Ed Greenwood Sold The Forgotten Realms For $5,000

This week in Ben Riggs' podcast, he interviews Ed Greenwood, father of the Forgotten Realms, about his 1987 agreement with TSR wherein he sold the rights to the Realms for $5,000. "We also discuss the origin and publication of the Realms, and I am able to tell Ed, officially, how many units his game work sold decades after the fact. (You can check out the numbers below!)" Click here to listen!


Forgotten Realms Sales Numbers.PNG
 
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Comments

gyor

Legend
$5,000 for a setting that has generated 10's of millions of dollars in revenue over decades. He got screwed, but he is such a good, humble none greedy person he seems at peace with it. Let's be honest Ed is probably the single most humble major setting creator in existance. His IP made millions and it's a trans media empire now, but he still works as a Librarian. I respect his lack of materialism, its a about the art of creation for him.

Video games, RPG books, novels, comics, dice, maps, miniatures, ect... All based on the Forgotten Realms.

And you know TV shows and Movies are coming eventually.
 

Lurker Above

Explorer
Personally I never like the FR setting at all after my initial fanboy phase of buying everything TSR put out. Probably one of my least favorite settings. But it does seem like Ed got a bit shafted here, given what they did with it. But at least he's immortalized by virtue of its canonical status.
 

gyor

Legend
Personally I never like the FR setting at all after my initial fanboy phase of buying everything TSR put out. Probably one of my least favorite settings. But it does seem like Ed got a bit shafted here, given what they did with it. But at least he's immortalized by virtue of its canonical status.
Ed Greenwood's name will forever been eternalized in the annuls of Fantasy history, a shining example of imagination, with the likes of Tolkien, Robert Jordan, JK Rowling, and Gene Roddenberry.
 

AkeishaRoberts

Villager
A fantastic and interesting interview! :)

I managed to pick up a complete (all parts there) copy of the Grey Box Campaign set in great condition about a year and a half ago and love it. Since then, I have been picking up some of the other F.R. source books from that period and consider them to be one of the best parts of my D&D book collection. :)

With Ed specifically mentioning/recommending the Volo's Guides during the interview, I will be looking into those too. :)
 

Eltab

Adventurer
Indians ... Manhattan Island ... glass beads ... $24 ...
History may not repeat but it does seem to rhyme.

I'm glad that Ed has come to peace with it all, and still enjoys chiming in.
 
I don't think Ed got screwed on that deal, as it's not like that was all he ever got paid. TSR paid $5G for the initial rights to the Realms, and in particular the contents of that first grey box, but they also kept paying him for new Realms-related product he created, including royalties on the novels (if not the game books), substantial enough that one of his royalty payments would have pushed TSR over the edge into bankruptcy at a vulnerable time. (And I presume, with TSR having been bought out by Wizards instead of becoming insolvent, his royalty was eventually paid in full. He didn't surrender that royalty in exchange for the return-of-stale-rights clause, he just agreed not to push for timely payment at a bad time.)

They also gave Ed further payments (it's implied) when they made more extensive use of some of his Realms creations, such as the character Elminster. And of course any new characters, places, or other Realms info he created AFTER the grey box would have been new material subject to later rights agreements as well as authorship payment and possibly royalties. (Since RPG game sales have not been publicized the way novel sales figures are, it's likely that royalties were never a part on that end). It's more like the initial $5G just cleared the way for TSR to be confident they had enough rights over FR IP to commit to a major investment in related product development with their in-house developers as well as Ed.

Given how notoriously bad TSR was at actually showing a profit on their huge sales, it's also not clear that he wasn't getting his "share" of what they were making. At least he didn't have to take part in their losses!

(He didn't mention it, and it wasn't asked, but I wonder if he also got something from Wizards when they were firming up the rights to D&D IP at the time they made big lump-sum payments to Gygax and Arneson to forestall any future disputes. It sounds like Wizards was in a mood to make sure they had clear ownership of TSR's key legacy product lines to the satisfaction of the original creators and perhaps that included Ed's FR.)
 
Just started listening to the episode this morning and Ed's description of the Realms was one I rather liked. It went something like this:

"It is a world of thousands upon thousands of stories...of shining knights riding past crumbling castles."
 
I don't think Ed got screwed on that deal, as it's not like that was all he ever got paid. TSR paid $5G for the initial rights to the Realms, and in particular the contents of that first grey box, but they also kept paying him for new Realms-related product he created, including royalties on the novels (if not the game books), substantial enough that one of his royalty payments would have pushed TSR over the edge into bankruptcy at a vulnerable time. (And I presume, with TSR having been bought out by Wizards instead of becoming insolvent, his royalty was eventually paid in full. He didn't surrender that royalty in exchange for the return-of-stale-rights clause, he just agreed not to push for timely payment at a bad time.)

They also gave Ed further payments (it's implied) when they made more extensive use of some of his Realms creations, such as the character Elminster. And of course any new characters, places, or other Realms info he created AFTER the grey box would have been new material subject to later rights agreements as well as authorship payment and possibly royalties. (Since RPG game sales have not been publicized the way novel sales figures are, it's likely that royalties were never a part on that end). It's more like the initial $5G just cleared the way for TSR to be confident they had enough rights over FR IP to commit to a major investment in related product development with their in-house developers as well as Ed.

Given how notoriously bad TSR was at actually showing a profit on their huge sales, it's also not clear that he wasn't getting his "share" of what they were making. At least he didn't have to take part in their losses!

(He didn't mention it, and it wasn't asked, but I wonder if he also got something from Wizards when they were firming up the rights to D&D IP at the time they made big lump-sum payments to Gygax and Arneson to forestall any future disputes. It sounds like Wizards was in a mood to make sure they had clear ownership of TSR's key legacy product lines to the satisfaction of the original creators and perhaps that included Ed's FR.)
You're probably not too far from the truth. Regardless, if TSR offered Ed 5K for what he sold and he accepted of his own free will, I don't see how anyone can say he got screwed.
 

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