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News Digest for the Week of December 10

Hello everyone, Darryl here with this week’s gaming news! TSR3 files lawsuit against Wizards of the Coast, Kickstarter moving to blockchain technology, Dungeons & Dragons in the NFL, and more!

Don’t forget, you can get all the news every week with Morrus’ Unofficial Tabletop RPG Talk! This week, Morrus and Peter are joined by Aled Lawlor and Panny Lines to talk about Salvage Union.


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In case you missed it elsewhere on EN World this week:
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Just when you thought the story was done, we have a new chapter in the TSR Saga. I’m going to start with the news then backtrack and give some explanations as to what’s going on. This week, the company known as TSR LLC owned by Justin LaNasa filed a lawsuit against Wizards of the Coast over trademark disputes for the name TSR, the graphical logos originally used by TSR Inc (the original company founded in 1973). TSR has also started an IndieGoGo campaign to finance this lawsuit and a second lawsuit to be filed layer against Wizards of the Coast claiming that the disclaimer included with digital reprints of classic Dungeons & Dragons products, stating they believe the disclaimers are libelous. At the time of writing, after two days the campaign has raised 2% of its $50,000 goal.

TSR LLC made news this past summer over a series of issues related to the trademark to TSR and controversial statements by the company and those affiliated with it. In addition to coverage here on EN World, I posted a Twitter thread on my personal account that summarized events at the time. In order to keep confusion to a minimum since there are at least three and possible four companies calling themselves “TSR” involved, I’ll use TSR1 to refer to the original TSR Inc. originally founded in 1973 by Gary Gygax and Don Kaye to publish Dungeons & Dragons, TSR2 to refer to the second TSR formed by Jayson Elliot to publish Top Secret which has since rebranded to Solarian Games, and TSR3 to refer to the company formed by Justin LaNasa which is at the center of this lawsuit. To add to the confusion, TSR3 split after Stephen Dinehart left the company and took several intellectual property assets with him as well, including domain names and social media accounts associated with TSR3. This muddies the issue as to whether this is still TSR3 or a new, fourth company. While Morrus uses “TSR3.5” to refer to this most-current incarnation of TSR, I will use TSR3 for simplicity’s sake.

The lawsuit filed by TSR3 has caused some stir online, particularly as attorney Akiva Cohen, a lawyer who calls himself a “litigation disaster tour guide”, posted his analysis of the legal filing on Twitter. To start, the lawsuit was filed in North Carolina district court even though Wizards of the Coast is based out of Seattle, WA, while TSR3 is based out of Lake Geneva, WI. TSR3 appears to have registered an office in North Carolina as of November 30, 2021, so about one week before this lawsuit was filed.

As for the lawsuit itself, first I need to explain the difference between “trademark” and “copyright” under United States law. A copyright is the ownership of a creative work and the rights associated to it including publication. A trademark is a symbol or words used by a company in order to identify a product available for sale. For example, I make videos under the name Gamer’s Tavern. The videos I created are protected by copyright, while my logo for Gamer’s Tavern is protected by both copyright (for the artwork itself) and trademark (the logo’s use in branding my content). I could lose the rights to the trademark if I stopped using it for an extended period of time, but I would still retain copyright on the artwork. The distinction in rights is important as the lawsuit is asking the courts to award TSR3 both.

TSR3 claims that they should be awarded both the trademarks and the copyrights for “TSR”, “The Game Wizards”, and a selection of graphical logos such as the lizardman logo, wizard logo, and stylized font TSR logo originally used by TSR1 plus the names “Blackmoor” and “Star Frontiers”. The filing itself states “TSR, Inc. [TSR1] sold their assets to Defendant [Wizards of the Coast] in or around 1997”, which means that the lawsuit states that Wizards of the Coast owns the trademarks and copyrights in question due to their purchase of TSR1. Their reason for this claim is that Wizards of the Coast allowed their registration of the TSR trademark to lapse and no longer use the trademark to sell products.

