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.

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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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One wonders what might have happened if someone with proper business skills at an established publisher had taken that chance. Not that many of those weren't just wargamers flying by their seat of the pants as well, but still.

Yea. If only, right?

Though they had to go into business themselves. Believe it or not Gary couldn’t find a publisher willing to take a chance.
 

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alex2020

Explorer
Ed is too nice, his setting has to to be worth $100s of millions of dollars by now, and he git screwed out of his novel deal, he should have sued WotC for millions.

If the D&D movie is a hit, the Forgotten Realms' value could go even higher into the Billions of Dollars of value like Star Wars and Marvel.
You will truly never know, your comment is based 100% on pure speculation, NOTHING else. Let's assume for a moment Ed had retained his ownership of the FR IP (effectively sourcing a steady income every time TSR, then WoTC, then Hasbro, ever released a FR-branded product). Whilst that might have ensued for a number of years, for sure, but my OWN speculation suggests that eventually, an in-house creative team (salaried by any one of D&D's past or present owners), would likely have been tasked with creating a legacy setting to effectively replace FR, thereby rendering Ed's valuation of FR close to nothing. Hence why I said "we'll never truly know" given that $5,000 back in 1987 probably represented the "base case scenario" for both parties..
 

Hence why when I run FR it's set in the 1E/2E period. Going back and reading the old stuff, especially when D&D cared about lore, it's wonderful. 1E/2E was def the height of background lore.

Now-a-days you're lucky to get a few pages of lore before the rest of the book is the adventure.
To write lore you need talent. Talent costs. Costs erode profit. Better sell rules.
 

To write lore you need talent. Talent costs. Costs erode profit. Better sell rules.
There's a lot of rosy-coloured nostalgia glasses being worn when it comes to TSR-era lore. There was an awfully large amount of rubbish generated, but the sheer titanic volume of material being produced meant that a lot of gems came along too, and that's what sticks in the mind now. It's Sturgeon's Law in action. If you increase the size of the pie, then the 10% of the pie that's good is larger.
 




There's a lot of rosy-coloured nostalgia glasses being worn when it comes to TSR-era lore. There was an awfully large amount of rubbish generated, but the sheer titanic volume of material being produced meant that a lot of gems came along too, and that's what sticks in the mind now. It's Sturgeon's Law in action. If you increase the size of the pie, then the 10% of the pie that's good is larger.

I cannot speak for everyone nor I pretend to extract general rules from one single post as you try to do. I limit myself to observe that if there's a nostalgia, (term often used to denigrate different taste or preference), is for a way of doing products, not a product or a line of products in itself. So, your assumption is wrong, at least in my case, because while I definitely recognize that a large amount of TSR product are forgettable, I believe that THAT way of producing manuals (aside for the fragmentation, that was not good for businness but it is not comprised in what I'm saying) was the most fascinating and captivating way of build a world and stimulate the fantasies of players. Many TSR (and WOTC 3rd era, too) product are a pleasant read in itself, even without the RPG aspect. Unfortunately I cannot say the same for modern manuals. Lore diluition is too much now. I appreciate the Adventure Path / Splat Book formula of 5th edition, but I must say that I miss even the WOTC Splatbook of FR. In the TSR, (even 1st edition era) there was something surprising in every module: a curious map, a strange handout. Now everything feels a little bit "standard" and "structured" (as per "corporate" meanings of these two words).
Have the big privilege to talk with Frank Mentzer last week in Lucca, he says his "favourite writer (note the term) was Zeb because he was able to write about EVERYTHING". After that I have a week looking closer at Zeb's production and that convince myself that while in a corporate point of view it is understandable that this is a little bit scary, I definitely believe that RPG are more a matter of WRITERS than GAME DESIGNERS and I would gladly leave the seconds to board and wargaming with only a strict consultancy in RPG rules aspects.
The lore diluition now is both absolute and relative: I mean it is absolute because manuals contains less lore in general (as if customer base was less intellectualized and ready to assimilate complex geography and histories?), and it is relative because the little lore we have is a low cost, zero creativity reshuffle of pieces of old lore already written.
Given that I cannot find a reason for lore diluition and imbalance in favour of game design aside for costs, my regret is that we need more writers at work. And if they were good (and expensive) writers, sorry for profit. If somebody more expert than me in the industry can suggest other reasons for this lore diluition I would be glad to hear.
A little final note: Just to dissipate the aura of nostalgia vulnerability of my post I want to remark that I can find the same balance of game and lore in many modern products. The secret, perhaps, could be that the people writing it are the original creator of that product.
Excuse me for my english and for the long post.

