D&D General Here we are again

Negflar2099

Explorer
As someone who's old enough to have been with this hobby since the very start it really pains me to see this all happening yet again. Since they first bought D&D from TSR in 97 WoTC has been the subject of a ton of hate, some of it deserved, some of it not so much. It look WoTC a long, long time to build up this level of trust they had with the community, especially after the fiasco with 4th edition. To see them piss it all away is heartbreaking. Especially since I really feel that this is probably mostly coming from Hasbro. Like the idiot who poisons their golden goose in a pitiful attempt to get it to lay more of those sweet sweet gilded eggs, Hasbro has forced this situation and ruined a good thing.

I can't help but feel their using Wizards as a human shield, letting them get all the (very justified) hate and take all that flack while they hide away in the shadows blameless. Not that WoTC is innocent in all of this. To borrow someone's analogy it's like WotC is the evil wizard bringing ruin to the vibrant community. Sure everybody hates the wizard, for good reason, but all the while he serves a great, and greedy demon. The wizard is wicked for sure, but lets not forget the demon in all this.

I just wish companies would stop doing this. They're doing it to video games, they're doing it to movies and now they're doing it to my favorite hobby of all. My one silver lining is seeing how everyone is standing up to them. It might not seem like much but getting them to even do the pitiful backpedaling they did is still a victory. We just need to keep the pressure on and if the hobby fractures as a result that's probably a good thing. D&D isn't a single game and it can't be owned by any one company. Those days are past. It's our culture now, our history. In other words ours. I'm so happy to see us fight back and to know that so many of these smaller publishers have our backs and we have theirs. Wizards doesn't own D&D and they don't own us. Love you all.
 

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They do it because short-term, it's more profitable to milk a few whales for everything they got than it is to sell a decent game to a large number of people. It's true in video games, board games, and ttrpgs. After all, even if you run the IP into the ground, you can just sit on it for a few years (or a decade) and start over. Nostalgia will overcome the sour memories of what killed it in the first place.

It'll only stop working when the market decides to just not touch any game that does this sort of thing - which doesn't seem to be happening. Diablo Immortal made over $100 million while being a complete case-study in how to include the most predatory monetization in one game.

But maybe ttrpgs are different... I mean they definitely are, but are they different enough that people just won't subscribe to Dungeons & Dragons when they could*own* Pathfinder 2e?
 

IMO, the WotC execs in charge of DnD brand and licensing would be the adversary for this particular conflict, not the Hasbro overlords. The Hasbro overlords are the ones who can replace and/or fire the WotC execs in charge of DnD brand and licensing.

The Hasbro overlords care about profit margins, and delegate the decision-making on how to reach said profit margins.

The WotC execs in charge of DnD brand and licensing care about keeping their jobs, and are the ones deciding how to reach their revenue quotas, pressured on them by Hasbro.

Attacking both together, or the wrong one, is moving backwards if one wants to actually make anything improve for the future of the DnD brand.

The objective of boycotters should be to grab Hasbro's attention and focus it towards the WotC execs in charge of the DnD brand and licensing. That does NOT require reducing revenue to zero. It just requires making sure that WotC does not meet its revenue quota from Hasbro. Taking hits on DnD Beyond, cards, toys, and 1st party supplements is more than enough to achieve that objective. The desired result (at least for anyone who still enjoys DnD) should be imo the next version of OGL being palatable to 3rd party publishers, and a statement agreeing that OGL 1.0a is irrevocable.

It's also important to separate the WotC execs in charge of DnD brand and licensing from the employees who have nothing to do with the decision-making, otherwise it's easier for responsible parties to paint the boycotters in a poor light if they need to deflect blame away from decisions that may have reduced earnings (and their audience for those meetings is not the consumers, but their bosses at Hasbro).

My suggestion would also be to wait and see for now in the wake of WotC's response to the DnD Beyond boycott, but keep the discussion alive so that more are aware of the situation, and try not to go overboard as more than a few may be doing.
 

kigmatzomat

Adventurer
IMO, the WotC execs in charge of DnD brand and licensing would be the adversary for this particular conflict, not the Hasbro overlords. The Hasbro overlords are the ones who can replace and/or fire the WotC execs in charge of DnD brand and licensing.

We can quite certainly lay all the blame on the CEO of Hasbro, as until 12 months ago, he was President of WotC.

Has-Bro CEO is named Chris Cocks, he came from Microsoft as a sales VP to be President and COO of WotC in 2014. When the CEO of Hasbro died in late 2021, Cocks was promoted to Hasbro CEO in January 2022.

He came to WotC after 5e was already done, so he has literally zero experience launching an RPG edition, has no visceral knowledge of the 4e backlash, and essentially arrived in a boom period.

