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

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.
Saying "there's a REASON" doesn't necessarily make the reason a good one. A lot of what that opinion is based on is made up of demonstrable lies. And a lot appears to be misogyny. And a lot appears to be hero worship of E. Gary Gygax and the fact she's the person that pushed him out. And a lot appears to be scapegoating.

No, that doesn't make her a good person or a good CEO - and no one is saying it does.
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.
If you have demonstrable facts then bring them. I'd be interested to hear actual facts.

If all you have, on the other hand, is insinuations, mud-slinging, and unsourced allegations about someone who has been demonstrably lied about and slandered then adding block capitals does absolutely nothing to help
HINT: It has NOTHING to do with sexism for the most part and EVERYTHING to do with the actions she took.
Hint: all we have is you casting aspersions here. And thinking that block capitals makes your case stronger rather than weaker.
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
I have seen no attempted lynching of Gygax here - and the most damning thing about him in this thread is quoting his own words. He however did have feet of clay as well as having done something that was culture-chainging.
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.
And from what I can tell what she did wrong was only a few things:
  1. Was the person to take over once Gygax had exhausted all his good will and burned any allies he had left
  2. Didn't change the policy of They $ue Regularly when the world wide web went mainstream and so felt ham-handed
  3. Was an at best mediocre CEO
  4. Like far too many CEOs used her business to benefit her family
  5. Was a woman and got a lot of hate projected on her.
  6. Got pissed off that there were women in chain mail bikinis, finding it insulting and objectifying
That is literally everything I can tell that's a valid criticism of her. And none of it that I can tell is truly damning. Is she in line for any person of the year awards from me? No. Do I think she was a good CEO? No. Do I feel she was a malevolent force worthy of multi-page screeds? Not for any reason I've seen. Possibly you have others - but writing in caps doesn't make me think there are any.

And I try to defend people being slandered irrespective of whether they're good people.
 

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Zardnaar

Legend
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?


Lorraine still very few females played D&D then.

I don't think she is the wicked witch of the west and wasn't any more incompetent at running a business than Gary/Blumes.

She was there though when TSR died and she went after fans vs companies and she didn't produce material herself unlike Gary.

She also went after Gary after his departure from TSR so she didn't just run him out of TSR but tried running him out of the RPG business.

That basically makes it personal.

And the self dealing Buck Rogers thing.

All fairly tame by 1980's CEO standards.
 


Levistus's_Leviathan

5e Freelancer
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.
Yeah, I'm not going to go point by point down this rant, as I normally would, and am not going to even do a true response, due to the fact that you did not do the same when I first responded to you. It's pretty clear that you're not arguing in good faith, from the misplaced and tone-deaf appropriation of the word "lynched" to try to paint Gygax as being victimized by both Lorraine Williams and people in this thread, to the treatment of everyone in this thread that doesn't agree with you as some sort of revisionist hive mind bent on sullying Gary Gygax's name and idolizing Lorraine Williams. To borrow @doctorbadwolf's words from a different thread "we are not a hive mind".

We're done here. You're not arguing in good faith and are using very tone-deaf language.
 

Azzy

ᚳᚣᚾᛖᚹᚢᛚᚠ
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.
Yeah, I was in much the same boat. Until the arrival of the internet, the names Gygax, et al. mean nothing to me except as far as listing in the credits section. I had no idea who these people were, what TSR was like or who was running it. The names only concerned me in as far as I'd look for products of the authors of other products I liked. Hell, I didn't even know that TSR had crashed and burned and was bought up by WotC until a website by some cat named Eric Noah started posting teasers about 3e.
 


dragoner

KosmicRPG.com
Welcome to the first in, perhaps, an occasional series: Snarf Presents Hawt Taek Thursdays.

Ahem. Anyway, if you read my review of Jon Peterson's new book, or better yet read his book (Game Wizards, now on sale!), you probably see that it presents the ouster of Gary Gygax from TSR and the takeover by Lorraine Williams in a very different light than what was commonly received before. And it began solidifying some thoughts I have had that I wanted to put out, and see the reaction that it got-

Here it is- Lorraine Williams was a positive influence on D&D.

Let me start with the traditional narrative about Lorraine Williams (I'm just going to use "Lorraine" from here on out, because her first name is more distinctive) that many older gamers either say, or have been taught-

The Great God Gygax ran his kingdom of TSR, and all were happy. But one day, Gygax did the unthinkable- he allowed in a non-gamer by the name of Lorraine. And Lorraine did conspire in the darkness with the Brothers Blume and overthrew Gygax from his throne and banished him from his kingdom. It was only too late did Gygax realize that this person he had trusted was actually the Wicked Witch Lorraine, who hated all things good, gamer, and TSR.

