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How Gygax Lost Control of TSR and D&D

Unknown Lamer posted about 3 months ago | from the cast-hostile-takeover dept.

Businesses 183

An anonymous reader writes "Sunday was the birthday of the late great Gary Gygax, co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons and Futurama guest star. With the fifth edition of D&D soon to come out at Gen Con this year, Jon Peterson, author of Playing at the World, has released a new piece to answer a historical question: how was it, back in 1985, that Gary was ousted from TSR and control of D&D was taken away from him? Drawn from board meeting minutes, stock certificates, letters, and other first-hand sources, it's not a quick read or a very cheery one, but it shows how the greatest success of hobby games of the 1980s fell apart and marginalized its most famous designer."

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Easy (5, Funny)

halivar (535827) | about 3 months ago | (#47556227)

He lost a Will save.

Re:Easy (4, Informative)

dreamchaser (49529) | about 3 months ago | (#47556229)

Will saves didn't exist under any of the editions he wrote.

Re: Easy (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47556307)

So he really lost it then ;)

Re:Easy (3, Insightful)

bytestorm (1296659) | about 3 months ago | (#47556369)

From the way the article reads, it's more like everyone else made their save vs spell... Or perhaps that he lost his save vs PPDM. Seems like after he made his initial critical mistake (allowing investment options to bypass his majority ownership), he couldn't recover without just divesting himself from TSR and starting over before the flagship D&D product was born, which, as a primary creator, he might have been able to pull off.
The behind closed doors shenanigans, manipulations and backstabbery are about right for any D&D game I've ever been in.

Re:Easy (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47556501)

In that case he failed a save versus rod/staff/wand. In particular, the security staff who escorted him out.

Re:Easy (1)

halivar (535827) | about 3 months ago | (#47556547)

This is what I get for coming into D&D as a 3tard. Thanks for the correction. :(

Re:Easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47556579)

Except he's wrong. Attribute saves certainly were in 1st Edition.

Re:Easy (2)

mark-t (151149) | about 3 months ago | (#47556675)

But "will" is not a 1st edition attribute.

Re:Easy (1)

castle (6163) | about 3 months ago | (#47557949)

It'd be Wisdom, 1d20, roll under.

Re:Easy (1)

halivar (535827) | about 3 months ago | (#47556693)

Is that 1st Edition, 1st Edition, or 1st Edition you're talking about? I only played 1st Edition, I never played the other two 1st Editions.

Re:Easy (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 3 months ago | (#47557423)

Will saves didn't exist under any of the editions he wrote.

No, but CHA did, as in "I've been forced out. God damn 18 charismas!!! >:-( "

Re:Easy (3, Informative)

kelemvor4 (1980226) | about 3 months ago | (#47556661)

He lost a Will save.

The only real saving throw types are

  1. Paralyzation, Poison, or Death Magic
  2. Rod, Staff, or Wand
  3. Petrification or Polymorph
  4. Breath Weapon
  5. Spell

All the rest are bullshit.

Re:Easy (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 3 months ago | (#47558005)

Man, what is it with some gamers where they need to call out things they don't like as bullshit or wrong?

It's not even the original list, so I'm not sure what you are so uppity about.

Re:Easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47558381)

But it's pretty damn close [hylianux.com] .

Saving Throw Matrix on page 20 of Men & Magic (from the *original* D&D three booklet set) lists:

Death Ray or Poison
All Wands - Including Polymorph or Paralization [sic]
Stone
Dragon Breath
Staves and Spells

Re:Easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47558433)

Don't sweat it. Geekoid just likes to demonstrate his mastery of the Dunning-Kruger effect.

Re:Easy (1)

CronoCloud (590650) | about 3 months ago | (#47558133)

The classic list, and from someone named "Kelemvor". Kudos.

Re:Easy (1)

Sir_Eptishous (873977) | about 3 months ago | (#47556967)

More like failed an Intelligence check...

Arneson (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47556239)

After Gygax's treatment of Arneson and the way he attempted to attack other games in the roleplaying hobby, I find it hard to feel much sympathy for him.

Re:Arneson (1)

Sir_Eptishous (873977) | about 3 months ago | (#47557025)

Yes, I would have to agree. At least from what I've read, it does appear that Arneson, who was as much a "Father" of D&D as Gygax, got screwed sometime in the mid 70's by GG.

Re:Arneson (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 3 months ago | (#47557639)

Arneson was at TSR for a year, then left to do his own thing.
Dave's Blackmoor changed my life.

When the Made AD&D DAve sued, TSR said it was significanly different, and the courts agreed. INHO the court were right, it was substantially different. Eventual Gary and Dave agreed to credit each other as co-creater.

Later, WoTC wanted to drop 'Advanced' so they paid Arneson some cash. Since DnD is a hobby game, that cash settlement might have been in to the 10's of dollars. HAHA, that as a joke, I hope it was substantial.

Re:Arneson (1)

hey! (33014) | about 3 months ago | (#47557795)

After Gygax's treatment of Arneson and the way he attempted to attack other games in the roleplaying hobby, I find it hard to feel much sympathy for him.

Well, if you put yourself in his shoes you might well play hardball with other games in the hobby.

D&D as a system wasn't really all special; there were competing systems back in the days he was at TSR which were every bit as enjoyable and arguably easier to play. But D&D had two big things going for it. First, when the three basic manuals for AD&D were published it had by far the best organized and written materials. The Monster Manual was particularly useful. Second it had the network effect: it was the best system to learn to play because everyone else knew how to play it. You could start a campaign at a drop of a hat -- no need to bring everyone up to speed on yet another set of rules.

