Daily Illuminator

January 11, 2024: Jennell Jaquays

I first met Jennell Jaquays during the Metagaming days – she did the iconic illustrations for Chitin: I. And she only got better from there. Jennell was a creative engine for more than 40 years. We lost her yesterday morning. Tom Smith posted this on Facebook; it's from the heart, and I reprint it here with his kind permission. –SJ

Devastating news – we have lost a goddess of the gaming industry, and I have lost a friend. Only a few hours ago, after a very rough month of illness, Jennell Jaquays passed away.

Jennell was a creative powerhouse. Starting in the 1970s with The Dungeoneer magazine and the Judges Guild, she created and co-created fantastic adventuring material for both AD&D and RuneQuest (including Dark Tower, Caverns of Thracia, Duck Tower, and what I consider to be the finest campaign book ever, Griffin Mountain), as well as the seminal Central Casting: Heroes of Legend. She led the teams converting Donkey Kong and other games to Colecovision; she was a level designer for Quake II, Quake III Arena, and Quake III Team Arena, and an artist on Age of Empires III and Halo Wars. She was an excellent artist, illustrating most of her own TTRPG projects. She had recently finished a first draft to a huge overhaul of Central Casting. (For more complete credits, see her Wikipedia page.)

She was a huge, smiling presence, encouraging and mentoring artists and game designers, and vocally supportive of others in the trans community.

I knew her very casually, really only meeting up with her a few times over forty years, but those occasions were always special, especially the last two, when I also met her wife, fellow game designer Rebecca Heineman. She was as kind, funny, and smart as anyone you could hope to meet, and I counted her and Rebecca as friends.

Just over a month ago, Jennell suddenly took ill. The eventual diagnosis was Guillain-Barré syndrome, a condition in which a person's own immune system attacks the nerves. She never really got better, and had several crises along the way. Last night was the final one, and she passed only a few hours ago as I write this.

Condolences and love go out to her wife Rebecca and their family. It's been especially harrowing for Rebecca, who was at her side this whole past month. I'm sure the accolades will start pouring in from the gaming industry, the community of gamers, and the LGBT+ communities, and they will all be deserved. She was a remarkable talent, and just a very good person I was proud to have known at least a little. Rest well, dear lady, my friend, and thanks for everything. You were and are loved, and you will be missed.

Tom Smith


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