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Screaming Jackass: Social Commentary

Top Ten/Nine Reasons Why I Love TSR/Wizards

by Reverend Scott Shafer
February 28, 2001
 
#10- the bell cow-TSR/Wizards is the bell cow of our industry. As they go, so goes everyone else. If D&D 3rd edition is a success, then another generation of gamers will be coming to the RPG market. This will benefit everyone! If D&D 3rd edition is another Alternity, then our hobby will become increasingly irrelevant-- except as an online, or computer game diversion. We need TSR/Wizards more than they need us! I feel like if TSR can grow the pie, then there'll be that much more pie for everyone else! TSR/Wizards can seem an awful lot like a clumsy Microsoft at times, but they have the power to turn things around in our industry.

#9- Pokemon-I can't believe I'm doing this, but Pokemon brings money into our industry, without cannibalizing its existing base-- something that Magic: the Gathering did end up doing. This game brings in kids who haven't played rpgs before, and TSR/Wizards is finding ways to bring these card players into the rpg industry. If they succeed it will be better for us all!

#8- too much is too much-no over saturation of the market this time [except for Devil Pokemon...well, actually I'm wrong there because WOTC has been remarkably considerate in not flooding the market with expansions], because they want 10,000 gamers to buy one product, rather than 3,000 buying one, 2,000 another...well you get the picture. You make more money by selling to a larger market and not fragmenting it into Dark Sun, Mystara, Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, Birthright, Ravenloft, Spelljammer, etc. You also need fewer people to produce less material...I wonder if we're going to see some big names leaving WOTC to produce D20 material themselves?

#7- they have the guts to cancel games-Chaosium put together a wonderful game called Nephilim several years ago, then allowed the line to drift. Now who knows what is happening? Nephilim seems to be neither fish nor fowl, and no one seems capable either of supporting the line, or of canceling the line. It is cruel for a game to be in limbo for so long! As painful as it is it is often better to cancel a game, rather than to just keep dragging the process out. Who can even tell what is happening at Chaosium, but at least at TSR/Wizards they seem to be going somewhere. I might not always agree with where they're going-- but hey, at least they're navigating.

#6- Gygax. Sometimes I hate reading what this guy has written, but he is the old guard, and they brought him back! When TSR was run by that crazy Buck Rogers woman, she was so threatened by Gygax that when the chance came to get him out of the company she threw him out with extreme prejudice! The new management is more comfortable with this old warhorse, and I'm glad to see that he's back. Not to mention that GreyHawk will now be the default campaign for 3rd Edition D&D. There's nothing like bringing back the classics when you're trying to do something entirely new.

#5- DragonFist-They put out a wonderful kung fu game for free...it ain't 3E, but then again some of it might be...who knows? All I know is that it is a lot of fun, and it is a nice diversion while we are waiting for 3E to come out. I feel that they caught lightning in a bottle with this game, and they really did deserve the award for best game of the year...it was free for gosh sakes!

#4- D&D 3rd Edition-I like the new rules. They seem well put together, easy to explain, while offering older players untold numbers of options. It often seemed that the old set of rules was really kludged together, but with this new start from scratch it looks like many of the old problems have been smoothed out. This game combined with the Star Wars/Star Trek/Dune license is going to do a lot to turn our hobby around. Besides...what other company offers a 288 page hardcover for $19.95? If these prices don't grow our industry then we deserve to die. That's the wonderful thing with Hasbro we can get these bargain prices because of the sheer volume of stuff that will be produced, and it will probably end up in Wal-Mart. This is a great and good thing! No more dingy hobby stores with doddering masses of unwashed heathens-- now we can go to Wal-Mart for your heathen allowance.

#3- Reprints and other cool pdf stuff (free and otherwise)-by publishing the Dragon Magazine Archive [despite the significant concerns related to publishing rights] a huge amount of out of print material around D&D, AD&D, etc. was placed back onto the market [heck, I printed up around twenty different modules yesterday...and will use them with my players]. This allows newcomers the chance to find out more of a historical perspective on the industry as a whole, and TSR in particular. With one product you can clean out your closet and then just sell your old issues on eBay. The cash should be enough to cover the cost of the CD archive. If you've got a Mac you're somewhat out of luck...the most powerful search functions are exclusively for the PC, but you can still look at the individual pdf files. Of course some of the pdf files will only work if I copy them to disk, and then they choke Sherlock. AAARGH!!

