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lorraine williams (includes opinions from Gygax et al)

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Sheyd

First Post
See, most of this I didn't learn till WELL after the fact. A simple 'Thanks for making the game' email to Gary Gygax in '01 was the first I'd ever heard of him getting kicked out of TSR. (Yeah no internet till '98 for me) I knew the quality of the settings really took a nose dive and then abruptly I stopped receiving my monthly Dragon. I gave it a couple months then called. Jesse Decker was answering the phones then and told me it would be a while. That's when I started buying up all the stuff I could find... then 6 months pass and BOOM a new dragon magazine appeared in my mail box! All was right with the world again! What's this? TSR was sold? picked up by Wizards of the Coast?? Don't they make that card game? These were my thoughts at the time but ultimately I didn't care because I had my Dragon back and new products were hitting the shelves... That was the sum total of my knowledge at the time. I still think it's funny that Jesse Decker was answering phones in the subscription department then.
 

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Orius

Adventurer
From what I've heard of the history behind events at TSR, Gary originally brought Williams on to counter the influence of the Blumes, who had a controlling share in the company and were driving things into the ground. Then supposedly the Blumes cut a deal with Williams and left the company in her control, and that's what prompted Gary to leave. His side of the story makes it seem like she stabbed him in the back, but I don't know what happened ans it's really not my place to judge anyway.

I'd say she did seem to manage things badly, there were no customer surveys, so they had no idea what was working beyond going by sales. And she apparently felt gamers were stupid enough to buy anything. The whole campaign setting stratey which propelled 2e was bad, but it might actually have been better than what the Blumes were doing, since they made some really bad decisions. Essentially, I think they saw the game as a fad, and tried to milk it for all it was worth (and if that point about ET was true, that makes them even DUMBER).

Then there's "T$R"'s infamous lawsuit threats with the internet. I didn't get to to net until after WotC took over, so I missed that, but I can understand how some people would be pissed.

Anyway, it doesn't matter any more. It's been almost 11 years now since TSR crashed and burned, and there's lots of new gamers these days who weren't even playing back then. So I'd say she's largely been forgotten. These days when we want to bitch about suits ruining the game, Hasbro makes a far better target. :]
 

Spell

First Post
Sheyd said:
I still think it's funny that Jesse Decker was answering phones in the subscription department then.

totally OT, but i have to share this:

when Dave Gross was the editor of the magazine, i submitted an article on adding background music to AD&D games. i was 17, i think, and i wanted nothing but being published in the magazine (i managed, some time later... too bad it was only a letter in D-mail! :p).

anyway, after eight weeks from my submissions, i still received no news from the magazine. i started freaking out because, you know, italian post service used to be pretty bad. if my article wasn't good enough, ok... but what if they never received it?

so i dug the magazine office phone number, and i called. the secretary was ultra nice, and told me that "Dave is in a meeting right now... maybe if you leave your number, he will call you back". :D

maybe she was just being polite and thinking: "what a loser!", but she was ultra nice, did find out that they got my submission and they were thinking about it. to this day i am still amazed that she didn't just say: "are you joking, kid?!?! we have better things to do!!".

...
i still wonder if Dave Gross was seriously in a meeting, and what would have happened if he was in! :D
 

Steel_Wind

Adventurer
I think most gamers could care less about events that took place more than a decade ago.

I don't disagree. I think you are right.

However, the answer as to how it was that the online world came to form this view about Lorraine Williams is entirely wrapped up in the Gygax lawsuits and the cease and desist letters of the mid-90s. As noted elsewhere in this thread, TSR became T$R to many fans who were online back-in-the-day. The cease and desist letters were, in a sense, viewed as a RIAA style intimidation tactic used against the game's own fans. If you were online in the mid-90s and a gamer - she therefore became "the Enemy".

When you essentially declare war against your fans - that has consequences. I'm not saying that's what she, in fact, did. I'm saying that is how the cease and desist letters came to be viewed in the online world at the time - and that view of her, once formed in that crucible of online public opinion, has never changed at any time thereafter.

That cease and desist period cemented the view of Lorraine Williams vs. Gygax as the Uber-Hag.

Because that attitude pervaded the online RPG community, it became a sort of "received knowledge", an "accepted canon" concerning Lorraine Williams that was passed on to the community as it grew over the years. That attitude persists to this very day. Someone posted that it was "group-think" to some degree - and I don't disagree with that analysis very much either.

Mismanagement at TSR and its financial difficulties were not known to the online world when Lorraine Williams came to be reviled online amongst gamers, generally, and so I discount it as having any effect on how that view came to be.

Add to it the later disclosure of mismanagement at TSR and the revelation that Lorraine Williams appeared to have thought very poorly of TSR's customer base (she thought gamers were not her social equals and reportedly held most of us in contempt)... well....

Not hard to see how and why that original "online view" of Lorraine Williams nurtured in the mid-90s has been maintained over the years, is it?

