Thursday, July 14, 2011

Wizards: Peter on the Cusp, Part Six

Mike Davis, matchmaker
In Readers Digest in 1957, Allen Saunders wrote Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.

Saturday, 24 August 1991 found friends and family gathered together at 1714 18th Avenue in Seattle for Beverly and my wedding, where our carefully knit plans were unraveling.

Some close friends could not attend. Cathleen Adkison, Peter's wife, my friend from high school, and Beverly's friend since fifth grade, was sick at home. Jay Hayes and Bob McSwain Jr., my gaming friends since high school, could not break away from Dragonflight, the gaming convention inconveniently scheduled at the same time. Peter and Ken made it, barely, only to find themselves standing around waiting with the rest of us. We were locked out of the hall. The caretaker could not be found. Beverly and I had wanted to plan our wedding ourselves to demonstrate our adulthood and maturity to our parents, but instead we stood there embarrassed and helpless.

It all turned out well in the end. With a little help from our friends we found grace under pressure, were married on the steps, held the reception at Madison Park in perfect weather, served wedding cake on the back of a stone panther, and enjoyed the impromptu outdoor wedding we had always wanted but dared not plan in one of America's rainiest cities.

We learned that sometimes it is best when life does not go according to plan.

Peter's carefully knit plans were also unraveling.

Richard Garfield, mathematician
A week before our wedding, Peter discovered that Mike Davis was right about how incredible Richard Garfield's design was for his board game Robo Rally. Peter founded Wizards of the Coast to make role-playing games, but clearly he was going to have to find some way to publish this board game, too. He did not know how he could ever afford to do it, but he would have to find a way.

The day before our wedding Peter sat in a parking garage listening to Richard describe his initial ideas for what would become Magic: The Gathering. It blew him away. It was not a role-playing game - it was not even a board game - but clearly Wizards was going to have to make this, too. His plans fell apart in the best kind of way.

All three of us wandered through our wedding day in a bit of a daze, giddy and off-balance, wondering what shape our lives would take now. We all decided to let go of our plans and embrace the unknown. We all said "I do."

It changed our lives forever.

Peter's 1993 description of the events:
Also at about this time magical event #4 happened (although we didn't realize its import at the time). As a result of one of my posts on, I received a letter from a guy named Mike Davis about this game that a friend of his, Richard Garfield, had designed. The name of the game was Robo Rally, and to tell the truth it sounded kinda stupid from the description. I politely told him that we were a roleplaying company and were only mildly interested in "getting into board games some day." He was fortunately persistent and I eventually agreed to take a look at the game and meet them since they were both flying out to the west coast to see Richard's parents. Well, the game was simply brilliant, and I was immediately impressed by their intellect and imagination, which surpassed my own on both counts. We told them we'd like to publish it the following summer after we got on our feet (the projected release date for TPO had been pushed back to winter of 1991 by this time). To jump ahead in the story, we never have published this game because of the tremendous expense of putting it out, although we're working on perhaps doing it as a joint venture with another company that shall remain nameless at this time.

At this meeting I mentioned that there was going to be a convention (Dragonflight 1991) the following weekend [Friday-Sunday, 23–25 August 1991 --Ed.] and they should come up to Seattle to attend. Mike had to go back to Atlanta, but Richard said he'd come up. Then Richard, probably wanting to show off, asked me if I'd like him to design a game during the next week (!), and if so, to describe to him a game concept and he'd do it. Well, I had always thought it would be really cool to have a fantasy-oriented card game that was quick to play, easy to carry (playing cards only), fairly easy to learn, that could be marketed through the convention circuit. I had noticed that people spend a lot of time at conventions hanging out in lobbies, standing in lines, etc., and I think having a game like this could sell very well in that market. He said, "Okay."

Next week Richard came to Dragonflight and while we were in a vacant parking garage across from Seattle Center (Ken was with us and we had parked there so Ken could run in to some building and pick up something), Richard described to me a game that he'd come up with that fit those specs--and went way beyond. And this game was the single most awesome gaming idea I had heard of since 1978, when I heard of roleplaying. I started whooping and hollering and yelling, primarily because I knew at that moment that we had an idea that would add a whole new dimension to gaming, and if executed properly, would make us millions. This wasn't just a new game, it was a new gaming form. (Btw, if we can raise the capital, this game will be coming out this summer. Wish I could tell you more, but you know how it is...)


  1. This is a great series, really enjoying it!

  2. Wow, really enjoying this series, thank you.

  3. That should be Jay Hays, not Hayes. I never used to get his name wrong until years later when I ran into the name Hayes in other contexts. Now my fingers always want to misspell the last name of one of my closest gaming friends during high school. My apologies to Jay and to anyone I misled, however briefly.

    See. Even those in the know are going to make stupid mistakes in covering events and people. This history and reporting business is easy to screw up. :P

  4. Wow, we're getting close to your 20th anniversary! It still seems like just a couple of years ago that we arrived at the hall and found out that the caretaker with the key was out of town. Fortunately, you were bold, and mighty forces (i.e., sunny weather in Seattle) came to your aid.

  5. Danny, I'm so glad you came to our wedding. For us, too, coming up on twenty-one years later now, it still seems so recent. I remember hearing that some of our friends probably weren't going to break away from Dragonflight even to attend our wedding. When Peter and Ken arrived, in the midst of the worry and disappointment about being locked out of our own wedding hall I was relieved that not everyone was going to ditch us to game. I was grateful they joined us.

    It's funny, because my feelings at the time were so caught up in what Beverly and I were about to do that I had no mental bandwidth left to wonder what Ken and Peter had been doing this year at Dragonflight, whether anything INTERESTING had happened that was about to change all our lives.

    It was going to be a while before we made the connection between Ken and Peter's meeting with Richard and our wedding.