2E Lorraine Williams, unfairly lambasted?

Sacrosanct

Legend
This is something that's bothered me for a while. Lorraine Williams is often attacked to this day of single handily destroying TSR. Whenever people talk about the TSR failing, it's always, and only, Lorraine they talk about.

I'm not excusing her bad business decisions (refusal to playtest products, and bad financial planning of taking Random House up front money before products were even sold). But I think she only deserves half the blame, and does deserve some credit.

I think people forget that TSR was hemorrhaging money and racking up debt under Kevin Blume. It wasn't Lorraine who started forays into things like knitting kits, or All My Children game. It wasn't Lorraine who almost destroyed TSR by forcing the original Palace of the Silver Princess module out (that was Gary, defending his friend Jean when the team said the module was garbage; essentially soft S&M porn Jean wrote to mirror her SCA persona). It wasn't Lorraine who continued to violate copyright protections (Gary again).

I also think people forget that one of the best products ever was under her watch (Core Rules CD ROM).

So yeah, her business practices ultimately led to the demise of TSR, but she is hardly the only one at fault, or even mostly at fault. She inherited a disaster and actually turned the company around. If not for over producing novels and dragon dice, and the spike in popularity of Magic (completely out of her control), TSR might not have crashed and burned like it did.

I guess it just makes me crinkle my eyebrows whenever I hear how she got blamed for everything, and is the only one ever blamed.
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
This is something that's bothered me for a while. Lorraine Williams is often attacked to this day of single handily destroying TSR. Whenever people talk about the TSR failing, it's always, and only, Lorraine they talk about.

{snip}

I guess it just makes me crinkle my eyebrows whenever I hear how she got blamed for everything, and is the only one ever blamed.
I agree, and think Lorraine Williams is unfairly blamed. People forget where TSR was when she came in (and why she came in). I would not defend many of her decisions, especially in the latter part of the 90s, but a lot of companies struggle. Instead of sharing the blame, why does it get focused on her?

Simple:

1. She wasn't Gary (or one of the founders of D&D).

2. She wasn't a gamer.

3. She was a woman.

4. She was overweight. (Oh, the irony of that attack!)



But yes, it's interesting that "Lorraine Williams, mediocre but probably not the anti-christ" is considered a HAWT TAEK in D&D circles.
 
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S'mon

Legend
It wasn't Lorraine who almost destroyed TSR by forcing the original Palace of the Silver Princess module out (that was Gary, defending his friend Jean when the team said the module was garbage; essentially soft S&M porn Jean wrote to mirror her SCA persona).
It (Orange B3) is a perfectly decent and very atmospheric module with ONE slightly risque illusion, and otherwise a complete lack of "soft S&M porn". I'm planning to run it again (for 5e) in a few months.
 

Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
More of a collective screw-up between Lorraine Williams and the Blume brothers. After all, when Gygax told the Blume brothers to hit the road, they decided to screw him by selling all their shares to Williams, making her majority shareholder. Gygax then sold all his shares to get out for good, and that was the end of those ties, and leaves an all around bad taste.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
It (Orange B3) is a perfectly decent and very atmospheric module with ONE slightly risque illusion, and otherwise a complete lack of "soft S&M porn". I'm planning to run it again (for 5e) in a few months.
This is really not true at all. (From the people who were involved) It was almost TSRs version of Atari's ET game.
 

Zardnaar

Hero
She was the one in charge bad some bad decisions financially.

Also perceived to screw over Gygax ASAP after he brought her in.

Also used TSR as a personal piggy bank via Buck Rogers.

Not all her decisions were bad and she had soft spots for staff members keeping one member in who due to sickness would have been let go in most companies.

She also avoids a lot of negative personal stories that gave swirled around Gygax.

But yeah terrible business persona/reputation. Ex staffers don't seem to have problems with her on a personal level though.

Opinion on 2E seems to be changing as well.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Instead of sharing the blame, why does it focused on her?

2. She wasn't a gamer.
This one.

Bringing in an industry outsider to run a company is always risky, as said outsider might not understand (or be willing to learn) the specifics of the product and market.

This happened in a large corporation I worked for - the long-time CEO, who knew the industry inside-out and backwards, died and was replaced by someone from outside the industry. The outsider largely bombed as he flat-out didn't seem to understand the industry; what kept the company going was mostly momentum and solid processes built up from earlier.

A few years later that outsider CEO was removed and replaced with an industry insider recruited from a different company, and the turnaround within a year was quite remarkable.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
Some of the animus, I'm sure, comes from the near-worship of Gygax you see in some gamer quarters. But some of it also comes through the rather poor taste TSR was leaving in people's mouths in the earlier internet days before WotC bought them. Her tenure marked a time when TSR was pretty jealous of its intellectual property and they had a restrictive view of fan-based internet resources.