So put yourself in his position. The future success of D&D is contingent on no other game reaching critical mass. You're completely dependent on D&D, you have no other marketable skills or assets. You have a company with over a hundred employees (which is surely a mistake on your part), and that company has nothing else bringing in cash *but* D&D products. You've made D&D your life work. It's not a situation to bring out the best in people.

As someone who played D&D in the 1980s, (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47556247)

I can surmise that immediately after being ousted from Dungeons & Dragons, he immediately got laid.

Re:As someone who played D&D in the 1980s, (4, Funny)

FilmedInNoir (1392323) | about 3 months ago | (#47556269)

Wives: Gail Carpenter Gygax (m. 1987–2008), Mary Jo Powell (m. 1958–1983) ... If the stories of how marriage works are true, then you are correct.

When going into business with Friends (4, Interesting)

Danathar (267989) | about 3 months ago | (#47556249)

This should serve as a cautionary tail of what can happen when you go into business with friends and or relatives. As soon as big money starts being made...unfortunately the greedy side of human nature tends to rear it's ugly head.

Re:When going into business with Friends (2)

smooth wombat (796938) | about 3 months ago | (#47556297)

This should serve as a cautionary tail of what can happen when you go into business with friends and or relatives

I could see how that would be an issue. After all, as we saw in Spaceballs, that tail can get in the way sometimes.

Re:When going into business with Friends (5, Informative)

JosKarith (757063) | about 3 months ago | (#47556329)

IIRC Williams went on to sink as much of TSR's money as possible into buying up the rights for the Buck Rogers RPG ... which flopped and sunk without a trace, crippling TSR's finances. Rather than invest in it to turn its declining fortunes around as she was supposed to she effectively asset stripped it - her family owned the Buck Rogers franchise rights...
All in all a classic carpetbagger move by Williams that everyone except Gygax fell for.

Re:When going into business with Friends (1)

Jaysyn (203771) | about 3 months ago | (#47556363)

I gotta admit, as a kid I liked the 2 CRPG "GoldBox" versions of Buck Rodgers.

Re:When going into business with Friends (1)

Sir_Eptishous (873977) | about 3 months ago | (#47557073)

Read some of the "memoirs" of those who worked at TSR at the time. Williams couldn't stand gamers, D&D or pretty anything "geek/nerd".
She saw $$$ and tried to cash in. I would suspect a low level Illusionist may have been behind it...

Re:When going into business with Friends (1)

ledow (319597) | about 3 months ago | (#47556347)

Going into business with friends or relatives is not a problem.

Just treat it like a business. When your cousin comes to work for you, you're under no different obligations as an employer than you would be if they weren't you cousin.

Similarly, business is something which people do for "profit". Whether than be salary, experience, shares, or literal profit - each person is there because they have something they want out of the business. As such, pretending that because they are family makes things different is idiotic.

The friend who says to his friends that he hired "Sorry, mate, it's not working out" is still a friend, but he's protecting his interest in the business. A friend that doesn't understand that is not a friend. And though there might be "favours" and shortcuts and digging people out of holes, those favours are as shortlived in the business world as they are in the personal world - and abuse of them by a friend means that they aren't a friend.

Speaking as someone who has in the past hired my own brother (and will do so again soon), and who my father found me work for occasionally with good friends of theirs, it's still "just business". They're not giving charity - if they were, they'd give charity as a friend.

If you go into business with a friend or relative, treat them like anyone else. Get a contract, get them to sign it, talk to them about what's happening, don't just assume they will always do what you want even when it's not in their interest. Don't rely on even a friend's goodwill to get you through.

You wouldn't take money from a friend just because they offered it. Equally you wouldn't run up a debt for your friend just because they "normally pay" or whatever. Talk to people. And get anything business-critical in writing.

Some guy you know coming to work for you for a few days can go wrong enough - don't think when you're talking multi-million dollar businesses and official share certificates that you don't need to make things official too.

Re:When going into business with Friends (4, Insightful)

Danathar (267989) | about 3 months ago | (#47556403)

That SOUNDS a lot easier than you think.

Firing a relative or friend has repercussions outside of your business relationship. It simply isn't easy for most people who love and cherish their family and friends to toss them out on the street along with their kids.

Do you really think that a nasty money fight between friends and relatives with contractual obligations in a business would not affect the personal relationships between them?

Re:When going into business with Friends (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about 3 months ago | (#47556543)

They aren't your friends if it does.

Relatives are a little different depending on who they are and what your relationship with them is.

I've had no problem mixing the two but then again, if someone can't behave themselves in the business relationship I don't really consider them a friend so I can't really consider it any sort of loss of a friend either.

Contracts up front even with friends/family (1)

sjbe (173966) | about 3 months ago | (#47556683)

Firing a relative or friend has repercussions outside of your business relationship.

Yes it does. Which is why you need to exercise caution when hiring relatives or friends. Just as important you need any appropriate contract outlining the terms of their employment. If things go south (as they sometimes do) then you follow the contract to the letter. I've been business partners with friends and family and we took the time to agree how things would work up front. Some of the businesses didn't work out but they were dissolved amicably because we were clear up front about how things would happen. I'm still on good terms with them because we were honest with each other regarding what we wanted out of the arrangement and how it would work if things went well and if they didn't.

Do you really think that a nasty money fight between friends and relatives with contractual obligations in a business would not affect the personal relationships between them?

