log in or register to remove this ad

 

D&D General Lorraine Williams: Is it Time for a Reevaluation?

MGibster

Legend
This Gygax tangent got me thinking on something more aligned to the thread. The very public "reconciliation" that WotC had with the creators made players hyper aware of the names and early history of the game. This inevitably brought Gygax departure from TSR to the public eye. Which coupled with the recent C&Ds and TSR failure on recent memory created a narrative of "ding dong the witch is dead" that maligned and vilified Lorraine Williams. In an effort to be seen as the rightful keepers of the game, WotC ended up casting Lorraine as the evil corporate villain that had kept the game hostage and it was now being rescued by the true gamers!

While I've been advocating for a re-evaluation of Williams' time at TSR, I think it's fair to say that it was her own actions that cast her as the villain. She is the proverbial captain who who is responsible for running her ship aground. And let's talk about the connection between Williams and D&D fans and for now we'll ignore whether or not she had contempt for bother games and gamers. What connection did Williams have to D&D fans? She wasn't the driving force behind the creative process that brought us AD&D settings, adventures, or miscellaneous sourcebooks. I might have some connection to George Lucas and Harrison Ford, but I don't really care who was the CEO of Paramount Pictures in 1981. There really aren't any strong connections between D&D fans and Williams.

Do you really think Williams wanted anything to do with D&D after TSR was sold to Wizards? The company failed on her watch and that's embarrassing. If I were in her position I sure as hell wouldn't want to be involved in any events with the people who bought my company. Even if I didn't have any hard feelings against them it's just a reminder of my embarrassment.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

darjr

I crit!
Remember as well that TSR was wary of a buyout from WoTC. In effect, the company hid behind a bogus offer from the makers of the Legend of the Five Rings.
Yup, but it didn't last. Once the jig was up there was a while of negotiations for the buyout where she new it was WotC. I think it was months, but that's from Ben's book excerpts/podcast.
 

WotC as D&D publisher was certainly treated with a LOT of skepticism among the community (probably originating with people who'd watched their D&D groups dissolve as people moved to Magic instead and were still bitter), which is probably why they tried to hide who was the buyer. I remember when WotC announced 3e soon after purchasing TSR. Ye gods, the hysteria! There were legitimately people claiming that they were going to make it into a CCG. Apparently magic items were only going to be sold as cards in booster packs, and the only playable classes straight out of the core book were fighter, mage, thief, cleric. If you wanted to play a ranger or a paladin, you were going to have to buy booster packs until you got a rare card.

No, I don't know how people expected that to work either. But those were not rational times in the online D&D community.
 
Last edited:

Parmandur

Book-Friend
WotC as D&D publisher was certainly treated with a LOT of skepticism among the community (probably among originating with people who'd watched their D&D groups dissolve as people moved to Magic instead and were still bitter), which is probably why they tried to hide who was they buyer. I remember when WotC announced 3e soon after purchasing TSR. Ye gods, the hysteria! There were legitimately people claiming that they were going to make it into a CCG. Apparently magic items were only going to be sold as cards in booster packs, and the only playable classes straight out of the core book were fighter, mage, thief, cleric. If you wanted to play a ranger or a paladin, you were going to have to buy booster packs until you got a rare card.

No, I don't know how people expected that to work either. But those were not rational times in the online D&D community.
I mean, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
 

Coming back after a few days, I don't see any discussion about the D&D movie saga. It's long and complicated, but here's a couple of details relevant to this thread.

Lorraine Williams sold the exclusive movie rights to Sweatpea Entertainment, which is effectively just Corey soloman. According to, Margaret Weis: "You see, Corey [Soloman] had been sold the movie rights to D&D for a song, because he was the friend of the brother of Lorraine Williams, the head of TSR."

