TSR was a company formed as Tactical Studies Rules in 1972 by Gary Gygax and Don Kaye (and others later) to publish the rule set for the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game. When Don Kaye died of a stroke in 1975, Brian Blume and Gary Gygax, the remaining owners, formed a new company, TSR Hobbies, Inc. The assets of the original company were transferred to the new one, and Tactical Studies Rules was dissolved. In 1983, the word "Hobbies" was dropped from the name.
After several missteps, the company became debt-laden and Gygax lost control. However the new management failed to reverse the situation and the company's debt continued to increase. When combined with other problems such as poor sales in new lines and lax stock control the company came to the brink of insolvency.
TSR published a number of early roleplaying games including Dungeons & Dragons, Boot Hill, Gamma World, Top Secret, Empire of the Petal Throne, Star Frontiers, Indiana Jones, and Marvel Super-Heroes.
TSR also published a number of rules sets for other periods including the American west, World War II, and the Middle Ages (Chainmail, the rules set from which D&D evolved).
After initial success faded, the company would often turn to legal defenses of what it regarded as its intellectual property. In addition to this there were several legal cases brought regarding who had invented what within the company and the division of royalties. These actions reached their nadir when the company threatened to sue individuals supplying game material on Internet sites. The company was widely perceived to be attacking its own customers. TSR's reckless legal actions led to a precipituous decline in the popularity of its products, as fans turned to competing games such as Rolemaster and Palladium's Fantasy Role-Playing Game, whose publishers were far less restrictive about the creation of derivative works. One of these lawsuits reportedly caused the losing company, Wizards of the Coast, to turn instead to a new game concept, the collectible card game, specificly Richard Garfield's Magic: The Gathering. Some saw later events as the perfect epitath for TSR's lawsuit mania.
Wizards of the Coast, Inc. purchased the remainder of the company and its intellectual properties, including the Dungeons & Dragons game and its various campaign settings, in 1997. Shortly thereafter, the former TSR staff was integrated into the Wizards of the Coast offices, and TSR ceased to exist as a separate entity. In 1999, Wizards of the Coast was itself purchased by Hasbro, Inc.
The S in TSR's name was often facetiously replaced with a dollar sign (T$R) in fannish communications. The name had many alternate expansions, including "Too many Supplements Required, a reference to the company's tendency to publish a sourcebook, or "splatbook," as they came to be known after competitor White Wolf's entry into the industry, for every conceivable nuance of its flagship line.
- TSR history to 1999 (http://www.wizards.com/dnd/DnDArchives_History.asp)
- Interview (http://pc.gamespy.com/articles/538/538817p1.html) with Gary Gygax on the history of TSR (among other things)