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TSR TSR5! A modest proposal. Paizo (or Modiphius or Free League) buys TSR, for a true rebirth

I think Paizo (or some other mid-sized, vibrant TRPG company, like Modiphius or Free League) ought to buy the trademark from Ernie...and make TSR5!
Now, hear me out...
Paizo is a major spiritual successor of TSR, since it began as a sort of out-sourced re-embodiment of WotC's magazine publishing division (DRAGON, DUNGEON, POLYHEDRON).
Besides Paizo, there are other vibrant mid-sized companies such as Free League and Modiphius who are lovingly devoted to TRPGS, and who are really making some cash flow, while producing awesome TRPGs.

One of these would have the PR finesse to turn this around.

And what would become of the present-day owners of TSR4?
Well, they would be bought out and move on.

And what would be the purpose of this TSR5?
Let's see...
It would be an imprint of Paizo (or Modiphius or Free League).
And it would serve as a focal point for growing this company into the true successor of TSR of old, also on par with that golden age of WotC during early 3.0 era (prior to its sale to Hasbro).

I mean, the TSR brand (minus the copyrighted logo design, of course) is a huge legacy. It is a brand which even non-gamers recognize.

Okay...so Paizo or Modiphius or Free League would strive to buy up all the TSR-related IP (game systems and worlds) which isn't owned by Hasbro, by any TSR-era creator, living or dead. For example:
-Gygax Estate's remaining IP, e.g. Castle Zagyg via Troll Lord Games
-Arneson Estate's remaining IP.
-Rob Kuntz's IP
-John Eric Holmes' Maze of Peril and Boinger & Zereth stories (this stuff is great!). His son and estate own the rights.
-Judge's Guild. Just buy the whole company.
-Rasmussen's new Top Secret game. Currently published by TSR2 > Solarion.
-Richard Baker's new Alternity game
-James Ward's Metamorphosis Alpha game (he owns it now)
-Margaret Weiss's various non-TSR worlds
-Timothy Brown's Dragon Kings (the spiritual successor of Dark Sun)
-Bruce Heard's Calidar (the spiritual successor of Mystara)
-David Megarry reportedly owns some rights to DUNGEON! (though probably not the name)
-Chris Pramas' Dragon Fist
-Larry Elmore's Sovereign Stone
-Douglas Niles' non-TSR novel settings
-R.A. Salvatore's DemonWars
-Ed Greenwood's various non-TSR settings (e.g. Band of Four novels)
-Frank Mentzer's Aquaria (after an extensive process of amends and PR healing)
...and, yes, even Ernie Gygax's Giantlands

Reach out to every TSR-era author, artist, and novelist, and offer to buy their home campaigns, their design notes and archival papers, and their total IP estate.

Ruleswise:
And...for all these products, TSR5 immediately (=as soon as feasible) shifts to dual-statted books, using that company's house-system (PF2, Modiphius' 2d20, or Free League's Year Zero)

Settingwise:
All these worlds would be officially added to the Pathfinder/TSR5 Golarion Multiverse (or Modiphius Multiverse or Free League Multiverse). Make a big Multiversal map showing how all these alternate worlds are reachable from Golarion (or Modiphius' or Free League's house settings). And begin tying their lore and timelines together.

And open all these setting IPs up to DMs Guild-style community-created content on DriveThruRPG. Paizo holds Golarion tight because its their only baby. But if their baby could get bigger, then their revenue model could change, and they'd have the confidence to open Golarion (and all these worlds) up to fan-created commercial content.

And, then, a decade from now, when the next edition of their house-system comes out (e.g. PF3, 2d20 2e, Year Zero 2e), all of the legacy systems are folded into a new multi-genre RPG system.

Voila! That would be a legit rebirth of TSR of yore. TSR5 would be something worthwhile.
 
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Nope. Let die, man - let it die.

TSR burned all their goodwill back in the nineties

You may very well be right. Ya gotta admit though, if TSR were to truly arise from the grave in the form sketched out in the OP, it would be pretty awesome.

Let's say, for your sake, it wasn't called "TSR." And Paizo, Modiphius, or Free League did all this while keeping their own name.
 

Stormonu

Legend
Still a big “No” from me.

I don’t want this content all under one umbrella, as it wouldn’t all be treated fairly. Some things would rise to the fore, others would fall behind. Mashing them together would be absolutely awful.

I am not against these things coming back into style - I myself just recently bought Alternity v2 less than a month ago, for example. But not under one umbrella, nor all at once. It’s okay if they’re in the hands of a small company - the material might not be as well spread, but it’s often done with more love than if a big company swallows it and inevitably forces it to evolve to for profit, instead of the benefit of its fans or the actual system.
 


