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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

Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
Did you mean "Oriental Adventures", or did I miss a product?

And yeah, it was bad, but to be fair, I kinda feel like it was shaped by the movies we got to watch at the time, Kagemusha and Ran? A lot of this stuff does not age well.

Then again, neither did Duke-Nukem, Lesure-suit larry, Custer's Revenge, and a lot of other computer games... The RPG industry ain't alone for REALLY bad ideas.

I meant Oriental Adventures, my bad.

And that's my point; WotC did not attack the people who made the adventures, it just said that these products are now bad taste. Which I don't think anyone can disagree with reasonably.
 

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Think about the cultural context of 1974 US: less than a decade after the civil rights act, vietnam war ongoing, cultural changes of the 60s were recent memory. Interracial marriage had only just been just been legalized. It's, to me, obvious to say that the cultural norms of 1974 are very different than the cultural norms of 2021. Things that were acceptable then are not as acceptable now. Please stop taking that personally. Acknowledging it is not "disrespectful" towards the games creators or original players. It's only an acknowledgement that times have changed. It's not a personal attack.
 

imagineGod

Legend
This has never been true. Girls didn't like the "bad boys". They like a partner they can be bad with. There's a big difference. As someone in HS who fully believed the whole "why do girls always go to the jerks instead of nice guys", I know where that argument is coming from, and how it's flawed. People are drawn to confidence, and many of us "nice guys" back then were also shy and didn't have the best confidence. We also had this weird notion of white knighting and let me tell you, every woman I've spoken with hates that. All it does is reinforce gender stereotypes of women needing rescue.
Speaking of white knights, now they tend to tell minorities how to feel offended too, I get that patronizing attitude from many a white knight.
 

jayoungr

Legend
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've concluded that it depends on whether you view North + South America as one "unit" or two.

If you view them as a single landmass (one unit), then it makes sense to you to refer to people who live on them as Americans, the same way you'd talk about Africans or Asians.

If you view them as two landmasses (two units), you think of people who live on one or the other as North Americans or South Americans, but you think of them as being separate entities, and you don't even think about using a single term to refer to all inhabitants of both. It's like mentally separating Europeans from Asians, even though that's a single landmass in a much more obvious way than North and South America--only in that case, the fact that they have such different names makes it easier. (Some people do talk about "Eurasia" and "Eurasians," of course, but it's not that common.)

For good or bad, social studies classes in the US tend to teach that North and South America are two different continents. That's certainly the way I learned it.
 
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Gradine

Final Form (they/them)
Oriental Adventures is a GREAT example though...

Now white people come and call them racists and prejudice against themselves Japanese and Chinese contributors...that can be pretty grating.
It's statements like these that erase the large contingent of Asian gamers who fought back against that product, and particularly the use of the slur in its title.

There's always this pushback that the only people who object to things are overbearing "white people" pushing their beliefs on the people actually being targeted by these actions... and that has never been the case.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Mod Note:
Folks, this is not a thread about racism and sexism in general. The site, and the thread, are about gaming. So, bring it off the general discussion, and back around to gaming, and the TSR/Gygax news, specifically, please and thanks.
 

To everybody waxing nostalgic for the elder Gygax and bringing him up as a positive counterexample to Ernie the younger, let's just say that the apple didn't fall very far from the tree.
1624556235430.png
 

darjr

I crit!
Did you mean "Oriental Adventures", or did I miss a product?

And yeah, it was bad, but to be fair, I kinda feel like it was shaped by the movies we got to watch at the time, Kagemusha and Ran? A lot of this stuff does not age well.

Then again, neither did Duke-Nukem, Lesure-suit larry, Custer's Revenge, and a lot of other computer games... The RPG industry ain't alone for REALLY bad ideas.
OA was bad. As a Japanese descent kid I was excited for it, and not happy with it. Now it’s the only 1e core book missing from my collection.
Bless Zeb Cook. He really tried, but in the end, the book was bad on that front.
 

Speaking of white knights, now they tend to tell minorities how to feel offended too, I get that patronizing attitude from many a white knight.
Most of the people vocally calling out reactionary attitudes and actions from TTRPG actors (whether that be WotC, Modiphius, or some other big studio's bumbling two steps forward one step back attempts at inclusivity; or OSR-sphere chud toxicity like the interview in the OP) are minorities themselves, so this doesn't really apply.
 


