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!
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.
Cryptocurrencies aren't a scam (jury out on NFTs, I'm leaning in that direction, though). They weren't built as a scam, intended as a scam, and don't really operate as a scam. They do operate as gambling, though. Gambling isn't a scam, but it does prey on the undereducated and structurally favor deep pockets and awareness of how the game works and taking advantage of fish.
 

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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.
I never complained about you pointing out bad arguments.

I did specifically highlight your aggression and how you chose to address people you disagree with, Mainly a pattern of degrading comments.

I think I’m successful enough! I feel literally zero compulsion to get you to agree with me or to enable your understanding. Not my goal, not my job.

now, getting people to see the aggressive language and tone you take? That’s my goal. And I think I’m doing just fine at that. But I guess I can “do better”.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I never complained about you pointing out bad arguments.
You did. You accused me of being a secret cryptobro putting out weak complaints but planning instead to convince people to buy crypto.
I did specifically highlight your aggression and how you chose to address people you disagree with, Mainly a pattern of degrading comments.
You had exactly one potentially valid point, there. Where I said something was embarrassingly incorrect. It was. It was trivial to find out the correct answer -- a simple google on the term showed it.

The rest was you mapping incorrect assumptions onto what I said. The name of the dictionary was Oxford's Learner. That wasn't a value judgement, it was what the dictionary was named. I don't even have an opinion on if it's a good dictionary, but at worst it's an okay dictionary (most are). This was entirely you. And there is a very important difference between anonymous and pseudonymous. We see it here -- both of use are posting pseudonymously under an assumed screenname. You know you're continuing a conversation with me because my posts are tagged with my pseudonym -- it's a continuity. If we were posting anonymously, there would be no markers at all to identify a post or who made it -- people couldn't tell if your posts were mine or mine yours from looking at them (savvy people may find patterns, but that's a different level). The claim that it was aggressive to point out this critical difference, one that makes a big difference to the point being made, is just weird.
I think I’m successful enough! I feel literally zero compulsion to get you to agree with me or to enable your understanding. Not my goal, not my job.
I feel the same way, only I don't hold the opinion that you're some bad actor lying everywhere just because you've posted some things I disagree with. I don't need to make things up about others to explain why they might disagree with me.
now, getting people to see the aggressive language and tone you take? That’s my goal. And I think I’m doing just fine at that. But I guess I can “do better”.
Right, the tone policing. I mean did you jump in to tone police @Abstruse, who was hyper aggressive? Or others that have been aggressive toward people not jumping on the anti-crypto bandwagon without any qualms? Nope. Just me. Odd how that works out, isn't it? If you disagree, you're disagreeable. If you agree, you're agreeable. Actual behavior be damned.
 

You did. You accused me of being a secret cryptobro putting out weak complaints but planning instead to convince people to buy crypto.

You had exactly one potentially valid point, there. Where I said something was embarrassingly incorrect. It was. It was trivial to find out the correct answer -- a simple google on the term showed it.

The rest was you mapping incorrect assumptions onto what I said. The name of the dictionary was Oxford's Learner. That wasn't a value judgement, it was what the dictionary was named. I don't even have an opinion on if it's a good dictionary, but at worst it's an okay dictionary (most are). This was entirely you. And there is a very important difference between anonymous and pseudonymous. We see it here -- both of use are posting pseudonymously under an assumed screenname. You know you're continuing a conversation with me because my posts are tagged with my pseudonym -- it's a continuity. If we were posting anonymously, there would be no markers at all to identify a post or who made it -- people couldn't tell if your posts were mine or mine yours from looking at them (savvy people may find patterns, but that's a different level). The claim that it was aggressive to point out this critical difference, one that makes a big difference to the point being made, is just weird.

I feel the same way, only I don't hold the opinion that you're some bad actor lying everywhere just because you've posted some things I disagree with. I don't need to make things up about others to explain why they might disagree with me.

Right, the tone policing. I mean did you jump in to tone police @Abstruse, who was hyper aggressive? Or others that have been aggressive toward people not jumping on the anti-crypto bandwagon without any qualms? Nope. Just me. Odd how that works out, isn't it? If you disagree, you're disagreeable. If you agree, you're agreeable. Actual behavior be damned.
Odd how that works? Naw super easy to explain. Abtruse is already gone, left a while ago after getting in some moderation trouble. Read through the whole thing, taking particular care to see who was overly aggressive in their responses which there were many, both sides in fact! And most people who were being aggressive stopped posting a while ago. But one remained, going as far as to insult moderators.

yeah your whole anonymity vs pseudomity reeks of a pedantic deflection missing the original point of the use of anonymous. It’s not a critical difference, it’s just a use that irritates you. Your obsession with the specific definition and application of these words is super weird considering your absolute refusal to refer to crypto as anything but a currency, but alright.

And so we are clear, cause I guess I do care if you understand despite my previous assertion, I didn’t accuse you of being a crypto bro as much as I rationalized your behavior as that of someone who either at best a bad faith actor, is obviously pedantic, and at worst secretly a cryptobro trying to pretend not to be while still showing the similar behaviors. Then I expressed that rationalization.

I’m not making those beliefs up. I believe them. They are real beliefs!

They may be incorrect beliefs though, sure. And 100% my opinion, not objective fact. You might just be rude and not have the wherewithal to see that. I’m not omniscient, that’s for sure.

edit: mistook abstruse for someone else. Naw abstruse was super helpful. Based on what I saw, their aggression was a response to willful and repeated twisting of words and misrepresentations of fact.

edit: it’s super telling that out of all the people you want to discuss being aggressive you chose abstruse and not the person who actually got a warning point for over aggressive behaviors. Sounds like you just wanted to dunk on abstruse, going as far as to try to draw them in with a tag.
 
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