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

Bolares

Hero
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.
How is it not relevant to the discussion? It not only shows how sexist the comunity was, it also shows Gygax alienating a lot of possible gamers.
 

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GreyLord

Legend
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.

I disagree...there's a BIG difference, and it also depends on how aggressive you are.

However, Williams went after enough people that there is STILL bad blood today. You need not look any further than those she went after to understand the scope of how angry people got. Gygax DID go after some, but there are far fewer that are angry at him today than there are at Williams.

The reason is the scope and how fervent they were at it.

But I can see this thread is full of those who would Lynch Gygax if they had half a chance (at least that's what it appears right now) and so, anything I say is going to fall on deaf ears.

If anyone ever wants to give a REAL re-evaluation, let me know, because right now the thread seems more of trying to Lynch Gygax to justify Williams than to actually really analyze the postives and negatives of what she did.

That said, I DO unabashedly defend Gygax, and think that there are some misjudgements placed against him in this thread. He was human and was not perfect, but I see there are many that do not understand (probably because they were not there and did not live through the events...at least that's my only guess) the WHY she is disliked by some individuals.

Some it is pretty self explainable if one just stopped discounting their statements.

I (and ironically) have probably posted the STRONGEST point in her favor (and in more specifics than the OP did in what she did for TSR I feel), but people are so intent on trying to argue against the negative things I posted that there really is NO debate on positives vs. negatives.

I'll say this, Gygax was a great guy to gamers, and extremely nice to those who would talk to him and play in his games. For those who never experienced him and his friendliness, this very forum has him where he answered questions and other things from gamers at (I believe he never got a cent for it) no cost. He loved gamers and interacting with them and was cordial as anything. This entire lynching of his character I feel in order to justify Mrs. Williams is really not called for...IMO.
 
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Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
My jaw dropped when I heard that during 2e's era, TSR was lining up a deal to get the rights to Tolkien's Middle-Earth and the sticking point that caused it to fall apart was that the Tolkien Estate (or maybe it was Saul Zaentz?) wouldn't allow new fiction to be published by TSR, and for Lorraine Williams that was a dealbreaker.

Had they gotten their way, I can't imagine that history would've looked back kindly on TSR's Middle-Earth novels. But to think, had they added Middle-Earth to their roster of settings, what could have been (probably even more people arguing whether Gandalf, Elminster, or Raistlin would win in a fight)...
I guarantee you that Gandalf would have been higher than level 5 ;)
 

Levistus's_Leviathan

5e Freelancer
I'm definately Pro-Gary
This is the problem here. You're thinking of this as "Pro-Gary" versus "Pro-Williams". That's not what's going on here. That's not the argument/discussion. The discussion is "did Lorraine Williams get unfair treatment, based on this new evidence that we have, and the fact that sexism was very present in the earlier eras of D&D?"

And to me, the facts quite explicitly say "yes, she was unfairly treated". However, neither I, nor @Snarf Zagyg, nor @Sacrosanct, nor anyone else that agrees with the premise of the thread are saying that Lorraine Williams was some kind of saint. She was human, she made mistakes, and was in charge of TSR when it went under and was bought by Wizards of the Coast. The point is that she also did good things. She does not deserve the complete vilification that she has received from this community for decades. She did help the hobby, was in charge of it when some of the most popular settings of the game were developed, and successfully ran TSR for over a decade. She even pushed Gary Gygax out of the hobby, even though he is commonly heralded as the creator of D&D, and it was because of how he was mismanaging the company. It was entirely necessary and was for the good of TSR and D&D overall.

The problem here is that a ton of people in the D&D hobby (especially older gamers) idolize and venerate Gary Gygax. This is a problem, which I outlined in this post:

You shouldn't be "Pro-Gary", because this isn't a contest. This isn't "who was worse/better for the hobby?", it's "why was Lorraine Williams treated as poorly as she was, when Gary Gygax did many of the same things that she's criticized for doing, and even more?"

I'm not "Pro-Lorraine Williams". I'm not "Anti-Gary". I'm glad that Gary Gygax created the hobby and thankful towards him for that. However, I don't idolize him. I don't see him as some sort of D&D God or perfect individual because he did one good thing and revolutionized gaming. I don't think that it's bad to criticize him, and actually think it's healthy for us as a community to do so. We should be aware of the flaws of the creators of D&D, not willingly blind and ignorant of them. They weren't perfect. They shouldn't be idolized, because they're not gods. Gary was flawed, did some harmful and detrimental things to the hobby and community, and was/is just as human as Lorraine Williams. We should treat them as humans and expect them to act like the people that they were, not hold Lorraine to a higher standard than we do the creator of D&D, especially if one of the reasons why we do that is due to the sexism that was rampant in gaming back then.

