TSR Jim Ward: Demons & Devils, NOT!

In the very early to mid '80s religious nongamer people discovered AD&D had magical spells and demons and devils in its rules. The problems started with Sears and Penny's retail stores. TSR was selling thousands of Player Handbooks and Dungeon Master's Guides every month to both of those companies. I know this because I was in sales and inventory control at the time.


Six ladies wrote to Sears and the same six wrote to Penny's home offices telling those two companies of the evils of AD&D. They expounded on children learning to throw demonic spells while they summoned demons in their basements. The writers claimed that they would never buy a thing again from those two companies if the companies still sold TSR games. Just like a light switch those two companies stopped selling TSR product. The companies were offered things like Boot Hill, Tractics, and Gamma World, but they weren't interested. The stopping of sales from those two huge companies was a hard blow to take for TSR.

Author's Note: When I write these articles for EN World I'm trying to present an honest look at my memories of those times. There was enough wild and crazy things happening at TSR that I think the readers should be entertained. I freely admit that there might be dates and times that I don't have correctly related. However, I never try to exaggerate the facts or actions of others. I was in the thick of things and part of the design group and middle management for most of the 20+ years I worked there. If I make a mistake in the writing of these memories, I'm sorry and the mistake was unintentional.

Things proceeded and the bible belt southern states started doing book burnings. Those always elated Gary Gygax because he thought every player who had their books taken away would go back and buy the books again.

Gary went on some of the talk shows to speak about the value of the game. He was an excellent champion for the company. One of his arguments, that I really liked, was his baseball analogy. He would say, “When a criminal hurts someone with a baseball bat are you supposed to blame baseball?” That would make the naysayers sputter every time.

Duke Siegfried, Uncle Duke as he liked to be called, ran news interview classes for the middle management of TSR; these were people who had a chance to be interviewed out at conventions. I can especially remember one of the training sessions. Duke role-played the part of Johnny Carson. Don Snow was to be the TSR representative getting interviewed. Terri Quinn was in marketing at the time and her job was to distract Don. While Duke interviewed Don about D&D, asking questions to make the game look bad, Terri went to work on Don. Acting all the way, poor Don was torn between the distraction of Terri and the questions of Duke. At the end of the scenario Duke explained that set ups like that were common for news people and we needed to be on the look out for such things. I can remember thinking that scenario could never happen.

Six months later I was at a convention in Atlanta when a reporter started quizzing and flirting with me about the evils of AD&D and its harmful effects on children. I started out all smiles and really enjoying the woman's company and her style. Suddenly, remembering Duke's lesson, I became grim-faced, and gave out the bullet-point facts Duke had prepared us with if we were interviewed. She didn't get the interview she wanted from me.

Conventions for awhile became a trial for us. Religious people would come up to the TSR booth and start arguing with us about the evils of D&D. I'm proud to say we soon found an answer for them. I have a friend Dave Conant who worked in the typesetting department. He didn't get out to many conventions. Gen Con in August was a convention everyone working for TSR went to and did 40 hours. One Gen Con in August a particularly nasty gentlemen was berating the sales woman at the show. They didn't know what to think of the dude and wanted to be polite. I knew exactly what the guy was doing. He wanted to get 15 minutes of fame as a person concerned about the evils of D&D.

I was on my way over to give the guy the bums rush, when Dave showed up. He had taken his cross out of his shirt and started calmly talking to the guy. Dave established that the guy had never read one bit of the TSR material. The man only knew what he had heard from others. Then Dave started asking the guy questions about what he thought was wrong with the game. Dave was able to quote bible versus as he calmly and gently completely tore apart the guy's argument. I had always been impressed by Dave's technical skills, but I became even more impressed with his logical argument. From then on we had at least two religious TSR people at every convention. It was amazing how quick those anti-TSR people stopped coming at us at those shows.

Time passed and TSR started working on AD&D 2nd edition. By then I had come to a realization. At conventions I had been in on many discussions about the evils of AD&D. Literally every single person coming up to argue about the game had never read one word of the books. Their argument when questioned about that fact was “We don't need to read about Satan to know he is evil.” So I came up with an idea. In second edition I ordered Zeb Cook to develop a new name for Demons & Devils.

Baatezu/Devil & Tanarri/Demon were born in second edition. Zeb did a terrific job of putting all that together.

We still had the same type of demons and devils but we called them completely different names. The word spread out that TSR had taken out all of the demons and devils in the game. Technically that wasn't true at all. But again like the click of a light switch the arguments and comments stopped. TSR picked up lots of new accounts in the Bible Best of the south. Every time it was mentioned a TSR person would tell them the company didn't have devils any more. It pleased everyone at TSR that the company didn't get any grief on that topic.

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Jim Ward

Jim Ward

Drawmij the Wizard

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