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lorraine williams (includes opinions from Gygax et al)

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Spell

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maybe it's the lingering christmas spirit, but... i've always found a bit sad that lorraine williams's name is *so* reviled by the general D&D community. if there is one thing that unites D&D gamers of all editions is that lorraine williams is a hag, a bitch, an evil person.

gygax said less than nice things about her. other people commented on her disdain on gamers and game designers. there are simply too many hints about a bad side of her personality to wonder for even a minute whether or not she's a kind of mother theresa of the RPG community, who somewhat was a victim of the circumstances leading to the fall of TSR.

on the other hand, i can't remember which game designer told the tale of how he was still getting money from TSR when he was doing no work because of his wife illness.

... and then ... well, i'm sorry, but i loved TSR. i loved the 2nd edition of the game. i loved having dozens of published settings. sure, many mistakes were done. sure, especially after the mid 90s the stuff i bought increasingly seemed somewhat less exciting.

for all the shortcomings of mrs. williams's personality, her TSR hosted some of the most talented designers in the industry. everyone has their favourites, but few companies out there can boast names like David Cook, Monte Cook, Bill Slaviscek, Skip Williams, Aaron Allston, just to cite a few.

the sheer amount of ideas that were put out for the D&D and AD&D game during that time are simply incredible: you have dark sun, ravenloft, mystara, planescape, al qadim, and many more different takes on what a fantasy role playing game might be.

of course, some of the business choices of TSR were just stupid and hostile (a couple of lawsuits come to mind...). of course, her nasty side is what people like to remember, because it's easy to say: "that moneygrabber bitch ran the company into oblivion" and because history is made by the winners. and, of course, many were angered because the company was not going far enough with changes and with allowing an internet community to develop.

but don't you think that all the aggro attatched to her figure is a bit too much?

if she really was the horrible person and short sighted manager that everyone likes to spit on, how comes that LOADS of gamers were thrilled and excited about the games produced by her company?
 

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Robbastard

First Post
Spell said:
there are simply too many hints about a bad side of her personality to wonder for even a minute whether or not she's a kind of mother theresa of the RPG community, who somewhat was a victim of the circumstances leading to the fall of TSR.

Comparing Williams to Mother Theresa is far too kind--to Mother Theresa. AFAIK, Williams never let anyone suffer miserably just so she could feel enlightened. . . .
 

prosfilaes

Adventurer
Spell said:
if she really was the horrible person and short sighted manager that everyone likes to spit on, how comes that LOADS of gamers were thrilled and excited about the games produced by her company?

For one, it's her company, not her. For another, "horrible person" and even "short sighted manager" rarely have much connection one way or another with "interesting thing producer"; in fact, the various settings cited as part of the shortsightedness are one of the exciting things about 2ed for many people.
 

Spell

First Post
sure, but... i hate to do this, but i have to cite it: palladium.

kevin siembieda seems to be at least as difficult as lorraine williams. and there have been recounts of game designers leaving the company because they couldn't cope with mr. siembieda anymore, with fans stopping buying because the systems are in need of a revamp that palladium is not prepared to do, and so on.

tsr never seemed to have such a bad name. sure, some people moaned about the moneymaking attitude... but there are people moaning today about Wotc for that same reason! you get them all the time!

to put it in another way: i don't think that a company that many people were so fond off could have been run by someone that was really just a bad person.
 

DragonLancer

First Post
She doesn't bother me at all. I'm sure a lot of the decisions that D&D players hated back then stem from her but its all water under the bridge. D&D is still going strong, perhaps stronger than back then (Ok, so its a direction that I don't agree with, but...) so why worry about it. Theres no need to hate and despise someone who hasn't been on the scene for so many many years.
 

Delta

First Post
She forced Gygax out of the D&D company. For many of us, that's like someone deporting George Washington from America. Or banning Babe Ruth from baseball. It's unforgiveable, and something of a historical tragedy.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Robbastard said:
Comparing Williams to Mother Theresa is far too kind--to Mother Theresa.


Welcome to the boards, Robbastard. We have a "no politics, no religion" rule around here. We ask you to abide by it, and such critique of Mother Teresa is over the line.

