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TSR Ernie Gygax on New TSR, WotC Beefs, Trademarks, Licensees, 5E, & More

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A YouTube channel, 'Live From the Bunker', interviewed Ernie Gygax about the new TSR. I've watched and decided to try to transcribe the most relevant parts of it, but the full hour-long video is below if you want to see the whole interview and full context.



Ernie Gygax is one of D&D co-creator Gary Gygax's sons, and recently announced that TSR, the company that launched D&D in 1974, and bought by WotC in the late 1990s, was returning.

All the below is Ernie Gygax's words as best I could transcribe. I'm posting the facts of what was said here, without commentary.

There's also talk about early TSR stories, Gail Gygax lawsuits and wills, etc. but I've tried to stay on topic. You can watch the full interview for more.

Why A New TSR?

TSR has been gone. There's a ton of artists and game designers and people that play..... and recently they were dissed for being old-fashioned, possibly anti modern trends, and enforcing, or even having the concepts of gender identity (laughs).

All I'm trying to do is fill in the stripmine, allow this old fertile soil to produce more games and products again. We're not gonna be able to get back the diamond that was Dungeons & Dragons. We'll be able to make things that might have chips of diamond material... we're never gonna see that great D&D diamond again, I don't think.

Why Two TSRs?

The other TSR is a licensee because [Jayson Elliot] let it lapse. But he had absolutely ... love for the game and the products. There was no reason to say 'oh you've screwed up, oh it's all ours, ha ha ha ha!' Instead, Justin [LaNasa] came to him and said ... we love that you're doing Top Secret things, we have a much broader goal for the whole thing. But there's no reason for you to stop or even have any troubles. Justin said, I'll take care of the paperwork, you just give me $10 a year, and you put out all this love for old school gaming that you can. And we appreciate that you were there to try and pick up things, and you produced Gygax Magazine, for in its time that you're also working on a game that you love to play ... because Top Secret was Jayson's love, as a young man.


On Gail Gygax, Wills, & Courts

We are in court right now with Gail Gygax, my father's last wife, who he impressed upon me, this is my wife, this was his last years, if you're going to deal with me, you're going to be dealing with my wife here. So 'OK father, understood'. And he said 'it doesn't matter what you think, because this is my wife'. That is important!

But he then did a will. The will was not put forth because the assumption was that there was not $50,000 in 19... or 2008, I should say, dollars worth of value in his estate. And right now though without that Gail had complete control of all the IPs and product, and she had pulled them all from the market hoping to sell them as one gigantic package to a large conglomerate, be it Pepsi or a studio or whatever.

Which did not happen, and at least in my opinion - and exactly that, an opinion - has lowered the knowledge and recognition of my father's name and his works. I think the best way to show and create value for anything is to have it in front of the public. And so in September there's going to be a couple of days where I get up really early - and it's not my style, like I said I was up until 6 in the morning - so by 8am I'm supposed to be bright and chipper and being questioned by lawyers as well as other family members.

Top Secret

[Top Secret] hasn't done real well, OK? But hopefully there will be a little bit of extra energy involved with Jayson and his material too, because we will be openly talking about them, and saying there's this fine gentleman, this ally. And there'll be other allies.

How Involved Are You?

With the two other gentleman as well as many volunteers and hopefully an ever expanding membership. This is kind of ... think of like an old British club where you know 'oooh, we sit around with our cigars'. This is gonna be hobby [champions?]

TSR Trademark

The TSR logo trademark was found in the dirt, by mistake, as we were setting up the museum. We were just looking for 'dungeon hobby shop', all that sort of thing, and Justin found, aching in the corridor, with the carcass of an old [counter?] this treasure. And instead of saying, like a thief and pocketing this, he said to Jeff and I, we have found this treasure. Let's make something of it!

