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!
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?
Um, you don't seem to be aware of the many useful things that can be made of gold. It's a malleable metal -- you could use it as a spoon, you could use it to pry things (not heavy or really stuck things), it's great to hold down your origami paper in a wind, and that's well before we get to electronics and how the thing you're typing on right now and the medium we're conversing on is literally on the back of gold.
 

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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?
Oh my misunderstanding. So when you said your link “clearly encompasses” crypto you meant “I personally am inferring that” crypto is encompassed, my mistake!
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
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.
The value of gold is not made up. It's comprised on how useful it is to us. Just like the value of a dollar. We agree that a dollar is useful to us, and believe that it is so, but it's an idea -- it's literally made up. A gold coin is not made up. It has a value based on what it is, physically. It is rare, and useful to make things with that are more useful. That's not made up.
 

Gradine

Final Form (they/them)
The historical overlap between "a relevant gold standard" and "electronics" is vanishingly small.

My point being that the gold standard has absolutely nothing to do with its utilitarian value and everything to do with society deciding that to place value in it because what else were we going to do with it? Throughout history a "gold coin" has value because of what it "represents (as) a belief we've all agreed to share" and we melted it down to make computers work. Same with silver, which historically spent much more time backing currency than gold.

The point being that all money is made up, whether it's backed by anything at all.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Oh my misunderstanding. So when you said your link “clearly encompasses” crypto you meant “I personally am inferring that” crypto is encompassed, my mistake!
Oh, my bad, I thought you were engaging in a serious discussion. You're just playing definition games, and poorly at that. Cryptocurrency was added to the OED directly, so if that's what you need, feel free to get your own subscription and pull it down. I'm not required to do homework for you.
 

Oh, my bad, I thought you were engaging in a serious discussion. You're just playing definition games, and poorly at that. Cryptocurrency was added to the OED directly, so if that's what you need, feel free to get your own subscription and pull it down. I'm not required to do homework for you.
I’m just having a bit of fun. You really like being aggressive with how you approach people (people aren’t wrong but EMBARASSINGLY wrong, having a different definition based on a dictionary must be from a LEARNERS dictionary because anyone disagreeing must have a very basic understanding of the language, words like Anonymous and Pseudonymous have MEANING and must be debated unless you want to use a word and then it’s speculation and opinion, etc).

but I’ll stop playing and shoot straight.

I think you are a bad faith actor at best obviously pedantic, at worst deep down a crypto bro who realized the only way to engage in a discussion in a hostile environment to crypto and NFTs is to pretend you aren’t for them.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
The historical overlap between "a relevant gold standard" and "electronics" is vanishingly small.

My point being that the gold standard has absolutely nothing to do with its utilitarian value and everything to do with society deciding that to place value in it because what else were we going to do with it? Throughout history a "gold coin" has value because of what it "represents (as) a belief we've all agreed to share" and we melted it down to make computers work. Same with silver, which historically spent much more time backing currency than gold.

The point being that all money is made up, whether it's backed by anything at all.
Do you need such caveats to have your point stand up? Sure, but this doesn't touch the other uses gold had long before the modern era. And yes, gold has utilitarian value and was widely used. The utilitarian value of gold is that it's pretty, easy to work with, and is extremely durable (it tarnishes and degrades extremely slowly). These are quire valuable traits.

Honestly, this sidebar is quite weird -- arguing that gold has no intrinsic value despite being clearly used and useful in almost every single culture that had even small access to it for things that aren't currency.
 

Martyjopson

Villager
So if gold has an intrinsic value, why does the value change? If it had an intrinsic value that would be invariant as it was defined by the internal and intrinsic worth (or value). It has intrinsic usefulness but how we value that depends on who we are and what system of value judgement we operate under. Ultimately nothing can have an intrinsic value as “value” is defined societally. Thus all “money is made up” is a true if simplified statement.

And yes this sidebar is peculiar, but then this is the internet.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I’m just having a bit of fun. You really like being aggressive with how you approach people (people aren’t wrong but EMBARASSINGLY wrong, having a different definition based on a dictionary must be from a LEARNERS dictionary because anyone disagreeing must have a very basic understanding of the language, words like Anonymous and Pseudonymous have MEANING and must be debated unless you want to use a word and then it’s speculation and opinion, etc).

but I’ll stop playing and shoot straight.