If you need to review, the rules are available in the FAQ
 

Henry

Autoexreginated
Spell said:
if she really was the horrible person and short sighted manager that everyone likes to spit on, how comes that LOADS of gamers were thrilled and excited about the games produced by her company?

Nobody is all good or all bad, of course - but the outward perception is based on what people have been told that she thought of gamers in general, and of what the TSR lawyers did to the goodwill of the gaming community in the early and mid 1990's.

For a different take, I believe Monte Cook and several other of the designers working at TSR at the time said she was on a personal level a very nice person, and really cared about the employees at the company, and company policy really showed it. (I have no first-hand knowledge, myself, just what snippets in forum conversations I've heard over the years.)

The people working for TSR seemed very standoffish and non communicative with the gaming public, and the only people talking were the disgruntled ex-employees such as Gygax and others; in TSR's case its lawyers were downright hostile to the fan base, issuing cease and Desist orders to many people doing fan material, suing game companies for mechanics even the least bit derivative from D&D, and generally putting the proverbial foot in TSR's mouth and making fauxes pas wherever possible. For all the cool flavorful products they were putting out, lack of customer research (from Ryan Dancey's little article in 2000) as well as cannibalizing their own market with multiple settings and game systems just wound up making the hole deeper for them.

TSR's policies, however, actually seemed to mirror some of what was going on from about 2004 to 2006 with WotC itself; From Monte Cook and Ryan Dancey leaving, and culimating in Anthony Valterra's departure, The voice of WotC employees on the various forums was getting quieter and quieter, to the point where it seemed they had stopped interacting much at all with the fan base. Charles Ryan had helped to bring some of that voice back, but after he left it seemed to stop completely. This year they've taken steps to ramp that vocal presence back up, which I'm glad for, because in a community as interactive as the RPG community, lack of interaction with the fan base seems to breed a certain amount of discontent with even the staunch supporters of D&D.

I will admit, from the versions I've heard from both Gary and outside observers, Gary was done pretty dirty in the mid-1980's, as well as up to the early 1990's -- but who the final blame lies with, I'm in no position to judge.
 

WizarDru

Adventurer
1. Many of us left when AD&D 2e came out. So we don't bear the nostalgia for that time.

2. I don't doubt that Lorraine Williams had her positive side. Most people have one and all but the most horrific of monsters among us have some redeeming qualities. That doesn't translate into someone being excused from scorn for their unpleasant and vindictive behavior.

3. Very few stories exist that cast Williams in a positive light, and virtually none of them depict her as an apt manager or employeer. While there is almost certainly aspects of bitterness and anger from the later days of TSR, I find it hard to believe the vast majority of it is false.

4. TSR's legal actions of the last '90s alienated a large portion of the company's core customers. TSR acted in a very heavy-handed fashion, sometimes on shaky legal grounds.

5. Smart, creative people can work under people who are nothing of the sort, and vice-versa. There is no implied relationship between them.

Testimonies like this, from David Wise, don't paint a very favorable picture:

Monte and David Wise said:
Monte: Tell us about the last days of TSR, and your personal eventual transition to Wizards.

David: I was one of the victims of "Black Friday," December 20, 1996. In the months leading up to that major layoff, Jim Ward resigned from the company because he couldn't bring himself to participate in what he considered an unnecessary action. That left me essentially alone, with no buffer between me and [company owner] Lorraine Williams, who was not in a good mood about Jim's departure. And despite Jim's reservations about the necessity of downsizing, it was a terrible time for TSR, whose debt load had soared beyond its income. It was a cold and snowy day when Lorraine handed me my severance package and kicked me out of the building, but I took my dog hiking and felt better than I had in recent memory.

The tale of the employee with a sick wife is true, and comes from an interview Monte Cook had with William Connors. You can read the interview here; Williams helped Connors out when he sorely needed the help (though it should be noted other employees helped him out, as well). But even with his praise, he says this:

Bill Connors said:
It's unique, because it makes [CEO] Lorraine Williams (the woman many people -- almost certainly correctly -- blame for running the company into the ground) out to be a hero. Because of that, a lot of people don't believe it.
In other words, he points out that while she unquestionably helped him out when he was at his wit's end (and should be commended for doing so), it has to be conceded that she killed the company.

