Opinion Piece: Move along, there are no profits to be made here

Normally I don't do this, but hey. For what it is worth, this struck a nerve for me and I would like to partake in the party. A writer named Christopher Helton wrote an article here, which I'm sure that everybody has read by now, but there is the link if you haven't. In it he scolds us all for not buying more stuff, which, according to him, is the only thing that keeps the train moving.

I am old-school Internet, and if you didn't know, the Internet was a place to go to get information for free. Those of us who produced material didn't charge anything, we created content because we enjoyed doing it. Even today, I hold true to this philosophy. The content that we create isn't really all that marketable. People don't like to hear that, they enjoy believing that there is some magic cash cow out there and that they can quit their job and work full time online and live like a prince. That isn't the way this works. Sure, there are success stories, but that is all they are, stories. Just because I buy a pair of wrestling boots and a lucha mask, that doesn't make me a wrestler.

Gygax got mad when he first started, a few folks bought Chainmail and the rest photocopied it. He got beat up and pushed down and had to learn how to be a businessman the hard way, and he ultimately failed at it. Dungeons & Dragons was a booming success, TSR believed in the cash cow and it tanked. I love TSR! I miss TSR! There have been lots of theories about how TSR went under, but that is all they are is theories. They came close, and they lasted a long time! They got good at projecting sales and figuring out how much people would pay, and adjusting material and all of the other boring stuff that goes along with making a company successful. They took lots of risks, some successful and some failures, that is the way it goes!

The technology was there for TSR to make full color, glossy handbooks, but they didn't. They knew that people wouldn't buy them, they had to adjust the cost. Today they are going that route, as if all of the cheaper paper has all been used up. As a user, I don't give a crap about some background under the text, I am on record stating that the Black 2e handbooks wasted too much space with that pointless cover page before every chapter. I want function over form. As ugly and as hideous as the book is, the best RPG book ever written is still, and always will be the original Dungeon Master's Guide written by Gygax. It was functional.

This living wage crap is an illusion. When I was young I used to dream of working for TSR, but those days are long gone. TSR was a creative killer. I'll gladly stay here and work for free doing what I want to do, what inspires me. I know that I am riding an invisible Tightrope, and I do my best not to break any laws here. I know very well that at any moment WOTC could swoop in and demand that everything I've done here be taken down, they've got better lawyers than I've got. It isn't fair, but nothing is.


I am not a person who buys anything new. I play RPGs because it is cheap and creative, lots of people do. When money is tight, and we don't have the cash to go out, we stay in and play D&D. Everybody can join in and it costs nothing. I enjoy producing my own material, and getting better at the craft of DMing. To me, the less money you spend, the better! I don't collect books just to have them, everything that I have is functional. I'm going to draw my own maps. I'm going to write my own keys. I'm going to stat my own monsters, and tell the stories that I want to tell and that the players want to hear. That is how the game was designed to function. Yes I cheat when I can. I buy beat up and incomplete boxsets from the past, but just because I own a functional campaign setting doesn't mean anything. I have no interest in all of the bells and whistles. I like the old-school modules because they have teaching points, and they are interesting to me.

I have no desire to learn a new system, I only buy stuff if the price is right and I know that I need it. I am constantly shopping and looking at prices because as much as the industry likes to believe that they set the prices, they don't. The bottom line is that an item is only worth what the buyer is willing to pay. Let the collectors squabble over a sealed copy of Dark Sun, that has nothing to do with me.


You don't have to give back with your money, that is so stupid to me that people think that you do. Especially in a hobby that the point is exploring one's personal creativity. I give back by challenging the reader to get out the notebook, get out the pencils and get to creating! I provide interest in old books which are important to me. Many people cut their teeth on the 2e system, and want to go out and find their lost books and play! To them, I say WELCOME! Get what you need and do it. PLAY!

Teach your kids how to play, that is giving back too. Go on Reddit, and answer some questions that you know the answers to. If you want to show off some of your inventions, get that blog up and running, and post away! The heyday of tabletop gaming is over. Folks go back to it in times of strife, it isn't stable and it never really was. The less that the dollar is worth, the more people are going to go back to play these games. Heck, TSR found it surprising that people even bought modules! Gygax wouldn't, why should you?

Call me a communist, call me a terrorist, I've been called worse. There is no money to be made here, the money that is out there is being picked up by WOTC and a handful of other companies who know exactly what they are doing. The bottom line is that all you need to play the game is 3 books, and your imagination. You're giving back just by sharing your ideas, that keeps what we do alive.


Brooser Bear said...

I absolutely agree with you on this. I would only add, that experience taught me view negatively people, who try to monetize on their hobby, not so much D&D, but martial arts, climbing, and scuba diving. Somehow their commercial activity got in the way of any genuine friendship developing.

The Dale Wardens said...

The secret we should never let the gamemasters know is that they don't need any rules. -Gary Gygax

...So in one way we don't really need to buy much...if anything?

I am right on board with you. If WOTC, Green Ronin, Games Workshop etc etc went out of business, I mean really...I would be totally fine. Our hobby would survive the way beloved old things carry on. This blog is one of many that helps keep a 25+ year old system going (huzzah 2nd AD&D!!).

My wife played a game with noted TSR writer Jim Ward. A lot of her experience was with Pathfinder...which is as we know very rules heavy (and hence open to min maxing.) She was not sure what set he was playing by, other than some sort of old school rules. She found it really liberating and really got to appreciate a more fluid style of game where combats don't take forever because of the plethora of feats and conditions. He had no rules book at the table, just some notes, dm screen and dice. The group had a great time, and now she's facebook friends with him.

We don't "owe" anyone a living. If there are things we want -we buy. If the price point seems steep to our 1990s era cost sensibilities we won't.

Question Guys:
What are you guys buying game-wise these days? If anything...

Most of the things I do buy are more on the collectors end. Old TSR modules and splat books, although not that many anymore as I have most of what I want. I like Castles and Crusades modules. I picked up a used Pendragon 4e rules book several months ago (4/4 stars!) I have been enjoying the One Ring rpg and have the core book and a couple of supplements. My wife, or I, gets the occasional board-game. And I LOVE miniatures, although don't think I have bought any since March. Although -I reserve the right to binge and spend $100.00 to increase the size of the lead mountain.

David S.

RipperX said...

What do I buy? Well, there are always holes in a working collection, some books I had dismissed because they sounded unnecessary but now I find that they have little things in them that just work better.

I also like picking up those old modules that can be picked up for a buck or two, or maybe an old 3rd party supplement that I had never heard of, some of those are really good! I hear of new things all of the time, and none of it is all that expensive.

I live on a budget, and I don't have much cash for gaming, that is just the way that it is. If I see something, and the price is right, I pick it up. I do try to avoid having extra copies of books, with the exception of the PHB; I like to think that if I don't buy it, somebody out there will and they'll use it. I don't like gaming books that are just hoarded away. It makes me sad. These books are happy when they make others happy.

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