A TSR Announces a Star Frontiers Reboot

One of the new TSRs (yes there are now two TSRs!) has announced a reboot of Star Frontiers, the sci-fi game made by the original TSR back in the 1980s. Star Frontiers was a percentile dice roleplaying game set in a galaxy with four races (Human, Dralasite, Vrusk, and Yazirian) which were re-used by WotC in d20 Future in 2004.

Happy to announce that in addition to our flagship new world and game system by James M. Ward & Dinehart, GiantLands, and Justin LaNasa's children's RPG Tales & Tots, our next internal project "Star Frontiers", a reboot of the original, is currently in preproduction and has Larry Elmore attached. Stay tuned for more details!

It appears that one of the new TSRs registered the trademark in April. More if I hear it!

You can currently buy the game from WotC on DriveThruRpg, so I'm not sure how that works. When asked about this on Facebook, one of the TSRs answered:

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Of course, Evil Hat Productions registered the Star Frontiers trademark, too, back in July 2017.


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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

Knightfall

World of Kulan DM
:rolleyes:

To rely on lawyers to save your butts while blatantly stealing copyrighted material (that image) is so ridiculous. They are just asking to be sued and I guarantee Hasbro and/or WotC's lawyers are going to overrun TSR's lawyers if they don't comply.

I was looking forward to getting a copy of Giant Lands, but, if they are going to be arrogant about breaking copyright rules, yeah, I don't think so. A trademark is not a copyright (no, I'm not a lawyer)!

If they somehow manage to not to get destroyed in court (and go under) and apologize for stealing a copyrighted image, I might forgive them for their hubris.
 
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darjr

I crit!
@Knightfall I don't like that they used that image in their promo.... but.... I think it was just a dumb mistake. I don't think they intend to steal IP for the actual game. I think, I hope.

Still without it it seems rather pointless to me. A tulip labeled a rose is not a rose.

I think if they had a wotc license they'd have said so? Also I don't think they would have needed to capture the trademark. Or wotc wouldn't have appreciated that anyway. But what do I know?
 

Knightfall

World of Kulan DM
@Knightfall I don't like that they used that image in their promo.... but.... I think it was just a dumb mistake. I don't think they intend to steal IP for the actual game. I think, I hope.
Maybe. And that's a big maybe. If James Ward is deeply involved, let's not forget a little company called Fast Forward Entertainment and how that ended. And, yes, I liked and bought many of those d20 books and still own the best ones.

But, the use of WotC's copyrights cost FFE and you would think that Mr. Ward (if not any of the others involved with this new TSR) would know better. Maybe, maybe those handling the marketing logistics didn't think before using the image, but fool me once...

I'm not going to invest in a company that could go out of business by ignoring copyright laws.

darjr said:
Still without it it seems rather pointless to me. A tulip labeled a rose is not a rose.

I think if they had a wotc license they'd have said so? Also I don't think they would have needed to capture the trademark. Or wotc wouldn't have appreciated that anyway. But what do I know?
Personally, I wasn't a huge fan of Star Frontiers back in the day, so if they had to create a different setting with different species, so be it. That's what has happened with Alternity, 2nd Edition, and I really loved the first version and have bought several of the books for the 2nd Edition. Of course, that was more a rule system than a setting.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
@Knightfall I don't like that they used that image in their promo.... but.... I think it was just a dumb mistake. I don't think they intend to steal IP for the actual game. I think, I hope.

Still without it it seems rather pointless to me. A tulip labeled a rose is not a rose.

I think if they had a wotc license they'd have said so? Also I don't think they would have needed to capture the trademark. Or wotc wouldn't have appreciated that anyway. But what do I know?
Yeah, I'm dubious that this will work out.
 


ECMO3

Hero
I don't know if it is in wizard's best interest to get involved in a copyright battle for several reasons:

1. The fights TSR had with the internet in the 90s and the fights wizard had during 3E did not actually help the company. They did protect the IP but they also alienated gamers and this led to the TSR collapse and Pathfinder taking market share from D&D respectfully.

2. I don't think there is enough money in it to justify the PR hit. This could jeopardize 5E, which is selling like gangbusters right now. The last thing they want is a court battle where big bad Hasbro goes after the little guy. This is especially true if E. Gygax is one of the guys running it.

Given those things, I don't think the juice is worth the squeeze. To be honest a star frontiers reboot might actually cause an increase in sales from the old stuff on drive through RPG.

If anything I would expect WOTC to quietly send a C&D to cover their bases for potential future litigation and then ignore it if TSR lawyers up.
 


MGibster

Legend
Is someone asking you to? You've been offered stock options, or something?
In this particular case, I don't imagine Knightfall meant investing money in the company with the intent of reaping a profit. Rather they meant investing as in devoting time or effort into their products in the hopes of achieving some worthwhile results. i.e. I've invested heavily in D&D books and miniatures, and in return they've provided me with many, many hours of entertainment.
 

billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him)
They actually have to fight it. Failure to defend your copyrights and trademarks has been cited in court rulings as evidence of them being up for grabs.
Trademark you have to defend or risk losing it, copyright you don't because you can't lose it. Opponents might argue that a history of not defending a copyright indicates the holder puts little value in it and could, I suppose, undermine damages sought. But there's no way to lose a copyright by not defending it.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
Trademark you have to defend or risk losing it, copyright you don't because you can't lose it. Opponents might argue that a history of not defending a copyright indicates the holder puts little value in it and could, I suppose, undermine damages sought. But there's no way to lose a copyright by not defending it.
WotC has the copyright, "TSR" has filed for the Trademark...but WotC is still selling Star Frontier products, sooooo...not sure this is anything that will come rto fruition.
 

