TSR TSR3 Throws In Towel, Rebrands Wonderfilled

In the news story that never ends, after reversing its position earlier and admitting that it was NOT the original TSR reincarnated, the new TSR company, embroiled in acrimony for the last two weeks, and having blamed the widespread criticism it has received on Wizards of the Coast, has deleted its own Twitter account and rebranded its website, misspelling it’s own name in the process.

In just a week a much-loved trademark, which was associated with the creation of our entire hobby, and which generally attracted nostalgic affection as recently as a fortnight ago, has been utterly trashed in an astonishing display of self-destructive publicity and incompetence. Two companies (one of which was directly responsible for the damage) have now divested themselves of it, and most major conventions have banned the company behind it, due to the actions and statements of three people: Justin LaNasa, Stephen Dinehart, and Ernie Gygax. "TSR" is no longer a brand which anybody wants to be associated with — not even the company which ‘relaunched’ it two weeks ago, let alone the company they sniped it from. It has been a spectacular masterclass in how not to manage a brand.

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This followed an astonishing day of activity where one of the three TSR3 founders, Stephen Dinehart announced - publicly! - that he had blocked WotC and Hasbro on Twitter. After everybody thought things couldn't get any more ridiculous, they did.

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As TSR2 rebranded to Solarian this week (after TSR3 sniped their name and trademark due to a missed filing), we've now gone from two TSRs to zero TSRs in the space of a few days.

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Most people assume that WotC (or Hasbro) has been in contact with TSR3 regarding its use of copyrighted imagery.

Meanwhile, search teams have been sent out for Michael, the mysterious PR officer announced last week who made two posts and then was never heard from again. In the meantime, somebody has set up a parody Twitter account for him.
 

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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

Parmandur

Book-Friend
A few things.

On emergent story- I wasn't saying that any of the other playstyle examples I gave were emergent story styles- just that there are more than one playstyle that would be served by high level material.

You claim that emergent storylines tend to get resolved in the mid-levels; I am curious makes you think that. Because in my experience (mostly as a DM but also as a player), emergent story playstyles tend not to have a distinct plot to resolve. There tend to be many threads that slowly evolve and develop over time. You resolve plots, but there is no main antagonist- which means, yes, there are always more things to deal with. I don't know how common the "wrap it up around 10th" thing is in general, given that my games and the games I've played in very much don't do that; and if said games aren't representative of the broader experience- which is quite possible and maybe even likely- I do think they're more representative of the "emergent story" playstyle than the "wrap it up at 10th" approach you're describing.

I also disagree with you about the length of a combat/number of combats per session. I run pretty large groups and, excepting gigantic battle scenarios, we fit more than two combats in a typical session (assuming a session that's not completely non-combat-oriented). I'd guess, without looking at my notes, that we average around four a session. Two combats a session was pretty standard for us in 4e, though. That quicker play factor is one of the major improvements of 5e over 4e, in my opinion.

Anyway, I do acknowledge that hitting 20th level takes a long time under anything approaching "normal" or "average" gaming circumstances. And I do acknowledge that there are lots of groups that never make it that far. But plenty do, and the underserving of high level play starts well below 20th level.

There are groups- not tons, but definitely quite a few- that run persistent campaigns that span years of decades and multiple, even many, groups of both players and characters. And there are now lots of ways for old groups that have scattered to play remotely. Those old characters can keep playing, keep advancing- if there's only good material to run for them. And high level play is different than lower level play; it takes more effort to craft a challenge to high level pcs and it would be awesome if there was some stuff out there to help support players and dms who wish to carry their games forward to those rarified heights.

Please note that I'm not saying there's anything wrong with wrapping it up at 10th (or even earlier, if that's what you dig). It's just not for everyone. And for those groups that prefer to go long and high, at least one adventure written for them with the standards WotC (typically) achieves would be great. So would a collection of material to support the elements of high level play that are distinct from typical low level play- things like mass combat/army rules; rulership and domains; how to become a hero-god or quasi-deity or even a god; epic destinies in general; a system for wide-reaching schemes that influence the setting; etc.
WotC did put out Dungeon of the Mad Mage.

I agree with you about encounter length, that is less of a general factor than people feeling satiated with a set of characters and wanting to start over by about 11-15.

The issue from WotC's end is that a strong majority of groups organically end early, and those that do go longer strongly tend to be DIYers who don't want premade Adventure products.
 