He has increased revenue but has done it as an operations person, not a creative, with cost cutting measures on many fronts, including DDB customer service staff as well as the traditional WotC Christmas layoffs as well as mid-year layoffs.

It is a certainty that what is going on now is based on long term plans Cocks developed while WotC president, but now comes with the greater authority of Hasbro CEO.

Cocks does not seem to have had any positions pre-WotC that involved PR or was consumer facing, meaning this is probably the first time his screw-ups have been in the public light. (My Google fu is less clear on his pre-Microsoft roles so maybe I am wrong)
 
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Stormonu

Legend
This behavior isn't anything new. TSR was even worse, they would have NEVER considered even sharing the game to others and even viciously attacked their own fans for attempting to share or produce content.

Corporations simply cycle greed, acting in a fawning manner to get people in their grip and then squeeze them for every drop of coin they can muster. They only slow down when the community reacts in a manner that causes them to lose money. And even then, they just slightly loosen their grip until they can squeeze again. They never fully open their grasp.
 



It is a certainty that what is going on now is based on long term plans Cocks developed while WotC president, but now comes with the greater authority of Hasbro CEO.

Based on what evidence?

Has there been any leaked directive specifically authored by Chris Cocks from 12+ months ago?

Chris Cocks may have agreed with Cynthia Williams that DnD was "under-monetized", but that can mean any number of things not having to do with the OGL, including Mr. Cocks' discussions not so long ago for expansion of DnD into more brands and IP, with mention of MtG as an example.
 

I just wish companies would stop doing this.
The problem is, you are (essentially) asking that corporations develop an inherent internal pressure toward (a) behaving ethically regardless of the (temporary or ongoing) costs, (b) prioritizing long-term success over short-term profits, and (c) rewarding effective stewardship that builds symbolic/infrastructural/non-pecuniary strength instead of rewarding cunning ploys that prioritize squeezing out every dollar no matter what.

This won't happen. The motive to do these things can only arise in three ways. The first is for it to be there from the beginning, a desire that preceded the desire to make money. The second is for it to arise in response to the objective failure and breakdown that results from "selling tomorrow to buy today"--when the corporation's leadership can no longer deny or deflect or "re-orient" or whatever, and must actually take responsibility for their unwise, short-sighted decisions and thus actually improve. And the third, of course, is external pressure from force, sometimes soft force like customer advocacy, but much more commonly the force of law because corporations tend to be good at dodging soft force efforts.

Unfortunately, the first way tends to disappear as companies age, because the people who had that internalized attitude promote out or retire. The second way only happens after the problem has become so bad it can't be ignored anymore, and that carries an extreme risk of the company simply going under. Even if it doesn't, you basically just get the same problem as before, albeit more slowly because it's not localized to a few founders, it's an internal-culture change. Such things linger. And the third way, in a very meaningful sense, never actually achieves the goal at all--because it does so by making an external pressure that the corporate entities will almost certainly resent and resist as much as they are able. (It's related to the problem of teaching: how do you get someone to want to learn? How do you actually transmit knowledge and not simply information?)

It's an inherent problem of allowing people to do what they wish to do, rather than forcing them to fall in line: there will always be the temptation to exploit. And, of course, the inherent problems of forcing people to fall in line are well-known.

How do we make humans who desire to be moral, not because they are forced to, but because they choose to? Unless you find an answer to this question, corporations (and all sorts of other human organizational groups, corporations aren't special) will continue to do crappy, stupid, self-destructive things in the name of maximal exploitation for minimal investment.
 

bostonmyk

Explorer
Based on what evidence?

Has there been any leaked directive specifically authored by Chris Cocks from 12+ months ago?

Chris Cocks may have agreed with Cynthia Williams that DnD was "under-monetized", but that can mean any number of things not having to do with the OGL, including Mr. Cocks' discussions not so long ago for expansion of DnD into more brands and IP, with mention of MtG as an example.
It really doesn't matter. They all own the decisions they collectively make.

Mike
 

Yora

Legend
Publicly traded companies and art are not compatible. They are a vehicle for people to park their money and watch it multiply. If it would multiply more when parked in another company, they sell of their stocks and buy another company. The only job management has to do is to make sure is that profits are high in the next quarter. The owners don't care if short term profits cause long term damage to the company, because then they just take their money and go somewhere else.

If anything with quality comes out of this system, it's pure coincidence against all odds.
 