Giantlands

Giantlands is a first licensee of a product that we are working with. I was involved with Giantlands just before Hobby Shop Museum became a reality. Jim Ward, he said, Luke and Ernie I would like either of you or both to be part of this project. So I said, well Jim Ward's got project, it looks like it was Gamma World, Metamorphosis Alpha, which I loved, and then I started reading more and said 'oh there's this other gentleman, Stephen Dinehart, and look at this, Aztecs flying around on hovercraft and beam weapons, alright, this is starting to look good.

I said I really don't want to get involved deeply with actually writing, having my name on the top, I would love to be involved in basically criticizing, modifying, and polishing the work for somebody else as well as trying to see what we can do to get this to not be just a concept...

How many original TSR people are part of this new TSR?

Well, it's an ever expanding list as we go along. A lot of it are let's say it's involved in projects, so it's not like you're hired on a wage situation, it would be more like royalties, or potentially a job or an occupation. Sometime, though I doubt it will happen because my friend [couldn't make out words] I would love to have him as something to do with our shipping department. He was the longest lasting TSR employee ever, and he was a good buddy, he bought me beer when I was underage.

We have Larry Elmore, particularly interested in Star Frontiers... and he is ready to maybe actually be a [one?] project art director.


On Wizards of the Coast, Lorraine Williams, & Original TSR

They just took as all corporate raiders do the treasures and then tried to make them their own. American Indians did the same thing they would, um, wipe out another tribe many times take the women and children and murder off everything else and leave to make your tribe that much better, room to grow.

On Star Frontiers

It would not be the same game. It would be a complete remake, sadly, or at least enough, as they told my dad when they did 2nd Edition, that I'm sorry you don't deserve any royalties from this because we changed it more than 10%. We're just a small company, we're defiantly not going to go to bat against WotC, that would be a stupid move, we'd just lose.

This is to fill in, and take all those holes where they've thrown back and said 'we don't want that'. So, OK, we're picking up apple cores and panting seeds.


On Cooperating with WotC

I would hope so but they just put out a big disclaimer recently trying to divorce themselves from the ethics and style of play that was involved in the origins of the game. They're basically trying to say 'we're a better company and a better type of person' than those who started playing. At least that's somewhat of the impression they've given and 'please switch over and be part of the new wave'. You know. Join the pack of lemmings, oh yeah!

.... and the problem is my fighter returns antagonism for antagonism. So that's where we start getting into some difficulties and I'm having to throw a protection from evil up. [Can't make out words] here and there, end of the party, and hopefully someday I'll be able to throw a fireball [can't make out words].

The Future of TSR

Justin is extremely interested in dealing with a Swiss firm .... this would just be a licensee .... but it's very possible that I may be taking some of my dungeon features from the old hobby shop dungeon and putting them into a game where it's virtual reality.

On [Online Theories That This Is A Test For?] 6th Edition D&D and WotC

I wish that I had better contacts with Wizards, and some of them probably would like to talk to me at some point too, because almost anybody that plays the games have been and are fans of older material. Though every edition, everybody that got involved somehow was taking their ideas and tried to make them canon, and that's been very interesting, so I guess we all like to own our own property, and I still feel that the best game I ever played in was my father's, probably followed by Rob Kuntz, and then Dave Arneson.

More on Star Frontiers

Unless for some reason they will allow us play royalties and things. We would still like to be friends with WotC for old things. We want to pick up things that were tossed in the dirt, brush them off, but if needed we are not incapable of creation. We'll create and we'll allow people to have things that aren't the method they are prescribing for people, it is not happiness for everybody, though it is happiness for many millions.

The 2019 Giantlands Kickstarter

That was individual. Stephen [Dinehart] is a licensee and my friend, and I'm part of it, but it's not TSR as the company and the people that have the museum. Those are two separate entities, which Justin is the first licensee in that we actually expect to have glorious things occurring.