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Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Supporter
Meanwhile a google search for "5e how many rounds of combat" brings up a range of 2-5, with big fights being 7-8, 3-4 according to an ENWorld post that I didn't have anything to do with, meanwhile the RPGExchange had 4-5 rounds on their Boltzmann Distribution for an average.

Maybe your DM is throwing mostly "Easy" encounters, @Parmandur? Not that that's a -bad- thing by any stretch of the imagination. But it could be part of the disconnect.

As to you, @the Jester: Even at 4 encounters per session that's 1.5 years of time playing once a week. STILL a massive time investment compared to the vagaries of life.

And yeah. Emergent Storylines tend to get resolved around the mid-levels for 2 reasons:

The emergence of the storyline tends to happen around levels 4-6. Before that it's mostly faffing about while the DM throws goblins and giant spiders at the party and then people start trying to find connections between the different things that have happened, including the DM, which then results in the story being found.

Then it's just a matter of spending 3-8 levels resolving that storyline which emerged from the chaos of everything that happened before.

If you're gonna keep growing stuff out of the chaos that's fine? Very DBZ of you and others who embrace that playstyle... But then what the heck do you need WotC For, anyhow?

How are such players EVER Underserved by WotC not releasing level 13-20 adventures that they'd ignore, anyhow, because it's not "Emergent"?

As to other systems: They exist. You just need to apply them to your problem. Take building an Army for example...

Just grab the "Running a Business" rules and go from there. Costs to maintain your "Business" can be extrapolated, potential problems can be refluffed, etc. As to running Mass Combats, just turn every "Unit" into a "Creature" on the battlefield and run it like a normal combat. 'Cause D&D combat is really vaguely designed with layer upon layer of abstraction. Add in the "Military Force Group Patron" from Tasha's and away you go.

Honestly, mass combat isn't even something any D&D, even Birthright, managed well. Mass combat should probably be the backdrop to your character's actions, rather than the focus of the game, anyhow. Also: It's not something specific to High Levels so...

Rulership and Domains? Running a Business! And again, not specific to High Levels. I can roll up a Noble Background at level 1 and use the Running a Business ruleset (with minor adaptations) to have my character be a local ruler who slowly increases their holdings as they gain levels.

Epic Destinies are just RP between you and your DM. Epic Boons are the stuff you gain when you "Level Up". And Godhood is when you get enough of them that your DM says "Okay, you're a God, now. Can I -please- play in a game for cripes' sakes rather than running your character through all this stuff infinitely?" 'cause there's no Cap for Epic Boons.

Same thing with "Far Reaching Schemes". That's just RP and doesn't need any kind of systemization to make it work. You and your DM just need to figure that one out as an adventure path/storyline/campaign of it's own.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
Maybe your DM is throwing mostly "Easy" encounters, @Parmandur? Not that that's a -bad- thing by any stretch of the imagination. But it could be part of the disconnect.
No, we often just run them from the books, and they are nit "Easy" by the XP budget. It's not just me, it's what Jeremey Crawford has stated on multiple occasions as the design assumption for Monster design and Class ability design: fights are quick and dirty.
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Supporter
No, we often just run them from the books, and they are nit "Easy" by the XP budget. It's not just me, it's what Jeremey Crawford has stated on multiple occasions as the design assumption for Monster design and Class ability design: fights are quick and dirty.
I've checked over his Twitter and Sage Advice and didn't find anything.

I'm guessing you're talking about either Podcasts or Cons he might have appeared at. Can you direct me toward the right con/podcast/video?
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
Speaking as a guy whose campaign includes lots of high level stuff and is going epic level as we speak, I'd love to see some high level support published, assuming it was quality.
What sort of high-level adventures would you want? Serious question, since I (like most people) am more used to low-level play.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
I've checked over his Twitter and Sage Advice and didn't find anything.

