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Frank Mentzer

Jacob Franklin "Frank" Mentzer III
Frank Mentzer at Lucca Comics & Games 2014
Born Jacob Franklin Mentzer III
Pen name Frank Mentzer
Occupation author/editor
Citizenship United States
Subject fantasy roleplaying games
Notable works Dungeons & Dragons: Basic, Expert, Companion, Master & Immortal Boxed Sets
Spouse Debbie

Jacob Franklin "Frank" Mentzer III (born in 1950), is an American fantasy author and game designer best known for his work on early materials for the Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) fantasy role-playing game. He was a performing folk musician from 1968 to 1975, and played one concert at the White House during the administration of Richard Nixon. He was an employee of TSR, Inc. from 1980–1986, part of that time as Creative Advisor to the Chairman of the Board, Gary Gygax. He also founded the Role-Playing Games Association (RPGA) during his time with TSR. He has been closely involved with the world's largest game auction at the Gen Con game convention since 1983, and is an expert on (and a major collector of) family boardgames and role-playing games. After Gygax was ousted from TSR at the end of 1985, Mentzer left TSR as well and helped Gygax to start New Infinities Productions Inc. (NIPI). When this venture failed, Mentzer left the gaming industry, eventually becoming the manager of a bakery. In 2008, he closed down this business, and two years later, announced he was returning to the gaming industry as a founding partner of a new publishing company, Eldritch Enterprises.


  • Early life 1
  • TSR, Inc. 2
  • New Infinities Productions, Inc. 3
  • Life after game design 4
  • Re-entering the game design market 5
  • References 6

Early life

Frank Mentzer was born in Springfield, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia, the older of two children (his sibling is Susanne Mentzer). While attending Springfield High School, he started to play folk music, and at age sixteen, he played his first paid folk music concert at the opening of the Visitors' Center for the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall in downtown Philadelphia.[1] Immediately after Mentzer graduated from high school in 1968, his father, who worked for the National Park Service (NPS), moved the family to Maryland in order to work at Catoctin Mountain Park.[1] Mentzer enrolled at West Virginia Wesleyan College, but he was also interested in furthering his folk music career. With his father's advice on who in the NPS to contact, Mentzer was able to arrange to play concerts at various NPS sites. In 1972, he was hired by NPS to play a public concert in the White House gardens for inner-city children. At one point in the concert Pat Nixon, followed by national news crews, came to listen, and a clip of Mentzer singing "If I Had a Hammer" subsequently appeared on national newscasts that evening.[1] Following college graduation, Mentzer enrolled at Northeastern University for further studies in mathematics and physics. However, he subsequently moved back to the Philadelphia area, and for a short time during the 1970s, he worked as the manager of a pinball arcade.[2]

TSR, Inc.

In the mid-1970s, Mentzer and a friend taught themselves how to play the new role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons, and he became part of a group of eight to twelve players who played several times a week.[3] In 1979, TSR, the company that published D&D, advertised for a designer and an editor. Although Mentzer was initially uninterested since he had no editorial or design experience, fellow player David Axler—who would go on to write an article for the December 1981 issue of Dragon magazine about how to determine the weather in the World of Greyhawk campaign setting[4]—urged him to apply, and Mentzer finally relented.[3] After a phone interview with TSR, Mentzer was hired for the editorial position—Tom Moldvay was hired as the new designer—and in January 1980, Mentzer moved to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.[3]

Soon after joining TSR, he was invited to participate in TSR's first "DM Invitational", a contest to choose D&D's best overall

  1. ^ a b c "Q&A with Frank Mentzer, Part I, p. 78". Dragonsfoot Forums. 2006-05-22. Retrieved 2010-09-29. 
  2. ^ "Q&A with Frank Mentzer, Part I, p. 252". Dragonsfoot Forums. 2008-08-02. Retrieved 2010-10-18. 
  3. ^ a b c "Q&A with Frank Mentzer, Part 1, p. 80". Dragonsfoot Forums. 2006-05-29. Retrieved 2010-10-18. 
  4. ^ Axler, David (December 1981). "Weather in the World of Greyhawk: A Climate for realistic AD&D adventuring, adaptable for use in your world". Dragon (Lake Geneva WI: TSR). VIII, No. 7 (68): 42–53. 
  5. ^ "He's the Top Dungeon Mentzer". Dragon (Lake Geneva WI: TSR). V, No. 5 (43): 14. November 1980. 
  6. ^ a b "Q&A with Frank Mentzer, Part 2, p. 76". Dragonsfoot Forums. 2010-09-17. Retrieved 2010-09-29. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f Shannon Appelcline (2011). Designers & Dragons. Mongoose Publishing.  
  8. ^  
  9. ^
  10. ^ Gygax, Gary 1987. "From the Sorcerer's Scroll", Dragon 122:40 (Jun 1987)
  11. ^ Rausch, Allen (2004). "Gary Gygax Interview - Part I (page 1)".  
  12. ^ Sacco, Ciro Alessandro. "The Ultimate Interview with Gary Gygax". Retrieved 2008-10-24. 
  13. ^ Williams, Drew (October 9, 1992). "Dungeons and Dragons Creator Has New Game to Stretch Imagination".   (Registration required)
  14. ^ Sullivan, Patricia (March 5, 2008). "Dungeons & Dragons"E. Gary Gygax; Co-Creator Of .  
  15. ^ "Gary Gygax: Q & A (Part V, Page 4)". EN World. 2004-01-04. Retrieved 2010-05-12. 
  16. ^ "Q&A with Frank Mentzer, Part 2, p. 40". Dragonsfoot Forums. 2010-08-10. Retrieved 2010-09-29. 
  17. ^ "Q&A with Frank Mentzer, Part 2, p. 82". Dragonsfoot Forums. 2010-11-05. Retrieved 2010-11-07. 


