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


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the Jester

Legend
"Everyone was racist/sexist back then!" is fallacy, and it is not owed any credence.
I think our culture as a whole has, and had, a lot of racism and sexism hiding in it just beneath the surface. I know that, looking back on it, there were times I said or did racist things out of sheer ignorance of the fact that they were even racist. I never intended to be racist (or sexist), but I've caught myself many times over the years ("Why would I do that? It's woman's work", as one painfully egregious example). Usually (at least I hope usually), I realize/d it afterward and used the opportunity to grow and be a better person, but- to get back to my point- I do think everyone, or at least every American, had some degree of racism and sexism instilled in them by virtue of the culture we grew up in.
 

Gradine

Final Form (she/they)
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.
One thing that gives me hope for the future is that when people misgender/deadname/say something awful and I call them out on it... in almost every case the person is apologetic and willing to learn.

People who insist they are afraid to make mistakes are I think more afraid that their own defensiveness will dig them a deeper hole. I mean that or that they don't want to change.
 


Saracenus

Always In School Gamer
North American Gen-X here (Motto: We like to watch the world burn). Um, I um a couple of years younger than Ernie and I have um, grown up. Even after growing up I have adapted and changed how I navigate in the world in both word and action. Ernie doesn’t get a pass because of the era he grew up in. While it may explain why he says things the way he does it does not excuse what he is saying.

Nothing that he said in the interview leads me to believe has the self-awareness to take personal responsibility for his actions and words. Nope, its going to be those “woke” folk, or his writer/artist, or bankers, or accountants, or the government, or… just about anyone, but him.

I just watched a man pour gasoline on himself and light a match… and to top it off I get to watch people here tell me that he didn’t mean to, or gaslight me that he really didn’t light that match or pour the gasoline, or that no one ever told him that he shouldn’t mix gas and matches. The cringe is real.
 

GreyLord

Legend
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.
Thank you for the elaboration of things.

I have not seen any of his twitch or other items recently so I did not know how he has come off or what he has done recently in that regard.

I don't think that all who are older are necessarily of that attitude, but things of our youth can be hard to overcome in light of new ideas at times. I like to hope that many older individuals are trying their best to be accepting and open to others thoughts and views in our time.

Your comments help with a better picture of things.
 

Right it never was okay, but it was more wide spread.
And it was widely accepted by both men and women alike. It also had something to do with the biological ability to getting kids. So the traditional role of women and men evolved similarily in many cultures.

In Germany, women 50 years ago needed their husband's permission to work. In switzerland women were not even allowed to chose where they want to be without their husband's permission.
On the other hand, men were expected to work to feed their families, taking the role of the strong person and so on.


So you need to take that into account when judging people back then. From today's point of view it is easy to see how sexist everything was (and still is), but back then you it was not.

Edit: today, it is easy to see how a rule that prevents women in a game where people can throw fireballs to be strong is sexist even though in the real world women and men don't comepete in the same sports leagues because of biological factors.
 

GreyLord

Legend
Also, since there's a lot of specific talk about Star Frontiers

But if your futuristic science fiction is straight and cis... I don't really know what to say to you...
I don't know what the new TSR will do with Star Frontiers....BUT

Dralasites in some ways (I'd have to read over it again, but I think this is correct) were transient in sex and gender. They started off one way (female or male?), then became another later in life (Male or female?) and finally became a third sex and gender after that.

I don't think Star Frontiers was straight and CIS, probably the first to be completely the opposite of it. IF they are going to try to make it CIS and straight, I'm not sure that is possible and stay true to the spirit of Star Frontiers
 

MGibster

Legend
That's just not true. Yes, there are still people with fond memories of the older editions, but many, many people I've played with have zero connection to the older editions. And all the data coming out supports that. Ernie's spending too much time with grognards in an echo chamber and thinking that that's what the gaming world is really like.
I'm one of the seven percenters (represent, yo), and even my connection to Gygax AD&D is limited. I cut my teeth on AD&D around 1987-88 but things really started to take off in 1989 when I could afford my own books. And by then AD&D 2nd edition was out so that's what we were playing. At this point in time, I've spent almost as much time playing 5th edition as I did playing 2nd edition. For me, Gygax was someone who helped create D&D, and Cyborg Commando, but he wasn't directly involve in producing D&D for almost the entire time I've been playing.
 