Of course it would but you can head most of those issues off by being VERY clear up front about how things will work. Say what you are going to do and then do exactly what you said you would do. If the other party can't deal with that then things were probably doomed from the start. I once had someone I respect a lot give me some very good advice. He said "Never get into a business deal you wouldn't be willing do as a handshake agreement but also never do a business deal where the details aren't spelled out on paper either." If you don't trust someone, don't go into business with them. If you do trust someone, protect yourself from being wrong by proper use of contracts.

Re:When going into business with Friends (1)

plover (150551) | about 3 months ago | (#47556467)

Going into business with friends or relatives is not a problem.

Just treat it like a business. When your cousin comes to work for you, you're under no different obligations as an employer than you would be if they weren't you cousin.

Actually, that's a real problem for most of us. A familial bond is one of care and protection. Family means that you defend other members of the family, even when they're stretching boundaries. And we have different levels of permission based on context, where the boundaries outside of the family are different than the boundaries inside the family. For example, if a kid gets into a schoolyard fight, the father might defend the kid's behavior; but if the same fight occurred between siblings, he might punish both equally.

A sociopath has no problem flipping the switch, to decide that they can ignore the family ties. For the rest of us, it's not that easy. (Please note that I'm not saying people who successfully hire and manage family members are sociopaths! I'm just saying it's hard.)

Looking at it another way, if it were "not a problem", if it was easy to treat family members equally, the phenomenon known as the 'Son of the Boss' wouldn't exist. But it exists everywhere.

Set expectations up front (1)

sjbe (173966) | about 3 months ago | (#47556779)

Actually, that's a real problem for most of us.

Shouldn't be in general. When your children misbehave or under-perform in school do you have a problem disciplining them? You did set out expectations in advance right? If you didn't then shame on you. Same with going into business with family. Set out expectations right up front and then hold them to those expectations and communicate how they are doing in relation to those expectations. If you do that things usually work out ok.

A sociopath has no problem flipping the switch, to decide that they can ignore the family ties.

Very few people are sociopaths but also too few are good at keeping business and family separate. Business is completely unforgiving of family relationships. The mere fact that someone is family in no way enhances the profits of the company. You can solve a lot of problems by being very clear right up front about how the business relationship will work. This doesn't mean it will necessarily be all kittens and rainbows but if you have a contract up front and live up to that contract then things usually work out fine in the long run. Understand though that there is a non-trivial chance of some seriously ruffled feathers if a family member or friend is performing such that they have to be fired. They are unlikely to be happy about it. But they also usually will forgive if you are simply doing what you said would happen before they started.

You have to be very careful when hiring family. I'm married into a family where the family has had a successful business for three generations stretching over 100 years. It can work fine but it's hard and you have to be VERY clear about how it will work in advance. I haven't gotten involved with the business in part because I recognize the challenges of working closely with family.

Re:Set expectations up front (1)

kaatochacha (651922) | about 3 months ago | (#47558217)

I've seen many family businesses that preach what you're saying, but when push comes to shove the family member magically emerges unscathed while some other unlucky fool gets disciplined/canned/hung out to dry.
I think a lot of family businesses like to pretend that the family is successful because every member is inherently talented, when they're not. Reality shows up, and they choose to overlook it.
I can STILL remember at one company, the owner's son whining about how everyone hated him and set him up when he drove a forklift, tines in the up position, into a garage door. Entire door ruined, anyone else would have been let go for that.

Re:When going into business with Friends (1)

Nephandus (2953269) | about 3 months ago | (#47556783)

Oh, someone's a freak but not who you seem to think. I don't know many people that can honestly say that "care and protection" exemplifies their family, regardless of what they admittedly pretend in front of the others. It's mostly about politics and emotional manipulations. Aside from saccharine tactics, terrorizing children to force pretenses of emotion and false declarations of belief out of them are the norm. It's Stockholm syndrome, along with about every other form of brainwashing tactic ever devised, with extensive state and social backing. Personally, like plenty of non-PC people risking getting branded as "sociopath" and reflexively socially ostracized as defective, they were consciously the worst enemies I've ever had in my life since age fucking 2...

Re:When going into business with Friends (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47557889)

Going into business with friends or relatives is not a problem.

Just treat it like a business.

And that, my friend, is a problem. Most people don't think in those terms. They don't see legal writings. They don't recognize obligations. They just go about their business from day to day, and either treat people justly, or screw them royally, or somewhere in between, depending.

And when it comes to contracts, people are write them so many ways to screw others, it's not even worth saying people should do that. That'd be such a crazy world that I'd sooner kill all the lawyers than let it happen. Legal contracts go so far from rectitude that they're simply insane.

Let's just burn this whole business nonsense. It doesn't help. It just races life to the bottom.

Re:When going into business with Friends (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47556625)

Except this case is not that, at all.

*At least according to this article*, going into business with friends didn't actually seem to be the problem. It may have been acrimonious at times, but it was a very successful partnership for many years. Further, if Gygax hadn't gone into business with his friends, he would not have gone into business at all. He had no money, and no non-friend in their right mind would have invested in his idea.

The problem is TSR in general, and Gygax in particular, badly misread the market in the early 1980s and took on far, far too much staff. When revenue started coming in at about 1/3rd their projections, they were forced to take on outside investment and loans. A condition of this was the banks and investors got to stack the board. The Blumes had wanted out for a long time, and offered to sell to Gygax *first*. He declined or delayed (this is unclear), but they wanted out, so they sold to one of the investors, giving the non-Gygax group a majority of shares and the capacity to replace Gygax as President.