If anything with quality comes out of this system, it's pure coincidence against all odds.
That's not entirely true. I want to be clear, though, that I share your skepticism on this matter overall. But it's not a total defiance of all possible odds that such a thing could occur. It is, effectively, a form of formally-organized patronage, which is something that produced a significant chunk of the world's great art, music, and literature. Further, the expectation of performance offers something that a lot of pure creator-controlled things lack: a deadline. We've seen that exact problem crop up frequently with Kickstarter. Again, I emphatically do not want to say that I consider the creator-controlled problems to be unavoidable, nor that any other part of your argument is wrong. Just saying that there are reasons why this (effectively) corporate patronage could push toward producing quality work, it's not a complete contravention of rationality and probability.
 


kigmatzomat

Adventurer
Based on what evidence?

He was the president and set WotC' overall long term strategy, which darned sure should be more than 12 months into the future.

If you don't believe me, here is the first listed responsibility of a corporate president from the first 3 Google hits

  • creates, communicates and implements the organization’s vision, mission and overall direction. (Delaware, inc)
  • Developing the corporate vision (upcounsel)
  • Long-range, strategic planning (chron)

The president of WotC should have been making 3-5 year plans at a bare minimum. Good presidents think more at a decade scale. Vice presidents think a couple years a head, directors should be 1-2 years in the future, with managers at quarterly to annual time frame.

I was a manager for an auditor IT team and I had to develop annual plans to coordinate development needs across the various government audits on the books. The director I reported to had 2-3 year initiatives to manage the infrastructure. Their boss, a VP, spent time in Washington working with the govt agencies that had oversight of the programs in development that wouldn't go live for 18+ months and wouldn't be audited until 3-5 years after their go live which would then start the reconciliation processes that took another couple of quarters to resolve. The Sr. VP was involved in multi-year acquisitions with decade-ish integration timeliness.

This is pretty typical for companies in the $Billions/yr club.

So we don't need a smoking gun from Chris Cocks beyond his resume. He either wrote these plans up while WotC president in 2021 or earlier (which correspond to the early leaks) or he was a crap president who had no plans and abdicated responsibility to his VPs.

Given that he was vetted by the Hasbro board and an interim Hasbro CEO, either they are TOTALLY incompetent or he had a multi-year game plan for WotC that the board & interim CEO considered sufficiently good work to justify extending that kind of vision across all Hasbro properties.
 
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LJR69

Villager
I'll first say that I don't condone in anyway the attitude that WotC have displayed over the past week, and the leaked memos and comments made about the community. There's no excuse for that at all.

I do however want to play a little bit of devil's advocate. In a world that's largely moved to a consumption based model (streaming services, software licenses, even the ink I get for my HP printer) it's shouldn't be a surprise that Hasbro and WotC are looking for ways to have a stream of revenue that continues helps fund the continued development of DnD. I'm not saying what they proposed in the replacement OGL was the right approach - that was a sledgehammer to crack a nut and was designed to pretty much make DnD a closed system, but companies that are paying their workforce need to be bringing in repeatable revenue. The rumoured $30 per month subscription is clearly ridiculous, but I do understand the need to think about how they can generate some form of revenue.

I'll just stick my head in the stocks here. Help yourself to the rotten fruit..

Screenshot 2023-01-18 at 14.15.00.png
 

Stormonu

Legend
Anyone who was around during 4E I don’t think should be too surprised by recent actions. WotC/Hasbro has been trying to kill open access back then with the GSL. This time around, they simply thought they could get to the root of the problem.

One of their biggest issues is that they have a completely blind eye to anyone who is using the OGL to create non-5E content. They can’t conceive that allowing people to create non-5E content would be of any benefit to them, despite the fact that several companies will produce things in multiple rule sets (Pathfinder, S&W, OSE, C&C, etc.) that will appeal to 5E buyers and keep them in WotC’s orbit, even if indirectly. Nor the fact not everyone wants to play 5E or OneD&D, and they could still make money from their old scanned rulesets (the PDFs on DriveThru) and such - not a lot, but more than nothing.
 

I'll first say that I don't condone in anyway the attitude that WotC have displayed over the past week, and the leaked memos and comments made about the community. There's no excuse for that at all.

I do however want to play a little bit of devil's advocate. In a world that's largely moved to a consumption based model (streaming services, software licenses, even the ink I get for my HP printer) it's shouldn't be a surprise that Hasbro and WotC are looking for ways to have a stream of revenue that continues helps fund the continued development of DnD. I'm not saying what they proposed in the replacement OGL was the right approach - that was a sledgehammer to crack a nut and was designed to pretty much make DnD a closed system, but companies that are paying their workforce need to be bringing in repeatable revenue. The rumoured $30 per month subscription is clearly ridiculous, but I do understand the need to think about how they can generate some form of revenue.

I'll just stick my head in the stocks here. Help yourself to the rotten fruit..