According to multiple sources, part of the licensing deal was that the owner of D&D had final say on approving the director and script. This was TSR at the time the deal was signed (i.e. LW got the final say). One story from Corey Soloman was this:

"... TSR. And the woman that owned it was like a trust fund baby and she got this company for like, I believe you know, a couple hundred grand from Gary Gygax because he spent it on some coke binge or something – as the story goes. I can’t validate if that would be true or not. But that’s how the story goes. So she picked it up, and when I went in to her and I came up with this whole thing, when we did the script for example, she was like, ‘I want to make toys.’ I’m like, ‘Lady, your audience doesn’t want to buy toys. That’s not who the D&D audience is. You gotta make a different film.’ She didn’t care.

And what happened was, you know, long story short, you know. I got, you know, Jim Cameron to agree to do it at one point in 93. She sits at the Bel Air Hotel Restaurant [with Cameron], she folds her arms, she looks at him and says – its 93 – she says, ‘What are your qualifications to direct this film?’ I was like, ‘OK, Jim, please don’t kill me right now. I know about your temper, please don’t do it. Ok.’

Look, at twenty-three as a producer, I originally only intended to produce Dungeons and Dragons. That was the thing, I could get the rights, go to Hollywood, get a big director like Jim Cameron, hey I brought her Francis Coppola, I brought her Renny Harlin in the early 90’s. At that point these people were hot, and she turned them all down, she had the approval. "

And another comment Soloman makes about Williams:

"How did you manage to get a project like D&D as a first time director?

It was no easy task. It was an idea that I had when I was twenty. I used to play the game and I loved it. I grew up in the film business and I was ready to make my journey to Hollywood and start my career, from Toronto. I made some cold calls and nobody had the rights at that point. They had talked to a lot of different people in studios and big film makers and that sort of stuff, but they were never really comfortable making a deal with those people. I guess mainly because they didn't feel they'd have enough control. The lady that owned the company at that point was a real "control freak" if you will. It's owned by Hasbro now."
 

Dioltach

Legend
So she picked it up, and when I went in to her and I came up with this whole thing, when we did the script for example, she was like, ‘I want to make toys.’ I’m like, ‘Lady, your audience doesn’t want to buy toys. That’s not who the D&D audience is. You gotta make a different film.’ She didn’t care.
Given the stinker that Courtney Solomon eventually wrote and produced, it seems that the "trust fund baby" might have had a better understanding of D&D and gamers than he did.
 

Staffan

Legend
Also to her credit she did make the sale instead of doing something spiteful and refusing to and ending up selling to the banks piecmiel, which was an actual fear. That very fear in part helped bring the OGL.

So that's what that was all about? I was wondering why anyone would do that. I'm pretty happy they did--I enjoyed reading all the wild and wooly d20 stuff out there--but it didn't seem to make any sense as a business model.
The OGL had several purposes. The obvious one was that Wizards had taken a look at what actually sells, and determined that it's basically PHBs. At one point I think Ryan Dancey described the rest of the product line (particularly adventures) as marketing for the PHB that hopefully pays for itself. So the idea was that if you could get other companies to make the support material, WOTC could focus on the more profitable stuff.

A second one was as an olive branch of sorts to fans and other publishers. By creating the OGL and d20 STL, WOTC provided a safe haven for third-party publishers and fans to publish their own stuff, so you wouldn't get the same situation as with Arduin and Mayfair.

A third was what Ryan Dancey called network externalities. Essentially the theory was that the value of a game is not in the quality of the game itself, but in your ability to find people to play with. So by making it easy for publishers to release their stuff as support for D&D instead of as standalone games, the idea was you'd keep people looking for something new still playing D&D or at least something closely related.

And finally, the fourth was insurance against D&D dying. Should WOTC have fallen to the same fate as TSR, there was no risk that D&D would be caught up in a legal battle between creditors. The OGL made sure that someone else could pick up the pieces and keep publishing a form of it. And when WOTC themselves published a version of D&D that was a bit too radical of a departure for many customers, that's what allowed Paizo to publish Pathfinder as a D&D clone.
 


I don't know. I mean, whom do you trust, that guy who clearly doesn't sound like a sleazeball making up stuff, or some "lady."

