We may earn a commission when you buy through links in our articles. Learn more.

Pioneering DnD design veteran James M. Ward has died

James M. Ward, long-time DnD designer who played alongside Gary Gygax and created the first sci-fi tabletop RPG, has passed away at the age of 72.

DnD Greyhawk book art showing a man on a griffin flying to fight a dragon.

One of the greats of old school DnD design, James M. Ward, died on March 18, 2024, passing away at the age of 72, according to a statement posted to his author Facebook page.

Ward played in some of the very earliest games of Dungeons and Dragons with his friend and its creator Gary Gygax, and later worked alongside him at TSR. While at TSR, Ward made loads of additions to the original tabletop roleplaying game. He’s responsible for adding DnD gods to the game, as well as leading TSR’s first forays into the science fiction genre.

Ward worked for TSR for 20 years, leaving in 1996 – just before Wizards of the Coast’s acquisition – due to disagreements over how the company was handling its financial crisis point.

DnD Gamma World book

Ward’s early work for TSR, produced while he was working as a high school teacher, includes Gods, Demigods, and Heroes. Written by Ward and Rob Kuntz, the book included stats and rules for incorporating gods and heroes, both fictional and mythical, in DnD (later the pair made Deities & Demigods for AD&D).

Ward also created the first sci-fi TTRPGs, designing Metamorphosis Alpha, which was published by TSR in 1976. An innovative RPG set aboard a gigantic spaceship that had undergone some unknown disaster, Metamorphosis Alpha laid the foundations for the better known post-apocalyptic game Gamma World, which was co-written by Ward and Gary Jaquet.

DnD Greyhawk book

Ward also made major contributions to Gary Gygax’s Greyhawk DnD setting, writing the sourcebook Greyhawk Adventures in 1988.

One of the later TSR projects James M. Ward worked on was Spellfire, a trading card game created to rival Wizard of the Coast’s Magic: The Gathering. Once Wizards acquired TSR, after Ward had left the company, the game was discontinued.

But Ward took that TCG design experience with him for his post-TSR work, designing the Dragonball Z CCG, which was produced from 2000 – 2017. He also had some involvement in the Old School Revival, working for Troll Lord Games.