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

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
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.
I think he hoped to leverage the Blumes into a cheaper price, and didn't realize how risky his position actually was.

I'm not sure his head ever really was in the management game. Pretty much all his decision making in the late 70s to early 80s looked like he felt responsible for the company and wanted to be the Glorious and Honored Founder, but didn't enjoy or have much talent for actually managing, and ducked those responsibilities/shunted them off to the Blumes about as much as he could.
 

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darjr

I crit!
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.
That’s party disputed. He participated in the business even in far California.
 


Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
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.
Eh. They definitely alienated some folks, but for the most part, from what I saw, most of their legal efforts in the Williams era (as opposed to the ones against folks like Mayfair Games over Role-Aids, from earlier) were against Gygax and against folks publishing on the internet, which back in those days was a relatively small piece of the fanbase. I think market saturation and a ton of folks not bothering to update to 2E was a bigger issue.

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.
I think this is drawing a pretty dubious moral line between TSR and WotC. The Blumes and Gygax certainly lined their pockets, and those of their friends and family, overspending irresponsibly as a company in part because of that. We may have less sympathy for Hasbro-era WotC as a more faceless corporate entity, but if you've got a mansion called Dragonlands with a stable full of Arabians, clearly you're not exactly as ascetic as a monk. ;) Especially if part of the way you got there was doing things like swapping out a module in the Basic set because one of your employees was making big royalties and you want that money for yourself, despite the fact that you're already getting big royalties off all the other books. Or the whole "AD&D is a totally different game, really, so we don't owe Dave Arneson squat on later books" series of shenanigans.
 

Clint_L

Legend
They thought the fad would last forever, and it didn't.
Agreed. They were rookies, and acted like it.
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.
I agree that it certainly didn't help matters, but what directly drove them under was owing tens of millions of dollars to Random House and other creditors because TSR was printing books they couldn't sell in order to secure advance money. As well, they had a terrible financing arrangement that locked up their money right at the start of the fiscal year, making them unable to cope with contingencies. From its beginning, TSR practiced the "kicking the can" method of financial management, which was inevitably going to bite it in the butt.

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.
I don't see it this way at all. Corporate greed is a given for every successful company in a capitalist system, in the sense that maximizing profit/growth is a survival imperative. WotC, both before and under Hasbro, has also undertaken some unusually non-greedy actions. For example, one of WotC's first actions after purchasing TSR was to settle its debts, even going beyond contractual obligations (e.g. returning original artwork to the artists for resale). Under Hasbro, the OGL and Roll20 may have been strategic (and thus arguably greedy) in inspiration, but certainly stand out as usual as far as large corporations go; you're not going to see Disney or Sony dump a huge amount of their core content into the Creative Commons any time soon.

I also think blunders are not necessarily less forgivable. A lot of people lost jobs and were taken advantage of through TSR's mismanagement, and after awhile the line between "blunder" and "greed" becomes pretty blurred. It wasn't a blunder that TSR tried to remove Arneson's name from AD&D, for example.
 



Clint_L

Legend
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.
I mean, does it stand if they didn't prove it? There are an awful lot of massive corporations that didn't get there by being particularly "open," at least not as I define it.

And what, exactly, is the thesis, for that matter? It is more framed like a literary or historical thesis, i.e. an interpretation. But being loose with facts is not great for a historical thesis, and because it is looking for evidence to support it, rather than to actually test the central premise, it is not even a theory. You summarize it as "openness good; control bad." I agree that that seems like a decent summary of the video's argument.

Now define "good" and "bad" in this context. Does "good" mean more moral or ethical? More profitable? More artistically innovative? Does "bad" mean wicked? Unprofitable? Poor management? Worse art? "Openness good; control bad" barely means anything.

Given that the video is sometimes factually inaccurate and often vague, and tends to imply cause/effect relationships that are never established (and often very contentious), I just don't find it very compelling. It feels like it was started in the middle of the OGL fiasco, took much longer to finish than the OGL fiasco lasted, and now is trying to justify an argument that has been overtaken by events.
 

wait who is Lorrain WIlliams? was there a woman involved in the creation of D&D? if so why don't we talk about her more?

One thing that I don't think gets mentioned much is that, according to an interview with her in the When We Were Wizards podcast, Gary Gygax's first wife, Mary Jo Powell, she did a lot of uncredited editing work on OD&D.

Interlibrary loans can be amazing: around these parts, Link+ means my local Library can get basically anything, worth checking if your local library can plug into something like that.

I used to work in ILL. The breadth of what ILL can get is indeed pretty amazing. One time a customer came looking for a dissertation published in WW2-era occupied Poland. There were only two copies available in the entire world and we were able to fulfill that request.
 


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