|Born||June 27, 1938|
|Died||January 31, 1975(aged 36)|
Donald R. Kaye (June 27, 1938 – January 31, 1975) was the co-founder of Tactical Studies Rules (TSR), the game publishing company most famous for their Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) role-playing game. He and TSR co-founder Gary Gygax had been friends since childhood, sharing an interest in miniature war games. In 1972, Kaye created Murlynd, one of the first D&D characters, and play-tested him in Gygax's Castle Greyhawk campaign. Kaye and Gygax were convinced that D&D and similar games were an excellent business opportunity, and together they founded Tactical Studies Rules in 1973. However, only two years later, just as sales of D&D started to rise, Kaye unexpectedly died of a heart attack at age 36.
Early life and early gaming
Don Kaye was born on June 27, 1938. He grew up in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, where at age 6, he became friends with Gygax, who had visited and later moved there from Chicago, Illinois in 1946. They began playing miniature war games in 1953. Gygax and Kaye designed their own miniatures rules for toy soldiers, with a large collection of 54 mm and 70 mm figures, and used "ladyfinger firecrackers" to simulate explosions. In 1965, Kaye, Gygax, Mike Reese, and Leon Tucker created a military miniatures society, Lake Geneva Tactical Studies Association (LGTSA), with its first headquarters in Gygax's basement, and later held meetings in Kaye's garage.
Formation of TSR
In the fall of 1972, Dave Arneson, a wargamer from nearby Minneapolis-St. Paul, demonstrated a new type of role-playing game to the LGTSA. Gygax then created a similar game set in the imaginary Castle Greyhawk, and invited his children, Ernie and Elise, "to create characters and adventure". The next evening, Kaye joined the game along with Gygax's friends Rob Kuntz and Terry Kuntz. Kaye created the character Murlynd, Rob Kuntz created Robilar and Terry Kuntz created Terik. Kaye observed with interest as a very enthusiastic group played the prototype Dungeons & Dragons game at Gen Con VI (1973), and suggested to Gygax that they form a company to publish the game themselves. Sensing the potential popularity of the game, Kaye and Gygax each invested $1000 in October 1973 to found the publishing company Tactical Studies Rules;  Kaye borrowed his share from his life insurance policy. TSR was initially run out of Kaye's dining room. They immediately published Cavaliers and Roundheads, a miniature game based on the English Civil War,  and planned to use its revenue to print and publish D&D. However, in 1974, after worries that other companies were developing similar projects, they decided not to wait, and convinced a gaming acquaintance, Brian Blume, to invest in TSR as an equal one-third partner. In January 1974, they printed a thousand copies of the game and hand-assembled them in the basement of Gygax's house. Warehousing and shipping was done from Kaye's home. The first printing sold out before the end of 1974, and sales of a second printing began to increase exponentially. In late 1974, Kaye helped develop some of the rules for a new Western-genre game to be called Boot Hill.
Death and legacy
Although only 36 years old at the start of 1975, Kaye needed heart surgery, a fact that he did not disclose to his partners. Gygax and Blume were therefore unprepared when Kaye suffered a heart attack before the scheduled date for surgery and died on January 31, 1975.
Kaye had not made any specific provision in his will regarding his one-third share of the company, so his share of TSR passed to his wife, who was not interested in having any part of TSR. Gygax stated "After Don died [Kaye's wife] dumped all the Tactical Studies Rules materials off on my front porch. It would have been impossible to manage a business with her involved as a partner." Neither Gygax nor Blume had the money to formally buy the share owned by Kaye's wife, but Blume persuaded Gygax to allow his father, Melvin Blume, to buy it. The company was re-formed as TSR Hobbies, Inc, with the Blume family owning controlling interest.
In 1975, Gygax and Blume published Boot Hill in memory of Kaye. Gygax highlighted Kaye's character Murlynd in the March 1983 issue of Dragon magazine. The following year, Gygax paid further tribute to Kaye when he used Murlynd's name for two spells (Murlynd's Ogre, Murlynd's Void) and an item (Murlynd's Spoon) in Unearthed Arcana.
- "United States Social Security Death Index," index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/V9C6-64X : accessed 12 Feb 2013), Donald Kaye, January 1975; citing U.S. Social Security Administration, Death Master File, database (Alexandria, Virginia: National Technical Information Service, ongoing).
- Lynch, Scott (2001-05-17). "Interview with Gary Gygax, part 2 of 3". RPGnet.
