Tracy Hickman was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah. He graduated from Provo High School in 1974. His major interests were drama, music and Air Force JROTC. In 1975, Hickman began two years of service as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was posted to Hawaii for six months while awaiting visa approval, and then he went to Indonesia, where he served in Surabaya, Djakarta and the mountain city of Bandung until 1977.
Within four months of his return to the United States he married his high school sweetheart, Laura Curtis. Laura was the inspiration for Lauralanthalasa (Laurana) Kanan.
Hickman eventually attended Brigham Young University.
Hickman had many jobs before joining TSR in 1982, including working as a supermarket stockboy, a movie projectionist, a theater manager, a glass worker, a television assistant director and a drill press operator in a genealogy center.
Together, Tracy and Laura wrote the original versions of the modules Rahasia and Pharaoh, publishing them privately. Pharaoh was originally published by DayStar West Media in 1980. In 1981, Tracy entered into a business arrangement to produce an arcade immersion game, but his associate disappeared, leaving the Hickmans with $30,000 in debts. Destitute and desperate, Tracy approached TSR with the modules Rahasia and Pharaoh, "literally so that I could buy shoes for my children". TSR bought the modules, but wanted to hire Tracy as well. Tracy recalls, "They said it would be easier to publish my adventures if I was part of the company. So, we made the move from Utah to Wisconsin. It was a terrifying experience. We had no money. My parents begged us not to venture into such foreign territory to pursue such a bizarre career. My father wrote that there was a secure job as a fry cook in Flagstaff (where my parents were living), and he pleaded with me to come take it."
When Tracy and Laura Hickman came to TSR, they brought Pharaoh with them. It was published as the first part of TSR's Desert of Desolation series (1982-1983). I6 Ravenloft (1983) was also written by Tracy and Laura Hickman. Tracy Hickman also wrote two supplements for TSR's Gangbusters role-playing game. Tracy and Laura Hickman's contributions to the D&D module portfolio are credited with initiating a fundamental shift in the RPG module design sensibilities, away from pure dungeon crawl and towards more "cerebral" adventures centered on intriguing plots.
As he was traveling from Utah to Wisconsin to join TSR, Hickman conceived the idea for a setting to make dragons fearsome once more. At TSR he found other creators who were interested in his project which was called "Project Overlord". Harold Johnson became the project's biggest promoter to upper management and convinced Hickman to expand his initial idea of a three-adventure trilogy. Soon after, TSR management announced its intention to develop his series of dragon-based role-playing adventures. Hickman's proposal resulted in the Dragonlance Chronicles, which led to his association with Margaret Weis. Jean Black, the managing editor of TSR's book department, picked Hickman and Weis to write Dragons of Autumn Twilight and the rest of the Dragonlance Chronicles series. This was the first project TSR had undertaken that would include adult novels as well as games, calendars, and other spin-off products. The original Dragonlance team was formed under Hickman's leadership. "Project Overlord" began as a novel and three modules, and beginning in 1984 grew into the first Dragonlance trilogy (by Weis and Hickman) and 15 companion modules. After Dragonlance Chronicles, Hickman and Weis wrote the Dragonlance Legends trilogy, which was published in 1986. By 1987, the Dragonlance project had sold two million books and a half million adventure modules.
Hickman left TSR in 1987, having collaborated on over 30 novels with Weis. Together they also wrote the Darksword trilogy and The Death Gate Cycle, and collaborated on the Rose of the Prophet series (1988-1989). Weis and Hickman returned to TSR to write new fiction, although TSR turned their intended trilogy into a single book, Dragons of Summer Flame published in 1995. In spring 1996, Hickman's first two solo novels, Requiem of Stars and The Immortals, were published. Of The Immortals, a near-future cautionary tale about AIDS concentration camps in Utah, Hickman said: "I was absolutely driven to write that book. I was able to say many things that I felt strongly about and still do. It is perhaps my finest work."