They've also put out a bunch of stuff for Birthright. Ravenloft, conversion guides for 3E, an introductory adventure for 3E, and at least three other classic modules, including the banned "Palace of the Silver Princess." This doesn't even cover the [overpriced!] silver anniversary set with reprints of B2 "Keep on the Borderlands," G1-3 "Against the Giants" series, I6 "Ravenloft," S2 "White Plume Mountain," and the never before seen L3 "Deep Dwarven Delve." My only regret was that they didn't include T1 "The Village of Hommlet" in the box. Plus they released "Return to the Tomb of Horrors" months earlier, which had a reprint of the original S1 "Tomb of Horrors." These were the modules that introduced myself and many of my friends to gaming, when they first came out the market wasn't over saturated and everyone pretty much played through these same modules. That shared experience cannot be overestimated in how it brought gamers together.

#2- D20-this togetherness might also be a part of what WOTC is planning for D20 to do. When D&D first came out modules and material were really scarce from TSR itself. You could get some stuff from Dragon magazine, but you had to pretty much wait for major releases [the Temple of Elemental Evil took years to finish, not to mention how long it took to complete the Giant & Descent into the Underearth series]. Other companies came in to produce material. Judges Guild produced loads of stuff, and a number of magazines. Their City State of the Invincible Overlord still holds a place in my heart. Mostly because I took that city map and painstakingly colored it in with colored pencils...its gone now.

As TSR grew, and began to over saturate the market...it put all of these extra companies out of business by legal threat [as it attempted to do with Mayfair], or by just producing so much stuff that these other companies just couldn't keep up. They either produced absolute dreck in an attempt to keep up sales volumes against TSR's rising tide, or they just gave up.

By producing the D20 license WOTC is allowing other people to assume some of the risks and consequences of producing D20 material in the market. If they concentrate on a small number of high quality projects, then that leaves some room for smaller publishers to release smaller scale things. If the small company over saturates the market, which some of them might do with their filled release schedules, then they will pay the cost in decreased sales and interest. D&D on the other hand will see its market share growing by having all of these other hands producing material.

WOTC is taking risks in that they are letting other people have some small role in the success or failure of this project...but I feel that this "gimmick" is going to be a win/win proposition for all sides. How many of us would like to produce a game? But you have to get players together and test the rules endlessly...if you want to get a tried and true system then you'd have to pay a license fee. But what company in its right mind licenses its system? Let's see...FUDGE does, Traveller licenses its universe, and Chaosium on occasion license its system to other people like Pagan Publishing. Here's our chance to produce a game, possibly with house rules, based on a tried and true play tested system! Everyone will know the rules, and we can just concentrate on those little fiddly bits that make our own worlds unique. The pie will grow even larger...if WOTC allows this to happen.

I admit to having some concerns, because the license is not finalized, and the open gaming site is so dormant.

For $500 IBM will put up a website, and give you six months of hosting...giving you a platform to sell from. For $1000-1500 you can pick up your Adobe Acrobat stuff, and a good page layout program...giving you the tools to produce something. For $0 you get a license to produce a game based on a tried and true system...need I say more? It has never been easier to get a site, produce quality material for download, find ways to accept credit card payments online [paypal], and produce wonderful material. The primary limit that we have here is within our own imaginations...and that's a darn good feeling!

#1- well that'll have to wait till next time...

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What do you think?

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All Screaming Jackass columns by Scott Shafer

  • Addiction August 3, 2001
  • Top Ten Reasons Why I Love TSR/Wizards February 28, 2001
  • Top Ten Reasons Why I Hate TSR/Wizards May 18, 2000
  • Shelves March 30, 2000
  • Production Values June 22, 1999
  • Science Fiction Games May 25, 1999
  • Online Auctions April 27, 1999

    Other columns at RPGnet

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