Why: 1994 wasn't a good year for the legendary roleplaying game company TSR, Inc. With its player base fragmented into a dozen sublines, TSR started to lose ground to new games like the RPG Vampire and the collectible card game Magic: The Gathering. Though lurching toward bankruptcy, TSR still possessed the richest game-based intellectual property on the planet. Its dragonload of magic items would be collected in a leatherette-bound series of four tomes called the Encyclopedia Magica. While proofing the volume spanning A–D, a design director noted that, contrary to TSR's house style, the word "wizard" had been replaced by the word "mage." So the director directed a lowly editor to change it all over. Which the editor did, but he neglected to specify a space before or after the search string "mage." So, for 16 straight pages, the book was filled with side-splitting passages like
The user may look into the ball, concentrate on any place or object, and cause the iwizard of the place or object to appear. A crystal ball may be used three times per day, for up to one turn per use. The more familiar the object or area, the clearer the iwizard.and
The tower can absorb 200 points of dawizard before collapsing. Dawizard sustained is cumulative, and the fortress cannot be repaired (although a wish restores 10 points of dawizard sustained).On and on, the scourge known as "Dawizard" destroyed magic items across the land.
Impact: On the hapless editor, the impact was just about what you'd expect, as he never worked in the game industry again. On game companies, though, it was another matter. Young editors at TSR, Wizards of the Coast, and elsewhere were inculcated with this tale by their stern-faced creative directors. "Dawizard" became the evil bedtime story that would keep these editors up at night, slaving away over a hot computer screen, fearing they would share that editor's fate if they ever failed to manually proof a book again. As it should be.
Personal Connection: I was one of those creative directors who terrified the aforementioned young editors at the Wizards edition of TSR. "Dawizard" became my go-to story for cracking up a late-night party at Gen Con over the years. Speaking of The Best Four Days in Gaming, on Saturday I did a dramatic reading from this section of the Encyclopedia while presenting this year's ENnie Award for Best Rules. I used the story to illustrate the importance of editing on RPGs. "If you ever want to win the award for Best Rules," I instructed all the game designers in the room, "hug your editor."
Other Contenders: the 1631 version of the King James Bible offers the commandment "Thou shalt commit adultery"; a 1915 issue of the Washington Post informs its readers that President Wilson spent his evening entering Mrs. Galt; the AP pretty much nails Joe Lieberman; the offenseless Washington Nationals go all meta by losing their "O".