With Halloween just around the corner, I’d hoped that a dispute between TSR and Wizards of the Coast (WotC) would just be a joke. Zombie Gary Gygax rises from the grave to duke it out with an army of D&D 5e playtesters. All of whom are led by a canny band of actual play YouTubers. It could be big!
Sadly, it is in fact a very real lawsuit where WotC is suing to protect its image and claim to older TSR intellectual properties such as Star Frontiers. I first read about this lawsuit via Polygon. People have been very critical of D&D, and WotC as an organization, but this lawsuit is a thing to behold because the person they are suing deserves to be dragged into court.
In the article, there are samples from the new TSR’s version of older sci-fi RPG. The racism couldn’t be more blatant, and I’m shocked that anyone could be so hateful and think that in this day and age there’s actually a market for that kind of product. That’s one part of the lawsuit. It speaks for itself, and if it wasn’t WotC taking the creator (Justin LaNasa) of this game to court, someone else would. The stuff that is the working draft of Star Frontiers New Genesis is unconscionably racist.
However, the bigotry component of the lawsuit isn’t everything. This is also a battle for IP ownership. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out because according to the Polygon article, WotC has admitted to being negligent with regard to renewing copyright on older IPs. It is conceivable that the gaming giant loses control of products previously associated with TSR, the business taken over by WotC a couple decades ago. (Has it been so long?) If WotC somehow loses this part of the lawsuit that means that they accidentally ceded the rights to products they legally obtained. That is some poor management, and someone should be fired for that.
In my opinion, the real story here is not WotC or the loss of IPs, rather it is racism. Someone took it upon themselves to codify explicit racism into a game for profit. I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if WotC hadn’t filed this lawsuit. Would this iteration have actually gone ahead and published such a steaming pile, and think no one would notice? Really, it’s shocking, and I’m genuinely happy that WotC is suing to make sure this claptrap never sees the light of day.
*I have deliberately avoided linking to the original content in question, as well as “new” TSR.