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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The-Magic-Sword

Small Ball Archmage
Especially within the clergy, there's a great deal of scholarship on the intersection of sexual identity with religious identity in the context of medieval european religious spaces, its a specialty of my college mentor. It wouldn't be shocking at all for the classic DND cleric to be gay, and to have sought monastic life as an escape from heteronormative secular life.

Real history is neat.
 

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Mecheon

Sacabambaspis
WotC should offer a cooperation deal, because the fandom would thank it.
No. No we wouldn't. I am reasonably certain the fandom's approach to WotC partnering with this hollow shell of a corporation would be somewhere between "Immediate and absolute scorn" and "subsequent stringing up in town square for all to see".

This whole TSR revival is going to crash and burn and is being openly ridiculed for quite a lot of reasons. This is, what we call in the business, "A bad look". It is basically "Old man yells at cloud", except in this case 'cloud' is 'modern games'
 

Libertad

Hero
If you're doing a game set in medieval times that's authentic to that time frame it would be very difficult to impossible to exist openly. A powerful noble might be able to pull it off.

D&D isn't realistic but think even 50 years ago. Did they exist yes hell one of the Roman emperors was trans (probably). They didn't get a sympathetic write up by the historians of the time. Their reign didn't have a happy ending.

The post I was responding to was in regards to the claim that transgender people are a modern phenomenon and thus wouldn't be appropriate in a medieval fantasy game. The discussion about goblins also implied that the poster was thinking more in line with Faerun than say Dark Ages Britain. I brought up real-world history in regards to this being an inaccurate viewpoint overall, whether it's about the 'real Middle Ages' or a fantasy game's.

Historical-era games are another kettle of fish, but as The-Magic-Sword said, these people were still around. They were often persecuted and in hiding, but there surely weren't 'modern.' That being said, running games in those eras is definitely something to bring up in regards to 'authenticity' and the bigotry faced towards certain groups. There's no real right answer to this, given that it depends on the group's comfort and expectations.
 

imagineGod

Legend
No. No we wouldn't. I am reasonably certain the fandom's approach to WotC partnering with this hollow shell of a corporation would be somewhere between "Immediate and absolute scorn" and "subsequent stringing up in town square for all to see".

This whole TSR revival is going to crash and burn and is being openly ridiculed for quite a lot of reasons. This is, what we call in the business, "A bad look". It is basically "Old man yells at cloud", except in this case 'cloud' is 'modern games'
The business focus does not currently seem sound.

And TSR Reborn could look at the strategy of Goodman Games making a great niche business out of old school modules running on 5e. And when not 5e, the outstanding success of Dungeon Crawl Classics. I play those often to escape the superheroism of 5e than is even more superheroic than 4e was.
 
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Zardnaar

Legend
The post I was responding to was in regards to the claim that transgender people are a modern phenomenon and thus wouldn't be appropriate in a medieval fantasy game. The discussion about goblins also implied that the poster was thinking more in line with Faerun than say Dark Ages Britain. I brought up real-world history in regards to this being an inaccurate viewpoint overall, whether it's about the 'real Middle Ages' or a fantasy game's.

Historical-era games are another kettle of fish, but as The-Magic-Sword said, these people were still around. They were often persecuted and in hiding, but there surely weren't 'modern.' That being said, running games in those eras is definitely something to bring up in regards to 'authenticity' and the bigotry faced towards certain groups. There's no real right answer to this, given that it depends on the group's comfort and expectations.

Well the word is a modern invention.

As I said one of the Roman Emperors mostly likely was trans. Wasn't regarded as normal though and ended badly.

At university though we learnt the records are very incomplete (1% survived perhaps) and it was written by the elites. A lot is excluded so people invent things to match their worldview.

I don't expect that in D&D as D&D has alwats been a knock off of yea olde renaissance faire.
 

imagineGod

Legend
Also people sometimes confuse nostalgia with authenticity of the author's original vision.

Neither I nor most of my friends were born when Gary Gygax the godfather of D&D created the world's most popular role playing game.

Yet, many people who personally only experienced the most current iterations, also enjoy an experience from the original era, sort of like historic re-enactment costume play, this is re-enactment of the authentic Gygaxian experience.
 

ccs

41st lv DM
It wasn't just different: the concept of race did not exist in any form until Modernity. There were peoples and nations, and individuals who differed in accidents but not substance: but no "race." The word did not exist, nor the concept.
I don't think you understand people....
 


imagineGod

Legend
Like I did not know elf and dwarf where once classes like magic-user, until I tried one of those historic TTRPG re-enactment aka Gygaxian sessions.

It is fun to do that sometimes, just to step away from 5e for a while. Like even in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, elves are still so rare compared to dwarves,, but especially those ubiquitous humans, that its different fantasy perspective is a breath of fresh air from 5e.
 

GreyLord

Legend
So much hate in this thread.

I don't know what cards TSR has or what will happen in regards to certain games, copyrights, or trademarks at this point.

I think people who have no history with the original D&D are belittling some of the ORIGINAL PARTY members with Gygax and family a wee too much for comfort.

It's like that pile on that people do. I would not say that E.G.G (the younger) doesn't know what AD&D was like or OD&D was like, in fact just the opposite. E.G.G. would know more than just about anyone else! I'd say they had front row seats and understood very well what the others attitudes and ideas were at the time. If anything, as they were younger, they were brought up with it ingrained in them deeper than many others would have.

I'd say, E.G.G probably has a BETTER idea of what his father's intentions and desires were towards D&D and AD&D than everyone but maybe two or three others (Kuntz would be one who probably also may be one of those who understood it just as well if not better).

NOW, whether those ideas will mesh well with modern audiences is another thing. It seems from responses in this forum that at least many of those on this forum have already taken a disliking towards some of their INTERPRETATIONS of what he said in the interview already, which may be a bad sign on that front.

There seem to be on the surface some red flags, but those could be red herrings or just illusions that we've made up in our fancies, or it could signify something bigger. It is something to watch. It could indicate a legal battle that is upcoming, or there may be things that have gone on behind the scenes (or will occur behind the scenes) that have or will resolve any issues that prop up. It's too early to tell and I don't know how it will turn out. Commentary on that is guess work on all our part, and concerns are something I think should be expressed...

BUT, I'd say give credit where credit is due on Mr. Gygax (the younger). He's part of the original party. I don't really like all those who are dissing on his experience with TSR D&D like some have.

Statements on interpretations on his views of gaming in regards to modern game design and desires may be fair (at least in their interpretations of what he said...to me...it's not actually all that clear what he meant in some of the statements which others have interpreted to have negative connotations) game and I'm not having a problem with that discussion, but I disagree with many of those who somehow think they know more about the designs of OD&D and AD&D than him.

He was there, at the forefront of it all, and more to the point, raised and ingrained with the ideas of the one of the men (The other being Arneson) who created it all at the beginning!
 

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