Scamwatch Followup: Tunnels And Trolls Publisher Speaks About Outlaw Press
By Christopher Helton
Despite being one of the oldest tabletop roleplaying games on the market, Tunnels & Trolls has never really received a lot of the respect or attention of other games that came in its wake, despite even with a recent highly successful Kickstarter project that raised over $125K for a new, Deluxe Edition of the game. This makes the recent Scamwatch piece published by this site an even more shameful situation than it already is.
One of the dirty little secrets of the Tunnels & Trolls community is James Shipman and Outlaw Press. At one point an official licensor and third party publisher of the game, when it turned out that he was using stolen art in publications his license to publish material for the game was revoked. Shipman continued to publish his books without approval, supplements and an unauthorized 6th edition of the core game. Despite Flying Buffalo, the official publisher and licensor of Tunnels & Trolls repeatedly shutting down websites and PayPal accounts operated by Shipman under his own name and a number of aliases, he continues to publish stolen material.
Shipman has also threatened Tunnels & Trolls creator Ken St. Andre, a seminal figure in the tabletop roleplaying industry who has also worked as a designer on games like the early editions of Chaosium Games' licensed Michael Moorcock roleplaying game Stormbringer, with legal action should St. Andre speak publicly against him. This cycle of theft, intimidation and bullying continues to this day.
Richard Loomis, owner of Flying Buffalo, Inc. and the publisher of the Tunnels & Trolls game followed up the story of the other day by saying:
It is my opinion that Shipman is a sociopath and a narcissist. He likes for people to talk about him, and he doesn't care whether you say something good or something bad. I can't believe he actually sells very many products if any at all, and CERTAINLY not as many as he claims. He has no way to advertise his 'products' other than have people talk about them and his page. He has been told in no uncertain terms that he has no right to publish anything with the T&T trademark on it, and has been told to cease making illegal copies of items that he does not have the right to copy or sell.
He ignores all such demands. He claims he only sells items on his webpage that he has 'purchased at conventions or from the publisher' and then offers for sale items that have never been legally published anywhere. He lies about having that imaginary 'art agent,' he lies about how many copies he has sold, he lies about what he has the rights to reprint, he lies about having a legal education, he lies about copyright and trademark law, and he lies about what he has been given permission to do.
He has threatened Ken with legal actions that he (Shipman) cannot legally do. This is all just my opinion. If you disagree, feel free to do a Google search under 'Outlaw Press' or his name. I am researching what I can legally do to put a stop to his trashing of our trademark.
Niche games like Tunnels & Trolls do not make a lot of money, and operate as a labor of love often. That does not leave much in the way of funding for protracted legal battles across state lines. Loomis joked that he should start a crowdfunding campaign to help pay for a legal fight against Shipman. That may be the only way to put an end to all of this theft.
Christopher Helton is a blogger, podcaster and tabletop RPG publisher who talks about games and other forms of geekery at the long-running Dorkland! blog. He is also the co-publisher at the ENnie Award winning Battlefield Press, Inc. You can find him on Twitter at @dorkland and on G+ at https://plus.google.com/+ChristopherHelton/ where he will talk your ear off about gaming and comics.