When their policy changed it was a significant breath of fresh air and I, for one, appreciated it. They had gone from really grasping and miserly to free-flowing with information, including articles and adventures that had been published via Dragon or Dungeon or as modules. It was a nearly 180 degree change in direction.
 

Gadget

Explorer
Well, presiding over the final sinking of the ship is going to rub off on you, and it is not completely undeserved. I think the main thing is, as others said, she was an outsider, and seemed to make little attempt to understand the industry from even a business perspective (to be fair, it seems that none of the "suits" at TSR did, but she was the one in charge).

There seemed to be rumors from ex-TSR people, though I can not point to any at this time, in the after years that she was rather imperious and dismisve of the whole "geek" (or nerd, or whatever term you want to use) culture that her company serviced and helped create. Maybe that was merely a product of the fact that things ended badly on her watch and she was perceived as ousting the beloved and eccentric "father" of the game in a 'hostile' take over.
 

Jaeger

Explorer
... Instead of sharing the blame, why does it get focused on her?
Simple:
1. ... not her fault...

2. She wasn't a gamer.

3&4: ...Fake news...
#2 Is the only reason I have ever heard from critics why she gets the sheer amount of flack she does.

Not only was she not a gamer, but at times showed what was interpreted as contempt for D&D fans.

Gary was no great businessman. And in 20/20 hindsight; he was not discerning enough when it came to choosing people to handle the business side for him. So yes a good bit of blame lays squarely at his feet for losing control of his own company.

While not all Williams decisions were bad, at the end of the day, She was the one in charge when some seriously bad financial decisions were made. Period.

In the end, TSR was her company, and she ran it into the ground.

In her defense, in 20/20 hindsight Gary wouldn't have done much better if he was the one calling the shots.
 
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Count_Zero

Explorer
There seemed to be rumors from ex-TSR people, though I can not point to any at this time, in the after years that she was rather imperious and dismisve of the whole "geek" (or nerd, or whatever term you want to use) culture that her company serviced and helped create. Maybe that was merely a product of the fact that things ended badly on her watch and she was perceived as ousting the beloved and eccentric "father" of the game in a 'hostile' take over.
There were a few panels from Paizocon (at least one used to be on YouTube) called "Secrets of TSR", which had a whole bunch of TSR Alums who worked in the main office talking about the work environment and how, for example, they had try to steal time to playtest product off the clock, because Williams would not permit "playing" on company time - even if the playing was for purposes of refining upcoming product and creating new product.
 

Parmandur

Legend
This is really not true at all. (From the people who were involved) It was almost TSRs version of Atari's ET game.
Eh, a few flawed narrators in there, but I think this gets to the core of that incident:

Lawrence Schick: I think that the reaction to the module is more interesting than the module itself. The actual content of it is only mildly eccentric by current standards. It’s more a matter of what a light it shines on the management reaction at the time, and the "Satanic Panic."
 

darjr

I crit!
There is an interview of the author of that adventure before she died. As I listened it dawned on me thst there was a lot of resistance to a woman game designer. Some of it rather nasty. Darlene’s interview at GaryCon strikes a very similar tune. Darlene of all people.
 

Parmandur

Legend
There is an interview of the author of that adventure before she died. As I listened it dawned on me thst there was a lot of resistance to a woman game designer. Some of it rather nasty. Darlene’s interview at GaryCon strikes a very similar tune. Darlene of all people.
Yeah, some of the same apparent biases at work on some of those accounts as with the Williams hate (not that Williams was Boss of the Year or anything).
 

Shiroiken

Adventurer
I agree, and think Lorraine Williams is unfairly blamed. People forget where TSR was when she came in (and why she came in). I would not defend many of her decisions, especially in the latter part of the 90s, but a lot of companies struggle.
If the company had been doing well, she wouldn't have been brought in the in the first place. TSR had a TON of finiancial issues in the mid-80s, mostly due to over-exaggerated growth projections. I didn't realize she continued to run TSR until the WotC buyout, but tbh, after Gary, I stopped caring about who was running things.

1. She wasn't Gary (or one of the founders of D&D).
I blame her for her participation in the ousting of Gary, but she's not the only one to blame. Hell, Gary's actions were the instigation.

2. She wasn't a gamer.
This IMO was the biggest deal. Having a non-gamer determining the company's direction, and one who gave the impression she looked down upon her customer base, was not ideal.

3. She was a woman.

4. She was overweight. (Oh, the irony of that attack!)
Even back the in sexist 80s and early 90s, no one I know seemed to make a case about #3, but then again, we didn't really have much in the way of internet to bitch about it either. I've never seen a picture of her, so #4 was never discussed, but given the 80s and 90s, I could have seen some using this as an ad hominem attack.
 

ninjayeti

Explorer
You are glossing over the fact that Williams owned the company for almost TWELVE years. Yeah, Gygax was a terrible businessman, but I don't think he deserves any blame for the collapse of TSR over a decade after his departure.
 

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