GiantLands – The road to finishing a “finished” RPG

So, having burned countless bridges and decided that he no longer needed to partner with TSR LLC to publish his game that he previously couldn’t publish – Dinehart had a whole bunch of issues to deal with:

It was not an ideal situation – particularly given that Dinehart had no clout in the TTRPG industry before he started this fiasco, and somehow managed to have even less at this point and he is… not the best at diligent attention to detail, as demonstrated by the first version of the transfer from TSR Games to Wonderfilled Games site showcased.4 My Twitter, 8 July 2021 https://twitter.com/wincenworks/status/1412872199174643714 5 My Twitter, 8 July 2021 https://twitter.com/wincenworks/status/1413027319589924873

He also seemed to keep the TSR shirts on his online store for an awkward amount of time.6 My Twitter, 8 July 2021, https://twitter.com/wincenworks/status/1413074953193213963

Continue reading GiantLands – The road to finishing a “finished” RPG

Those Pesky Goblinz by Justin LaNasa

Hot off the presses, the nuTSR group (TSR LLC, Dungeon Hobby Shop Museum LLC, Justin LaNasa) has released a “new” product… weeks ahead of the opening for pre-order date, by listing it on Amazon via their Print On Demand service. It is unclear why they opted to do both print-on-demand and a pre-order bulk print system… but that’s the least of the problems.

The product is, in summary: an playable mess of useless gibberish that radiates contempt for creators of role-playing games, for people who enjoy role-playing games and that mostly showcases the inadequacies and insecurities of the creator. It’s also an interesting study in when a rip-off reaches the point of copyright infringement through being an unauthorized derivative work.

David Flor has done a great job in breaking down many of the failings in a Twitter thread here, and Tom has done a feature.

So I wanted to talk about some of the more complex issues that don’t fit into 280 characters or reasonable sized videos (let me know if you think I should doe a Noah Caldwell-Gervais style essay).

Continue reading Those Pesky Goblinz by Justin LaNasa

OGL 1.2, contracts and getting sued

Okay so Wizards of the Coast (“Wizards”/”WotC”) announced a new version of the Open Game License (OGL), the magical document that lets people publish material that is basically plug & play compatible with Dungeons and Dragons (“D&D”).

This has a lot of people rushing to give you their thoughts on it, even before they had time to read it – and the Free Speech crowd even had speeches prepared about how it’d be bad! I would like to say I’m doing this because I got asked to, but the truth is I’m doing this because my social media feeds have been an onslaught of panic mongering and misinformation.

My background

I have been a D&D player since Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition, specifically my entry to it moving from Fighting Fantasy books by Steve Jackson Games to The Curse of the Azure Bonds game on the Commodore 64, which was a heck of learning curve for a 10 year old before getting to play with actual people in boarding school. I also worked for Wizards of the Coast back in the late 90s, early 2000s as a Community Manager (I moderated the roleplaying chat room). I am the current owner of, and have been effectively the primary community manager for Hitmanforum for about twenty years now.

Currently, I am a law student in New Zealand who also has extensive experience (10 years) working as a debt collector and substantial experience (5+ years) as a fraud investigator for online payment gateways. Now, if you’re wondering what a law student in New Zealand knows about laws in the USA – the answer is quite a bit since both use the Common Law system which comes from England so have many things in common.

In fact, they have so much in common that when dealing with a novel case (ie one where there isn’t a clear precedent) the New Zealand courts will often look to the case law of the USA (though priority is usually given to case law from the UK, Canada, or Australia). This has even extended into occasionally incorporating U.S. common law… such as the tort of intrusion on seclusion.1 C v Holland [2012] 3 NZLR 672

So, general principles work the same (I could nerd out about the differences in case law, but suffice to say it’d be woefully esoteric) but it’s important for you to understand:

  1. I am not a lawyer and make no claim to being recognized as one anywhere;
  2. I’m not your lawyer and so the following is not individual legal advice;
  3. In every case there can be facts, etc that influence the general principles;
  4. Lots of law scenarios are “untested” in the sense nobody has taken it to court and gotten a final verdict;
  5. No law is permanent, statutes (even constitutional ones) can be amended or overruled, the highest court in the land can overrule itself – law is always in motion

It is therefore pretty much impossible for anyone to give you an answer with complete certainty on the key matters relating to the OGL 1.0a, and anyone giving you a high probability answer should be able to cite US case law to substantiate it. Currently, I am confident nobody outside of lawyers working for game companies is doing that, because it is a lot of work to not get paid for.