That's the problem. That's why people are unfairly treating Lorraine Williams, ignoring her contributions to the game and TSR, and why people place Gygax on a pedestal. Sexism, the idolizing of Gygax, and hearsay. People wanted someone to blame, and so they jumped at the first thing offered up. And like most things in this universe, it's frankly more complicated and nuanced than that.

That's what this thread is about. Not "Gygax was the Devil, not Lorraine!", or trying to idolize Lorraine Williams instead of Gary Gygax. It's to admit that they were both human and treat them as we would any other person. To stop idolizing and demonizing the early creators and leaders of D&D, because they don't deserve either of those.

That's the point.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
I disagree...there's a BIG difference, and it also depends on how aggressive you are.

However, Williams went after enough people that there is STILL bad blood today. You need not look any further than those she went after to understand the scope of how angry people got. Gygax DID go after some, but there are far fewer that are angry at him today than there are at Williams.

The reason is the scope and how fervent they were at it.

But I can see this thread is full of those who would Lynch Gygax if they had half a chance (at least that's what it appears right now) and so, anything I say is going to fall on deaf ears.

If anyone ever wants to give a REAL re-evaluation, let me know, because right now the thread seems more of trying to Lynch Gygax to justify Williams than to actually really analyze the postives and negatives of what she did.

That said, I DO unabashedly defend Gygax, and think that there are some misjudgements placed against him in this thread. He was human and was not perfect, but I see there are many that do not understand (probably because they were not there and did not live through the events...at least that's my only guess) the WHY she is disliked by some individuals.

Some it is pretty self explainable if one just stopped discounting their statements.

I (and ironically) have probably posted the STRONGEST point in her favor (and in more specifics than the OP did in what she did for TSR I feel), but people are so intent on trying to argue against the negative things I posted that there really is NO debate on positives vs. negatives.

I'll say this, Gygax was a great guy to gamers, and extremely nice to those who would talk to him and play in his games. For those who never experienced him and his friendliness, this very forum has him where he answered questions and other things from gamers at (I believe he never got a cent for it) no cost. He loved gamers and interacting with them and was cordial as anything. This entire lynching of his character I feel in order to justify Mrs. Williams is really not called for...IMO.
I am uncomfortable with the number of uses of "lynching" in this post. Not an appropriate comparison to measured critique as seen in this thread, at all.
 

MGibster

Legend
If anyone ever wants to give a REAL re-evaluation, let me know, because right now the thread seems more of trying to Lynch Gygax to justify Williams than to actually really analyze the postives and negatives of what she did.
I'm just not seeing Gygax being treated unfairly here and I don't know how you could have gone through this thread without reading about the positives and negatives attributed to Williams. Justify Williams? Most people in this thread seem to be in agreement that she's largely the reason TSR went under in the 90s. But as I said in my first post here, in the story of D&D, the dominate narrative paints Williams as a villain with no redeeming traits. The truth is a bit more complicated than that which warrants a reevaluation of her legacy and role in the history of D&D.
 

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.
@Dausuul was explicitly commenting on the claim that Williams outright banned playtesting. Which is an explicit claim that has frequently been made and I have read - and if Williams actually did ban playtesting it is a problem at a company that makes games. Your reply was in the context of that.
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.
The big issue with this paragraph is that you are assuming the conclusion "that is when the playtesting frequency change happened" when the pace rules material came out actually technically drops when she took over, although only because 1985 was a bumper year. For the rulebooks below I'm using Wikipedia as my source.
  • In 1985 three major rulebooks came out, two of them written by Gygax (Unearthed Arcana and Oriental Adventures), with the third being Legends and Lore (which was mostly Deities & Demigods)
  • 1986 had the Dungeon Survival Guide and the Wilderness Survival Guide
  • 1987 had the Manual of the Planes and Dragonlance Adventures
  • 1988 had Greyhawk Adventures
(This doesn't count adventures). It's a pretty reasonable schedule.

