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RPG» Forums » General Discussion » General Role-Playing

Subject: Article on Gail Gygax and the Fallout of Gary's Death and Legacy rss

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Kerry B.
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https://kotaku.com/fantasys-widow-the-fight-over-the-legacy-...

This was what the kids call a "long read." Pretty even-handed, I thought, even with Gail Gygax as the primary source. An ugly situation for all involved.
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Birmy wrote:
https://kotaku.com/fantasys-widow-the-fight-over-the-legacy-...

This was what the kids call a "long read." Pretty even-handed, I thought, even with Gail Gygax as the primary source. An ugly situation for all involved.


I find it telling none of Gary's children consented to be interviewed for the piece.

It's a very sad situation.
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Mark Wilson
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Thanks for posting this. Interesting but sobering read. It's easy to try to play armchair psychologist/lawyer with stories like this, but much harder to realize we can't know the full story. The only takeaway for me is that greed and paranoia can make legacies a burden.
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Chuck Dee
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I saw this posted on the Fediverse, and someone was saying that a lot of the claims had already been debunked. I haven't heard anything about it, so not sure if that's the truth or not.
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Behind every great man, is a slew of shitty relations.
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Interesting reading. Shows just how "wooly" the entire situation is. Part of me wonders if Gail has schizophrenia or something very similar from the way she is acting. At the least, paranoia is a constant companion.
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mawilson4 wrote:
Thanks for posting this. Interesting but sobering read. It's easy to try to play armchair psychologist/lawyer with stories like this, but much harder to realize we can't know the full story. The only takeaway for me is that greed and paranoia can make legacies a burden.


The initial problem is when it comes to famous people dying, your best option to make money is near the time of death. Thus, people try to take advantage of the survivors for their own gain. In the Gygax case, what you have is Gail making decisions that pushed her away from those that Gary worked and trusted.

In terms of RPGs, here is the brief version of what occurred.

Gary had a deal with Christopher Clark to produce Lejendary Adventure. They formed a production company together known as Hekaforge Productions. It was released at the same time as 3E, and there were some other issues, so the game did not do so well. The folks at Troll Lord Games were huge fans and they, like Chris, became friends with Gary. They tried to help him out financially by producing some products lines. They ended up with Castle Zagyg for Castles & Crusades, a world building series, and eventually some Lejendary Adventures material.

After his death, there were a lot of sales. Gary's business partners were wanting to put out these products. There was nothing that Gail needed to do.

Along comes a guy named Spencer Wright. Spencer had some association with TLG, but I do not recall what. He ended up trying to do some work on Lejendary Adventure prior to Gary's death. He weaseled himself him Gail's orbit. Now, Gail cancels the deals Gary had with his friends. TLG and Chris Clark lost the rights. They were forced to destroy stock.

A new company was formed - Gygax Games. Spencer had taken the lead on that. They were now going to publish the games. The first thing they were going to do was a second edition of Lejendary Adventure. Gary had decided that in the event of his death, Jon Creffield would be in control of that games development. Gygax Games put him in charge. He was working on a second edition. Then things fall part at Gygax Games. Creffield failed to get any response. Eventually Gygax Games stopped pretending their were doing anything.

That is the basics. There is a lot of backstabbing from third parties and family drama over Gary's legacy involved. But, in terms of RPGs, the issue is Gail turned her back on the people that Gary chose to work with and made deals with nobodies. The result has been no new Gygax products. Even if they were released now, I doubt most people would care.

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Bifford wrote:
Interesting reading. Shows just how "wooly" the entire situation is. Part of me wonders if Gail has schizophrenia or something very similar from the way she is acting. At the least, paranoia is a constant companion.
There were police investigations... They didn't dismiss the cases at the "non-credible report" stage...

Which tends to indicate some level of physical or visual evidence, or corroboration by neighbors. There was clear online harassment of both sides (Gail and the boys); a lot of people blamed Ernie, a lot blamed Gail, and a lot more blamed both, for the failure to release.

It's been rumored that Gail was not on good terms with the boys for years before Gary died.

And, as Jaime implies, by the time things settled down, the legacy products had apparently become far less valuable.
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Clark Timmins
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Personally, I don't consider Gary's legacy to be a bunch of copyright disputes and intellectual property arguments.

