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

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
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.

What part of, "orders of magnitude higher cost than traditional methods," fails to have meaning?
 

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Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
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.
It's not a logical fallacy. It's making an assumption that not all people are clueless. It's a statistical argument. I cannot assume that those that engage in cryptocurrency all do so because they're morons and do not have a valid cost/benefit analysis behind their decision. So long as one person exists that has a valid case, then the argument I've made is valid, logically. Sure, we cannot say with absolute certainty that this is so, but the claim that it should be discarded because it's so vanishingly unlikely is the same kind behind a number of our scientific theories. It could be little invisible gremlins make cause nuclear fission -- it hasn't been proved conclusively that it is not. But it's not a logical fallacy to move forward smartly by discounting that as useful. Nuclear fission works, and is predictable with the models and understand we have, so even if it is gremlins, it's functionally not important. Similarly, people very clearly choose to use cryptocurrency for non-criminal activities, and postulating that there cannot be a good case made for doing so seems like arguing for gremlins.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
What part of, "orders of magnitude higher cost than traditional methods," fails to have meaning?
It appears that you didn't read my entire post, as you've clearly chosen to snip and strawman instead of engaging the clear point I did make. I would expect you to do better, given how often you chastise others for similar things, sometimes officially.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
What's the $7t? (Googling around is the current market cap of all crypto's combined around $2 trillion-ish?).
You're right, my bad. Total transactions in crypto exceeded $15 trillion. This is not the same thing as total value of all cryptocurrencies at a given moment. The total existence amount is a bit over $2 trillion, but it's market -- how often it's getting used -- is over $15 trillion (for 2021).
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Me neither, Crypto sucks. I think I missed it through my read through of 16 pages, what don’t you like about crypto
I've said it a bunch of times. It's ridiculously volatile, and will remain so, because it's not tied to any economic base like traditional currencies. The mining costs, both in opportunity and in energy costs, are outlandish and growing. They're poorly understood by many which opens the door to easier malicious activity regarding them (as shown by the fact that the two largest categories of criminal use of cryptocurrencies are stealing them and fraud). Engaging in that market requires me to extract money from the perfectly fine-for-my-needs dollar market, which is a barrier to entry.
 


doesn’t a currency have to be tied to a particular country to be considered a currency?

not to be nit picky but I figure if we need to debate the use of Anonymous vs Paeudononymous, we probably should use the right words for what Crypto is and currency appears to be specifically country based (I could be wrong? Or rather the Oxford English Dictionary could be wrong)
 


Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
To be fair, all money is made up
No it's not! I mean, pretty much all modern money is made up, but a gold coin was money and wasn't made up -- it's value was right there in the gold. Today's money, though... yeah, pretty much just trading around 'this piece of paper represents a belief we've all agreed to share.'
 


Gradine

Final Form (they/them)
No it's not! I mean, pretty much all modern money is made up, but a gold coin was money and wasn't made up -- it's value was right there in the gold. Today's money, though... yeah, pretty much just trading around 'this piece of paper represents a belief we've all agreed to share.'
What's the difference between a gold coin and a piece of paper that represents the belief we've all agreed to share?
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
doesn’t a currency have to be tied to a particular country to be considered a currency?

not to be nit picky but I figure if we need to debate the use of Anonymous vs Paeudononymous, we probably should use the right words for what Crypto is and currency appears to be specifically country based (I could be wrong? Or rather the Oxford English Dictionary could be wrong)
Nope. You seem to have picked up Oxford Learner's dictionary, maybe? The OED clearly encompasses crypto as a currency.

 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
What's the difference between a gold coin and a piece of paper that represents the belief we've all agreed to share?
For one, if I throw the gold coin at you, it hurts in a different way than if I throw shared beliefs at you.

For another, I can make something out of the gold coin. It's value in trade is based on it's usefulness.
 



Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
That’s a dense link! Which number is saying Crypto is a currency?
Are you looking for a statement that says "hey, TEGM! Cryptocurrency is money?" Otherwise, 1 sums it up nicely -- things used as a medium of exchange. Cryptocurrency is used as a medium of exchange.

Alternatively, for anyone claiming cryptocurrency isn't actually a kind of money, what is it, and why can I spend it to buy things?
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I can’t get past the fact crypto uses real non-renewable resources to create artificial scarcity. Who invented this? Victor von Doom?

(Satoshi von Doom?)
I had missed this. You do know that there are tons and tons of examples of using real non-renewable resources to create artificial scarcity, right? Most video games have large elements of this. You have baseball card and their more recent cousin collectible card games. Just tons of examples. It's not the idea that really rankles with cryptocurrencies and NFTs, but the scale.
 

Gradine

Final Form (they/them)
For one, if I throw the gold coin at you, it hurts in a different way than if I throw shared beliefs at you.
The comparison here is paper money; a $10,000 wad of $20s won't leave a mark but it still has some decent heft to it.
For another, I can make something out of the gold coin. It's value in trade is based on it's usefulness.
Is there a less useful base metal than gold? I can fold a $1 bill into an origami giraffe, which has as much utilitarian value than basically anything made of gold.

I can make something way more useful with an iron coin, should we trade?
 

Martyjopson

Villager
The question at hand was, I believe, about the status of a cryptocurrency as a "currency" rather than a form of "money". Which is an interesting but entirely semantic question.

I don't buy that the value of gold is not "made up". Even if you can make something from it (or throw it at people) - the value of what you make is still always going to be based on a whole slew of value judgements by both the person using the gold as money and the person receiving it. The intrinsic worth of any physical unit of money is based on how a society sees and how we value the material it is made from. In a world with no trees, paper may be very valuable and a paper note may have more intrinsic worth than gold. Which means that gold as a form of money is just as made up as the Euro or the Yen.
 

BrokenTwin

Biological Disaster
The comparison here is paper money; a $10,000 wad of $20s won't leave a mark but it still has some decent heft to it.

Is there a less useful base metal than gold? I can fold a $1 bill into an origami giraffe, which has as much utilitarian value than basically anything made of gold.

I can make something way more useful with an iron coin, should we trade?
Even completely ignoring its use as a currency standard and aesthetic, gold is still a REALLY useful metal for modern technology...
 

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