TTRPGS, Blockchains, and NFTs

When Kickstarter announced recently that it would be investing in blockchain-based infrastructure, there was widespread backlash. Blockchain technology is environmentally damaging and is of limited use. Creators such as Possum Creek Games (Wanderhome) announced their intentions to move off Kickstarter, while companies such as Chaosium and Wizards of the Coast continue to express interested in...

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When Kickstarter announced recently that it would be investing in blockchain-based infrastructure, there was widespread backlash. Blockchain technology is environmentally damaging and is of limited use. Creators such as Possum Creek Games (Wanderhome) announced their intentions to move off Kickstarter, while companies such as Chaosium and Wizards of the Coast continue to express interested in non-fungible tokens, digital items which exist on a blockchain.

non-fungible-token-g5650c4233_1280.jpg


While I'm writing this article, I do need to point out that I'm not a great person to do so; my understanding of blockchains, NFTs, cryptocurrencies, and related technologies is very, very limited and my attempts to get a handle on the subject have not been entirely successful. I'm sure more informed people will post in the comments.


Kickstarter is not the only tabletop roleplaying game adjacent company delving into such technologies. Call of Cthulhu publisher Chaosium announced in July 2021 that it was working with an NFT company to bring their Mythos content to a digitally collectible market, with specific plans to sell two different models -- the Necromonicon and a bust of Cthulhu -- from the Cthulhu Mythos; and while things went quiet for a while, last week the company tweeted that 'We have more - lots more -- to drop... when the Stars are Right." A Facebook statement from Chaosium's CEO appeared on Twitter talking more about the decision.

D&D producer Wizards of the Coast said in April 2021 that it was considering NFTs for Magic: The Gathering. More recently, an email from WotC's legal representatives to a company planning to use NFT technology in conjunction with M:tG cards, alleging unlawful infringement of its IP, indicated that WotC was "currently evaluating its future plans regarding NFTs and the MAGIC: THE GATHERING cards" but that "no decision has been made at this time."

On Twitter, ErikTheBearik compiled Hasbro/WotC's involvement with NFTs so far.

Gripnr is a '5e based TTRPG NFT protocol' with Stephen Radney-MacFarland (D&D, Star Wars Saga Edition, Pathfinder) as its lead game designer. OK, so that's about as much of that as I understand!

Some company in the TTRPG sphere have taken a stand. DriveThruRPG stated that "In regard to NFTs – We see no use for this technology in our business ever." Itch.io was a bit more emphatic:

A few have asked about our stance on NFTs: NFTs are a scam. If you think they are legitimately useful for anything other than the exploitation of creators, financial scams, and the destruction of the planet the [sic] we ask that [you] please reevaluate your life choices. Peace. [an emoji of a hand making the “Peace” symbol]

Also [expletive deleted] any company that says they support creators and also endorses NFTs in any way. They only care about their own profit and the opportunity for wealth above anyone else. Especially given the now easily available discourse concerning the problems of NFTs.

How can you be so dense?

NFTs -- non-fungible tokens -- and blockchains have been dominating the news recently, and with individuals and companies taking strong stances against them, it's fair to ask why. The environmental impact of the technology has been widely documented - it's inefficient, and the need for blockchains -- a sort of decentralized ledger -- to have multiple users validate and record transactions makes it very energy intensive. In an era when climate change is having more and more devastating effects around the world, use of such technologies attracts considerable backlash.

Other ethical concerns regarding NFTs specifically is that the purchaser of an NFT is not actually purchasing anything, and the value for the digital 'token' they've purchased is speculative. When you buy the NFT of a piece of art (for example) you don't own the art itself; you only own a digital token associated with the art. The whole concept is likened to a 'house of cards' or a 'scam' by its critics.
 

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Levistus's_Leviathan

5e Freelancer
And, of course, the people are supporting crypto/NFTs and denying of climate change are exactly the ones that I had expected based on my previous experience on this site. Oh, well. I guess this is why we can't have nice things. Because people don't care about destroying the environment solely to make the rich people richer, and don't believe that our 100+ years of post-Industrialization pollution can affect the planet in any way.

If you still somehow do not believe in/are not worried about climate change . . . you're clearly extremely misinformed. If you can somehow still support Crypto/NFTs after this video has been linked multiple times . . . you've got something wrong with you. They give all their sources (there are nearly 20 links of sources in the video's description), explain thoroughly all of the current problems with Cryptocurrency and NFTs, and describe the many ways that these sorts of things are both bad for the Earth environmentally, and for us and the economy at large in the long-run.

Stop trying to "do your own research", and start listening to the people that bother to properly do theirs. NFTs and Crypto are scams, blockchain is terrible for the environment, the current systems in place to self-regulate and keep track of both Crypto and NFTs are incredibly unfair to people without lots of money, and they don't do anything revolutionary. This is not the "new internet" or "new social media", it's a scam, and you guys are falling for it. Stop shilling scams and stop pretending like you have to defend Crypto/NFTs. You don't.
 