I think you are a bad faith actor at best obviously pedantic, at worst deep down a crypto bro who realized the only way to engage in a discussion in a hostile environment to crypto and NFTs is to pretend you aren’t for them.
Heh. Okay. I'm a secret crypto bro because I criticize crypto, explain what my issues with it are, but am not on a bandwagon of just making things up about crypto and bashing it for things it actually isn't.

I mean, I've actually been clearly critical of cryptocurrencies. I'm waaaaaaay more pissed I can't get a decent video card for a reasonable price (or at all, given current shortages) than I am at anything in this thread.
 

BrokenTwin

Biological Disaster
@Gradine I agree with your larger point that money is made up, I just strongly disagreed with your opinion that gold is a useless metal.

But to the topic at hand, as far as made up concepts to hold relative value goes, I'd trust a Chuck E Cheese token to provide me a better return on investment than an NFT. They're like a MLM mixed with those old companies that used to sell people ownership of stars.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
So if gold has an intrinsic value, why does the value change? If it had an intrinsic value that would be invariant as it was defined by the internal and intrinsic worth (or value). It has intrinsic usefulness but how we value that depends on who we are and what system of value judgement we operate under. Ultimately nothing can have an intrinsic value as “value” is defined societally. Thus all “money is made up” is a true if simplified statement.

And yes this sidebar is peculiar, but then this is the internet.
If I had a hamburger, I could eat, right? And, if you were really hungry, the value of that hamburger would be pretty high, yeah? What if you aren't hungry, or have a hamburger of your own? Did anything about the hamburger change? Nope. Just your need for one. Value is about supply and demand. These fluctuate. So value fluctuates. But nothing about the gold coin changes. It's physical value remains unchanged. What I will pay for a thing and what a thing is worth in general are not exactly the same things. Thus are markets created.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
@Gradine I agree with your larger point that money is made up, I just strongly disagreed with your opinion that gold is a useless metal.

But to the topic at hand, as far as made up concepts to hold relative value goes, I'd trust a Chuck E Cheese token to provide me a better return on investment than an NFT. They're like a MLM mixed with those old companies that used to sell people ownership of stars.
See, this I agree with. I'd rather burn my money in a CEC (avoiding the travesty they call pizza) than invest in NFTs at the moment. Although, for return on the CEC tokens, I have to engage in some gambling, er skill games, to exchange for a different currency, which I could then spend for wildly inflated knickknacks. Still, better than NFTs. In my opinion.

Oops, I didn't do secret crypto bro very well there. Let's toss in a realistic discussion of how NFTs actually do offer at least a chance of a real return on investment, if you're lucky. Kinda like playing Blackjack in Vegas. You might make money....
 

Heh. Okay. I'm a secret crypto bro because I criticize crypto, explain what my issues with it are, but am not on a bandwagon of just making things up about crypto and bashing it for things it actually isn't.

I mean, I've actually been clearly critical of cryptocurrencies. I'm waaaaaaay more pissed I can't get a decent video card for a reasonable price (or at all, given current shortages) than I am at anything in this thread.
Naw I’m saying you may be cryptobro with how aggressively you approach others who criticize it in a way not to your specific liking.

I addressed you being critical, your version of critical mostly being it’s just inconvenient as it stands right now. You even quoted me addressing what I think about your critiques.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Naw I’m saying you may be cryptobro with how aggressively you approach others who criticize it in a way not to your specific liking.
Dude. Have you seen the way those same people attack anything and everything to do with crypto as if it's the single worse thing? And how they treat anyone that doesn't enthusiastically agree? You're accusing me of being a secret crypto bro trying to confuse and trick people into accepting crypto because you think I posted a little bit too aggressively towards people literally claiming crypto is pure evil?

Sure, okay, you're clearly looking at this from a neutral frame.
I addressed you being critical, your version of critical mostly being it’s just inconvenient as it stands right now. You even quoted me addressing what I think about your critiques.
That was one of my complaints. One. I mean, really. The last one from that quote you mention, and one I included because it was personal and not general. The first being volatility. The second being it's stupidly growing energy cost. The third being that it's a market rife with opportunities to be scammed. Then the fourth was that I don't even need it.