- Matthew

Re:When going into business with Friends (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47556997)

Actually, Gygax wasn't the one doing most of the hiring.

That was the Blume brothers.

And a good chunk of those hires were friends and family...

Re:When going into business with Friends (3, Interesting)

pla (258480) | about 3 months ago | (#47556705)

This should serve as a cautionary tail of what can happen when you go into business with friends and or relatives. As soon as big money starts being made...unfortunately the greedy side of human nature tends to rear it's ugly head.

The arrangement made sense right up until TSR actually started making real money. When you and your friends bust your asses to build a business, and have no substantial income or assets to fight over, running it as a labor-of-love makes perfect sense. But once they started bulk-hiring new staff and pulled off 5000% growth over five years - Why the hell didn't they hire a competent CFO???

No one in the inner circle had a clue about how to run a business, because they all wanted control to remain in the hands of gamers - Hey, cool, most of us can appreciate that concept. But they could have avoided all the acrimony and eventually selling out to Wizards-of-the-CCG simply by bringing in someone with a clue in a non-shareholding executive capacity.

Sad, really.

Re:When going into business with Friends (2)

Chas (5144) | about 3 months ago | (#47557107)

The arrangement made sense right up until TSR actually started making real money. When you and your friends bust your asses to build a business, and have no substantial income or assets to fight over, running it as a labor-of-love makes perfect sense. But once they started bulk-hiring new staff and pulled off 5000% growth over five years - Why the hell didn't they hire a competent CFO???

It's a NORMAL pitfall in hobby companies.

It starts out as a hobby/lark. And there's a certain looseness in how the company is run.

However, once the company starts employing dozens of people and pulling in multiple millions a year, it's definitely NOT the best way to run the company and things DO need to change. It's just very difficult to see where that jumping-off point is when you're in the middle of things (especially if you haven't encountered this sort of managerial divide before).

This is speaking from experience. A few years ago, a partnership of mine nearly ran our company into the ground. Quite by accident. You go to bed one evening and everything's cool. Then next morning, the books are going "AUUGH! WHAT DID YOU DOOOOOOO!".

We were lucky we caught it when we did (though catching it SOONER would have been nice). And we were able to get the company turned around and working in a healthy manner.

Unfortunately, TSR wasn't able to do the same thing. Mostly from sheer inertia. And then, after the takeover, primarily because Lorraine Williams just didn't care about anything at the company or customer base other than what added to her personal bottom line.

Founders tend to make bad CEOs (3, Interesting)

sjbe (173966) | about 3 months ago | (#47557261)

Why the hell didn't they hire a competent CFO???

It's a good question and more common than you might think. Part of the problem is that bringing in competent outsiders can be uncomfortable for company founders. Gygax clearly had a problem with involving anyone who was not a wargamer but the people who are competent at finance don't overlap heavily with people who are gamers. Plus when things are going well it is easy to think that you can handle it. After all, it's gone well this far right?

One of the big challenges in growing a company is that the skill sets for founding a company and the skill sets for running it when it gets larger overlap far less than most people think. For every Steve Jobs or Jeff Bezos there are thousands of people who simply cannot make the transition from small company founder to big company manager. The founders of Google were actually smart enough to bring in some outside management relatively early because they knew they didn't really have the skillset at the time to manage a company with a stratospheric growth rate. It would be like hiring a guy who has never managed a network larger than 10 computers to suddenly take charge of Amazon's data warehouses. The skills needed are just on a completely different level.

Re: Founders tend to make bad CEOs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47557425)

To be fair Steve Jobs didn't make the transition from startup WizKid very well at all... He got kicked out of his company got ten years... And used the time to seriously adjust his attitude toward his workers/managers.

Re: Founders tend to make bad CEOs (2)

sjbe (173966) | about 3 months ago | (#47558055)

To be fair Steve Jobs didn't make the transition from startup WizKid very well at all... He got kicked out of his company got ten years... And used the time to seriously adjust his attitude toward his workers/managers.

He did better than most. And you will notice that the company did quite badly once they kicked him out and recovered when he got back. No he didn't get everything right but he's one of the rare founders that was able to make the transition. Most do not.

And by all accounts he was still an ass when he came back. Maybe a more polished ass an ass nonetheless. People overlook it because he got good results.

Re:When going into business with Friends (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 3 months ago | (#47557693)

The arrangement made sense right up until TSR actually started making real money. When you and your friends bust your asses to build a business, and have no substantial income or assets to fight over, running it as a labor-of-love makes perfect sense. But once they started bulk-hiring new staff and pulled off 5000% growth over five years - Why the hell didn't they hire a competent CFO???

Well, because this was the early 80's not the early 00's and they hadn't lived through the dot bomb as we all have. (Seriously, the dot bomb radically changed the public's perception of how a business should be run if/when it Suddenly Gets Big. We simply didn't think that way back then.) That, and their desire to keep control in house and in the hands of gamers meant they never brought in any real (read competent) outside money... which might have imposed the constraint of hiring adult supervision as a condition of receiving the money.

Re:When going into business with Friends (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47557137)

"tale" and "its".

Re:When going into business with Friends (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 3 months ago | (#47558033)

Actually it is more a warning about what happens when growth slows.
As long as people are getting richer everything is good. It is only when thing slow down that the problem start.
Greed is satisfied when it is fed, put in on a diet and it gets ugly.

