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

Voadam

Legend
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.
That seems of a piece with both eras TSR targeting other smaller RPG companies that made commercial products that compete with D&D ones, not with targeting non-commercial fans the way TSR did in the 90s.
 

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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.
Yes, it is worth asking that, among many, questions. We should not lean on our preconceived understanding of what went down. If there is evidence suggesting that Williams was the key reason for this, it would be interesting to hear.
That seems of a piece with both eras TSR targeting other smaller RPG companies that made commercial products that compete with D&D ones, not with targeting non-commercial fans the way TSR did in the 90s.
That's true, and it absolutely is a difference in kind. No arguments. However, it is also not different in that it was a company going straight for the C&D, sometimes alienating their base for the aggressiveness, under a misguided notion as to what they needed to do to protect their IP. To me it speaks to my point about companies large and small not knowing what to make of the internet, nor what they needed to do to protect their IP on the internet. TSR was not the only company to make this mistake (or, in its stead, a different mistake), which again does not excuse the action, but does contextualize it.
Regardless, it is example of Gary and Lorraine doing similar things, and potentially Gary getting more of a pass on the thing (my inclination is that it certainly isn't in the top 10 things people tend to bring up about him, while it's in the top 3 things in the standard critique of LW). Plus as I mentioned before, we really do not know how much of this was Williams, TSR's legal team, or whomever was put in charge of 'figuring out the internet and what it means for our business.' If we could get more answers to questions like this, it would help at least me decide how much I will blame Williams for that action (that I acknowledge was TSR screwing up).
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
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.
that's because the distinction is moot. Back in those days, those "companies" were fans. Just putting out fan created material no different than you or I creating a D&D product and putting it out on our own blog or website.

I see little distinction of a one-person "company" putting out their fan created material getting a C&D from Gary and someone with a website where they put out their D&D homebrew material for download by other fans getting a C&D by Lorraine. The only difference it the internet. The actions are the same. In both cases, when each heard people were creating and distributing and/or having a platform of sharing their material using TSR IP, they got a C&D.

that is, it's a safe bet that if Gary were still in charge during the internet days, he absolutely would have sent C&Ds to everyone using their IP because he did that to everyone he found out doing it when he was in charge. Lorraine was just continuing an existing policy of sending out C&Ds to anyone using their IP, regardless if they were a company or individual. so to use that as a reason to vilify her while giving Gary a free pass is disingenuous.
 



This may be heresy, but in the 80s I barely clocked who Gary Gygax was other than the name on the inside of my books. And I didn't even know who Lorraine Williams was until after Wizards had purchased TSR. Heck, I had briefly dropped out of the hobby and completely missed the T$R/C&D phase, and only found out about that after the fact. Back then it would not have occurred to me to pick up an RPG book based on who the designer was, rather than the content itself.

I didn't start to really pay attention to the people and history of D&D until the early 00s, when you started seeing columns in Dragon magazine written by him again, documentaries about D&D like Uber Goober and Life with the Dice Bag, and interactions with him here (which I can say that mine, while limited, were always pleasant; though I can't even begin to imagine being a woman gamer and reading him say my brain isn't wired to enjoy RPGs). But I'll admit, that like many others, I took the narrative the Lorraine Williams "drove TSR into the ground" at face value. I didn't start to question it until I realized one - just how early her stewardship began and two - just how much misogyny is present in gaming.

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.
 

Bolares

Hero
(which I can say that mine, while limited, were always pleasant; though I can't even begin to imagine being a woman gamer and reading him say my brain isn't wired to enjoy RPGs)
This to me is the most glaring double standard. Lorraine was 'rude to gamers", while Gary could write off half of the population as being unable to appreciate the game because of (completely false) biological reasons. A lot of women are gamers, who do you think alienated more gamers?
 

GreyLord

Legend
By some accounts, Gygax was killing the company. So why not drive him out?

Though I'm definately Pro-Gary, and one of the few that stand by him on his idea of things, that's not the nail in the coffin.

AFTER he was out of the company, he remained trying to make RPGs and do his own thing. Rather than let him do his own thing, he was pursued relentlessly by the legal arms of TSR, but this isn't really a thread about him...but it wasn't nice or even really needed on that end (IMO).

There are two sides to every story, and it seems that the story is trying to say that Gygax was the pure reason that TSR was having financial difficulties (afterall, Coke and Hollywood parties aren't cheap...right)...but there's another side of the story (Gygax's, which some I think have presented here) which show a different equation to how the money was being spent and lost.

The short end of it though was that TSR came out of that and it had Williams at the helm. This IS one of the postive things one can say about her is that she expanded TSR far more than it probably would have under Gygax, or at least different directions. She expanded the fiction line immensely, and under her (though, not due to her directly, more with the managers she had and allowed the freedom to expand the game with) the game expanded in directions which were never really thought of (2e with kits and kits and kits and rules and rule and worlds...etc) and, I don't think with Gygax at the helm, would have taken the risks to expand into.

This increased gross profits (not to be confused with net profits) to heights never even imagined before. She turned was was probably a decent size company in financial terms into a much larger one that was probably 3x the size of what it was under Gygax.

So, in that sense, she did extremely well...until the same ideas that allowed them to grow so rapidly and strongly backfired and ended up killing it from multiple directions at once...

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, but I'm not so sure it's relevant to the discussion. Trying to say someone is not so bad because another person did something similar is not really justifying that someone in my opinion. There were some VERY nasty things TSR did under Gygax and the Blumes (and the C&D is on the light side...much darker is what happened to SPI), but we aren't examining their reputation here (or at least that's not what I thought this thread was about) but examining Mrs. Williams roles and positions of what she did.
 