On Crowdfunding & Late Kickstarters

I had a problem because when I did a crowdfunding on something called the Marmoreal Tomb, we are now just starting to deliver five years late ... its an incredible work! But I brought in an artist, a man of great talent, and more ambition than possibly foresight at the time. He's still cracking the whip, we have received years of hate from some people [can't make out words] Marmoreal Tomb, but not the whole thing, we don't have all the stretch goals, I'm saying that I have a burned hand from Kickstarters. But they do work. The reason that they really work is not just the money that they bring in, because you don't get all of it, maybe 7-10% of gets stolen by banks and other people, because that's why they do this crowdfunding thing, they say 'oh great, yeah, we'll handle your money' but it's gone.

But the idea is that we are going to be doing a membership drive, and a membership will be for playing at the museum, for buying products, and also conventions, probably having conventions where we have no fee, or a very reduced fee, if you're a member. And memberships will be lifetime memberships. A copper membership for like $50, there's a mitral or something for a grand. I don't know. That's something I don't have to worry about.

... [can't make out words] about $64,000 out of 125 or whatever they started with. I think I got 113 or something after Kickstarter peeled off their top. I've been paying for artists, I've wasted money on some accountants, I've got a gamer accountant now to help, and governments, and some people say 'oh you've got to pay tax on this, and oh no we didn't have to, the federal returned some money, the state said you give me money [laughs].

On D&D 5th Edition

The idea is let's share. The idea is there isn't a bad roleplaying game. 5th Edition to me is kinda like drinking light beer, when you could be having a Guinness. It's still cold ... has calories, some.

And more!

The above is selected quotes -- probably about half of the interview, but I tried to focus on new information. I've transcribed those as best I can, but there are a couple of bits where I couldn't make the words out. There's lots more (chat on gaming generally, old TSR stories, etc)! Watch the video for the full thing.
 

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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

qstor

Adventurer
Hiya!

I'm transgender and non-binary, so let me add my three-dollar bill to the conversation.

Wishing people like me just... didn't exist (or just stayed in the closet) is transphobia. That's like... the textbook definition of it. While the things being said by Mr. Gygax and a few select others in this thread are several degrees removed from that desire, make no mistake; wanting our erasure is at the foundation of it all.

Pretending we don't exist (because you want to remain "apolitical") is an incredibly political statement. As a matter of course, both acknowledging and dismissing my existence are political acts... there's not really a fence to sit on here. Do I wish my mere existence was not political? All the damn time. Sadly, I don't get to make the rules there.

A desire to enforce a gender binary, to insist upon the binary's "biological truth" (trademark: not actually biologically true), or even just to... complete avoid acknowledging there are non-straight and/or non-cis in your TTRPGs... yes they are different degrees of antagonistic, but at the root of all them is a wish that people like me did not exist.

I must, understandably then, refuse to allow anyone to insist that should be okay. It's not.
Great post!
 

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Hiya!

I'm transgender and non-binary, so let me add my three-dollar bill to the conversation.

Wishing people like me just... didn't exist (or just stayed in the closet) is transphobia. That's like... the textbook definition of it. While the things being said by Mr. Gygax and a few select others in this thread are several degrees removed from that desire, make no mistake; wanting our erasure is at the foundation of it all.

Pretending we don't exist (because you want to remain "apolitical") is an incredibly political statement. As a matter of course, both acknowledging and dismissing my existence are political acts... there's not really a fence to sit on here. Do I wish my mere existence was not political? All the damn time. Sadly, I don't get to make the rules there.

A desire to enforce a gender binary, to insist upon the binary's "biological truth" (trademark: not actually biologically true), or even just to... complete avoid acknowledging there are non-straight and/or non-cis in your TTRPGs... yes they are different degrees of antagonistic, but at the root of all them is a wish that people like me did not exist.

I must, understandably then, refuse to allow anyone to insist that should be okay. It's not.
Thank you for this, you put it beautifully!
 

DarkCrisis

Explorer
Having watched some of Ernie's new 1st ed twitch game streams, he is what i would call "grandpa racist/sexist". He's just from that time period when thinking was different. His description of say middl eeastern NPCs is out dated but fits with what you would find in a 1960s/70s adventure film. Same with his sexist and/or gay jokes/descriptions. It's outdated "Boomer" thinking. He's not outright saying "down with womens lib or gay folk etc) He's just has a world view created by how the world used to be.