Sharks. With lasers. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47556255)

How surprising. Similar as Makerbot did to one of the early designers and founders, Zach "Hoeken" Smith [hoektronics.com] , once the money started flowing.

The real reason ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47556273)

Did they take umbrage over his idea for a +5 back scratcher

I know it made the Dungeon Masters guide, but that may have been the beginning of the end

Lemme guess... (1, Interesting)

Ryanrule (1657199) | about 3 months ago | (#47556327)

The reason is spelled MBA.

5thed is irrelevant. (1, Interesting)

Lumpy (12016) | about 3 months ago | (#47556333)

Everyone has moved away from it to either Pathfinder or 13Th age. DnD is on it's way to becoming another savage worlds for lovers of crunchy dice rolling only.

Re:5thed is irrelevant. (2)

Exitar (809068) | about 3 months ago | (#47556417)

Yeah sure, and nobody plays World of Warcraft or eat at McDonald's anymore...

Re:5thed is irrelevant. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47556421)

Having recently played a game starting with the red box, D&D has always been a mechanics heavy game despite my group's best efforts to short-circuit it. Only Shadowrun has ever struck me as more mechanics intensive.

Re:5thed is irrelevant. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47556555)

Rolemaster was way more mechanics heavy than AD&D

Re:5thed is irrelevant. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47556595)

And MERP was more complicated than D&D

Re:5thed is irrelevant. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47556607)

And a heck of a lot more fun!

Re:5thed is irrelevant. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47557701)

I think you mean "Rollmaster."

Re:5thed is irrelevant. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47556631)

Seems like you've never played GURPS. My group is still fighting a battle that started in 2008. Every second of combat is accounted for, and misses, parries, and dodges are the norm.

Re:5thed is irrelevant. (1)

halivar (535827) | about 3 months ago | (#47556741)

So you're saying GURPS is the best game for a Dragonball Z campaign? Six seasons later, the flaming dragon-fist punch finally lands...

Re:5thed is irrelevant. (1)

genner (694963) | about 3 months ago | (#47557157)

So you're saying GURPS is the best game for a Dragonball Z campaign? Six seasons later, the flaming dragon-fist punch finally lands...

Also works for Final Fantasy campaigns.......I summon Knights of the Round!............at least there's less grunting.

Re:5thed is irrelevant. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47557291)

I summon Knights of the Round

With a mastered materia linked to W Summon for the lolz.

Re: 5thed is irrelevant. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47557829)

To be fair the TV show is only slightly behind them... They take three episodes of yelling and screen flashing to throw one punch in DBZ.

Re:5thed is irrelevant. (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 3 months ago | (#47557529)

If you want fast and less crunch, Savage Worlds.

Re:5thed is irrelevant. (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 3 months ago | (#47558069)

That's it for your punishment you must create a character for Rolemaster.

Re:5thed is irrelevant. (1)

HeckRuler (1369601) | about 3 months ago | (#47558421)

Just had a Shadowrun one-shot.
DEAR FUCKING GOD! I love the setting and tolerate the magical bullshit they throw in for whatever reason. But the mechanics of the system are just SO BLOODY PAINFUL.
Guy with a grenade launcher. He rolls his to-hit, minus distance penalties, minus lighting conditions, negated by thermal vision, we roll scatter direction and distance (the rules are internally inconstant about the distance they scatter), his hits reduce this damage, the targets dodge (just reaction, as it's not melee)(and only half that because it's area effect), the damage is applied, they resist with their armor and body (plus 1 for cyberlimbs, plus 2 for bone lacing, you just have to know), but for that guy the damage is -2 per meter distance from the blast, and that guy is next to a wall so he gets the blast wave twice.

And HALF those rules don't apply when the mage whips out the magic casting system and we have to distinguish between direct/indirect, elemental, permanent/mental, sustained, the different schools, and each spell does things a little differently. The magic spell casting ability is not to be confused with the magic attribute, the force of the spell, the threshold of the spell, the hits the spell is cast with, or the drain value of the spell. It didn't help that he confused DV as the damage value as opposed to drain value, but WHATEVER.

And mechanics aside, the whole thing suffers from a failure to engage different players. Indeed, they go out of their way to give players special things that only their character can do: Matrix, astral, rigging, driving, stealth, social, combat. You can specialize in those fields and if you didn't, then you pretty much just sit there while the other players do their thing.

The whole god-damned thing is kludge by authors who want to be game designers but don't know how.

But I do like me some cyberpunk.

Re:5thed is irrelevant (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47556623)

Wow. Ignorance and idiocy on /. Who'd have thunk? Plenty of people didn't switch to pathfinder. Paizo ignored and banned a lot of the old optimization crowd for daring to point out that they didn't fix most of the major issues with D&D, and indeed nerded the few tricks melee had, so they stuck with 3.5. A lot of people never left 2e. 5e is designed to grab those guys. From a quick look, it seems to be fR more like 2e than 3 was.

And 13th age? Lol. I'm sure everyone cares about the game that is responsible for a whole 3% of D&D talk.

Re:5thed is irrelevant (1)

halivar (535827) | about 3 months ago | (#47556763)

13th Age is pretty great as a grab bag of awesome ideas to pull and slap onto your game of choice. I may never play a game of it, but it definitely inspired me. As for 5E, the best review I heard was: "The simplicity of OD&D, the quirkiness of AD&D, the versatility of 3.x, and the balance of 4E." That sells me, as those are my favorite aspects of those editions.