Tales like these aren't just coming from some disgruntled artists who didn't get paid when TSR hit the lean times; these are heads of R&D, brand managers, authors who wrote many high-profile titles, developers of the comic-book line....folks who would have an idea. I don't think that Williams was some evil madwoman. The impression I get is a person with a very strong will who refused to see when she was in the wrong and who was prepared to ride the sinking ship to the ocean floor before admitting that she needed help or had misread the market. Her fairly well-acknowledged disdain for gamers in general and her unwavering certainty that Buck Rogers was a far more popular property than it ever really was didn't help things. Most accounts agree that Williams did do nice things, down to mortgaging her house to make payroll when things were truly going badly.

But the damage she did to the most successful RPG company in history (and by extension, to the entire hobby) is a hard thing to forget or ignore. In the mid-90s, there was serious talk that D&D was going to out of print and disappear forever....and what was sadder was that many of us had stopped playing the game by that point and might not have even noticed.

Apparently, after selling the company in 1997, Lorraine Williams moved to Germany and has since disappeared from the gaming industry and public radar.
 

WizarDru

Adventurer
Spell said:
kevin siembieda seems to be at least as difficult as lorraine williams. and there have been recounts of game designers leaving the company because they couldn't cope with mr. siembieda anymore, with fans stopping buying because the systems are in need of a revamp that palladium is not prepared to do, and so on.

I would argue that Palladium has NEVER been nearly as popular as D&D and that since Kevin Siembieda is the original creator of the RIFTS game and company and certainly a gamer, the situation is markedly different. RIFTS, the most popular title that Palladium has ever released, has sold 250,000 copies or so in it's lifetime. That sounds like a lot, until you consider that's the size of a single print-run of a single version of the PHB from a single-edition. Had Lorraine Williams purchased Palladium instead of TSR, I sincerely doubt you'd see the same reaction.
 

jdrakeh

Adventurer
Spell said:
if she really was the horrible person and short sighted manager that everyone likes to spit on, how comes that LOADS of gamers were thrilled and excited about the games produced by her company?

Not enough people were thrilled about them to keep TSR out of bankruptcy. Lorraine Williams bankrupted TSR. That speaks to the quality of her management.
 

Jim Hague

First Post
WizarDru said:
I would argue that Palladium has NEVER been nearly as popular as D&D and that since Kevin Siembieda is the original creator of the RIFTS game and company and certainly a gamer, the situation is markedly different. RIFTS, the most popular title that Palladium has ever released, has sold 250,000 copies or so in it's lifetime. That sounds like a lot, until you consider that's the size of a single print-run of a single version of the PHB from a single-edition. Had Lorraine Williams purchased Palladium instead of TSR, I sincerely doubt you'd see the same reaction.

Just as an aside and point of fact, Siembeda has stated he 'doesn't have time to play games' and hasn't for several years. I think that pretty much qualifies him as an ex-gamer, and he has done things that show he's out of touch with the larger hobby market as a whole.

So comparing him to Williams isn't so off - he's out of touch with the market, occasionally goes off on wild marketing schemes, and is, by some accounts, well on his way to driving Palladium out of business.
 

Steel_Wind

Adventurer
The nature of Lorraine Williams character and her place as a reviled figure in gaming has nothing to do with the financial success of TSR or otherwise.

It arises from two main "legal actions" attributed to Lorraine Williams, both of which were perceived by the game's fans as being "evil".

The first stems from her legal maneuverings with Gygax in forcing him out of the company and later with the lawsuit against Gygax and GDW.

To be fair to the fans and popular opinion, it is entirely legitimate to loathe Ms. Williams over her assumed stance and involvement in these legal issues.

To this legendary perceived mistreatment of Gygax , the online D&D fan base had its own mistreatment at the hands of Williams to gripe about. TSR struggled with its own fans in the early and mid-90s as the Internet emerged as a real factor in gaming. We had "online marks" for fan websites to use and far too many cease and desist letters sent out from TSR aimed at fans and fan websites. There was no OGL back then - and TSR was quite aggressive in trying to stamp out free fan material.

