TTRPGS, Blockchains, and NFTs

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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.

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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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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
All money is speculative, but not everything that is speculative is money.
Um, okay? I never made such a claim, so what are you refuting, here?
Cryptocurrency is not money - it's not built to be money.
It absolutely is. I don't even know how this can be claimed. I can exchange it for goods and services. I have to report it's use to the IRS.
Cryptocurrency is built to be gold. Or more realistically, cryptocurrency was intended to be gold but is actually more like baseball cards. It's a speculative enterprise not a currency. People are trying their darndest to make it an actual currency but it's still too hard to spend by design and that's a huge flaw in the system. It's like trying to pay for your dinner with baseball cards.
No. Gold is a commodity, and crypto is nothing at all like a commodity. It's a currency. That it has a speculative aspect, and that this is the primary way many are engaging with it doesn't change it. This is like saying a baseball isn't a baseball if I'm using it as shot in a cannon. It's still a baseball. Crypto is a currency, it's money, and is most often used as money. Speculation on crypto is a red herring -- it has nothing at all to do with what it is.

Look, this is very odd. I agree that there are large problems with cryptocurrency, and I don't invest (at all and never have) and I'm not interested in investing because of the problems I see. They're useless for buying groceries, for instance. Their volatility make them extremely suspect as a place to park money or even, sometimes, to engage in large transactions because of the large swings in value. I'm not a fan, at all. But I'm also not going to make stuff up about crypto or agree with wild accusations of how evil/morally bad/terriblewrong they are. There's plenty of good reasons to dislike crypto, to criticize crypto, and especially to get after NFTs that don't involve the kind of arm waving wild claims of evil that are being tossed around in this thread.
 

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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
They aren't anonymous, they're pseudonymous.

I'm not going to engage with your nitpick. When the dominant use of the platform seems to be money laundering and other crime, because of the anonymity of the users, I don't buy that this is a "transparent" platform.

And yes, law enforcement solves crime through the platform, but not because it is super-easy and transparent, but because law enforcement is often about following the money, and the money is going to crypto.
 
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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
It absolutely is. I don't even know how this can be claimed. I can exchange it for goods and services. I have to report it's use to the IRS.

The IRS wants to know about lots more than "money", because financial status is dependent on much more than liquid cash. Stocks, bonds, real estate, commodities, various bundled financial packages are all reported. So reporting it to the IRS doesn't speak to it really being money.
 


Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I'm not going to engage with your nitpick. When the dominant use of the platform seems to be money laundering and other crime, because of the anonymity of the users, I don't buy that this is a "transparent" platform.
1) it's not a nitpick. There's a huge difference. It's like social security numbers -- these are pseudonymous. Once I've paired you to one, I can track it's use directly to you. This is not possible with anonymous transaction. Cash transactions, with traditional currency, are anonymous. That's why laws of countries implement required reporting of cash transactions over certain amounts -- they're there to remove that anonymity and make tracking such transactions possible.

2) your claim about the primary use of cryptocurrency is woefully wrong. Embarrassingly so. It's fairly trivial to look up how crypto is largely used, and I just quoted above the reported statistics for the percent of transactions related to crime. It's very small indeed. You need to reorient to a different set of facts from the one you assume. Crypto has loads of problems, but this isn't it.
And yes, law enforcement solves crime through the platform, but not because it is super-easy and transparent, but because law enforcement is often about following the money, and the money is going to crypto.
You've stated something that's a rather banally obvious thing -- cops investigate crime, so if crime is happening, cops investigate. This doesn't support, at all, your assertion that crypto had features that make tracking illicit use easier than traditional currency. It does. Silk Road was brought down via analysis of the blockchain, and very successfully as well. They're still recovering money from Silk Road as they follow up on small paths -- $1 billion just last year recovered from Silk Road investigations, all aided by better tools for analyzing the blockchain. Tools that don't exist for traditional currencies. In fact, tracking traditional currencies is only enabled by additional required reporting on transactions, and these are needed because traditional currencies are otherwise untraceable. You're running on assumption, here, and it's not serving you well.

