Chaosium Suspends NFT Plans

After widespread backlash across social media, Chaosium has announced that it has suspended its plans for future NFT releases.

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All of us at Chaosium are deeply concerned by the issues raised around the VeVe digital collectable releases from last July. We take these concerns very seriously—our fans and the communities built around Chaosium are our lifeblood. We go back a long way, and that means a lot to us. We want to make sure you are comfortable with the way we do business.

While we address the concerns of the tabletop gaming community we have halted our plans for future NFT releases.

Let’s go through what’s happened to date:

  • In early 2019 we began discussions with VeVe. At the time NFTs and digital collectables were relatively unknown tech (at least in the TTRPG sphere).
  • VeVe is managed by long-time fans and collectors, and we completed multiple rounds of due diligence before deciding to move forward and granting VeVe a license to sell digital collectables based on our IP. It is notable that VeVe’s other NFT licensors include Disney, Marvel, DC Comics, Warner Bros., Star Trek, Star Wars, Cartoon Network, Adventure Time, James Bond, GhostBusters, and many other leading popular culture brands. VeVe even has a license from the United States Postal Service.
  • The environmental impact of VeVe's NFTs was crucial in our decision making. VeVe operates on a blockchain platform, (Immutable X), that is carbon neutral. The creation of VeVe NFTs, and their trading takes place “off-chain,” reducing the environmental footprint of VeVe NFTs by 99.9% when compared to those minted on Ethereum.
  • Chaosium publicized VeVe’s initial offering (July 2021) across all of our social channels. Our announcements didn’t receive much attention from the gaming press or TTRPG community, but the release was successful and well received, demonstrating an enthusiastic and sizable community of Cthulhu fans on VeVe.
  • With our licensee TYPE40, we built an NFT creation model that is protective and respectful of the artists involved—the digital collectables created for VeVe are all entirely new and original. The artists involved share fully in the proceeds of their sale.
However, we understand that a lot has changed since we started down this road in 2019. The issues relating to NFTs are increasingly complex and controversial. In recent months, the debate has become prominent and contentious. Bad actors in this sphere have received widespread coverage. Many people are justifiably baffled, incredulous, and deeply skeptical.

Based on both our research and experience with them, we believe that VeVe is an ethical company, pioneering a new digital community for collectors which uses this distributed ledger technology in a legitimate, meaningful, and environmentally responsible way.

We appreciate that many of our fans are angry and disappointed. We hear you. Your concerns must be listened to and addressed. That is why, in cooperation with TYPE40 and VeVe, we have made the decision outlined above. We do not have another scheduled release on VeVe or any other NFT marketplace. We will never require anyone to own an NFT/digital collectible to enjoy any Chaosium product or game.

Thank you for sharing your feedback. Thank you for patiently waiting for our reply. So much passion for what we do is a good thing. It’s been that way since 1975, and in this digital age we remain The Chaosium.
 

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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
NFTs are as pure form of speculation as you can see; the value of them is tied only very lightly to any real-world effects; as far as I can see the only thing that might affect their value is the perception of the popularity of their creator. When you are buying one you are risking money in the hopes that the future perception of the creator, and of NFTs in general, will rise, resulting in a profit for you.

As historians shown us, any time there is speculation, there is strong potential for scamming. If a company actively hides the knowledge that there is a strong risk of loss in the speculation, that is when it becomes evil.

Their value as a non-investment is essentially in the eye of the purchaser. You buy a small piece of uniqueness that can be independently verified. It's much like buying an autograph -- the value to you is really in your own reaction to it.

As far as the environmental cost is concerned, NFTs are awful. Each NFT requires about the same amount of energy as the average European uses in a month. But carbon offsetting is not a form of scam, as several people seem to be indicating. For example, using carbon offsets to protect forests directly leads to carbon reductions that balance out the cost. It is a tricky business to evaluate, but simply writing off carbon offsetting as as scam is a bit extreme.

