Dungeons and 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, filed Thursday before a federal judge in Seattle, is intended to immediately halt production of Star Frontiers New Genesisa reboot of the classic star borders tabletop role-playing game first published in 1982. The target of the injunction request is TSR, an entity that Wizards purchased in 1997.
The newly formulated TSR, Inc. is owned by budding game publisher Justin LaNasa. He claims to reside in North Carolina, where he is best known for a chain of tattoo parlors, and also for a failed political campaign that was torpedoed, among other things, by reports that he once asked several female employees to wrestle in a tub full of warm grits. LaNasa had been hyping their reboot of the original star borders for over a year without producing much content. Then, in July, what appears to have been an early test version of the game was leaked. It was so reprehensible, according to Wizards, that the company felt compelled to take action to protect its brand.
The 23-page application (embedded in full below) presents his evidence against LaNasa, the vast majority of which he appears to have written or edited himself. As part of his argument, Wizards includes excerpts from what it claims to be an early draft of the LaNasa manuscript for new genesis. The document appears to include gameplay features that position black characters as mechanically inferior to other characters due to their lower perceived base intelligence scores and other “latent issues” with what the playtest refers to as a “sub-race”. [sic]. The manuscript also goes to great lengths to point out that today’s Black Lives Matter movement is “radical” and specifically bans trans characters of any kind. Wizards took issue with these elements of the manuscript, among others, as they could have an adverse impact on consumer opinion of their own brand.
“Wizards has long embraced an inclusive culture for gaming, including for its Dungeons & Dragons products,” Wizards said in the injunction request. “All gamers 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 by reprinting old Dungeons & Dragons products to remove racially insensitive material. She increasingly uses diversity-savvy and sensitive readers in her creative process to ensure her storytelling reflects her values. New products no longer include cultural traits like languages and recognize a variety 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 its encroachment on the brand and its games.
“The Counterclaim Defendants claim ownership of TSR, Inc.’s prior intellectual property,” Wizards wrote. It goes on to assert that, regardless of TSR’s assertion, it continues to use the IP in question, including through sales by its official licensee. A book shelf and in recent Spelljammer: Adventures in Space books.
This is where things get complicated. Wizards admits that it did not file the paperwork for TSR registration, star borders, and other related marks in a timely manner as required by federal law. But through continued sales of related products and use of related intellectual property, the company claims ownership through “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 in late September. The question of who owns TSR and its related marks will go before a judge in October 2023.
Thursday’s injunction request comes on the heels of an embarrassing episode for Wizards. Their Spelljammer: Adventures in Space product was criticized by fans and critics for its inclusion of racist tropes and stereotypes. Wizards has since issued a retraction of all digital versions of magician and has promised to remove the offending content in future reprints. That entire episode was actually included in the request for an injunction, as a positive sign of Wizards’ efforts to include them in their work.
Reached for additional details, Wizards said it does not comment on pending litigation. Polygon contacted Justin LaNasa but did not receive a response prior to publication.