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

Unfortunately, there absolutely is a difference in how women in management are viewed, something that still persists to this day. And it would've been worse just going back a decade, let alone 3-5.

Also, Margaret Weiss wasn't in charge of the game, and wasn't telling the good ol' boys what they should be doing from a leadership position. completely apples and oranges to say because Margaret wasn't vilified, it's somehow proof Lorraine wasn't because of her gender.

I've seen so many people slag Rose Estes' Greyhawk novels. But having finally gotten to reading them, I can say that they're no worse than Gary Gygax's own (which probably is damning them with faint praise). And as I've said before, Estes' Endless Quest novels absolutely deserve more credit than they get for being an on-ramp for young gamers.

Rose Estes? Has stated repeatedly that the TSR culture was not welcoming to women, and then left TSR after her stock option deal wasn't honored by Gary and the Blumes. She wrote again for them after the departure of Gygax and Williams was in charge.
 

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Sacrosanct

Legend
Unfortunately, there absolutely is a difference in how women in management are viewed, something that still persists to this day. And it would've been worse just going back a decade, let alone 3-5.



I've seen so many people slag Rose Estes' Greyhawk novels. But having finally gotten to reading them, I can say that they're no worse than Gary Gygax's own (which probably is damning them with faint praise). And as I've said before, Estes' Endless Quest novels absolutely deserve more credit than they get for being an on-ramp for young gamers.
Loved the Endless Quest books. Not a huge fan of the Greyhawk series. But as you say, certainly no worse than Gary's own books (which I enjoyed as well, by the way), but it's just another example of two different standards.

Which, I'll add, isn't an unusual thing. Gary did a lot of great things, and not only does he have a lot of fans (and fans don't typically criticize their favorites), he has a healthy amount of people who deify him simply because his name is on the cover. Those type of people loathe folks like Lorraine because they dared go against Gary, and no amount of factual lists will deter that cultism. Same with any tribalism or cult following.

I was one of those how viewed Gary as could do no wrong in the 80s. But I was also a teenager. As I've learned more of what actually happened, I can recognize all the great things Gary did, but also acknowledge all the really bad things, and understand that others like Lorraine, while deserving some criticism, have not deserved what they have gotten. And like Snarf says, I don't want to be part of the crowd that still lambasts her unfairly, often joking about appearance and weight. And let's just say that if someone lambasting her also is OK with fatshaming, then I assume their original complaint is...skewed and biased at the very least.
 
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Voadam

Legend
Gary was tossing out C&Ds as early as the late 70s (ironically while at the same time stealing other IPs himself without permission). Again, Lorraine getting vilified for things Gary did as well but seems to get a free pass. that's the issue people are having. Not that Lorraine was getting vilified for things, but the clear double standard between her and the men.
I have not heard of him sending out C&D letters to fans the way TSR did in the 90s.

The lawsuits against other publishers like Mayfair Games in the 80s seem comparably awful to the 90s lawsuits against Mayfair Games. The GDW one though seems particularly personally vindictive to attack Gary and bury his work for others after he was gone from TSR.

As far as comparisons to "the men" I do not hear much lionizing of the Blumes, they are mostly invisible and most stories are not positive. Gygax was identified as a co-creator of the game and was a big presence to fans from his writing and his self promotion, some lionizing identification of him is understandable.

Most fans had and have little knowledge of the corporate leadership of TSR/WotC. Lorraine was similar to the Blumes in not writing materials and not really being known to fans outside of the insiders. Most of what fans know of them is second hand stuff. Lorraine was in charge of TSR at its financial end, which fans saw. Lorraine was in charge during the C&D stuff to fans, which fans saw and talked about and generated a lot of ill will. The Buck Rogers stuff is a lot more visible to fans than property ownership deals and company nepotism type actions.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
I have not heard of him sending out C&D letters to fans the way TSR did in the 90s.

The lawsuits against other publishers like Mayfair Games in the 80s seem comparably awful to the 90s lawsuits against Mayfair Games. The GDW one though seems particularly personally vindictive to attack Gary and bury his work for others after he was gone from TSR.

As far as comparisons to "the men" I do not hear much lionizing of the Blumes, they are mostly invisible and most stories are not positive. Gygax was identified as a co-creator of the game and was a big presence to fans from his writing and his self promotion, some lionizing identification of him is understandable.

Most fans had and have little knowledge of the corporate leadership of TSR/WotC. Lorraine was similar to the Blumes in not writing materials and not really being known to fans outside of the insiders. Most of what fans know of them is second hand stuff. Lorraine was in charge of TSR at its financial end, which fans saw. Lorraine was in charge during the C&D stuff to fans, which fans saw and talked about and generated a lot of ill will. The Buck Rogers stuff is a lot more visible to fans than property ownership deals and company nepotism type actions.

