TTRPG Icon And Game Designer Jennell Jaquays Has Passed Away At Age 67

TTRPG Icon And Game Designer Jennell Jaquays Has Passed Away At Age 67

Tabletop RPG illustrator and game designer Jennell Jaquays passed yesterday away at the age of 67, her wife Rebecca Heineman has confirmed. Jaquays is best known for her game design and illustration work on the Dungeons & Dragons Dark Tower and Caverns of Thracia modules, as well as her cover art for TSR’s 1993 Dragon Mountain adventure.

Jaquays was born October 14, 1956 in Michigan, and had a prolific career across TTRPGs and video games which began with the creation of the D&D fanzine The Dungeoneer while in university, one of the earliest RPG periodicals to be published. She would go on to work for Judges Guild in the late 1970s as an illustrator and adventure designer, where she worked on the standalone D&D modules Dark Tower and Caverns of Thracia. Dark Tower was the only non-TSR published adventure listed in Dungeon magazine’s 2004 list of the thirty greatest D&D adventures of all time. Jaquays continued to work in a freelance capacity for other tabletop publishers including Call of Cthulhu publisher Chaosium and Game Designers’ Workshop.

Jaquays moved into video game development in the 80s, working at Coleco where she developed and designed home arcade conversions of well-known titles such as Donkey Kong and Pac-Man. She continued to be closely involved with the game industry for the next few decades, working on concept and design work for companies including Electronic Arts. Jaquays became a level designer in 1997 at id Software during the development of the original Quake game, before moving to Ensemble Studios (Age of Empires III, the War Chiefs expansion, and Halo Wars).

In 2012, Jacquays co-founded game developer and publisher Olde Sküül with Heineman (her wife), Susan Manley, and Maurine Starkey, while also working on her own RPG adventures and illustration work through Dragongirl Studios. She was inducted into the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design Hall of Fame in 2017, and her adventures would go on to receive multiple nominations for the H.G. Wells award.

Jaquays also served as a creative director for the Transgender Human Rights Institute, where she was involved in the petition for the US to adopt ‘Leelah’s Law,’ which aimed to outlaw conversion therapy for LGBT youth. 

Jaquays was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré Syndrome in late 2023, with a GoFundMe set up by her wife to cover the cost of her care. Since her passing, the funds are now covering her medical bills.

Fellow fantasy artist Tony DiTerlizzi took to X (formerly Twitter) to share a tribute to Jaquays, saying he was “saddened to learn of the passing of TSR alumni, Jennell Jaquays, who was a fantastic artist and lovely person. I’ll always cherish her amazing cover to my first project for D&D, 1993’s “Dragon Mountain”. Godspeed, Jennell.” An obituary post for Jaquays on the EN World forums received an outpouring of love from fans of her work, with users saying the world had “lost a true icon,” and remembering her decades of work, including her Savage Frontier book at Catacomb Guide.

It’s a very sad day for TTRPG fans – rest in peace, Jennell.

Lead Image Credit: via @JennellAllyn on X, Rebecca Heineman (left) and Jennel Jaquays

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