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

Dungeonosophy

Adventurer
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.

You might be right, from a legal perspective. I was wondering about that myself. If a trademark is no longer registered, but the copyright holder is still producing legacy PDFs with that name, that does seem pretty dicey, if brought to court. A trademark expert could probably say up front whether it would work. I simply don't know how important (or not) is the fact whether it's registered.

Nevertheless, I'd still like to see somebody with some monetary resources, and a deep love of TRPG history, form a venture which brings a bunch of old school IPs into a shared multiverse, with a shared rules system (even if dual-statted).
 

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Grendel_Khan

Adventurer
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.

OK, you win. That does sound cool.
 


Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
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.)
See the resurrection of Cooper; the Beetle’s comeback. The return of the Supra.
 

I don't get it. What's TSR really worth these days without D&D that anyone should spend real money to buy it?

Say you could kickstart Star Frontiers and maybe Top Secret S/I, or who knows Buck Rogers in the 25th Century - how long would that last beyond the initial nostalgia burst?
 

Stormonu

Legend
I don't get it. What's TSR really worth these days without D&D that anyone should spend real money to buy it?

Say you could kickstart Star Frontiers and maybe Top Secret S/I, or who knows Buck Rogers in the 25th Century - how long would that last beyond the initial nostalgia burst?
If it brought back a couple of those old products, it would probably get a few eyes back on it. That would give it some momentum.

However, to keep growing, it would have to create new product. That's where the real value is - not just reprinting or reinventing the old, but taking it further with new content, new games, new worlds and such.
 


If it brought back a couple of those old products, it would probably get a few eyes back on it. That would give it some momentum.

However, to keep growing, it would have to create new product. That's where the real value is - not just reprinting or reinventing the old, but taking it further with new content, new games, new worlds and such.
Yes but companies like Paizo or Modiphius can do that already. They're enough in the public eye that any new product they put out will get the attention needed to find an audience if there is one.
 


Jaeger

That someone better.
...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.

No, WOTC won’t sue.

Lucky for them nuTSR has flamed out rather spectacularly.

Which means that WOTC is able to quietly wipe the egg off their face for dropping the ball, and allowing the TSR trademarks that they owned to go into abandoned status.

The fact that they allowed that to happen is a bit embarrassing considering all the old TSR stuff with said logo they still sell.
 

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.)
You don't think they have weighed that themselves? If this, or any of the lapsed trademark ideas, was actually a good idea, then all these old trademarks, or at least some of them, would actually be getting picked up by someone. So the fact that they are not, tells me that folks in the various businesses disagree that these old TMs have the value you think they do.
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.
Solarium/Top Secret NWO had the trade mark two years ago. Not that it hurt them, it probably did help, but the trademark did not have some great inherent value in it that is going to churn out money. Yes, Ernie et al certainly thought so, but for a fact that's not what happened with the now named Solarium.
Say you could kickstart Star Frontiers and maybe Top Secret S/I, or who knows Buck Rogers in the 25th Century - how long would that last beyond the initial nostalgia burst?
I would like to think Star Frontiers could be viable long term. There is a healthy community still about for it, and StarFinder seems to suggest such might be viable, but I also have to agree that it would be a big risk. Might be enough for a small inde company, but obviously WotC doesn't think the reward is worth the risk for their resources.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
I would like to think Star Frontiers could be viable long term. There is a healthy community still about for it, and StarFinder seems to suggest such might be viable, but I also have to agree that it would be a big risk. Might be enough for a small inde company, but obviously WotC doesn't think the reward is worth the risk for their resources.
Never say never on that front: they've run Star Frontiers in a 5E engine at conventions in the past few years, and moved to defend their trademark when Evil Hat made a move.
 


I could see Free League making an offer for Star Frontiers if they thought there was an audience. Kickstarter limits the risk somewhat, and they've already revived Twilight 2000.

What I can't see is why they would want to buy the TSR name.
 



Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
I would like to think Star Frontiers could be viable long term. There is a healthy community still about for it, and StarFinder seems to suggest such might be viable, but I also have to agree that it would be a big risk. Might be enough for a small inde company, but obviously WotC doesn't think the reward is worth the risk for their resources.
I wouldn't pay for it, as a publisher. What am I buying? Two (pretty generic) words. The rest I can do myself.
 

jgsugden

Legend
Seriously - the name is so tainted it is not worth trying to reclaim. The label was oozing puss when it was sold off to WotC, and the things that went wrong with it since then have made it worse. It now stands for intolerance, inefficiency and lack of vision.

Had this fiasco not taken place, I'd have bought a TSR shirt for the nostalgia, like buying a pet rock shirt, but I would never endorse the use of the TSR label now.
 

Dire Bare

Legend
I don't get it. What's TSR really worth these days without D&D that anyone should spend real money to buy it?

Say you could kickstart Star Frontiers and maybe Top Secret S/I, or who knows Buck Rogers in the 25th Century - how long would that last beyond the initial nostalgia burst?
Star Frontiers and Top Secret have some nostalgia value for some older gamers, but neither game had strongly defined settings.

Top Secret was pretty generic spy genre fare . . . and the current Top Secret game from Solarian (formerly TSR2) has no connection to the original game in either rules or setting (although both games share the lead designer, Merle Rasmussen). Then again, there isn't much there to "share" if Solarian licensed the original game from WotC, it wouldn't be worth it! The only value is the nostalgia factor on the name itself, which is limited.

A new Star Frontiers would be similar. It wouldn't be worth licensing the original game/setting from WotC, the only thing worthwhile is the name . . . and again with limited appeal beyond the OSR crowd.

Buck Rogers though . . . the TSR version of that setting was well defined and had some depth to it! However, while Buck himself should be in the public domain (it's apparently somewhat complicated), trying to revise the TSR-era setting would require a license from both WotC AND the Dille Trust (the holders of Buck Rogers IP). That's not likely to happen. Although, there are rumors a new version of Buck Rogers is in development in Hollywood . . . .

The only classic TSR-era RPGs worth licensing are D&D and Gamma World. Even Gamma World is iffy, as it has the same problems as Top Secret and Star Frontiers, although with more attempts to revitalize it over the years. Same with Boot Hill and Gangbusters. All of these games outside of D&D itself have only a limited appeal to the OSR crowd, and none of them have a lot of depth to them to distinguish them from their respective genres.

Now . . . if WotC themselves (perhaps with a licensing partner) decided to try a new Gamma World or Star Frontiers based on the D&D 5E engine, with a modern-style reimagining of the settings . . . I could go for that!
 


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