lorraine williams (includes opinions from Gygax et al)





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  1. #1
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    lorraine williams (includes opinions from Gygax et al)

    maybe it's the lingering christmas spirit, but... i've always found a bit sad that lorraine williams's name is *so* reviled by the general D&D community. if there is one thing that unites D&D gamers of all editions is that lorraine williams is a hag, a bitch, an evil person.

    gygax said less than nice things about her. other people commented on her disdain on gamers and game designers. there are simply too many hints about a bad side of her personality to wonder for even a minute whether or not she's a kind of mother theresa of the RPG community, who somewhat was a victim of the circumstances leading to the fall of TSR.

    on the other hand, i can't remember which game designer told the tale of how he was still getting money from TSR when he was doing no work because of his wife illness.

    ... and then ... well, i'm sorry, but i loved TSR. i loved the 2nd edition of the game. i loved having dozens of published settings. sure, many mistakes were done. sure, especially after the mid 90s the stuff i bought increasingly seemed somewhat less exciting.

    for all the shortcomings of mrs. williams's personality, her TSR hosted some of the most talented designers in the industry. everyone has their favourites, but few companies out there can boast names like David Cook, Monte Cook, Bill Slaviscek, Skip Williams, Aaron Allston, just to cite a few.

    the sheer amount of ideas that were put out for the D&D and AD&D game during that time are simply incredible: you have dark sun, ravenloft, mystara, planescape, al qadim, and many more different takes on what a fantasy role playing game might be.

    of course, some of the business choices of TSR were just stupid and hostile (a couple of lawsuits come to mind...). of course, her nasty side is what people like to remember, because it's easy to say: "that moneygrabber bitch ran the company into oblivion" and because history is made by the winners. and, of course, many were angered because the company was not going far enough with changes and with allowing an internet community to develop.

    but don't you think that all the aggro attatched to her figure is a bit too much?

    if she really was the horrible person and short sighted manager that everyone likes to spit on, how comes that LOADS of gamers were thrilled and excited about the games produced by her company?
    (unless otherwise specified, the above post does not reflect my personal opinion, but a universal law of the universe. if you happen to disagree, you are welcomed to move to the next dimension. faithfully, spell)

 

  • #2
    Quote Originally Posted by Spell
    there are simply too many hints about a bad side of her personality to wonder for even a minute whether or not she's a kind of mother theresa of the RPG community, who somewhat was a victim of the circumstances leading to the fall of TSR.
    Comparing Williams to Mother Theresa is far too kind--to Mother Theresa. AFAIK, Williams never let anyone suffer miserably just so she could feel enlightened. . . .

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    Quote Originally Posted by Spell
    if she really was the horrible person and short sighted manager that everyone likes to spit on, how comes that LOADS of gamers were thrilled and excited about the games produced by her company?
    For one, it's her company, not her. For another, "horrible person" and even "short sighted manager" rarely have much connection one way or another with "interesting thing producer"; in fact, the various settings cited as part of the shortsightedness are one of the exciting things about 2ed for many people.

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    sure, but... i hate to do this, but i have to cite it: palladium.

    kevin siembieda seems to be at least as difficult as lorraine williams. and there have been recounts of game designers leaving the company because they couldn't cope with mr. siembieda anymore, with fans stopping buying because the systems are in need of a revamp that palladium is not prepared to do, and so on.

    tsr never seemed to have such a bad name. sure, some people moaned about the moneymaking attitude... but there are people moaning today about Wotc for that same reason! you get them all the time!

    to put it in another way: i don't think that a company that many people were so fond off could have been run by someone that was really just a bad person.
    (unless otherwise specified, the above post does not reflect my personal opinion, but a universal law of the universe. if you happen to disagree, you are welcomed to move to the next dimension. faithfully, spell)

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    She doesn't bother me at all. I'm sure a lot of the decisions that D&D players hated back then stem from her but its all water under the bridge. D&D is still going strong, perhaps stronger than back then (Ok, so its a direction that I don't agree with, but...) so why worry about it. Theres no need to hate and despise someone who hasn't been on the scene for so many many years.
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    She forced Gygax out of the D&D company. For many of us, that's like someone deporting George Washington from America. Or banning Babe Ruth from baseball. It's unforgiveable, and something of a historical tragedy.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robbastard
    Comparing Williams to Mother Theresa is far too kind--to Mother Theresa.

    Welcome to the boards, Robbastard. We have a "no politics, no religion" rule around here. We ask you to abide by it, and such critique of Mother Teresa is over the line.

    If you need to review, the rules are available in the FAQ

  • #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Spell
    if she really was the horrible person and short sighted manager that everyone likes to spit on, how comes that LOADS of gamers were thrilled and excited about the games produced by her company?
    Nobody is all good or all bad, of course - but the outward perception is based on what people have been told that she thought of gamers in general, and of what the TSR lawyers did to the goodwill of the gaming community in the early and mid 1990's.

    For a different take, I believe Monte Cook and several other of the designers working at TSR at the time said she was on a personal level a very nice person, and really cared about the employees at the company, and company policy really showed it. (I have no first-hand knowledge, myself, just what snippets in forum conversations I've heard over the years.)

    The people working for TSR seemed very standoffish and non communicative with the gaming public, and the only people talking were the disgruntled ex-employees such as Gygax and others; in TSR's case its lawyers were downright hostile to the fan base, issuing cease and Desist orders to many people doing fan material, suing game companies for mechanics even the least bit derivative from D&D, and generally putting the proverbial foot in TSR's mouth and making fauxes pas wherever possible. For all the cool flavorful products they were putting out, lack of customer research (from Ryan Dancey's little article in 2000) as well as cannibalizing their own market with multiple settings and game systems just wound up making the hole deeper for them.

