Friday, February 20, 2009

What is Dungeons and Dragons anyway?

Greywulf's latest rant about WotC's policies has gotten me thinking. What is Dungeons and Dragons anyway? Dungeons and Dragons, at it's very core, is what you would call a "Gestalt" game. For Dungeons and Dragons to be successful, or any other roleplaying game, you need the collective energy of many creative people. Dungeons and Dragons requires the Creative Gestalt of its fans and 3rd party developers in order to thrive and be successful.

According to Greywulf's post, Wizards of the Coast has gotten itself some trouble over defending it's game: Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition. It seems that Wizards has taked on 3rd party developers for developing items for 4th Edition D&D. I have only one thing to say to Wizards of the Coast about this behavior: BAD FORM!

Copyright and trademarks aside, Wizards of the Coast, nor Hasbro, does not have the right to tell anyone how they report their feelings on their products. This behavior, which I call Corporate bullying, is clearly against our Constitutional Right that guarantees free speech. There is nothing in U.S. Copyright or Trademark Law that proscribes this behavior. A company may justify such behavior by invoking these laws, but these laws were set up to protect both the Producer (Wizards of the Coast/HASBRO) and the Consumer (the Fans).

It is not stealing or infringement for fans to report on how they use Dungeons and Dragons privately in a semi-public venue (such as a Web Log, like mine right here). Not one trademark is used, and your Copyright is not violated. Like I said before, a game like Dungeons and Dragons depends on both fans and 3rd party developers to thrive, grow, and be successful. The Open Game License allowed the 3rd incarnation of Dungeons and Dragons to thrive and grow.

Take away the rights of the fans to talk about Dungeons and Dragons on the Internet; and you effectively kill your fan base. TSR, inc. failed in 1997 because it aggressively defended it's trademark, the Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition logo. And they did it right. But at what cost?

TSR, inc.; through its actions, FAILED to endear their target audience to their company. The fans completely became disloyal and TSR started to die. WotC, it seems, is playing the same game again. They are aggressively defending the D&D Brand -- which is what TSR had done. But instead of looking for actual culprits they are hitting the fanbase for some thing as inconsequential as this. Actions like these can actually estrange a company like WotC from its fan base. Something no company can AFFORD to do.

5 comments:

greywulf said...

Wizards haven't called me, but they have issues Cease & Desist letters to a couple of websites in recent days that offered downloadable Power Cards and a character generator for 4e D&D - two things that Wizards' just happen to be selling (or will be, shortly). This isn't so much about protecting IP as restricting competition. Not good.

Who's to say whether one insignificant little blog like mine could be targeted in the future just because I (for example) wrote up a list of the Monster Manual encounters, or whatever.

Not good form, and I want none of it.

Elton said...

I'll change the post slightly to reflect this. But it still stands. A company who acts like this is in danger of estranging their fan base. Once you lose loyalty, you get no sales, hence no product flow. D&D will die quicker than 2011 if they keep this up!

greywulf said...

Absolutely.

Anonymous said...

I have to that due to the MASSIVE success they had with the Open Gaming license, this policy just seems to be a very bad business move. If something is working, don't 180. Not smart.

My 2c.

Elton said...

You are right, RandalThor (anon above), why restrict your fan base? It makes no sense since it produces prosperity for a company to share what they have.

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