And thus was the Golden Age of TSR ended. From then on, the Wicked Witch Lorraine belittled all the gaming citizens of TSR, and ensured that all of the great gold and treasures of TSR would go to her own treasuries, starving the kingdom. The Wicked Witch Lorraine did not even see that a new, goodly Kingdom of Carding Wizards was gaining power on her borders. This continued for interminable ages, until one day, with the treasury of TSR depleted, Kingdom of Carding Wizards invaded and took over the Kingdom of TSR, and the Wicked Witch Lorraine fled, never to be seen again.


I exaggerate, but only slightly. There are some gaming circles were the name Lorraine is roughly akin to Voldemort.

But how true is that narrative? I would stipulate that the basic beginning and ending facts are true- yes, she ousted Gygax, and yes, she was the one forced to sell out to Wizards of the Coast. Is that it, or is there more nuance to the story?


A. The Good That Gets Overlooked.

This is the important part- I think that there is a lot of good that people tend to forget. Let's start with the most basic; if you read Game Wizards, or have a passing familiarity with what happened, you quickly understand that Lorraine was not the villain in the ouster of Gygax- she was the hero. Quite literally, she saved TSR. The sheer amount of details and the repetition of them truly paint the picture, but in brief, TSR had massive debts, Gygax was both ignoring the financial issues (and the banks), ignoring meetings, spending TSR's money, and also demanding (in his capacity as majority shareholder) that TSR begin dramatically increasing royalty payments to him. To add to all of that, he negotiated a deal with the Brothers Blume and then reneged on the terms. In short, he was a disaster, and was quickly running what was left of the company into the ground. Lorraine didn't pull this off by herself- all the people involved with TSR at senior levels except Gygax knew the score. If you are a fan of shows like Succession, it's like a scene where the person comes into dictate terms, and realizes that no one is supporting him. Not a single person. More importantly, at the time there were a lot of outstanding liabilities other than just the terrible debts they already had due to poor projections and governance- such as the multiple suits due to the promise of stock options that TSR chose not to honor (settled under Lorraine's watch).

So she should get credit for saving TSR, in my opinion.

The second thing is we should reflect on the intellectual property that was developed during her tenure. Sure, you can't beat the very original few years, simply because it developed a lot of the vocabulary (classes, levels, AC, etc.) and lore (Fighters, Clerics, Beholders, Mind Flayers, Githyanki etc.) that still resonate today. But let's do a quick check into what happened during her reign-
1. Signed the contract with Ed Greenwood and began developing Forgotten Realms as a D&D property.
2. Published the Manual of the Planes, the first major step in going from the prime material centric (with multiple planes) to the outer planes model we are used to today. (Yes, I have mixed feeling on this one).
3. Successfully launched 2e. There's a lot more to this- but this is already a long post.
4. Launched campaign settings we continue to be familiar with today (other than FR!), such as Spelljammer, Ravenloft, Hollow World, Dark Sun, Al-Qadim, Birthright, and Planescape.
5. Drizzt. sigh Okay, whatever your feelings about Drizzt specifically, or about the quality of writing in TSR's books in general, there was a massive explosion of titles and fantasy novels in the D&D world that brought new people to D&D.

Overall, and without going too far into the details, that's a pretty solid track record! What about the other side?


B. What About the Bad?

Well, here (without getting into the "not a gamer" thing, which I'll address in the next part), I'll put it simply-
SCOREBOARD.
That's the common refrain in sports events- you can make all the excuses you want, but at the end of the game, the only thing that matters is the final score. And business is a lot like that. Sure, there's reasons. There's extenuating circumstances. There's bad economies. But at the end of the day, TSR collapsed under Lorraine's watch. That's the alpha and the omega the end.

...and yet, businesses fail all the time. It's sad, but true, that a lot of businesses fail (or have issues) and the CEOs/owners get fat payouts. I mean, don't look at what happened with WeWork. Seriously, don't. More importantly, we don't usually have a specific level of vitriol toward the person running the business. I mean, it's not like "Blume" is a dirty name in the gaming community!