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the problem with the consumption based model is it depends on people having plenty of money to burn and budgets are tightening worldwide forecasted for the foreseeable decades meaning it is likely to eat itself.

you can't build raising profit of whales alone.
 

you can't build raising profit of whales alone.
Exactly.

@LJR69 There's a really good analogy to be made here to the creation of video game content, and specifically MMOs. See, as I was writing my post above, I was very specifically thinking about the contrast between World of Warcraft (and thus Blizzard) and Final Fantasy XIV (and thus Square Enix's oh-so-evocatively-named Creative Business Unit 3.) I don't know if you've played either game, so I'm going to assume you haven't; if you have, a lot of these details are going to be unnecessary, but other readers may not have, so it still serves some purpose.

WoW, when it got started, had an enormous base of customer goodwill and enthusiasm, which Blizzard leveraged brilliantly to become THE hegemonic ruler of the MMO space. They were making money hand over fist, and for the base game and first two expansions, life was good. The game grew to even further heights, and fans were eating up the story. But the second expac, Wrath of the Lich King, brought pretty much all of the story from the Warcraft strategy games to a close (there was still the threat of the Burning Legion, but it had at least partially been dealt with in the first expansion.) The writers were in uncharted territory and had to come up with new content to keep people interested.

This....did not end up going well. Cataclysm, the third expansion, started the "bad expansion, good expansion" pattern--not that it was actually bad in and of itself, but it was something of a disappointment compared to WotLK, and for the first time the game contracted rather than expanding as an expansion wore on. This caused the developers to prioritize the most heavily-invested players--and methods that could be used to objectively increase player investment. They tried to make WoW not just an MMO, but something you had to be engaged with all the time in order to get anywhere, a "Red Queen's race" where you have to run as fast as you can just to keep up. I could go into specifics but they aren't really necessary for the analogy here. Point being: they tried to, as Mind of Tempest said, build profit off whales alone--and tried to make a game that encouraged everyone to become a whale to one degree or another. Now you have a game that is roundly disliked and scrambling to fix its issues with its newest expansion after the disaster that was Shadowlands. This is, as I said above, an example of the "had the impetus before, but lost it due to people retiring/departing/etc." (Ignoring the other disgusting things that occurred at Blizzard, of course...topic for another thread.)

By comparison, FFXIV represents my second example above: failure teaching a lesson. The people who designed FFXIV genuinely saw themselves as incapable of doing wrong; whatever game they made, the Final Fantasy playerbase would lap up because of course they would, it's a Final Fantasy game. They failed to engage with one another inside the company, leading to disastrously bad choices like making flowerpots that had the same polygon count as actual player characters and putting them EVERYWHERE inside major player hubs, making it almost impossible to play. They failed to include really basic, standard features like auto-attack and jumping; they failed to include series staples despite clear references to them, such as not being able to ride the ostrich-like chocobos that are one of the series' mascots; they spent so much time and money making really excellent cutscenes that they failed to actually make a world worth adventuring through and, more importantly, failed to consider whether the hardware could support those cutscenes. The introductory cutscene for the pirate-themed town Limsa Lominsa was so graphically intense, most PCs would crash to desktop before completing it, locking some players out of playing the game entirely for a time.

The situation was incredibly, unbelievably bad. We're talking the President of Square Enix literally having to discuss the possibility that the company would go under. The game had performed so badly and angered so many of the fans that it literally could have killed the company. But they took a gamble--in the sense of not doing the get-rich-quick thing, but rather trying to re-build player trust and respect and all those other intangibles--and had Naoki Yoshida helm the reconstruction efforts. Not only did it pay off, but it paid off in a big way. Accounting for FFXIV's intentional "play when you want, take breaks, it's okay, the game is still here when you want to come back" policy, FFXIV has experienced continuous growth since the A Realm Reborn relaunch, at a time when most MMOs are treading water at best. And it's very specifically because they've been beaten over the head with the importance of all those intangibles.

WotC is getting that beating now, and there's a good chance that they'll screw up the reconstruction. Because that reconstruction is hard! Because earnestly apologizing, truly getting why what they've done was wrong and actually learning how to build future profits through investment into the intangibles and infrastructure, is all difficult. It requires accepting perhaps lesser profits today, requires building structures and communication channels and support that eat into profits without having a direct, provable link to future benefits. That's a tall order for any corporate type to grasp, much less successfully implement.

I really, truly hope that D&D is able to follow the example of FFXIV and genuinely learn the lessons that this debacle can teach. Unfortunately, I also know that that hope, as of this moment right now, is a thin and wavering one. WotC's moves over the next few weeks to months will tell us whether they can fix the HORRIBLE HORRIBLE HORRIBLE mess they've made, or whether (to steal from a rather melodramatic Kipling poem) "the Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return."
 

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