Dungeons & Dragons: How Morley The Wizard Made D&D For Kids
As a way to broaden the Dungeons & Dragons brand, TSR created a mascot to appeal to families and kids. Here’s the true story behind Morley the Wizard.
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In the years since Dungeons & Dragons was first published in 1974, the tabletop RPG has become a household name and a recognizable part of pop culture. This wasn’t always the case, though, as TSR (the original company behind the game) expanded the D&D brand throughout the late ’70s and ’80s. One way of doing this was by creating a family-friendly mascot that could get younger players into TSR’s board games and even D&D itself. Here’s the true story behind Morley the Wizard.
Dungeons & Dragons may be seen as an endearing and beloved franchise now, but when the game first came to national attention, there were concerns from some parents and organizations that playing D&D could lead to dabbling in actual witchcraft, committing crimes, and even turning violent. It didn’t help matters that in 1979, D&D was wrongfully blamed for a missing student. To turn matters around, the people at TSR decided to try to appeal to families and kids.
In order to appeal to this demographic, TSR decided it needed an appropriate mascot – one that conveyed a family-friendly image while maintaining a look befitting the D&D brand. Thus, Morley the Wizard was born. This cartoony wizard with a long, flowing white beard and brightly-colored robe was a kid-friendly mascot that was still on theme with Dungeons & Dragons’ fantasy aesthetic.
How Morley The Wizard Introduced Kids To D&D
As a precursor to contemporary D&D board games like Dungeons & Dragons: The Adventure Begins, TSR released board games like Dungeon! (aimed at families) and Fantasy Forest (aimed at younger kids). By the late ’70s, Morley the Wizard was selling TSR’s games in radio broadcasts and TV commercials. He was even featured on the cover of Fantasy Forest and was even featured with TSR’s logo for a while.
A lot of people who were kids in the ’80s may remember Morley the Wizard, since he was a part of TSR’s brand for several years. Ultimately, much like TSR’s other attempts to appeal to younger audiences (like the doomed Dungeons & Dragons cartoon from the early 1980s), things just didn’t work out. Eventually, the company decided to go in a different direction and Morley the Wizard was left behind.
Still, the story behind Morley the Wizard is an interesting and important part of Dungeons & Dragons and TSR’s history. Many kids were introduced to fantasy board games during this time because of Morley, which led to a lot of young players discovering the wonders of D&D for themselves.