P.S. To be clear for those who are interested, I must say also that I really like OSR and the first TSR era of let's start the adventure: "You are in front of a dungeon looking for..." so I'm not in any way a lore fanatic. I strongly believe in that rule: the less you say and show, the more far your mind travel. And the real "art" is to say what is needed and not a bit more.
But this approach leads very quickly to finish the cards in your hand. TSR 1975/1989 has written almost everything you can write in reference to dungeon crawling and the slope toward depth in lore was slippery due to both a sincere need of giving depth to adventures outside dungeon and a very mundane need to regain profit from new books. Maybe is this double driver (one sincere and artistic and one mundane and very concrete) that made the magic. Now I can only see a lazy, low creativity and low cost re-proposition.
 
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Hussar

Legend
I definitely believe that RPG are more a matter of WRITERS than GAME DESIGNERS and I would gladly leave the seconds to board and wargaming with only a strict consultancy in RPG rules aspects.
Not ignoring the rest of your very well put point.

Just pulling this bit out as to why we disagree here. The notion that RPG's are meant to be read is something I never liked about RPG's. It's why I never bothered getting into any published setting until much, much later. I had zero interest in reading about someone else's game, other than maybe to mine an idea or two for my own.

So, it's really just a different approach to gaming. I far, far prefer RPG's to be games, rather than something that I read.
 

Marandahir

Crown-Forester (he/him)
Eberron was the winner of the 2002 setting search competition. Apparently, the first prize was $100k.

IIRC there were also prizes for two runners-up settings. I forget the amounts of those prizes.
The runner-up settings are also property of WotC if they want to develop them.

That said: Keith Baker would be the first one to say that Eberron did not exist as the setting we know during the setting search competition. That was a winning pitch; the setting was co-written in collaboration between him and certain WotC staff. That's why he doesn't claim his Eberron is the Canon Eberron, but recognises that people still want to know how he'd run Eberron or expand out elements of Eberron.

Ed Greenwood's Realms are different: he had created the Realms, at least the ones we classically consider the Realms as opposed to other regions of Toril, well before it was a D&D Setting - perhaps as early as 1968. But Kara-Tur was created entirely separately and originally envisioned as a region of the World of Greyhawk, and Greenwood was never fully on-board with the pasting of it into Toril. Al-Qadim was made later, but Zakhara's pasting into Toril was also an afterthought. and Greenwood was never a big fan of the fantasy counterpart regions like Maztica. They weren't part of his Realms. His Realms were essentially the Moonshaes to Thay West to East, and Icewind Dale to Chult North to South. So he sold that to them, and then TSR built up Abeir-Toril by pasting in other properties they had as they realised FR was far more popular than their other generic fantasy settings.
 

There's a lot of rosy-coloured nostalgia glasses being worn when it comes to TSR-era lore. There was an awfully large amount of rubbish generated, but the sheer titanic volume of material being produced meant that a lot of gems came along too, and that's what sticks in the mind now. It's Sturgeon's Law in action. If you increase the size of the pie, then the 10% of the pie that's good is larger.
Out of interest what was some of the awfully large amount of rubbish generated during TSR-era? I have always seen this claim be made on these boards and have wondered what was considered crud during that period.
 

delericho

Legend
The runner-up settings are also property of WotC if they want to develop them.
Indeed. Although my understanding is that some of that material has already been seen in other places - some of it pulled into Eberron as it was published, and some in other places. (After all, if you've got the core of two settings that were good enough to pay for, why wouldn't you put that material to use?)

