Douglas Niles (born December 1, 1954, in Brookfield, Wisconsin) is a fantasy author and game designer. Niles was one of the creators of the Dragonlance world and the author of the first three Forgotten Realms novels, and the Top Secret S/I espionage role-playing game.
Niles was born in Brookfield, Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee, and his family moved to Nashotah, a small town to the north, when he was twelve years old. Niles developed an interest in heroic fantasy, as well as wargaming, and began writing short stories and making short films in high school. Niles attended the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh, where he majored in speech and minored in English. While there, he met Chris Schroeder, whom he married three years later.
After graduation, Niles began teaching Speech and English at Clinton High School, about 30 miles away from Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. “One day, one of my students came up and said she had a note to get out of class that afternoon because she was going to be interviewed by People magazine. Her name was Heidi Gygax. I asked her why People wanted to interview her, and she told me that her father had invented the Dungeons & Dragons game. Well, I had heard of D&D, but didn’t know that the designer lived so close to me. The next day, Heidi brought me a copy of the original D&D Basic Set, and two days later, I got some friends together and played my first game. I was the DM.”
A few years later, one of the players in Niles' D&D campaign went to work for Dragon magazine. According to Niles, “One day, he told me that TSR was hiring editors, and I applied for a job. I took the editing test, which consisted of a 14 page manuscript I was supposed to mark up. I only found three things to change. . . and flunked the test. But TSR was also hiring game designers, and so, armed with a half-written novel and some notes from my campaign, I applied for a design job. I went through five interviews, and gradually convinced them that I could do the job.” Niles was hired by TSR in January 1982, as a game designer. “For the first few weeks I reviewed and critiqued outside submissions, and I wasn’t too good at it. I kept pestering my boss, Al Hammack, for a design assignment, and finally he gave me an old brief for a novice-level module, Cult of the Reptile God, and told me to write it. I completed it in four weeks, and it was published. I don’t know whether they liked it because it was good, or because I did it in only four weeks.” Niles worked on more than just D&D for TSR, “In the summer of 1982, I designed my first game, the Knight Hawks rules for the Star Frontiers game, with much help from my editor, Steve Winter.”
Niles produced several modules for the D&D game, including X3 Curse of Xanathon, B5 Horror on the Hill, CM1 Test of the Warlords, and H1 Bloodstone Pass, and Dragonlance modules DL2 Dragons of Flame, DL6 Dragons of Ice, DL9 Dragons of Deceit, and DL11 Dragons of Glory. Niles worked on the Battlesystem Supplement, Star Frontiers modules SF4 Mission to Alcazzar and SFKH1 Dramune Run, Indiana Jones module IJ2 Raiders of the Lost Ark, the World War II Game, the Sirocco Strategy Game (with Zeb Cook), and the Endless Quest books EQ #26 Tarzan and the Well of Slaves and Super EQ #3 Escape From Castle Quarras for TSR. Niles also designed the City of Greyhawk boxed set (specifically the 96-page booklet Greyhawk: Gem of the Flanaess). Niles has also written numerous novels, mainly for the Dragonlance series.
Niles currently resides in Delavan, Wisconsin with his wife, Christine, and two Bouviets, Reggie and Stella. They have two children, Allison and David. Niles enjoys playing his guitar, cooking, and visiting with family.