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TSR, Inc., originally called Tactical Strategy Rules, was the American game publishing company that published Dungeons & Dragons.
History[edit | edit source]
Tactical Studies Rules was formed in 1973 as a partnership between Gary Gygax and Don Kaye as a means to formally publish and sell the rules of Dungeons & Dragons. The partnership was subsequently joined by Brian Blume and (temporarily) by Dave Arneson. When Don Kaye died of a stroke in 1975, Blume and Gygax, the remaining owners, incorporated a new company, TSR Hobbies, Inc., of which Blume acquired the larger share. The assets of the original company were transferred to the new one, and Tactical Studies Rules was dissolved. In 1983, the word "Hobbies" was dropped from the name, resulting in the final name of TSR, Inc.
TSR emerged as a leading developer of the modern role-playing game (RPG). Its flagship product, Dungeons & Dragons, served as the model for the new field. Dungeons and Dragons proved to be a financial success, and also was instrumental in developing the new RPG genre and introducing it to new market segments such as children and teens.
TSR's games proved extremely popular, and extremely profitable. Gygax left for Hollywood to found Dungeons & Dragons Entertainment, which attempted to license D&D products to movie and television executives. His work would eventually lead to only a single license for what later became the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon. After Gygax's departure, Brian Blume and his brother Kevin Blume assumed control of the company. The Blumes were forced to leave after being accused of misusing corporate funds and accumulating large debts in the pursuit of spinoffs such as latchhook rug kits that were thought to be too broadly targeted. Within a year of the ascension of the Blumes, the company was forced to post a net loss of 1.5 million US dollars, resulting in layoffs for approximately 75% of the staff. Some of these staff members went on to form other prominent game companies such as Pacesetter Games, Mayfair Games and to work with Coleco's video game division.
Gygax, who at that time owned only approximately 30% of the stock, wrote to the Board of Directors, asking them to remove the Blumes as a way of restoring financial health to the company. In an act many saw as retaliation, the Blumes sold their stock to Lorraine Williams. Gygax tried to have the sale declared illegal; after that failed, Gygax sold his remaining stock to Williams and used the capital to form New Infinities Productions.
Williams was a financial planner who saw the potential for transforming the debt-plagued company into a highly profitable one. However, she disdained the gaming field, viewing herself as superior to gamers. Williams implemented an internal policy under which playing games was forbidden at the company. This resulted in many products being released without being playtested (some were playtested "on the sly") and a large number of products being released that were incompatible with the existing game system.
Through Williams' direction, TSR solidified its expansion into other fields, such as magazines, paperback fiction, and comic books. Williams controlled the Buck Rogers license and encouraged TSR to produce Buck Rogers games. TSR would end up publishing a board game and a role-playing game.
During this time, in the early 1980s, TSR developed the Dragonlance series, which consisted of an entirely new game world and rules. Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman also produced a trilogy of novels set in the Dragonlance universe, which became the first game company fiction to reach the Best Seller list in the United States. During the height of its success, TSR made an annual profit of over one million U.S. dollars, and maintained a staff of 400 employees.
However, TSR gradually lost its ability to innovate. After the emergence of collectible card games, TSR released several new collectable game lines: Dragon Dice and Spellfire. Neither found great success in the market place. At the same time, TSR began retaliating against fan fiction and other creative work derived from TSR intellectual property, which angered many long-time customers and fans. Other new entrants into the RPG genre introduced competing fantasy worlds, which fragmented the RPG community, further reducing TSR's already wilting consumer base. These and other factors led to TSR ending accumulating over $30 million in debt by 1996, and having to endure multiple rounds of layoffs.
With the decline of TSR, Wizards of the Coast, publishers of the wildly popular collectible card game Magic: The Gathering, inherited the title of "Lord of the RPGs". Wizards of the Coast purchased TSR and its intellectual properties in 1997, ending the company's slow fall from grace. TSR employees were given the opportunity to transfer to Wizards of the Coast's offices in Washington; some accepted the offer. Corporate offices in the Lake Geneva office were closed. Over the next few years, various parts of the company were resold to other companies, while in 1999, Wizards of the Coast was itself purchased by Hasbro, Inc. In 2002, Gen Con was sold to Peter Adkison's Gen Con, LLC. Also in 2002 TSR's magazines were transferred to Paizo Publishing. The TSR brand name continued for several years, then was retired. Soon after, TSR trademarks were allowed to expire.
Products[edit | edit source]
TSR's main products were role-playing games, the most successful of which was Dungeons & Dragons. However, they also produced other games like card, board and dice games, and published both magazines and books.
Role-playing games[edit | edit source]
- Alternity (1998)
- Amazing Engine (1993)
- Boot Hill (1975)
- Buck Rogers XXVC
- Conan the Barbarian
- DragonLance: Fifth Age (Saga System) (1996)
- Dungeons & Dragons (1974)
- Empire of the Petal Throne (1975)
- Gamma World (1978)
- Gangbusters (1982)
- Indiana Jones
- Marvel Super Heroes
- Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Game (Saga System) (1998)
- Metamorphosis Alpha (1976)
- Star Frontiers (1982)
- Top Secret (1980) and Top Secret/S.I.
