Thursday, April 4, 2019

Burning Down the House - of Gygax (Gail is on a Facebook Meltdown / Sympathy Tour)

There has been a trickle of Facebook postings by Gail Gygax recently (my God but they have accelerated today) that are verging on libel regarding Tom DeSanto and Luke Gygax (as well as some inaccuracies with me). Nearly every post is Gail railing on the two above, accusing them of suing her in an attempt to take Gary's IP and her house. If you are on Facebook and haven't seen this mess yet, send Gail a friend request - she's been adding Facebook friends like they are going out of style the last few weeks.

I'm not going to post any her postings here - all I have is screenshots and they don't read well in a blog post, but I AM going to share a piece from Gail's Kotaku article which I fund VERY relevant:
Two years after Gygax and DeSanto struck a deal, DeSanto was suing for breach of contract. DeSanto says he spent “thousands of hours” and “substantial sums of money” trying to develop the Gygax IP. Speaking through his lawyer, DeSanto did not elaborate on what exactly he was working on outside of sorting through what Gail does and does not own of Gary’s estate, although the complaint mentions a biopic. Over email, DeSanto’s lawyer sent the following statement to Kotaku. 
“My client was left no choice but to file a lawsuit seeking to enforce the rights promised him in the Gygax IP. Tom has developed and produced some of the biggest franchises in movie history, and he is clearly in the best position of anyone to develop and exploit the very rich library of material left behind by Gary Gygax. That is very reason why Ms. Gygax entrusted it to Tom. We are more than certain in our legal position and, in the end, everyone stands to benefit from enforcement of the agreement, including and especially Gail Gygax and her family.” 
What triggered the lawsuit appears relatively benign at first, just another balloon in the parade of lawsuits that Gary’s legacy has drawn. It was a deal that Gail had made, along with her son Alex and archivist Paul Stormberg, to produce a video game based on Gary’s Castle Greyhawk, later named Zagyg, with a company called Fig, which runs a crowdfunding platform for indie games. DeSanto, who was not involved, said this was part of an effort to “freeze” him out. In a response to DeSanto’s lawsuit, Gail contested that she and DeSanto had ever entered into a partnership and, on top of that, contests that their contract gave DeSanto rights to Gary’s “entire library.” Further, she says, DeSanto made up her entire Variety quote. 
It’s unclear whether Gail meant to give DeSanto the full rights to control what happens to her late husband’s creations and name. Should DeSanto prevail in court, it would add to the heaviness of the legend story Gail carries on her shoulders—one more stone of animosity and betrayal to weigh her down, one more piece of evidence that “they” are out for Castle Greyhawk, the Gygax name, and the great Gary Gygax mythos. This is the tidy tale, the one that makes sense in the the linear storyline of victimhood.
DeSanto’s lawsuit could have even larger implications for Gail, ones that don’t fit in that linear storyline. Beneath its allegations of breach of contract and fiduciary duty, DeSanto’s suit claims that Gail does not, in fact, own the rights to Gary’s legacy as freely and clearly as she claims. 
In May 2017, DeSanto’s suit reads, he learned that Gary Gygax had a second will. He wrote it shortly before his death. That will, according to the complaint, merely gives Gail a life estate to some of Gary’s IP—the parts his children couldn’t claim. That would mean that, when Gail dies, DeSanto would no longer have the rights to develop Gygax properties, making their contract worthless. 
Gail agrees that this will exists, but denies that it is valid. She says it was not signed correctly, adding nobody had ever contacted her about the will’s validity before DeSanto.
Read those last two paragraphs again. It means that Gary changed his will - changed his mind about the long term inheritance of his legacy.  Gail knows that. She admits the will exists that would supersede the one she claims all rights via. She knows her late husband's intents towards his children - to, in the end, let them inherit his IP. Yet Gail claims a technicality in her attempt for full rights, beyond death, that wasn't Gary's intent.

I wonder if DeSanto's lawsuit has brought up feelings of guilt for Gail.

In any case, she needs help. More significant help than the community can provide. One that only family can provide. I hope she takes the help I am sure is being offered, sooner than later.


  1. Honestly, reading her FB post chain over the last 24 hours is heartbreaking. She is clearly flailing and in some extreme emotional distress. I find it very telling that she consistently refers to Gary's work as "hers" and "her property." Frankly, I find that disrespectful to Gary and his work. Ms Gygax should refer to it as "Gary's," not hers, even though she asserts control rights over it.

    She seems far more concerned in CONTROLLING Gary's legacy of work than she does in developing and publishing it. Now, I don't for a moment believe that we, the fans, are owed anything. We don't own Gary's work; and just because many of us are deeply connected to that work (I, personally, doubt that I would have survived my adolescence in the 80's unscathed without it) doesn't give us any moral right to it.

    But if Ms Gygax truly believed in Gary's legacy, if she truly valued it for what it is and not the sheer potential monetary value of it, she would be diligently working to bring it to his fans. She has talked and talked and promised and promised but nothing other than accusations, rambling persecution complexes, and self-martyring flagellation have ever actually materialized. I can well understand Luke's desire to step in and bring the work to the fans; clearly Ms Gygax has no idea how to accomplish this task.

    I care about Ms Gygax's welfare and happiness. Gary loved her, and I can't imagine he would love someone unworthy of it. Her role in the history of gaming is to be respected and honored, but I fear we are seeing the degrading edges of that legacy. It may be time for Ms Gygax to step aside, allow Gary's work to be properly and respectfully developed and published, and be appropriately compensated for it.

  2. Thanks so much for posting this. Following the press releases for the last few years, I always wondered how the heck Gail struck a deal with DeSanto one year and Fig the next. Hope she gets the help she needs and a reasonable person starts calling the shots soon.

  3. Note she doesn't say the new will "wasn't signed". She says it "wasn't signed correctly". That may just make her gaming's patron saint of rules lawyers.

    But in all seriousness, this is starting to look more and more like a poor woman with some form of dementia or other mental health issue who desperately needs to sit down and talk to some professionals that can help her. It's kind of sad.

    1. Erik mentioned that above, when he pointed out that, "Gail claims a technicality in her attempt for full rights, beyond death, that wasn't Gary's intent."

  4. The will part is fascinating. Kind of an adventure seed.


Tenkar's Tavern is supported by various affiliate programs, including Amazon, RPGNow,
and Humble Bundle as well as Patreon. Your patronage is appreciated and helps keep the
lights on and the taps flowing. Your Humble Bartender, Tenkar

Blogs of Inspiration & Erudition