14 fun and interesting facts about the history and culture of the popular tabletop role-playing game, Dungeons & Dragons

Dungeons & Dragons has been a staple of pop culture since its creation in the early 1970s. A recent article in The Smithsonian magazine explores the history of this iconic game in the form of 14 facts. The article begins with a story about Gary Gygax, the co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons, who lost his job at an insurance company in Chicago in the early 1970s. Gygax moved his family to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, and started working as a cobbler to make ends meet. The financial situation was so dire that his children had to put cardboard in the bottoms of their shoes instead of buying new pairs. In his spare time he developed a role-playing tabletop game about medieval fighting called Chainmail, and added a 12-page supplement as an afterthought that included wizards, dragons, and other fantasy elements. This supplement would evolve into Dungeons & Dragons.

Here's fact 10, about Gygax losing control of his company:

10. Financial woes led Gygax to hire the woman who would eventually push him out of his own company.

In 1984, Gygax hired Lorraine Williams, whose family owned the copyright to the Buck Rogers comic character, to help steer TSR, Inc. back to profitability. The two had a falling out, but Williams liked the company and its staff, so she secretly bought out Gygax's partners. In a dramatic board meeting on October 22, 1985, TSR's board voted Gygax out as president and CEO and replaced him with Williams. (She, in turn, led TSR until 1997, when it was acquired by Wizards of the Coast, the company behind Magic: The Gathering.)

"Gygax goes into this meeting thinking, 'I'm in control of the company. This is great,'" Riggs says. "By the end of the meeting, he is not in control of the company, not in control of Dungeons & Dragons, and he never will be again for as long as he lives."