I’m not hoping to give you a full education here or an official legal opinion – I’m just hoping to help you understand why you can’t just trust a YouTuber or a blogger who says “I’m a lawyer…” and then doesn’t really cite anything or an influencer who assures you that they definitely know what they’re talking about because they just do okay? At this point, there is so much misinformation and misunderstanding that it takes basically a primer on how contract law actually works. There’s going to be a lot of talking about legal doctrines and concepts.

Also in case you’re curious, not I don’t particularly trust Wizards of the Coast or any immortal corporation that exists primarily to make money and whose leadership can change at a moment’s notice – that’s why I read the document instead of just rubberstamped with happy emojis and stuff. I also did not do any serious case or statute research for this, so it is possible there are quirks and issues I am not aware of.

Again, it’s not legal advice. Don’t get personalized legal advice off a blog.

Executive summary of the OGL 1.2

It’s fine. It could do with some elaborating to make it easier for the layperson to read, but it’s fine.

Continue reading OGL 1.2, contracts and getting sued
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    C v Holland [2012] 3 NZLR 672

The Open Gaming License (OGL), and what you (probably) missed during the outrage

So, a whole bunch of people are congratulating themselves for having helped Paizo increase their market influence through a new open license ORC (it’s… just a catchier term for OGL).

Naturally the Dungeon Hobby Shop Museum and Wonderfilled have the worst take on this:

A screenshot from the Facebook page of the Dungeon Hobby Shop Museum, it is an image of flat blue with text on it: "(Attention all Publishers) It isn't truly an open game License if you have to acknowledge the owner's illegal claims of owning a game system."
Apparently you can’t own a system, but Ernie is the divine heir of Dungeons & Dragons, so it belongs to Justin LaNasa’s companies… and definitely not the rest of the Gygax family because they very understandably do not support Justin profiteering of their name.

However a few things are apparent.

Most people who commented and campaigned on this, didn’t understand how any of the following work:

  1. Copyright
  2. Licenses & Contracts
  3. What the OGL is
  4. What the OGL isn’t
  5. What motivates corporations
  6. What is not a victory
  7. What they didn’t see in the OGL because they were too busy screaming about royalties and repealing OGL 1.0a

So… it would take… forever, like college level text book length to explain all of that… so I’m making a primer from a law student who is not your lawyer and so definitely not giving you legal advice and my advice regarding firm statements on law is the same as my advice for rodeo riding: If you don’t know exactly what you’re doing, leave it well enough alone.

If you haven’t set, but you want to read the document for yourself, Stephen Glicker, aka Roll for Combat, made a sanitized copy available in the description of his video. One thing you’ll notice is there’s a lot of signs its an early draft (there are placeholders, definitions aren’t clearly spelled out, etc). So keep that in mind.

Now, I tried to explain this before and people… pretty much ignored it, and it’s heavy stuff so I don’t expect anyone to come out of it thinking they understand perfectly now. If nothing else, what I want people to understand is that it is more complicated than what people have been saying, and if someone tells you that they definitely understand it and it clearly means x… they’re probably wrong on both points.

The reason this is frustrating is when people get into the mob mentality they make decisions they later regret, both things like burning bridges or signing up for inferior deals, and in actively spreading misinformation and social pressure that leads to other people doing that.

I’m not here to tell you what to do, but I do want you do whatever you do for your own reasons and with good information.

What is the OGL?

