Shannon Appelcline has been a writer since grade school, when he entered Doctor Who-influenced short stories into school-wide book competitions. His professional publications began in the early '90s, when he coauthored a historical fantasy supplement, Tribunals of Hermes: Rome (1993), for White Wolf's Ars Magica game. He then wrote and edited several other roleplaying books in the '90s and '00s, most of them for Chaosium — a publisher that he also briefly worked at.

For the last decade, Shannon has been researching the history of the tabletop roleplaying industry, resulting in a four-book series published by Evil Hat:Designers & Dragons: The '70s (2014), Designers & Dragons: The '80s (2014), Designers & Dragons: The '90s (2014), and Designers & Dragons: The '00s (2014). Together they chronicle forty years of game publication by over a hundred companies.

Today, Shannon has seven different books in process, planned for publication over the next four three or four years. They cover a spectrum of interests, including cooperative design, game design, fantasy literature, and (of course) more gaming history. Other current projects include overseeing a prospective series of books for RPGnet and coauthoring the Touched comic book. Many of these current projects are being done in conjunction with friend and coworker Christopher Allen.

Designers & Dragons - 1970s, 1980s, 1990s & 2000s by Shannon Appelcline

Designers & Dragons is a comprehensive picture of the history of the RPG industry. Learn about the colorful history of TSR and the wave of D&D inspired games (and gaming companies) to follow, and dip your toes into wargaming trivia. Whether you're a long-time gamer who greets each mention of a '70s title with "I remember that!" or a new-to-the-hobby sort who wants to know how we got here in the first place, Shannon Appelcline's meticulously researched history won't disappoint.

70s Foreword by: Greg Stafford!

70s Companies covered include: TSR, Flying Buffalo, Games Workshop, GDW, Judges Guild, Metagaming Concepts, Fantasy Games Unlimited, Chaosium, Gamescience, Heritage Models, Grimoire Games, DayStar West Media, and Midkemia Press. PLUS, Ten Things You Might Not Know About Roleplaying in the '70s, and an extensive bibliography and index.

80s Foreword by: Mike Pondsmith!

80s Companies covered include: SPI, Task Force Games, Steve Jackson Games, FASA, Gamelords, ICE, Hero Games, Palladium Books, Leading Edge Games, Bard Games, Yaquinto Publications, Mayfair Games, Avalon Hill, Columbia Games, West End Games, SkyRealms Publishing, DGP, R. Talsorian, Lion Rampant, Pacesetter, New Infinities, Creations Unlimited, and Different Worlds Publications. PLUS, Ten Things You Might Not Know About Roleplaying in the '80s, and an extensive bilbiography and index.

90s Foreword by: Peter Adkison!

90s Companies covered include: White Wolf, Atlas Games, Pagan Publishing, AEG, Phage Press, Dream Pod 9, Wizards of the Coast, Metropolis, Hogshead Publishing, Last Unicorn Games, Kenzer & Company, Grey Ghost Games, Imperium Games, Holistic Design, Pinnacle Entertainment Group, Fantasy Flight Games, Guardians of Order, Eden Studios, Margaret Weis Productions, Green Knight Publishing, and Hekaforge. PLUS, Ten Things You Might Not Know About Roleplaying in the '90s, and an extensive bilbiography and index. This volume has about 10,000 new words added vs. the previous edition.

00s Foreword by: Lisa Stevens!

00s Companies covered include: Necromancer Games, Green Ronin Publishing, Troll Lord Games, Issaries, Pelgrane Press, Goodman Games, Privateer Press, Mongoose Publishing, Adept Press, Memento Mori Theatricks, Lumpley Games, Burning Wheel Headquarters, Paizo Publishing, Galileo Games, Atomic Sock Monkey, John Wick Presents, Bully Pulpit Games, Evil Hat Productions, Kobold Press, Cubicle 7 Entertainment, Post Human Studios, Fan Pro, Arc Dream Publishing, RedBrick, and Catalyst Game Labs. PLUS, Ten Things You Might Not Know About Roleplaying in the '00s, and an extensive bilbiography and index.


"Perhaps this bundle's dark horse, since it covers games of the non-video variety, this spectacularly good four-book series sneaked up on us via a successful Kickstarter and subsequent great pass. We had to go see what it was all about - and it's a vital history of tabletop gaming through four decades and beyond, hurray!" – Simon Carless



  • "How about four new books, each focusing on the gaming companies that formed in the 70s, 80s, 90s, and 00s? And these aren't little thin volumes that quickly summarize the histories and individuals who were involved in the development of the hundreds and hundreds of RPGs since the 70s, either! The first volume comes in at 400 pages, and I've just finished reading it. In a word… outstanding!"

  • "Every hobby deserves a written account of its history. The history of RPGs is important because we are in danger of losing our lore … Every role-player must own it, no matter how often one plays."




From Designers & Dragons: The 70s

This is a book about the roleplaying industry as it existed in its most primordial days. It's about hobbyist gaming in the '70s. More specifically, it's about 13 different companies that began publishing roleplaying games in the '70s — from TSR itself, through the wargame companies and the miniatures manufacturers that leapt into the industry, to the companies that were formed specifically to produce roleplaying games.

The roleplaying industry is a very creative one, built on the backs of dreamers able to imagine different worlds. It's also a small industry, which makes it vulnerable to any numbers of disasters. That's what you'll find at the heart of this book, beneath the trends and under the skin of the companies: a story of designers and their dragons.

There are designers aplenty within these covers.

The names from TSR are among the best known: Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax, who together created Dungeons & Dragons; Jeff Perren and Dave Wesely, who provided some of its foundations; and Eric Holmes, Tom Moldvay, David "Zeb" Cook, and Frank Mentzer, who each rebuilt the game.
However, the stories of designers from other companies are no less important, among them: Ken St. Andre, who dared to create the second FRP; Greg Stafford, who created a game to depict his long-imagined world of Glorantha; Bob Bledsaw, who believed in RPG supplements; and Dave Hargrave, who was willing to share his own vision of D&D.

And the dragons, they're sadly here as well. They roosted upon the eaves of the old Dungeon Hobby Shop.

Ten different legal threats or lawsuits all get some attention within TSR's history, including: Dave Arneson vs. TSR (twice), TSR vs. Heritage Models, Elan Merchandising vs. TSR, TSR vs. Mayfair Games (twice), TSR vs. New Infinities Productions, TSR vs. GDW (twice), and TSR vs. the whole internet. And that was just the pick of the litter, ignoring more mundane issues such as Rose Estes and Will Niebling suing TSR for rights related to stock options.
TSR also faced dragons of other sorts, including board fights, ousted presidents, Californian exiles, decade-long vendettas, secret cabals, hysterical media, and a long fight with the moral minority. Dragons come in all shapes and sizes, you see.

Don't think that the rest of the industry was left out. Other publisher histories highlight a veritable flight of dragons, including corrupt printers, abrupt changes of direction, poorly received revamps, massive overprinting, fights over copyright, disagreements over contracts, near bankruptcies, thieving partners, and more.

Of the 13 companies profiled within these pages, only 3 to 4 are still in business (depending on how you count), and one of those is entirely out of the roleplaying business. As for the rest: they're all shadows of companies at their heights. That's because dragons have stamina; they keep wearing away at companies and their designers, like the sea against the shore. In the end, they always win.

The story is not in the victory or the loss, but in the fight.
Come and read the story of the first 13 notable companies to enter the RPG industry — the story of their designers and their battles against the dragons.