For Dungeons & Dragons fans, TSR: The Game Wizards conjures up memories of gathering around the tabletop for a friendly gaming session. Now, the folks who are trying to revive the company have chosen to give up the name they worked so hard for — because of Gary Gygax’s son’s troubling comments about race, gender identity, and gun violence, as well as his company’s reaction.
Owner Jayson Elliot has announced that his company, TSR Games, will no longer have any form of working relationship with Ernest “Ernie” G. Gygax Jr.’s and partner Justin LaNasa’s publisher… also called TSR Games (we’ll be referring to them as “TSR Games Elliot” and “TSR Games LaNasa” from here on out). They’re both named after TSR Hobbies, the company D&D creator Gary Gygax started in the 1970s as a way to publish his work, which was eventually dissolved after Wizards of the Coast acquired the famous roleplaying game. In 2011, Elliot bought the trademark and relaunched it as a way to honour Gary Gygax’s legacy, which started with the since-discontinued Gygax Magazine. Unfortunately, TSR Games Elliot failed to renew its trademark registration last year. The TSR Games trademark filing now includes an address used by LaNasa.
For the most part, the two publishers have seemingly had a “live and let live” relationship, mostly because TSR Games Elliot shared on Twitter that it doesn’t have the money to file a lawsuit. Both of the companies have been going by the name TSR Games, with Elliot’s company previously licensing the trademark from TSR Games LaNasa, although it’s unclear what the terms are because TSR Games Elliot denied paying for it. TSR Games LaNasa continues to use the original TSR logo, and plans to release GiantLands (which Gygax Jr. is a creative supervisor for), a children’s roleplaying game called Tales & Tots, and a reboot of Star Frontiers.
Gygax Jr. himself has been making the rounds to promote his company, including an appearance on SciFi4Me’s June 23 “Live From the Bunker” that quickly made the rounds in D&D forums. During the chat, Gygax Jr. made racist remarks about Native Americans, blasted Wizards of the Coast for addressing D&D’s history of racism (saying it’s a call to “join the pack of lemmings”), and suggested that his company was comfortable supporting writers and artists with anti-trans views.
“There’s a ton of artists and game designers and people that played TSR, and recently they were dissed for being old-fashioned, possibly anti-modern trends, and enforcing or even having the concepts of gender identity,” Gygax Jr. said on the podcast. “All I’m trying to do is fill the strip mine, allow this fertile soil to produce more games and products again.”
Gygax Jr.’s comments prompted feedback from folks in the gaming world — including one gamer (who is trans) who tweeted at the publisher asking it to voice its support for the trans community. She said this resulted in TSR Games LaNasa denying Gygax Jr. did anything wrong and blocking her on Twitter, and the account behind GiantLands disparaging her in a deleted reply tweet. In response, TSR Games Elliot has spoken out against TSR Games LaNasa, affirming the company’s support of the trans community and announcing it would be rebranding itself as Top Secret NWO (named after its upcoming game) because it no longer wants to be associated in any way with the company run by Gygax Jr. and LaNasa. On Twitter, the company said it’s “not abandoning” the name “TSR Games,” but it refuse to licence it or “work with them in any fashion.” We’ve reached out to Elliot for comment.
Gen Con announced that TSR Games LaNasa does not have a booth or panels at this year’s event, and that the con would “deny them” if they applied to attend. Gygax Jr.’s brother Luke Gygax said he, his family, and Gary Con (the convention dedicated to Gary Gygax) are “not involved” with his work, calling it a “quick nostalgia money grab based on my father’s name and not much else.” Several publishers, designers, and people who’ve worked on TSR projects have voiced their opposition to TSR Games LaNasa and have demanded an apology from Gygax Jr. — which he gave, in a manner of speaking.
In a since-deleted thread on Twitter, Gygax Jr. said he “never meant to hurt anyone of any race, creed, or colour” (note how he didn’t mention gender identity) and added that “everyone has been welcome at my gaming table.” However, his apology mostly focused on his personal history of being bullied — framed as how “attractive ladies would just lower the eyes while the jocks or other socially vibrant fellows had some fun at another geeky nerds expense” — while also mentioning his past desire to commit a school shooting. (io9 viewed the thread before it was deleted and took screenshots, and there’s a similar statement on his Facebook that appears to have removed the shooting reference.)
“As a gamer it meant that most of us were not worthy of any attention from others of our own age. We were Nerds. We were brainy-acks and others would snicker,” Gygax Jr. wrote. “I played the Violin and often I began to wish that indeed I did have a Thompson 45 Machine Gun inside so that I could wipe away some of those laughs.”
Gygax Jr. has since deactivated his Twitter account, but the TSR Games LaNasa account is still active. On June 27, it compared the recent feedback to “Satanic Panic” and said, this morning, that it plans to start their own gaming convention after Gen Con said it wouldn’t be welcome. It’s not clear who’s running the account, which has a series of replies accusing folks of bullying and spitting on Gary Gygax’s legacy, but LaNasa looks to be at least somewhat involved. In a statement he made through the account, he dismissed the comments against TSR Games LaNasa as “slander and misrepresentations [that] are deplorable, hurtful and, yes, disgusting, for both my team, our heritage, and this fine artform all people love.”
LaNasa is working on opening a Dungeons & Dragons museum at D&D’s original commercial location in Wisconsin (the same address as on the TSR Games trademark), and he made headlines last year when he ran for a Republican primary seat in Wilmington, North Carolina. The campaign took a turn when his opponent surfaced a 2012 video (since-deleted) showing LaNasa having two of his employees wrestle in a tub of grits to become his tattoo shop’s next “head shop girl.” LaNasa lost the election.