I consider his legacy to be millions of roleplayers and the whole idea/concept of exploring fictional worlds through shared imagination. His personal impact on my life - and the lives of many of my friends and family members - was, is, and will continue to be immense, constructive, and positive. He created and introduced me to a whole new way of experiencing the world and sharing games with others. I can't imagine my life without Gary Gygax's amazing contributions, ceaseless dedication, and genuine insights. He's a hero.

To me, Dungeon Masters Guide (AD&D 1e) is the singular embodiment of the whole concept of roleplaying - a torrid mass of contradictions, raw ideas, finished mechanics, and randomalia couched in the inimitable Gygaxian prose. Masterpiece. That's his amazing legacy.

Which particular designer "gets to" legally plop his name on what hybrid game product that is "officially" published by the designated agent of the inheritor of Gary's legal estate... I guess I don't much care. Which particular rule Gary wrote or didn't write... not that significant. He created the concept, led the way, lighted the path, taught the approach and method. Then he sent us... into the dungeon.

His sons grew up gaming and living with him. Obviously, they are the real deal. Call me old fashioned, but a man's children de facto inherit the man's "legacy" (if not the money and the legal rights). Gail doesn't interest me or bother me. She's doing what's right for her, I guess. That's all any of us can do.
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Clark - I don't want to take anything away from your (beautifully phrased) post, but your words do raise a question (at least they do for me).
In the article, Frank Mentzer mentions that it was Arneson who had in fact pioneered the concept of cooperative role-playing.

While I am not looking to take anything away from Gygax' legacy, I've never really understood why he was always viewed as the bigger contributor of the two (undoubtedly due to my own ignorance).
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bxrrr wrote:
While I am not looking to take anything away from Gygax' legacy, I've never really understood why he was always viewed as the bigger contributor of the two (undoubtedly due to my own ignorance).


Because if it was not for Gygax there would be no D&D. Understand that Arneson did not invest in TSR and pretty much had no skills in business or promotion. Putting aside what Arneson did or did not contribute, it was TSR putting out the game that was important. Further, it was AD&D that really took off. A game that was a much bigger hit than OD&D.

Think of it this way. The light bulb existed before Edison, but it was Edison's business skill, ability to promote, and his version of the light bulb that led to its success. If we grant that Arneson is the one who came up with the concept of cooperative roleplaying, then what you are saying is that he had the idea. In important idea, but just an idea. He did not have the rules. He did not have a product. He did not have a company. That was what Gygax built.
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William Hostman
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bxrrr wrote:
Clark - I don't want to take anything away from your (beautifully phrased) post, but your words do raise a question (at least they do for me).
In the article, Frank Mentzer mentions that it was Arneson who had in fact pioneered the concept of cooperative role-playing.

While I am not looking to take anything away from Gygax' legacy, I've never really understood why he was always viewed as the bigger contributor of the two (undoubtedly due to my own ignorance).
Gygax was the guy who secured the funding. Arneson was the brains behind what was sold. (And, judging by later works of both, by far the better designer.)

Gygax legacy is a fractured one -
Many good things, many bad.

Notoriously charming, entertaining as hell... but also apparently narcissistic and absolutely willing to ruthlessly misrepresent the past, even when it wasn't that far in the past.

A brilliant salesman and pitchman, but absolutely a horridly bad businessman. His missteps lead to multiple problems at TSR... including the inclusion of Tolkien's unique race names (Ent, Hobbit), claiming Arnesson had no influence on AD&D (which the courts held was a derivative, and thus Dave got his share), not buying out the other partners before they sold off to other, less artistically suitable folk.

A man who is lauded as the codesigner of D&D, and yet having no significant successes in his other works of design.

As the head of TSR, he drew some brilliant minds - Dr. Holmes, Kim Mohan, Tom Moldvay, Frank Mentzer, David Cook, Phil Foglio, Tom Wham, Larry Elmore...
... and yet, often failed to give them credit.

A man who at times lambasted the industry he stared, yet reveled in the fan adulation he received. And yet, still managing to piss off enough fans that he has a pile of haters.

His advice in published sources was incoherent over time; sometimes inspirational and eusocial, other times toxic and antisocial.

Was he a great man? Depends upon how you define the term.

He will likely be remembered centuries from now... as will Dave Arneson...


but jus how is still too early to really tell.
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I don't think much of Paul Stormberg as a ludologist

Quote:
“For two millennia, no new games had ever been created,” he said. “Human beings had only created six types of tabletop games. Dice games, plot games, card games, board games, miniature games and pen and paper games like Hang Man.”


