Jon Pickens

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BornJon Pickens
(1954-08-12) August 12, 1954 (age 69)
Mishawaka, Indiana, United States
OccupationGame designer, editor
GenreRole-playing games

Jon Pickens is an American game designer and editor who has worked on numerous products for the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game from TSR[1] and later Wizards of the Coast.

Early life and education[edit]

Jon Pickens was born in Mishawaka, Indiana on August 12, 1954.[2] In 1968, he was introduced to miniatures wargaming, and his parents bought him the Blitzkrieg wargame for Christmas that year. A couple of months later, Pickens responded to an ad in Popular Mechanics for a magazine titled Strategy & Tactics. He wrote in for a sample copy, and “spent the rest of the summer mowing lawns to get enough money to buy some wargames advertised in the magazine, and to get all the back issues.”[2] The publishers did not carry back issues, “So I wrote a letter to this collector, whose name was Gary Gygax, and arranged to buy the back issues from him. Gary invited me to attend a gaming convention in Madison. By a coincidence, my father had a speaking engagement in Delavan, which is near Lake Geneva, on the same weekend, so he took me up.”[2] Pickens and Gary Gygax drove up to Madison, and Gygax later invited him to the Gen Con convention; Pickens attended beginning with Gen Con 3 and for many years after that.[2]

Pickens attended Valparaiso University, and in 1976 he earned a B.A. degree in English and Economics. He continued to attend conventions while in college, and discovered TSR's new Chainmail miniatures game at the 1973 Gen Con; the following year, TSR debuted the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game. After college, Pickens began writing occasional articles for Dragon magazine, and was active in the Alarums & Excursions publication.[2] [3][4]


Pickens eventually applied for a job at TSR, taking both the designer and editor tests, and was hired as an editor. “They didn’t think much of the design work, probably because I wrote it in a few hours late at night, but the editing part was OK,” said Pickens.[2] Pickens later became the Acquisition Editor for TSR, Inc., reviewing modules for possible publication. He was also the Games Editor for Strategy & Tactics Magazine for several years while the magazine was published by TSR, and later the Managing Editor as well, commenting “In a way, this completes a circle in my life.”[2]

Jon Pickens has worked on many game products for the Dungeons & Dragons game since 1978, as an editor, designer, coordinator, and creative director. Some of his works as a game designer include the original Arms & Equipment Guide, and design contributions to the third edition Player's Handbook, Monster Manual, and Dungeon Masters Guide. He has edited many Dungeons & Dragons books, including notably the Castle Greyhawk module, and the Rules Cyclopedia.

Pickens and David "Zeb" Cook oversaw the development of the book Night of the Seven Swords (1986).[5] Pickens was known for often being a "go-to research guy" at TSR.[6] For Aurora's Whole Realms Catalog (1992) he assisted J. Robert King's research by providing his own personal library.[7] In preparing the campaign setting book Al-Qadim: Arabian Adventures (1992), Pickens provided Jeff Grubb with three boxes of reference and research material.[8]

While Pickens left the gaming industry in the early 2000s, his nephew, Robert DeHoff, remains in that field and acts as a playtester and writer for Catalyst Game Labs's BattleTech, Cosmic Patrol, and Leviathans game lines.


  1. ^ Tianen, Dave (August 20, 1993). "GEN CON: Where dragonmasters, Star Fleet admirals come to play", Milwaukee Sentinel, p. D14.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "TSR Profiles". Dragon (#106). Lake Geneva, Wisconsin: TSR, Inc.: 60 February 1986.
  3. ^ Peterson, Jon (2012). Playing at the World: A History of Simulating Wars, People and Fantastic Adventures, from Chess to Role-Playing Games. Unreason Press. ISBN 978-0615642048. This same Jon Pickens provided the Alchemist class in the Dragon #2 and the Berserker subclass in #3, among with other early rule proposals.
  4. ^ Stratton, Jerry (September 23, 2006). "Rewards and improvement in Dungeons & Dragons". Biblyon Broadsheet. In "D&D Options: Orgies, Inc." in Dragon 10 (October 1977), Jon Pickens suggested awarding treasure experience when the treasure was spent rather than when acquired, so as to encourage players to get rid of it. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |url= (help)
  5. ^ "OA2 Night of the Seven Swords (1e) - Wizards of the Coast - AD&D 1st Ed. - Oriental Adventures - AD&D 1st Ed. -". Retrieved 3 March 2017.
  6. ^ "DMGR3 Arms and Equipment Guide (2e) - Wizards of the Coast - AD&D 2nd Ed. - AD&D 2nd Ed. -". Retrieved 3 March 2017.
  7. ^ "Aurora's Whole Realms Catalogue (2e) - Wizards of the Coast - AD&D 2nd Ed. - Forgotten Realms - AD&D 2nd Ed. -". Retrieved 3 March 2017.
  8. ^ "Al-Qadim: Arabian Adventures (2e) - Wizards of the Coast - AD&D 2nd Ed. - Al-Qadim - AD&D 2nd Ed. -". Retrieved 3 March 2017.

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