[Updated] Chris Sims & Jennifer Clarke Wilkes Let Go From WotC

The details are unclear, but D&D editor Chris Sims has reported that he is now in need of a job, and is willing to relocate. He was hired by WotC in 2005 after working for them as a freelance editor. Part of the D&D 5E launch, he was one of the editors for the Player's Handbook and Dungeon Master's Guide, and was responsible for stat block development in the Monster Manual. The reasons have not been revealed, nor is it clear whether he left or was laid off.

Whether this is an isolated thing or part of more layoffs if unclear right now. More if I hear anything! In the meantime, if you can hire an excellent writer and editor, please do!

For more on ex-WotC employees, please check my list here!

UPDATE: Jennifer Clarke Wilkes is also in the same boat. She has worked on both D&D as an editor and on Magic: the Gathering, and has been working for WotC for many years.

UPDATE 2: Chris Sims confirms here that he and Jennifer were both laid off.
 
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Russ Morrissey

Comments

WOW! Well, hopefully his credentials and work history will speak for itsself, and he will have a great opportunity come his way. Best of luck to him.

I will be interested to see how this is going to affect D&D, if it does in a way that we consumers will notice.
 

Barantor

Explorer
Could this be because they are making fewer in-house products? The core books are out and the fiscal year is over....
 

CapnZapp

Hero
Why is this news?

WotC have ALWAYS repaid the hard work by its contributors with a shove thru the door. After EVERY new edition.

At least this time they let them spend Christmas in peace.
 
Is Jennifer Clarke Wilkes also part of the D&D team, or another area in WOTC?

Either way, it's a bad deal, and hopefully both of them will find something quickly.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
Last I knew, Jennifer Clarke Wilkes had moved over to the Magic: The Gathering team and was writing at least a few of the recent Uncharted Realms fiction pieces posted on Wednesdays on the dailymtg site. That was a few months ago, though.
She came back to D&D.
 

kenmarable

Explorer
Man, just when my opinion of WotC was improving, if these are layoffs as they are likely to be.... ug. Language filters here won't let me give me true opinion. Even if it has been a couple years, that's still far too often to be laying off employees. As a professor of business ethics, in my educated opinion, it's horrible business practice and most every time you can track it back to mismanagement by higher-ups who are decidedly not being laid off. If you have to layoff employees every couple years, you are horrible at business. Seriously.

Having been through layoffs, I know how much it sucks both as an employee left behind, and even worse as one laid off. It is important enough to me that it drove me from buying WotC products for years when they made this such a regular practice. With the excitement and great system around 5e, I was finally coming around and actually excited about WotC again. Wow.

I hope they manage to find some work again soon that actually appreciates their efforts.
 

Alphastream

Adventurer
This is the first time in a couple of years.
Layoffs happen for many different reasons at WotC. Often it is a corporate move from up high, where (as in many companies) each group has to make a certain percentage of cuts. Then the managers have to decide whether to let one-two expensive persons go or more lower-cost people go. It's always painful, and everything I hear from WotC over the years is that they have tried to keep it as amicable as possible and as positive as possible for the company. Often the people let go are ones that, by leaving, could allow the group to realign or work in new ways it could not before. In other words, that as painful as it was, the end result could be positive. And, often the person laid off kept working for Wizards as a freelancer. Rich Baker is a good example. He seemed vital to 5E (when I visited WotC back at the very start of 5E), but the edition ended up amazing just the same. And, he contributed to several efforts, including an early 5E Encounters season and very recently through Sasquatch in creating the Princes of Elemental Evil adventure (along with a host of other former WotC employees). People often come back. Chris Sims, let go today and instrumental to monster design in 4E and 5E, had been let go a while back, went to Paizo, then came back to WotC.

All of that said, layoffs have continued. They just haven't been public, sudden, and involving many people. To me, that suggests that the management of the group has been better, with forward knowledge of changes they needed to make. They made the changes over time and quietly. If we look at the past few years, they have let many people go. They just weren't always front-and-center. The big change has been staff reductions of nearly everyone involved in Editing. The two today continue that path. I can see it from a business perspective, but it also runs the risk of having your editors lose institutional knowledge. Right now, editors are often freelancers who formerly worked at WotC and now work for-hire. Okay, but if we lose that old guard, it could impact the line. We've seen times at TSR and WotC where the way they aligned people, and what those people knew (or, more importantly, what they didn't) resulted in approaches, products, and even entire lines that missed the mark. Maybe it will work out just fine. In recent years, the layoffs have worked.

These additional layoffs to an already very small team are startling. The model is so drastic a change from 4E and 3E. Is this good? Is it good for RPGs? Wizards and Paizo operate in ways no one else does. The average team at other companies is one where everyone has a second job and can weather low sales. The yearly revenue of nearly every small and medium RPG is lower than what the white box OD&D sold decades ago! Even Monte Cook Games' Numenera is below what large releases for Paizo and WotC bring in... and lower than late 70s sales numbers for D&D! It shows how messed up this hobby is.

A big question is why WotC is choosing such a different approach that Paizo. Paizo continues to increase the size of its staff. Is the revenue backing up that staff increase? Is it the model of subscriptions? In an ideal world we could know more about the complete revenue of these companies so that the hobby could learn and improve. We sadly know very little about revenues and how the models work (or fail).

On a personal level, I've worked with Chris Sims to know he's amazing. He's talented and dedicated and a tremendously awesome person. I hope he finds a good group. But, I'm also sad that I don't wish this industry on anyone, because it just doesn't provide for the people in it. Outside of a few individuals (maybe just two handfuls?) it doesn't provide enough for employees to take care of themselves and their families. That's a terrible thing and will fundamentally continue to undermine our hobby.
 
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guachi

Explorer
I think this move is another sign of an industry (specifically, RPGs) in decline. The decline is likely long-term and permanent, unfortunately.
 

Grainger

Explorer
But, I'm also sad that I don't wish this industry on anyone, because it just doesn't provide for the people in it. Outside of a few individuals (maybe just two handfuls?) it doesn't provide enough for employees to take care of themselves and their families. That's a terrible thing and will fundamentally continue to undermine our hobby.
I don't have much to add to this, except: :(
 

jamesjhaeck

Visitor
I think this move is another sign of an industry (specifically, RPGs) in decline. The decline is likely long-term and permanent, unfortunately.
This thought makes me sad, but I don't know enough about the inner workings of the industry to add much. It does, though, make me wonder what can be done to revitalize the RPG industry.
 

ehren37

Visitor
Unfortunate to hear, but with such a light future product development slate, not a shock. I wouldn't be surprised to see it pared down to a a few staff and the rest freelancers/submissions for Dungeon/Dragon web articles.
 

Paraxis

Visitor
I wonder how many people Paizo has let go since they started publishing Pathfinder? A company owned and operated solely by people who play and have grown up working in the business, many of whom were themselves let go by Wizards of the Coast at one point vs pretty much Hasbro/WoTC corporation who answer to nameless suits for the most part.

I wish the best of luck for Chris and Jennifer in whatever they go do now.
 

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