Firstly he uses games, rather than game genres.

I am not sure what plot games are.

All card games are newer than two millennia. Miniature games obviously are too.

But it quite clearly misses an entire genre of games - dexterity/physical games such as blow football, subbuteo, shove ha'penny, devil among the tailors (and later Jenga).
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Jackasses? You let a whole column get stalled and strafed on account of a couple of jackasses? What the hell's the matter with you?
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I look on articles like this and I always think, "There's a lot to this story that isn't being told publicly." That piece almost certainly leaves a lot out (and the lack of input from some very-closely related folks is a key indicator.)

There's probably something funny going on there. It may be a very contentious fight between differing parties with the best of intentions. It may be a confused, elderly lady. It may be something more sinister. But from what I read, damned if I could tell you what it is.
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robbbbbb wrote:
I look on articles like this and I always think, "There's a lot to this story that isn't being told publicly." That piece almost certainly leaves a lot out (and the lack of input from some very-closely related folks is a key indicator.)

There's probably something funny going on there. It may be a very contentious fight between differing parties with the best of intentions. It may be a confused, elderly lady. It may be something more sinister. But from what I read, damned if I could tell you what it is.

Most murderhobos would stab that NPC inside of five minutes.
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Yeah. It's unfortunate and not at all what Gary would have wanted.

In a way, it's maybe fitting that the last bad business decision he made was to leave his legacy in a mess.

Get your affairs in order, people! No one lives forever, so plan for your exit and make it as easy as possible on your loved ones. Even if you aren't mildly famous like Gygax.
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dysjunct wrote:
Yeah. It's unfortunate and not at all what Gary would have wanted.

In a way, it's maybe fitting that the last bad business decision he made was to leave his legacy in a mess.

Get your affairs in order, people! No one lives forever, so plan for your exit and make it as easy as possible on your loved ones. Even if you aren't mildly famous like Gygax.


This! So much this!
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On the other end of the spectrum, an old OS grognard in my town has been hosting a Gygaxathon event for like 10 years, where up to 15 groups play through the same "funhouse" dungeon on successive nights and compete to see who does the best (there are multiple objectives). I'm playing in it (for the first time) Tuesday night. He's like a giddy schoolboy, but must be pushing 60. It's the type of love for the hobby you enjoy seeing, and he named it just to honor his RPG hero, Gygax.

robbbbbb wrote:
I look on articles like this and I always think, "There's a lot to this story that isn't being told publicly." That piece almost certainly leaves a lot out (and the lack of input from some very-closely related folks is a key indicator.)

There's probably something funny going on there. It may be a very contentious fight between differing parties with the best of intentions. It may be a confused, elderly lady. It may be something more sinister. But from what I read, damned if I could tell you what it is.


This. Internet commentary always amuses me on matters this obviously complicated. Nobody knows a fraction of the truth.

Court cases are similar. I was on the jury for an attempted murder trial once. Local entrepreneur who was paralyzed from the waist down after being shot. Public outrage, news coverage, the whole deal. The judge made it illegal for camera crews in the courthouse to film us, for fear of threats and violence...serious stuff.

So once I was out from under my jury bubble and could discuss the case with people, I was dumbfounded by both how little people knew (given the news coverage) and how much they thought they knew. Reasonable, ostensibly well-informed people. And they knew nothing about it, but were oblivious to that fact.

So yeah, this is a compelling bit of writing. But it's one slice in a large pie.
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Jackasses? You let a whole column get stalled and strafed on account of a couple of jackasses? What the hell's the matter with you?
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mawilson4 wrote:
So once I was out from under my jury bubble and could discuss the case with people, I was dumbfounded by both how little people knew (given the news coverage) and how much they thought they knew. Reasonable, ostensibly well-informed people. And they knew nothing about it, but were oblivious to that fact.


Yeah. Reminds me of the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect. I always try and keep that in mind when I'm reading the news. Healthy doses of humility and skepticism are essential to processing journalism.
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Weird aside...

Quote:
It was the ‘70s, and J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings books had boomed in sales, incubated in part by the decade’s heavy psychedelia. High culture fertilized the soil for high fantasy


I...don't think I've ever heard/read this before. Maybe I'm living under a rock?
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robbbbbb wrote:
mawilson4 wrote:
So once I was out from under my jury bubble and could discuss the case with people, I was dumbfounded by both how little people knew (given the news coverage) and how much they thought they knew. Reasonable, ostensibly well-informed people. And they knew nothing about it, but were oblivious to that fact.