This seems to be the biggest point of confusion since a lot of people seem to think the OGL 1.0a was useful for making all kinds of games – including games completely unrelated to Dungeons & Dragons like sci-fi adventure games etc.

What it actually is a kind of license to fan-wank provided that you don’t use particular terms and don’t impinge on Wizards of the Coast’s market share or use some terms they’d rather you didn’t for… strategic reasons I could get into later.

Things covered under the OGL include the basic character races, classes, class abilities, feats, spells, magic items and some monsters. These are all laid out in the Standard Reference Document 5.1 (or “SRD5” as it is officially known because… that was a really weird decision by the people who drafted it and the OGL).

It’s very convenient if you want to skip over a lot of work, but it is also very specifically for promoting D&D – and that’s why it’s there. If there is a bunch of stuff that is 100% compatible with D&D available – that’s more incentive to play D&D, even if you never use any of it. It seems cool and like they care about the fandom and that there’ll never be a shortage of material if you start to get bored or want a change of pace.

Continue reading The Open Gaming License (OGL), and what you (probably) missed during the outrage

NuTSR’s recruitment drive and the Fall of Michael

From June 2021 to mid January 2022 – nuTSR went into a mission to try to build up credibility as a games company and recover from losing their flagship product as well as the individual they had given control of their social media presence to. Pretty much all of this effort would fall onto the shoulders of “volunteer” Michael Hovermale as Justin focused on talking things up and recruiting terrible people to make terrible products.

I put scare quotes on the volunteer because Justin and… accounts very defensive of Justin have always maintained that Michael was purely a volunteer who never expected to get paid – but as you’ll see he was doing an awful lot of work and putting up with awful lot of shit (including from yours truly) – so I’m inclined to believe this was supposed to be a “volunteer for now and then we’ll talk compensation” type arrangement.

Particularly given some later events involving some accounts called “Mario Real” but… more on that later in our story.

Side note: If this was professional reporting I would have reached out to people for comment, but since I didn’t do it while it was happening and I think there’d be rather massive differences in responses due to personal reasons. (Don & Michael would probably be happy to comment, I’m pretty sure Justin would not) Therefore all this is based on observation and public interactions.

The Official Discord

Before being promoted to head of PR, Michael had been the head moderator at the Discord and had implemented a lot of rules that were in place to try to keep the conversation entirely about games – and not about politics. These, ironically, would have been prohibitive of Justin being a member of the Discord – but Michael didn’t realize that yet.

A screenshot of the server rules for the TSR Official Community Discord.
"1 Respect each other harassment & bullying isn't allowed. This includes personal attacks, slurs, racist, sexist, homophobic, hateful or derogatory speech. Also don't attempt to create drama. It's not nice to make fun of others, let's make sure that this remains a safe and positive space for everyone.

2. No NSFW or obscene content. This includes text, images, or links featuring nudity, sex, hard violence, or other graphically disturbing content. A good rule of thumb is keep things PG-13. Discord allows members as young as 13 to join. If you're unsure if your post is "ok" you can ask a moderator.

3. Avoid sensitive or controversial topics. Real world politics, religion, race, gender, current (sensitive) real world events, depression/suicide, violence, etc. These discussions can easily turn into heated debates, which does not reflect the positive and inclusive nature of this server."
Ironically Justin would later demonstrate the only thing that stopped him breaking all of these rules was disinterest in his own “community”.1My Twitter, 8 August 2021 https://twitter.com/wincenworks/status/1424151599375519749

And I want to stress here, as misguided as it was to try to run a Discord about any role-playing game with no discussion of politics around it in the first place – given that invariably a part of world building in role-playing games is working out the politics, and the implications of your interpretations of those politics. Even something as simple as creating a “good” society means making political statements on what is encouraged and what is encouraged by “good” people.