Meanwhile the shovelware actually started in 1989 and not specifically because Williams took over but because 2e started. I'll spot 2e the PHB and DMG and the 1995 reprints. Plus adventures and the Monstrous Compendiums. But 2e also had:
  • Two Complete Book Of X each year from 1989 to 1995 - counted but not named below
  • 1990 (6): Forgotten Realms Adventures, Legends & Lore, Campaign Sourcebook and Catacomb Guide, The Castle Guide
  • 1991 (5): Tome of Magic, Arms & Equipment Guide, Vikings Campaign Sourcebook
  • 1992 (7!): Dark Sun: Dragon Kings, Monster Mythology, Celts Campaign Sourcebook, Charlemagne's Paladins CSB, A Mighty Fortress CSB
  • 1993 (5): (Not counted: Monstrous Manual). Book of Artifacts, Creative Campaigning, The Glory of Rome CSB
  • 1994 (5): The Complete Book of Villains, Age of Heroes CSB, The Crusades CSB
  • 1995 (6): Player's Option: Combat and Tactics, PO: Skills and Power. DM's Option: High Level Campaigns, The Complete Book of Necromancers
This, of course, doesn't count adventures, settings, or boxed sets. Settings again don't change much when she took over with Kara-Tur being the only one between 1986 and the launch of 2e although the Realms should really be counted; one every other year is about the Gygax era's average. But 1989-1995 averages one a year (Spelljammer, Hollow World, Al Quadim, Birthright, Council of Wyrms, Planescape).

And I'm pretty sure that TSR never really had anything even close to the resources needed to playtest all that.

Which leads to two questions:
  1. Why did TSR decide to make 2e a shovelware edition?
  2. Why do you, @Mistwell , blame Lorraine Williams personally for this? What insider information do you have that she was the driving force behind this?
  3. If Lorraine Williams was responsible for the increased output of 2e does that mean that you will also praise her for what was good about 2e because it was her vision that lead to the change in approach and producing a lot of interesting stuff?
 

GreyLord

Legend
This is the problem here. You're thinking of this as "Pro-Gary" versus "Pro-Williams". That's not what's going on here. That's not the argument/discussion. The discussion is "did Lorraine Williams get unfair treatment, based on this new evidence that we have, and the fact that sexism was very present in the earlier eras of D&D?"

And to me, the facts quite explicitly say "yes, she was unfairly treated". However, neither I, nor @Snarf Zagyg, nor @Sacrosanct, nor anyone else that agrees with the premise of the thread are saying that Lorraine Williams was some kind of saint. She was human, she made mistakes, and was in charge of TSR when it went under and was bought by Wizards of the Coast. The point is that she also did good things. She does not deserve the complete vilification that she has received from this community for decades. She did help the hobby, was in charge of it when some of the most popular settings of the game were developed, and successfully ran TSR for over a decade. She even pushed Gary Gygax out of the hobby, even though he is commonly heralded as the creator of D&D, and it was because of how he was mismanaging the company. It was entirely necessary and was for the good of TSR and D&D overall.

The problem here is that a ton of people in the D&D hobby (especially older gamers) idolize and venerate Gary Gygax. This is a problem, which I outlined in this post:

You shouldn't be "Pro-Gary", because this isn't a contest. This isn't "who was worse/better for the hobby?", it's "why was Lorraine Williams treated as poorly as she was, when Gary Gygax did many of the same things that she's criticized for doing, and even more?"

I'm not "Pro-Lorraine Williams". I'm not "Anti-Gary". I'm glad that Gary Gygax created the hobby and thankful towards him for that. However, I don't idolize him. I don't see him as some sort of D&D God or perfect individual because he did one good thing and revolutionized gaming. I don't think that it's bad to criticize him, and actually think it's healthy for us as a community to do so. We should be aware of the flaws of the creators of D&D, not willingly blind and ignorant of them. They weren't perfect. They shouldn't be idolized, because they're not gods. Gary was flawed, did some harmful and detrimental things to the hobby and community, and was/is just as human as Lorraine Williams. We should treat them as humans and expect them to act like the people that they were, not hold Lorraine to a higher standard than we do the creator of D&D, especially if one of the reasons why we do that is due to the sexism that was rampant in gaming back then.

That's the problem. That's why people are unfairly treating Lorraine Williams, ignoring her contributions to the game and TSR, and why people place Gygax on a pedestal. Sexism, the idolizing of Gygax, and hearsay. People wanted someone to blame, and so they jumped at the first thing offered up. And like most things in this universe, it's frankly more complicated and nuanced than that.

