Back in the 80’s, during the heyday of roleplaying games, TSR Hobbies released a ton of RPGs in addition to Dungeons & Dragons: original properties like Gamma World, Top Secret, Boot Hill, and Gangbusters; and licensed games like Marvel Super Heroes, Indiana Jones, and Buck Rogers. These games were sold as boxed sets, just like the Basic and Expert D&D games. With the exception of Indiana Jones, the rest of these games were successful enough to warrant at least a second edition (some, like Gamma World and Gangbusters, would get more than that) in addition to a line of adventure modules and sourcebooks.
I never played Gamma World or Buck Rogers. I played Boot Hill, Gangbusters and Top Secret, and I enjoyed them all very much. I played Indiana Jones, and…well…let’s just say I played it. But my favorites, hands-down, were Marvel Super Heroes and Star Frontiers. I love MSH so much I still play it. In fact, I just ran Marvel Super Heroes in February for a group of Instagram friends over on my Discord server. I also planned on running Star Frontiers last year, but it never happened. The last time I played the game was a few years ago; but it wasn’t technically Star Frontiers. Like many of these 80’s TSR games, the system was a bit basic and we wanted more, so my friend converted it to GURPS. It was a lot of fun to revisit the setting, but we didn’t play for very long.
A couple of years ago, I heard a new version of Star Frontiers was in the works and I grew excited; at least until it turned out to be a racist, homophobic shit show of a game.
Here’s a summary, best as I can deliver it. Keep in mind, this is my opinion, and my knowledge, such as it is, may not be 100% accurate. If you really want to know, check the internet yourself.
TSR Hobbies, the original company that published Dungeons & Dragons, went out of business in 1997, and was acquired by Wizards of the Coast, the company that, until then, was most famous for publishing Magic: the Gathering. WotC was later acquired by Hasbro, and is a shitty company with a history of trying to fuck over creators, but that has no bearing on the rest of this story. It’s just me stating my opinion.
Anyway, back in 2011, Gary Gygax’s sons, Luke and Ernie Jr., along with another guy started a company called TSR Games in order to publish a new Top Secret game. Apparently, Luke and the other guy missed a trademark filing date in 2020, so Ernie Jr. filed for the TSR name and the two brothers cut ties with each other. It seems to be a bit acrimonious, as now there are two companies with the TSR name run by two brothers who apparently don’t much like each other. WotC doesn’t seem to like either of them, either.
While promoting his new company, Ernie did an interview where he made racist remarks about Native Americans, mocked Trans people and people who support them, and implied that being anti-racist is bad; and people who agreed with him should be very happy with “his” TSR. It got so bad that his brother Luke and a ton of well-known names in the hobby industry, like Jeff Dee and Skip Williams, officially cut ties with Ernie Jr. Larry Elmore even returned money Ernie had paid him for work he had done already.
Which brings us to Star Frontiers. Ernie Jr. decided he was going to revive Star Frontiers, and came up with a new game called Star Frontiers: New Genesis. A playtest doc for that game leaked and…well, shit. It wasn’t the Star Frontiers game of old, that’s for sure. There’s a lot of explicitly racist stuff in it, like how Humans are now split into sub-races, one of which is inherently superior to the other in every way. One of these sub-races is described as Nordic, and the other is described as Negro. Care to take a guess which one is said to be the superior race by racist asshole and known Caucasian Ernie Gygax, Jr.?
Wizards of the Coast has filed a lawsuit against Ernie’s TSR, not wanting to be associated with his bigotry and apparent assholishness. They want to make sure the game never gets published; and they claim they are the true owners of the Star Frontiers IP and the TSR logo, both of which they purchased when they bought the original TSR back in 1997.
My feelings on censorship are well-known. I think it sucks. I feel that Ernie Gygax, Jr. can say whatever shit he wants, and that includes racist, transphobic stuff. He can make games about it and publish them, and if people want to play them because they share his racist, transphobic, alt-right views, they can.
Unless, of course, WotC owns the trademarks. In which case, fuck Ernie Gygax, Jr.
Well, this was supposed to be a post about my love of the OLD, ORIGINAL, not intentionally racist Star Frontiers RPG, and I have veered off the mark. Guess I’ll make this a part 1 and talk about the game I actually like in the next post.
With all the racism and transphobic agendas it’s a game I will be steering well clear of ! Look forward to reading the section on the game you do like ! LOL
Yeah. It’s pretty vile as written today. But the old stuff is classic and great and….well…. IIIIIII-EEEEEEE-IIIIIIII-EEEEEE-IIIIII will always LOOOOOOOVE IT….. (just be glad you’re reading that and not hearing it, Dave).
I was given a copy of the original Star Frontiers years ago, but I didn’t have the time of motivation to run it myself at the time so “leant” it a friend at our club to run, I think he ran one game I played in before he buggered off with it and I never saw it again!
So my memories are not quite so rosy as yours of it mate!
I’ve lost a lot of comics that way over the years, Roger. On two separate occasions I let a friend borrow a stack of books to read, assuming I’d retrieve them next time we saw each other. And then…well, I never saw them again, the freinds or the comics.
My brother had a copy of the original Star Frontiers, but whilst I recall rolling up a character for it, I don’t think we ever ended up playing it.
Recently, I was casting about for a sci-fi rpg and remembered this game and also saw that a new version was being planned. However, after reading several online articles and watching a few YouTube videos regarding both the new iteration and the person behind it, I wisely decided not to anywhere near it. Besides, the original rules are available online if you know where to look.
And you may see a similar post to yours about an equally old game on my blog shortly, as I delve into my games cupboard and bring forth, blinking into the light… Golden Heroes!
It looks like fucking toxic shit, man. Just play the old version; or better yet, play with me if I run it! It’s a blast!
I have never heard of Golden Heroes. I’m looking forward to reading about it!