Continue reading NuTSR’s recruitment drive and the Fall of Michael

GiantLands – Leaving NuTSR

As covered earlier, while the overall reputation of Justin LaNasa, months of barely contained reactionary non-sense and unprofessionalism built the pyre for TSR LLC (LaNasa)’s reputation, and Ernie Gygax’s interview was the match that started it – Dinehart using his GiantLands account to call a trans woman disgusting was the accelerant that turned it into a bright blaze and caught the attention of the wider world.

The actions of TSR at the time are already documented, but the absurdity of Dinehart on his own account and the GiantLands account warrants its own entry – particularly given the many loft claims he regularly makes about himself. At the time, he was doing his absolute best to look incredibly important and a man of many, many important titles.1My Twitter (25 June 2021) https://twitter.com/wincenworks/status/1408342703394361346

A screenshot of the Twitter profile of Stephen Dinehart (@SEDart4), listing him as Chief Creative Officer: @TSR_games President @Wunderfilled Executive Producer @Psychfilab Artist @zodkev @dodoinksi @dodoo9966 
It also lists his location as "Hollywood" and links to his IMDB profile.
It’s kind of amazing a guy who’s so busy and so important has time to tweet…

With credentials like that, you’d expect some sort of display of some professionalism… I mean… obviously not project management given how GiantLands had gone – but maybe something else like say marketing and communication? Well, I invite you to read his pinned tweet after he posted the “TTRPGs are the original safe space” nonsense.

A screenshot of a tweet of a Pinned tweet by Dinehart (@SEDart4): "When I say "safe space" I mean it. As a sufferer of PTSD & a survivor of various forms of abuse & assault, games, TTRPG has & always be safe spaces for me. That's why I made GiantLands. I know there are kids of all ages, like I was, that also need a safe place to simply BE." 26 June 2021.
Reminder this came up because he told a young trans woman she was disgusting. Also he’s tweeting this like Minecraft doesn’t exist now.

This is particularly telling because, contrary to what he claimed – people had in fact been telling him in detail why they disagreed with his claim. The issues of nightmare DMs who abused trust, the largely exclusionary history of the hobby, the presence of weird reactionaries in the hobby space, etc. His response to this was to dismiss this as “woke” and tell others not to be “woke” but “awake” because “it’s a lifelong journey” before promoting a “before of fake woke” posted by a fellow NFT enthusiast.2My Twitter (28 June 2021) https://twitter.com/wincenworks/status/1409233749137522688

Continue reading GiantLands – Leaving NuTSR

The New TSR (“NuTSR”) – Transphobia, Scandals and Reactionary politics

As briefly covered in the first post, the meltdown in June was pretty dramatic and led to a split up between TSR LLC and Wonderfilled Inc. Since neither Justin LaNasa, nor Stephen Dinehart, can be classified as a reliable narrator and both parties blame each other for the matter – the TSR deep dive on this will be covering everything that was posted under the official TSR brand, since whether it was Dinehart or LaNasa at the keyboard, everything up until that point was under the brand and was consistent with later sentiments.

Everything Dinehart specific that did not bleed directly into the TSR platforms will likely be covered in the GiantLands Saga section.

A lot of the content has been deleted since, there will be heavy reliance on screenshots. After the disaster interview, there were a few attempts to simply dispel the narrative and pretend that the statements made in the interview simply didn’t exist. These went down like a wet bag of sick largely due to them being completely fabricated and having no basis in reality.1TSR Games (@TSR_games) Twitter (24 June 2021) (Archived) https://web.archive.org/web/20210624221618mp_/https://twitter.com/TSR_games/status/1408187164790345733 2TSR Games (@TSR_games) Twitter (24 June 2021) (Archived) https://web.archive.org/web/20210625050832mp_/https://twitter.com/TSR_games/status/1408178463773794306

Two tweets by TSR Games (@TSR_games) posted:
"The TTRPG is the original safe space."
"We are intolerant of hatred of any kind from all sides. All players are welcome at our table. Thanks to the role-playing game, we have a deep commitment to diversity and inclusion."
Continue reading The New TSR (“NuTSR”) – Transphobia, Scandals and Reactionary politics

NuTSR Group – The Beginning

This post had to be heavily edited due to some Facebook pages changing their URL handle without notice, specifically “TSRHobbiesMuseum” to “DUNGEONHOBBYSHOP”. I’ve now updated them, removed the dead links to things that have been taken down and were never archived and now attached links to screenshots. Anywhere you see a 📸, you can click it for a screenshot of the linked post, for record keeping purposes.