Re:5thed is irrelevant. (1)

Gibgezr (2025238) | about 3 months ago | (#47556827)

Some moved to Pathfinder, for sure, but many of us just kept playing 3.5 with house rules. The DnD sessions I participate in are fast'n'loose and fun as hell.

Almost nobody plays 13Th age (not dissing it, just am unfamiliar with it because ...er, nobody plays it).

Re:5thed is irrelevant. (1)

Sir_Eptishous (873977) | about 3 months ago | (#47557145)

Pathfinder is a joke, as is any edition past 2nd.
Anything made by WoTC isn't D&D, you can be assured of that.
Just because they have the rights to the name doesn't mean squat.

I play in a hybrid 1.5/2nd ed campaign that is a blast, easy to play, and doesn't have the "I'm going to run a half dragon Priest/Archer/Wild Mage with psionics" vibe that the WoTC "editions" have. It is old school D&D and fun as hell.

Re:5thed is irrelevant. (1)

Yosho (135835) | about 3 months ago | (#47557475)

Pathfinder is a joke, as is any edition past 2nd.

You may not personally like Pathfinder, but you're kidding yourself if you think it's not the king of tabletop RPGs right now. Game shops stock more PF books than any other rules setting, and gaming conventions are dominated by Pathfinder Society tables -- and, honestly, Paizo has exerted better quality control over PF than WotC ever did over D&D. They've had a few duds, but overall the quality of their supplements and adventure paths has been very consistent.

Re:5thed is irrelevant. (1)

halivar (535827) | about 3 months ago | (#47557499)

Is anything after the Model-T a Ford?

Oh please. . . (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 3 months ago | (#47557521)

oh, stop it. Do you know what not really DnD? Telling other people how they should enjoy their DnD.
Why are you reaping animosity among gamers? It's stupid and you need to grow up.

"Anything made by WoTC isn't D&D, you can be assured of that. "
well, that's just a stupid statement.

"Just because they have the rights to the name doesn't mean squat. "
It means everything. I would also add the Gary also approved of WOTCs D&D
.
"I play in a hybrid 1.5/2nd ed campaign that is a blast, easy to play, and doesn't have the "I'm going to run a half dragon Priest/Archer/Wild Mage with psionics" vibe that the WoTC "editions" have. It is old school D&D and fun as hell."
Great, good for you. I'm glad. That in no way means there is anything wrong with the other editions just because they aren't what you play.

So, unless you want to list opjective reasons why one is better ad the other is not, just enjoy your game and stop telling other people there version are 'wrong', or 'bad' or not really DnD.

And becasue wankers like you always bring this up as if it matters, I"m going to cut you off right now:
I've been doing RPG for 38 years
IT's logically fallacious to use that as a defense against my point.

Re:Oh please. . . (1)

castle (6163) | about 3 months ago | (#47558077)

I hear tell that from out of Gary's own mouth when asked about D&D 4e, his response was Paper [expletive deleted] Video Game. Unconfirmed. :) I tend to agree though... with that opinion. I like video games too, but it's definitely a light on player crunchiness mode of roleplaying, which suits the method actor gamer types because their tactical senses are abstracted away into various quick and easy card-based recipes for success.

I personally am a git'ard crunchy grognard favoring gamer. 4e is good for casual gamers, and it can be really fun if your DM can step outside of the training wheels that the system presents, which is really true of any pen & paper game. But the creative aspects that a crunchy system provides is ultimately more rewarding to me than having clearly defined class roles and niches to fill in a party. Still, you need healers, thieves, wizards and a good bunch of meat shields to get though most modules... :)

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy ftw. Make GURPS easy with templates and play Temple of Elemental Evil all the way through.

3 Gary. and despite his opinion on the quality of the game, he had a very good attitude about why people play, which solidly remained in his thoughts to the end. Sage.

Re:Oh please. . . (1)

halivar (535827) | about 3 months ago | (#47558233)

4E was not a video game, or even remotely like one. The interrupt and reaction stack cannot be modeled in a modern CRPG.

No, 4E was a CCG. Dungeons & Dragons: The Gathering.

Re:5thed is irrelevant. (1)

shaitand (626655) | about 3 months ago | (#47557419)

Pathfinder is a lot more D&D than anything else on the market right now. That other crap just got the trademark.

What really happened... (1)

GeekWithAKnife (2717871) | about 3 months ago | (#47556353)


Naturally Gary was heavily engrossed with play testing and had a hardcore group of gamers. Unfortunately over time the group developed tension and animosity. Specifically, the relationship between Gary and the game referee became very difficult...

The Demented Mofo that sat all day in his mom's basement and thought up new ways to kill Gygax's character. This is because Gary had really good rolls throughout his game-play that foiled the DM's plans and made his encounters look too easy.
Even when it came to treasure Gary's rolls were amazing and he got so many great magical items that he was practically invincible. He could escape easily or overcome any obstacle and was critically close to dual class level 20 with his arsenal of wands, rings, magic swords and powerful spell scrolls.
He was practically unstoppable and was prone to maniacal laughter when he was obviously spoiling the adventure the DM spent a lot of money on purchasing.

Just after work that day they all got together. The group were downing fizzy drinks and were already making plans to order in pizza. The DM hurridly rolled encounters behind the mystic DM screen and said things like "Oh that's bad" & "you guys are screwed" as he giggled and suggested the dice roll was somehow 3 on the D6, 5 on the D20 and 73 on the D100 (none of which was actually seen as the screen hid the results) which meant 17 angry red dragons with 9 magically dominated beholders of at least 18HD each came to take Gary's character to Tiamat on the 1st plane of hell to do battle until death.