DarkCrisis

Legend
My point is, saying "it was more wide spread" is not an acceptable excuse, and is therefore entirely irrelevant.
Im probably not explaining my thoughts well.

I guess it would be akin to say the 50s when women generally where expected to just do secretarial work etc. It was wrong but still just... accepted. Society had growing to do and looking through history with a modern lens is always going to find nothing but filth.

Which of course there is a world of difference between making naughty word off color jokes and say voting against gay rights. Both are wrong, one is just stupid ignorance and the other is just evil. I don't think Ernie falls in the evil category, he's just set in his old outdated ignorant ways. I dont think this extends to the ballot box (from what I've heard him say on stream), and I really hope it doesn't.

I've even sent The Dungeon Museum people a twitter PM saying Ernie needs to ease back on the outdated descriptions and jokes because I would prefer their brand to flourish. And it seems to have helped from what little of scene of more recent broadcasts.

At the end of the day I wont let old grognards with outdated thinking color how I feel about about AD&D. I think 1 and 2E are great.

Damn i like to ramble...
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
And it was widely accepted by both men and women alike. It also had something to do with the biological ability to getting kids. So the traditional role of women and men evolved similarily in many cultures.

In Germany, women 50 years ago needed their husband's permission to work. In switzerland women were not even allowed to chose where they want to be without their husband's permission.
On the other hand, men were expected to work to feed their families, taking the role of the strong person and so on.


So you need to take that into account when judging people back then. From today's point of view it is easy to see how sexist everything was (and still is), but back then you it was not.

Edit: today, it is easy to see how a rule that prevents women in a game where people can throw fireballs to be strong is sexist even though in the real world women and men don't comepete in the same sports leagues because of biological factors.

If this was a recording of Ernie Gygax in 1950's Germany, then we could say "he is reflecting the norms of his time."

But Ernie Gygax recorded this interview in 2021.

Also, the gender roles you are citing are all from Western cultures. If you expand your view more globally, you will find many different examples of gender roles.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
You know, I feel bad for Luke. He's been involved in live streams and gaming sessions, and I hope he doesn't get caught up in the mess Ernie has created by association. Luke has accomplished quite a bit, established his own life and career outside of D&D (isn't riding the coattails of his dad), seems squared away, and doesn't get in his own way. And while I don't know if he's ever said or believes the same stuff Ernie does, I've never heard him say it and he's always been respectful in every communication I've seen.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
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)?
This is astounding. Ticking off everyone.
 

AriochQ

Adventurer
You know, I feel bad for Luke. He's been involved in live streams and gaming sessions, and I hope he doesn't get caught up in the mess Ernie has created by association. Luke has accomplished quite a bit, established his own life and career outside of D&D (isn't riding the coattails of his dad), seems squared away, and doesn't get in his own way. And while I don't know if he's ever said or believes the same stuff Ernie does, I've never heard him say it and he's always been respectful in every communication I've seen.
I agree with that sentiment.

Personally, I think the next Gygax to have a real impact on D&D will be Luke's eldest daughter. She is an enthusiastic gamer, really bright, and has a outgoing personality. IIRC, she has just entered high school, but I can easily see her as being a leading figure in the next generation of gamers if that is the route she ends up taking.
 

GreyLord

Legend
Im probably not explaining my thoughts well.

I guess it would be akin to say the 50s when women generally where expected to just do secretarial work etc. It was wrong but still just... accepted. Society had growing to do and looking through history with a modern lens is always going to find nothing but filth.