MGibster

Legend
This may be heresy, but in the 80s I barely clocked who Gary Gygax was other than the name on the inside of my books. And I didn't even know who Lorraine Williams was until after Wizards had purchased TSR. Heck, I had briefly dropped out of the hobby and completely missed the T$R/C&D phase, and only found out about that after the fact. Back then it would not have occurred to me to pick up an RPG book based on who the designer was, rather than the content itself.

I don't think it is heresy. I'm not convinced the vast majority of people who play D&D even today actually care too much about how the sausage is made or who is doing the cooking. I'm willing to wager the majority of the controversies surrounding names like Orion Black and Zak S. pretty much went unnoticed by the vast majority of D&D enthusiast. Back in the late 80s and early 90s the only people I associated with gaming were Gary Gygax, Kevin Siembieda, Mike Pondsmith, and Steve Jackson (that's Steve Jackson of Steve Jackson Games not Games Workshop for our British viewers). Admittedly, I might have picked up a game based on Gygax's name. But that game would have been Cyborg Commando putting to rest my desire to pick up any other game related to Gygax.

I didn't start to really pay attention to the people and history of D&D until the early 00s, when you started seeing columns in Dragon magazine written by him again, documentaries about D&D like Uber Goober and Life with the Dice Bag, and interactions with him here (which I can say that mine, while limited, were always pleasant; though I can't even begin to imagine being a woman gamer and reading him say my brain isn't wired to enjoy RPGs).

Most people don't really become interested in history until they've put a little miles on them. Except for weirdos like me who went on to major in it. I can't recall the first time I heard of Lorraine Williams but I don't ever recall talking to anyone about her in the 90s. Even if I had access to the information at the time, which I didn't, I wouldn't have been interested.

This to me is the most glaring double standard. Lorraine was 'rude to gamers", while Gary could write off half of the population as being unable to appreciate the game because of (completely false) biological reasons. A lot of women are gamers, who do you think alienated more gamers?
You make a valid point. But at the time when these opinions were formed regarding Williams, AD&D was overwhelmingly played by white adolescent males for whatever reason. And even if Gygax felt that way about women, early AD&D ads certainly included portrayals of women/girls as players and DMs.
 

Resenting your employees AND your customers and bad mouthing them...not a great thing to do when your depending on both.
Says who? The only tales we have of such are from men who apparently resented her. Maybe they had a not bigoted reason for resenting her, but they certainly have never put forth such reasons.
Preventing your employees from actually participating in the hobby...that's like making video games without any playtesting or anyone even checking to see if it works...I mean it's done in video games...but normally turns out very badly for everyone.
Yea, this is just so much FOD. First, you later admit the employees were not banned from playtesting. The only reasons they were prevented from playtesting more, is that they had product to get out the door. Management did not give them sufficient time to playtest, or perform other quality processes. And yes, it did turn out poorly. But people continuing to imply that these management failures were because Lorraine didn't like gamers are simple speculating based upon opinions of people who did not like Lorraine.
However, with Williams, her hostility towards...well...just about everyone and everything in the latter half of her reign is REALLY why she is painted so badly by so many.
Let's see, Men in the industry, who probably idolized Gary saw someone who did not. That someone was a woman. And you think Lorraine was the first to show hostility between her and her employees?

That's not shown to be true by the few factual stories we have. Instead, even the one quoted upthread, state something lie 'Lorraine was unfailingly polite.' Or she she 'apologized profusely but I avoided her from them on'.

Instead of showing a woman who bought a company and was immediately hostile instead shows a person who bought a company, tried to build professional relationships, but instead was denigrated and made fun of by her male employees. If that's who she thought "gamers" were, then of course she would think "gamers" who crude, rude, and undesirables.

But we will probably never know. Because human interactions are full of perceptions, and human memory is scientifically proven to be grossly inaccurate.
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).
Actions reported by whom? By people who profess they hate her. People who have demonstrated bias against her. The only thing we don't know, is did they have those biases before they had meaningful interactions with her?
It's NOT that Mrs. Williams was a woman, but certain things she did that have some who dislike what went down with TSR (or T$R as many would put it) during her tenure over it. I feel that ANYONE, man or woman that had such things occur under them would probably ALSO engender the SAME feelings towards them. It was the ACTIONS, NOT the gender that are behind some of the attitudes that people have.
Says you. And perhaps irrelevant. There is no doubt her employees denigrated and undermined her. The only remaining question is if they did that with just cause or not.
Mine also are somewhat biased and personal in general, as she was a total aggressor against Gygax (IMO) and RPG's in general.
Understood. And the purpose OF THIS THREAD is to allow people to question their own biases, and to determine if "what they know" is actually based upon sound reasoning or not.
My point is that there were OTHER women in the RPG community that were not vilified, and in some cases adored at least by the fans if not the company itself.
Others have already pointed out that MANY OTHER WOMEN were mistreated by male gamers. And still are today.
but specifically trying to point out that there are REASONS that Mrs. Williams was not liked by many
REASONS that are SUSPECT.

REASONS that make one wonder if the people espousing those opinions are sexists or otherwise biased. I showed earlier in this thread, that one of those TSR employees obviously had a predisposed distaste for Lorraine, even though he gives no justifiable reason for his dislike. It seems to me, many of those sources you rely upon had a prejudice formed by something other than experience, because they certainly have not given any justifiable reasons for this distaste.
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.
A sole proprietorship isn't much of a distinction. And, before the internet, during Gary's C&D escapades, their was no internet. There was no easily widespread way to share fan content except through fanzines that were published by companies. Companies that Gary had no reservations about sending C&D's to.
To me it speaks to my point about companies large and small not knowing what to make of the internet, nor what they needed to do to protect their IP on the internet.
Yea, I don't think this phenomenon is well understood today, and how to protect IP during the beginning of the WWW certainly wasn't.
 

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