That's what this thread is about. Not "Gygax was the Devil, not Lorraine!", or trying to idolize Lorraine Williams instead of Gary Gygax. It's to admit that they were both human and treat them as we would any other person. To stop idolizing and demonizing the early creators and leaders of D&D, because they don't deserve either of those.

That's the point.

The thing is that she did NOT get unfair treatment according to some.

You are villainizing all those who were C&D'd by here, sued by her, and had bad experiences from her.

AND THEN, you discount them and have those saying...well...Gygax did the same thing (note...he did NOT...it's like saying that since a cop gave a ticket to you for speeding and gave you a massive fine and another cop gave you a ticket for reckless driving and then took you to jail but no fine that they did the same thing...it's NOT the same thing).

There's a REASON she has the reputation...and ignoring it and telling all those who lived through it and got attacked that it's just like "their opinion" is villanizing everyone ELSE to try to make it that how she has been treated since is unfair.

Let's have someone (we will call them suitor L) sue you and try to remove your livelihood and then sue your friends and C&D them and see how you feel when someone says that individual who attacked you was treated unfairly and it was all due to sexism.

It wasn't just guys she went after, and it wasn't just guys she chased out of the hobby. If you knew anything you'd realize that she chased out more woman than Gygax even did (well, those who were working for TSR at the time), so saying it's purely sexism or other things shows absolutely no congnizence of WHY she is actually vilified in the first place.

HINT: It has NOTHING to do with sexism for the most part and EVERYTHING to do with the actions she took.

HOWEVER...what tells me this is MORE to do with lynching Gygax than actually balancing things out is that I've given perhaps the strongest argument on her postives (and it is a mighty big positive, probably the biggest one in the thread) and instead of actually LOOKING at these things, it's been blatantly ignored in favor of trying to refute any negative experiences anyone has had with her. This isn't looking to balance or re-evaluate, as any positives are blatantly and totally ignored because the negatives don't fit your narratives. This isn't a re-evaluation where you are out to change someone's mind, or it doesn't look that way. It looks more to try to toss out any opinion that doesn't fit your ideas (regardless of how right or wrong they are) rather than actually look at the balance as was suggested at first.

Look, I've actually been one of Mrs. Williams most stringent defenders in the past on some items. I can tell you the actual positives she had, and the biggest one is a massively big one. AS one who has defended her in the past, I'm telling you that ignoring myriads of stories that tell you WHY she has been painted as a "villain" in the past, if one could put it that way, is not giving her a re-evaluation. You need to balance out how strongly each is worth in your evaluation. Thus far the evaluation is basically saying as follows from what I've read...

1. She was misjudged because everyone she did wrong to wasn't really wrong, it is just seen that way because of sexism.

2. Gygax did bad things too.

And that's the basis of what I'm reading in the thread. It's not actually looking at the bad and good she did, just trying to justify her actions rather than judge them on their own merits of the impacts they had, what they did, and the REAL reasons of WHY they caused her to be seen as she is.

This isn't re-evaluating as much as attacking those who may have legitimate reasons to feel the way they do. Another telling is trying to apply this to her in the name of "sexism" but the other ball in the room, the other person that is also vilified who just happens to be a male (bloom) is ignored. They did the same things to get vilified, but the question then is why is her's due to sexism and his not?

AS I said, what she did wouldn't MATTER if Mrs. Williams was a woman or a man, it was WHAT she did that caused people to vilify her. When you are actually INTERESTED in discussing that and WHY it actually made people so angry (and angry still, far more angry than what Gygax did for the most part...though there are some that are angry at him as well) and the concerns they had vs. the positives that she had on TSR and the industry in general...that becomes a more worthwhile discussion that actually may start re-evaluation as it should be, based on HER MERITS and negatives rather than simply making up history as you go along.
 

Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
@Dausuul was explicitly commenting on the claim that Williams outright banned playtesting. Which is an explicit claim that has frequently been made and I have read - and if Williams actually did ban playtesting it is a problem at a company that makes games. Your reply was in the context of that.

The big issue with this paragraph is that you are assuming the conclusion "that is when the playtesting frequency change happened" when the pace rules material came out actually technically drops when she took over, although only because 1985 was a bumper year. For the rulebooks below I'm using Wikipedia as my source.
  • In 1985 three major rulebooks came out, two of them written by Gygax (Unearthed Arcana and Oriental Adventures), with the third being Legends and Lore (which was mostly Deities & Demigods)
  • 1986 had the Dungeon Survival Guide and the Wilderness Survival Guide
  • 1987 had the Manual of the Planes and Dragonlance Adventures
  • 1988 had Greyhawk Adventures
(This doesn't count adventures). It's a pretty reasonable schedule.

