My first roleplaying game was Dungeons & Dragons, which at the time was published by TSR. Because of this, TSR as a brand, became trusted among my circle of gamer friends and we would branch out and try and other game that was printed. This included their Indiana Jones RPG published in 1984.
The game was fun but didn’t have a lot of use outside of trying to play within the tight boundaries of the two films that had been released up to that point. This did not stop us from trying and we spent most of an entire summer just playing in the world of Indiana Jones with revisits from time to time for years afterward.
It was during this time that my friends and I started to hear rumors that in the Indiana Jones game, TSR had actually trademarked the word, Nazi.
This seemed crazy to us, so we went to the game to see if we could confirm them. We had heard that the proof was on the cardboard figures one would use as a miniature in the game, so we dig those out.
We didn’t find anything in The Adventures of Indiana Jones Starter Box Set (IJ0).
Then we moved to the Raiders of the Lost Ark Adventure Pack (IJ2) and sure enough, there it was in clear B&W ink.
NAZI™*; ™ & © LFL 1984
Our young minds were blown. How could this be? We then went and told everyone who might have a passing interest in the subject and many who didn’t what we had found out. For years we told people and were told in turn by others. The thing is, none of us knew what we were talking about.
TSR did not try and trademark the word Nazi, instead, they were obligated in their relationship with Lucasfilm to list the trademark with the associated artwork that represents the Nazi character you will encounter in the game. It was a step they did with every figure included in IJ2 and other products.
The reason it was included on this little carboard cutout is that it was a cutout. A piece that could be separated from the rest of the game. So while it might seem redundant or ludicrous to see these trademarks on every little printed piece, it made sense for what was required.
But why did this bit of misinformation continue?
Mundus vult decipi, ergo decipiatur.
(The world wants to be deceived, so let it be deceived.)
TSR had a reputation for being litigious, which offended a lot of players as well as creators. So rumors that painted TSR in a negative light were quite welcome. Add to that, those ignorant young people who thought they sounded smart when they showed you their “proof” and you have a potent combination to keep a falsehood going for years.