Renton, Wash.-based gaming company Wizards of the Coast filed a preliminary injunction in Seattle last week that seeks to prevent the release of a Wisconsin company’s next tabletop game, citing copyright disputes. intellectual property and allegedly “racist and transphobic content”.
Wizards of the Coast, owned by the Hasbro conglomerate, is the current publisher of the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game whose audience has grown steadily over the past few years.
The company’s injunction, filed Sept. 8 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, seeks to restrain publication of Star Frontiers: New Genesis, a tabletop space opera role-playing game that is currently under development at TSR LLC, headquartered in Lake Geneva, Wisc.
TSR LLC (aka “TSR3.5” or “NuTSR”) is the latest company to claim the name and legacy of the now defunct TSR Inc., which is best known for publishing the original version of Dungeons & Dragons in 1973 and was acquired by Wizards in 1997.
TSR LLC was founded in June 2021 by Ernie Gygax, son of the late J&D creator Gary Gygax, and Justin LaNasa, owner and operator of the Dungeon Hobby Shop Museum in Lake Geneva. The museum is located on the site of the first office that Gary Gygax opened for the TSR in 1976.
TSR LLC New Genesis is an attempt to revive the original star borderswhich TSR Inc. published from 1980 to 1986. While star borders never had the success J&D fact, it has maintained a cult fan base to the present day. Several features of his universe were then recycled in the J&D space setting spell scrambler.
In July, a preview copy of New Genesis was leaked online and sparked immediate controversy due to allegedly racist and transphobic content. “A ‘Negro’ race is described as a ‘sub-race’ in the game and as having ‘medium’ intelligence with a maximum intelligence rating of 9, while the ‘Nordic’ race has a minimum intelligence rating of 13”, notes the preliminary injunction. , citing an example of New Genesis play test.
Washington-based watchdog group No Hate in Gaming, cited in Wizards’ preliminary exhibits, later documented “hate messages” allegedly posted on social media by New Genesis author Dave Johnson.
In the injunction, Wizards’ attorney writes that it “would be irreparably harmed by the publication and distribution of the game using its trademarks because consumers could mistakenly associate Wizards with the objectionable content of the game, damage its reputation and goodwill and undermine its efforts to foster a culture that embraces diversity.
These efforts include adjusting the game’s lore to move away from specific fantasy races being treated as plug-and-play villains, and releases such as this year’s Journeys through the Radiant Citadelan anthology of adventures inspired by world mythologies other than post-Tolkian Western fantasy.
The September 8 injunction marks the final stage of an ongoing legal battle between TSR LLC and Wizards. They had already filed a lawsuit against each other in December over the rights to the TSR name and star borders.
TSR LLC claims that Wizards allowed both marks to expire at an undisclosed time in the early 2000s, which made the marks eligible for use.
It also calls for the removal of a content disclaimer that Wizards added to digital versions of older TSR products, such as the original Stay on the Borderlands module.
“This disclaimer attempts to make a statement of fact, and therefore portrays all writers, publishers, artists and consumers of these products as supporting these alleged biases, stereotypes and bigotry, falsely claimed to be part of these products”, TSR LLC wrote online, as part of a now canceled Indiegogo campaign to raise legal fees.
Wizards counter-filed to seek cancellation of TSR LLC’s trademark registration, alleging that TSR LLC filed a fraudulent claim with the United States Patent and Trademark Office to claim the name and intellectual property of original TSR.
Wizards also notes in its injunction that it has acquired the rights to both TSR’s name, its unique logo (referred to in the injunction as a “trademark design”), and its intellectual properties, including star borderswhen TSR was acquired in 1997.
“In particular,” Wizards’ filing states, “Wizards licensed the TSR trademark and Dungeons & Dragons intellectual property to OneBookShelf, Inc., which sells older editions of Dungeons & Dragons products bearing the TSR mark. OneBookShelf has been selling TSR-branded products continuously since December 2012.” This includes, at the time of writing, star borders himself.
A Wizards of the Coast representative said: “Wizards of the Coast does not comment on ongoing litigation. GeekWire has reached out to TSR LLC for comment.