That earned scorn and enmity for Lorraine Williams in the online world - a treatment which has never, ever, ONCE stopped since that time.

Anybody who has joined the online world since the early to mid-90s has had that view of Lorraine Williams presented to them as the existing "canon" reaction of all gamers. That view has never changed. It existed before TSR's financial troubles were known - and it has persisted long since they were relevant.

Put those two factors together - you have the Wicked Witch of the Mid- West.

TSR's financial difficulties had nothing to do with it then - and I don't think it has anything to do with it now, either. That's simply objective icing on the cake, as it were.
 


jdrakeh

Adventurer
Steel_Wind said:
The nature of Lorraine Williams character and her place as a reviled figure in gaming has nothing to do with the financial success of TSR or otherwise.

Sure it does. That's why I dislike her, for example. Her poor business accumen bankrupted a company that I rather liked. I hold that against her. As a person, she may be a great human being. I can't say, as I've never had any personal interaction with her. As a businesswoman, I know that she is not to be admired. I also know that I'm not alone in this line of thinking.

[Edit: Incidentally, since I'm not Mr. Gygax's keeper, I could care less about Williams' suits against him or GDW.]
 

The Grumpy Celt

First Post
jdrakeh said:
As a person, she may be a great human being.

Becuase of the way she handled the business end of our hobby, a lot of people seem to assume she eats puppies for fun when really she is apparently just a poor manager.
 

jdrakeh

Adventurer
The Grumpy Celt said:
Becuase of the way she handled the business end of our hobby, a lot of people seem to assume she eats puppies for fun when really he is apparently just a poor manager.

I get that impression, as well. A lot of that seems to be exactly as you call it -- the collective projected hate fantasies of disgruntled fans. Just like the Arneson apologists think that Gygax eats puppies, and the Greenwood apologists think that WoTC suits eat puppies, etc, etc, etc. This hobby has no shortage of purposefully directed venom (save or die, mother******!).
 

Spell

First Post
WizarDru said:
1. Many of us left when AD&D 2e came out. So we don't bear the nostalgia for that time.

do you mean "many of the people of this boards"? or "many people on the internet"?
i would think that at least half of the fanbase moved to the 2nd edition, if not more. and many more people started playing the game with that edition.

anyway, the nostalgia value has very little to do with what i meant in my original post.

WizarDru said:
That doesn't translate into someone being excused from scorn for their unpleasant and vindictive behavior.

:) this is exactly what i meant. "unpleasant and vindictive behaviour"?!? the only recounts i have read of that are made by gary gygax, and by fans (rightly) hangered by the stupid internet policy of TSR.
now, obviously she has something to do with the internet, and certainly she and gygax didn't exactly love each other, EVER.

but i don't see why, i, joe gamer, should take whatever gygax says as THE truth. yes, sure, he created the game. but then, so what? so did dave arneson, and i've read that he and gygax had a few disagreements, too, and that arneson claims (or has claimed) that gygax didn't give him credit where due.

your quote from monte cook's interview shows that williams was angry when ward left. meh! she (allergedly, and from what i can see from the internet thing and the lawsuits) had a nasty business attitude... no surprise that she was angry when it was clear that TSR had turned into titanic!

as for connors (thanks for digging out the quote! :)) he is simply saying that the idea that mrs. williams is a monster is so ingrained in the gaming community that when he gives his story, people believe that it's not true.