For the Starshield Project, Hickman and Weis produced the Del Rey Books-published novels Sentinels (later retitled Mantle of Kendis-Dai) and Nightsword, and Hickman wrote a story for Dragon #250 called "Dedrak's Quest". Of this setting he said, "Starshield is a universe where a society of dragons can confront blaster-armed spacemen or wizards wielding magic staves with computer targeting", and that the Starshield Project "grew out of my desire to share the creation process with all our fans. Many of the ideas, worlds, and creations submitted by our citizens find their way into our novels. Everyone whose material is used gets credit and a chance to participate in profits from online sales of their adventures." According to Hickman, Starshield's ultimate purpose, and his biggest dream, was to finance a permanent colony on Mars by the year 2010: "Whether we make it to Mars may not be as important as that we honestly, courageously tried." Readers were able to freely download both the first novel in the series, and the Starshield roleplaying game from Hickman's website.
The Hickmans have been publishing game designs together for over twenty-five years including the popular and innovative Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Ravenloft module in 1983. Says Hickman of the original module, and its 1986 sequel Ravenloft II: The House on Gryphon Hill, "I still believe the original Ravenloft modules were perhaps the best that ever had my name on them." They published their first joint novel, Mystic Warrior, in 2004. Tracy and Laura have been producing their DragonHearth podcast since December 2005.
In the late 1990s, Larry Elmore approached Weis and Hickman to pitch his fantasy world of Loerem. They agreed and produced the Sovereign Stone trilogy of books. With encouragement from Peter Adkison, Wizards of the Coast published a new trilogy of Dragonlance novels by Weis and Hickman called War of Souls, beginning with Dragons of a Fallen Sun (2000). Hickman announced in 2008 he would be starting two new fantasy series: one being the six-book Dragonships series, with his long-time writing partner Margaret Weis, and the other the three-book Drakis series with his wife, Laura.
In 1999 Pyramid magazine named Tracy Hickman one of The Millennium's Most Influential Persons "at least in the realm of adventure gaming." The magazine stated that Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis are "basically responsible for the entire gaming fiction genre." Hickman was inducted into the Origins Hall of Fame in 2002, recognized in part for "one game line turned literary sensation: Dragonlance."
Tracy and Laura Hickman wrote the adventure Out in the Black (2006) for the Serenity Role Playing Game for Margaret Weis Productions. Hickman wrote the screenplay for, produced, and edited the first science-fiction film shot in space, Apogee of Fear.
In 2009, Hickman released XDM: X-Treme Dungeon Mastery, a guide for DMs based on his years of experience in the trade. Written with his son Curtis Hickman and illustrated by online comic artist Howard Tayler, the book calls itself the "cure for the common game."
In 2010, Tracy and Laura Hickman launched a direct-to-internet serialized fantasy series, "Dragon's Bard" which introduced the concept of "novel as souvenir" where subscribers could download periodical ebook chapters as the book was written and then receive a copy of the physical book upon the completion of the subscription. Hickman called the concept "web like the Dickens" after its merging of 19th century literature serial techniques with modern internet distribution. Eventide and the remaining two books of the series were subsequently contracted for general distribution by Shadow Mountain Publishing in 2012.
While primarily known for his work in epic fantasy, Tracy once wrote a Batman novel for DC Comics titled Wayne of Gotham (June 2012).
On March 15, 2013, Hickman joined Richard Garriott's team as lead story designer for Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues. Shroud of the Avatar is the "spiritual successor" to Richard Garriott's previous work in the Fantasy Role-playing genre, Ultima, specifically Ultima Online. Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues is the first of a five-game series of full-length, stand-alone games. The estimated availability of episode one, Forsaken Virtues, is October 2014, with episodes two through five scheduled for subsequent yearly releases.
Tracy and Laura Hickman began teaching seminars and workshops on creative writing at the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers conference at Brigham Young University. In 2010, they began offering their writing course online at their Scribe's Forge website. Their course includes both online downloadable course materials as well as live video webinars with Tracy personally conducting the sessions.
Hickman married Laura Curtis in 1977, and together they have four children: Angel, Curtis, Tasha, and Jarod.
On his website Hickman states that he is a devout Mormon. Since 1998, the family has resided in South Jordan, Utah.