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.


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." 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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All I think of regarding NFT's and the Crypto currency "crap" is you get to own something that doesn't actually exist, sure you can buy stuff with it until there is a blackout or whatever else happens to destroy the said value of whatever it is you think you own.

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Sorry, didn't mean to sound dismissive . . . I do appreciate the link and your trying to help me get a different perspective.

It just seems the discussion over NFTs is so charged.
That's because most people don't know what NFTs are. So you have two people trying to explain what they are, people who are warning people away from a scam that is doing active harm in multiple different ways, and people who have bought into the scam completely and are defensive when anyone offer criticism of it. If you ever hear the term "FUD" is, it's "Fear Uncertainty and Doubt", which is what people involved with NFTs call anyone offering even the most mild criticism of NFTs. It's the cryptobro version of "That's just the fear talking, do it anyway!" So some of them fight back against any criticism with mocking dismissiveness or outright hostility. After getting enough of that, critics get exhausted and begin to associate "I support NFTs" with the abuse and harassment they suffer.

And yes, this is the same tactic used by many online harassers - some of them act like raving jackasses to wear the target down then someone else acts "reasonable" and "just asking questions" in the hopes that the target snaps and responds with the same hostility back, which is then used as further evidence to support the ongoing harassment and gets uninvolved people to join in because "Look at this, they're so angry and mean to somebody who was perfectly polite". It's like good cop bad cop meets sealioning.

Dire Bare

I'm still waiting for Chaosium to even acknowledge that they even have a huge PR problem out there right now. No official statement yet. I don't think it's going to go away.
Keep waiting.

You're upset, so are a few posters here. Likely elsewhere as well. But . . . "a huge PR problem"? Okay.

Are they? Because being totally virtual doesn't make it a scam. It's a scam if they're sold you as something else, is'nt it? What I haven't seen in text is how nft-sellers are marketing them. If they say "buy this tulip bulb and try to get rich with it by passing it on someone as gullible as you for more money despite having absolutely no intrinsic value (well, actually it could be a pretty flower)" it's not really a scam, even if it won't work for long. How are people duped into buying them?
People going into scams thinking they will get the better of it does not make them not scams. Far from it. Confidence swindles are built on the basic foundations of pitching a mark an easy route to generating profit. People thinking they are going in with their eyes open, that they wont be scammed because they will get out in time, that the people they are roping in are not being abused because they don't think they were is irrelevant. It's a scam. I stand by the assessment. I don't trust anyone who thinks otherwise, because either they don't grasp it or they are in on it or as I stated above, they can actually be both because scams work off greed.

Dire Bare

So far, no one has convinced me that NFTs are inherently scams (not that it's anyone's responsibility to do so).

Definitely wild and unregulated, definitely attracting bad actors using the technology to scam others, definitely a fad pulling folks in to spend money unwisely. Probably a bad idea for most artists being solicited by others to get in on the fad . . .

But here's an example of a pair of independent artists who created their own NFTs and saved their home. Is this a scam? Were these two artists scammed (by themselves), are they scamming their patrons? Or are they foolishly engaging in something that will come back to bite them? - Dastardly Ducks

NFTs can and are being used for evil. Can they also be used for good? Or, just a neutral way to share digital art?


5e Freelancer
Sorry, didn't mean to sound dismissive . . . I do appreciate the link and your trying to help me get a different perspective.

It just seems the discussion over NFTs is so charged.
The discussion behind any scam is inherently charged. This is the Golden Means fallacy in action (and a bit of supporting sealioning "this side is being perfectly polite, while this one is freaking out, I guess I know which one to support"). If you don't like what anyone has to say about NFTs because they're inherently negative and dramatic about it . . . that's a bit like complaining about people disliking domestic abuse or something else that's common and harmful because the language behind trying to stop it is inherently negative and "dramatic".

If something is abusive (whether it's a scam or physically abusive), that's going to make people upset. "Why are people so upset" while ignoring all the examples of why they're upset because their language is "charged" is not arguing in good faith and is logically fallacious. If something is a scam, people are going to be upset, while others are going to be claiming that it's a perfectly valid way of making money. That's how the conversation always is. If you don't like how the discussion is being held . . . don't involve yourself in the conversation.

Right now you're just playing a Devil's Advocate for people that do not need you to support them, where you have no reason to support them, in a circumstance where people have fallen for scams because of the subject matter.

Again, if you want to learn about why NFTs, cryptocurrency, and blockchain are bad, watch this video. Yes, it's two hours long, yes, it's inherently biased against NFTs (because they're a scam and they explain exactly why they're a scam), and yes, they are upset, but until you do watch this video . . . you should probably stop arguing about NFTs. People have given you the tools to educate yourself on this matter, and you've dismissed them because of their "divisiveness".

This topic is inherently divisive. If you don't want to participate, fine. However, don't support something that you know next-to-nothing about, and don't dismiss someone's valid criticisms because they're "dramatic".

Yes, the discussion is "charged" . . . but sometimes that's a valid reaction to the subject matter. This is one of those times.

Dire Bare

I wrote a 2500+ word post explaining it.
And it was a good post, with excellent (and hilarious) examples. Honestly, best post in the thread so far.

It convinced me that the tech is wild and unregulated, and a perfect playground for scammers. But it did not convince me that the tech is, by it's nature, a scam. That all NFTs are scams.

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