WizarDru said:
But the damage she did to the most successful RPG company in history (and by extension, to the entire hobby) is a hard thing to forget or ignore. In the mid-90s, there was serious talk that D&D was going to out of print and disappear forever....and what was sadder was that many of us had stopped playing the game by that point and might not have even noticed.

but i have seen talks of D&D going out of print in these very forums. i remember them when 3.5 came out, and i've seen it in posts of people talking about 4e. and i think they are rather more serious than the talks (that i do remember well) in 1996: if hasbro had to decide that D&D is not valutable, they would stop publishing it without a second thought... and while when TSR went out of business the rights for D&D would have cost a penny or two, god luck with negotiating with hasbro. they would sit on the property and make computer games, or films, or miniatures with it. and very few publishers today would have the money to buy the D&D publishing rights.

horror!!!, however unlikely this scenario is (and, for the record, i don't think it's going to happen any soon). and yet, if you mention hasbro even to D&D haters, they don't react too badly, if at all.

to sum up: i pretty much agree with henry about lorraine williams.
what puzzles me, and what made me start the thread is understanding why people seem to hate her that much.

the good thing is that there is a lot less aggro than i expected.

the bad thing is that, for all i can see, the only faults of this woman were: 1. being bossy; 2. being a crappy CEO.

if that's enough to make people have strong feelings against someone that they don't even know, the world is a much more harsher place than i though! :)
 

Spell

First Post
Steel_Wind said:
The earned scorn and enmity for Lorraine Williams in the online world - a treatment which has never, ever, ONCE stopped since that time.

Anybody who has joined the online world since the early to mid-90s has had that view of Lorraine Williams presented as the existing "canon" reaction of all gamers. It has never changed. It existed before TSR's financial troubles were known - and it has persisted long since they were relevant.

Put those two factors together - you have the Wicked Witch of the Mid- West.

TSR's financial difficulties had nothing to do with it then - and I don't think it has anything to do with it now, either. That's simply objective icing on the cake, as it were.

that's actually a very good factual explanation. i dig it much better, than: "oh, but she sued gary!" or "she nearly killed the hobby". (*)

:)

(*) if the RPG scene couldn't do without D&D, even if it suddently cease to exist for whatever reason (and its game designers were free to find new publishing outlets), there would be no scene at all. i agree that D&D has a name outside hobbists, too, and that a lot of gamers have at least a passing knowledge of its rules... but that's just because D&D is THE roleplaying game. if it disappeared, something(s) else would probably fill that niche.
 

Sanguinemetaldawn

First Post
jdrakeh said:
I get that impression, as well. A lot of that seems to be exactly as you call it -- the collective projected hate fantasies of disgruntled fans. Just like the Arneson apologists think that Gygax eats puppies, and the Greenwood apologists think that WoTC suits eat puppies, etc, etc, etc. This hobby has no shortage of purposefully directed venom (save or die, mother******!).

There is significantly more to it than that.

First, think of your favorite RPG. You have purchased the core rules, and a few expansions, and you are looking forward to two major setting releases (the city of Ascalon and the City of Ys). Additionally, you just paid for a subscription to the new supplemental 'zine, and you are waiting for your first issue. You are working on a campaign, and your players have designed characters.

Then you find out your game is dead because the T$R has clubbed the creators into submission with relentless lawsuits and legal fees they can't hope to pay.

Even though the grounds for the suit (that it is a derivative of D&D) is pure garbage, and that fact is obvious to anyone with a brain.

And the sole purpose of the lawsuit was to crush Mythus. The game didn't fail against the competition. It didn't fail because it was managed badly. It was crushed by the biggest and oldest player in the industry, purely to destroy it and end its existence.

And that cash you shelled out for that subscription: kiss it goodbye and eat the loss, fool. That was Sean "Veggie boy" Reynolds answer, if couched in gentler diction.

When T$R became bankrupt only a few years later, it was very difficult to avoid feeling unadulterated and unrepentant schadenfreude.

As for the internet policy, there is something to it a lot of people may have missed. T$R was claimed they owned YOUR work. Period. You had no rights whatsoever to it (they claimed). They also employed their armies of lawyers to shut down fansites as part of their effort to exert total domination of thier IP.

So lets be clear. This board (ENworld) would not exist under TBL's T$R. You would be posting to only the WotC boards, and subject to the decrees of their moderators, and even the idea of the OGL or d20 license would have been unthinkable.

T$R under Lorraine Williams really was the Evil Empire of the RPG world, and she was the Emperor.

Hate fantasies...?
Only someone who didn't experience the effects of T$R's actions could believe that.
I wish thats all it was.
 

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