In instances where the screenshots third parties, I’ve pixelated out their faces and/or names to protect their privacy.

Kim

While it looks more or less like any other house, 723 Williams Street, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin has an extraordinary history as the original office for Tactical Studies Rules (TSR), the company founded by Gary Gygax and the original vendor of the now iconic role-playing game Dungeon and Dragons.

However, as TSR grew, Gary Gygax got pushed out and the venture (put a pin in that) was purchased by Wizards of the Coast (headquartered in Seattle, Washington) – the business of role-playing games move away. The history, and the significance of the site stayed present in the memory of many. Enter Scott Griffin, the man with original vision to make a homage to the Dungeon Hobby Shop (inspired by Jayson Elliot’s Gygax Magazine, though the company that published that is now Solarian Games) and the first man stepped on by Justin LaNasa in his quest for glory and fortune through nostalgia in the TTRPG space.

In a pair of interviews on the Tenkar’s Tavern YouTube Channel,1Ernie Gygax Call with Scott Griffin re: Dungeon Hobby Shop Museum 6/21 – Sorry I Gygaxed You! Part I, Tenkar’s Tavern, YouTube (22 June 2022) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NB5RzpZfxv0 2Ernie Gygax Phone Call with Scott Griffin re: DHSM – Part 2 – Justin is “Abrasive” & “A Bully”, Tenkar’s Tavern, YouTube (29 June 2022) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljxEo6DJjrU which included recordings of calls with Ernie Gygax, Scott discussed how he had been scoping out the project with some specific intentions of replicating the early environment as much as possible: Incorporating early employees like Ernie Gygax, Jeff Perren (though more realistically his daughter Vicky Perren) and Jeff “Duck” Leason.

Continue reading NuTSR Group – The Beginning

GiantLands – The Beginning

While the events crucial to bringing GiantLands to the TTRPG community’s attention in an extremely negative manner occurred in June 2021, the actual origin of the project is more unclear – what is clear is that from the beginning it was built on a shaky foundation that foreshadowed disaster.

Primordial Ooze

Dinehart has shifted multiple times on whether GiantLands was his own Gamma World homebrew that he GM’d as a kid or was the premise for an isometric strategy game (like X-Com) he tinkered with during film school.1Twitter (25 June 2021) https://twitter.com/wincenworks/status/1419043661015257088 Regardless of the true genesis of it, there are a number of factors that remain consistent about it:

  • It is his, property of Stephen Erin Dinehart IV, and NOBODY ELSE. He will in fact, regularly refer to as “my GiantLands” in posts on his personal Twitter even though there is no other relevant GiantLands product it could be compared to.
  • It is inspired by Gamma World. A setting very much a product of its time.2RIP Kimber Eastland (10 Feb 2020) https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dinehart/giantlands-limited-edition-boxed-set/posts/2751900
  • It has been reworked in his imagination many, many times – frequently he will state that his original vision was in the “3rd Age” but also kind of indicate that it doesn’t matter because the “5th Age” takes place after a cataclysm that resets everything anyway.
  • The cataclysm was caused by the mother spirit of the Earth in revenge for the abuse she has endured at the hands of humanity – thus killed all of humanity (they grow back again… somehow).3My Twitter (22 July 2021) https://twitter.com/wincenworks/status/1418128086059552768
  • There are no “Classes”, only “Professions” (which operate as classes).
  • There are no “Races” because Stephen doesn’t believe in race, and regularly makes bizarre statements about this – instead their are Species and Sub-Species (which is probably how one would more accurately describe “races” in the vast majority of RPGs).4GiantLands Episode 5: Species (24 March 2020) & Gender http://amusementsparks.blubrry.com/2020/03/24/giantlands5/
  • Gender expression is “open”. (Confused? Yeah it’s weird, and covered later on.)5GiantLands Episode 5: Species & Gender (24 March 2020) http://amusementsparks.blubrry.com/2020/03/24/giantlands5/
  • It leans into Native American mythology rather than European, but not any specific group.

