Friday, January 20, 2023

How Soon We Forget

TSR, Inc., as a publisher of books, games, and game related products, recognizes the social responsibilities that a company such as TSR must assume. TSR has developed this CODE OF ETHICS for use in maintaining good taste, while providing beneficial products within all of its publishing and licensing endeavors.

In developing each of its products, TSR strives to achieve peak entertainment value by providing consumers with a tool for developing social interaction skills and problem-solving capabilities by fostering group cooperation and the desire to learn. Every TSR product is designed to be enjoyed and is not intended to present a style of living for the players of TSR games.

To this end, the company has pledged itself to conscientiously adhere to the following principles:


Evil shall never be portrayed in an attractive light and shall be used only as a foe to illustrate a moral issue. All product shall focus on the struggle of good versus injustice and evil, casting the protagonist as an agent of right. Archetypes (heroes, villains, etc.) shall be used only to illustrate a moral issue. Satanic symbology, rituals, and phrases shall not appear in TSR products.


TSR products are intended to be fictional entertainment, and shall not present explicit details and methods of crime, weapon construction, drug use, magic, science, or technologies that could be reasonably duplicated and misused in real life situations. These categories are only to be described for story drama and effect/results in the game or story.


Agents of law enforcement (constables, policemen, judges, government officials, and respected institutions) should not be depicted in such a way as to create disrespect for current established authorities/social values. When such an agent is depicted as corrupt, the example must be expressed as an exception and the culprit should ultimately be brought to justice.


Crimes shall not be presented in such ways as to promote distrust of law enforcement agents/agencies or to inspire others with the desire to imitate criminals. Crime should be depicted as a sordid and unpleasant activity. Criminals should not be presented in glamorous circumstances. Player character thieves are constantly encouraged to act towards the common good.


Monsters in TSR's game systems can have good or evil goals. As foes of the protagonists, evil monsters should be able to be clearly defeated in some fashion. TSR recognizes the ability of an evil creature to change its ways and become beneficial, and does not exclude this possibility in the writing of this code.


Profanity, obscenity, smut, and vulgarity will not be used.


The use of drama or horror is acceptable in product development. However, the detailing of sordid vices or excessive gore shall be avoided. Horror, defined as the presence of uncertainty and fear in the tale, shall be permitted and should be implied, rather than graphically detailed.


All lurid scenes of excessive bloodshed, gory or gruesome crimes, depravity, lust, filth, sadism, or masochism, presented in text or graphically, are unacceptable. Scenes of unnecessary violence, extreme brutality, physical agony, and gore, including but not limited to extreme graphic or descriptive scenes presenting cannibalism, decapitation, evisceration, amputation, or other gory injuries, should be avoided.


Sexual themes of all types should be avoided. Rape and graphic lust should never be portrayed or discussed. Explicit sexual activity should not be portrayed. The concept of love or affection for another is not considered part of this definition.


Nudity is only acceptable, graphically, when done in a manner that complies with good taste and social standards. Degrading or salacious depiction is unacceptable. Graphic display of reproductive organs, or any facsimiles will not be permitted.


Disparaging graphic or textual references to physical afflictions, handicaps and deformities are unacceptable. Reference to actual afflictions or handicaps is acceptable only when portrayed or depicted in a manner that favorably educates the consumer on the affliction and in no way promotes disrespect.


Human and other non-monster character races and nationalities should not be depicted as inferior to other races. All races and nationalities shall be fairly portrayed.


Slavery is not to be depicted in a favorable light; it should only be represented as a cruel and inhuman institution to be abolished.


The use of religion in TSR products is to assist in clarifying the struggle between good and evil. Actual current religions are not to be depicted, ridiculed, or attacked in any way that promotes disrespect. Ancient or mythological religions, such as those prevalent in ancient Grecian, Roman and Norse societies, may be portrayed in their historic roles (in compliance with this Code of Ethics.) Any depiction of any fantasy religion is not intended as a presentation of an alternative form of worship.