Again, Lorraine wasn't the only one in charge sending C&Ds to fans. TSR has always been that way:

During this era, there were a number of competitors and unofficial supplements to D&D published, arguably in violation of TSR's copyright, which many D&D players used alongside the TSR books. Among these were the Arduin Grimoire, the Manual of Aurenia, and variants such as Warlock and Tunnels & Trolls. TSR regarded these very warily, and in cases where they felt their trademarks were being misused, they issued cease-and-desist letters. More often than not, this legal posturing resulted in only slight changes to competitors' works, but caused significant animosity in the community

So to blame her for continuing a practice set forth by Gary himself and not placing any blame on Gary is...extremely disingenuous. About as disingenuous for blaming her for nepotism while completely ignoring how Gary was trying to funnel more and more money to himself from company coffers.

The more information is revealed, it looks like Gary did everything bad that Lorraine did, and also doubled down on sexism and racism, and blew money on hookers and blow and refused to pay contributors or uphold his contracts.

Remove the name "Gary Gygax" and just look at the actions of person X, if I were a stakeholder back then, I'd be pissed if Lorraine didn't try to drive him out of the company. That was her fiduciary responsibility, and responsibility as the leader of a company to everyone who had a stake in the company.

Again, to be very clear, I think we can celebrate Gary, and recognize everything he did well, but also try to look at things objectively. One can be a fan, even a diehard fan of the Seattle Seahawks, and acknowledge how not giving the ball to Marshawn Lynch in the Superbowl was a franchise crushing move.
 

It's not because of her receipts that I see her vilified at all, it's her ACTIONS she took aggressively against others in the RPG community that gave her a bad rep among some. Those actions would have given ANYONE in the same position as her a bad rep, regardless of sex or gender (IMO).

I haven't heard it debunked, just people saying they don't agree with others.
Just as a side note, Snarf Zagyg is right about the all-caps. Your over-use of them makes it look like you think they enhance your argument.
What is mostly happening here is that people are recognizing that they aren't as confident as they once were that those instances are verifiably (and verified to be) true. We all took a lot of these for granted for a very long time. I, for one, would love to have a long, drawn out dissection of each supposed instance of these actions, re-examine their validity, and be prepared to come down in either direction on my new view of each one. Digging in our heals on our preconceived notions (one way or the other) will do nothing.

Gary himself believed women were biologically incapable of enjoying roleplaying games because of "a difference in brain function"....
Okay, this is a great non-Lorraine example. I've heard this before, but have no idea where (much less how believable it is, how much it represents his lifelong perspective, the context, etc.). Do you remember where you heard this?

She was running things in the online Cease & Desist harassment and undercutting of fans era of TSR.

That seems a big her era only negative.

Gary was tossing out C&Ds as early as the late 70s (ironically while at the same time stealing other IPs himself without permission). Again, Lorraine getting vilified for things Gary did as well but seems to get a free pass. that's the issue people are having. Not that Lorraine was getting vilified for things, but the clear double standard between her and the men.
There are two things I consider things (I consider potentially ethically or morally questionable or otherwise more objectionable than simply failing to save TSR) I absolutely know Lorraine did (not hearsay passed around or dispensed by sources I need to go back and re-examine) -- 1) the self-dealing with regards to Buck Rogers, and 2) the aggressive IP defensiveness online.

The first, well, I disagree with Snarf on this -- I don't care if you are majority stakeholder in a closely held corporation, as long as there is one other shareholder who doesn't have a financial interest in this other thing, it is ethically questionable to buy with your shared assets this thing only you have an interest in.

The second, well it is bad, but 1) I do not know how much of this was Lorraine's doing (again, if anyone has any evidence one way or another, I'd love to know about it); 2) I don't know if her legal, business, and technology advisors advised her to do so; 3) indeed, Gary did this (to great consternation among the fans at the time) in the 70s; and 4) TSR was not the only one to misunderstand the internet during the 90s.

#3&4 are big parts of my hesitancy on this. #3 being the whole thing about protecting the IP around RPG games and what can be protected and what had to be protected and so on was this huge moving target that lots of game developers seemed to not get right from day one. Does lots of people screwing this up mean that one amongst them shouldn't also be blamed? of course not, but they should not receive disproportionate blame. #4, well, again lots of people screwing up doesn't mean 90s TSR (under Lorraine) shouldn't receive some critique (it should, they screwed up and pissed off a lot of people), but wow was it something of the wild west on the web at the time with lots of corporations not knowing the rules. I was part of a startup at the time and we too were flying by the seat of our pants on what to do with the internet. If someone had said 'hey, Joe Blo over there has created a webpage calling itself pursuant to your product. This might be an attempt to assert themselves as representatives of your company,' I have no idea if I would make the right decision at that time. I say that meaning that I might have also screwed that up, not that what they did wasn't screwing up. Still, I think it is important to remember how things were at the time (or, for that matter, how much false representation there is on the internet now).

