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William J. Hoyt Dungeons and Dragons collection

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: 2017.hoyt
The William J. Hoyt Dungeons & Dragons collection contains files relating to Hoyt’s personal history with roleplaying games, especially Dungeons & Dragons and Empire of the Petal Throne. Materials include scans of letters (including correspondence with Gary Gygax), digital photos of student narratives created by playing Dungeons & Dragons, scans of newsletters, and other photographs and reference materials. Additional scope and content information can be found in the Contents List section of this finding aid.

The William J. Hoyt Dungeons & Dragons collection has been arranged into four series. This digital collection can be accessed on-site at The Strong.


  • 1965 - 2017
  • Majority of material found within 1966 - 1979


Conditions Governing Use

This collection is open for research use by staff of The Strong and by users of its library and archives. Though the donor has not transferred intellectual property rights (including, but not limited to any copyright, trademark, and associated rights therein) to The Strong, he has given permission for The Strong to make copies in all media for museum, educational, and research purposes.


251 Megabytes (Digital materials) : Accessible on-site at The Strong

0.25 Linear Feet (1 document box)


The William J. Hoyt Dungeons & Dragons collection is a compilation of scans, photographs, and digital files documenting Hoyt’s personal involvement with Dungeons and Dragons and other role-playing games. The bulk of the materials are dated between 1966 and 1979.

Biographical Note

William J. (“Bill”) Hoyt was an active gamer during the early years of TSR’s Dungeons & Dragons in the 1970s. Hoyt became interested in gaming the previous decade after visiting relatives in England; while there, he met Scottish wargamer Charles Grant who introduced him to tabletop wargaming. After returning home to Minnesota, Hoyt got in contact with miniature wargamer Dave Wesely, who invited him to join the Midwest Military Simulation Association (MMSA): a group of collectors, gamers, and military historians. Hoyt became friends with Dave Arneson (and later, Gary Gygax). Hoyt and Arneson joined the Castle and Crusade Society, building armies of figurines, learning about the middle ages, and creating rules for wargames. The original edition of Dungeons & Dragons was developed from a campaign played by this group of gamers, and the first edition of D&D was published by Gygax’s TSR Hobbies, Inc. in 1974.

Hoyt, also a school librarian, created a class project for sixth graders involving D&D gameplay to teach mythology, map creation, and critical thinking. Hoyt founded World at War Productions in 1974, inspired by TSR’s success with selling game rules. WAW secured the rights to publish M.A.R. Barker’s Empire of the Petal Throne game, which TSR published in 1975. Hoyt continued to play war games and attend Gen Con events for the next several decades. His involvement with the origins of Dungeons & Dragons is documented in Jon Peterson’s Playing at the World: A History of Simulating Wars, People and Fantastic Adventures from Chess to Role-Playing Games and other documentary projects.

System of Arrangement

Series I: Correspondence, 1968-2014 and n.d.

Series II: Student narratives, n.d. [c. 1970s]

Series III: Gaming history, 1968-2017

Series IV: Reference, 1965-2014

Custodial History

The William J. Hoyt Dungeons & Dragons collection was donated to The Strong in October 2017 as a gift of William J. Hoyt. The papers were accessioned by The Strong under Object ID 117.9587 were received from Hoyt on a USB drive. The second lot of materials was donated to The Strong in August 2023 as a gift of William J. Hoyt. The papers were accessioned by The Strong under Object ID 123.3033.

Related Materials

The Strong houses a first edition Dungeons & Dragons game previously owned by Hoyt (Object ID 116.7674) which contains a booklet of stories and drawings created by his class of sixth-grade students in 1974. The project’s objectives and method are noted in the booklet, including “1. To teach mythology and legends of the medieval period; 2. To teach map reading and map making skills; 3. To give practical application for mathematics skills in recording.”

Also donated by Hoyt to The Strong are a Dungeons & Dragons booklet accessory and dice (Object ID 117.5698), a physical copy of the Corner of the Table newsletter (Vol. 4, c. 1972), and a publication from the University of Minnesota about toys and wargaming figures.

The Strong holds hundreds of artifacts related to role-playing games, including modules, rule books, miniatures, and video games. The Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play maintains a list of Dungeons & Dragons-related library and archival materials, such as manuscripts, newsletters, magazines, trade catalogs, strategy guides, fiction books, and reference works.

Revision Note

Some file descriptions revised to reflect edits suggested by researcher Michael Calleia, October 2019.

Processed by

Julia Novakovic, May 2019; Stephanie Ball, February 2024
Finding Aid to the William J. Hoyt Dungeons and Dragons Collection, 1966-2017
Julia Novakovic
15 May 2019
Description rules

Revision Statements

  • February 2024: Revised to add materials from second acquisition in 2023.

Repository Details

Part of the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play at The Strong Repository

The Strong
One Manhattan Square
Rochester NY 14607 USA
585.423.1886 (Fax)