Not sure why I feel so protective toward Free League, but even a whimsical thought experiment that includes them dipping a toe into this quagmire is disturbing. Whatever nostalgia some might feel when they hear "TSR," there was also a huge amount brand tax there, even before the recent disaster. Anecdotal, I know, but I would probably never buy anything TSR, whereas I'm rapidly becoming a Free League superfan, in part because their brand has none of those crusty old bits clinging to it.
 


vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
I was with you until you went and said: use their own system.

Nope. Those things would be awesome in some kind of wannabe retro-d20 system, but not 2d20 or Year Zero. They are great systems, but wayyyyy too complex if the idea was to create a nice throwback to TSR.

Both of Modiphius or Free League publish material of incredible quality, so I would be super stoked to see one of them publish retro-TTRPG stuff.
 


Why would any of these companies be interested in using this old label that has been defunct for 25 years instead of their own good name?
Well, they would have to weigh that themselves.
Old labels do have value. It's incredibly difficult to bring a meme/brand into public consciousness. For better or worse, "TSR" is pretty well known.
"Oldsmobile" is recently retired car brand. "Packard" and "Studebaker" even older. "Oldsmobile" (due to its "old" connotation) was an albatross for General Motors. But, it would not be a ludicrous idea, for say, a mid-level company (say, Hyundai or Kia) to register "Oldsmobile" or "Packard" or "Studebaker" and thus buy into a meme/brand which still has a deep afterglow in a large market (i.e. North America). (GM probably keeps the trademark registered just to ward off such things.)
 


I was with you until you went and said: use their own system.

Nope. Those things would be awesome in some kind of wannabe retro-d20 system, but not 2d20 or Year Zero. They are great systems, but wayyyyy too complex if the idea was to create a nice throwback to TSR.

Both of Modiphius or Free League publish material of incredible quality, so I would be super stoked to see one of them publish retro-TTRPG stuff.

Well, I skipped the part where PF3 (or 2d20 2E, or Year Zero 2E) follows the trends of 2030-era "back to basics" TPRGs, and is designed to be a super simple game (no more complex than The Black Hack or MAZES), but which can modularly scale in complexity up to an "advanced" version

(It can be done. In fact, my own recently-designed Twelvefold Storytelling Organism is something like that....it's part of the rules that the baseline is freeform diceless, but that it can be scaled in complexity so that polyhedral dice are used. It's even part of the rules that one player (say, a newcomer to RPGs or a child) can be playing the Diceless Mode, while another player at the same table is playing the Polyhedral Mode.)
 

I think the answer would be short. They're busy building their own brands, which are probably far more valuable at this stage than TSR, not rescuing tarnished brands from the past. it's like asking Ford to suddenly start making ice cream -- why, when they can make more cars?
Well, it's hard to argue. I'm not making a staunch case for this -- only a blue sky thought experiment. :)
 



billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
I'm content with letting it die, savaged by the complete mismanagement of the current attempt to sponge off the nostalgia. Besides, why should any of the chumps with their fingers in that pie (like LaNasa) be able to benefit from any company buying the trademark?
 



UngainlyTitan

Hero
Supporter
I think it would be utter folly, leaving aside the current catastrophe, WoTC continues to use the TSR trademark on reprints of TSR era on DMsGuild, so WoTC are, as far as I can tell, using that trademark in the TTRPG space.

As far I can see, this gives WoTC a string case to litigate against a competitor and why would any potential games company want the risk. Most of these companies have a brand as strong as TSR at this point in time.

Even, if (nu)TSR had not flamed out so spectacularly, even if they had a product, I would have been dubious on their choice of name.
 

Not sure why I feel so protective toward Free League, but even a whimsical thought experiment that includes them dipping a toe into this quagmire is disturbing. Whatever nostalgia some might feel when they hear "TSR," there was also a huge amount brand tax there, even before the recent disaster. Anecdotal, I know, but I would probably never buy anything TSR, whereas I'm rapidly becoming a Free League superfan, in part because their brand has none of those crusty old bits clinging to it.

Yeah, but imagine if Free League had picked up the TSR trademark a year or two ago, in cooperation with the Gygax mag folks. Instead of these sorry clowns. Before this quagmire unfolded.

It would be a total fit. I mean, Free League does tap into the 1980s suburban zeitgeist which TSR emanated on its better days. I mean, there were lots of good times through TSR. And some ugly marks. Including the most recent.

So yeah, I feel what you're saying. Yet, as a thought experiment, I'm whimsically picturing Free League deftly coming in and saying to Ernie and crew: "here's a few thousand bucks," let's put TSR3, TSR3.5, and TSR4 to rest, make amends for all the marks which have been done in its name, let's heal the hurts, and let's wait a year, and then launch: Free League's Worlds of TSR Kickstarter.

Where Free League launches a new streamlined fantasy RPG house system, with a total 1980s "Tales from the Loop meets Stranger Things meets Larry Elmore" aesthetic. And setting-wise, begins to actively acquire old school IPs from ye ol' TSR designers, artists, and novelists, bringing them into a shared Free League "TSR Multiverse."

C'mon that'd be cool.
 
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