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Publisher's Summary

The life story of Gary Gygax, godfather of all fantasy adventure games, has been told only in bits and pieces. Michael Witwer has written a dynamic, dramatized biography of Gygax from his childhood in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, to his untimely death in 2008.

Gygax's magnum opus, Dungeons & Dragons, would explode in popularity throughout the 1970s and '80s and irreversibly alter the world of gaming. D&D is the best-known, best-selling role-playing game of all time, and it boasts an elite class of alumni - Stephen Colbert, Robin Williams, and Junot Diaz all have spoken openly about their experiences with the game as teenagers, and some credit it as the workshop where their nascent imaginations were fostered.

Gygax's involvement in the industry lasted long after his dramatic and involuntary departure from D&D's parent company, TSR, and his footprint can be seen in the genre he is largely responsible for creating. But as Witwer shows, perhaps the most compelling facet of his life and work was his unwavering commitment to the power of creativity in the face of myriad sources of adversity, whether cultural, economic, or personal. Through his creation of the role-playing genre, Gygax gave two generations of gamers the tools to invent characters and entire worlds in their minds.

Told in narrative-driven and dramatic fashion, Witwer has written an engaging chronicle of the life and legacy of this emperor of the imagination.

©2015 Michael Witwer (P)2015 Audible, Inc.

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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A Story of Bittersweet Successes

Empire of Imagination is a bit of a dramatic retelling of Gary Gygax's life, more in spirit than to the letter, but it benefits for not treating his story as a simple documentary. Conveying a vision is a big part of what he set out to do, so a small touch of the fantastic actually seems more faithful than doing it any other way.

It's easy to get wrapped up in the story behind Dungeons and Dragons and its creator. It's primarily a business story, but it comes with a lot of character and passion to push things forward. There's invention, betrayal, difficult choices to make and a cast of rivals and friends who periodically operate by his side. It's a cohesive enough tale that by the end, I was eagerly awaiting the classic return to form where everything finally wraps up and comes full circle, somehow forgetting that real life is rarely that poetic.

And that about sums up this book. It's a complex weave of a narrative with fantastical segments interspersed for tone, but in the end it's still grounded in reality. It's not the rags-to-riches, feel-good story I expected, but it was a journey worth having.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Low Expectations Unfounded; Great Book

I didn't expect the story to be so compelling. Gary Gygax was an inspired genius entrepreneur.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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The Man Who Created Worlds

Gary Gygax and his Magnum Opus " Dungeons & Dragons" changed the world. Doubt this? play any video game, or go the movie, or watch HBO and you will see the DNA of D&D. A fantastic take that grabbed me and would not let go.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Moira
  • Chicago, IL, United States
  • 03-29-16

Terrific Reader Terrific Read

Very enjoyable story HIStory while also providing not only Gygax's story along with the history of D &D Great reader and starting most chapters with an actual scenario brilliant giving those unfamiliar with the game a real sense of its now legendary legacy. I owned a small mapping company in the early days of Gen Con and it was pure delight to read about people like Tim Kask etc who we interacted with in those early days when my sons would trade our map stamps for products.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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A story that makes you wish you could meet him...

For those of you who don't know the man, this will be the testament story to the first DM whose​ legacy sparked not just innovation but showed his own personal struggle to bring to the world something that can be linked to everything in popular culture today. It not only tells the origins of Gygax, but is in itself a story of an adventure module of all modules. A story of friendships, great success, utter failures and betrayal, to rising again from the ashes of past mistakes. Witwer rolls a natural 20 on all aspects of the man the myth the legend and once and always future king of the nerds. ALL HAIL GYGAX!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Must read by all geeks

An excellent biography of an extraordinary man who changed the world. A must read for all geeks

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Great ride - important history

This biography has it all. It is the heroes journey and about one who helped facilitate the heroes journey for so many young people and for those who are finally able to let go of the program that is the usual story of people living in a box.

The book really helps clarify that Gary guy guy asked was not just the innovator they could recognize the value of role-playing as a game, but also had the drive and the organizational skills to bring role-playing to the for.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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An incredible telling of Gary's life story

I found this book to be incredible! I have recently gotten into D&D and have fallen hard! I find this book all the better due to the immersive feeling and insight into Gary's life. I found that the author did a great job of putting us into Gary's own mind. This book also draws on your emotional strings by bringing Gary's philosophical thoughts and thoughts regarding his relationships with his family to life!

I also think the narator did a fantastic job! The portrayal of the scenes and perspectives were well delivered, exactly how I would think the author would want it done!

I definitely recommend this heart felt biographical story!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Good stuff

As a teen of the early 80s this was a great peak into what went on around the game I enjoyed.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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excellent

loved everything about this book and it's presentation. A+ all around. it's a must buy.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Russell Tomlinson
  • 09-22-17

Creative genius but business disaster

I grew up with D&D in the 70's and 80's and Gary Gygax was the wizard who inspired it all.This book recounts the rise and fall of Gary Gygax and the legacy which he created.The drama surrounding TSR was as dramatic as any D&D adventure.Recommended listening.

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  • Mr. J. J. W. Alderson
  • 01-10-17

One for the fans

I really enjoyed this book. It's definitely one for D&D fans and provides a really interesting history into the game and Gary.

I was unsure about purchasing this books and read a few reviews before hand which criticised the author of elaborating on personal situations and feelings which he wouldn't have know however I didn't feel that this detracted from the story and if anything is completely within the spirit of D&D.

The book is well narrated for the most part and I would recommend this to fellow geeks.

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  • Mr Stephen Somerton
  • 08-27-16

Story of a Legend

Thank you Gary for hours of fun and imagination. I was lucky enough to grow up in an era when you were bringing your realms of wonder to our world.

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  • robert brooks
  • 07-23-16

ever played D&D

a real good listen well read good story of what was going on at TSR at the time we (my friends & I were playing at the time it was happening)

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  • Taffy666
  • 03-07-16

A thoroughly enjoyable account...

Of the life of Gary Gygax. For d&d nerds and others, this in depth look at the life of the Father of RPGs examines the brilliance and weaknesses of the man. The performance was not so great but the story was enough to encapsulate the listener anyway.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-09-17

Pleasantly suprised at the quality!

I loved it, any RPG/D&D player will love the story of this. The author did an amazing job weaving Gary Gygaxs life.

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  • nick
  • 04-03-17

Captivating!

I downloaded this on a whim, a half interest, as i enjoyed playing D&D in highschool and recently remembered its creator while listening to Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. That was yesterday around 10:30 am. Its now a new day and ive finished listening to this entire biography. From the begining right to the end, i found this mans life, as told by Michael Witwer, to be entertaining, interesting, and inspiring. Sam Witwer also did a smashing job of narration. Ever holding his audiances attention and never apearing dull or uninterested in what he was reading.
(DM rolls a D20.......) its a 20 from me.

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  • David
  • 04-18-16

A biography written with love

This book is loving crafted and honours the life of a story teller by chronicling his life as a story. Well researched this biography shares the highs and lows of a genius. Though the author clearly has an affection for the subject at no point do I feel he protects us from the oft time obsessive, erratic, and on Occassion destructive life style of Garry Gygax. However, it does provide a wonderful insight into the creative force of this man and the magnitude of his impact on modern culture. I could not recommend this enough.