The fact that your personal dislike may be motivated by other factors does not change the genesis of the "canon view", nor does it explain why that "canon view" has persisted for so long.

I think the above explanation comes a lot closer to a reasonable understanding of the legend of the Wicked Witch of the Mid-West
 

Spell

First Post
by the way, Grumpy Celt, that's a great posting... maybe i can talk my supervisor into making this musical my master project... :) ;)
 

Spell

First Post
just a question... how exactly became known that williams had such a low opinion on gamers? all i know about the subject comes from hearsay, or from magazine articles dating 1996 or so, with very little attribution.
 

The Merciful

First Post
Spell said:
just a question... how exactly became known that williams had such a low opinion on gamers? all i know about the subject comes from hearsay, or from magazine articles dating 1996 or so, with very little attribution.
I do know Gygax has mentioned this in his QA threads here on EN, but I can't recal if he stated that was something he heard Williams say, or if it was all hearsay to him too. :\
 

roguerouge

First Post
Speaking as someone who's played every edition since the 1980s as a casual and intermittent gamer, I have to say that all of this history interests me. A history of the hobby produced by an independent author would find this stuff a gold mine.

To answer the OP, based on the evidence of the thread, this manager's problems seemed to be in the areas of playing well with others, sharing, and demonstrating tolerance for creative autonomy. Those are pretty much the core values of this hobby, so it's understandable that the reaction is intense.

As to the thread's implication that unacknowledged sexism might play a role in driving the vehemence towards this person, I have no knowledge of the history of women's roles in the gaming industry to be able to talk intelligibly about whether that's a factor. Perhaps someone else could talk about that issue?
 

Maggan

Writer of The Bitter Reach
jdrakeh said:
Not all other gamers hate Williams or even care about what she did or didn't do anymore.

My guess is that most other gamers don't even know who Lorraine Williams is/was. I've met many gamers who don't even know who Gary Gygax is or what part he played in creating D&D, so I think that the feeling most gamers have regarding Lorraine Williams is indifference.

/M
 

Silver Moon

Adventurer
I have a different take on the situation as my wife and I were the RPGA Co-ordinators for two large New England gaming conventions at the time that TSR was falling apart - with us only receiving around half of the modules ordered even though they took full payment - and nobody would return any of our phone calls.

First we had do a lot of last minute scrambling to deal with the games canceled due to the modules they hadn't sent. We were the ones on the front-line dealing with the public who were paying TSR annual dues to belong to the RPGA, and not getting their promised membership cards, module playing points, and Polyhedron Magazines. Lastly, we had several authors whose modules were submitted and accepted by TSR but never paid.

At one of these conventions TSR promised to send somebody out to explain the situation, but the representative sent (partially at the con's expense, as we had to provide him a hotel room and meals) claimed to know nothing and was only interested in teaching select people who he knew how to play 'Dragon Dice'.
 

rgard

First Post
Orius said:
Then there's "T$R"'s infamous lawsuit threats with the internet. I didn't get to to net until after WotC took over, so I missed that, but I can understand how some people would be pissed.

I remember in my early days of the internet (mid-90s) somebody had uploaded all the 1st and 2nd ed D&D rules. Naughty by most standards, so I can understand the lawsuit threat if the threats were directed at those who uploaded the rules.

Thanks,
Rich
 

History takes a dim view of failure.

LW was the head of the 800lb gorilla of the industry when it suffered heart failure.

Regardless of how much of the incompetence was already present when she took over. She was at the Helm when the Titanic sank.

Also, she was also very atagonisitc towards her own fans.

In short, she was driving the van while it went over the cliff, while smacking the kids in the back with a fly-swatter.

The highlights of her career are massive negatives (from a historical standpoint). Any positives are hidden in the massive shadows of 'T$R' & Bankruptcy.

D&D (and RPG's) would be very different had she not been in control (or a better manager).
 

JohnRTroy

Adventurer
I'll have a response to this thread about LW a bit later, but I did want to let you know something. D&D was not shown in E.T. because of Gary's review of the script--or the very short part they showed him. Monte Cook wonder why TSR refused D&D. I responded in his forum in the thread below, but I'll put the text here as well.

http://okayyourturn.yuku.com/topic/809/t/The-Scoop-on-why-ET-didn-t-have-D-amp-D.html

It was in my hands, and I was sent partial information, that part of the script where the kids were playing the game--only that part of the script. There was money on the table, and thus the scene might suggest gambling was involved in D&D play. When I queried the studio for more information about the film they refused to give any. Thus, as did the people at M&Ms, I declined to have the game named in the movie. Of course it was not the proper call as things turned out, but it was the only one to make considering the information given to me. D&D had suffered too many attacks in the past, and having gambling associated with its play would have been like adding gasoline on those fires.

So, Gary made the call on that decision, not the Blumes.
 

