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James M. Ward

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James M. Ward
Born(1951-05-23)May 23, 1951
Elkhorn, Wisconsin
DiedMarch 18, 2024(2024-03-18) (aged 72)
  • Writer
  • game designer
  • author
GenreFantasy, role-playing game
Notable worksDeities & Demigods, Greyhawk Adventures, Pool of Radiance, Metamorphosis Alpha, Gamma World

James Michael Ward III (May 23, 1951 – March 18, 2024) was an American game designer and fantasy author who worked for TSR, Inc. for more than 20 years, most notably on the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons.[1] He wrote various books relating to Dungeons & Dragons, including guidebooks such as Deities & Demigods,[2] and novels including Pool of Radiance, based on the computer game of the same name.

Early life and education[edit]

Jim Ward was born in Elkhorn, Wisconsin[3] to James Ward Jr. and Orabelle Ward.[4] He attended University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where he earned a double major in English and History.[4] He then moved to Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin[5]: 109  and taught for five years at West Grant High School in Patch Grove, Wisconsin.[4]

During this time, Ward become interested in wargaming, and was drawn into the International Federation of Wargamers (IFW) founded by Gary Gygax in nearby Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. In 1973, Gygax introduced some of the players to a new concept in wargaming — a game that would eventually become Dungeons & Dragons — where each player took on the role of one character in a fantasy setting that Gygax called Greyhawk. By the following year, Ward was one of these players, and created a wizard he named Leledibmob.[a] During one session, Leledibmob urgently need an item that he had left behind, and Gygax created a new spell that allowed Leledibmob to retrieve the item. Gygax called the spell Drawmij's Instant Summons — "Drawmij"[b] being "Jim Ward" spelled backwards.[6]

Dungeons & Dragons and TSR[edit]

In 1974, Gygax and Don Kaye formed Tactical Studies Rules (TSR) in order to publish Dungeons & Dragons. When sales of the new game took off in 1975, TSR rapidly expanded its product line, and Ward started to design games and write material for them.[7]: 24  In 1976, Ward worked with Rob Kuntz to produce Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes that expanded the original D&D game by introducing gods.[7]: 8  On his own, Ward designed Metamorphosis Alpha (1976), which was the second science-fantasy role-playing game,[c] and published as TSR's fourth role-playing game.[7]: 9 

In 1980, Ward left teaching to become a full-time employee of TSR[9] and co-authored Deities & Demigods.[7]: 382  In the early 1980s, Ward and Rose Estes formed an education department at TSR, planning to market classroom modules to teachers.[7]: 14  At the 1983 EastCon convention, Ward ran Kuntz's adventure "The Maze of Xaene" as the D&D tournament module, although that module was never published by TSR.[7]: 240 

However, in 1984, TSR faced a financial crunch due to senior mismanagement, and Ward, along with dozens of other employees, was laid off. Ward continued to write products for TSR, which paid him in royalties.[9] In 1986, TSR hired Ward back. Ward wrote Greyhawk Adventures (1988), a hardcover supplement that presented new rules for the Greyhawk setting.[7]: 19 

Ward, with David Cook, Steve Winter, and Mike Breault, co-wrote the Ruins of Adventure scenario that was adapted into the popular computer game Pool of Radiance.[10]

When TSR produced a second edition of AD&D (1989), Ward instituted changes such as removing assassins and half-orcs as player character options from the game, explaining this decision in Dragon #154 (February 1990) that "[a]voiding the Angry Mother Syndrome has become a good, basic guideline for all of the designers and editors at TSR, Inc"; Ward printed many replies from upset players in Dragon #158.[7]: 23 

Ward can be glimpsed early in the Dragon Strike tutorial video playing the man who is slapped in the face at the king's party.[11]

Ward designed the Spellfire collectible card game.[12] Ward was eventually made the VP for Creative Services.

