Tuesday, April 7, 2009

WotC, PDFs, etc etc. GIFs at 11 --

I try really really hard to keep editorials off the blog. My blog is here for my randomly-running stream of critters, magical widgets and other oddities, and -- though I've slipped once or twice -- I like to keep it that way. This topic, though ... this one I think I'll spill a bit of pixels on.

WotC has yanked all of their PDF catalogue from legal download. (Of course, anyone in gaming who happens to have been online in the last 24 hours likely knows that.) Much verbage -- and other worthy reactions -- have already been expressed on this, so I won't belabour the details. But what was the point of yanking the entire catalogue? WotC keeps bleating about piracy and the loss of sales of their hardcopy product because of it, but how or why would that affect the sale of OOP material from which WotC could only expect profit from legal sales, and certainly no further loss of income?

I have a few theories.

(no, not bunnies.)

The first that comes to mind is that the PDF market is one of two sources for prospective players to pick up older editions of (A)D&D, the other being the secondhand book market. By yanking the PDFs, WotC is trying to herd gamers into the waiting arms of 4e.

Unfortunately for this plan, if plan it is, all WotC has succeeded with here is 1) the further proliferation of pirate OOP material and 2) plenty of breathing room for the retro-clone industry.

The second is even more straightforward, in its way. I've seen with my own eyes WotC reprints of Dark Sun's "Prism Pentad" novels in my FLGS. I wouldn't put it past WotC to be pre-emptively raking back all access to earlier editions of their settings in order to be certain that their 4e iterations -- should there be any -- are all that are available.

These two notions go nicely hand-in-glove, all things being equal --

13 comments:

Hamlet said...

I saw those reprints of the Prism Pentad too. Figured it was WOTC yanking everything in some strange, MAD pre-emptive strike.

It strikes me as funny since now people are basically being driven into the arms of people publishing Labyrinth Lords and Swords & Wizardry.

My only real fear is that, at some point, they might make some strange and belaboured attempt to go after the retro-clones and have them yanked, but I doubt they'd get any traction there.

taichara said...

@Hamlet:

I saw those reprints of the Prism Pentad too. Figured it was WOTC yanking everything in some strange, MAD pre-emptive strike.

I really wouldn't put it past them, to be perfectly honest.


It strikes me as funny since now people are basically being driven into the arms of people publishing Labyrinth Lords and Swords & Wizardry.

Alas that there's no 2e retro-clone. I'd almost be tempted to tackle the idea, but I don't have the fortitude --


My only real fear is that, at some point, they might make some strange and belaboured attempt to go after the retro-clones and have them yanked, but I doubt they'd get any traction there.

They can try, but they'd be laughed into oblivion. Between the OGL on the one hand and the "game rules can't be copyrighted" bit on the other, I don't expect that they would have a leg to stand on.

Hamlet said...

A 2e clone won't happen, for a number of reasons.

First, we're hated both by the new 3.x+ gamers, and by so many of the grognards who look at 2e as the devil that shot AD&D.

Second, there just aren't enough of us left going to justify yet another clone.

Third, OSRIC is so close anyway that it'd almost be pointless. AD&D 1e and AD&D 2e were so close they were almost twins.

I've considered approaching Finch with the idea of putting together a short document for OSRIC with some "optional rules" for alternate edition play (i.e., specialized wizards, 2e style initiative, etc.) but I barely have the time as it is to work on my chosen project. Especially the realization that I can't map worth a damn.

They can try, but they'd be laughed into oblivion. Between the OGL on the one hand and the "game rules can't be copyrighted" bit on the other, I don't expect that they would have a leg to stand on.

Never underestimate the power of stupid and greedy people with access to big budget legal departments. I'm positive that if they could find a way to revoke the OGL, they would do it so fast nobody would even realize it had happened until the cease and desist orders started flying around.

WOTC is going the route of 2nd edition TSR fast and furious. If I had to predict, I'd say that D&D is headed for another big meltdown as it did in the 90's and we'll see about 5 or 6 years at least in which it will sit fallow while we all ponder whether it's a dead game or not.

taichara said...

@Hamlet:

Pfft. You tempt me to try my hand at it anyway, just on principle.