If you have any interviews, quotes, or statements that contradict his story I would love to read them. Pretty much everything I can find from Lorraine Williams directly is about Buck Rogers, not D&D.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Sounds plausible at least!

Plausible, in that we are willing to believe corporations are capable of any and all villainy, sure.

But plausible, in the sense that there is evidence of WotC actually pushing that narrative in any way?

One can post any number of unseen hands on the scales, but that we can construct a plausible reason for them to want to do such a thing is not, in any way, validation of the idea.
 
Last edited:

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
If you have any interviews, quotes, or statements that contradict his story I would love to read them. Pretty much everything I can find from Lorraine Williams directly is about Buck Rogers, not D&D.

I think you might have missed the point of my comment.

But sure, I totally believe that this guy was constantly thwarted in his ambitions by some "lady" who knew nothing, because he totally knew James Cameron and Francis Coppola who completely wanted to make a movie with him. Except the "lady" (remember, licensing Buck Rogers, brother wrote screenplays in Hollywood) had no idea who people like James Cameron were and didn't prepare for the meeting. The same James Cameron who, the year before had released T2. So this guy had to school the lady.

Sounds plausible.
 


Bolares

Hero
WotC as D&D publisher was certainly treated with a LOT of skepticism among the community (probably originating with people who'd watched their D&D groups dissolve as people moved to Magic instead and were still bitter), which is probably why they tried to hide who was the buyer. I remember when WotC announced 3e soon after purchasing TSR. Ye gods, the hysteria! There were legitimately people claiming that they were going to make it into a CCG. Apparently magic items were only going to be sold as cards in booster packs, and the only playable classes straight out of the core book were fighter, mage, thief, cleric. If you wanted to play a ranger or a paladin, you were going to have to buy booster packs until you got a rare card.

No, I don't know how people expected that to work either. But those were not rational times in the online D&D community.
This all sounds like the people scremming the MAgic and D&D will be one thing and the lore will be killed off because of Jace.... That's happening in 2021
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
There is a very useful habit for considering conflicting stories about events.

Does one or the other story feel right to you? Do not trust that story. Our world is filled with dramatic tales of people who "followed their gut" and were correct. But in reality, your gut, your feelings on a matter, tend to alter your assessment of evidence.

Your guts are where all your unconscious biases live and impinge on your thinking.
 

Bolares

Hero
There is a very useful habit for considering conflicting stories about events.

Does one or the other story feel right to you? Do not trust that story. Our world is filled with dramatic tales of people who "followed their gut" and were correct. But in reality, your gut, your feelings on a matter, tend to alter your assessment of evidence.

Your guts are where all your unconscious biases live and impinge on your thinking.
Yeah, confirmation bias is a real thing.
 



Willie the Duck

Adventurer
I don't know. I mean, whom do you trust, that guy who clearly doesn't sound like a sleazeball making up stuff, or some "lady."
Neither of them in a case of a retroactive take on what went down. That, to me, is the primary point of this thread -- we have a new book out, it uses primary source documentation, it paints a different picture than what we have believed for years. Peterson can selectively choose what to bring forth, and of course the people at the time could have been writing with self-serving/self-promoting intent, but at least it trims off retrospective reimaging, and re-framing.
 


jayoungr

Legend
Supporter
So that's what that was all about? I was wondering why anyone would do that.
You don't have to take our word for it--you can read Ryan Dancey's own words about it on this very site:

I also had the goal that the release of the SRD would ensure that D&D in a format that I felt was true to its legacy could never be removed from the market by capricious decisions by its owners. I know just how close that came to happening. In 1997, TSR had pledged most of the copyright interests in D&D as collateral for loans it could not repay, and had Wizards of the Coast not rescued it I'm certain that it would have all gone into a lenghty bankruptcy struggle with a very real chance that D&D couldn't be published until the suits, appeals, countersuits, etc. had all been settled (i.e. maybe never). The OGL enabled that as a positive side effect.
 

Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top