TSR LLC, the company that took over the TSR trademark after the demise of the original company responsible for Dungeons and Dragons, has filed for chapter 7 bankruptcy as of June 12, 2023, putting lawsuits from Wizards of the Coast on hold.
This is not much of a surprise, as TSR’s gross revenue of the first 23 weeks of the year was a measly $621. That’s not a misprint. Their gross revenue was not in millions of dollars, but hundreds.
The total liabilities filed include money owed to one of the heads of TSR, Justin LaNasa, as well as money owed to one of LaNasa’s other companies, and legal fees going towards the lawsuits. The bill so far is more than $380,000. For a publishing company of this scale this is normally small potatoes, but as Whizbang DustyBoots on enworld.org commented, their assets must be “four out of six cans from a six-pack of Diet Coke”.
Filing for bankruptcy, especially in this case, pauses any other legal proceedings for TSR. Despite this, TSR’s website is still online as of now, though from what I’ve personally found I haven’t been able to find a way for a potential customer to make a purchase, as of June 14th, 2023. I may be looking at the wrong site, but it looks like a website hosted on GoDaddy purely so no one else can.
TSR was originally founded by Gary Gygaz and Don Kaye, eventually purchased by Wizards of the Coast in 1997, and in turn Wizards of the Coast was purchased by Hasbro in 1999. TSR on its own has been on a tumultuous history since then, going through multiple re-foundings as the copyright expired, with many splits along its lifetime due to the politically incorrect statements and opinions of some founding members, such as Ernie Gygax and his objectionable opinions on race, gender identity, and gun violence.
The TSR that is currently involved in these recent lawsuits is one headed by Ernie Gygax and Justin LaNasa, over usage of the TSR logo and name, which is still owned by Wizards of the Coast. If you want a more detailed history of the company and its recent lawsuits, you can learn more on the Wikipedia article written about the company.
This current TSR, from now on to be referred to as NuTSR, is already in trouble for more than just sketchy copyright usage. NuTSR is also in hot water over their reboot of Star Frontiers, a science-fiction tabletop game originally published in 1982, because of its blatant racism concerning playable races and the design of such evoking the belief in eugenics popularized by Nazis.
Yes: Nazi eugenics. In a tabletop game. That was being developed in 2022. I’m in disbelief that this is even real, and yet it’s right there in the playtest for Star Frontiers: New Genesis. It even describes a race of “Nordics” with blonde hair and blue eyes for crying out loud.
Wizards of the Coast claims that publishing this content would inflict reputational harm upon Wizards of the Coast, despite it not using the TSR name in a reasonable amount to supply a connection a common person would reasonably make, from my perspective. However, gamers in the tabletop gaming scene tend to know quite a bit of the history of the companies they patronize, so I’m not sure how strong that argument of mine would be. Feel free to discuss this in the comments, it boosts engagement!
Wizards also seems to wish to undermine LaNasa’s claim that the company has abandoned TSR and its related trademarks, allowing him to take control of the brand and its games, according to Charlie Hall from Polygon. Hall claims that Wizards of the Coast has admitted to failing to file paperwork to register TSR, Star Frontiers, and other properties in the timeframe required by federal law. This has been a thorn in Wizards’ side, as a federal magistrate judge denied the preliminary injunction they have filed, citing a lack of evidence of upholding continuous use of the TSR brand. The judge had also added that the racist version of the game was promised to not to be published, according to NuTSR, adding another nail in the coffin for the injunction.
LaNasa’s NuTSR has filed for bankruptcy this week, likely protecting them from further legal issues, at least from this avenue.
I still feel like NuTSR has already blown their chance at bringing themselves back from the dead, since they dared to even include the racist descriptions of different races and their heavy implication of links to eugenics. If a company even contemplates publishing that, I’m not certain they will succeed as a business, especially today.
NuTSR’s filing bankruptcy might not put a full stop to this issue, but it is likely that this will not escalate much further unless Wizards of the Coast attempts to push a different issue forward, or NuTSR somehow manages to come back from this. If they did not file for bankruptcy, I feel certain that Wizards would have ground them to dust over these lawsuits, forcing a closure.