Tabletop RPG studio TSR Games has announced that it will no longer be working with a separate, newer publisher also called TSR following both an interview by Ernest G. Gygax, Jr. and a week of social media messages from his fledgling company that have been widely criticised by the public and tabletop industry.
First, some definitions: TSR Games was founded in 2011 by magazine editor Jayson Elliot, in coordination with both Luke and Ernie Gygax - sons of Gary Gygax, the man popularly credited with creating Dungeons & Dragons. This article will refer to that company as TSR Elliot. Gygax, Jr. recently spooled up a new version of TSR Games with Jeff R. Leason, designer and former member of the original TSR that first published D&D in the 1970s, in order to publish his own work and other titles in that creative milieu. It will be referred to as TSR Gygax. Yeah, it’s prickly.
TSR Elliot tweeted on June 27th that it was ending its business relationship with TSR Gygax, saying “Update to our earlier tweet - we will NOT be licensing anything from the new company claiming rights to the TSR logos. We are not working with them in any fashion.” The announcement capped nearly two weeks of Facebook posts, official tweets and public replies in line with statements made by several members of TSR Gygax criticised as transphobic and racist.
TSR Elliot had been operating under its original name since 2011, when it picked up the trademark that current D&D owner Wizards of the Coast had apparently let expire, in order to publish its espionage RPG Top Secret: New World Order, along with the since-discontinued Gygax Magazine. Sometime in 2020, TSR Elliot missed a trademark filing date that gave Gygax, Jr. and Leason the opportunity to apparently file for it instead. At the time, Elliot said he would not pursue any legal recourse.
“While we could win a lawsuit, we frankly don't have the money to litigate. So, we're licensing it back from them,” Elliot said in a tweet. Gygax, Jr. explained in a June 24th interview on the Live From the Bunker YouTube channel that his new company had offered to licence the name back to TSR Elliot for $10, annually.
In the same interview, Gygax, Jr. went on to make transphobic remarks, claiming that “being old-fashioned, possibly [having] anti modern trends, and enforcing, or even having the concepts of gender identity” are a part of his desire to start a new company, before delivering a confusing but nonetheless bigoted metaphor about Native Americans.
Update to our earlier tweet - we will NOT be licensing anything from the new company claiming rights to the TSR logos. We are not working with them in any fashion.— Top Secret NWO - the spy RPG (@TSRgames) June 27, 2021
The public response from fans and players prompted several responses from TSR Gygax’s Twitter account, along with the official account for its Giantlands RPG, going so far as to call a trans woman “disgusting” when she asked the company to make a statement in support of trans lives. Matters seemed to further devolve as writers such as Jeff Dee, James M. Ward and Gygax Jr.'s brother Luke publicly distanced themselves from TSR Gygax, Giantlands and any further projects.
Later on June 24th, Elliot attempted to clarify matters by tweeting: “We are a different company than the one using the old TSR logos. Let me say unequivocally: Black lives matter. Trans rights are human rights. Science is real. Kindness is everything.” When someone asked about Gygax Jr. claiming they were licencing the name back to them, Elliot denied that the deal was ever finalised.
“Just one clarification, we never paid any money to them or acknowledged their claim to the trademark. They made an offer which we considered very recently, and chose to reject,” Elliot said.
Dicebreaker reached out for clarification and more details but did not hear back by time of publication.