Now Playing: Castles & Crusades
The following is the text of a message-board conversation I had with Gary Gygax on ENworld. What's particularly interesting here (other than the pure fun of early D&D history) is the comparison to the Troll Lords' situation right now.
Originally Posted by Mythmere1
"Actually, I do have a question. In the early days just after publishing the first hardback (I don't know if it was the MM or the PH - they were both out when I started playing, but not the DMG), how chaotic was it? "
"The first hardbound AD&D book was the MM published in 1977.
Things at the office were hectic but not chaotic. We were all crowded into an old house, a game shop taking up much of the ground floor, shipping in the former kitchen, inventory on the front porch and in the basement, and the offices upstairs on the first floor."
"There must have been a severe shortage of cash to get out the hardbacks and the little 1-3 level monsters and treasure books, while also funding Dragon. How did you manage that? Was new money coming in, or were you publishing new books with the proceeds of the published ones. At what point did you realize that the country was going to buy everything that you could afford to print, and how did you react to the realization that D&D was going to be a craze of nationwide magnitude? Fear? Excitement? Repeated glances at checkbook? Frenzied bouts of authorial effort? Did it affect quality control on any of the books or products in your opinion?"
"At that time I was the actual CEO of TSR, and money was tight because we had to reprint D&D works and produce new material at the same time, even as we paid employees. Sales were good, so cash flow was key. We borrowed some short-term cash to produce smaller products, and raised funds by offering lifetime subs to the DARGON and also to new game products. While the zine was then a cash drain, the goodwill and advertising/promition were more than a counter-balance.
It was in 1976 that we recognized that the game was going to be a growing one, and planned accordingly. I kept long term debt to about the amount of revenue the company generated in a month, and so the operation was very profitable. Not many customers were slow in paying, as they wanted to keep getting restocks and new product, so cash flow was good.
The main thing that affected quality control was lack of personnel and the need to get product into the pipeline or face outraged consumers. In all, I believe we did a very fine job all things considered."