Wargames[edit | edit source]
- Cavaliers and Roundheads (1973)
- Chainmail (1975)
- Classic Warfare (1975)
- Cordite & Steel (1977)
- Divine Right (1979)
- Don't Give Up The Ship! (1975)
- Fight In The Skies (1975)
- Sniper! (1986)
- Star Probe (1975)
- Terrible Swift Sword (1986)
- Tractics (1975)
- Tricolor (1975)
- Warriors of Mars (1974)
- William the Conqueror (1976)
Other games[edit | edit source]
- 4th Dimension (board game)
- Dragon Dice collectible dice game
- Dungeon! (1975)
- Endless Quest gamebooks
- Spellfire collectible card game
- Blood Wars collectible card game
- Chase (board game)
- Kage (board game)
- Steppe (board game)
- Attack Force (microgame)
- Icebergs (microgame)
- Remember the Alamo (microgame)
- Revolt on Antares (microgame)
- Saga (microgame)
- They've Invaded Pleasantville (microgame)
- Vampyre (microgame)
- Viking Gods (microgame)
Magazines[edit | edit source]
Fiction[edit | edit source]
In 1984, TSR started publishing novels based on their games. Most D&D campaign settings had their own novel line, the most successful of which were the Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms lines with dozens of novels released in each.
TSR also published the 1995 novel Buck Rogers: A Life in the Future by Martin Caidin, a standalone reimagining of the Buck Rogers universe and unrelated to TSR's Buck Rogers XXVC game.
Over the years, TSR published a number of fantasy and science fiction novels unconnected with their gaming products, such as L. Dean James' "Red Kings of Wynnamyr" novels, Sorcerer's Stone (1991) and Kingslayer (1992) and Mary H. Herbert's five "Gabria" novels (Valorian, Dark Horse, Lightning's Daughter, City of the Sorcerers and Winged Magic); but never devoted a major portion of their budget or energy toward becoming a major publisher in the field.
Criticism[edit | edit source]
After its initial success faded, the company turned to legal defenses of what it regarded as its intellectual property. In addition, there were several legal cases brought regarding who had invented what within the company and the division of royalties. These actions reached their nadir when the company threatened to sue individuals supplying game material on Internet sites (illegitimately, as under special circumstances U.S. copyright law holds that guidelines and rules may not be copyrighted). In the mid-1990s, this led to frequent use of the nickname "T$R" in discussions on RPG-related Internet mailing lists and Usenet, as the company was widely perceived as attacking its customers. Increasing product proliferation didn't help matters; many of the product lines overlapped and were separated by what seemed like minor points (even the classic troika of Greyhawk, the Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance suffered in this regard).
In addition, TSR's corporate culture tried to convince its creative staff that the company was their only refuge for employment. In response, ex-employees banded together in a loose organization called "CTHULHU" (Confederation of TSR Hirelings Undaunted by Leaving the Hideous Uglyheads).
Trivia[edit | edit source]
The company was the subject of an urban myth stating that it tried to trademark the term "Nazi". This was based on a supplement for the Indiana Jones RPG in which some figures were marked with "NAZI(tm)". This notation was in compliance with the list of trademarked character names supplied by Lucasfilm's legal department. Later references to the error would forget its origin and slowly morph into stories of TSR's trying to register such a trademark.
Marvel Comics also supplied a list of trademarked Marvel characters which included the term "NAZI(tm)".
References[edit | edit source]
- Rausch, Allen (2004-08-16). Gary Gygax Interview - Part 2. Gamespy. Retrieved on 2006-07-05.
- Magic & Memories: The Complete History of Dungeons & Dragons - Part II: Mazes & Monsters. Gamespy. p. 5. (2004-08-16). Retrieved on 2006-07-05.
- gygaxfaq: What Happened to Gygax - TSR?. gygax.com. Archived from the original on 1999-01-28. Retrieved on 2006-07-04.
- Magic & Memories: The Complete History of Dungeons & Dragons - Part III: Mazes & Monsters. Gamespy. p. 1. (2004-08-17). Retrieved on 2006-07-04.
- Tidwell, Ken (1997-04-10). Wizards of the Coast to acquire TSR. http://www.gamecabinet.com.+The Game Cabinet.
- Biography, Peter D. Adkison. Gen Con LLC. Retrieved on 2006-07-04.
- Wizards of the Coast Signs Exclusive Publishing Agreement With Paizo Publishing, LLC To Produce Top Hobby Industry Magazines. Wizards of the Coast, Inc.. (2002-07-08).
- U.S. Copyright Office - Games. U.S. Copyright Office (www.copyright.gov).
[edit | edit source]
- TSR history to 1999
- Publication list on Pen & Paper
- Gamespy interview with Gary Gygax on the history of TSR (among other things)