He's actually pretty liberal in his beliefs (from what I can gather). "Be who you want to be etc" he just makes those off colored jokes that fit his youth better. Like making fun of a man by implying he likes other men. Or that the lusty buxom barmaid trope. Stuff you'd find in an old Harryhausen film.

Im not saying his comments arent wrong, im just trying to express he's doesnt seem to be a bad person, he's just.... old. And as someone in their 40s and looking at todays youth, Im sure things I think come off as stupid and wrong. Like "Why do people give a darn about youtube and twitch streamers so much?" or "why is modern music so bad?" "5th ed D&D is easy mode." Old man tells at clouds etc

I wish he had grown beyond the thinking of his youth and it definitely tarnishes things but he's just... old sexist grandpa.

I really hope he isnt trying to court the wrong kind of people. Old AD&D is still fun and I have fond memories of it, and I would hope it's legacy isnt tarnished due some old backwards thinking.
 
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Remathilis

Legend
I think this interview demonstrates that a return to tradition is a very selective thing. When trying to produce something traditional, you get to choose what is and is not a tradition. Someone could easily produce a piece of traditional art that also builds on traditions of inclusion and representation. However, when Ernie Gygax says that "the ethics and style of play that was involved in the origins of the game" include things like "enforcing, or even having the concepts of gender identity"... well, to me that's more of a regressive attitude than a traditional one.

I don't think people who are nostalgic for old school D&D are sitting around the table saying, "Man, I really miss enforcing traditional gender stereotypes! I really miss having racist tropes embedded in the rule set I'm using!" The stuff people are nostalgic for doesn't involve racism, sexist, and anti-inclusive attitudes... so it's a shame that these regressive ideas are being dredged up as a justification for producing work through this new TSR.
I mean, I don't think anyone who says they enjoyed Old School Gaming Rules is waxing nostalgic for the strength score cap by gender, but if that is what Ernie thinks the OSR community is missing...
 



One think I don't think anyone commented about is Ernie's comments to the effect of "we've got a lot of artists with us" Larry Elmore seems like a nice decent guy. I'd hate to think he some how endorses Ernie's transphobic/homophobic comments.
Based on Ward's and Dee's statements, I assume Ernie is referring to having purchased some art from Elmore and company who were working as freelancers.

That's not how other people would use "with us" (my company employs a lot of freelancers, and even our favorites aren't considered to be employees, nor are they represented as such), but Ernie seems to have a lot of problems with the actual definitions of words.
 


Gradine

Final Form (they/them)
Having watched some of Ernie's new 1st ed twitch game streams, he is what i would call "grandpa racist/sexist". He's just from that time period when thinking was different. His description of say middl eeastern NPCs is out dated but fits with what you would find in a 1960s/70s adventure film. Same with his sexist and/or gay jokes/descriptions. It's outdated "Boomer" thinking. He's not outright saying "down with womens lib or gay folk etc) He's just has a world view created by how the world used to be.

He's actually pretty liberal in his beliefs (from what I can gather). "Be who you want to be etc" he just makes those off colored jokes that fit his youth better. Like making fun of a man by implying he likes other men. Or that the lusty buxom barmaid trope. Stuff you'd find in an old Harryhausen film.

Im not saying his comments arent wrong, im just trying to express he's doesnt seem to be a bad person, he's just.... old. And as someone in their 40s and looking at todays youth, Im sure things I think come off as stupid and wrong. Like "Why do people give a darn about youtube and twitch streamers so much?" or "why is modern music so bad?" "5th ed D&D is easy mode." Old man tells at clouds etc
I appreciate what you're trying to say here, but it's sadly ahistorical. Not only have these "grandpa racist/sexist moments" never been okay, but also, there were plenty of people of that age from that time period who would have recognized and called it out as so. Not the least of which are the folks are the targets of that "off-color humor."