    TSR's policies, however, actually seemed to mirror some of what was going on from about 2004 to 2006 with WotC itself; From Monte Cook and Ryan Dancey leaving, and culimating in Anthony Valterra's departure, The voice of WotC employees on the various forums was getting quieter and quieter, to the point where it seemed they had stopped interacting much at all with the fan base. Charles Ryan had helped to bring some of that voice back, but after he left it seemed to stop completely. This year they've taken steps to ramp that vocal presence back up, which I'm glad for, because in a community as interactive as the RPG community, lack of interaction with the fan base seems to breed a certain amount of discontent with even the staunch supporters of D&D.

    I will admit, from the versions I've heard from both Gary and outside observers, Gary was done pretty dirty in the mid-1980's, as well as up to the early 1990's -- but who the final blame lies with, I'm in no position to judge.
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    1. Many of us left when AD&D 2e came out. So we don't bear the nostalgia for that time.

    2. I don't doubt that Lorraine Williams had her positive side. Most people have one and all but the most horrific of monsters among us have some redeeming qualities. That doesn't translate into someone being excused from scorn for their unpleasant and vindictive behavior.

    3. Very few stories exist that cast Williams in a positive light, and virtually none of them depict her as an apt manager or employeer. While there is almost certainly aspects of bitterness and anger from the later days of TSR, I find it hard to believe the vast majority of it is false.

    4. TSR's legal actions of the last '90s alienated a large portion of the company's core customers. TSR acted in a very heavy-handed fashion, sometimes on shaky legal grounds.

    5. Smart, creative people can work under people who are nothing of the sort, and vice-versa. There is no implied relationship between them.

    Testimonies like this, from David Wise, don't paint a very favorable picture:

    Quote Originally Posted by Monte and David Wise
    Monte: Tell us about the last days of TSR, and your personal eventual transition to Wizards.

    David: I was one of the victims of "Black Friday," December 20, 1996. In the months leading up to that major layoff, Jim Ward resigned from the company because he couldn't bring himself to participate in what he considered an unnecessary action. That left me essentially alone, with no buffer between me and [company owner] Lorraine Williams, who was not in a good mood about Jim's departure. And despite Jim's reservations about the necessity of downsizing, it was a terrible time for TSR, whose debt load had soared beyond its income. It was a cold and snowy day when Lorraine handed me my severance package and kicked me out of the building, but I took my dog hiking and felt better than I had in recent memory.
    The tale of the employee with a sick wife is true, and comes from an interview Monte Cook had with William Connors. You can read the interview here; Williams helped Connors out when he sorely needed the help (though it should be noted other employees helped him out, as well). But even with his praise, he says this:

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Connors
    It's unique, because it makes [CEO] Lorraine Williams (the woman many people -- almost certainly correctly -- blame for running the company into the ground) out to be a hero. Because of that, a lot of people don't believe it.
    In other words, he points out that while she unquestionably helped him out when he was at his wit's end (and should be commended for doing so), it has to be conceded that she killed the company.

    Tales like these aren't just coming from some disgruntled artists who didn't get paid when TSR hit the lean times; these are heads of R&D, brand managers, authors who wrote many high-profile titles, developers of the comic-book line....folks who would have an idea. I don't think that Williams was some evil madwoman. The impression I get is a person with a very strong will who refused to see when she was in the wrong and who was prepared to ride the sinking ship to the ocean floor before admitting that she needed help or had misread the market. Her fairly well-acknowledged disdain for gamers in general and her unwavering certainty that Buck Rogers was a far more popular property than it ever really was didn't help things. Most accounts agree that Williams did do nice things, down to mortgaging her house to make payroll when things were truly going badly.

    But the damage she did to the most successful RPG company in history (and by extension, to the entire hobby) is a hard thing to forget or ignore. In the mid-90s, there was serious talk that D&D was going to out of print and disappear forever....and what was sadder was that many of us had stopped playing the game by that point and might not have even noticed.

    Apparently, after selling the company in 1997, Lorraine Williams moved to Germany and has since disappeared from the gaming industry and public radar.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Spell
    kevin siembieda seems to be at least as difficult as lorraine williams. and there have been recounts of game designers leaving the company because they couldn't cope with mr. siembieda anymore, with fans stopping buying because the systems are in need of a revamp that palladium is not prepared to do, and so on.
    I would argue that Palladium has NEVER been nearly as popular as D&D and that since Kevin Siembieda is the original creator of the RIFTS game and company and certainly a gamer, the situation is markedly different. RIFTS, the most popular title that Palladium has ever released, has sold 250,000 copies or so in it's lifetime. That sounds like a lot, until you consider that's the size of a single print-run of a single version of the PHB from a single-edition. Had Lorraine Williams purchased Palladium instead of TSR, I sincerely doubt you'd see the same reaction.
    "I'd say it's more appropriate to say that videogames are RPG-ish, wouldn't you?"

    Have you read our current Zad/Wizardru's New Story Hour (Updated 9/8)

    or our older WizarDru's Story Hour?
    You Should.
    I ain't linking to Piratecat's story hour...no sir, I just won't do it. He can just get the next half-million reads on his own.

    Did I mention that I have a Livejournal? It's possible that I have.

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