However, in the filing, TSR3 provides the previous statement from Wizards of the Coast that they are actively using the “TSR” trademark in the sale of legacy products and, in the case of Star Frontiers, are still selling the original game. This evidence comes from challenges Wizards of the Coast filed against the trademarks and from what appears to be a cease-and-desist notice from the legal department of Wizards of the Coast. Also, the lawsuit claims that they should be awarded copyright to the artwork associated with the logos (such as the “wizard” and “lizardman” logos) on the sole reason that they claim Wizards of the Coast does not own the copyrights. However, they do not state any legal cause why, even if the court decides that Wizards of the Coast does not own the copyright, that those copyrights should be awarded to TSR3.

This is a complex and ongoing legal matter and, at the time of writing, Wizards of the Coast has not yet filed a response to the lawsuit. Akiva Cohen ends his thread mentioned above analyzing the lawsuit with the conclusion, “This is not a winnable battle for them and they should walk away now.”

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Tabletop gaming and roleplaying games continue their push into the mainstream as gamers and the games they play have shown up in some interesting places this past week. First, believe it or not, Dungeons & Dragons made it to the cover of Sports Illustrated. The piece profiles the Dungeons & Dragons group of Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett, fullback Johnny Stanton, guard Wyatt Teller, and tackle Kendall Lamm along with friends, including the drama when Lamm had to leave the group after signing with the Tennessee Titans. Meanwhile the popular UK talk show The Graham Norton Show featured Henry Cavill (Man of Steel, The Witcher) being gently mocked for his love of Warhammer with Tom Holland (Spider-man: Homecoming, Uncharted) not only defending his love of the miniature wargame but requesting (and receiving) an invitation to play. Finally, EN World’s own Morrus discovered a list of themed drinks at a local pub including The Wyvern, Wraith, Hydra, and the Dungeons & Dragons only Beholder. For those looking to make their own version of the protected D&D IP monster, it apparently involves a mixture of melon liqueur, blue curaçao, vodka, and an energy drink.

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It’s that time of year again as nominations are open for the Most Anticipated RPGs List for 2022. To nominate the game you’re most exited for, leave a comment on the thread linked above with the name of the game and a link to a product page or announcement for the game. The product must be a stand-alone tabletop RPG (no settings, sourcebooks, adventures, etc.), must be expected for release in 2022, and you can’t nominate your own games. Nominations are open until Thursday, December 23. Voting is also now open for your favorite podcasts of 2021. As always, the podcast nominees are split into the Actual Play category (recordings of people playing a tabletop RPG) and the Talk category (podcasts offering commentary, news, analysis, tips, etc. for tabletop RPGs) with voting for both running until Friday, December 17.

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Magpie Games announced that fulfillment for the Avatar: The Last Airbender Kickstarter will be delayed. The cardboard and paper shortages are taking the brunt of the blame as supplies cannot support a print run of over 200,000 books to fulfill orders. The release was originally scheduled for February 2022 but has been pushed back to summer. This delay only affects the physical release products and will not affect delivery of PDF rewards, which were announced during the Kickstarter with an expected January 2022 release. The Kickstarter funded on September 2 or this year with 81,567 backers for over $9.5 million.

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Kickstarter announced they are creating an as-yet-unnamed spin-off company to develop blockchain crowdfunding technology with the anticipation of moving Kickstarter to this platform next year. Few details have been announced, but it is expected for the model to shift toward a more “DAO” style of crowdfunding. Distributed Autonomous Organizations (DAOs) are a form of crowdfunding where sales of cryptocurrency and/or NFTs may be pooled together into a single account. Kickstarter states that the change will take place entirely behind the scenes and shouldn’t affect how people use the site.

This announcement was met with immediate backlash by creators from multiple industries including tabletop gaming. Jay Dragon of Possum Creek Games, Tom Parkinson-Morgan of Lancer and Kill Six Billion Demons, Diana Jones 2021 Emerging Designer Jeeyon Shim, and Iron Edda creator Tracy Barnett have all made public statements of displeasure with the decision and some stating their intention of leaving the platform if it is not reversed. This sentiment was echoed by video game companies Chariot Games and Black Tabby Games, tabletop game company Restoration Games, and comic publishers Creatively Queer Press, Hivework Comics, and Iron Circus Comics.