Which of course there is a world of difference between making naughty word off color jokes and say voting against gay rights. Both are wrong, one is just stupid ignorance and the other is just evil. I don't think Ernie falls in the evil category, he's just set in his old outdated ignorant ways. I dont think this extends to the ballot box (from what I've heard him say on stream), and I really hope it doesn't.

I've even sent The Dungeon Museum people a twitter PM saying Ernie needs to ease back on the outdated descriptions and jokes because I would prefer their brand to flourish. And it seems to have helped from what little of scene of more recent broadcasts.

At the end of the day I wont let old grognards with outdated thinking color how I feel about about AD&D. I think 1 and 2E are great.

Damn i like to ramble...

There is a difference though, between then and now and what one says. For PR purposes, I'm not sure if his words have come out the way that they would have desired them to come out for their new company.

I have respect for the Gygaxes (and the unfortunate state that has occurred between them and Gary's widow is something I wish could have been resolved much more rapidly and more nicely), and do not think that they would say something that purposefully alienated others (I could be mistaken, but I hope that is the state). IT may be something said unintentionally or with unintentional meanings and side effects, but I don't think they would purposefully go out to try to damage or hurt others.

I DO think some of the items brought up which have not been focused on ARE of some great concern, and the situation between Gary's widow and his sons I think may actually have a bigger impact on the possible futures than other things, as well as how their interactions might go with WotC and their ability to complete projects, but I think E.G.G. (the younger) may not have seen how others would interpret what he said considering many of the discussions of this thread.
 

billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him)
Do not confound a person and an industry. The industry should not be accountable for the jerks that work in it. This is an association that demeans everyone that work or is using that industry.
Everyone in the gaming industry is a representative of their industry whether they want to be one or not and whether their views are widespread within it or not. That's why the gaming industry (read: other actors within the industry) needs to put pressure on the jerks that work within it.
 

darjr

I crit!
You know, I feel bad for Luke. He's been involved in live streams and gaming sessions, and I hope he doesn't get caught up in the mess Ernie has created by association. Luke has accomplished quite a bit, established his own life and career outside of D&D (isn't riding the coattails of his dad), seems squared away, and doesn't get in his own way. And while I don't know if he's ever said or believes the same stuff Ernie does, I've never heard him say it and he's always been respectful in every communication I've seen.
Unfortunately it’s already to late. The two are getting confused and or limped together. Though there are a lot of people going to Luke’s defense with facts of his actions. Good actions.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
Re: eras and what was acceptable or not. Look, in the 1890s, over 600,000 signatures were sent to the government to recognize women's suffrage. Several states adopted it years before the federal government did in 1919. In 1964, 60% of Americans supported the Civil Right's Act.

So no, it wasn't "accepted" to treat women/PoC respectively badly. Most people knew it was bad back then. Ernie et al were not oblivious to how sexism was bad in the 70s and 80s unless they were living under a rock. 9 to 5 was a pretty big movie. It was only accepted by the people in power who benefited directly from it. And that, my friends, is not an excuse.
 

My point is, saying "it was more wide spread" is not an acceptable excuse, and is therefore entirely irrelevant.
I am 40 now and I can tell you, that my perception did change a lot in the last 30 years.

Toxic masculinity was widespread back then and even girls liked the assholes. So it was natural to try and be that way too. It was in some way expected...
Sad... but that was my experience.

So today I teach my 4 year old son that having long hair is ok, that he may like pink and playing with a doll is ok too, as well as playing with cars, liking blue.
 

Urriak Uruk

Gaming is fun, and fun is for everyone
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].

Whatever interest I had in this TSR reboot died when reading this. What an absolute moronic opinion to have on WotC's generic response to Black Lives Matter...

When folks read a statement like the ones WotC wrote and decide to read it as a personal attack on themselves, that's fairly revealing of their own character.

It's too bad, as I would be interested in a new Star Frontiers.
 

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