I'm guessing you're talking about either Podcasts or Cons he might have appeared at. Can you direct me toward the right con/podcast/video?
Not off-hand, I'm afaid: I definitely heard Crawford go into that during Dragon+ interviews during the [what turned out to be] Tasha's Subclass playests. Mearls back a few years ago actually busted out the math assumptions about Encounter length during the Psion Class Happy Fun Hour episodes, but unfortunately those appear to be vanished from the Internet.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
I will just note that the main organizing factor that causes Campaigns to fizzle out that I've heard WotC bandy about is the School year: most Campaigns last two Semesters, and if groups reform after the Summer they will feel like starting fresh with new characters.
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Supporter
Not off-hand, I'm afaid: I definitely heard Crawford go into that during Dragon+ interviews during the [what turned out to be] Tasha's Subclass playests. Mearls back a few years ago actually busted out the math assumptions about Encounter length during the Psion Class Happy Fun Hour episodes, but unfortunately those appear to be vanished from the Internet.
That is actually super helpful. I've been watching randomly selected Dragon+ Q&As since I made that post.

Now I know what time-period to look for, thank you!
I will just note that the main organizing factor that causes Campaigns to fizzle out that I've heard WotC bandy about is the School year: most Campaigns last two Semesters, and if groups reform after the Summer they will feel like starting fresh with new characters.
That is another big thing, yeah. After you've spent a long time with a character/setting/group you want something new. (And the DM wants to play, too!)
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
"Most Stories" was the term I used, not all. Not only. But even in the case of the "Emergent Storyline" that similarly tends to get resolved around levels 9-13 unless you're just flinging new antagonistic options at your players every other level like it's Dragon Ball Z or something.

Yeah, it's possible to release a storyline piecemeal so that it takes 20 levels. You can also drop an adventure from day one that gets the character from level 1 to 20. In neither of those cases is the storyline "Emergent". It's all pre-written and you just don't know it all, yet, as player or DM. The writer still knows that story. A True emergent story is one where you just faff around for a few weeks and then go "Wait, what? Isn't X the thing we did last month?" and the DM has to develop a reason for X last month and Z this month and a plot forms out of it.

But. Time is still a massive factor. Possibly the single largest factor.

6-8 encounters per day with 2-3 days of encounters between levels by the rulebook. Split the difference and it's 7x2.5=17.5 easy peasy.

How long does a typical encounter take in D&D? 3-5 round? Let's call it 4 rounds. 5 players, plus NPCs, being nice let's say it only takes about 2 minutes to resolve a turn. We'll go for 8 npcs on average (Some fights are big, some fights are small, most are in the middle) and to be charitable let's say the DM takes only 1/4 the time to resolve a given NPC's actions, so 30 seconds. 4 minutes for the DM, 2 minutes for each player that's 14 minutes per round... Let's round it up to 15 and call it 4 rounds for 1 hour.

How long do most people play? 3-4 hours maybe? And a goodly chunk of that is RP/Exploration/Description rather than actual combat. So let's call it 2 combats per session on average.

To get from level 1-20 on the 6-8 encounters per day, with 2-3 days of encounters between levels, 17.5, we can multiply by 19 to find out how many actual encounters it takes to get to 20 since level 1 is "Free": around 332.5.

Each encounter takes 1 hour ish, and people get 2 encounters in a session. So that's 332.5 hours and 166.25 sessions.

Assuming you get together once a week for 3 hours and spend 2 hours of it resolving combat or other noncombat encounters: 1,163.75 days have passed from Session 0 to level 20. 3.19 years.
3-4 years is just getting nicely underway.

Plan for ten years and hope for more. Yes, this means you-as-DM have to commit.

Recruit players who at least to begin with are willing to be in for the long haul. Then, expect there will be some inevitable player turnover as the campaign goes along, and be ready to deal with it: keep an ear open for players* interested in joining partway through and then call 'em up if needed. As DM, take the attitude that you'll run the campaign for as long as anyone's interested in playing in it; and make sure you always have multiple story arcs and plotlines in the hopper to get things started and-or for when the players/PCs don't provide any of their own.

* - some of whom might be people you at this point haven't met yet.

Also, expect a lot of character turnover - players will want to swap out characters in order to keep things fresh, which is fine - and note that for the DM this means don't plan a story around any one character as you've no way of knowing whether that character will be in play at the time said story emerges. As long as the overall level of the party slowly increases, you're good.
And during that time people are going to move, have kids, have crises, lose people, change jobs, change shifts, get new schedules from work, school, family, etc, find new games they're interested in, want to be a Player rather than a DM, etc etc etc.
Player turnover. Fact of life. It happens. A campaign should be easily able to survive the loss of any player other than its DM, unless you're running someone solo.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Say you run an animal shelter, with a website that allows folks to schedule appointments over the web. It works fine, and you never have any problem with it. Then, a video of one your your poor cute animals goes viral, and a million people hit that website in the span of two hours. Your website crashes and burns, but before it does, it starts acting squirrelly, slowing down, losing bits of data, and then falling over with a dull thud. This is not a "bug". This is a design limitation.
This is a simple failure to properly stress-test on the part of one or more of the website host, the host's internet provider, or - less commonly, and depending what the site is being asked to do - the site's designer.