For a simplified explanation, blockchain technology is a distributed ledger system, similar to a spreadsheet or database that is shared through peer-to-peer technology rather than centrally hosted, so rather than being controlled by a single individual, company, or government agency; the blockchain can be hosted by anyone and updated by anyone with those changes shared among all the computers hosting the blockchain. The point of controversy is that the peer-to-peer nature of the blockchain means that it uses large amounts of power with estimations of a single transaction on the Ethereum blockchain using over 200 kWh of electricity (the amount used by an average American household in an entire week) with the annual carbon footprint of the blockchain at over 45 megatons of carbon (comparable to the carbon footprint of the entire country of Finland). NFTs or “non-fungible tokens”, part of the Ethereum blockchain, have been at the center of even more controversy as the tokens are said to bestow ownership of digital assets such as image files, with many artists claiming that their artwork has been “sold” on crypto marketplaces without their knowledge or permission and buyers upset when their NFTs are removed due to copyright claims.

The most common complaint about the move from Kickstarter is the lack of benefit or improvement to the platform. As they have released no details and stated that the platform would not change for users, there does not seem to be a purpose to switching to a blockchain-based system if it does not add any benefit. Iron Spike of Iron Circus Comics said “I opted to actually read […] and try and make sense of it. In summary, I couldn’t. Not in any way that actually benefits the creatives currently using Kickstarter. It feels like bandwagoning. It feels like buzzword overload.” The creator community has expressed displeasure with Kickstarter earlier this year following Kickstarter executive Luke Crane’s Perfect RPG project which resulted in Crane resigning from Kickstarter.

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Paizo has two bundles currently live on Humble Bundle. The first is the Pathfinder Second Edition Beginner’s Bundle featuring a total of 32 items at the top $50 tier including digital copies of the Pathfinder Second Edition Core Rulebook, Pathfinder Second Edition Bestiary, Starfinder Core Rulebook, and a large collection of sourcebooks, setting books, maps, adventures, and more plus a physical copy of the Pathfinder Second Edition Beginner Box. This bundle benefits the Trevor Project and Tabletop Gaymers and runs until Saturday, January 1. The other bundle is the Ultimate GM Kit for Pathfinder featuring 29 items for Fantasy Grounds Unity at the top $50 level including a 3-month subscription to Fantasy Grounds Unity Unlimited and a large selection of Pathfinder 1st Edition rulebooks, adventures, map packs, sourcebooks, and more. This bundle benefits Extra Life and also runs until Saturday, January 1. There’s also a deal to pick up both bundles for $100 and receive an additional $10 credit toward purchases on the Humble Store.

If your tastes spin more toward the near-future, then listen up you primitive screwheads because the Cyberpunk Bundle is back. This bundle features 30 items at the top $18 tier including a library of books for Cyberpunk 2020 including the aforementioned Listen Up You Primitive Screwheads, all four Chromebooks, Solo of Fortune, Night City, and more plus the Jumpstart Kit for Cyberpunk Red. This bundle runs until Monday, December 27.

Humble also brought back a handful of bundles for a limited time, including the third-party 5e Black Friday RPG Bonanza featuring over 40 products for 5e and two bundles of STL files for 3D printed miniatures, the more traditional Dungeons & Monsters 3D Printable Tabletop Miniatures Bundle and the more stylized and video game inspired 3D Printable Adventure Bundle which includes full 5e stats for each mini. These bundles only have a few days left so be sure to get in on them fast!


That’s all from me for this week! Don’t forget to support our Patreon to bring you more gaming news content. If you have any news to submit, email us at news@enpublishingrpg.com, and you can get more discussion of the week’s news on Morrus’ Unofficial Tabletop RPG Talk every week. You can follow me on Twitch to get notifications when I go live, subscribe to Gamer’s Tavern on YouTube for videos on gaming history, RPG reviews, and gaming Let’s Plays, or you can listen to the archives of the Gamer’s Tavern podcast. Until next time, may all your hits be crits! Note: Links to Amazon, Humble Store, Humble Bundle, and/or DriveThru may contain affiliate links with the proceeds going to the author of this column.
 

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Darryl Mott

Darryl Mott



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