The Vegan Militia

... because we are all made out of meat!

TSR Meets the Internet, Part 2


So, several months ago I wrote up my experiences with TSR in the early days of the internet. A few days ago, I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Plot Points, interviewing Shannon Appelcline, and was surprised to hear someone else involved in those long ago events.

While I had some bits of history he did not (e.g. the email TSR sent to me and related names and dates) I realize I left out some details. Also, in my searching, I found another account of these events, and a detailed web site and I found Rob Repp, himself.

One difference between our cases is that his site was devoted entirely to non D&D games. Which means he could laugh off the threatening letters. My site, on the other hand, covered many systems and there was a lot of D&D content, mainly because that was what I played. When I saw something on USENET of interest, I would archive it on the FTP site. As such, the D&D parts of my site were probably the only materials which I personally read. None of it was directly copied from any TSR materials. None of it, in my opinion, violated any copyrights.

But what was on there? Those files are likely long gone. I think I have a DAT tape containing those files, but finding someone with such a tape drive is unlikely, and I doubt the tape would be readable after all these years. The things I do remember where things like new magic items and spells, alternate critical hits tables, alternate rules, new character sheets, new classes, etc. A big section of the site was campaign write ups, basically transcripts of sessions. Now that I think about it, the modern day equivalent would be all the live-play podcasts which are quite common nowadays (my current favorite is The Titans of All’Terra) But at that time, my favorite was Navero which, coincidentally, I finally found on, which is the site Shannon runs.

For reasons I explained in my last post on this subject, I had entirely checked out of the discussions following the lobotomizing of my FTP site. I was angry and demoralized that something I had worked for years on could be destroyed so easily, so I walked away. That was probably also contributed to my giving up role-playing games entirely a few years later.

But after hearing the podcast with Shannon, my curiosity compelled me to go look at the messages on, see what I had missed, and piece together a larger timeline. What follows is quite lengthy and probably of little interest to most people, but it interested me, so here it is.

Please be advised that every element of our gaming system must be licensed
before you can incorporate it into a piece of software. This includes game
tables, item descriptions, and any copyrighted monster/character names. Feel
free to contact me by email regarding licensing. Most of the authors that have
written AD&D(R) software in the past neglected this step, and we're most
interested in preventing that from happening in the future.


Rob Repp
Manager, Digital Projects Group
TSR, Inc.
CompuServe: 76217,761
GEnie: TSR.Online
In article <2uljn4$> John Scott,

>Anyone know of an ftp site that has a monstrous compendium availible for
>download? Thanks in advance. (Please email to

I'd be interested in knowing about this one myself. :)

Rob Repp                           | InterNet:
Manager, Digital Projects Group    | InterNet:
TSR, Inc.                          | CompuServe: 76217,761
__________________________________ | GEnie: TSR.Online  AOL: TSR Inc
All opinions are my own, not TSR's | 414-248-3625    Fax 414-248-0389
It is available at ftp/, version II should be out soon.
We ARE aware of the fact that people want to be able to share their
creative efforts with others, and we're trying to find a way to manage
licenses to allow this without giving it all away.. In the meantime,
any software, netbook, etc. which uses TSR copyrighted names,
material, etc. is unlawful.
Let me include a copy of a policy letter we just drafted recently. Here goes:

As we have begun to explore the online community in depth, we've found many
avid gamers and fans.  We're interested in providing you with the best in
gaming products that meet our own standards of quality, as well as suiting
your needs and interests.  We know that many gamers develop campaigns and
other materials entirely for their own use.  We think this is great!
 However, when gamers begin sharing their creations with the public, whether
for profit or not, they are infringing our rights.  If we don't make an
earnest attempt to prevent this infringement of our trademarks and
copyrights, our ownership of these extremely valuable assets may be

A gamer in this situation has a few options.  He can strip every TSR
trademark and all copyright from his creations before putting them in public
(i.e. "genericize" the adventure). Or he can share his creations with the
public in a way that is licensed and approved by TSR. This is the more
desirable solution, as it protects our rights, and still leaves room for
gamers to share their creative expressions.

