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D&D publisher requests injunction against competitor, citing ‘blatantly racist and transphobic’ content

Wizards of the Coast raises the stakes in its legal battle against a newly resurrected TSR

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A party of adventurers poses for a... a painting?... next to their freshly captured red dragon. Image: Kieran Yanner/Wizards of the Coast

Dungeons & Dragons publisher Wizards of the Coast has filed an injunction that could prevent the publication of content it calls “despicable” and “blatantly racist and transphobic.” The request, made before a federal judge in Seattle on Thursday, aims to immediately halt the production of Star Frontiers New Genesis, a reboot of the classic Star Frontiers tabletop role-playing game first published in 1982. The target of the request for an injunction is TSR, an entity which Wizards bought in 1997.

The newly formulated TSR, Inc. is owned by budding game publisher Justin LaNasa. He claims residence in North Carolina, where he’s best known for a chain of tattoo parlors — and also for a failed political campaign that was torpedoed by, among other things, reports that he once asked several female employees to wrestle in a tub filled with warm grits. LaNasa had been promoting his reboot of the original Star Frontiers for more than a year without actually producing much content. Then, in July, what appears to have been an early playtest version of the game leaked out. It was so reprehensible, according to Wizards, that the company felt compelled to take action to protect its brand.

“Negro” are listed here as a sub race of the “ulfar” and described as “tall, thick bodies, dark skinned ... with ... average intelligence ... maximum a +9.” Further down it notes that “nordic” humanoids are “blue-eyed with exceptional attibutres and powers ALL Attributes are int he 13+ range.”
Page nine of the injunction calls out the elements of the playtest document that compelled Wizards to take further legal action.
Image: Wizards of the Coast

The 23-page request (embedded in full below) lays out its evidence against LaNasa, the vast majority of which he appears to have either written or edited himself. As part of its argument, Wizards includes excerpts of what it alleges to be an early draft of LaNasa’s manuscript for New Genesis. The document appears to include game features that position Black characters as mechanically inferior to other characters due to their perceived lower base intelligence scores and other “latent issues” with what the playtest refers to as a “Sub race” [sic]. The manuscript also goes out of its way to note that the modern-day Black Lives Matter movement is “radical,” and specifically disallows trans characters of any type. Wizards took issue with these elements of the manuscript, among others, as they could adversely impact consumer sentiment of its own brand.

(Justin) Should we make a trans type race? Maybe “transbots”? Let me know and can add. The notation is signed “D.”
Annotations on the allegedly authentic manuscript include comments attributed to LaNasa requesting what could be construed as additional transphobic content.
Image: Wizards of the Coast

“Wizards has long embraced an inclusive culture for gaming, including for its Dungeons & Dragons products,” Wizards said in the request for injunction. “All players are welcome in Wizards’ games. In recent years, Wizards has redoubled its commitment to diversity and inclusion. For example, Wizards is updating its descriptions of people when reprinting older Dungeons & Dragons products to remove racially insensitive material. It increasingly uses sensitivity readers and diversity experts in its creative process to ensure that its storytelling reflects its values. New products no longer include cultural traits like languages and acknowledge a range of physical characteristics for character races.”

Wizards’ filing also seeks to undermine LaNasa’s most powerful argument — that Wizards abandoned TSR and other related trademarks, thus opening the door to his usurping of the brand and its games.

“Counterclaim Defendants claim ownership of the prior TSR, Inc.’s intellectual property,” Wizards wrote. It goes on to state that regardless of TSR’s claim, it continues to use the IP in question, including through sales by its official licensee OneBookShelf and in the recent Spelljammer: Adventures in Space books.

Here’s where things get complicated. Wizards admits that it failed to file paperwork for the registration of TSR, Star Frontiers, and other related marks in a timely fashion as required under federal law. But through continued sales of related products and use of the related IP, the company claims ownership via “common law trademark rights.” It will be up to a jury to determine if that is, in fact, the case.

Wizards’ request for an injunction against the sale of Star Frontiers New Genesis is expected to get a response by the end of September. The issue of who owns TSR and its related marks will go before a judge in October 2023.

Thursday’s request for injunction comes on the heels of an embarrassing episode for Wizards. Its Spelljammer: Adventures in Space product came under fire from fans and critics for its inclusion of racist tropes and stereotypes. Wizards has since issued a retraction to all digital versions of Spelljammer and has promised to remove the offending content in reprints going forward. That entire episode was actually included in the request for an injunction — as a positive sign of Wizards’ efforts toward inclusion in its work.

Reached for additional details, Wizards said that it does not comment on pending litigation. Polygon reached out to Justin LaNasa but did not receive a response prior to publication.

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