Abstruse

Legend
So here's how arguments with cryptobros typically goes. Note that I'm not saying that anyone in this thread is doing this, I'm just describe in general how the arguments go. Feel free to draw whatever conclusions from that you choose.

First, they will make statements from the assumption that anyone critical of the blockchain, cryptocurrency, or NFTs are ignorant of what any of those three are. Ways that will do this is shift topics from NFTs to cryptocurrency, then when someone conflates the two (which is easy because the two are interconnected but are not the same thing (cryptocurrency is a fungible token while NFTs are non-fungible tokens because one Bitcoin or Ethereum or Dogecoin or whatever is exactly the same as every other one (fungible) while each NFT is unique (non-fungible)), they will pounce on the confusion as "proof" the critic doesn't understand the topic and thus anything else they say should be dismissed.

Second, you'll notice they never make claims themselves. They only dispute other people's claims. They'll handwave them away or compare them to other topics (either barely related or completely unrelated, like fiat currency or issues with the current financial system). If sources are provided, those sources will be attacked as biased. Because they want to put any critics on the defensive by having to support their statements while not making any claims of their own to defend. "You keep calling them a scam but you don't say how they're a scam" even when the person has given several examples of scams. This is also where you'll end up debating completely unrelated things like the stock market or the subprime housing bubble of the late 2000s or how much energy the modern banking system or the internet as a whole uses (always done without any scale*).

Then we get to the implied insults. They will never outright insult anyone because that means the moderators can punish them for it, but they will specifically phrase things to insult any critics. They're old, they're dumb, they're luddites, they're jealous they missed out. This is also when they'll start making blanket statements, like "Oh, why do you support the banking system?" implying that anyone who is critical of cryptocurrency supports the current financial system. The idea is to put the idea of the insult in your mind, both for the person they're responding to and for anyone else not involved in the discussion that is reading it.

That's because they're interacting with two audiences but only performing for one. When they perform these implied insults or blanket comparisons, it's not meant for the person they're replying to but for other people reading the thread, the non-participant third parties. They know anyone who knows anything about the blockchain, cryptocurrency, or NFTs isn't going to suddenly become a True Believer just as much as they're never going to be critical of them. The idea is to attack the person stating the criticisms in order to undermine their authority for the third parties. They also hope to get under the skin of the critic and cause them to respond to the insults, further undermining their previous statements and giving the crypto supporter the opportunity to report them to the moderators for violating the rules.

The entire time, they want to appear as disinterested in the discussion and as aloof as possible. "I don't really care about any of this, but this critic is saying stuff that demands a response. I'm just asking the questions everybody else has about these claims you're making." They're reasonable, you see. Not like these critics who, who they will describe as "ranting" or "angry" or otherwise characterizing even bland statements of fact as someone red-faced and shouting.

This is driven by the mentality behind a lot of groups involved in the blockchain, cryptocurrency, and NFTs. There is extreme social pressure within these groups to immediately quash any criticism because it sows "Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt". If you see the acronym "FUD", that's what that means. Doubting cryptocurrency or NFTs might cause you to sell, which lowers the price. So it becomes imperative they quash any criticism lest a sell-off start. You'll also see this with BTD or "buy the dip", where when prices start to fall they encourage one another to start buying because the value will go back up. Which then becomes an entire culture of toxic positivity - supporting one another in even bad decisions like "I just cashed out my 401K to buy NFTs" or "I took out a second mortgage to BTD". Saying "Hey, woah, that might be going a bit too far" is FUD. And FUD is bad because wgtmi (we're going to make it), and if you sell then you're ngmi (not gonna make it). That's why Dan Olson's video linked at the start of this thread is titled "Line Goes Up".

They also need more people to buy in because if they need to sell for any reason, you have to have somebody to sell to. And if everybody's already invested everything that have in crypto or NFTs, they don't have more they can buy with. So they're becoming increasingly aggressive if not downright evangelical in promoting crypto and NFTs. Super Bowl ads, celebrity endorsements**, brigading any critics, making big announcements before deals are closed (like saying you're going to start an NFT-based streaming service for music without actually licensing any of the music and yes, that happened too).

The whole combination means that arguments are meant to leave any third parties reading to be even more confused than when they started and to frustrate and exhaust any critics so they're less likely to make further criticisms in the future just to not get dragged into another long-running argument full of snide half-insults and constant goalpost-shifting to make any attempts to just back out of the discussion next to impossible***. Because like I said way back in my original post explaining all this, the confusion is the point. If people are confused, they're going to listen to whoever seems like the most reasonable expert talking. If the critics are all framed as unreasonable and don't know what they're talking about, then the people supporting the blockchain, cryptocurrency, or NFTs probably does. It doesn't work most of the time, but it doesn't. It just has to work sometime. Then someone else buys in, and the line goes up.