And despite my own occasional cracks, I see 2e mentioned as being still played surprisingly often on other gaming forums. Quite surprisingly often, which is rather nice.


Never underestimate the power of stupid and greedy people with access to big budget legal departments. I'm positive that if they could find a way to revoke the OGL, they would do it so fast nobody would even realize it had happened until the cease and desist orders started flying around.

And I say that if they could have at all, it would already be gone.

Hamlet said...

Most likely you're right.

I just tend to leave the field wide open for WOTC to shoot themselves in the foot and do something incredibly stupid like that. Remember, it was in WOTC's best interest to leave the OGL alone for the run of 3.5 because it threw out a huge pile of material that was dependent upon D&D books to run for the great part. It was, in effect, free advertising.

taichara said...

@Hamlet:

Remember, it was in WOTC's best interest to leave the OGL alone for the run of 3.5 because it threw out a huge pile of material that was dependent upon D&D books to run for the great part. It was, in effect, free advertising.

It was indeed. And given WotC's desperate attempts to clamp down on the GSL, I daresay if they could have yanked the OGL it would be gone -- but they can't, and it's still out there.

They can't put the genie back in the bottle, even if they want to. And that's to our benefit.

Edsan said...

I've considered approaching Finch with the idea of putting together a short document for OSRIC with some "optional rules" for alternate edition play (i.e., specialized wizards, 2e style initiative, etc.)

Such a document would be quite cool, it would allow running AD&D2 adventures using OSRIC with a minimum of fuss.

Yes the systems are (false) twins but I have enough differnces between 1st and 2nd Ed modules to leave me scratching my head; its hard to eyeball the thing and know if it would be balanced using the other version of AD&D to run it.

arcona said...

Hey, I still play 2nd edition. I probably have more 2nd edition products than any other version of the game. I loves it.

I'm totally up for doing a 2nd edition clone. Maybe if it was some kind of collaborative project the folks who would like to but don't have enough time could contribute?

Hamlet said...

I'd love to do that, too, but again, I'm not sure I'd have the time to devote to it. I'm finding that even now, I'm having trouble devoting real time to my own minor endeavors.

Another consideration is just how much of a document would it end up being? Is it going to be nothing more than, say, 10 pages detailing a very few changes? Or will it end up being so many changes it might as well become its own retro-clone for the sake of simplicity?

I don't know.

How far off topic can we take these comments before taichara thwacks us in the head?

vulcanstev said...

2e is my foray back into D&D after nearly 25 years. I was invited to join my daughter's Sunday afternoon group and they run 2e.

I just bought Shaintar, a Savage Worlds Fantasy setting and I'm anxious to see how it stacks up.

Matthew Slepin said...

Even if WotC had no legal leg to stand on, they still could legally harass folks like Goblinoid Games by filing injunctions and whatnot which woudl cost money to fight. I'm not saying that they will--I have no idea--but they could if they wanted to.

Re a 2nd ed. clone: I guess that I'm one of those grognards you mentioned, although I never hared 2nd ed. But I do see a decent number of folks mention it fondly. Much as it makes me feels old, there is a generation for whom 2nd ed is already "old-school". I know that PaladinCA was working on a clone for a while, but I don't know how that went.

taichara said...

@Edsan, Hamlet:

I'd say that the number of pages, etc, would really depend on how much 2e material one wanted to add. Specialist wizards, for instance, wouldn't take up much space -- I think if someone tried to fit in kits, though, we would likely have a problem *grins*

Still, it's something to consider. if not now, than further down the road.

Also, a reassurance of sorts for Hamlet: I don't thwack people or kill threads for going "off-topic", no indeed -- Communication is a good thing, and these posts are here for discussion.


@arcona, vulcanstev:

I knew there were more of us lurking out there ;3


@Matthew Slepin:

That's true enough I suppose, if one wanted to look at it that way. But even then, with the retro-clones tied to OGL the genie's still out of the bottle ... just keep changing the window dressing.

And I myself don't think that all "grognards" hate 2e ;3

Hamlet said...

I wouldn't want to include kits, except maybe, possibly, in a cursory, generic manner (i.e., describe the concept and application of a kit, but not go into detail about specific kits as that would take up far too much room.