General Tabletop RPG Thread

Well, I just ordered this, so I’ll see how it is.

I have the current year’s Quest Calendar. It’s a lot of fun, but as with anything, I got behind by a week or so and it became a chore to catch up with.

It came with 6 characters to play as, with another 6 character sheets to download on the website. You can play through with one or more characters, I am running the game with a few of them at once so I can try out all of the different choices for each day. The characters are designed in a standard D&D way with the usual abilities and combat rules. At specific points throughout the year you will level up, getting some pre-set upgrades and can customize your ability score upgrades.

The front of each page has the daily event and the instruction on what decision you can make and what rolls you need to make. The back of the previous day’s page has the results of what happens depending on your choice and your rolls.

For combat, the front of the page will have some blanks to fill out - with a space for your attack roll, damage roll, and any additional stat rolls like skill checks or saving throws. And there are multiple rows for additional enemies or multiple rounds. On the results page, it will say for each round/enemy, “If your attack roll is at least a 15, you hit the enemy.
If you hit and dealt at least 6 damage, you killed the enemy.
If you missed or did not deal enough damage to kill the enemy, you take 3 damage if your defense is 12 or below, or 1 damage if it is 13 or above.
Gain 1 gold for each enemy you killed.
Any enemies that you did not kill retreat at the end of combat.”

It’s really well done, and as long as you stay on top of it, it’s a great way to experience a short encounter every day.

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My hot take is this is probably good for the hobby an even individual players/tables to get pushed beyond (pun intended) ecosystem and actually try new games. Even if they are sticking to retro/DnD-lite style games theres a lot out there that actually makes more interesting choices while still hewing to the genre conceptions DnD made famous.

Also I feel like the freakout is driven in large part because people do not understand that game rules are not copyrightable content, merely the exact page layout of the rulebooks is copyrighted (and of course unique IP within it, like Beholders)

Have zero sympathy for Hasbro/WotC. “The brand is under-monetized” = How can we turn this product into a service and charge rent?

Customers are rarely happy when companies attempt to be rent-seeking and switch from product models to service models with subscription or recurring fees.

We are those customers. It’s us. Are we not also laborers as well as customers? Do we not believe that artists deserve jobs and stable financial lives in return for their hard work?

If we wear our customer hats and advocate for a product model, that is extremely bad for labor, particularly for artists. It means that the company will hire many people to develop a product. Then once the product is complete, they can let the entire creative team go. Only the salespeople, printers, and distributors need to remain on staff to sell and deliver the product. The artists have to find something else to because their work is done.

Sure, they can keep the creative teams on staff to keep churning out more and more products. Sadly, those products do not sell well. They sell lots of the core books and the other books, not so much. Even if they do sell, it is not a steady and secure income stream. Some products might be huge hits, and others are flops. This risky and inconsistent business affects the people at the company and leads to a toxic work environment.

If a company has a subscription or service model, then there is a secure, steady, and predictable cash flow. Artists can get salaries. They can stay on staff indefinitely because they need to keep churning out new things to keep the subscribers from cancelling, and to bring in new subs. The work environment can be less toxic and pressured due to reduced stress regarding the success of individual products.

It also means the products themselves are higher quality because they receive official updates and support. That matters mostly for software, but is also important for tabletop games.

If you want to buy games and play them with no subscription, then there are thousands of TTRPGs to choose from, including several earlier editions of D&D. Nobody is stopping anyone from acquiring and playing these games to their heart’s content.

There are employees at WotC. They are doing all kinds of hard work like art, writing, and game design. They want reliable and fair compensation so they can have financial stability. That has to come from somewhere. If their new products are sold with a subscription model, that means they get to keep their jobs as long as enough people subscribe.

If they don’t do this, what is the alternative? One alternative is to go to an exploitative gambling model like so many others. Obviously not a fan, though it will also provide job security.

The other option is for them to just dump D&D. It’s in a very weird position. On the one hand, the actual revenues from D&D products are low, so it’s borderline not worth it for a big company like Hasbro to invest in it when they could invest in other more lucrative product lines. Even if it profits, it doesn’t profit enough to move their needle.

A smaller company that owned only D&D would be doing great. But the IP itself is so valuable that no smaller company can afford to buy it from Hasbro.

The same applies for all the people complaining about Adobe subscriptions. You want programmers at Adobe to keep getting paid? You want them to add new features and do security updates, and support? Then it has to be a subscription model. Otherwise, everyone pays once, and then Adobe the company just disappears after every digital artist has a copy.