Are NFTs good for the environment? Nope, but then neither are cows and we're not seeing all the people complaining about NFTs becoming vegans. Are NFTs a good investment? I guess it depends if your definite of good is "massively speculative with high potential fro complete loss." Are they fun to own? That totally depends on you.
Largely agree. However, some NFTs are being used for more than just speculative vehicles. BAYC (Bored Ape Yacht Club) is being used as an access token to real life social events and to online social spaces. Same with a few others. Some other NFTs are tied to games, and generate income for those games that can be used to add to the games. The thing with NFTs is that they allow you to attach a snippet of something -- this can be code, or in many cases, a URL pointer. URL pointers are just terrible -- you don't control anything and if the host moves then the URL goes dead, so you have the NFT but the link it tokenizes is dead. But it can be more, and sometimes that more can be useful. I've yet to see anything done I'd consider useful, but the capability exists.

So, then, what are NFTs actually for? The monetizing of anything. BAYC and many of the other big NFTs are effectively attempting to monetize social relationships. They're creating vehicles for attaching money to a social relationship, and then the ability to buy and sell that relationship. I think this is horrid. It's not a scam, per se, but it's certainly taking advantage of a lot of psychological quirks and exploits, and then obfuscating that it's doing so. Maybe not "scam" but certainly icky.
 

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UngainlyTitan

Legend
Supporter
Largely agree. However, some NFTs are being used for more than just speculative vehicles. BAYC (Bored Ape Yacht Club) is being used as an access token to real life social events and to online social spaces. Same with a few others. <snip>...
Again this begs the question Why? Real life social events have sold tickets or been invite only for centuries. What does NFT bring to this. It is like hunting bunny rabbits with a 700 Nitro Express.
 


Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Yes. Even in the cases where they're not a scam they still contain the same spirit of Mammon that scams descend from
So do a lot of things. I mean, gambling in general is in this category. That include lotteries. Beanie-babies certainly latched onto many of the same concept spaces. To me, collector editions for RPGs with gold foil, leather bound, heavy paper are in the same boat. All are taking advantage of a FOMO and collector driven obsessive tendencies. I'm largely not someone that cares about completing a collection or even collecting. These things tend to hold no value at all for me, but I've seen friends sink waaaay too much money into things like 1st-1st printings of fantasy novels and collector editions versions of the same, not to mention nearly ruinous obsessions with MtG.

I guess what I'm saying here is that while I don't see any utility in NFTs, they seem quite a lot like some things that get easy passes. I'll admit that digital, ephemeral collections are absolutely on the worse end of the scale, but the vehemence with which NFTs are attacks seems like it should drift back up a little bit into these other things -- but it doesn't. Which makes me wonder if it's the scale of dollars involved? I mean, that's legit, I certainly think anything generating this much cash over what amounts to collectibles is a problem. At best it's a fad that will destroy the people holding the bag when it crashes, at worst it's rife for really unsavory practices to keep it aloft.

In shorter words, I'm a bit taken aback by the strength of hate for NFTs and the lack of any discernable hate for things that are on the same spectrum but aren't as capitalized. It seems odd.
 


Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Again this begs the question Why? Real life social events have sold tickets or been invite only for centuries. What does NFT bring to this. It is like hunting bunny rabbits with a 700 Nitro Express.
Why sell tickets? Why not make it first come first serve, or a lottery, or anything else? This argument is one that says "we have 1 way already to do this, therefore all other ways are bogus." That's not a solid argument -- it doesn't hold together. It's not a detriment to NFTs that they're a different approach to other methods.

That said, I'm not fond of this method at all. The method makes the value of the NFT entirely dependent on the social status of other owners -- BAYC is so expensive because of who else holds them (or who held them long enough to tout them and bailed without making the bailing public). It's not really a method of ticketing so much as it's a method of creating scarce access to high level social access. If I buy a BAYC, I can hang (maybe) with Jimmy Fallon and Paris Hilton and other famous people (pardon, those are the only two I'm really aware of in relation to BAYC, I know there are more famous people involved, but cannot recall them and I'm not searching for it). To me, monetizing said access is not a good idea. It provides the idea that I can buy access to fame if I spend my life's savings on a Bored Ape NFT, but that access isn't really useful (those people are still going to be using normal methods to screen access) and if they bail I'm left holding a worthless investment that wasn't what I thought it was. Not a scam, but not good, either.
 