- Kaye's primary occupation has not been publicized, but he was planning on quitting that job to work for the upstart TSR.
- Kushner, David (2008-03-10). "Dungeon Master: The Life and Legacy of Gary Gygax". Wired.
- "In Memorium". The Strategic Review (Lake Geneva, Wisconsin: TSR, Inc.) (#2): 1. Summer 1975.
- "Gary Gygax". The Economist. March 13, 2008. Retrieved October 7, 2008.
- "TSR Profiles". Dragon (Lake Geneva, Wisconsin: TSR, Inc.) (#103): 56. November 1985.
- "The Castle & Crusade Society". The Acaeum. Retrieved 2012-04-17. - excerpt notes from Paul Stromberg, with Gary Gygax and Rob Kuntz debating the location and organization of LGTSA meetings.
- Gygax: "It was in the late fall of 1972 when I completed a map of some castle ruins, noted ways down to the dungeon level (singular), and invited my 11-year-old son Ernie and nine-year-old daughter Elise to create characters and adventure. This they did, and around 9 pm ... they had to come back from such imaginary derring-do, put their index card character sheets aside, and get ready for bed. They had had a marvelous time and wanted to keep playing." "Gary Gygax: Q & A (Part IV, Page 1)". EN World. 2003-07-22. Retrieved 2010-03-16.
- Gygax: "In a couple of days time Don Kaye (Murlynd), Rob (Robilar, Otto) and Terry (Terik) Kuntz joined the gang." "Gary Gygax: Q & A (Part I, Page 8)". EN World. 2006-08-06. Retrieved 2009-03-15.
- Shannon Appelcline (2011). Designers & Dragons. Mongoose Publishing. p. 7. ISBN 978-1-907702-58-7.
- Hoffmann, Frank W.; Bailey, William G. (1991). Sports & Recreation Fads. Haworth Press. p. 109. ISBN 1-56024-056-3.
- "Gary Gygax Interview". Dungeons and Dragons Online - Game Banshee. 2004-07-20. Retrieved 2012-04-17. - "Gary: Well, yeah, I founded Tactical Studies Rules with Don Kaye - he and I were equal partners. We founded that in October of 1973 and published D&D in January of 1974."
- Stewart Alsop II (1982-02-01). "TSR Hobbies Mixes Fact and Fantasy". Inc. (magazine).
- Toth, Ralf. "From D&D to AD&D (1966-1976)". Tome of Treasures. Retrieved 2012-04-17. - "After being turned down by all major game manufacturers of the time, Gary Gygax and Don Kaye formed a partnership, which operated out of Kaye's dining room in Lake Geneva. It was named Tactical Studies Rules after their local wargaming club called Lake Geneva Tactical Studies Association. Kaye covered the $1,000 they needed to publish Cavaliers and Roundheads, a miniature game of the English Civil War."
- Sacco, Ciro Alessandro. "The Ultimate Interview with Gary Gygax". thekyngdoms.com. Retrieved 2010-03-23. - "Gygax: Don and I wanted to get the D&D game out as soon as possible. If we had waited until sales of our one set of military miniatures rules, 'Cavaliers & Roundheads', generated sufficient funds, it would have been 1975 before we could publish."
- "The History of TSR". Wizards of the Coast. Archived from the original on October 4, 2008. Retrieved August 20, 2005.
- 30 Years of Adventure: A Celebration of Dungeons & Dragons. Renton WA: Wizards of the Coast. 2004. p. 55. ISBN 0-7869-3498-0.
- Kuntz: "Don was a great fan of the Western and an avid supporter of the Boot Hill rules." "Robilar Remembers: Murlynd". Pied Piper Publishing. 2004-10-18. Retrieved 2009-09-16.
- "Gary Gygax: Q & A (Part IV, Page 2)". EN World. 2003-07-23. Retrieved 2010-03-23.
- "The Ultimate Interview with Gary Gygax". Retrieved 2010-03-23.
- Parker, Laura (March 7, 2008). "Gary Gygax: Founding father of fantasy computer games and co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons". The Guardian. Retrieved October 7, 2008.
- Gygax, Gary (March 1983). "Greyhawk's World: Four Uncharacteristic Characters". Dragon (Lake Geneva WI: TSR). VII, No. 9 (71): 19–22.
- Gygax, Gary. Unearthed Arcana (TSR, 1985)