Later that day it was announced that Gary's character was fatally wounded after failing a saving throw vs death with a -23 modifier (there were a lot of dragon breath weapons) and shortly after being incinerated, electrocuted, frozen and disintegrated he passed away.
Naturally Gary broke into tears and protested against the unfair odds and accused the DM of setting him up. The DM pulled out the Dungeon Master's Guide and quoted irrelevant bits of text and then laughed maniacally as he slammed the book down, ripped Gary's character sheet to shreds and threw it around like cheap confetti.
It all went downhill from there as Gary sank into depression, alcoholism and debauchery.

Can we observe 1 minute of rolling saving throws on the D20 for Gary? -TA

Re:What really happened... (2)

halivar (535827) | about 3 months ago | (#47556831)

"Blackleaf! Noooo!"

Gygax wrote about this in the 90s (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47556361)

His perspective appeared in _The_Familiar_, a very small RPG magazine published in North Carolina (only lasted 4 issues).

I still don't get it... (1)

Somebody Is Using My (985418) | about 3 months ago | (#47556681)

The article says:

"This raised his total holdings to 1,371 shares, which fell just slightly below half (49.6%) of outstanding TSR shares, then numbering 2,761. But the 40 shares owned by Gygax’s son Ernie, when combined with his father’s holdings, secured controlling interest (51.1%) in TSR.

Then there is a bit about the Blume family wanting to sell their shares, Gygax not biting, and Williams et al. purchasing them instead. This suddenly gives them a greater controlling interest in the corporation.

But if Gygax already controlled 51.1%, it doesn't matter how many shares they buy; unless Gygax sold some of his own, they should never have more than 48.9% and thus never have been in a position to oust him.

So this article - and corporate finance - just makes me even more confused.

I still don't get it... (4, Informative)

leonem (700464) | about 3 months ago | (#47556773)

The Blume family also exercised options -- which means creating new shares at a price agreed previously.

They needed money to do this, and conveniently Williams' downpayment for their other shares was exactly the same amount.

This is pretty standard: a company will often reserve X amount of notional 'shares' to be issued as options, and the existing investors are aware that their own holding will be diluted when these options are exercised. Until the options are exercised, however, they do not actually exist as shares. *

* There are various caveats on all of this, as shares may be held in treasury by the company, converted from one type to another and various other things in order to avoid tax / split control differently to the profits.

New shares not required (1)

sjbe (173966) | about 3 months ago | (#47556843)

The Blume family also exercised options -- which means creating new shares at a price agreed previously.

Not necessarily. The options may have been in the form of warrants [wikipedia.org] which allowed them to purchase existing treasury stock [wikipedia.org] . When a warrant is issued new stock is issued at the same time.

Re:New shares not required (1)

leonem (700464) | about 3 months ago | (#47557075)

Yep, that's why I noted some caveats after my asterisk :)

I have shares in a company on roughly this basis myself, only it's a little more complex. Some of my shares are real and issued, some are un-exercised options where the creation of the shares has been pre-approved (and therefore doesn't require agreement from the board to issue them), and some others are held as 'deferred' shares by another shareholder, which means they hold no rights and receive no profits for those shares (but they could be transferred / converted in future if the board agrees).

It's all far too complicated for its own good, and it's an interesting experience watching people argue over the contents of a spreadsheet some of them don't understand... I'm not surprised at all that Gygax could fail to see this coming and/or assume his colleagues wouldn't see it.

Re:I still don't get it... (1)

halivar (535827) | about 3 months ago | (#47556799)

From my understanding, they had an option to purchase more shares (if this works like ESO's), and they exercised those options to purchase shares and then sell them to Lorraine Williams, giving her controlling interest.

Re:I still don't get it... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47556829)

The Blumes exercised their options to buy more shares, which reduced Gygax's interest below 50%. They then sold all of their shares to Williams, who now controlled the company.

The key issue is that the company was in a downward spiral at that point in time, losing money and having just laid off a huge percentage of their employees. Boardroom politicking like that often happens when a company is in that sort of situation. The knives all come out when the company has trouble finding the cash that it needs, and people see the opportunity to redress old slights. It's unclear to me whether the company structure was fatally flawed from the beginning, or if things would have turned out better if Gygax had kept his eye on the ball better as far as the company went.

Re:I still don't get it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47556871)

Outstanding Shares control Nothing.

The Blumes exercised thier Option to purchase 700 Outstanding Shares.

1371+40 (2761-(1371+40))+700
1371+40 1350+700

Re:I still don't get it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47556891)

Stripping "Smaller Than".

1371+40 is a smaller Share than (2761-(1371+40))+700
1371+40 is a smaller Share than 1350+700

Re:I still don't get it... (1)

Thud457 (234763) | about 3 months ago | (#47557087)

protip : surprisingly enough, /. properly renders < , > and & in comments.

1371+40 < (2761-(1371+40))+700
1371+40 < 1350+700

Re:I still don't get it... (1)

camperdave (969942) | about 3 months ago | (#47557249)

Stripping "Smaller Than".

No. Stripping malformed HTML tags.

Re:I still don't get it... (1)

Chas (5144) | about 3 months ago | (#47557285)

You forget, Gary's son, Ernie, also had shares. Ernie could be counted on to pretty much vote dad's party line.