For those with experience dealing with creative projects, you can probably already sense one of the core problems – this is Dinehart’s “one big idea” that he will not be convinced is not supremely genius, and has overworked and redeveloped it so many times that he cannot keep it straight in his own head – let alone spec it out for a team to work on.

Continue reading GiantLands – The Beginning

The TSR & Wonderfilled/GiantLands Saga – Introduction

In June 2021, a Twitter account @tsr_games (archive) was launched to promote TSR LLC, a company registered in Wisconsin in September 2020 for the express purpose of running a tribute to the original Dungeon Hobby Shop at the original address, and making games with the help of old school gaming personalities like Ernie Gygax. The company and associated group (NuTSR) were founded by Justin LaNasa.

By the end of July 2021 the twitter account would be renamed to @wfd_games and representing Wonderfilled Inc, a company registered in Wisconsin by Stephen E Dinehart IV – former CCO then separated from TSR LLC and owner/co-creator of GiantLands. By December 2021, TSR LLC would have lodged a federal lawsuit against Wizards of the Coast over a handful of old trademarks.

The events involved in that are complicated, and convoluted, but the short version of it is a series of bad business decisions, unethical practices and expression of reactionary politics by the personalities above created quagmires of public image, legal problems and unfavourable exposure. Most of the incriminating tweets, videos, etc have seen been deleted or removed from public access so screenshots will be used where archive links are not available. Most of this is being recreated from a Twitter thread that has become incredibly unwieldly over time.

Ignition Point

In June, Ernie Gygax did an interview (no longer available on YouTube) that was reported on EN World by the site owner Morrus. In it, Ernie, amongst other things:

  • Announced that about he was dissed for being old-fashioned, particularly around ideas like gender identity.
  • Claimed Lorraine Williams was a corporate raider and that mean she was like native american tribes who would “wipe out another tribe many times take the woman and children and murder off everything else.”
  • Referred to the people at modern Wizards of the Coast and their supporters lemmings – then announced the problem is “my fighter returns antagonism for antagonism. So that’s where we start getting into some difficulties and I’m having to throw a protection from evil up.”

For obvious reasons, this raised a lot of concerns among the modern audiences and required TSR LLC to wade in on and seek support. This was, initially done primarily by Stephen Dinehart who attempted to simply to deny anything happened and then – through his GiantLands Twitter account (replying to a tweet to TSR’s Twitter) launched the tweet that escalated things to flashpoint.

A screenshot of the original exchange between Meg (@MegTheSorceress) and GiantLands (@GiantLands) where she asks them to confirm if they agree trans identities are valid, and stop evading the question, and GiantLands replied with "You are disgusting"
The tweet that set the garbage pile ablaze

The lit fuze

An apology by Ernie was issued, but at this point the situation became polarized – with the vast majority of the old school gaming (including Luke Gygax) being alarmed and opposed to all of this, sceptical of the validity of this claim of being the old company reborn and unimpressed with the responses; and reactionaries from groups like ComicsGate rushing in to defend TSR LLC, seeing it as a new battlefield where they could claim victory and dominance over shared nostalgia.

A screenshot of the article on ComicsGate "Lying about Ernie Gygax? TSR Games and GiantLands are innocent" by Rohan Kumar Pall.  It has the standard "it's all lies" rhetoric.
Rohan Kumar Pall, aka Warcampaign, posting a video on Comisgate claiming people asking for accountability on Ernie’s interview were “lying” about him.
Continue reading The TSR & Wonderfilled/GiantLands Saga – Introduction