Mary Jo Gygax

“I think the happiest time of my life was right there at 330 Center.” 




Fritz Leiber affectionately referred to her as the Pirate Queen.  Ernie, Elise, Heidi, Cindy, and Luke just refer to her as mom.  Mary Jo Gygax had a front row seat to the meteoric rise of her ex-husband, E. Gary Gygax, TSR, Inc., and the roleplaying phenomena that swept the world.


Being called the Pirate Queen;

"Gary put me in charge of a bunch of stuff….and so I was in charge of the dinner where they honored all the people for their games or whatever it was, and that was at the Gargoyle.  They were screwing everything up, and Fritz Leiber was just a sweet gentleman, just very quiet standing there, and I was standing there, and I was calling them a few names.  I guess that's when he christened me that."


Gen Con 0 (August of 1967);

 "Gary said just bring your sleeping bag and come.  They were on the floor of our living room, and Cindy was just a year old, and I would just get her to sleep, and they would wake her up.  They were playing games and making a whole bunch of noise.  So I got mad….so then he got them quiet." 


About life with Gary;

 "When he worked in Chicago, he would come home on the train, and that would be about 7:20 most times.  He would sit down and read his mail at the table, and then he would get up and go into his room and make a move on his board and start typing his answers.  There was a time when he read the Lord of the Rings, and then he read it to the children.  And that was so sweet, every night he would do that.  And then he started making up stories and telling them to the kids."


The Gygax clan becoming the food vendors at Gen Con (Horticultural Hall);

 "Because they needed something to eat."


Working for Gary at TSR;

 "I typed the whole Monster Manual.  But the worst thing I ever did was the logarithms.  They were just page after page of numbers and slashes, figures and slashes, and you had to count them.  And I got a nickel a page.  And then when they didn't give me a raise I got mad, and I quit.  I went up to the Playboy Club because they had an ad and it was for selling these Key Club vacations.  So, I got hired, and I was going to start there.  I was scared, but Gary didn't want me to go, so I got a dime raise then.  That was in the beginning, but then I got a regular hourly wage."


Gen Con X (August 18-21, 1977 at the Playboy Club);

 "I was running it then, I was running the convention than for Gary.  Not the games, I didn't run the games.  Just the exhibitors, and all that.  And then I saw these guys were playing games in the dark aisles of the Playboy Club, where the rooms were, by candle light.  Which is against all the fire laws and everything, which was something."


Her TSR business card;

 "Everybody got a card.  They had Patch Press make everybody a card over there except me.  Oh, and I was pissed.  Dave Sutherland…was the sweetest, guy and he was so funny.  He made this card for me, and it had the pictures, plant tender, Gary chasing me around the desk, it was so cute.  So creative and darling."



Pictures courtesy of Mary Jo.

Gygax, Mary Jo.  Telephone interview.  11 Nov 2016.

Quoted material edited for content and clarity.