Q&A with Frank

Quest for the lost city of Empyrea in Frank Mentzer's Aquaria Setting.
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Re: Q&A with Frank

Post by ExTSR » Sun Nov 26, 2017 5:32 pm

stebehil wrote:I´m curious about the german translations of Basic D&D back in the 80ies. As far as I have read, you were involved in that process (and still had corrected typoscripts of some translated products a few years ago, as I just found on the Acaeum). Can you tell us/me about the translations process and the german company involved?

French and German were TSR's first attempts at non-English language products. The French process began with Moldvay's D&D edition and related adventures. It was revised/expanded, and German added, in the early "red box" days. My ex-wife (now Penny Williams) knew sufficient German and Gamer to handle several early manuscript translations for TSR International (VP Andre Moullin, a French citizen), and I still have some of the original mss.

I don't recall what European companies were involved. However, Acaeum member Javier Murillo (Madrid, Spain) has become the top expert on international editions of AD&D 1e & 2e, BECMI, and other D&D products. He would have lots of accurate info, and samples of everything. I only have 30-year-old memories.

Frank Mentzer
My friend Gary changed the world.

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Re: Q&A with Frank

Post by stebehil » Sun Nov 26, 2017 6:09 pm


thank you for your super-fast reply. I´ll see what I can dig up beyond what I´ve already gotten.

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Re: Q&A with Frank

Post by Big Mac » Sat Aug 04, 2018 12:19 pm

ExTSR wrote:
Sat Sep 23, 2017 5:09 pm

I never met Tim Kask in 1980. He was in the Dragon Mag building, I downtown in the old Hotel. I was a brash new hire from Philly, in training as an editor; he was a product of Moline who was one of the "first Five" at TSR (1975) and a superstar. Now we've been close friends for a decade, and wonder what would have happened if we'd become friends back in that Beginning time. We think we would've become Gary's bestbuds (as we each were separately, Tim from 1975-80 and me from 1980-85), pitting the Gygax Trio vs the Blume Pair. Tim then might not have left TSR, Gary might have been able to keep to his goals without corporate compromise, AD&D 2nd edition would have been much different, and the events leading to Gary's ouster (5 years later) might not have happened at all.
You and Tim seem to be so right for each other that it kind of feels like you did meet back then.

I do wonder what sort of things would have happened...and would have not happened, if Gary had still been around for 2e.

Would we have gotten more 1e products, with 2nd Edition coming along later, or were there already plans for a revision of AD&D?

Did Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms get started before Gary was pushed into the other office (to work on movie deals and stuff)? Would they...and later campaign settings have still got the green-light? Or were some of them created specifically to take the focus off of Greyhawk?
ExTSR wrote:
Sat Sep 23, 2017 5:09 pm
In 1982 at TSR, once I became Gary's Aide and personal friend, I dared to praise the competition. Being young and foolish I was unable to verbalize my thoughts with corporate tact, and my failure as a messenger in turn failed to produce change. I should have urged them them (Gary & Brian) to embrace the other Founders of the hobby, emphasizing that our far-larger size made TSR the easily-targeted 'big bad guy', and great PR could result from noblesse oblige. But corporately they decided to maximize their success and not look back; the competition was indeed left behind, and TSR had no friends among their own industry.
I think that Wizards of the Coast did a bit better at that, at the start of the 3rd Edition Era, with the OGL, SRD and d20 System Trademark licence working together to pull many companies into becoming 3rd Party Publishers (of D&D material), but what they did at the end of the 3rd Edition Era (ending the d20 STL and moving to a more restrictive GSL) undid a lot of the great PR work they had put in.

They are back using the OGL again (the same OGL) and a new 5e SRD, so I think they have recovered a bit of support, but I think that they have lost some 3PP designers to the SRD variants (like Pathfinder RPG and 13th Age), when continuous support for 3rd Party Publishers would have kept more people onboard (especially Paizo).
ExTSR wrote:
Sat Sep 23, 2017 5:09 pm
In the late 1980s, at New Infinities (NIPI) we scored a big license. Robert A. Heinlein's "Glory Road" is a stellar crossover work of fantasy and science fiction combined, very much in line with my design philosophies. He (and Ginny, his wife and agent) approved our proposal: Glory Road by Gary Gygax and me. (omg omg woot!) But then Bob passed away, and everything got put on indefinite hold. NIPI folded within a year or so, and the opportunity vanished.
It's a shame you and Gary couldn't have come back to that later.

Has anyone else brought out any RPGs for Robert A. Heinlein's worlds?
ExTSR wrote:
Sat Sep 23, 2017 5:09 pm
Near the end of NIPI, I had been solemnly informed by our attorney that TSR had expressly waived their chance to print "The Convert", and that we could legally do so. The resulting lawsuit from TSR cost me money, my shares of TSR stock, and other assets. Our 'documented legal counsel' was worthless. I thus now shift to 'rules lawyer' mode, looking for weasel-outs, whenever I consult an attorney professionally.
Yikes! That sucks.

I didn't realise they had used The Convert against you, like that.

I believe a similar thing happened to the Green Races Campaign Setting. I've been trying to track down information about the Fast Forward Enterprises Green Races product line, but it looks like contamination with TSR IP caused WotC to come along and shut that down.
ExTSR wrote:
Sat Sep 23, 2017 5:09 pm
In the 2000s, Gary published his latest RPG, Lejendary Adventures. The OGL had just appeared (y2k) and he and Gail were very suspicious of it, legally. Gary wanted me to complete his vintage "Teeth of Dalver-Nar" tournament adventure, but he backed off because neither of us really understood how the OGL worked, nor were we about to spend money on attorneys (see above) to explain it. (Other potential co-authors were also burned by this uncertainty.) The Teeth project was parked, Gary passed in '08, and a decade later Gail has still never published anything under OGL rules. If we'd only had it explained to us, and the right time... but so it goes.
The OGL is awesome. I think it's one of the best things that Peter Adkinson ever did for D&D. Getting the SRD published under the OGL has ensured that if D&D ever declines into obscurity, another publisher will always be able to make a lifeboat system out of the SRD.

In fact that is exactly what Paizo did, after WotC sold them their magazine business...and then decided not to renew the contract on them. The end of the Dragon and Dungeon magazine licences could easily have killed other publishers (and left all those magazine staff members without a job) but the creation of the Pathfinder Campaign Setting...and the later creation of the Pathfinder RPG...saved all those people from loosing their jobs.

Compared to what happened to NIPI and what happened to Fast Forward Entertainment, I think that what Paizo was able to achieve was technically brilliant.

I think the "trickiest" part of the OGL is the Product Identity (PI) stuff. That gives protection above and beyond standard Intellectual Property rights. I think that's where Fast Forward Entertainment went wrong. They made some interesting stuff, but they should have made sure all their design team were aware of what Product Identity was and that they had to avoid including any PI in their work. And they needed to have editors who were specifically looking for TSR/WotC PI and throwing manuscripts back to editors to have that (legally dangerous) stuff purged.

I've got one Green Races book (the campaign setting) and might like to pick up some of the other books, at some point, just to have a skim through them. I did get a copy of your The Convert too. Knowing that TSR bashed you with it has taken the shine off of it a bit, but I'll just have to focus on the fact that you were trying to put out a cool thing, back when you made it, and enjoy it for the words between the covers. :)
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