Sithlord

Adventurer
I'm not even certain Ward's involved beyond using his ruleset, as the wording's a bit fuzzy there. All I know is that this is Ernie Gygax's gig, and he still hasn't delivered on a KS yet, after 5 or so years.
I love ward. And I have zero against Ernie and wish him happiness and beautiful wonderful life. But if Ernie is in charge of this based on past performance it will be a disaster. And I really want this product and love the works of the other people involved. Really hoping Earnie learned from past failures. Sometimes u have to fail to learn to win.
 

pemerton

Legend
They actually have to fight it. Failure to defend your copyrights and trademarks has been cited in court rulings as evidence of them being up for grabs.
This is not true of copyright, to the best of my knowledge

In the context of trademarks, a trademark must be able to distinguish a good or service in the marketplace. So if a trademark owner permits concurrent use, they are allowing the distinguishing function of the mark to be lost.

WotC is still selling Star Frontiers (via DriveThruRPG) with the old trade dress, but apparently have allowed the registration to lapse. There is thus a contest between a registered trademark and an unregistered trademark in use. My guess would be that the registered mark prevails at least to the extent that WotC can't deny the entitlement of the registered owner to use it, but I don't know if it would be exclusive as against WotC or if WotC would be permitted to engage in concurrent use. I suspect the latter (ie that the new TSR don't have a case against WotC) but I'm not sure.
 

TerraDave

5ever, or until 2024
So...I did really like Knight Hawks, their space combat expansion.

Wonder if this TSR will release something similar?
 

teitan

Legend
Yeah their attitude is very, umm, non chalant. They really think they are the original TSR back from the grave and blustery about it. I wish them well but it's going to be ugly as a baboon's behind. I had a short interaction with some of them on Facebook. They aren't coming across well.
 

pming

Legend
Hiya!
So...I did really like Knight Hawks, their space combat expansion.

Wonder if this TSR will release something similar?
Still playing KH and AD here. I'd like to see "TSR" be able to re-release the aforementioned (by me) fan-created "Star Frontiers Remastered" books, tbh. Then a compilation or three of the best of the articles from The Frontiersman (the fan-made e-mag that went to...24 or 25 issues ranging from about 30 pages to 60!). Of course, "TSR" would have to get permission and all that stuff from the original creators of any articles from The Frontiersman, but I'm sure they could.

^_^

Paul L. Ming
 

Dioltach

Legend
Never played Star Frontiers, but I remember seeing pictures of the cover back in the 80s (was it advertised in the BECMI boxes?), and really wishing I could get my hands on a copy. That one image was so evocative.
 

aramis erak

Legend
You don’t acquire companies who steal your IP; you sue them. That’s what will happen here if there is not some undisclosed licensing deal.
Most companies won't be able to afford the costs of losing a lawsuit. Offering the company as payment in full has happened in the past as a settlement. The other option usually involves bankruptcy and/or liquidation of IP. Note that infringing IP is only of value to the owner of the IP infringed upon, at least in the US, due to the rules on derivative copyright laws.

While I've not seen it in the RPG industry, I have seen some cases where a company was seized due to non-payment of award, resulting in transfer of the tangible and intellectual assets of the company. (The things you learn while doing holdings maintenance on the district courts records in the Archives.)
 

aramis erak

Legend
Maybe. And that's a big maybe. If James Ward is deeply involved, let's not forget a little company called Fast Forward Entertainment and how that ended. And, yes, I liked and bought many of those d20 books and still own the best ones.

But, the use of WotC's copyrights cost FFE and you would think that Mr. Ward (if not any of the others involved with this new TSR) would know better. Maybe, maybe those handling the marketing logistics didn't think before using the image, but fool me once...
Note that the images registered by TSR include the various TSR Hobbies and Tactical Studies Rules logos, including the stairstep TSR, the wizard-sun oval, and other images created in-house at the original TSR. And the Title Logo is from the title-page of the Expanded Rules booklet. Clear case of use of copyrighted material. The only important question really is, "Is it done under license?"

Well, that, and "Is Jim Ward actually up to working?"
 

aramis erak

Legend
Never played Star Frontiers, but I remember seeing pictures of the cover back in the 80s (was it advertised in the BECMI boxes?), and really wishing I could get my hands on a copy. That one image was so evocative.
Its available on DTRPG from Wizards.
It's not bad, it's a skill driven game, interesting races, decent setting material (especially for the era). Rules cover combat extensively, and a number of endeavors outside the combat sphere.

There are 3 very broad classes which determine skill costs, but have almost no other effects in play.
Skills being 6 levels each, most with multiple subskills; subskill percentile chances are derived from skill level and attributes.

The adventures I've played are pretty good, too.

Ship rules are in a separate product (Knight Hawks), which is playable as a board game as well as being a supplement for the RPG, and adding a 4th class of skills, but noting that those skills have insanely high prereqs.
 


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