On the Ouster of Gary Gygax

A few months back, Jon Peterson of Playing at the World wrote a rather detailed account of the events leading up to Gary’s resignation from the board of TSR.  It is definitely worth taking the time to read.  Really, something like this was more of what I was hoping from David Ewalt’s Of Dice and Men.

The story of TSR is one of those great tragedies where good intentions cannot make up for mediocre business practices.  When large amounts of money and livelihoods are at stake, sometimes survival trumps the art of the artist.  I don’t think that Gary was a crummy dude for being bad at managing a large business.  But I also don’t think that Lorraine Williams was some kind of evil witch villain for protecting her investment and staving off dissolution of TSR at the expense of removing Gary from the helm.

At least thanks to modern digital crowdfunding, you don’t have to become financially and corporately beholden to some guy down the street to put out your game.

Back & Christmas Reading pt1 : Of Dice and Men

Well, 12th Night was yesterday, and I don’t really know what good staying away from here is going to do me. Suffice it to say that there were no Christmas miracles for me, but I’m moving on. Maybe at some point I’ll re-establish enough sense of self-worth to get my life back on track. Until I do, I’ll continue to blog about nerdy stuff here. Heck, when I do, I’ll probably STILL blog about nerdy stuff here.

I’ve taken a brief break from reading HPW over the holiday and in that break have read two things. Well, one and most of another.

In one sitting hanging around at Barnes & Noble, I read MOST of David Ewalt’s  Of Dice and Men. I may finish it at some point, but it’s low on my list of things to read. I read the part covering the release of Holmes through the demise of TSR and up to the part where he spends several chapters reminiscing about cons and getting to play with Frank Mentzer and stuff.

There was some interesting stuff in the book, but ultimately there was a lot of flashbacks to his own gaming sessions, writing real-play as fiction, and squee (bragging about reducing his degrees of Gary by playing with Frank) that felt like it was padding.

Most of my fascination with D&D comes from the perspective of a technical writer and someone interesting in rules and structure; Gary’s D&D is one of the most confusing, poorly structured, poorly written games I’ve ever seen, but when placed in the hands of competent writers and editors like Holmes, Cook, Moldvay, and even (I’ll grudgingly admit) Mentzer, the masterpiece shines through the mess. I also appreciate those inside-baseball stories of the wild gonzo style of business management that ultimately drove the company into ground. Some of those stories are in Of Dice and Men, but there’s very little on how the game itself was evolving. Holmes gets about three pages worth of mention. The part of the book where, if it were more of a true history, the emergence of retro-clones and the OSR would have been, there is instead several chapters of fan-venture.

Of Dice and Men is a book that is struggling to define itself, unable to decide whether it’s a history of the game, a hagiography of the game, or the autobiography of a gamer who loves the game. It’s not BAD, and even if it is, it’s a short read (given another night, I could probably finish the chapters I skimmed over), but I wouldn’t say that it was worth the cover price, particularly when the post histories at d20 Dark Ages, Random Wizard and Zenopus Archives are available for free. And honestly, I’d much rather read a book on the history of D&D by any of them than finish Of Dice and Men any day.