Sunday, July 10, 2011

Wizards: Peter on the Cusp, Part Two

Ken McGlothlen, 6 August 2007
Peter's early history of Wizards of the Coast, written 23 January 1993, continues, including the pivotal role of long-time friend Ken McGlothlen in the beginning:
Over the next few years we sorta used "Wizards of the Coast" as an informal name to attach to various amateur things we did. In fact, we actually published one amateur game back in 1981 called Castles & Conquest, which forms the basis for some of the thinking that's going into The Military Order, which is what I'm working on right now. Our byline was "What's D&D without C&C?" It was really really amateur, made Arduin and Judges Guild stuff look like Time Magazine, but I managed to sell enough of them to make my way at conventions and such. Eventually I quit doing it because I wasn't satisfied with the product and this wasn't something I took very seriously at the time.

Other uses for the Wizards of the Coast logo over the next few years included a campaign newsletter that I published for my Chaldea campaign, "sponsorship" of some convention events and tournaments, etc. It basically came to symbolize the gaming group I played with, which at one time included about fifty active players. From about 1982 through 1990, Chaldea was my life (when I wasn't going to college, and then working at Boeing as a systems analyst). Even when I was taking twenty credits of college classes I'd GM three or four times a week, and a lot of that was power gaming where the fundamental principles of The Primal Order were playtested and developed. Yes, we played and ran deities, even as PCs--I can admit that now. :-)

In the spring of 1990 I was starting to go through that phase where I'd paid off my college loans, I was getting married, and I'd worked at Boeing long enough to feel that my career was secured. At this time I started thinking about life, and the thought of being a computer programmer for the rest of my life was really starting to scare me (it was becoming really boring). I realized that gaming wasn't something that I was going to "grow out of," but I was starting to feel a need to justify it in light of the incredible amount of time I was spending on it. Fortunately my wife plays, but I guess that was inevitable since I refused to date women who wouldn't play--roleplaying games that is. :-)

So, one day in April of 1990 as I was talking back and forth with Ken McGlothlen (Terry and Darrell had left the scene by this time, although we're still friends and have occasional contact) on the Internet during my Boeing lunch hour, Wizards of the Coast came up. We started reminiscing about the "good old days" and then the idea popped into my head, "Why don't we do it?" So I typed it across the Internet to Ken, "Why don't we start a gaming company? Wizards of the Coast, only for real this time?"

There was a long pause.

Ken knew me well enough to know I was serious, and that I also realized the implications of starting something like this. His response was, "Something like 90% of all businesses fail within the first two years, but if anyone could pull if off, you could." Ken is someone who very rarely gives complements, and that statement was something I emotionally fell back on many, many times over the next couple of years.

So, we spent the next couple weeks talking to each other over the Internet for a couple of hours every day. Some of those conversations are still logged somewhere. :-) We talked about every conceivable thing, like what we wanted to do, who we'd need, pricing, fund raising, etc. One thing that came out of that conversation was that we "wanted to do it right." That we were going to approach it as a business venture, spend ample time planning it out, raising money, print professional-quality products, and find professional editing, art, typesetting, printing, binding, etc.


  1. Loving your history of WotC, Rick. Keep it coming, please! Just as you mention that the Greeks believed a person has the most skewed view of themself, so, too, can a company. Your "slightly outside" viewpoint is a good one.

  2. This is very interesting stuff, thanks Rick!

  3. I'm glad you're enjoying it. Even while it was happening I thought to myself "Someday this will make an interesting story." At the time, though, I didn't think I would be the one to tell it. Life is strange that way.