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

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...

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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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pemerton

Legend
No, he used the word "ethics." Ernie appears to be saying that a racist ethos is a key component of the game.
I don't think that's a fair reading. Here's the quote from Morrus's transcription:

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.​

In other words, he's suggesting that the disclaimer (I assume this is the DriveThruRPG one) paints the ethics of those involved in the origins of the game as bad - in comparison to "better" people now. This wouldn't be the first time someone took a criticism of past texts or practices to be a criticism of the moral character of those who authored those texts and/or participated in those practices.

Where does this sense of oppression come from?
I don't think that that can be properly answered consistent with board rules!

But the phenomenon is hardly unique to Ernie Gygax and his hangers-on in the RPG world. Australia's second-longest serving Prime Minister would frequently criticise those who adopted what he called a "black armband" view of Australian history.

WotC should offer a cooperation deal, because the fandom would thank it. Not all is money, but the prestige won by the kind gestures.
That's an absurd idea. WotC seems like a successful corporation, and therefore wouldn't want to touch this fiasco with a 10' pole!
 

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Libertad

Hero
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.

For those who wish to see the words straight from the source, the 17:35 minute is where Ernie Gygax makes a quip about gender identity. I haven't watched the whole thing so I don't know what else he says on that or other matters beyond what was written in the above transcript (nor do I have other timestamps atm).
 

DammitVictor

Trust the Fungus
Supporter
I have already typed out and deleted a much longer (and much less fortunate) post about how people demanding that "politics" be kept out of their hobbies are always hypocrites, because what they mean-- absolutely one hundred percent of the time-- is that their particular moral/ethical/cultural/etc worldview is entirely objective and apolitical, the straightforward expression of the laws of nature, and that anything that challenges this worldview is political and needs to be silenced.

Whatever else we take from the racist/sexist elements that have been a part of D&D all along, the ones WotC has been trying to quietly filter out since they took over, and the arguments about whether they're going too far or not far enough-- whatever else, we should see the importance of continuing the discussion in people blindly asserting "historical accuracy" as an important reason to keep applying 18th and 19th century rationalizations for chattel slavery and ethnic cleansing of real human beings... to fictional humanoids living in societies modeled on human cultures that predated these institutions by centuries.

Because these worldviews are simply the laws of nature, because every human culture in human history has shared them, and we should all be grateful for our completely objective and completely modern ideologies keeping them at bay; we must refrain from criticizing and challenging them, lest we abandon our futile pursuit of human decency and let our barbaric nature take its course.

I bitch a lot, way too much, about the problem of D&D having been so popular for so long that people can't separate its particular-- very particular, in some cases-- artistic and practical design decisions from how "The World" works from "fantasy worlds" in general, "faux medieval Europe with monsters and magic" in particular, and even the real world. As frustrating as that is when dealing with weapon damage dice and how armor protects you from them, the weird/gross divine parasites D&D calls gods, and other purely fictional or mostly personally irrelevant things...

... but man, when we're talking about archaic and unjust beliefs that are still harming the life, liberty and property of real human beings in the real world in real-time? I'm not saying that we need to change D&D, but a lot of us need to start taking some long hard looks at how our hobbies are relating to our ideologies.
 

Yaarel

🇮🇱He-Mage
Regarding D&D as a "medievalesque" setting. For example. Vikings are contemporary with medieval Europe, and are among the inspirations for the D&D game.

During the Viking Period, being aware of gender-queer is a well-known part of Norse culture.

Other parts of the world are also inspirations, where genders are also diverse.

It is a historically accurate to include a range of choices for gender in a medievalesque roleplaying game.
 

imagineGod

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!
In case you did not notice. The dominant members here expect everyone to like what they like and if not will try to intimidate those who see things differently. Some do it politely, some not so much but have been here for years so they get a pass more often than newbies do.

Somebody was joking that the new TSR should be sued into oblivion. If the owners commit financial fraud, okay. But not just because the owners want a revival of some of that original TTRPG re-enactment, I hope.
 

Dragonsbane

Proud Grognard
Funny how those who want others to be open minded are so quick to judge and vilify. I will check out this Giantlands product just because of their complaints.

Do I need to be canceled as well? I am pro LGBT+ but.... I like racial ability score modifiers, evil goblins (who have nothing to do with any real "race" or culture IMHO), and think the whole "race retcon" thing is absurd. Must be showing my age.
 

reelo

Hero
Regarding D&D as a "medievalesque" setting. For example. Vikings are contemporary with medieval Europe, and are among the inspirations for the D&D game.

During the Viking Period, being aware of gender-queer is a well-known part of Norse culture.

Other parts of the world are also inspirations, where genders are also diverse.

It is a historically accurate to include a range of choices for gender in a medievalesque roleplaying game.
"Medieval" Europe spans about a millennium: from the 5th to the 15th century. "Vikings" as they are known as such these days, were a thing from the late 8th to the middle 11th century. As such they are neither representative for all of the Middle Ages, nor all of Europe. Just to be precise.

Also, gender-queernes might have been "known" among Vikings, but it was certainly frowned upon. "Seiðr" and "Spa" (forms of magic) were the domains of women, and men who practiced it were ridiculed, called effeminate, and possibly outcast.
Yes, Loki is genderqueer, and yes, Oðinn practiced magic, but as "gods" they were outside of the norms.
This is neither an endorsement, nor a condemnation of the Vikings' view on such things, but afaik that's historians' current take.
 

Ulfgeir

Hero
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].
Well, I think "Summon lawyer" might be a better spell to cast. ;)

As for the other things he said, I hope Larry Elmore continues to make great art, as he has made some of the iconic looks for quite a few games. So not sure how I feel about them getting him as a possible Art director. There is a risk that it will mean he will be more manager than artist.
 


pemerton

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.
I don't think it's hard to find versions of the original games (be those PDFs, or OGL variants, or second-hand copies). We don't need the Dodgy Brothers to "resurrect" TSR in order to play something other than 5e D&D.

So much hate in this thread.

<snip>

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.
I have no history with the original D&D. I started playing Moldvay Basic in 1982.

But no one is disputing the accuracy of the transcript. And criticism of what is said in that transcript seems pretty reasonable. The stated reason for "resurrecting" TSR is one of resentment towards contemporary RPGing, especially WotC, and not liking that WotC has issued a disclaimer disowning the racialised and sometimes racist content of earlier material.

That's a pretty sorry basis on which to build a RPG company.

I think it's possible to have a FRPG that builds on Tolkien's idea of using different peoples to reflect on the different ways in which humans can fall. And that tries to engage with the social history of mediaeval Europe. But I think there is zero chance that this new TSR will give us such a game.
 

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