For a personal site or a small-charity site as per your example, I get it. For a commercial site of any type, however, this should simply never happen.

Back to the game: if a game advertises itself as having a level range of 1-20 then I as its end consumer should be able to have a reasonable expectation that said game has been fully stress-tested across that range - all of it - and that I shouldn't expect to hit any real problems until-unless I push it to level 21 and beyond.

Just like a car. Sure I'm not allowed to drive at 120 mph on any North American highway I can think of, but if I take my car out to a racetrack and let 'er rip I have a right to expect that the model of car I'm driving has been stress-tested to its maximum speed as listed in the owner's manual and that - provided I've maintained it properly and have new tires etc. - I can safely go that fast without the car falling apart around me.
 

grimslade

Krampus ate my d20s
Too borrow Umbran's car metaphor. Even though the majority of car travel speed is in the sub-65mph, there are venues to go faster. There are the Formula 1s and NASCAR to push the limits of automotive performance. There is a dearth of high level play options or examples out there.
This would tell me there is a market position open in the DMsGuild for 15-20 modules and rules, but I don't see a ton of offerings and those that are there are not massive sellers. The market is niche.
I do think that, like the more performative driving sports, high level play would be enjoyable streaming content. Perhaps a shift to competitive play at Cons could shift to pre-rolled characters for high end/ high stakes roleplay to show what 5E peak performance looks like?
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
This is a simple failure to properly stress-test on the part of one or more of the website host, the host's internet provider, or - less commonly, and depending what the site is being asked to do - the site's designer.

Except it is not a FAILURE.

Like, if you have a wagon filled with 200 lbs of cargo, your cat is not going to be able to drag it across a field, but a Bernese Mountain Dog will handle it just fine. That is NOT a failure on the part of the cat. And not being good at hunting mice in the barn is not a failure on the part of the dog.

And that dog can pull 200 lbs all day. It can pull up to 1000 lbs, but it can't do it all day, and it will be slower, and it might get injured if you aren't careful. That it cannot pull a full ton with aplomb is not a failure of the dog. Everything has performance characteristics. Nothing is good through all levels of all domains, even the ones they are built in. A Formula 1 race care goes really fast, but it pretty much sucks if you want to go pick up groceries.

The same holds for a game. It will have performance characteristics, and it will behave differently across its spectrum - and at whatever the upper-end of that spectrum is, it'll tend to break down a bit, in one way or another.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Except it is not a FAILURE.

Like, if you have a wagon filled with 200 lbs of cargo, your cat is not going to be able to drag it across a field, but a Bernese Mountain Dog will handle it just fine. That is NOT a failure on the part of the cat. And not being good at hunting mice in the barn is not a failure on the part of the dog.

And that dog can pull 200 lbs all day. It can pull up to 1000 lbs, but it can't do it all day, and it will be slower, and it might get injured if you aren't careful. That it cannot pull a full ton with aplomb is not a failure of the dog. Everything has performance characteristics. Nothing is good through all levels of all domains, even the ones they are built in. A Formula 1 race care goes really fast, but it pretty much sucks if you want to go pick up groceries.

The same holds for a game. It will have performance characteristics, and it will behave differently across its spectrum - and at whatever the upper-end of that spectrum is, it'll tend to break down a bit, in one way or another.

Is the wagon advertised for a cat? Are dogs sold as mice catchers?

If they advertised D&D 5e as going up to 15th level and stopped there, would it work pretty well across the entire advertised range?
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
Is the wagon advertised for a cat? Are dogs sold as mice catchers?

If they advertised D&D 5e as going up to 15th level and stopped there, would it work pretty well across the entire advertised range?
It does work at the higher range, by all accounts, it's just that most customers don't play campaigns that long...hence don't buy material for those levels, and TSR/WotC tried, even up to 5E.
 