Again, there's lots of good reasons to dislike crypto. I don't like it. But this doesn't justify sloppy and inaccurate statements about how crypto works. It's not all bad -- almost nothing is all bad. It has some serious problems, that appear insurmountable to me (volatility and transaction processing time/cost are the real killers), but this doesn't give leeway to just make stuff up about it. Let's deal with how it actually is rather than an imagined villain.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
The IRS wants to know about lots more than "money", because financial status is dependent on much more than liquid cash. Stocks, bonds, real estate, commodities, various bundled financial packages are all reported. So reporting it to the IRS doesn't speak to it really being money.
I'm not even sure how to engage with this. Are you arguing that cryptocurrency isn't currency, or just throwing out a lot of chaff hoping that it won't be noticed that you didn't actually show anything that says cryptocurrency isn't actually a currency.
 

Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
Yet Mistwell has only replied refuting people with criticism about NFTs, cryptocurrency, or the blockchain. And Mistwell also made a point of implied that I was talking about NFTs when they were talking about cryptocurrency despite the fact I have been very clear which I am referring to at any one time.

Anyway, here's the post I made about 15 hours prior to Mistwell's reply where I talked about the typical pattern of talking with supporters of cryptocurrency and NFTs.
Why are you replying to me but talking about me in the third person?

Here is Nate Silver this morning on the topic, which struck me as accurate:

"Is there any particular reason why everyone on the timeline is mad about crypto again? Is it just the ads? BAYC? Getting very ‘nouriel roubini in 2015’ vibes everywhere...People aren't reacting to the technology, they're reacting to the people they associate with the technology since everyone has to get divided into teams, and left-of-center political/social commentators have mostly decided that people into crypto are the Wrong Kinds of People."

You appear to be fitting that description. You seem to have decided I am "the Wrong Kinds of People" and are not even willing to talk directly to me anymore and think I can be handwaived as some "group all people who disagree with me together and dismiss them all as they're all identical." It's not just rude, it's deeply elitist.

For example, take how you just tried to set me up. First you said, "You must first persuade me to like Cryoto by refuting why I dislike Crypto!" to which I replied "No I don't I don't care that you don't like Crypto I just care that you act like I can't like Crypto without being some scammer". And then you replied to that with a "See! I said earlier people who defend Crypto won't ever actually refute any points!" as if you had just made some point. No, you didn't make any point, you just posited a circular argument, and ended it with dismissive snark.
 


The IRS wants to know about lots more than "money", because financial status is dependent on much more than liquid cash. Stocks, bonds, real estate, commodities, various bundled financial packages are all reported. So reporting it to the IRS doesn't speak to it really being money.

Ah, no.

The IRS tracks income, solely. Income means all sources, including but not limited to, interest, dividends, fees, sales, wages, benefits, and royalties, but only income, ie, money.

I pay my Federal taxes quarterly due to my various income streams, and that means four discussions with my CPA a year. So while I don't claim a detailed understanding of the current US Tax Code, I can say with complete accuracy that all the IRS tracks is money.

Now, when petitioning for deductions based upon losses and gains, an individual tax entity or his or her tax consultant can bring up the relative values of investments as evidence, but it is still a matter of income (ie, money).
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Sorry, but for anyone who actually care about, you know, what the law says-

The IRS treats "virtual currencies" (aka, crypto) as property. You know- like a stock, or gold, or like your house, or like a lot you bought to bury the bodies of the people that keep playing bards. In other words, like any investment, you have to pay the gains (or get credit for the losses) when you move to sell it. That goes back to 2014. It's not new.

So all this "IRS treats it just like cash, because that's all the IRS does" is not true. Which ... is obvious, right?

