weeks now, we’ve been hyping up the Gygaxian Fantasy World series on various platforms, Facebook, X, Instagram, and Twitch. It is something near and dear to most of us here in the Dens, even though all seven books were pulled from us in 2008. The echo of them remains, both at our tables, on our shelves, and at the outrageously high prices they cost on sites like eBay. But the more I post about them, the more I realize that though these world-building books might be household names here, their content and purpose might be unknown to others.

 In short, in 2001 Troll Lord Games reached out to Gary Gygax and asked him to write adventure modules for us, he replied with a friendly and heartfelt “no,” but countered, “I have something better. I have a series of books I would like to publish, an encyclopedia of sorts.”  In that same conversation, he spoke of Gord the Rogue and The Lost City of Gaxmoor, but the subject dearest to his heart in those days, as dear to him as Kings of England and Kings of France is today, was what he called the Gygaxian Fantasy Series.

 Side note for the beleaguered reader: I’m of course paraphrasing here, as the conversation between myself and Gary happened back in May of 2001, but as Othello says, “men are men, the best sometimes forget.” I have a smattering of emails about the opening round of negotiations (saved and printed by Mac Golden), but nothing beyond that from the early days. 

 Once the full scope of the Gygaxian Series was pitched it became obvious that what he intended was an open-ended series of books, an encyclopedia of RPGs and world-building. The first of the books was written and had been burning a hole in his noddle plate for some time. He described The Canting Crew as a “generic book from start to finish” which stood out as a book for the underworld. Long before Gangs of New York was playing on the big screen, Gary had created a sourcebook of such scholarly material that it was as close to a history book of thieves and the underworld’s classless society in the 1600s than it was a fantasy sourcebook. From there he wanted to publish even more, pitching titles like World Builder, another he had written called Living Fantasy and World Builder, as well as a Nations and Fortress book.

In the end, after several days of back and forth in legal wrangling in which Gary insisted on TLG paying him less than offered, saying “generous as that is Steve, such a royalty will bankrupt you,” we settled and signed a contract for an open-ended series called Gygaxian Fantasy Worlds.

 Side note for the beleaguered reader: The Gygaxian Fantasy Worlds led to one of the few arguments between Gary and myself. I thought the name too cumbersome; no one would remember it or be able to say it. We were coming off of a hard sales lesson in which we learned that Malady of Kings outsold Dzeebagd almost 3-1 (or 4-1 I can’t recall now and have little interest in going to look up those ancient reports) because retailers couldn’t pronounce the title of Dzeebagd, so they ordered Malady. But Gary, calmly explained it was a must to have his name in there, and the derivation would work perfectly. He was, as I told him later and happily admit now, right.

 We eventually published seven books for the Gygaxian Fantasy Worlds, three more were in the works when our adventure with Gary abruptly ended in 2008. But now, that time has slipped past, and the books returned to the Dens, we get to reinvent them and bring them back. This series of World Building books should never have left the shelves now returns. This March they come to Kickstarter.

 The Gygaxian Fantasy Worlds is an open-ended series of world-building, game, and character design encyclopedias that eventually included seven published books. There were more in the works, three nearing completion and more in the concept phase when the license was pulled, but Gary saw no end to the series. Troll Lord Games began publishing them in 2001 and continued until shortly after Gary crossed the bar. The books were published in the order they were received and Gary had no particular order in mind. The published books, the ones that will people the Kickstarter this March, were as follows:

·        The Canting Crew

·         World Builder

·         Living Fantasy

·         The Extraordinary Book of Names

·         Insidae An Adventure Builder

·         Nation Builder

·         Cosmos Builder

 But what are they? What fills these esoteric tomes of knowledge? In the following posts we’ll take a slightly closer look at each of these amazing books.

1 comment:

Marcus said...

This is great news! Glad I jumped on the KS fast.

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