Sometime very soon, we're going to create a place where gamers can legally
upload and share their creations, including modules, stories and software. At
that time, I'd be happy to work with you to give your product a base to work
from.  We are definitely interested in fostering goodwill among customers,
and we'd like to see our upcoming effort as a pilot project.  Eventually, we
want gamers to be able to turn to TSR in cyberspace as easily as they do in a
hobby store.
> Again, this is all missing the point. TSR can't sue me if I publish a
> 'generic' adventure with the monster 'goblin' in it. But if I list that
> goblin as having AC 7, 1-4 hp, THAC0 20, Intelligence Low, etc, then I'm
> using TSR's copyrighted monster.  If I needed the Monstrous Manual or
> other TSR product to get the information for 'goblins', then I've
> probably violated copyright.  Note, I am NOT saying TSR can copyright
> terms like Armor Class, Intelligence, etc. But, if I get the information
> for goblins from a TSR product, and republish it in another form, I've
> created a derivative work, and am thus liable.

This interpreatation is correct. I checked with legal, and you've got it.
Due to the large volume of mail we're receiving, we're not replying to most
of it personally. Copyright comments and legal questions will be archived for
later examination. Policy statements will be posted to
Customer service  and gaming questions will be routed internally and answered
as quickly as possible.
For those of you who aren't entirely certain I exist, I'll be on a panel
discussion regarding online services at GEN CON. David Goss, Bruce Nesmith
and I will discuss proposed projects, future plans, and take questions
from the audience. See you there! :)
For the curious:

Yes, I did PlaneScape's border art. I do exist, and I am your internet
contact. Snail mail can be directed to:

TSR, Inc.
POB 756
201 Sheridan Springs Rd.
Lake Geneva, WI  53147
ATTN: Rob Repp, Digital Projects

I did, in a fit of pique at being repeatedly misquoted, deny someone's
recent request to quote me wholesale. Please feel free to paraphrase the
gist of that response. Actual verbose policy statements and clarifications
will be forthcoming, complete with a request to repost them where-ever you

Any opinions on the border art?
Maybe I'm just ignoring you... :)

Nope, I'm pretty sure that's not it. I must be busy, or maybe I just have
nothing to contribute. Hmmmm, maybe I was in an accident. Nope. Ummm...

"When I have nothing to say, my lips are sealed."
                                          David Byrne

Official releases forthcoming. Meanwhile, I'm quietly watching the
commentary go by. That's all, nothing too sinister. Generally, when
addressing a crowd, you should say only what needs saying, lest you draw
fire. In fact, this comment is probably a mistake, but I couldn't resist.

Have a nice day!
TSR is now an active member of the on-line gaming community. Since
Day-One, TSR products and artwork have been developed by creative people
employed or hired by TSR. This has resulted in the creation of an
extensive line of products, identities, names, rules, game mechanics,
logos, and standards of quality, to name a few. The gaming products,
novels, and publications are designed to encourage resourcefulness and
creativity in play. All of these created properties are owned by TSR
through national trademarks and copyrights which protect their publication
­ electronically or published on paper. When they are published by anyone
other than TSR, Inc. or their licensees, this publication becomes an
infringement to TSR trademarks and copyrights.

However, the gamers, designers, writers, artists, and editors who work for
TSR, do not wish to inhibit role playing game play.


You can create material using the AD&D game mechanics, etc. and place that
material on MPGNet, a licensee of TSR, or place it on AOL on TSR's new
Bulletin Board. You can download anything -- graphics, games, etc.
appearing on TSR AOL for your personal use. Currently, any other
distribution to the general public ­ in paper form or on the net ­  of
AD&D adventures, other TSR materials and game mechanics, or copyrighted
materials is considered unauthorized. However, you CAN freely distribute
or publish "generic" novels, stories, game mechanics, etc. Read on.

Don't specifically use AD&D statistics. Be creative. If you want a PC to
encounter a stupid but strong NPC, let the GM determine the NPC's actual
stats for the game system used by that GM. If the party encounters a
hydra, let the GM look up the stats for the hydra in the game system he is

Don't set the adventures in a TSR world. Create your own or use one from
history or legend. For example, you could set your adventure in Atlantis,
but not in the FORGOTTEN REALMS Adventure World.

Don't use monsters, spells, etc. that were created by TSR. Create and name
your own. Draw on history, legend or reality ­ even spell their actual
names backward for uniqueness.

