The Vegan Militia

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

TSR Meets the Internet, Part 2

2019/11/18

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 rpg.net, 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 rec.games.frp.dnd, 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.

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.

rpg dnd tsr