Stock warrants (1)

sjbe (173966) | about 3 months ago | (#47556941)

But if Gygax already controlled 51.1%, it doesn't matter how many shares they buy; unless Gygax sold some of his own, they should never have more than 48.9% and thus never have been in a position to oust him.

What you are overlooking is treasury stock and stock warrants. Treasury stock is stock owned by the company itself (often through buybacks) and most companies have some. I'm guessing the options held by the Blume family were in the form of warrants to buy treasury stock (or something very similar). A warrant is a form of an option. When a stock warrant is issued shares for that warrant are created but held by the company until the option is exercised. This means that the shares already existed and were owned by TSR but the Blumes had the right (but not the obligation ) to buy them at a fixed price. Warrants are dilutive so while Gygax held a majority of outstanding shares he did not own a majority of issued shares. Gygax's majority was contingent upon those share not getting exercised. When Gygax declined to buy the shares (he declined his first right of refusal) then they could be exercised and sold and at that point he was no longer a majority shareholder.

Re:I still don't get it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47557563)

The Blume family had exercised an option to buy additional shares, increasing both the percentage of shares they owned and the total number of shares in general. The number of shares held by Gygax remained the same, so his percentage of the total shares decreased.

He got what was coming to him (2)

imikem (767509) | about 3 months ago | (#47556781)

Gygax, and TSR in general, got what they deserved in my opinion, following their "acquisition" of board wargame publisher SPI. Screwed thousands of longtime gamers such as myself (I played both RPGs and wargames extensively), who then like myself voted against them with our wallets, never spending another dime on that company. What goes around, comes around.

Re:He got what was coming to him (3, Informative)

geekoid (135745) | about 3 months ago | (#47557401)

TSR loaned SPI money. SPI defaulted n the loan. TSR got SPI.

SPI would have died completely had they not gotten the loan in the first place. TSR was the only group that would lend them money to even try.
TSR could have refused to give them the loan, and then just bought all there stuff during bankruptcy. They would have gotten it cheap because no one else wanted it.
Yeah, you're not the only old person here.

Re:He got what was coming to him (1)

imikem (767509) | about 3 months ago | (#47558411)

Granted on the (very large) technicality. However, TSR sent me a letter afterward basically saying, "Haha, sucks to be you. We got the company, but we are going to do nothing at all for the S&T magazine subscribers, despite continuing to publish it. You want it, pay up again."

Well, gee, thanks but, go to hell TSR.

He did it to himself (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47556863)

He tried to assign exclusive rights ownership of works he created under TSR to be his alone. He didn't re-negotiate a royalty, he was holding the company hostage. I love what the guy gave the world, but come on... in what world is that ok?

Re:He did it to himself (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47557599)

works he created under TSR

"Created" is a little off, I think adapted is a better word. D&D was successful because Tolkien's universe got looted for it. After that TSR pillaged everyone else's stories for creatures and gods. All the way up to the point of the Elric of Melnibone and Cthulhu *oopsie*.

The reason they (and everyone else) could never make a good scifi RPG is that there was no good universe for them to steal.

While he lead to the creation of RPGs, as a game designer I have used him and TSR as the shining example of everything not to do.

Unfortunately other designers learned a different lesson, so things like Shadowrun freely loot Tolkien, William Gibson, and Walter Jon Williams. Shamefully Walter Jon Williams was one of the original test gamers for Shadowrun so I guess his stuff was not looted.

same thing that always happens (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 3 months ago | (#47557369)

Company is make money, so some genius gets control and decide they can make more money by changing all the things their customers enjoyed.

Arneson (1)

Princeofcups (150855) | about 3 months ago | (#47557471)

Ubiquitous, how did Gygax steal D&D from Dave Arneson by putting an A in the name? Calling Gygax the creator of D&D is like calling Stalin the creator of communism.

TLDR Version (3, Informative)

wienerschnizzel (1409447) | about 3 months ago | (#47557493)

TSR, a small company dealing in the fringe hobby of "war gaming" got hugely popular at the beginning of 1980's thanks to an unexpected publicity from a hoax that got propagated by the national media.

The company owners and executives, Gygax and the Bloom brothers were no skilled businessmen and they projected this sudden jump in the company's revenue into the next years, expecting it to grow tenfold in a year. They went on a hiring and acquisition spree accordingly.

As the miraculous growth didn't come, TSR ran into financial problems, running on a $750k deficit by the mid 80's

The Bloom brothers tried to get a big outside investment to get the company out of the red numbers but Gygax opposed - he didn't want non-gamers to control the company. To this effect he executed an ancient option he got when the company was formed, gained a (very narrow) majority of the company's shares and thus the power to strip the Bloom brothers of their executive positions and void the investment by the outsiders.

In response the Blooms wanted to execute the option of selling all their shares back to the company for a large (but not outlandish) sum of some $500K but TSR could not afford it.

Half a year later the Blooms executed the same option Gygax did before to gain a slight majority in the company and sold all of their shares to Lorraine Williams for a third of the price per share, making her the largest and a majority shareholder.

One day later Gygax was stripped of all his executive positions in the company

He fought the decision in court, but really had no case and eventually sold off his shares in order to finance his new business.

How Gygax lost his copyright to D&D and Grayhawk the article does not say

All in all a really boring story

So that's why post-80s D&D is crap (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47557533)

Everything after the 2nd edition AD&D has been horror upon horror in terms of making the gaming more complex and less enjoyable.

Why is now clear: the direction was being set by a non-gamer, someone that didn't understand what D&D needed to be.

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