Yeah. Reminds me of the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect. I always try and keep that in mind when I'm reading the news. Healthy doses of humility and skepticism are essential to processing journalism.


I hadn't heard of that before. But having a legal background I'm often aghast at the quality of journalism when covering the legal field.
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brumcg wrote:
Weird aside...

Quote:
It was the ‘70s, and J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings books had boomed in sales, incubated in part by the decade’s heavy psychedelia. High culture fertilized the soil for high fantasy


I...don't think I've ever heard/read this before. Maybe I'm living under a rock?


I have heard that before -- many counter-cultural types were drawn to Tolkien's anti-industrialism and anti-war attitudes.

(It's interesting that they passed over his love of orderly farms and the virtue of hard work, but everyone cherrypicks their favorite parts from their preferred religious text.)

I don't know where I heard the Tolkien/counter-culture connection before.

Edit: But brief googling unveils this:

http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20141120-the-hobbits-and-th...
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I thought its popularity due to the fact that the Hobbits smoked "weed."
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bxrrr wrote:
In the article, Frank Mentzer mentions that it was Arneson who had in fact pioneered the concept of cooperative role-playing.


Entirely my US$0.02 follows...

You could argue that. You could argue it really was Dave Wesely. Or, H. G. Wells. Or, even back to Kriegspiele. As Jon Peterson recounts in Playing at the World, the concept of cooperative roleplay has existed... well, apparently forever. Lee Gold has commented that all the pieces and ideas for an RPG were freely circulating in the 60s/70s at places like LASFS and that some games, like REVENGE!, already had added roleplaying aspects to board games - though they didn't call it that. It only needed somebody to put the puzzle together.

If roleplaying really was totally greenfield development, completely revolutionary, and entirely groundbreaking, then it would have taken a long time to generate additional authors and players and manuals. Instead, it just exploded immediately. An idea that was right there, that everybody intuitively understood. But it took Gygax to light the fuse.

But even before all of that, kids were playing cops and robbers (or whatever the pre-history version of that was. I'm not trying to ding Arneson at all, and he may well have run the first game that most RPG players would watch and say "Yep, that there is an RPG." Maybe he really was the first guy to gamify it. But I'm absolutely convinced that Arneson's game would have lived and died in his house with nobody being the wiser outside his circle of friends.

I don't really think that Arneson or Gygax "invented" roleplaying. I think they sort of co-discovered it, with lots and lots of other folks. Sure, each of them had their own special angle. Arneson's may have been less wargame-like that Gygax's. Gygax's may have been more verbose than Arneson's.

But it was Gygax who made it happen. Sure, sure, you can say he was a crappy businessman. You can lambaste his company decisions and criticize the guy all you want. Hindsight's a beautiful thing. For sure Gygax didn't wake up in the morning and think about how to make bad business decisions - he did what he thought was right.

In retrospect probably the dumbest decision he ever made was to spend several thousand dollars printing up box sets of a goofy game that was way "outside the box" and that nobody had ever heard of, and hoping it would sell a few copies. That's nuts! I'm glad he made that bad decision.

It's difficult to find a company that went from zero to zillion in a decade and survived with the original owners intact. Especially a company based on what amounts to a hobby. So Gygax did A when he shoulda done B. Yeah, so what? Not everybody has the luck, timing, and brains of Bill Gates in business. And even the people that grabbed the company from him didn't do any better, nor did their successors. So criticizing him for the failure of TSR is sort of... off-base.

Sure, Gygax wrote some really crappy rules and some really dull games. Yeah, so what? He also spent his whole life - before, during, and after TSR - promoting the hobby, getting the word out, defending geeks (like me), and growing things.

Arneson was a thinker. Gygax was a doer. There's a reason Arneson ended up working for Gygax and not the other way 'round.
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aramis wrote:
A man who is lauded as the codesigner of D&D, and yet having no significant successes in his other works of design.

That's quite a humorous way to look at things.

Sort of like, Bill Gates is lauded for founding Microsoft, and yet didn't create a decent mobile music player.

Or, Warren Buffet is lauded for making billions of dollars, and yet never made much money at a nail salon.

Or, Herman Melville wrote Moby Dick, but some of his Piazza Tales are a slow read.
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