In 1996, TSR suffered another financial crisis when an unanticipated number of books were returned by booksellers. Ward was ordered to lay off thirty editors and designers, but Ward instead resigned.[9] The financial crisis would shortly result in the company being bought by Wizards of the Coast.[7]: 30 

After TSR[edit]

Now a freelance designer, Ward created the Dragon Ball Z Collectible Card Game.[12]

Ward then co-founded the d20 company Fast Forward Entertainment with Timothy Brown, Lester Smith, John Danovich, and Sean Everett, and from 2000 to 2005, he was president of the company[7]: 351 t of Fast Forward Entertainment, an independent game development company. Ward wrote Sete-Ka's Dream Quest (2006), an adventure gamebook published by Margaret Weis Productions.[7]: 353  He wrote the Halcyon Blithe novel Dragonfrigate Wizard (Tor, 2006), which he considered one of his better and prouder creations.[12]

Ward then joined Troll Lord Games, writing supplements such as the boxed set Towers of Adventures (2008) and the Castles & Crusades supplement Of Gods & Monsters (2009); Ward was also made the editor for their Castles & Crusades magazine, The Crusader Journal.[7]: 382  Ward also wrote the horror fantasy game Tainted Lands (2009), based on the "SIEGE" system from Castles & Crusades.[7]: 382 

Together with Frank Mentzer, Chris Clark and Tim Klark, Ward co-founded Eldritch Enterprises, which planned to publish a variety of general works as well as new creations for role-playing games.[5]: 234 [13]

Ward wrote for Gygax Magazine beginning in 2013,[14] including a new Metamorphosis Alpha adventure "They All Died at the International Space Station,"[15] which was also released as a standalone product.[16] Ward was co-author of GiantLands by Wonderfilled, which was announced on Kickstarter in 2019 and shipped in 2022.[17][18][19]

Personal life[edit]

In 1973, Ward married his high school sweetheart Janean M. Bray,[9] and they had two sons and a daughter together, James, Theon and Breck.[12]

In 2010, Ward was diagnosed with a serious neurological disorder that required treatment at the Mayo Clinic. His friend Tim Kask helped to establish a fund to help Ward offset some of the medical bills.[20]

Ward died on March 18, 2024, at the age of 72.[21]


In 1989 Ward was inducted into the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design Hall of Fame.[22]

Selected works[edit]


Role-playing games[edit]



  • Dragon Ball Z Collectible Card Game.
  • Westeros GAME OF THRONES Miniatures rules (2007).
  • Astrobirdz Concept card game, RPG, board game, coin game, YA novels.
  • My Precious Presents card game
  • Dragon Lairds board game, created by Ward and Tom Wham, was published in 2008 by Margaret Weis Productions, Ltd.[28]
  • In 2008, Ward became the Managing Editor of and a contributor to The Crusader magazine published by Troll Lord Games.[29]


  1. ^ An approximation of "Bombidell" (taken from Tom Bombadil in Lord of the Rings) spelled backwards.
  2. ^ Drawmij would later become a fictional character who appeared in some commercial TSR products set in Greyhawk.
  3. ^ The first science fiction role-playing game, Starfaring, was published by Flying Buffalo in August 1976. Although the forward of Metamorphosis Alpha is dated July 1976, TSR didn't actually release the game until later in the year.[8]