Staffan

Legend
Ultimately there is no difference between sharing a recipe and sharing a music file - not even authorship in most cases - you probably got that recipe from someone else too and probably don't have their explicit consent to share it.
My understanding is that recipes generally aren't protected by copyright, because they are just descriptions of how to do a thing. A particularly embellished recipe might have those embellishments protected (e.g. "Drop in the tooth of an Algolian Suntiger. Watch it dissolve, spreading the fires of the Algolian Suns deep into the heart of the drink." instead of "Add one Algolian Suntiger tooth."), and you can certainly protect any narrative around a recipe ("I remember when..."), but not the recipe itself.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
This is like a first printing of a pdf-only fantasy novel
No, only the lazy set of NFTs (far too many) are like this, but that's really like a link to the 1st printing of a PDF-only novel on a specific website. So, it could be worse. It might also be the crytographic key that decrypts a pdf of a fantasy novel so that only you can read it. NFTs are extremely varied in capability. For the record, I think that latter example is pretty stupid as well.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
As far as the environmental cost is concerned, NFTs are awful. Each NFT requires about the same amount of energy as the average European uses in a month. But carbon offsetting is not a form of scam, as several people seem to be indicating. For example, using carbon offsets to protect forests directly leads to carbon reductions that balance out the cost. It is a tricky business to evaluate, but simply writing off carbon offsetting as as scam is a bit extreme.

Are NFTs good for the environment? Nope, but then neither are cows and we're not seeing all the people complaining about NFTs becoming vegans.

We need to be a little more precise here.

Carbon offsets are great, in the sense that they are better than no carbon offsets. I don't think anyone should disagree with that.

However, and this is a crucial point, people should always pay attention to greenwashing like this. So let's pay attention to what the actual issues really are:

A. It's easy to claim carbon offsets; however, not all of these claims are accurate. This may shock you, given how upstanding people are in the world of NFTs and crypto ... but some people are just flat-out lying about having carbon offsets. So first, verify that they are in fact real. Are they working with a reliable vendor? Do they provide documentation?

B. Next, even assuming they are purchasing and using valid carbon offsets from entities that are using best practices, most studies have shown (for a variety of reasons) that the carbon credits aren't actually offsetting the amount of pollution claimed. Sometimes it's because these things are hard to measure, and sometimes it's because of the weird incentives that distort the market (for example, if you have a place in China that deliberately increases emissions, and then you pay them to decrease emissions back to the baseline in order to get a carbon offset ... was any good accomplished?).

C. So when you look at the first two, you see that carbon-offsets, in general, are better than nothing, but hardly the perfect answer. Moving to the instant issue, the bigger problem is that when they claim that they are going "carbon neutral," they aren't measuring the actual energy costs and environmental costs- instead, they are usually only capturing some portion of the transaction costs. Then, even if they did manage to capture the entire use-costs, they still wouldn't be capturing the growing and terrible e-waste problem.

D. Which leads to the most important point. Eating meat might be bad for the environment, but still provide calories. Extracting oil may be terrible, but it's providing energy. I have yet to see a positive case for this- it's a technology that literally depends on extreme energy use for value. It has no other intrinsic qualities. And it solves no problems.

Importantly, we already see, in the decade since this started, and most importantly in the last few years, how insane the environmental costs scale up. I honestly can't think of anything else that has such a lopsided benefit / environmental impact ratio.
 



UngainlyTitan

Legend
Supporter
Why sell tickets? Why not make it first come first serve, or a lottery, or anything else? This argument is one that says "we have 1 way already to do this, therefore all other ways are bogus." That's not a solid argument -- it doesn't hold together. It's not a detriment to NFTs that they're a different approach to other methods.