I think all of these vague, and incorrect, nitpickings were identified early in the thread by @Abstruse
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
One more thing-

I don't know if anyone has posted this, but I highly recommend it if you're into reading (with hyperlinked sources) instead of watching videos.


Please be aware that while it is relatively short, it is fairly dense.

The final takeaway (prior to the endnotes) is this, which I largely agree with:

I hope I've said enough to start some discussion. I think there are three basic lines of argument:
  • That the externalities I describe don't exist. You'll have a hard time proving that the waste of electricity and hardware, and the crime wave, are imaginary.
  • That although the externalities do exist, the benefits of decentralization outweigh them. The problem here is that since the systems are not actually decentralized, we get the externalities but don't get the benefits.
  • That although the externalities do exist, and the systems aren't decentralized, they're making so much money that we shouldn't worry. The problem here is that the amount of actual money you can get out of a cryptocurrency equals the amount of actual money that has been put in, minus the actual costs of mining. So the big picture is that although there may be winners, in aggregate the system loses money.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
  • That although the externalities do exist, and the systems aren't decentralized, they're making so much money that we shouldn't worry. The problem here is that the amount of actual money you can get out of a cryptocurrency equals the amount of actual money that has been put in, minus the actual costs of mining. So the big picture is that although there may be winners, in aggregate the system loses money.

This is an excellent way to phrase the point. Thank you for finding it.

Cryptocurrency does not create wealth. It just helps money change hands, at orders of magnitude higher cost than traditional methods.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
This is an excellent way to phrase the point. Thank you for finding it.

Cryptocurrency does not create wealth. It just helps money change hands, at orders of magnitude higher cost than traditional methods.
I don't know what point you're referring to, but if you second para is a restatement of it, it's a very weird thing to say as if it has any meaning at all. No currency creates wealth. It's not the point of a currency. Pointing out crypto doesn't create wealth is like saying a baseball doesn't do the dishes. Of course it doesn't. Why is this even being mentioned as if it's meaningful?

You then go on to say that crypto does what it's meant to do -- enable commerce -- at a much higher cost than traditional methods. This is a bad take as well. Yes, I can absolutely point to where crypto costs hugely more in terms of energy to do business than other currencies. Totally given, totally valid point. But this isn't the end of a cost/benefit analysis, and it appears, given the growth of crypto for legitimate means, that the other costs of doing business in a given currency are low enough for crypto to continue to gather use. Now, personally, I don't think this is so -- there are vanishingly small number of reasons I'd consider using a cryptocurrency over a traditional currency largely because none of the potential benefits accrue to me while many of the costs do. But this is my analysis, and doesn't invalidate someone else's. Nor does yours.

Again, can we discuss crypto in a way that deals with what it actually is instead of the continued portrayal of it as a cartoon villain?
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
You then go on to say that crypto does what it's meant to do -- enable commerce -- at a much higher cost than traditional methods. This is a bad take as well. Yes, I can absolutely point to where crypto costs hugely more in terms of energy to do business than other currencies. Totally given, totally valid point. But this isn't the end of a cost/benefit analysis, and it appears, given the growth of crypto for legitimate means, that the other costs of doing business in a given currency are low enough for crypto to continue to gather use. Now, personally, I don't think this is so -- there are vanishingly small number of reasons I'd consider using a cryptocurrency over a traditional currency largely because none of the potential benefits accrue to me while many of the costs do. But this is my analysis, and doesn't invalidate someone else's. Nor does yours.
I'm a little confused, Ovinomancer.

What use-case DOES crypto currently have, that doesn't fail a cost/benefit analysis test?
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I'm a little confused, Ovinomancer.

What use-case DOES crypto currently have, that doesn't fail a cost/benefit analysis test?
Not one I care about, so I haven't researched it. However, unless we're willing to say that every single person using crypto is a moron that can't do business (and given that it's growing in acceptance, despite recent dropping from some exchanges), there must be many. I'm unwilling to call a $7+ trillion (with a t) currency exchange accepted worldwide as not having any usefulness to people using it not being served by other currencies.
 

