Bill Slavicsek Leaves Wizards Amidst Layoffs

Bill Slavicsek, Director of R&D for Dungeons & Dragons Games and Novels at Wizards of the Coast, has left the company. He was with WotC and TSR before them since 1993. He designed Alternity, d20 Modern, revised Dark Sun and Council of Wyrms, Star Wars Revised, and much more.  Outside TSR he worked on Torg and Paranoia.

It’s unclear whether he resigned or was laid off, as at the same time Monte Cook tweeted “I wish the best for those laid off from Wizards of the Coast today. Some were good friends. All, I’m sure, are talented and capable.” So it sounds like a larger purge at work. We wish Bill and the others well in their new endeavors.

Bill has a mixed legacy. I love Alternity, but a lot of the problems with D&D 4e are directly his responsibility.  I’ve been reading Mike Mearls’ “Legends & Lore” articles hopefully; it seems they’re revisiting older versions of D&D and trying to actually understand why they were good and how 4e has left a lot of the core play experience behind, though it’s hard to get one’s hopes up that they’ll really implement that correctly (I agreed with their critiques of 3e, but what they did to fix them was God-awful.) Bill leaving has re-fueled discussion of a “D&D 5e” (or, more likely, a D&D 5e with a more confusing branding).

WotC does layoffs regularly, though it’s usually after a big release or around Christmas to boost end of year numbers, and usually it’s not someone this prominent, so it’s a bit concerning for the industry.  We’ll see what happens…

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9 responses to “Bill Slavicsek Leaves Wizards Amidst Layoffs

  1. Hrm. You won’t get a lot of anguish from me.

    I remember distinctly the watershed in the late ’90s when TSR divested itself of everyone except core talent (read ‘guys like Jeff Easley’) and the empire builders who’d spent a decade doing nothing but feathering their nests, feeding their own egos and guaranteeing their permanent place at the company regardless of who was in charge.

    I knew about this because one of the cast-offs showed up practically down the street – Poulsbo in mid-1997 – and it was David Sutherland III. He didn’t have a lot to say about the company but was trying very hard to get his job back with the new heads.

    He died about seven years later of liver failure, a broken man at 55. There were many things which contributed to this; I don’t lay it all at the feet of the people who would not answer his letters or return his calls. But I will tell you this, Mxy….to this day, when it rains at WoTC and bad things happen to TSR, a small part of me smiles with satisfaction. I don’t believe in karma, but I do believe in just desserts.

  2. The three departures from WotC were Stephen Schubert, Michelle Carter, and Bill Slavicsek.

    It’s worth noting that Slavicsek and Carter are married to one another. Given what we’ve been hearing (it’s sounding like Carter and Schubert were laid off, and Slavicsek may have simply left), it sounds likely to me that Slavicsek quit in conjunction with his wife’s departure. Perhaps they want to spend more time together or are planning a move. This is all speculation on my part, but it helps to explain the situation as it’s unfolded.

    Also notably, WotC does typically have yearly December lay-offs, but this last year they were very light (I can’t remember if they were non-existent, or if it was just a lot fewer lay-offs than usual). It looks like they were able to delay this round until halfway through the next year.

  3. Well, already felt that something was going to happen as the tone of Bill’s Ampersand articles was changing. Even thought they were gone from the pages of Dragon a few weeks ago.
    In fact the whole industry is going through change and different demands have appeared. Also the big(ger) former motion picture companies have moved into RPG’s and RPG online world. Entertainment is about sales. Not always about creativity. :)
    So, I expect less pen & paper products and far more bits & bytes products. Strategy at WotC is changing and this means new people and skills will enter WotC. So expect more “surprises” folks!

    • Yeah, I guess I worry that the Hasbro suitdroids will just decide an actual D&D RPG is too lame and decide that it’s just a “brand” to be used on movies and video games and trinkets and whatnot.

  4. Well, as you mentioned elsewhere, folks will always have other games to turn to, as well as reams of 2nd Ed and so forth. My experience has been that folks who want to game will find a way. Hasbro probably *will* do what you fear… they have a tendency to reduce everything to its lowest common denominator in order to package it to the largest number of people.

    Pokemon was one of those instances where they did not wring the product out thoroughly enough. Or maybe they left just enough juice in it to make it worth buying. But yes, it does seem they are doing just enough to keep the IP afloat in the public consciousness. I have the feeling that before they are through, the secondary market value for 2nd and 3rd Edition AD&D products are going to go up quite a bit. I am already finding it tough to locate certain 2nd edition ‘gems’ over at Half Price Books.

  5. I have been interpreting the Legends & Lore article tones completely differently. They seem to explain why they make the rules like they are, admit they are always looking at improving, but no admission from them of thinking 4E is the wrong track. On the contrary, they did so much right with 4E, it is the most excited I have been about D&D since 1st Edition released. It is also the first time since then I have seen so many new players to the game everywhere I go. And I was not sorry to leave 3.5 behind at all.

  6. Agree fully with this. Started playing in 1979 with old school 1st edition and now play 4th Ed.. And I definitely like 4th.. No doubt some things are in for a revision. Overall it works. I like the ease for me as Dungeon Master to prepare the sessions and balance game play. And to me it still operates and feels like D&D. With our use of ipads, Skype and webcams even players who move outside the country keep joining the sessions. The old 1st Edition feel of very different character classes would be welcome however. Haven’t tried the virtual gaming table yet at WotC. :)

  7. Pingback: DDOcast Episode 223 (07-01-11) « DDOcast

  8. I really can care less what happens to the D&D brand at this point. D&D ceased to be recognizable. It is just an alliterative brand. I have happily thrown in my lot with Paizo, and even if WOTC puts out the 5e mix for new and old players alike, I will laugh at their attempt, and stick with Paizo who has demonstrated a much superior philosophy to gaming.

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