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D&D General Ed Greenwood's $5K Contract To Sell The Forgotten Realms

D&D historian Ben Riggs has a copy of Ed Greenwood's original Forgotten Realms contract and spends a few words covering it, calling it "The best $5,000 D&D Spent". The setting was sold to TSR for $4,000 in 1987, with another $1,000 for comsulting services. Ed Greenwood, the creator of the Realms, said he never regretted the decision to sell the property to TSR, the first company to make...

D&D historian Ben Riggs has a copy of Ed Greenwood's original Forgotten Realms contract and spends a few words covering it, calling it "The best $5,000 D&D Spent". The setting was sold to TSR for $4,000 in 1987, with another $1,000 for comsulting services.

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Ed Greenwood, the creator of the Realms, said he never regretted the decision to sell the property to TSR, the first company to make D&D. The five grand he made was $4,000 for the Realms itself, and then $1,000 for services as a design consultant. (That’s $13,000 in 2022 dollars).

 

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darjr

I crit!
I have to disagree, Dragon and Dungeon had fantastic content, much of it legendary and went on to change the game and make luminaries in the hobby etc.

Yes it was also a vehicle for marketing and adds. More so later than earlier, imho.

I liked Dragon+ and it had a few great things too, especially the art! However I think it was much much more a marketing and advertising tool than Dragon and Dungeon magazines.

A strange one too, cause it’s target audience seemed to be those already sold on D&D.
 
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It’s kinda weird that folks in this thread think $5k was any kind of a good deal or anything more than a pittance considering the kind of gross revenue TSR was doing in that period.
I did contract work for the Conan RPG with Mongoose in 2004-2005 and was getting paid about $5K for 64 pages of material so yeah, this number seems low. But the mid-eighties were different back then, and the idea that D&D would go way beyond being its own cottage industry seemed like a pipe dream. That said....I was also under the impression that TSR was essentially in financial trouble near constantly, which was why all the publisher returns on product tanked them just a few years later. OTOH I guess a lot of those troubles didn't start until closer to 1990, when the model of pumping out endless product was adopted, followed by the card game craze and crash.
 

TSR was taking a bit of a risk at the time. Neither they nor Ed knew how popular and profitable the Forgotten Realms would be. If FR had flopped big time, today we would be saying how Ed made out like a bandit.
True, FR succeeded where Greyhawk, as a counterpoint, ultimately failed. The weirdest thing WotC today could do would be to bring Greyhawk back in the 5E/One D&D era.
 

True, FR succeeded where Greyhawk, as a counterpoint, ultimately failed. The weirdest thing WotC today could do would be to bring Greyhawk back in the 5E/One D&D era.
not sure just how true that is. IIRC, Rigg's book has a chart showing that the WoG boxed set outsold every other boxed set, including FR. But... you have to consider that the FR also included a ton of books, modules, and companion boxed sets as well. Add those all together, and it's likely that FR did eventually outsell WoG. You also have to remember that Greyhawk failed partly because TSR wanted to get away from it after EGG was ousted, so it was a rather deliberate failure...
 

Assuming the pay in Canada for a librarian was comparable to America, in 1986 (ALA is missing data from 1987 for some reason), the mean salary for a librarian was $26,882. $5,000 is a pretty sizable chunk when put next to that. Also, I could be misremembering, but didn't they also give him a computer (no small thing in 1987)?

Pretty ludicrously low, but for a Librarian around 30, could be quite the windfall, at the right time.
 



I have no love for what happened to the Realms with 4E. But my biggest complaint about the Realms is the static state that it seems Ed has always tried to maintain. That his primary characters he wrote for one time period must exist throughout all of the period and can never die, well that has always left a very bad taste in my mouth. Why must Halaster and Durnan be alive in the current timeline? Why do the same wizards, gods etc must revert back to the ones from the 1300's DR? Things should change, that makes the setting alive, more real and more interesting. IMO.
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pantsorama

Explorer
No idea why he didn't also request royalties. Or some measure of autonomy. I, for one, could never sell my creation without some level of authority and monetary gain.
TSR was "bitten on the butt" at least once before by royalty disputes, and that dispute did not release it's locked jaws easily. I would wager they would not go for a similar deal given thier recent experiences.

For example, Greyhawk had royalties attached to it, and TSR neglected the setting rather than pay royalties. Hell, they made a new version of D&D rather than pay royalties.

No, Greenwood probably did good when he didn't get royalties, given that he got to publish stuff using the name, and generally could still play in the FR sandbox. It's all counterfactual, so who knows really, but I do not think that the money TSR poured into the FR would have happened if they didn't own it all free and clear.
 
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