Monday, December 20, 2010

Tunnels & Trolling

I've had a whole day to sit around and do absolutely nothing but think, and during this time my thoughts went to the James Shipman / Outlaw Press bruha.  We had over a year of chest thumping, accusations of intellectual theft, heck, a near schism in the little corner of the OSR that has a clustering of Tunnels & Trolls fans.

Why was this such an important event?  Because the vast majority of Tunnels & Trolls material was coming from James and his company Outlaw Press.  Truthfully, with the exception of Fiery Dragon putting out T&T 7e and 7.5e, there has been little added to the Tunnels & Trolls library that didn't come from Outlaw Press since the release of T&T 5.5e.  Shipman found a profitable publishing niche and found he was good at it.  At some point he got greedy.

From what I gather, Shipman and Ken St Andre had a gentleman's agreement allowing Outlaw Press to publish T&T compatible books and magazines, some of which Ken St Andre had a hand in writing. Then (and this is just me trying to find a timeline on these events via an educated guess) Outlaw Press started repackaging adventures and articles from it's magazines (Hobbit Hole and Dungeonier Digest) as stand alone products.  I don't know if Outlaw Press had full publishing rights or first publishing rights for these initially, but I think that is where the problem started.

Outlaw Press was becoming a publishing company and grew too fast to follow the money.  Someone forgot to make sure they had rights to all the artwork they were using, or just plum didn't care.  The T&T market can has a voracious appetite, and everything the Outlaw Press was probably selling like proverbial hotcakes, until everything fell apart like a house of cards.  Outlaw Press was now an outlaw.

The outlaw status continued until Ken St Andre buried the hatchet.  Which doesn't clear up a lot of the other problems, but it does give some closure between Shipman and the man who created T&T.

Outlaw Press is still out there, still selling it's enormous library of Tunnels & Trolls material.  I'm on the fence out the whole scenario now that the Trollgod has announced an end to hostilities.  I've looked at Outlaw Press's current website, and there is a crapload of good stuff there.  I'd assume the newer stuff is not an issue, but some of the older stuff (New Khazan for example is offered by Outlaw Press in 2 products, and by Peryton Publishing via RPGNow and Lulu) seems to be a problem waiting to happen.

I'm not gonna publish a link to Outlaw Press, although a little google-fu will track it down for you.  It's your own decision to make, it's just a shame that so much of the Tunnels & Trolls library is currently in a strange no-man's land.


  1. I feel it really isolated lots of people. As fans, we crave new stuff for the things we love, but I myself felt obligated not to buy OP stuff out of respect for Ken. I stayed away from the flame wars. Thanks for voicing your opinion on this.

  2. I stepped into the flames as a loyal torchbearer for the Trollgod, but now that he has declared "no harm, no foul", i find myself looking at a crapload of GOOD T&T stuff that I had shut the door on before. I've cracked the door open to peek.

    He's no longer selling the 1e reprint nor Monsters! Monsters! best as I could tell.

    Heck, its the magazine / zines that i long for ;)


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