Citing concerns over racist and transphobic material, Dungeons & Dragons publisher Wizards of the Coast is trying to take back an old game to prevent its publication, according to a report in Polygon. It’s a complicated situation, but the game, Star Frontiers New Genesis, is a reboot of a classic 1982 game with some very problematic content.
A little backstory: Wizards of the Coast purchased TSR Hobbies (the entity) in 1997. TSR had previously published a slew of roleplaying games, including Dungeons & Dragons, Gangbusters (a 1920s mob game), and Star Frontiers, the subject of the newest kerfuffle. Wizards allowed the TSR trademark to expire in 2000. In 2011, TSR Games was founded by Jayson Elliot as separate game publisher, named in honor of Gary Gygax’s original TSR Hobbies and using the exact same trademark as the original company. TSR LLC launched in June 2021, helmed by Justin LaNasa and Ernie Gygax (Gary Gygax’s son). They were able to do so because Elliot had also allowed the trademark lapse. Despite having used the TSR name and mark for a decade, Elliot rebranded as Solarian Games, in order to distance himself from LaNasa and Gygax, who even then were coming under fire for their transphobic and racist remarks. Currently the only active company named TSR Games is the one operated by LaNasa and Gygax.
This latest conflict involves Wizards of the Coast attempting to shut down publication of an updated Star Frontiers by TSR Games (LaNasa), in advance of its release. According to the injunction (which you can read here), Wizards is alleging that the TSR trademark is still associated with its brand by its continued sales online, and that TSR Games will irreparably damage their brand because the current draft of Star Frontiers is exceptionally racist, transphobic, and bigoted.
Polygon and NoHateInGaming reported that Wizards has also submitted for support the steps that it is taking to promote an inclusive environment, including both its 2020 statement on diversity, its recent Hazodee retraction, reactions to the Radiant Citadel, and the diverse casting on various actual play podcasts. (The irony that the original cover of Star Frontiers: Alpha Dawn depicts a Hazodee holding in a gun in the top right is not lost on me.)
From the injunction: “Wizards has taken significant steps to foster an inclusive and accepting gaming environment for all its consumers.... [TSR’s] Star Frontiers New Genesis product flies in the face of these efforts by trafficking in racial stereotypes and explicitly excluding trans representation in the game.”
And it’s not wrong. Star Frontiers was leaked last year (via TechRaptor) with a note that basically said “do not give to a Wizard employee,” and the product is, frankly, actively promoting bigotry in a way that seems gleeful. According to Dicebreaker, Black characters get lower intelligence scores, and according to the injunction, transgender characters are “explicitly excluded,” somehow. We’ll be keeping an eye on this conflict and will update as and when more developments emerge.
Edit 9/15/2022: A previous version of this article identified TSR Games as being “split” into separate entities, when in fact they had been two separate entities for the duration of their existences. The article has been updated to reflect a more accurate history of the TSR trademark and the companies involved. io9 regrets the error.
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