I would start by looking at why TSR failed the second time. Unfortunately, we don't have the full account like we did with Jon Peterson's book, but there have been scattered accounts here and there (there is a post by Ryan Dancey, for example, here). I think that the failure of TSR is like the old saying .... it happened slowly then all at once. There were warning signs- the rise of computer games, the rise of Games Workshop (which made money with miniatures, a market TSR was not in), and most importantly, the rise of WoTC, which was making insane profits off of a ... card game. The industry itself was having issues, with many major distributors suffering and going under. TSR tried to adapt (Dragon Dice, for example) and tried to expand (pushing out more profitable fiction hardcovers), but, much like the 80s, they were in a trap of their own creation. The success of the many of the 2e supplements had saturated the AD&D market, and their attempts to expand through Dragon Dice other means were not successful (not to mention much more costly than the cards WoTC was making). That, plus the Random House contract, meant that a company that looked like it was going gangbusters, or at least okay, in the early 90s, faced a cash crunch in '95, and was decimated and sold to WoTC in '97.

Not great, Bob. But ... understandable.

Oh, the Buck Williams thing? Without going too far into the weeds, not the best look, but also not surprising in closely-held corporations. It wasn't a factor in TSR's demise.


C. So ... why the Hate?

I have a few theories I'd like to throw out-

1. Lorraine ousted Gygax. This is the most simple. Gygax was, for many people, D&D. So she was always going to be the villain in any morality play.

2. Lorraine wasn't a gamer. This is a little more nuanced, especially consider that, for example, Kevin Blume wasn't really a gamer either. But Lorraine never cared much about the "community" in the sense of gamers. She wanted to run TSR as a company, with products. This tends to be a reciprocal thing- you don't care about us, we don't care about you.

3. Surprise. I'm not sure I agree with this, given there was a lot of hate even before the collapse, but ... I think a lot of people were genuinely shocked that TSR collapsed suddenly, and, moreover, it was sold to a "mere" card company. It's more difficult to understand now, but there was a sizeable number of people that thought that D&D was it, and M:TG was just some kids playing a silly game. Kind of like how, way back when, wargamers thought what they were doing was it, and D&D was just kids playing a silly game. Anyway, the collapse and sale of TSR was shocking to a lot of people, and Lorraine was a convenient target to blame.

4. Misogyny. Not to put too fine a point on it, but female executives were not common in the 80s and 90s. And the gaming community could be rough. I'm not going to spell this out for you, I'm just going to say this- Lorraine was probably treated a lot worse than a comparable male executive would have been.


D. Conclusion.

Look, I think two things can be said- first, Lorraine wasn't a great owner. I wouldn't say that. In the end, SCOREBOARD is a valid argument. But I do think it is important that we balance that ending with the fact that she both helped save TSR in the 80s, and also was at the helm for a number of products that still resonate with people today. If you love Forgotten Realms, for example, you can thank Ed Greenwood. And you can tank Jeff Grubb. But it was Lorraine who was running the company during the big FR bet.
This was a nice read, thanks. I don't think I ever demonized her, and with hindsight, in the business world, TSR went from leading edge, to bleeding edge, as they say. It is a common enough story, played out with all sort of companies.
 

MGibster

Legend
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.
As I understand it, shovelware is low quality content that's not particularly useful to anyone. So I would agree with your assertion that 2nd edition AD&D was not a shovelware edition. While there were a few stinkers, I'm looking at you The Complete Book of Elves, overall, 2nd edition consistently released quality products. It was under Williams' tenure that I came to love AD&D and while I started with 1st edition it was 2nd edition where I started purchasing my own books and running my own games.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
But I can see this thread is full of those who would Lynch Gygax

Mod Note:
Stop. Stop right there.

The next time you get an urge to liken criticism of a man's business practices to killing innocent people for their race, stop. Think on what you're about to do. Do not click on "Post reply" in such situations.

This racially insensitive hyperbole is not appropriate or acceptable. Please reconsider how you are approaching in this topic. Tone down the rhetoric several notches, or you are likely to say something else that you may come to regret. Thanks.
 

Bolares

Hero
Lorraine still very few females played D&D then.

I don't think she is the wicked witch of the west and wasn't any more incompetent at running a business than Gary/Blumes.

She was there though when TSR died and she went after fans vs companies and she didn't produce material herself unlike Gary.

She also went after Gary after his departure from TSR so she didn't just run him out of TSR but tried running him out of the RPG business.

That basically makes it personal.

And the self dealing Buck Rogers thing.

All fairly tame by 1980's CEO standards.
I don’t know why you responded to me. I never disputed any of what you are saying. And none of it goes against my point that there were (and are) clear double standards because she is a woman. That doesn’t make her a saint. And she not being a saint does not make Gygax and the community less sexist
 

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