Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Interesting Bit of Gaming History

I stumbled across this link, which shows one of the complaints made by TSR in their lawsuit against GDW and Gary Gygax in 1992 regarding the Dangerous Journeys/Mythus RPG. It's a great read, if only to see exactly how thin TSR's case actually was. Reading through it, they come across as petty and vindictive, not to mention arrogant, claiming all sorts of commonalities between Mythus and D&D without ever once acknowledging that their own claim of D&D's having been the original source for many of these things is patently absurd. It's this kind of thinking that earned the company the sneer "T$R" back in the 90s and doomed the company to the demise it so richly deserved.

Fascinating stuff.


  1. "(36) The "First Aid" skill in MYTHUS (pages 28 and 165) is
    derived from the AD&D "Cure Light Wounds" spell in the AD&D 1st ed. PHB
    (page 43) and the AD&D OA (page 57)."

    I'd quit a job if my bosses were the kind of people pulling this crap.

    What dicks.

  2. I knew I should have taken that first aid class. I'd be a first level cleric now if I had!

  3. "(50) TSR withdraws this paragraph.
    (52) TSR withdraws this paragraph."

    Given the drivel that they left in (have these people never heard of 'prior art'?) I can only wonder in amazement what was in the withdrawn paragraphs.

  4. What I've always been curious about is why TSR never sued Palladium Games (or did they?). Surely the Palladium system was more similar to D&D than Dangerous Journeys. Although, back in the day, maybe Palladium had enough money to fight it out so TSR didn't try it. Who knows?

  5. I was *just* rereading parts of Mythus there. There is some serious brilliance amid the mess.

  6. While this is a frvilous lawsuit it accomplished its goal of destroying the competition.

  7. I wonder who did the legwork for the TSR. Someone who had to have known the games, the evil wman who took over and the legal types couldn't have come up will all of this technical stuff, they weren't into the rules themselves.

  8. @Dan: I can think of a handful of reasons but the key one would be Gary Gygax's name wasn't on it.

  9. I'd quit a job if my bosses were the kind of people pulling this crap<

    Then I assume they aren't lawyers, Jim.

    Having worked myself in the legal profession a good bit (paralegal) I'd say some of those points in the doc are very good points. But Some are just pathetic.

  10. Its not a terribly surprising approach. Throw everything that you have at the issue, resile on those matters which you cant succeed on at a later date but push on the many issues you can use.

    Its litigation practice 101.

  11. For that matter, why did TSR never sue Tunnels & Trolls? Presumably, it was a risk assessment matter. How much do we spend to reap what benefits? In this case I can see where they are going. Each entry is pretty meaningless individually, but they build a picture of a similar looking game. Frivolous, to be sure, though.

    Interesting question as to who compiled the list. It wouldn't really have to be somebody familiar with the rules. It looks more to me as though someone was provided with a huge amount of documentation and told to find every point of similarity. That said, somebody must have recognised they were there to begin with.

  12. I'm pretty sure this was a vendetta by Lorraine against Gary. In the Gen Con book she seemed concerned about Gary when he attended GenCon even though he left TSR. Since the lawsuit didn't indicate Gary was subject to some sort of Non-Compete clause, and since they've let other more similar games pass, that's the only logical conclusion here.

    Even if you take the legendary criticism of Lorraine with a grain of salt, I have to think she considered Gary a threat. I believe she was afraid the hard-core Gary fans would have threatened D&D.

    I noticed after Gary left the company seemed to take steps to have less recognition of creators, with a lot of adventures being credited by "TSR Staff", etc. I think they wanted to also make sure FR could exist without Greenwood, and Dragonlance without Hickman and Weiss.

    I think this was one case where they should have left things alone. Based on the reaction to Mythus by the gaming public it might not have been the powerhouse TSR thought. I feel that this lawsuit hurt GDW and TSR, the former by adding financial pressure (although they had been hurt by having a lot of returnable product from the "Desert Storm Handbook") which ultimately killed them. The latter by hurting their bottom line from the settlement and/or legal fees.

  13. I note T$R's lawyers were the appropriately named Wanke & Schlitter...

    (Ronald L. Wanke, Stanley A. Schlitter)

  14. Frankly, even before the nineties TSR was well known as T$R among us not in the D&D tribe. Williams might have been very petty and and vindicative, but she learned from a pro, Gary himself.

    Even so, this was not exactly the hobby at its best.

    BTW the idea of having demi planes with the castle was a nice (and kind of weird) way to put anything in an adventure and still claim it was "castle greyhawk". Almost like cheating. :)

  15. I don't think Anything Gary did was as bad, since at best Gary didn't try to say that TSR was the exclusive creator of RPGs.

  16. Lesson of the day. Don't post a comment to two different blog posts at the same time. I was refering to the Isle of the Ape post above, which everyone might have guessed. Morning coffee. Ugh.

    @John: go read some old Dragon magazines, or something like that. Gary could be extremely petty and obnoxious when he was at his self centred worst. Most of us have those moments, but he had the bad taste to put it in print.

  17. I'm not going to delve into the deep and seemingly irrational antipathy Lorraine Williams displayed towards Gygax, but once you've decided that you're going to sue then the process of preparing a legal brief is very much one of "throw everything against the wall and see what sticks".

    If you see a civil case that doesn't have a whole bunch of thin-as-water crap listed, then you can almost certainly assume that it wasn't prepared by a professional.

    In the legal system, you don't line everything up and say "well, you've got more crap arguments than good arguments, so you lose". Instead you look through absolutely everything and if even one of your claims holds up, you win.