"Everyone was racist/sexist back then!" is fallacy, and it is not owed any credence.
 

Having watched some of Ernie's new 1st ed twitch game streams, he is what i would call "grandpa racist/sexist". He's just from that time period when thinking was different. His description of say middl eeastern NPCs is out dated but fits with what you would find in a 1960s/70s adventure film. Same with his sexist and/or gay jokes/descriptions. It's outdated "Boomer" thinking. He's not outright saying "down with womens lib or gay folk etc) He's just has a world view created by how the world used to be.

He's actually pretty liberal in his beliefs (from what I can gather). "Be who you want to be etc" he just makes those off colored jokes that fit his youth better. Like making fun of a man by implying he likes other men. Or that the lusty buxom barmaid trope. Stuff you'd find in an old Harryhausen film.

Im not saying his comments arent wrong, im just trying to express he's doesnt seem to be a bad person, he's just.... old. And as someone in their 40s and looking at todays youth, Im sure things I think come off as stupid and wrong. Like "Why do people give a darn about youtube and twitch streamers so much?" or "why is modern music so bad?" "5th ed D&D is easy mode." Old man tells at clouds etc
Maybe, but my dad -- whom I just ran a Fathers Day 5E game for on Sunday -- is 77 and is an Army veteran who grew up in the South. He doesn't make those jokes. He hasn't always enjoyed confronting changing attitudes -- I think it's natural to feel a little defensiveness when that happens -- but when he has been, he's thought about it, listened to others' arguments and changed.

Being old isn't a license to calcify. Growing up is a process of change and learning to own your shortcomings and to move beyond them. Not everyone does that, though, obviously.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
One think I don't think anyone commented about is Ernie's comments to the effect of "we've got a lot of artists with us" Larry Elmore seems like a nice decent guy. I'd hate to think he some how endorses Ernie's transphobic/homophobic comments.
Based on his comment that got him absolutely flamed in right wing forums, I don't think he does.

The comment, to paraphrase, was, "If we (artists) didn't sneak in PoC into the art, everyone would be white." So it seems he does in fact recognize the importance of diversity.
 


Having watched some of Ernie's new 1st ed twitch game streams, he is what i would call "grandpa racist/sexist". He's just from that time period when thinking was different. His description of say middl eeastern NPCs is out dated but fits with what you would find in a 1960s/70s adventure film. Same with his sexist and/or gay jokes/descriptions. It's outdated "Boomer" thinking. He's not outright saying "down with womens lib or gay folk etc) He's just has a world view created by how the world used to be.

He's actually pretty liberal in his beliefs (from what I can gather). "Be who you want to be etc" he just makes those off colored jokes that fit his youth better. Like making fun of a man by implying he likes other men. Or that the lusty buxom barmaid trope. Stuff you'd find in an old Harryhausen film.

Im not saying his comments arent wrong, im just trying to express he's doesnt seem to be a bad person, he's just.... old. And as someone in their 40s and looking at todays youth, Im sure things I think come off as stupid and wrong. Like "Why do people give a darn about youtube and twitch streamers so much?" or "why is modern music so bad?" "5th ed D&D is easy mode." Old man tells at clouds etc
One thing to keep in mind is that a person with very liberal beliefs can still say racist or sexist things. And there were plenty of people born in the 1960's and 1970's who did not think it was okay to make sexist, homophobic, and racist comments or jokes. I mean, that's practically the era of the Civil Right's Movement, Women's Liberation, etc etc etc. There are plenty of people Ernie's age who do not hold or share those beliefs.

I appreciate you wanting to stand up for someone who was there at the origin of D&D, but you can respect someone and hold them accountable for what they say.

When Ernie says what he says about traditional ender roles, he is saying something discriminatory. Pointing that out doesn't hurt Ernie, and if he does truly have liberal beliefs, than it's going to help him even more support that "be who you want to be etc" philosophy.
 