You might say well, they should do what they used to and release a new version of Photoshop every two years that costs $1200+. If they add enough new good features, then everyone will buy it. Well, what’s the difference between $1200 every two years and $50 a month? Nothing, at least in terms of dollars. But it means a lot in terms of stability for the employees of the company, and it means you can get steady updates instead of only once every two years.

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The fundamental problem is the gap between these two statements and the engendered feeling of which side of the line a move feels like. And a great deal of it comes down to the impression of an action by the community.

Because the subscription model? Paizo, who is making themselves a player in this conversation, has a subscription model, where you sign up to get every rulebook/adventure/toy they release. It’s easier to see it fall on the supporting artists side of the line. People with Patreons to continually generate content are also clearly on this side of the line.

Adobe is complicated because there’s obviously rent-seeking in the move to a subscription model. But my perspective, as someone who has to maintain his company’s Creative Cloud subscription? I was grateful for it, because it meant an end to having constant version mismatching and the ability to open any file.

And what many people are feeling seems to be that many of these moves feel like rent-seeking behavior on the part of the people who aren’t the creative team but the hedge fund-type ghouls. And yes, the brand value of D&D is high. High enough that it’s been consumed by a mega-corp.

And rent-seeking is endemic Mega-corp behavior. You add the actions done here with the other choices made (the thousand dollars for four booster boxes, for example), and it’s stacking dry tinder while wearing a metal hat and shouting the gods are bastards.

You are missing the timeline and the real moneymaker.

  • 1997: Wizards of the Coast buys TSR, Inc.
  • 1999: Hasbro buys Wizards of the Coast.

[Hasbro CEO Chris] Cocks mentioned that Magic makes up around 70 to 80 percent of WotC’s total business.

According to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence, [WotC] accounts for just 22% of Hasbro’s annual revenue – but produces a staggering 72% of Hasbro’s profit.

The “flood the market with books” model died with D&D 4e. It wasn’t sustainable for WotC or consumers, and WotC wisely decided to slow down publishing. With 5e, WotC published fewer rules and setting books and at a steady pace—presumably focusing on quality, not that I’ve read them. They’re still publishing adventures at a good rate, of course, and they’ve branched out to working with third-party developers to create officially branded rules books and adventures.

WotC already refreshes D&D every 8–10 years, which sells a bunch of books. This iteration, streaming hit big and kept 5e numbers high throughout.

I can’t see Hasbro’s subscription making more money for the D&D team, when Hasbro could squeeze digital for all they can and keep the money for themselves instead. However, Hasbro/WotC fucked up by attempting to revoke OGL version 1.0a—pissing off developers and players in the know—while trying to enforce royalties with their OGL update.

D&D makes money but not Magic money. And Hasbro/WotC just lost twenty years of goodwill. I can see a world when they sell off D&D after their attempts to squeeze it fail. I’m not sure I’d call it likely, but if they burn their fanbase badly enough, it could happen. A new owner could step up, say “Hey, we’re not Hasbro, and, what’s this behind the curtain: a new edition!” and they’d be off and running. It worked for 3e.

I would strongly argue that it was not.

The older model was just bad. Adobe was profitable, but they also couldn’t really improve or even in some cases maintain their own products. The “purchase once” model for software in a rapidly evolving (like, say professional video editing) or highly specialized (like, say, professional video editing) domain is absolutely unsustainable.

Most adobe customers were far better off with the subscription model. It is absolutely cheaper, even today, than the purchase model was… if you keep up to date.

In the old days, professionals and anyone who cared about the stability or usability of their tools paid to upgrade every other version or so. The subscription model is far cheaper than that was. It also ended the extreme variation in “what version of Premiere are you using?” that led only to misery. Everyone is on the same version because there only is one version. It’s just always up to date. No more games of “skip this version of InDesign and upgrade on the next one” wasting everyone’s time. No more “we’ll upgrade this team’s Premiere but not this other team’s at the company because reasons” and the resulting version hell.

But nonprofessionals and people who were fine with an ancient version of photoshop or whatever would just… never upgrade. They were never the main target audience.

This left them over years of not upgrading to using bottom-tier unstable software, which they would increasingly complain about online. New video formats and containers appeared. Bugs got fixed. New better features were added. I remember trying to get help online in the pre-Creative Cloud era and every forum was mostly filled with people complaining about old versions that didn’t support some new thing.

