Empire of Imagination

Gary Gygax and the Birth of Dungeons & Dragons
Narrated by: Sam Witwer
Length: 7 hrs and 54 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (618 ratings)

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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.
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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.

5 people found this 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.

3 people found this helpful

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Here is where the dragons begun.

To the point Gygax and Anderson have paved the way in the world of gaming. Many media icons owe these two a debt of thanks. Still after their deaths people continue to play and engage with friends in a game that still to this day is without a doubt the greatest role-playing game in history. I am honored, though not a old grognard, to be able to say I am one of many who enjoy playing what these two amazing DMs have created. If you wanna know how greyhawk, blackmoore, owlbears, bags of holding, and many more tropes got their origins, this is the dungeon to delve with the Witwers behind the DM screen. Roll that initiative and pick this up for a +5 bonus to your ability scores!

2 people found this 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 people found this helpful

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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 people found this helpful

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Just don’t bother

Disturbingly written in first person, this book overlooks deep flaws in Gygax’s character, including those that led to disagreements within the group that created DnD. Add to this a performance that made me cringe, and I just cannot recommend anybody listen to this book.

1 person found this helpful

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A rollercoaster, eye-opener to my favorite game

I quoted this work on my speech for a class detailing how D&D revolutionized popular culture. The end stole a tear from my eye, and I was quick to write Gary's favorite scripture of Mathew down for my own reference. He is living a great adventure now and I am proud to be a vasal of tbe King of Nerds. As a game designer, this was more than just inspiring. As a programmer and artist, I hope to honor Gary's effors someday.

Thank you Michael for this gift and thank you Gary for tour life.

1 person found this 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

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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.

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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 person found this helpful

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  • Dead Tree Hoarder
  • 08-29-19

The Reality of Fantasy

An important listen for anyone who is interested in the origin of the Role Playing Games phenomenon, also a cautionary tale of what happens when your dream comes alive.

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  • Glen
  • 08-28-19

History of moden culture

This starts as a biography of a man then turns into the history of the rise of the nerd.

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  • Steel
  • 02-06-19

interesting and surprisingly touching

loved this book, I teared up when his death was described. really moving and interestingly relatable person.

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  • nick
  • 10-05-18

Suprisingly enjoyable story

A surprisingly enjoyable story, if tinged with a little tragedy & sadness.

The Witwer brothers write with some passion and authority about the man, following Gygax's journey from small town 'optimist' to big league 'cynic', as TSR rises &falls back into ashes.

A must book for any D&D fan and for those who following table top, RPG and computer games development.

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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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  • J 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.