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

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.
by itself? No. But it was one more waste of money that they didn't need. Sadly, TSR, both under Gygax and then Williams, made some bad money decisions that frittered away their cash.... suing lots of people in needless lawsuits being one of them...
 

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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
One thing TSR did under her watch was being extremely overprotective of its IP. They demanded that people not host any AD&D material, self-written or not, except in "walled gardens" provided by TSR. And when GDW published the Gygax-written Dangerous Journeys, TSR launched an extremely frivolous lawsuit claiming ridiculous things as copyright infringement – things like "The First Aid skill is derivative of the Cure Light Wounds spell".

So ... this may just be because there are more surviving people more familiar with it during the 90s, but TSR was notorious for being overprotective of its IP during the late 70s and 80s (the Gygax/Blume era). Which had the additional irony, back then, of the IP not always really even being TSR's.

That wasn't new "under her watch." Generally, this is a corporate culture thing, often with in-house or outside counsel. I'd be curious to see what influence that had.
 

For reference:




Edits (adding as I find more):

 
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el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
he negotiated a deal with the Brothers Blume and then reneged on the terms

This is still disputed. No one else was in the room where it happened.

where it happens i wanna go GIF by Official London Theatre


Every other point is spot on (I finished the book last night). That said, if someone wants to call Gygax a liar when he said he never made that offer to the Blumes, I would not blame them, given his other less than sound fiscal behavior - including pointedly ignoring the Blumes' intent to sell notices, which allowed Lorraine Williams the backdoor ouster.
 

payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
One of the weirder things of the last few decades are how crazy these things tend to snowball in folks opinions. Folks start making all kinds of leaps of logic to heap not just the relevant story, but all the worlds problems onto perceived enemies. I mean, just the other day somebody was saying, "a manger too cheap to clean the office for their workers, is the same type of person who likes lawful good paladins." What? How do you get there? Eventually, it snowballs into conspiracy about how this person disagreeing with you means they have a secret agenda to make your life, specifically, miserable in all manners. Reasonable perspective is just a thing of the past and everything rolls into a fight of good and evil. It's just terrible folks...

Anyways, good post Snarf.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
by itself? No. But it was one more waste of money that they didn't need. Sadly, TSR, both under Gygax and then Williams, made some bad money decisions that frittered away their cash.... suing lots of people in needless lawsuits being one of them...

No, but it's a truly bizarre continuing complaint I have seen! Look, without going too far into the weeds (as I've been trying to avoid)-
1. These types of transactions are completely normal, especially for closely held corporations.
2. It's not illegal. It's not even unethical.

Now, are there facts that could change my mind? Sure! If she was using this to funnel TSR's money to herself, by paying outrageous sums, that would be one thing.

But let's do a quick comparison (which I am doing by memory)-

Under prior leadership, you had the principals purchase the property that the company would then rent. If this is confusing to you, I'll break it down-
TSR would need new property for its workforce. So TSR would find the property that they wanted to use. Then Gygax + the Brothers Blume would form a partnership and buy the property with a mortgage. TSR would then rent the property from the G+BB partnership.

See what happened there? Not clear enough?

How about TSR acquiring the rights to Chainmail (and other properties) from Guidon Games, meaning that TSR was acquiring the intellectual property of Gygax, which would allow Gygax to get re-publish them and get royalties.

Honestly, so long as these are at market rates ... who cares? Get approval, move on. This isn't like the obscene nepotism that we saw later.

So the reason I didn't go into this is because it's tiring seeing this same thing trotted out over and over again- yeah, so what? This wasn't a factor, at all, in the demise of TSR. If someone has receipts showing that this was some backdoor to funnel money to Williams, then I will gladly change my opinion! Otherwise ...
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
This is still disputed. No one else was in the room where it happened.

where it happens i wanna go GIF by Official London Theatre


Every other point is spot on (I finished the book last night). That said, if someone wants to call Gygax a liar when he said he never made that offer to the Blumes, I would not blame them, given his other less than sound fiscal behavior - including pointedly ignoring the Blumes' intent to sell notices, which allowed Lorraine Williams the backdoor ouster.

Well ... so, this is what I would say (I don't have my copy handy).

My recollection is that the book makes it clear that Gygax disputes this. It was also clear that Gygax was the only one disputing this. My recollection is that the extrinsic evidence seems to indicate that Gygax was not being truthful- everything from the repeated letters from the Blumes to the existence of the settlement to the actions of the Board.

IIRC (do you have your book) I believe that there was a reference to a judicial finding which basically implied that Gygax's account was not credible. Did you read it some other way?


EDIT- Gygax has disputed a lot of things in his life; as much as I love what he did for bringing us D&D, I do not believe him to be a reliable narrator.
 

My 2 cents:

Lorraine Williams both saved TSR from bankruptcy and drove it into bankruptcy. She ensured the company survived, and made long term deals that crippled it for years. She was good at playing the financials, but bad at understanding gamers. She made good business decisions that ensured TSR made money, and made shady business deals that ensured she made more money than she otherwise would have.

She deserves both: all the credit for the good she did, and the blame for all the bad she did. There is no contradiction in saying she was both a good and bad influence on the history of D&D.
 

TheAlkaizer

Game Designer
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. It's an era I know very little about. I will Peterson's first book and will definitely look into this one.
 

Voadam

Legend
…….. ¯\_ (ツ)_/¯
Can't find the original threads thanks to links changing but there is this post.

JoseFreitas said:

But I am quite convinced that Ms. Williams really ran the company to the best of her abilities, which were very good, but this meant that she ran it to benefit herself to the exclusion of anyone else, employees included. There are some very fine lines re. ethical issues, but one might very well question the continued release and overprinting of a game that was really selling close to zero, while paying yourself royalties advances based on 60% of the printruns. And since I was a partner of a company that distributes RPGs and MtG and WotC products in general in Spain, Portugal and Brasil, and I was there when WotC bought TSR, and talked to pretty much everyone, including Peter Adkinson, I was told there were TONS of unsold Buck Rogers in the 25th Century RPG in the warehouses.... And at the same time that Ms. Williams got paid a really good salary, employees were underpaid, given bad equipment to work on things, etc.... Just read Ryan Dancey's accounts of what he found when he went and audited TSR for WotC before they bought it.

I have no first hand knowledge of any of this. But if true it is enough for me to think of her as a villain.

She and her family got royalties from Buck Rogers licensed stuff as heirs of Buck Rogers rights owners. As head of TSR she allegedly got TSR to license Buck Rogers stuff on non-market negotiated terms including much bigger than normal market royalties based on print runs, not sales, then had TSR do huge print runs that did not sell.
 

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