Ulfgeir

Hero
One think I don't think anyone commented about is Ernie's comments to the effect of "we've got a lot of artists with us" Larry Elmore seems like a nice decent guy. I'd hate to think he some how endorses Ernie's transphobic/homophobic comments.
Very much this.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
Speaking Elmore and irony, I made the comment the other day about how this new TSR is doomed, and now it truly is. Ernie is saying he's designing this game for that certain demographic, but it you to read the forums where that demographic hangs out in, they are furious. Between the multi-colored logo and Elmore's comment, they are calling the new TSR a bunch of "woke cucks" and are saying they will refuse to buy anything from them.

So the new TSR has alienated liberal gamers, and alienated the very group Ernie says he's catering to. So who's left to buy whatever they create, assuming they actually complete anything (not a given based on history)?
 

Gradine

Final Form (they/them)
When Ernie says what he says about traditional ender roles, he is saying something discriminatory. Pointing that out doesn't hurt Ernie, and if he does truly have liberal beliefs, than it's going to help him even more support that "be who you want to be etc" philosophy.
There are a lot of people who say "be who you want to be" out one side of their mouth and campaign to make it so I can't pee in public out the other. I don't really put much stock in statements like that anymore.
 

DarkCrisis

Explorer
I appreciate what you're trying to say here, but it's sadly ahistorical. Not only have these "grandpa racist/sexist moments" never been okay, but also, there were plenty of people of that age from that time period who would have recognized and called it out as so. Not the least of which are the folks are the targets of that "off-color humor."

"Everyone was racist/sexist back then!" is fallacy, and it is not owed any credence.

Right it never was okay, but it was more wide spread.
 

GreyLord

Hero
This is ludicrous. Here's a quote from p 1 of the 5e D&D Basic PDF:

Based on the original D&D game created by
E. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, with Brian Blume, Rob Kuntz, James Ward, and Don Kaye​
Drawing from further development by
J. Eric Holmes, Tom Moldvay, Frank Mentzer, Aaron Allston, Harold Johnson, David “Zeb” Cook, Ed Greenwood, Keith Baker, Tracy Hickman, Margaret Weis, Douglas Niles, Jeff Grubb, Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, Skip Williams, Richard Baker, Peter Adkison, Bill Slavicsek, Andy Collins, and Rob Heinsoo​

How can you possibly say that WotC is ashamed to recognise the founders of the game that it publishes? And why would it want to "break free" of the D&D brand?


I don't think Ernie Gygax authored Tenser's Transformation. As best I'm aware, the spell was just names after the character.

Between his remarks about gender and gender identity, as recorded in the transcript and as further noted by @Libertad, and his criticism of the WotC statement, I think it's really very clear what Ernie Gygax has in mind. And the notion that he is concerned that the WotC statement might be slandering Brazil is in my view farcical to the point of seeming disingenuous on your part.
Is it US Arrogance?

Why is it that US citizens demand that the ONLY people on the American Continents that can be called Americans are US citizens?

I was posting an example of something that someone may disagree with but is not necessarily what people may assume they are disagreeing with.

I know many who consider themselves Americans, but are NOT US citizens. When a paragraph addresses all who are Americans in a derogatory way, perhaps it should look at the history of other nations and locations beyond that of the United States.

AS you so nicely demonstrate, it can be infuriating that there are those that assume that American equals US citizen, when in truth, the term applies to ALL Americans whether they are in the US or not.

However, it is a minor quibble. I used it as an example to point out that what people may think it clear, may not be as clear yet.

I still reserve the right to jump to a conclusion as others have yet, but I would want a little more time to see if other things come out that clarify more clearly his positions first. IT could be a massive misunderstanding at this point.
 


There are a lot of people who say "be who you want to be" out one side of their mouth and campaign to make it so I can't pee in public out the other. I don't really put much stock in statements like that anymore.
For myself, I've learned that the only way I can be a more inclusive person is for people to question me when I say something biased. It can be uncomfortable in the moment, but ultimately it's respectful because that person is believing I am capable of doing better.
 

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