2 rounds is what the designers assume the average group will take to win an appropriate CR challenge, not an optimized group. Even at high level, with a large group not optimized to the hilt, several encounters in a session should be doable.

The designers also base everything on what is the default, or standard, and not on the assumption that groups will use the optional rules for multiclassing, feats, and variant humans. And while on the surface, it would seem more power would make things faster, but having more options probably actually slows down combat.
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Supporter
Is the wagon advertised for a cat? Are dogs sold as mice catchers?

If they advertised D&D 5e as going up to 15th level and stopped there, would it work pretty well across the entire advertised range?
And it does go to 20th level just fine...

There's plenty of monsters and locales provided in the books... It's just "Make your own" territory because not a lot of people play up to 20.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
The designers also base everything on what is the default, or standard, and not on the assumption that groups will use the optional rules for multiclassing, feats, and variant humans. And while on the surface, it would seem more power would make things faster, but having more options probably actually slows down combat.
Sure, and I haven't run or played in any games with multiclassing, fears, or variant humans in 7 years now, no joke. Those are optional rules, not everyone uses them.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
And it does go to 20th level just fine...

There's plenty of monsters and locales provided in the books... It's just "Make your own" territory because not a lot of people play up to 20.
The real Caxhe-22 is the heavy Venn diagram overlap between people who ever want to go that high level and DIYers who just don't books from WotC.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Except it is not a FAILURE.

Like, if you have a wagon filled with 200 lbs of cargo, your cat is not going to be able to drag it across a field
Cleraly you haven't met my (RIP) cat. :) Instead of dragging the full wagon across the field, that guy would have emptied out the cargo (and, if at all edible, eaten as much of it as he could) and then pulled the wagon wherever it had to go....
And that dog can pull 200 lbs all day. It can pull up to 1000 lbs, but it can't do it all day, and it will be slower, and it might get injured if you aren't careful. That it cannot pull a full ton with aplomb is not a failure of the dog. Everything has performance characteristics.
Agreed, and there's an expected range of reasonably-optimal performance within said characteristics; with those expectations being set by a combination of things including advertising, owners' manuals, and (in some cases) common sense.
Nothing is good through all levels of all domains, even the ones they are built in. A Formula 1 race care goes really fast, but it pretty much sucks if you want to go pick up groceries.
Yes, and the pre-set expectations of said F-1 car don't include grocery runs. They do include high-speed racing, and an F-1 car whose manufacturer claims it'll do 250 mph no problem but which simply can't get over 225 mph no matter what isn't meeting those pre-set expectations; and the race team has every right to complain.

They lose that right to complain if they try to push the car to 280 mph and things don't go so well.
The same holds for a game. It will have performance characteristics, and it will behave differently across its spectrum - and at whatever the upper-end of that spectrum is, it'll tend to break down a bit, in one way or another.
Difference in acceptance levels here, I think.

You're willing to accept some degree of break-down at the upper end of the spectrum where I'm unwilling to accept any breakdown until the stated/advertised/promised spectrum limits have been reached. Otherwise, it's false advertising.

Put another way, if in-house stress-testing shows the game starts to wobble at about level 15 and the wobbling increases from there, it should be advertised and sold as a 1-15 game; and advertising it as 1-20 is, to put is bluntly, dishonest. Sure, put all the 16-20 stuff - and beyond! - in the rulebooks for those willing to try it anyway, but toss in a disclaimer that beyond level 15 things might not work as smoothly and that some DM intervention and-or tweaking might be required.

Better yet, the designers could get themselves right off the hook if they sold the game as "open-ended" with no reference to any specific capstone or end-state level, and include notes that while the system has been stress-tested to level x and that there's no guarantees it'll work and-or remain stable beyond that, the books* still give details up to level x-plus-y for those who are interested.

* - initial release just covers the stress-tested part; a concurrent or not-much-later release could deal with the not-as-tested higher-level material.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
And it does go to 20th level just fine...

There's plenty of monsters and locales provided in the books... It's just "Make your own" territory because not a lot of people play up to 20.
I don't mind this at all, provided such is made reasonably clear up-front in the marketing.

Along the lines of "We'll support levels 1-15 with our adventure releases; and while we can provide informal suggestions and support for higher-level adventures our intention is not to release any, leaving it to individual DMs to design their own." Problem solved.
 

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