D&D General Extra Credits: The History of D&D Hasbro Refused to Learn


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@Mannahnin provided a comprehensive reply to this answer, which I agree with, ands others have provided some great resources.

That said, some of these books are great but are going to be a LOT for someone looking for an introduction to the topic (Playing at the World).

If you want a single, easily readable yet impeccably researched book that details both the creation of D&D and TSR and also details the relationship between Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, I highly recommend starting with Game Wizards. While it might go a little heavy into the early business history of TSR, it is still the most readable AND ACCURATE recounting you will fine.

Some of the other sources, especially those that primarily rely on oral histories, are not ... quite as accurate.

This is a review of the book I wrote for the forum earlier-

thank you Snarf, all of this is pretty new to me. I always thought of Gary as the creator who ran games for years then wrote the books. All of this is so interesting
 

Clint_L

Legend
I generally enjoy extra credits and there is good stuff here. The video is marred by starting with a thesis (the success of D&D is directly related to how how the game is to 3PP) and cherrypicking (or occasionally misrepresenting) facts in order to support that thesis. Was the crash of TSR in 1983 predicated by them being overly litigious with 3PP? Not remotely; that happened because Gygax and the Blumes were terrible at managing a large company and budgeted based on horribly optimistic growth projections. Was the implosion of TSR in the 90s caused by TSR being too litigious? Again, no, it was caused by publishing strategies that favoured short term cash infusions over long term stability, leading to massive debt. 4e, again, primarily did worse than expected due to taking the game in a very controversial direction that divided the fan base and opened the door to Pathfinder: here you could make a case that part of the challenge was caused by the existence of the OGL. And the 2023 thing was, IMO, too short-lived and recent to know what the fallout will be.

The video does briefly allude to these other factors, but swiftly disposes of them to stay focused on its central argument, which is a pretty simplistic claim that the success and failure of D&D is mostly related to how open it is to 3PP. The relationship of D&D to 3PP is a fascinating part of the game's history, but there is no simple cause/effect relationship; it's part of a much more complicated story.

Oh, and neither Gygax nor Arneson came up with the idea of playing war-games focused on the individual soldier. In fact, Arneson was scarce mentioned at all in this video; I would argue that TSR's legal battle with Arneson has been as consequential to the game as its relationship to 3PP, because that lawsuit is what created the "edition=new game" paradigm that D&D is dealing with to this day (see OneD&D).
 
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To quote a Youtube comment from Extra Credits themselves, "Slaying the Dragon: A Secret History of Dungeons & Dragons by Ben Riggs is actually one of the recommended reading materials for this episode. You can check out a few more in the descrirption if you're interetsted! We absolutely tried to fit in as much content as possible."

Which include...

*Game Wizards, by Jon Peterson: https://a.co/d/i2cxXJ6
*Designers & Dragons, The 70s, by Shannon Appelcline: https://bit.ly/EvilhatDnD
*Slaying the Dragon, by Ben Riggs: https://a.co/d/4limcn9

No surprise EC made compromises to keep the episode under thirty minutes. I imagine the episode is more a primer to give non TTRPG people a general idea of the history in a short time frame. The central thesis still stands. Openness good; control bad.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
The thesis: Hasbro is trying to regain control of how the game is played and create a more standardized experience with less outside influence (from 3pp developers.) Like TSR did with 2e and WotC did with 4e. Those changes generally went badly, cause developers and players to seek out alternatives.

The gap is where those players go: in the 90's White Wolf picked up the lion's share, in the late 2000's Paizo was the biggest winner. Neither of those are likely to repeat the performance.
Ah.

Doesn't really seem to be a "gap" now due to the Creative Commons move.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
I generally enjoy extra credits and there is good stuff here. The video is marred by starting with a thesis (the success of D&D is directly related to how how the game is to 3PP) and cherrypicking (or occasionally misrepresenting) facts in order to support that thesis. Was the crash of TSR in 1983 predicated by them being overly litigious with 3PP? Not remotely; that happened because Gygax and the Blumes were terrible at managing a large company and budgeted based on horribly optimistic growth projections. Was the implosion of TSR in the 90s caused by TSR being too litigious? Again, no, it was caused by publishing strategies that favoured short term cash infusions over long term stability, leading to massive debt. 4e, again, primarily did worse than expected due to taking he game in a very controversial direction that divided the fan base and opened the door to Pathfinder: here you could make a case that part of the challenge was caused by the existence of the OGL. And the 2023 thing was, IMO, too short-lived and recent to know what the fallout will be.

The video does briefly allude to these other factors, but swiftly disposes of them to stay focused on its central argument, which is a pretty simplistic claim that the success and failure of D&D is mostly related to how open it is to 3PP. The relationship of D&D to 3PP is a fascinating part of the game's history, but there is no simple cause/effect relationship; it's part of a much more complicated story.