In November 2010, Tim Kask announced at the KC Game Fair that he, Frank Mentzer, Jim Ward and Chris Clark had formed Eldritch Enterprises in order to publish a variety of general works as well as new creations for roleplaying games written by the partners.[17] Eldritch Enterprises was subsequently incorporated in April 2011, with immediate plans to publish a children's book series; a work by Mentzer's wife Debbie on baking techniques, recipes, and anecdotes, based on their time at The Baker's House; and various hobby game projects focused on "Old School" roleplaying systems such as the original D&D rule set and Jim Ward's seminal science fantasy game Metamorphosis Alpha.

Re-entering the game design market

In 2000, he and his second wife Debbie moved to Minocqua, Wisconsin and opened a bakery, his wife becoming the baker while Mentzer acted as manager. This operation eventually expanded to include three bakeries. However, running the bakeries was time-consuming, and by 2008, faced with other demands on their lives, the Mentzers decided to shut down their bakeries and move to Rockford, Illinois.[16]

For some years afterwards, Mentzer did a bit of writing, including Kam's Cooking Without Fire with Paul Kamikawa (1992), and "Trust at the Gaming Table", part of the Origins Award-winning Game Master Secrets Vol. II (Grey Ghost Press, 2003). He also became a collector of hobby games, and an expert on their worth at auction.

Life after game design

This led to the demise of NIPI, and Mentzer decided to leave the game industry. [15] system from New Infinities and then permanently shelving the entire project.Dangerous Journeys TSR immediately sued for copyright infringement. The suit was eventually settled out of court, with TSR buying the complete rights to the [14][13],Game Designers' Workshop When the product was released by [12] abbreviation would be too similar to "D&D.")DD that the TSR, Inc. in response to a threat of a lawsuit from Dangerous Journeys, but the name was changed to Dangerous Dimensions (It was originally to have been called [11].Dangerous Journeys The next project was a new fantasy role-playing game spanning multiple genres called :238[7], but TSR was not interested in publishing it. Mentzer got verbal permission to publish it with New Infinities, but since the permission was not in writing TSR filed an injunction to prevent the adventure's sale, although the injunction was later lifted.D&D (1987); Mentzer wrote the adventure as an RPGA tournament for The Convert New Infinites began working on a third line of products, which began with an adventure written by Mentzer called :237[7] The company's first product was the

Gygax quickly formed New Infinities Productions, Inc. (NIPI) to create new products for the role-playing game market, and Mentzer joined as Design Executive. Mentzer, together with Gygax and Kim Mohan, formed the Creative Committee.[10]

In late 1985, Gary Gygax and Lorraine Williams vied for control of TSR, which eventually resulted in Gygax's ousting. Mentzer, who had worked closely with Gygax for six years and shared his vision of the direction for D&D, was unwilling to work for Williams, and left TSR in 1986.

New Infinities Productions, Inc.

Mentzer expanded Gary Gygax's original Village of Hommlet into the long-awaited adventure module T1-4 The Temple of Elemental Evil (1985), the first of a new format of 96-page to 128-page squarebound paperback supplements, which provided more space for detailing settings and adventures.[7]:18 Mentzer worked closely with Gygax on that module, as well as the accessory The Book of Marvelous Magic (1985).

Other work by Mentzer included IM-1 The Immortal Storm (1986), I-11 Needle (1987), and an adventure module for TSR's Star Frontiers game based on Arthur C. Clarke's novel 2001: A Space Odyssey. Because of his work with the Gen Con game auction, Mentzer had become interested in the game memorabilia market, resulting in The Game Buyers' Price Guide 1986, which summarized current market prices for hobby games. (Further annual editions were planned, but when Mentzer left TSR, this project was shelved.)

Mentzer was soon promoted to Creative Director at TSR, and one of the tasks he was given was to collate and revise the various rules sets for Basic D&D in such a way as to not borrow any rules, monsters or other material that had been developed specifically for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D).[9] Mentzer's third edition of the D&D Basic Set (1983) was used as the launching point for a five-box series, which would eventually take characters from first level to godhood itself.[7]:15 This resulted in the Expert (1984), Companion (1984), Master (1985), and Immortals (1986) boxed sets of D&D rules (collectively known as BECMI). These were eventually translated into 11 languages, and millions were sold worldwide.

Mentzer became involved with the auction of hobby gaming materials at Gen Con in 1983, and has been involved with what is now called the world's largest game auction every year since then.

In his review of Egg of the Phoenix, Ken Rolston called Mentzer "a clever and original designer", and that of all of the better-known adventure designers of the time he "comes closest to creating scenarios in which the protagonists behave as if the game's rule books were physics texts describing the laws governing the workings of the universe".[8]

in 1989.) Egg of the Phoenix and re-published as the "super-module" I12 Paul Jaquays. (The connection between Aquaria and Greyhawk was never made, but these four modules were later revised by Mentzer and Flanaess outside of the Oerth" campaign set somewhere on Oeridian setting, the first part of a new "Aqua-World of Greyhawk. Mentzer envisioned them as becoming a part of Gary Gygax's Doc's Island, and R4 The Egg of the Phoenix, R3 The Investigation of Hydell, R2 To the Aid of Falx these were published by TSR as the first four of the R-series modules: R1 :24[7] Mentzer wrote four RPGA tournament adventures set in his home campaign setting of "Aquaria", which he had been running since 1976;:13[7][6]

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