Gygax was surprised to find both of the Blume brothers in attendance

Monday, October 18th, 2021

In the fall of 1985, Gary Gygax was the most famous and powerful figure in hobby gaming, Jon Peterson explains:

October 22 was a Tuesday, and Gygax was wrapping up another day at TSR corporate headquarters on Sheridan Springs Road in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. His last appointment was a board meeting just after close of business; with 1,371 shares of stock, he held controlling interest in the company, and thus chaired the board. The meeting started late, at quarter past five. Five of the company’s six directors were present: two of the independent directors, James Huber and Wesley Sommer, and then the three principal shareholders: Gygax, Brian Blume, and Kevin Blume. Gygax was surprised to find both of the Blume brothers in attendance. Though they held a substantial stake in the company—as a family, nearly one thousand shares total—they had lost their executive positions at TSR following a reorganization the previous year.

The board proceeded to review the company’s turbulent negotiations with the American National Bank before moving on to the ostensible purpose of the meeting, a discussion regarding TSR’s royalty payments to authors. In recent internal memos, Gygax had insisted that the company allow its employees, himself especially, to retain all copyrights, trademarks, and royalties for works authored rather than assigning them to TSR; in the eyes of other directors, this was in violation of existing contracts. During the course of this discussion, Gygax mused that since it seemed the board would find it easier to afford him these privileges if he were not an employee, perhaps he should just resign.

It was of course preposterous for a majority shareholder to suggest their own resignation, but Gygax found the room coldly receptive to this course of action. The presence of the Blumes worried him. He turned to the Board Secretary, Willard Martens, to ask if his personal stake relative to the other shareholders had changed recently. At first, Martens replied only that Lorraine Williams had exercised her option for 50 shares in TSR. Williams had joined the company in April as Vice President of Administration; her options alone could not endanger Gygax’s majority.

“Have there been any other changes?” Gygax further inquired.

Martens only then volunteered, “Brian Blume exercised his option for seven hundred shares.”

Realization set in. Gary Gygax said simply, “I see.”

What did Gygax see, in that moment? He saw enough shares in play that he stood to lose control of TSR, a company he had founded and transformed into a global brand. But he surely also saw something even more dear at stake: that he might lose control of Dungeons & Dragons.


  1. Sam J. says:

    Nice to know if I’ve ever marooned n the water.

  2. Albion says:

    About 20 years ago I played D&D. Elf archer if I recall. However within a few moves my Elf fell down a hole and I suppose is still there. Must be lonely by now.

  3. The American Muse says:

    Oh I may as well throw my character sheets out there as well. I played in an Advanced Dungeons and Dragons game for many years at my local game store, every other friday night which lasted into the early hours of saturday. There was a “core” of about five to… eight? regulars, myself included, and who knows how many one-timers, fair weather comrades, and kids popping in and out of the game. When I joined, the game had already been going for a few years, and the group had just wrapped up Gary Gygax’s TEMPLE OF ELEMENTAL EVIL module. We detoured to CASTLE AMBER, another TSR era module, and did a bunch of stuff after that but none of it was memorable until we organized an expedition AGAINST THE GIANTS. That irl-two year long campaign, and the following modules into the Underdark against the Drow, is the most memorable of my TTRPG experiences. I played an elven Illusionist; He had robes to blend into anything, wands, tablets of spells, and it was great fun trying to creatively use my illusions to blind or trick our opponents (and occasionally prank fellow party members). Three times he died and in three different ways he was brought back to life. The fourth time was permanent, though not to worry, a fellow regular was moving away and since his 10th level fighter was a pretty important part of the party it was decided I would inherit him. Magic plate, an intelligent sword, bags of holding… Great fun. Eventually I moved away as well and I just heard a year ago that the game was broken up, without us ever having beaten Lolth, but it was awesome while it lasted. Maybe one day I can finish what we started, put Lolth’s head up on the wall. I know our DM saved all the character sheets.

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