That said, I'm not fond of this method at all. The method makes the value of the NFT entirely dependent on the social status of other owners -- BAYC is so expensive because of who else holds them (or who held them long enough to tout them and bailed without making the bailing public). It's not really a method of ticketing so much as it's a method of creating scarce access to high level social access. If I buy a BAYC, I can hang (maybe) with Jimmy Fallon and Paris Hilton and other famous people (pardon, those are the only two I'm really aware of in relation to BAYC, I know there are more famous people involved, but cannot recall them and I'm not searching for it). To me, monetizing said access is not a good idea. It provides the idea that I can buy access to fame if I spend my life's savings on a Bored Ape NFT, but that access isn't really useful (those people are still going to be using normal methods to screen access) and if they bail I'm left holding a worthless investment that wasn't what I thought it was. Not a scam, but not good, either.
100 ticket are cheap to print, even professionally done, 100 newly minted NFT's on Etherium could cost north of $100k
 

D. Which leads to the most important point. Eating meat might be bad for the environment, but still provide calories. Extracting oil may be terrible, but it's providing energy. I have yet to see a positive case for this- it's a technology that literally depends on extreme energy use for value. It has no other intrinsic qualities. And it solves no problems.
And here is the difficulty -- measures of "value" are highly subjective. What is the value of happiness? How do you compare energy cost to happiness generated? You might discount the joy of owning something unique, but I just paid a non-trivial amount of money for map of Ireland made in 1743. It's out of date and in Italian, which I don't speak, and you can get a PNG of it n the internet, so it has absolutely no intrinsic value. But it makes me happy.

Personally I'm very unlikely to buy an NFT for the joy of ownership, but I think it's pretty clear that some people do. I am not prepared to say that my definition of value applies to them.

BTW, you missed another very important con for carbon offsetting -- one that gives me a lot of pause also. It is often used as a form of colonialism, for example where a rich country offsets carbon by forcing a lifestyle change on people living in poorer, forested countries. I completely agree with you that skepticism about carbon offsetting is a good default state of mind!
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
And here is the difficulty -- measures of "value" are highly subjective. What is the value of happiness? How do you compare energy cost to happiness generated? You might discount the joy of owning something unique, but I just paid a non-trivial amount of money for map of Ireland made in 1743. It's out of date and in Italian, which I don't speak, and you can get a PNG of it n the internet, so it has absolutely no intrinsic value. But it makes me happy.

Personally I'm very unlikely to buy an NFT for the joy of ownership, but I think it's pretty clear that some people do. I am not prepared to say that my definition of value applies to them.

BTW, you missed another very important con for carbon offsetting -- one that gives me a lot of pause also. It is often used as a form of colonialism, for example where a rich country offsets carbon by forcing a lifestyle change on people living in poorer, forested countries. I completely agree with you that skepticism about carbon offsetting is a good default state of mind!

I think value is subjective ... but (and this is, to invoke Sir Mix-A-Lot, a BIT BUT) NFTs don't provide that value.

That's the killer, right there. It's not ownership of the thing. There are a ton of ways to buy digital collectibles that would allow you to "own" that thing. All the NFT does is provide you, in effect, the contract (the receipt). That's it. The underlying object isn't unique- just the receipt. In fact, you can have an infinite number of "unique" receipts that have purchased the same thing.

It's an exercise in speculation. Which, again, is fine. If that makes you happy, go for it. But there are a lot of things that people enjoy that aren't necessarily a good idea, and that we shouldn't encourage. I mean ... I'm sure some people out there enjoy shooting speedballs, but I wouldn't want Chaosium to issue "Limited Edition Cthulhu Speedballs."
 