Or, if a monster or spell is used in several different game systems, this
is a good indication that it is not owned by TSR. For example, Drow were
created by TSR, but a hydra is a known legendary monster and is public

You really can get going creatively when you invent your own, unique, game
mechanics . . . worlds, monsters, etc. And you are free to publish
anywhere when you specifically do not rely on AD&D game mechanics or other
material from TSR.

With our new on-line forum on AOL, we'd like to hear from you about games,
graphics, audio, and other material you'd like to download for your own
gaming. Please let us know. We plan to be electronically publishing a lot
of great things in the future for your  gaming use.  

(R) and TM designate trademarks owned by TSR, Inc. (c) 1994 TSR, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.
] The answer is simple: If you're selling a separate product based on our
] material, or free-distributing something that competes with things we
] license (e.g, software), then we would keep a level of control and ask for
] a piece of the action. On free-distribution GURPS software, we go through
] a quality-control and licensing procedure but no money changes hands.
] If you're creating a fanzine, or sharing your own original stories or
] online, then more power to you. We think it's great. We make no attempt
] to license or control fanzine writers, whether their medium is print or
] electrons. The two are indistinguishable these days, really.
] If you do create something neat, it would be a courtesy to send our
] webmaster a copy and give YOUR permission for us to archive it on our own
] system for our users to enjoy.
> Does TSR regard it as illegal to play AD&D with a dozen or so people over the
> Net, as opposed to playing it with a dozen or so people in my living room?

We certainly do not. Saving up all the moves, however, and republishing
them as a separate work would probably be an infringement. Playing by any
means is fine.
> Could anyone tell me what the WWW Home page is for TSR?

Not yet, but soon. :)
Date: Tue, 30 May 1995 14:43:29 -0400                                          
From: "TSR, Inc." <TSR...@AOL.COM>                                              
To: Multiple recipients of list ADND-L <ADN...@UTARLVM1.UTA.EDU>                
Subject: Help Wanted                                                            
I realize that this is an ad, but I couldn't think of a more likely bunch of    
people to be interested in it, so here it is. :)                                
Rob Repp                                                                        
Manager, Digital Projects Group                                                
TSR, Inc.                                                                      

ONLINE COORDINATOR                                                              
TSR, Inc., the international leader in fantasy game, book, and magazine        
publishing, has an immediate opening for a motivated, organized individual      
with excellent communications and technical skills to assist in development    
of content for commercial online services and the Internet. Qualified          
applicants to be familiar with current online material. Ability to contribute  
to development of imaginative new content. Preferred skills include: HTML      
and/or RMPlus scripting; Adobe Photoshop; TCP/IP software tools; experience    
using WWW, FTP and Usenet; and interactive multimedia development. Online      
event planning, forum coordinator experience a plus.                            
Send resume and salary history to:                                              
TSR, Inc.                                                                      
201 Sheridan Springs Rd.                                                        
Lake Geneva, WI  53147                                                          
ATTN: Human Resources                                                          
or TSR...@AOL.COM                                                              
Actually, I just hired a new online coordinator. I remain the "online
rep." More and more TSR people will be out on the net in the future,
though. We're getting more wired all the time.

Rob Repp
Manager, Digital Projects Group
TSR, Inc.
I'm Sean Reynolds, TSR's new Online Coordinator.  Rob Repp has taken a
job with another company, and so he is no longer here at TSR.  I'll be
in charge of our online contacts, including the internet, AOL, etc.
I forgot to mention it yesterday, but yesterday was my
first anniversary of working for TSR.

This means that _today_ is the first anniversary of
the day Rob Repp _left_ TSR.
>Tell us, Sean, what have you learned in all that time about being
>an online rep?

Take several slow, deep breaths before saying anything.

After looking at all this, it appears that if I had just blocked off access to the D&D related directories, within a year the whole thing would have blown over, and, two years later TSR would have been taken over by WotC and the landscape changed entirely. Though, on the other hand, FTP sites were on their way out, and, my site would have been rapidly become a historical footnote if I didn’t transition to the web. I may have been considering such a transition around the time of these events, but I honestly don’t remember.

Tags: rpg dnd tsr