* ie They'll say that cryptocurrency uses less electricity than Visa cards without mentioning the hundreds of millions of people have Visa credit and/or debit cards and that those cards are used for constant everyday purchases like groceries, bills, rent, etc. while less than 100 million people use cryptocurrency and cryptocurrencies are rarely traded because of the "gas price" (the price to post a transaction to the blockchain, which fluctuates wildly between $50-200 depending on the day) and the waiting time between the purchase being agreed upon and the actual transfer of the currency means the currency's value can swing wildly. This is why companies that, in the mid-2010s, allowed people to make purchases using Bitcoin and later Ethereum like the electronics site Newegg stopped doing so, because the value of the cryptocurrency would change between the customer pushing "Buy Now" and the actual transaction going through that they could not be sure they weren't selling a brand new laptop for hundreds less than it was worth.

** The owner of Creative Artists Agency, a large talent agency for actors and musicians, is a major investor in OpenSea, the largest marketplace for buying and selling NFTs. Which is the sort of thing you'd think would be disclosed in all these tweets where they say they "bought" some NFT but for some reason never is...

*** At least until the crypto supporter realizes they aren't making the progress they should, in which case they'll attempt to retain their neutrality and reasonableness while throwing out another half insult like saying something that sounds like a gracious exist, but then explaining why they're leaving the conversation is that they don't think any useful discussion can happen when one side is obviously so biased against the other (with the obvious implication that only the critics are biased and not the crypto/NFT supporters).
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Supporter
You guys are likely the old white dudes (not in suits) complaining about those young kids and their rock music of this era…
Mod Note:

You were mostly OK up to this point. Then you got insulting and snide. You know better, so do better.
 

So, after eight pages, let's try to center the topic again.

Now: if crypto currencies fail, a few hundred thousand people will lose money they voluntarily risked.

If they don't fail, but do not take off, tens of thousand of people will lose money they voluntarily risked, and hundreds of thousands of people will have struck out in an investment venture.

If they succeed, hundreds of thousands of people will make a nice sum of money, and the world economy will get a bit more complex.

I think it is safe to say that the experiment/scheme of crypto currency will continue until one of those three outcomes is reached.

Given that participation is voluntary, and we've established that the power consumption is but a tiny fraction of that of social media, where is the point of concern?
 

So, after eight pages, let's try to center the topic again.

Now: if crypto currencies fail, a few hundred thousand people will lose money they voluntarily risked.

If they don't fail, but do not take off, tens of thousand of people will lose money they voluntarily risked, and hundreds of thousands of people will have struck out in an investment venture.

If they succeed, hundreds of thousands of people will make a nice sum of money, and the world economy will get a bit more complex.

I think it is safe to say that the experiment/scheme of crypto currency will continue until one of those three outcomes is reached.

Given that participation is voluntary, and we've established that the power consumption is but a tiny fraction of that of social media, where is the point of concern?

I mean, couldn't you make this argument with any ponzi or investment scheme?
 

Tally Isham

Villager
I am a big believer in crypto.
I think Magic the Gathering and DnD crypto/NFTs are coming. It's just inevitable and I will be buying.


(cryptocurrency is a fungible token while NFTs are non-fungible tokens because one Bitcoin or Ethereum or Dogecoin or whatever is exactly the same as every other one (fungible) while each NFT is unique (non-fungible)),

I would just like to point out that this is common misunderstanding. Bitcoin is a NFT. Every bitcoin has a unique history that can be traced to genesis. A bitcoin can be tainted, so a bitcoin is not the same as every other bitcoin (not fungible) . If you obtain a tainted bitcoin off the dark web, no legit exchange will hold or buy it from you

Anyway, these are the best videos I think that exist for crypto if anyone is interested.

MIT Lecture series by Gary Gensler, current head of SEC. 24 parts.

Congressional hearing with crypto CEOs:

Congressional hearing on bitcoin mining:
 
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I mean, couldn't you make this argument with any ponzi or investment scheme?
Well, a ponzi scheme is illegal. So far, crypto currency is not.

But yes, you are right, at this point it is simply an investment scheme which is either innovative or stupid.

After all, someone said, "You know, I think there is a demand for brightly-colored notepaper that sticks to things'. That one turned out to be innovative.

Someone else pointed out that Emus produce a low-fat meat more efficiently than cattle, and also both feathers and high-quality boot material, so why don't we raise them commercially, in bulk? The numbers sounded great. Turned out to be a stupid idea.
 

Abstruse

Legend
I would just like to point out that this is common misunderstanding. Bitcoin is a NFT. Every bitcoin has a unique history that can be traced to genesis. A bitcoin can be tainted, so a bitcoin is not the same as every other bitcoin (not fungible) . If you obtain a tainted bitcoin off the dark web, no legit exchange will hold or buy it for you
But one unit of a cryptocurrency has the exact same value as any other. Just like a crisp new dollar bill and a wrinkled, tattered dollar bill that someone has written a phone number on are both worth $1. That's what makes the fungible.
 

But one unit of a cryptocurrency has the exact same value as any other. Just like a crisp new dollar bill and a wrinkled, tattered dollar bill that someone has written a phone number on are both worth $1. That's what makes the fungible.
A US dollar has a different value than a British Pound or a Canadian dollar or a Mexican peso.

So if a bitcoin has a different value than different NFT, wouldn't that be similar?
 

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