I have not heard of him sending out C&D letters to fans the way TSR did in the 90s.
Once again, I don't know where I saw this so it's not worth much. However I remember a story of someone making (and selling) character sheets for D&D back when it first came out (and when photocopiers were still a rare commodity). They'd hoped to maybe start a partnership with TSR, and instead got a C&D. It might have been a story from Playing at the World.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
Okay, this is a great non-Lorraine example. I've heard this before, but have no idea where (much less how believable it is, how much it represents his lifelong perspective, the context, etc.). Do you remember where you heard this?

Yes. Gary said it here on these forums in 2004. Bolares has barely exaggerated, sadly.


Col Playdoh said:
As I have often said, I am a biological determinist, and there is no question that male and female brains are different. It is apparent to me that by and large females do not derrive the same inner satisfaction from playing games as a hobby that males do. It isn't that females can't play games well, it is just that it isn't a compelling activity to them as is the case for males.
 

Voadam

Legend
Again, Lorraine wasn't the only one in charge sending C&Ds to fans. TSR has always been that way:

During this era, there were a number of competitors and unofficial supplements to D&D published, arguably in violation of TSR's copyright, which many D&D players used alongside the TSR books. Among these were the Arduin Grimoire, the Manual of Aurenia, and variants such as Warlock and Tunnels & Trolls. TSR regarded these very warily, and in cases where they felt their trademarks were being misused, they issued cease-and-desist letters. More often than not, this legal posturing resulted in only slight changes to competitors' works, but caused significant animosity in the community.

So to blame her for continuing a practice set forth by Gary himself and not placing any blame on Gary is...extremely disingenuous.

Other gaming companies putting out competing materials are different than fans.

If you re-read what I wrote and that you quoted you will see I explicitly state that Gary era TSR sued other companies and I called this comparably awful to Lorraine era TSR suing other companies.

You seem to be making no distinctions between companies and fans and ignoring the fact that I was pointing that difference out as a distinction.

About as disingenuous for blaming her for nepotism while completely ignoring how Gary was trying to funnel more and more money to himself from company coffers.

The nepotism is in reference to Snarf's comments above about (I believe) the Blumes, not in reference to Williams. It was to contrast Williams deal on the Buck Rogers license to enrich her family trust being more visible to fans than others' alleged company nepotism to enrich their family. I was not saying she engaged in company nepotism herself.

I have not read the book and I am not really familiar with the earlier era alleged company nepotism stuff.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
I have not read the book and I am not really familiar with the earlier era alleged company nepotism stuff.
Apparently huge numbers of family members were on the payroll. Snarf indicated earlier in the thread that the new book confirms most of the Gygax family and apparently the Blume extended family were.

I had heard this about the Blumes before; I believe in Gary's version of the story, as relayed in Q&A forum posts here and/or on Dragonsfoot from the early 2000s, he came back from Hollywood to discover that the Blumes were spending TSR out of business, with huge offices, expensive furniture, dozens of family members on payroll regardless of competence, and a fleet of company cars. And that they had to make some drastic cuts and let a lot of people go to save the company, in addition to putting out Unearthed Arcana for cash.

Edit: Jim Ward also had previously confirmed re: nepotism bloating TSR's staffing. See link to one of his stories here:
 
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Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
He's not the one spinning here. If "the vast majority of modules and systems ... were not playtested" then some were. And if he saw very little playtesting then he saw some. And playtesting wasn't banned if it happened.

What he's saying happened under Williams probably wasn't a ban on playtesting. It was Corporate America giving too little time to playtest - probably combined with an understandable ban on playing your own games on company time. And given the sheer volume of books TSR put out for 2e it's pretty clear there can't have been remotely enough playtesting time for all of them. If you're telling me that The Complete Book of Elves was fully playtested I'm going to laugh. But I'm also going to laugh at you if you tell me e.g. Serpent Kingdoms (or one of the other later 3.5 Forgotten Realms or Eberron books) or the Book of Vile Darkness was properly playtested. Or for that matter 4e's Heroes of Shadow or The Dungeon Explorer's Handbook.

Williams-era TSR was, I'm sorry to say, in the business of producing the RPG equivalent of shovelware. That it was shovelware that wasn't tested enough is, however, very different from "she absolutely banned any playtesting".

Yes, it's spin if you leave out critical context to imply something to your audience which is different than the actual context provides. In this case all he wrote was, "there was playtesting" in a context where he was fully aware "the vast majority of modules and systems ... were not playtested." Restating the exception (playtesting) as the rule (no playtesting) by implication is spin.

I do not think that's the sort of "reflavoring" to context which you'd find acceptable for many other topics. If I were to dismiss serious allegations about other aspects of society with a hand-waive because "some few" didn't do the alleged thing, I doubt you'd be defending those tactics.

I didn't say Williams banned playtesting. I am saying however that under Williams, the vast majority of things were not playtested. However prior to Williams arriving we have employees saying most things were playtested. I don't think it's unfair to at least ask the question if Williams is the key factor which changed between "most things playtested" and "vast majority of things not playtested" when that is when the playtesting frequency changed happened.
 

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