Gradine

Final Form (they/them)
Speaking of white knights, now they tend to tell minorities how to feel offended too, I get that patronizing attitude from many a white knight
Case in point... another example of this fallacy in play.

The point is to completely erase (in this case, people of color) and their own objections while shaming and discouraging allies from speaking up.

It's a bad (and often, bad faith) rhetorical tactic.
 

Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
Case in point... another example of this fallacy in play.

The point is to completely erase (in this case, people of color) and their own objections while shaming and discouraging allies from speaking up.

It's a bad (and often, bad faith) rhetorical tactic.

And I'm someone who is an Armenian who passes as white (some of my immediate family do not) and tries to fight for social change... does this make me a White Knight?

It really sounds like just another term like "Snowflake" to try and brush past some of these issues.
 


And this gets to the crux of the fallacy. Because as "widely accepted" as any societal ill may have been, there have always been men and women (and others!) who have argued and fought against oppression. These weren't time traveling "SJWs", they were contemporaries who were often quite clear about what is wrong and why. And they were always there, even when history did its best to erase them. And they will always be there, waiting for vindication.
Yes. You are right. And those peole were right. But those people were right.
But you still lived in a society where even the law was against them and many people abide the law and think accept it.

The people who you speak of were in the minority in the beginning and wrere willing to fight and the were becoming more and laws changed. And we can be thankful. I don't know how old you are, but in my bubble back then things were ok which are not.

Back then it was widely accepted that beating your child is necessary to teach them behaviour. It was in 2000's when the law was changed to disallow it. A wife being raped by her husband was impossible by law until around the same time.
I can tell you that we all thought raising your child without violence is impossible back then. Now I raise my child and can't even imagine how someone in their right mind can even think about beating them for punishment...
Really, you should not be that judgemental about people who were not as aware or brave back then.
But you can hold them accountable for what the do now. Reading the part discussed here made me cringe... as the decision of the UEFA not to colour the olympic stadion in rainbow coulours to make a statement regarding the anti homo/trans law in Hungary.

But you need to accept that 20 or 30 years ago things were different.

Fun fact: what was progressive or revoulutionary 20 years ago might
still be racist or sexist from today's point of view. You need to put every piece of history into context.
Rome was not built in one day.
 

Gradine

Final Form (they/them)
Most of the people vocally calling out reactionary attitudes and actions from TTRPG actors (whether that be WotC, Modiphius, or some other big studio's bumbling two steps forward one step back attempts at inclusivity; or OSR-sphere chud toxicity like the interview in the OP) are minorities themselves, so this doesn't really apply.
And to bring the topic back full circle, the issue at point here at the moment is that Ernie made some statements that were transphobic, and I, a transgender and nonbinary person, am a vocal part of the response.

No Cis needs to tell me how to feel.
 

Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
Not sure myself...BUT one possible way...

dmsguild planescape campaign setting 2e

focus on the cover, a larger picture of it, in the lower left hand corner...

TSR
Yeah that is rather similar to the distant ancillary mention of Naugles by Del Taco in some t-shirts they sold and in one ad they ran over decades. You cannot maintain a claim of meaningful damage to your brand from infringement if your only mention of that branding is very distant and ancillary to your primary branding.

Also, isn't that relatively new? If WOTC went three years without that branding, it's considered abandoned even if they revive it later. As the appeals court in the Naugles case stated, "Subsequent use of a mark cannot retroactively cure past abandonment." I think WOTC went more than three years without the branding prior to DMsGuild even existing?
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Mod Note:
Several of you are continuing to post discussing general racism and sexism issues. I'm allowing a few minutes because some folks may not have seen the warning.

Bring it back around to the TSR and Gygax news, please and thanks.
 


Parmandur

Book-Friend
OA was bad. As a Japanese descent kid I was excited for it, and not happy with it. Now it’s the only 1e core book missing from my collection.
Bless Zeb Cook. He really tried, but in the end, the book was bad on that front.
Oriental Adventures is embarrassingly bad, and it wasn't good in the 80's: apparently Cook had to rewrite it because he was shocked at how bad the original draft from Gygax was, which is truly astounding. Having one playgroup of guys in Japan read it is not exactly getting Asians really involves, in my book.
 

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