Dire Bare

Legend
My understanding is that recipes generally aren't protected by copyright, because they are just descriptions of how to do a thing. A particularly embellished recipe might have those embellishments protected (e.g. "Drop in the tooth of an Algolian Suntiger. Watch it dissolve, spreading the fires of the Algolian Suns deep into the heart of the drink." instead of "Add one Algolian Suntiger tooth."), and you can certainly protect any narrative around a recipe ("I remember when..."), but not the recipe itself.
Have you written and published your cook book yet? If not . . . you need to!
 

J.Quondam

CR 1/8
I guess what I'm saying here is that while I don't see any utility in NFTs, they seem quite a lot like some things that get easy passes. I'll admit that digital, ephemeral collections are absolutely on the worse end of the scale, but the vehemence with which NFTs are attacks seems like it should drift back up a little bit into these other things -- but it doesn't. Which makes me wonder if it's the scale of dollars involved? I mean, that's legit, I certainly think anything generating this much cash over what amounts to collectibles is a problem. At best it's a fad that will destroy the people holding the bag when it crashes, at worst it's rife for really unsavory practices to keep it aloft.

In shorter words, I'm a bit taken aback by the strength of hate for NFTs and the lack of any discernable hate for things that are on the same spectrum but aren't as capitalized. It seems odd.
For me, personally, the enormity of the money involved is precisely the biggest worry. The wealth and influence of people pushing these things is normalizing them, despite the fact that they have no legit use-cases that can't be addressed in other more efficient, better-regulated, and less exploitable ways.

Many of these people, recall, are openly derisive of things that happen to be very important to me: stable government, environmental concerns, trust-based social contracts. And they potentially have the cash to foist their vision on the rest of us. They can and do effectively bribe public officials to open up to crypto; buy up infrastructure to repurpose to their ends; exploit tax and subsidy rules; and so forth. And of course, they're able to do these things because they are so "wealthy" off these airy-fairy psuedo-assets. They're charging ahead full speed with vast amounts of wealth momentum.

And the normalization of this scam-laden, get-rich-quick scheme is taking root in the form of constant newsmedia chatter; interest by NYSE, investment banks, etc; celebrity endorsements and Super Bowl ads; campaign platforms. Even some TTRPG companies.

That's why I am so vehemently opposed to these things: because the world these obscenely rich cryptobros is pushing is one that very well could impact me, no matter how much I don't want it. And that disgusts me to the core.

Perhaps that's overly paranoid hyperbole. But since I'm not one of those ultra-privileged hundred-billionaires who can tank the stock market or multiply a crapcoin with a single tweet, I do feel a somewhat justified in my fears.
Because fear is really all that most of us have got.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
For me, personally, the enormity of the money involved is precisely the biggest worry. The wealth and influence of people pushing these things is normalizing them, despite the fact that they have no legit use-cases that can't be addressed in other more efficient, better-regulated, and less exploitable ways.

Many of these people, recall, are openly derisive of things that happen to be very important to me: stable government, environmental concerns, trust-based social contracts. And they potentially have the cash to foist their vision on the rest of us. They can and do effectively bribe public officials to open up to crypto; buy up infrastructure to repurpose to their ends; exploit tax and subsidy rules; and so forth. And of course, they're able to do these things because they are so "wealthy" off these airy-fairy psuedo-assets. They're charging ahead full speed with vast amounts of wealth momentum.

And the normalization of this scam-laden, get-rich-quick scheme is taking root in the form of constant newsmedia chatter; interest by NYSE, investment banks, etc; celebrity endorsements and Super Bowl ads; campaign platforms. Even some TTRPG companies.

That's why I am so vehemently opposed to these things: because the world these obscenely rich cryptobros is pushing is one that very well could impact me, no matter how much I don't want it. And that disgusts me to the core.

Perhaps that's overly paranoid hyperbole. But since I'm not one of those ultra-privileged hundred-billionaires who can tank the stock market or multiply a crapcoin with a single tweet, I do feel a somewhat justified in my fears.
Because fear is really all that most of us have got.
Here's to hoping lots of rich people buy in and it all crashes, wiping out all the "wealth". Then maybe we can get some good things done.
 

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