Henry

Autoexreginated
rgard said:
I remember in my early days of the internet (mid-90s) somebody had uploaded all the 1st and 2nd ed D&D rules. Naughty by most standards, so I can understand the lawsuit threat if the threats were directed at those who uploaded the rules.

Thanks,
Rich

There were cases like this, but I also recall cases of many BBS's (which were all the rage before the internet) who shut down because they were carrying fan-produced D&D modules, and alternate RPGs based on D&D mechanics, but carrying different info (or even those without any D&D mechanics, but carried terms like "hit points" and "armor"). TSR legal discovered they were running, and the BBS admins were given two choices: either cease and desist carrying all D&D "derivative" material, or port all of that material over to TSR's approved BBS site with a notice on all of it that it belonged to TSR because it was derivative material. Most of them shut down rather than cease and desist, because it was either a measure of defiance, or because without that material their reasons to exist practically vanished. I saw one do this firsthand (can't recall the name now), and a lot of sites on the internet who years later had the cease and desists as well as the shutdown "defiance" notices of the BBS'es, as sort of a "gone but not forgotten" monument.

Regarding the loss of Mythus and GDW's carrying of it -- If I recall Gary correctly, Mythus died not because TSR shut it down through a successful lawsuit, but instead they shut it down by offering to settle out of court for a substantial sum for ownership rights, which GDW accepted, and then TSR promptly buried the game, including pallets of gamebooks in its warehouses. So TSR and later WotC ended up with ownership of it, but interest 7 years later was pretty much zero.
 

Jack99

Adventurer
jdrakeh said:
Many gamers have moved on.


I would guess that most gamers don't have the faintest clue who Lorraine Williams is.

When that is said, I must admit that I find it shocking that obviously intelligent adults can generate that amount of hate towards a person (they never met) because of some (really) poor business decisions back in the early 90'ies...

/shrug
 

Spell

First Post
roguerouge said:
As to the thread's implication that unacknowledged sexism might play a role in driving the vehemence towards this person... [cut]

i don't think that sexism has anything to do with this story. maybe one or two of the main "players" (i'm talking about game designers, executives, and so on) might be sexists, albeit, to the best of my knowledge, this is not true. but surely the vast majority of the fans that have a bitter tooth against williams couldn't care much if she was male or female.
 

rgard

First Post
Henry said:
There were cases like this, but I also recall cases of many BBS's (which were all the rage before the internet) who shut down because they were carrying fan-produced D&D modules, and alternate RPGs based on D&D mechanics, but carrying different info (or even those without any D&D mechanics, but carried terms like "hit points" and "armor"). TSR legal discovered they were running, and the BBS admins were given two choices: either cease and desist carrying all D&D "derivative" material, or port all of that material over to TSR's approved BBS site with a notice on all of it that it belonged to TSR because it was derivative material. Most of them shut down rather than cease and desist, because it was either a measure of defiance, or because without that material their reasons to exist practically vanished. I saw one do this firsthand (can't recall the name now), and a lot of sites on the internet who years later had the cease and desists as well as the shutdown "defiance" notices of the BBS'es, as sort of a "gone but not forgotten" monument.

Fair enough and I could see being extremely annoyed if I received a lawsuit threat, because of my derivative use material being on a BBS.

To be honest though, if TSR had decided to allow derivative use material, but disallowed IP being posted, how would they have policed that? They would have had to employ an army of folks looking for the IP that was posted.

Their approach was similar to ADB's (Steve Cole and the folks who made Starfleet Battles) they decided that you could post your own ship designs on-line, but that you had to agree that what you posted belonged to ADB. My interest in the game was waning at that point and the 'your stuff belongs to me' approach by ADB put the tin hat on it for me. I dropped my support ($) for that company after that declaration. Haven't purchased any of their stuff in 8 or 9 years.

Thanks,
Rich
 

francisca

Explorer
Spell said:
but don't you think that all the aggro attatched to her figure is a bit too much?
She said gamers were beneath her. That's enough to earn my scorn. Actually, if she would have said any group was beneath her, that would be enough for me.
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?
Please elaborate on her creative contributions.

I think any success during her tenure was in spite of her, not because of her.
 

Wolfspider

First Post
TheAuldGrump said:
When TSR started going after fan-sites I just chalked it up to the same forward thinking that led to them not allowing Spielberg to show the kids playing D&D in the movie E.T..

The Auld Grump

I could have sworn that the movie did depict the kids playing D&D at the beginning of the film. :confused:
 

zacharythefirst

First Post
Jim Hague said:
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 know Kevin S. is busy, but he's run at the Palladium Open House the last two years and at least the last 3 conventions he's attended, to include Gen Con Indy (further back than that, I think). So that's not really true.

I didn't want to drive the thread off-tangent, but having sat in on one of his games before, he does in fact still run/play--though I'm sure not with the frequency he'd like.
 

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