UngainlyTitan

Legend
Supporter
One more thing-

I don't know if anyone has posted this, but I highly recommend it if you're into reading (with hyperlinked sources) instead of watching videos.


Please be aware that while it is relatively short, it is fairly dense.

The final takeaway (prior to the endnotes) is this, which I largely agree with:

I hope I've said enough to start some discussion. I think there are three basic lines of argument:
  • That the externalities I describe don't exist. You'll have a hard time proving that the waste of electricity and hardware, and the crime wave, are imaginary.
  • That although the externalities do exist, the benefits of decentralization outweigh them. The problem here is that since the systems are not actually decentralized, we get the externalities but don't get the benefits.
  • That although the externalities do exist, and the systems aren't decentralized, they're making so much money that we shouldn't worry. The problem here is that the amount of actual money you can get out of a cryptocurrency equals the amount of actual money that has been put in, minus the actual costs of mining. So the big picture is that although there may be winners, in aggregate the system loses money.
The linked blog is pretty damming.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I'm a little confused, Ovinomancer.

What use-case DOES crypto currently have, that doesn't fail a cost/benefit analysis test?
To follow up, many cryptocurrencies are actually easier and cheaper to trade within the currency, so that's something that could be attractive. Also, it might be attractive that it is a decentralized currency and not one owned or regulated by a state entity. If I don't have easy access to a dollar or euro market, then crypto become even more appealing. I have easy access to the dollar market, so crypto actually has hurdles for me to overcome to engage in that market -- I have to do different things. But, if I didn't, then crypto markets are no real extra work (and less work in many cases) to engage in.

So, ease of transfers and the low cost of transfers is a big deal*.

*On the cost of transactions in crypto, the evaluation of these that I've seen in this thread are misleading in a sense, and true in a different sense. The actual cost of a transaction is very low in cryptos. The costs cited are rolling in the minting costs and averaging that out over each transaction. Minting in crypto is ridiculously expensive, yes, so if I'm interested in looking at a transaction in terms of total costs, those numbers make sense. If I'm not, if I'm looking at crypto only to see what I actually pay for a transaction, then they're far cheaper than many other markets for transactions. As a user and not a miner, the costs are low for crypto. Whether or not that's a useful consideration is up to each person -- but I'd caution you to maybe consider the total cost of other systems where we're mostly just looking at momentary costs to use them. The dollar market per transaction isn't cheap if you consider the entirety of the government's costs to maintain it. This isn't to say that crypto isn't ridiculously expensive in terms of energy for what it is, mind. That's one of my problems with it. It's just to remind people that we we talk costs in things like this, it's rarely apples to apples. It think crypto still fails when we do that, though.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
Not one I care about, so I haven't researched it. However, unless we're willing to say that every single person using crypto is a moron that can't do business (and given that it's growing in acceptance, despite recent dropping from some exchanges), there must be many. I'm unwilling to call a $7+ trillion (with a t) currency exchange accepted worldwide as not having any usefulness to people using it not being served by other currencies.
That seems like a logical fallacy.

My theory so far that it's currently held and traded by a) folks who have a sincere, but so far unfounded, belief that it WILL have a practical use along similar lines that you've suggested- something where independence of central governments is helpful (something democratizing, perhaps inspired by Neil Stephenson's Cryptonomicon), and b) speculators engaged in what's currently a Greater Fool investment.

Some people are a combination of the two, definitely, as I've met a bunch of them.
 
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Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Not one I care about, so I haven't researched it. However, unless we're willing to say that every single person using crypto is a moron that can't do business (and given that it's growing in acceptance, despite recent dropping from some exchanges), there must be many. I'm unwilling to call a $7+ trillion (with a t) currency exchange accepted worldwide as not having any usefulness to people using it not being served by other currencies.

What's the $7t? (Googling around is the current market cap of all crypto's combined around $2 trillion-ish?).
 

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