It takes a lot of effort (and money) to maintain and improve complex desktop software. It absolutely makes sense for users of such software to pay a subscription for a service rather than purchase software that will depreciate in value faster than a new car.

And we know this is true. We saw the results.

Adobe software was largely not getting significant new features or improvements during the last several upgrade cycles. Audition hadn’t seen a material new feature in years. Premiere was moribund.

Once Adobe went to the subscription model, the years that followed saw the most rapid advancement of features across the suite in probably its entire history.

There is an entirely separate problem of people who want to create things not being able to afford the professional software to do so. But that’s orthogonal to a subscription model for rapidly-updating professional software being objectively healthier and more sensible for the audience of this software: professionals.

Adobe isn’t perfect. But Creative Cloud’s subscription model was not rent seeking. It was collecting actually-necessary rent in a more reasonable and sustainable manner.

Subscription doesn’t make sense for core rules to a tabletop game and never will. They don’t evolve that rapidly, nor do they need to, nor do you even need people all on the same “version” outside of a specific table.

I suspect that all the obvious ways to make money from the fact that you own and maintain the core of “Dungeons & Dragons” just aren’t profitable enough compared to “just sell more Magic cards” to even bother taking a risk on.

I think you missed the part where I said I was the target audience, was grateful for the change, and gave a 500-word essay explaining the problem I was glad it solved. If you’re arguing to the room, okay. But the problem that has me giving some ground to rent-seeking motives on Adobe’s part is two things that happened just this month, the ending of support for a category of fonts, and the whole mess with Pantone. A move can be made for both good and bad reasons at the same time. They needed to update the model to avoid all the version conflicts that were going on in the professional world. And the reliable income from CC was probably good for their stock price since it roughly doubled in the year it was launched.

On Dungeons and Dragons
I think we’ve got something interesting here in terms of what WoTC and Hasbro have in terms of D&D and Magic cards. Magic makes them more money, the reliable, sustained effort of an evolving game.

But D&D has more cultural cache. At least, more approachable cultural cache in terms of the fiction elements that are a part of it. We’re not getting an animated movie set in Ravnica, which feels like a rich and deep world where you could set and explore stories. We’re getting a(nother) Dungeons and Dragons movie, which could be a big, stupid, fun movie set in the Realms.

The distance for most people to understand the fantasy Dungeons and Dragons sells is pretty crossed at this point.

This is exactly it. D&D the intellectual property is valuable. The money you can make selling tabletop RPG books isn’t enough for a big company to care about. But the brand of D&D can be slapped on just about anything, and can make money in other ways. Like a movie.

That’s why Hasbro won’t sell D&D. But it’s also why if they can’t find a way to milk more money out of the actual game, they will reduce or end it. People who like D&D should actually be happy that WotC is trying to squeeze more blood from the stone, because significant reductions in investment in the game itself is the alternative. If more blood doesn’t come out, they’ll stop squeezing.

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I’m always arguing to the room :wink:

I’m just saying Adobe wasn’t seeking rent. They just changed the structure of existing already appropriately priced and reasonable rent. They did indeed provide more services for that rent. It wasn’t a naked cash grab.

Rent seeking doesn’t mean “charging rent.” It means “growing one’s existing wealth by manipulating the social or political environment without creating new wealth.”

Adobe created new features, and thus new wealth, from that rent. It’s just rent, not rent-seeking. Rent-seeking is catagorically bad and is something pretty specific.

As for Pantone, the problem there is Pantone and not Adobe. Pantone is actually rent-seeking in my estimation.

A specific term for a bad thing being genericised into an all-purpose snarl word to signal something is bad? That would never happen on the internet.

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Aaaaaaaaaand it’s gone.

No OGL 1.2, retaining OGL 1.0a, no VTT policy, and the entirety of the SRD 5.1 has been released with a CC-BY license effective immediately.

https://www.dndbeyond.com/posts/1439-ogl-1-0a-creative-commons

What an amazing 3 weeks this has been.

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I feel like they didn’t want people to be pushed far enough to actually widely discover that just about every single mechanic can be recreated whole sale if you change the layout, and use different flavor text down to monster stat blocks so long as they aren’t D&D specific IP (Beholders, ithillids, etc). Everything about their game licensing standpoint stems from a wider cultural misunderstanding about this point and a bluff about what they enforceable-ly own to the public.

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