Oh, and neither Gygax nor Arneson came up with the idea of playing war-games focused on the individual soldier. In fact, Arneson was scarce mentioned at all in this video; I would argue that TSR's legal battle with Arneson has been as consequential to the game as its relationship to 3PP, because that lawsuit is what created the "edition=new game" paradigm that D&D is dealing with to this day (see OneD&D).
Yeah, pretty tortured take, it seems.
 


Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
Gary Gygax's wife took his stock in the divorce and then joined up with other executives to kick him out of the company. It's court documented fact.
What? Could you give a citation? Gary and Mary Jo divorced in 1983. As far as I have ever read, she didn't have anything to do with him being forced out in 1985. The Blumes had more stock than Gary from the point that they bought out Don Kaye's stock, after he died in 1975 (well, technically Gygax had a controlling share for a brief period, after he exercised a stock option but before the Blumes exercised theirs). Is Kaye's widow Donna Kaye the wife you're thinking of?

Lorraine Williams, an unrelated third party, was the woman who was brought in to help save the company both with her cash and management skills, in 1985. By Gary. Then ironically she and he clashed in management, and she wound up buying the Blumes' shares and forcing Gary out. This is pretty well-known history at this point.


It's also a fact that by the time he got kicked out of his own company he had almost no allies there. There are books on the issue.
Well, yes. I cited those books in my earlier comments.

Chainmail an integral part of early DND was simply a modified version of a game invented by Pratt. The rule's of the modified version even had leftover language from Pratt's game. DND took stuff from White Wolf Magazine and there were several fights over that. His lack of ethic's and willingness to steal intellectual copyright from others is easy enough to verify dont' take my word for it.

That being said things were a lot looser in those days in the gaming community and pretty much every company that existed stole someone's ideas at some point to fix some part of thier game. But the everyone else does it doesn't change the ethic's of it.
Yes and no. Are you confusing Boston college student and NEWA member Leonard Patt with the more famous Fletcher Pratt? The latter's 1930s naval wargaming rules also come up in discussions of the history of gaming.

Chainmail's fantasy supplement absolutely took some stuff from Leonard Patt's two page Tolkien wargame rules from The Courier, 1970. But the original Chainmail rules appeared in Panzerfaust in April 1970, and Patt's rules were published later in the same year. And Chainmail is a full length game, with a 14 page fantasy supplement designed to cover more than just Middle Earth. Patt's rules were clearly a major source of inspiration for the fantasy supplement, but to call Chainmail a modified version of Patt's game rules seems extremely hyperbolic.


White Wolf Magazine didn't start publishing until 1986, the year after Gygax had been forced out of TSR. If TSR stole anything from them (this is the first I've heard of such, but I'm interested in details!), I can't imagine that he had anything to do with it.

I definitely agree that things were much looser then. The amateur wargaming community in the 60s and 70s was constantly borrowing stuff from one another. That was the culture. It's reasonable to expect a higher standard once professional publishing got underway, but at the level of pro-am publishing Chainmail was at in 1971 it was barely above a hobby.

Game Wizards and other histories go deep on the causes of TSR's financial woes. Amateurish mismanagement, egotism and excessive optimism about how long the game would go on exploding like a fad (end of '79 through '83), and some rampant nepotism in hiring and in retaining incompetent staff were all parts of the mix, and the Blumes and Gygax share equal responsibility.
 
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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I generally enjoy extra credits and there is good stuff here. The video is marred by starting with a thesis (the success of D&D is directly related to how how the game is to 3PP) and cherrypicking (or occasionally misrepresenting) facts in order to support that thesis. Was the crash of TSR in 1983 predicated by them being overly litigious with 3PP? Not remotely; that happened because Gygax and the Blumes were terrible at managing a large company and budgeted based on horribly optimistic growth projections.
They thought the fad would last forever, and it didn't.
Was the implosion of TSR in the 90s caused by TSR being too litigious? Again, no, it was caused by publishing strategies that favoured short term cash infusions over long term stability, leading to massive debt.
TSR's general policy of suing anything that moved certainly didn't help matters, in that doing so served to sour and-or drive away a significant chunk of their core (and thus most important) fan/customer base; even worse was that said core fans/customers were often the exact same people who were being C&Ded and-or sued.
4e, again, primarily did worse than expected due to taking he game in a very controversial direction that divided the fan base and opened the door to Pathfinder: here you could make a case that part of the challenge was caused by the existence of the OGL. And the 2023 thing was, IMO, too short-lived and recent to know what the fallout will be.
Very broadly put, the TSR-era goofs were mostly due to corporate blunders while the WotC-era goofs were (and still are) mostly due to corporate greed.

Blunders are to some extent forgivable. Greed isn't.
 

Clint_L

Legend
Also, Gygax had every opportunity to buy the stocks that would have left him in control, and he had the money, too. He just waffled so long that Williams was able to buy them instead. Gygax really had no one to blame for what happened other than himself, but he was mostly off in California at the time and his head was not really in the game, to say the least.
 

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