Meanwhile the shovelware actually started in 1989 and not specifically because Williams took over but because 2e started. I'll spot 2e the PHB and DMG and the 1995 reprints. Plus adventures and the Monstrous Compendiums. But 2e also had:
  • Two Complete Book Of X each year from 1989 to 1995 - counted but not named below
  • 1990 (6): Forgotten Realms Adventures, Legends & Lore, Campaign Sourcebook and Catacomb Guide, The Castle Guide
  • 1991 (5): Tome of Magic, Arms & Equipment Guide, Vikings Campaign Sourcebook
  • 1992 (7!): Dark Sun: Dragon Kings, Monster Mythology, Celts Campaign Sourcebook, Charlemagne's Paladins CSB, A Mighty Fortress CSB
  • 1993 (5): (Not counted: Monstrous Manual). Book of Artifacts, Creative Campaigning, The Glory of Rome CSB
  • 1994 (5): The Complete Book of Villains, Age of Heroes CSB, The Crusades CSB
  • 1995 (6): Player's Option: Combat and Tactics, PO: Skills and Power. DM's Option: High Level Campaigns, The Complete Book of Necromancers
This, of course, doesn't count adventures, settings, or boxed sets. Settings again don't change much when she took over with Kara-Tur being the only one between 1986 and the launch of 2e although the Realms should really be counted; one every other year is about the Gygax era's average. But 1989-1995 averages one a year (Spelljammer, Hollow World, Al Quadim, Birthright, Council of Wyrms, Planescape).

And I'm pretty sure that TSR never really had anything even close to the resources needed to playtest all that.

Which leads to two questions:
  1. Why did TSR decide to make 2e a shovelware edition?
  2. Why do you, @Mistwell , blame Lorraine Williams personally for this? What insider information do you have that she was the driving force behind this?
  3. If Lorraine Williams was responsible for the increased output of 2e does that mean that you will also praise her for what was good about 2e because it was her vision that lead to the change in approach and producing a lot of interesting stuff?
Please stop attributing things to me which I never said.

What I said, "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 change happened."

What you claim I said, "Why do you, Mistwell, blame Lorraine Williams personally for this? What insider information do you have that she was the driving force behind this?"

That is at best a very rude response, and borders on trying to start a fight by presenting a strawman. Please stop. If you want someone to take that position so you can attack it, find someone else. My biggest beef with Williams is the Buck Rogers thing, which I said earlier.
 

GreyLord

Legend
Which leads to two questions:
  1. Why did TSR decide to make 2e a shovelware edition?
  2. Why do you, @Greylord , blame Lorraine Williams personally for this? What insider information do you have that she was the driving force behind this?
  3. If Lorraine Williams was responsible for the increased output of 2e does that mean that you will also praise her for what was good about 2e because it was her vision that lead to the change in approach and producing a lot of interesting stuff?

That's actually 3 questions...but...redirecting it to me...

1) I don't view it as shovelware. She wasn't directl responsible, but she allowed creative control of the head editors and managers to move it in this direction. Overall, it sold like gangbusters. It was a GREAT success. There were several reasons for the second edition. One was that they were cleaning up the various addendums made to AD&D. They were basically refocusing it into a cleaner bill of writing (even if not as colorful as 1e). In addition, they utilized the opportunity to get rid of some difficulties they had with their public image (though some would consider it dropping sacred cows like Assassins, Half-Orcs, etc).

Personally, I think the move they made was actually rather genius on their part.

2) I'm not sure I understand the question. My personal opinion. She took a very business like approach to it, and in that light she had a very good grasp on the approach that was being taken, even if she didn't understand how the rules specifically applied. She greenlit the approach and pushed the ideas that got more books and rules published. She knew what made money and pushed the managers to make more of these items (at least at first). Face it, Rulebooks make money. Novels made money. Even during WotC's day they realized...even more than adventures...rulebooks make money. She made a titanic ship that...unfortunately just like the titanic...sailed with some of the greatest innovations of the day (some don't realize that the Titanic's design is behind many of the safety features we have today in nautical vessels) that affect the RPG industry today...but at the same time...set the stage for a massive failure in the future.

3. I already do, and if anyone actually read my posts in this thread instead of just reacting to the ones they don't like, they'd see that I've already pointed some of this out extensively.
 

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