Fantasy literature is distinguished by the presence of magic, super-science or artificial technology that exceeds natural law. The devices are to be portrayed as fictional and used for dramatic effect. They should not appear to be drawn from reality. Actual rituals (spells, incantations, sacrifices, etc.), weapon designs, illegal devices, and other activities of criminal or distasteful nature shall not be presented or provided as reference.


Narcotic and alcohol abuse shall not be presented, except as dangerous habits. Such abuse should be dealt with by focusing on the harmful aspects.


The distinction between players and player characters shall be strictly observed.

It is standard TSR policy to not use 'you' in its advertising or role playing games to suggest that the users of the game systems are actually taking part in the adventure. It should always be clear that the player's imaginary character is taking part in whatever imaginary action happens during game play. For example, 'you' don't attack the orcs--'your character' Hrothgar attacks the orcs.


It is TSR policy to not support any live action role-playing game system, no matter how nonviolent the style of gaming is said to be. TSR recognizes the physical dangers of live action role-playing that promotes its participants to do more than simply imagine in their minds what their characters are doing, and does not wish any game to be harmful.


While TSR may depict certain historical situations, institutions, or attitudes in a game product, it should not be construed that TSR condones these practices.

Original here


  1. If you had removed the mentions of role playing, you could have told me this was from the Comics Code and I would have believed you. In fact, some of these bulletin points are nearly word for word copies of the Code! Anyway, besides allowing players to be evil and occasionally having corrupt authorities, how many of these had TSR actually broken before adopting this policy? I certainly can't think of any 1e modules that contained " extreme graphic or descriptive scenes presenting cannibalism, decapitation, evisceration, amputation, or other gory injuries."

  2. Wow. Is from the Second Edition era?

    1. 2e was released in 1989, and 3e was released in 2000, so yes, this was smack dab in the middle of the 2e era.

  3. I was gonna say, Comics Code. Good shall triumph over evil, la de da. A lot of the rest strikes me as protection from lawsuits, especially the parts about not giving much detail of things and keeping them distant from reality.

  4. TSR banned a module from a con on account of an LGB character so clearly broke any modern equivalent. Don't give organisations of any sort the right to arbitrate for others what is moral, or we're just replacing the Church with something else.

  5. When did they make this?
    I swear in BECMI and 1st Edition they broke quite a few of these rules.

  6. Yeah, this sort of thing is standard with corporations. You want to put Mario on a t-shirt or a coffee mug? Then Nintendo controls how the character is depicted, and how that character will behave.

    Just like TSR in 1995, Hasbro and WotC have the right to dictate how anything bearing official "Dungeon and Dragons" marks should be portrayed.

    But they don't have that right with Osric, Labyrinth Lord, et al.

  7. Much of this, to the point of identical wording, is derived from a 1982 precursor that has been made available on the web by Jon Peterson in the last few days.

  8. I agree that "morality codes" have no place in a truly Open Game License.

    However, OGL 1.1/1.2/2.0 (or whatever they are calling it these days) is not a true OGL. It is essentially a straight up license. And in that case, they can dictate anything they want to, if you want to use their property.

    Everyone keeps talking about this the wrong way. Forget OGL. They are killing the very idea of OGL. That's the point of what they are doing. They have no intention of the new license being open in any meaningful form.

  9. I wrote away for and received these guidelines in mid-80's and I think they are earlier than that. They are basically the comic code plus some stuff to avoid a mazes and monsters type scenario. I think this sort of thing is one of the many reasons that material published after the early 80's always felt a little bland. Funny thing is that comics finally stopped following the code for the most part around that time and of course film (which had the original version of this code) stopped even sooner.

  10. The nice thing about the TSR code (or the Comics Code) was that it was highly specific, so you pretty much knew where you were and could write around it as needed. The trouble with Wizard's proposed license is that it is not specific, so you can trip up if they change their minds, or decide to tighten it based on external pressure or changing current events. (Mind you, I did trip over the TSR code once while adapting marvel comics characters from their horror line, but the fix was fairly simple...)

  11. lol I had read these a long time ago but forgot they required copraganda