It is news for a few days that the TSR (Tactical Studies Rules) will return as a tabletop RPG development company in the near future.
At the head of the newborn company we find E. Gary Gygax Jr, son of the famous father, with James M. Ward and Justin LaNasa at his side.
This article, in addition to wanting to inform our users, would also like to try to understand what is happening. Or, at the most, give a personal opinion on all this rebirth.
The title of this article also made me think. It almost seems like I tried to imitate a b-grade horror or sci-fi movie. Let me be clear, I'm not saying that all this "return to origins" is bad, but it seems at the same time a good experiment, as much as the creation of the Creature in the book Frankenstein.
But let's go in order, let's try to look at the past a little and to take stock of the current situation of TSR and his return.
TSR in the past
The history of TSR begins in 1973. Gary Gygax, together with Don Kaye and Blume, founded a small company to bring the first edition of Dungeons & Dragons to the bookstores of all fans. Although the most famous world created by Gygax was Greyhawk, born from a campaign started a few years earlier, this one saw the publication only in 1980, leaving Mystara the task of loading on his shoulders the adventures of a generation of players.
I still remember, when I drowned in fanzines, the interviews with Gary Gygax in which he told how every week he churned out new magical objects that he tested and inserted in his campaigns.
After the first edition, and for a long time, the company managed to juggle Dungeons & Dragons and some three-dimensional wargames set both in World War II and in the Napoleonic era. Interesting was their intention to publish a game without owning the rights. This was none other than a wargame set in the narrative universe of John Carter of Mars (Edgar Rice Burroughs). It did not end well and the game was withdrawn from the market after a legal dispute that saw the company come out defeated in court.
I don't know about you, but it reminds me of what happened a few years ago with Hero Quest and a Kickstarter from a Spanish developer… it's really true that people never learn anything!
With the death of Don Kaye and the reorganization of the TSR, this continued, with mixed fortunes, court cases, moments of peak and black economic depression, until the 90s of the last century, with the publication of some of the most famous settings of Dungeons & Dragons, such as Dragonlance and Ravenloft. As a final act, the TSR, was absorbed in 1997 by Wizards of the Coast, which kept the brand alive only until 2000, bringing it to natural extinction, with the release of the third edition of Dungeons and Dragons.
You may wonder if those times are over, but the only thing that comes to mind is a phrase from "Big Trouble in Chinatown":
I am the past that comes back to haunt you.Egg Shen
In fact, already in 2011, TSR Games, had opened its doors again. The publications he had assets were two: Gygax Magazine e Top secret. The first is a fanzine that collects ideas and ideas for various role-playing games, from D&D to other pulp and indie publications.
The other is an RPG, initially released in 1980 and now in its fourth edition. It would be interesting to talk a little about this product, but this is a story that will be covered at another time.
And finally here is the TSR as we will begin to know it again. Here is a transcript of the words of Gygax Jr. released a few days ago in a video uploaded to the Youtube platform:
TSR has been gone. There's a ton of artists and game designers and people that play… .. and recently they were dissed for being old-fashioned, possibly anti modern trends, and enforcing, or even having the concepts of gender identity
To be honest this statement gives me a bit to think about. It's like someone wants to make RPG great again. Any reference to a character with a canary yellow hairpiece is wanted.
Aside from these statements, the fledgling company, or the Reanimated Creature, already has a few publications in store: Giantlands e Star frontiers. The first is a game that comes from a successful Kickstarter of 2019, while the second is the relaunch of a 1982 "Zeb" Cook product. Honestly I hope they update the rules of the latter, because the initial version had a regulation very lacking in all respects.
Final thoughts and conclusions
I am deeply filled with doubts. Listening to Gygax Jr.'s interview I was amazed in many of its parts. First for the statement previously reported, then for when he lashed out against the WoTC. I understand the hatred that can arise given that the company founded by the father was first bought and subsequently dissolved by the rival company, but to define the people who collaborate with this lemmings, it seems a bit excessive ...
I also understand that when ideas start to run out, we begin to look back to the past, to update and not old games, to remove the cobwebs from publications, but it is also true that nothing is written in stone and everything should evolve. I don't tell anyone how to play at his house, I respect every opinion, but certain gatekeeping tones should be honestly avoided.
The OSRs are welcome! The return to the past is welcome, but at least we try to update the tones. Otherwise this umpteenth revival will truly become yet another bad film of series b (like Kraa the Sea Monster)!