So I'm not sure whether there really are two settings sitting there for WotC to use. :)
 

Not ignoring the rest of your very well put point.

Just pulling this bit out as to why we disagree here. The notion that RPG's are meant to be read is something I never liked about RPG's. It's why I never bothered getting into any published setting until much, much later. I had zero interest in reading about someone else's game, other than maybe to mine an idea or two for my own.

So, it's really just a different approach to gaming. I far, far prefer RPG's to be games, rather than something that I read.

But indeed you'll agree that a big part of the renewed success of D&D is due to Critical Role, that is a show and definitely a NARRATION. This to say that aside our personal tastes, a big part of RPG is narration, and to narrate you desperately need good writers. You also need good game designer indeed but why, while the last are here around, the first are almost nowhere to be found? My hypothesis: it is a matter of corporate approach to production and costs.
 

Indeed. Although my understanding is that some of that material has already been seen in other places - some of it pulled into Eberron as it was published, and some in other places. (After all, if you've got the core of two settings that were good enough to pay for, why wouldn't you put that material to use?)

So I'm not sure whether there really are two settings sitting there for WotC to use. :)
While reading your post I was reflecting: the way Ravenloft has been released, the editorial choices made etc. all make me think that there is a precise and scientific decision to not produce splat book. Confine the lore into marginal aspects of adventures, just to add color and keep the lore at lowest rate. Now I'm curious as a monkey if there is a reason behind this choice aside the one I already give to me: costs and maximize profit.
 

Marandahir

Crown-Forester (he/him)
Indeed. Although my understanding is that some of that material has already been seen in other places - some of it pulled into Eberron as it was published, and some in other places. (After all, if you've got the core of two settings that were good enough to pay for, why wouldn't you put that material to use?)

So I'm not sure whether there really are two settings sitting there for WotC to use. :)
Truth. This was what WotC did with other settings too - Dominaria for example is stitched together from various D&D home settings used by developers of Magic: The Gathering.

I wouldn't be surprised if elements of runner-ups were recycled into elements of M:tG planes, either.
 

Marandahir

Crown-Forester (he/him)
While reading your post I was reflecting: the way Ravenloft has been released, the editorial choices made etc. all make me think that there is a precise and scientific decision to not produce splat book. Confine the lore into marginal aspects of adventures, just to add color and keep the lore at lowest rate. Now I'm curious as a monkey if there is a reason behind this choice aside the one I already give to me: costs and maximize profit.
Anyone can write a lore book. There are lots of great Ravenloft lore titles on DM's Guild. More to the point, you're competing with past editions if the main purpose is lore.

You can't ignore lore - and have to advance it to reflect the changing mores of the target audience - but if you're publishing for a game, you need to provide tools for the players of the game to play the game in that context. So it definitely needs to be focused on what you're trying to accomplish with the book.
 

Hussar

Legend
But indeed you'll agree that a big part of the renewed success of D&D is due to Critical Role, that is a show and definitely a NARRATION. This to say that aside our personal tastes, a big part of RPG is narration, and to narrate you desperately need good writers. You also need good game designer indeed but why, while the last are here around, the first are almost nowhere to be found? My hypothesis: it is a matter of corporate approach to production and costs.

I honestly have no idea as to the impact of critical role. I don’t know.

I do know that DnD was growing by leaps and bounds before Critical Role so it is a bit hard to say which drives which.

Like I said we are not going to agree here. For me, I barely bought any adnd books at the time other than what we would call rules splats now.

All that world building stuff? Totally passed me by.
 

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