  1. ^ Carter, Justin (March 20, 2024). "Obituary: Jim Ward, Dungeons & Dragons designer, died at age 72". Game Developer. Archived from the original on March 19, 2024. Retrieved March 20, 2024.
  2. ^ Carter, Chase (March 19, 2024). "Early D&D designer and co-author of Deities & Demigods James M. Ward has passed away". Dicebreaker. Archived from the original on March 19, 2024. Retrieved March 19, 2024.
  3. ^ James M. Ward at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database.
  4. ^ a b c "James "Jim" Ward III Obituary". Haase-Lockwood & Associates Funeral Homes. March 20, 2024. Retrieved March 26, 2024.
  5. ^ a b c d Ewalt, David M. (2013). Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and the People Who Play It. Scribner. ISBN 978-1-4516-4052-6.
  6. ^ "Q&A with James M. Ward". Dragons Foot. January 25, 2014. Retrieved March 26, 2024. I was in a dungeon and the group needed a magic item I owned that was back at the inn where I lived. My character name was Bombidell spelled backward. So at a whim Gary let me create that spell and use that spell and I did indeed save the day.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Shannon Appelcline (2011). Designers & Dragons. Mongoose Publishing. ISBN 978-1-907702-58-7.
  8. ^ Horvath, Stu (2023). Monsters, Aliens, and Holes in the Ground. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. p. 14. ISBN 9780262048224.
  9. ^ a b c d "Jim Ward". Eldritchent.com. Archived from the original on December 28, 2016. Retrieved April 16, 2015.
  10. ^ Moore, Roger E.; Brown, Anne (September 1989). "The Envelope, Please!". Dragon. No. 149. pp. 20–21.
  11. ^ Moore, Roger E. (October 1993). "Editorial". Dragon. No. 198. Lake Geneva, Wisconsin: TSR, Inc. p. 14.
  12. ^ a b c d Ward, James M. (2007). "The Great Khan Game". In Lowder, James (ed.). Hobby Games: The 100 Best. Green Ronin Publishing. pp. 138–141. ISBN 978-1-932442-96-0.
  13. ^ "Q&A with Frank Mentzer, Part 2, p. 82". Dragonsfoot Forums. dragonsfoot.com. November 5, 2010. Retrieved November 7, 2010.
  14. ^ Hinojosa, David (April 22, 2013). "Dragon Magazine Resurrected: A Review of 'Gygax Magazine' #1". The Gaming Gang. Archived from the original on April 24, 2023. Retrieved April 24, 2023.
  15. ^ "Gygax magazine #3". Solarian. Archived from the original on April 24, 2023. Retrieved April 24, 2023.
  16. ^ "Metamorphosis Alpha Archive". www.tsrarchive.com. Archived from the original on April 29, 2022. Retrieved April 24, 2023.
  17. ^ Wincen, Kim (November 6, 2022). "GiantLands – The Beginning". A gentleman with opinions. Archived from the original on April 24, 2023. Retrieved April 24, 2023.
  18. ^ "Giantlands (Limited Edition) - RPG from Wonderfilled". Noble Knight Games. Archived from the original on April 23, 2023. Retrieved April 24, 2023.
  19. ^ Tenkar, Eric (February 1, 2022). "Giantlands - Reviewish - Book 1, Part 1 - Damn It Tenkar, Where Are the Rules?". Tenkar's Tavern. Archived from the original on April 24, 2023. Retrieved April 24, 2023.
  20. ^ Friends of Starship Warden: "the James M. Ward Relief Fund". Archived from the original on November 25, 2010.
  21. ^ Griepp, Milton (March 19, 2024). "RIP James M. (Jim) Ward". ICV2. Archived from the original on March 19, 2024. Retrieved March 19, 2024.
  22. ^ "The 1989 Origins Awards". The Game Manufacturers Association. Archived from the original on December 16, 2012.
  23. ^ a b c Schick, Lawrence (1991). Heroic Worlds: A History and Guide to Role-Playing Games. Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books. ISBN 0-87975-653-5.
  24. ^ "WARD, James & BROWN, Anne K. Pools of darkness". Kliatt Young Adult Paperback Book Guide. Vol. 28, no. 3. Kliatt. May 1992. p. 7.
  25. ^ "WARD, James & BROWN, Anne K. Pools of twilight". Kliatt Young Adult Paperback Book Guide. Vol. 26, no. 4. Kliatt. May 1994. pp. 20–21.
  26. ^ "Dragon Magazine #42" (PDF). Dragon. Archived (PDF) from the original on September 29, 2020. Retrieved October 1, 2019.
  27. ^ Ward, James M. (August 2008). Towers of Adventure. ISBN 978-1-929474-19-6.
  28. ^ Ward, James M.; Wham, Tom (2008). Dragon Lairds. ISBN 978-1-931567-60-2.
  29. ^ "The Crusader". The Crusader. 4 (8). Troll Lord Games. March 2008.

External links[edit]