A TSR Too Far

Last week the resurrection of a new TSR Games became the focus of gaming news, with announcements of new games, interviews, and Twitter discourse galore. I wrote a post on Thursday giving some of my initial thoughts on the company and the main voice of the new TSR, Ernie Gygax. If you don’t want to read all that, let me sum up: *blows raspberry*.

Before we go too much further I think it’s important to make sure we identify everyone involved, because there are in fact two TSR Games in existence right now. WotC let the trademark for TSR lapse in the early Oughts and in 2011 Jayson Elliott picked it up and founded TSR Games (@TSRGames on Twitter). Recently Jayson missed a filing date and Ernie Gygax picked it up, creating TSR Games (@TSR_Games on Twitter) using the early TSR logo and trade dress, mostly. It’s important to distinguish between the two, in case you leave this article incensed and wanting to do something about it; make sure you go after the correct TSR Games. I don’t know if it helps but for the rest of this article I will refer to them as #DeltaVariantTSR. And yes, feel free to use that on Twitter as the mood strikes.

Given the backlash arising from Ernie’s interview and the poor handling of the response to that backlash, one might expect #DeltaVariantTSR to wizen up and seek to properly address all the issues raised. Not only has #DeltaVariantTSR not done that, they have continued to double down on their VP’s rhetoric, while simultaneously trying to rise above the discourse. Here are a few screenshots to give you an idea:

Let’s break some of this down. “Product of his time” is a classic, used to excuse any bigot past their middle age. Funny how, despite also growing up in the Seventies I somehow manage not to be a bigot, or a misogynist, or a transphobe (That’s not me seeking applause; those things are the bare minimum, the baseline), as do many of my peers. The “Keep Gaming Fantasy” hashtag is a call to keep politics out of gaming, as if politics hadn’t always been a part of gaming from the very beginning. The next tweet is all about giving due deference to Glorious Leader, because obviously we can’t speak ill of Glorious Leader. Because a lack of self reflection has never once bitten anyone in the ass.

The last Tweet above is signed by Justin LaNasa, the apparent CEO of #DeltaVariantTSR. I’ll leave you to Google details about Justin, suffice to say he is exactly the sort of person you would expect to be backing Ernie’s horseshit down the line. The “slander & misrepresentations” he refers to are people holding them responsible for the words they used, in the above tweets and elsewhere. And we get the disquieting dogwhistle of “heritage”, something that usually pops up in, you guessed it, white supremacist rhetoric. Remember, if it smells like a white supremacist and it sounds like a white supremacist…

Overall, not a great look for a company at launch to say the very least.

Launch of what, you may wonder. They have announced their first product as something called Giantlands. They ran a successful Kickstarter two years ago to fund a special box set edition, and their last update from June 8 promises, a) it will be delivered in mid-July, and b) don’t worry, the version currently being pre-sold on their website is totally different from the KS version. I’m sure that’s a relief to all the KS backers who will end up getting theirs around the time it hits the streets anyway.

After Giantlands, Ernie made some vague mumblings about a new Star Frontiers release. A neat trick, given that the license for that is still held by WotC, but Ernie is confident they can make something work out of the bits WotC doesn’t care about, whatever the heck that means.

So if the bigotry, misogyny, transphobia, and all-around prickishness weren’t enough red flags for you, here is a warning to all artists who might be approached by anyone claiming to represent #DeltaVariantTSR, from artist John Latta. It bears repeating, but never sign a blank contract, folks, and especially never give them any information which allows them further access to you. Given that it took the two years to get Giantlands (arguably) to a state where it could be published, their argument that they want the contract so they would “…save time when they needed art…” is frankly laughable.

In their latest attempt to avoid responsibility for their garbage statements, #DeltaVariantTSR has compared the criticism they have received since last week to the Satanic Panic of the Eighties. Quoting from their Twitter feed:

What we’ve been experiencing in recent days is very reminiscent of another moment in TSR history. Who recalls the Satanic Panic? Ends up some people, even today, still believe the #TTRPG & #DnD are in fact evil.

Setting aside the fact that none of the people criticizing them hate TTRPGs, they instead have reasonable issues with #DeltaVariantTSR’s ignorance and bigotry. It is the height of privilege to invoke the Satanic Panic, an event that spanned not just TTRPGs, but video games, music, television, and film, wherein numerous people came to actual physiological, emotional, and physical harm. For every “my parents burned my D&D books” story you here, I guarantee there are stories of much worse waiting in the wings. To compare that to a few days of deserved criticism on a social media platform is pathetic and ignorant, and speaks to just how out of touch anyone involved with #DeltaVariantTSR is.

This is the second article I have written about #DeltaVariantTSR. My editor texted me last week and told me TheRatHole.ca would never work with these guys in any capacity. So really, I could just keep going off on #DeltaVariantTSR until my keyboarding fingers get tired. But while I reserve the right to revisit if they do something particularly egregious, I don’t want to talk about them anymore.  

#DeltaVariantTSR is not going to produce anything of note in the TTRPG space, because their key players haven’t created anything of note in years. Just because you concentrate mediocrity and tired design in one spot doesn’t mean it will suddenly become genius.

Instead, I want to call on everyone to do what I’m going to do, which I outlined at the end of my first article (okay, now you should probably go read it). Am I going to call these clownshoes out as necessary? Sure. But I want to keep my focus on supporting Indie TTRPG creators, and every moment I spend talking about anything else takes away from the time I could spend with excellent games and their creators. Yes, call out bullshit, especially if you can step between the bullshit and marginalized creators. But let’s also keep raising up and centering the good people in our hobby and industry.

They deserve my voice more than bigoted grognards, any day.

[Editor’s Note: As mentioned by Brent, TheRatHole.ca has exactly zero interest in touching anything from this company with a ten foot pole. Just as the Delta Variant of COVID needs to be actively and aggressively avoided, so to do the vile ideals of #DeltaVariantTSR (Yes, that’s the hashtag reference if you didn’t get it.) -dc]