Do better, please. At least stop accusing me of being aggressive while at the same time you're leveling absolutely baseless accusations of being a liar and a sneak.
 

ReshiIRE

Adventurer
I don't think there's really neutrality on an obvious scam and something that is being used for all sorts of fraud and as a way to exploit people.

The video posted in this first reply is just a conversation ender, it is that comprehensive.

The whole 'technology' and 'innovation' is just shite, and as a programmer I'm sick of it continuing this long, and want these damn financial games to end before things really go to shite.

It has no place in the games industry (both physical and virtual), and the faster we can mmove on the better.
 

Dude. Have you seen the way those same people attack anything and everything to do with crypto as if it's the single worse thing? And how they treat anyone that doesn't enthusiastically agree? You're accusing me of being a secret crypto bro trying to confuse and trick people into accepting crypto because you think I posted a little bit too aggressively towards people literally claiming crypto is pure evil?

Sure, okay, you're clearly looking at this from a neutral frame.

That was one of my complaints. One. I mean, really. The last one from that quote you mention, and one I included because it was personal and not general. The first being volatility. The second being it's stupidly growing energy cost. The third being that it's a market rife with opportunities to be scammed. Then the fourth was that I don't even need it.

Do better, please. At least stop accusing me of being aggressive while at the same time you're leveling absolutely baseless accusations of being a liar and a sneak.
I’ve been waiting for someone to tell me to “do better” my whole life, thank you for your insights I think I can finally grow as a person.

speaking of growth
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.
It’s volatility, costs, poorly understanding populace, and barrier to entry can all be arguments of current state convenience.

But sure. One.
 


I don't think there's really neutrality on an obvious scam and something that is being used for all sorts of fraud and as a way to exploit people.

The video posted in this first reply is just a conversation ender, it is that comprehensive.

The whole 'technology' and 'innovation' is just shite, and as a programmer I'm sick of it continuing this long, and want these damn financial games to end before things really go to shite.

It has no place in the games industry (both physical and virtual), and the faster we can mmove on the better.
What kills me is the talk of adding medical records and other deeply personal information to the blockchain.

Deregulation of maintaining my personal information? No no no, regulate who has access to that. Absolutely regulate that and stop trying to make currency and games be the gateway to this path.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I’ve been waiting for someone to tell me to “do better” my whole life, thank you for your insights I think I can finally grow as a person.

speaking of growth

It’s volatility, costs, poorly understanding populace, and barrier to entry can all be arguments of current state convenience.

But sure. One.
This seems like you're highly motivated to cast me as a bad actor and are searching for any excuse to do so. Which is weird, because that requires you to assume that the reasons I gave are all just based on my personal convenience.

Highly volatile markets are dangerous to investors and prone to collapse, thereby destroying wealth invested into them. Engaging in crypto is pretty much like gambling, with all the downsides.

The costs of crypto are felt by everyone. The mining operations alone harm communities well outside of crypto and who have nothing to do with crypto. The fact that these cost can only ever go up is a serious concern, and that's outside of anything to do with currency or currency markets. It's an attack on infrastructure, if not one that was intended to be so. Intentions matter little here.

Poorly understanding consumers goes to exacerbate 1 and 2, but also mean that the entire edifice is ripe for malicious actors. I'm not ever going to encourage fraud, but systems built in ways to be hard to understand only ever enhance the opportunities for fraud. Fraud is bad. I'm actually savvy enough to understand this, and it's one of the main reasons I avoid cryptocurrencies and especially NFTs.

I mean, seriously, do better. This is you intentionally maligning me based on nothing other than the fact that I pointed out some bad arguments against cryptocurrencies. You might note that I haven't been defending NFTs, because I actually think those are really bad things, even if I disagree with some of the outlandish claims against them. They're bad enough without having to make stuff up. And this has been my point: cryptocurrencies and especially NFTs are already bad enough that you don't have to make things up to make them look bad or show they're actively harmful. Stick to good arguments that don't rely on making things up and you'll be more successful at getting people to understand what you want to put out.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
What kills me is the talk of adding medical records and other deeply personal information to the blockchain.

Deregulation of maintaining my personal information? No no no, regulate who has access to that. Absolutely regulate that and stop trying to make currency and games be the gateway to this path.
Yes, this has always been an incredibly stupid thing to propose.
 

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