Saturday, June 20, 2009

More on my question on WOTC's position on Retroclones

I posted it over on ENWorld, and took a lot of crap for it. I am posting my rather long responses to their points below, since they helped me to better explain my position as to why I asked the questions in the first place.

Regarding the question being in "bad form" and a "trap" laid to catch WOTC:

Why would it be Scott who looked bad? Scott is a guy who gets paid to come here and be the eyes and ears and mouth of WOTC. It's his job. No one should put how they feel about WOTC on Scott. Even if they do, because of misplaced anger (we've all been guilty of it I bet), Scott gets paid to handle it. It's his job

To your other point, just because it is unlikely to be answered means it doesn't need to be asked? What is it with society these days where no one asks tough questions anymore? When did the hunt for truth become an embarrassing thing unless its done within the bounds of proper etiquette and protocol?

I was in lawschool during the OJ Simpson criminal trial. In my third year, Dr. Henry Lee came to speak to the school. He was the big-name forensic science superstar of the OJ trial. Every lawstudent showed up, undergrads, the press, and anyone who was associated with the school (read as Big Donors) also showed up. Lee did a presentation on forensic medicine.

After 45 minutes of boring slides on various crimes and international invstigations, he opened it up to the question and answer session. There was probably 500 people in the room, we were packed like sardines, sitting on the steps in the aisles. People raised their hands and started asking the polite politically correct guaranteed to offend no one questions like "What's your take on the state of the american eductional system today?"

Who gives a crap? Not one person would have been there if it wasn't for Lee testifying in the OJ trial. After 5 ridiculous questions like that, I raised my hand and asked "Do you think OJ killed Nicole Brown?"

Everyone let out nervous laughter. People started moving away from me. People were embarrassed. Even though that's exactly what they all came there to hear. Lee had just been offered 6 million dollars to write a book on that very topic. Everyone was on the edges of their seats, waiting for the answer, as they looked at me out of the corner of their eyes like I had Bubonic Plague.

So he said something polite like "Ah, the 6 million dollar question. I make it a policy never to comment on cases I was involved in beyond what I testified to."

The question I asked here is valid, and important in many people's eyes. It affects the game/hobby we all love to play. It affects the future of certain aspects of the hobby. It's a tough question that requires making people uncomfortable, and requires a company to take a position. So be it. Heck, many of probably own part of this company through your shares in the ever-dwindling 401(k)'s. (maybe if people asked harder questions in the financial media, we wouldn't have dwindling 401(k)'s)

Though it may be in "bad form", it's still valid. And I guarantee you if WOTC answers it here definitively, one way or another, it WILL BE talked about and read by thousands. That in itself makes it a valid question.

Feel free to treat me like I am the embarrassing uncle who farts and burps at the formal Thanksgiving dinner, even as you gleefully read the answer to the question, if it comes.

Regarding the allegations as to my bad motives in asking the questions of Rouse, and that I embarrassed poor Dr. Henry Lee:

Well the guy was paid thousands of dollars to be there. He was one of the most famous celebrities to come out of the OJ case. He just withstood grueling days of questions and cross-examination on that very topic from some of the country's best attorneys. If the guy was put on the spot by a question from a lowly lawstudent, during a seminar to which he owed those thousands of dollars of income to his fame in the case about which the question was asked, then so be it. I have no regrets.

I also have no regrets when at similar events in my undergrad years I asked Jean Kirkpatrick former ambassador to the UN during the first gulf war whether if she thought the war was legal under the US Constitution, nor do I have regrets after asking Faye Vincent, former Commissioner of Major League Baseball about the hypocrisy of kicking Pete Rose out of baseball when keeping guys who used drugs like Howe. They get paid to be there, big money, because of their connection to the issues I asked questions about. I state these as examples, and not as a way to bring up taboo topics into the conversation. If they are inappropriate feel free to delete them.

I have nothing against Scott. He is a good guy by all reports. He seems to be on the side of gamers. He is the only person to ask the question of though. If you like I could change the title of the thread to replace Rouse with Leeds, but it would still be Rouse who answers.

Whether the question gets answered or not, its still a valid question that in my mind, and the minds of others, deserves an answer. I'm sorry if Scott feels uncomfortable answering it, but frankly that's his job.

WOTC is not just the company that owns the intellectual property called Dungeons and Dragons, they are also the caretakers of a hobby that thousands enjoy every day. In that regard, they have a different level of responsibility which, to the extent that they are not carrying out that responsibility while paying attention to the bottom line, they seem to land themselves in hot water.

I'm offering them an opportunity to carry out not just the corporate mission statement to make money, but to help other aspects of the hobby out, which by all accounts has little or no impact on their bottom line.

That's my take on it. Those are my motives. To the extent I don't like how WOTC has handled D&D lately, that surely taints my approach as to how touch-feely I am when I ask the questions. I also admit that at this point I am gradually coming around to the point of view that I don't really care if WOTC fails, due to my feelings of how they have treated thir customers. I used to think the hobby needed them to survive, but I am not so sure now. I would feel bad about people losing their jobs though. I know how that feels. I would also feel bad for people whose version of the game is no longer supported. I know how that feels too. As to my comments on the hilarity of their site getting cloned or hacked, so be it. I honestly don't care, and I think it would be karmically fitting. I'm not going to lie about that. *shrug*

Understand that I have nothing but the utmost respect for the bulk of the creative folks at WOTC. We're all gamers. It's the business end of the company that I have a problem with. Scott speaks for them. The question goes to them.

It's highly likely that this question never gets answered. I know that. That doesn't mean it doesn't deserve an answer, and therefore someone should pose the question.


  1. Eh, what do you expect from the ENWorld fanboy contingent. There's a goodly number of people out there that will happily argue that Wizards is always right, should not be criticized, should never be even confronted with hard questions... You should do nothing but continually shout paeans of praise to any word they say, line they write, or action they take.

  2. As a lawyer you know well what happens when an unanswered question gets answered... you have a ruling that sets precedent.

    Good or bad, that's what the answer will mean if you get one... a precedent as to how WotC will, at the moment and in the future, handle "retro-clones".

    IMHO, no answer is the best answer for the hobby.

  3. You claim to be a lawyer; do you really think Wizards will answer these questions? Do you really think they should? Pretend you work for them before you answer.

  4. mxyzplk---yeah i've come to realize that, as they just shut the thread down. anyone know of any forums where the mods and owners aren't the lapboys of the corporate conglomerate that currently owns the rights to D&D in name, but not in soul?

  5. Hey Joe, sorry I missed this post before, I enjoyed it. I have to say, Dude, ENWorld? That's the wading pool of gamer conversation.

  6. I know, man. I just left my farewell comments over there. I'm done with the place. Any recommendations on good boards?

  7. Bravo! Couldn't agree with you more. Your position on difficult questions stands in all walks of life and society, but specifically for gaming it seems like we are becoming less and less critical. This myth that we owe WotC the continued success of the hobby, plus a general cultural conservatism (I mean that in the broadest sense, not politically) seem to have made our hobby more and more "safe" and mainstream. It sucks. Especially when you see big sites like ENWorld actively working to defend WotC from criticism. Pathetic.

    Come on over to the RPG Haven! ;)

  8. Hey, a quick apology. I was in a particularly foul mood this last week - as trite as it sounds, the puppy we were about to adopt died. I'm not sure if that affected my moderating (I still disagree with your approach) but if it did, I apologize.

    - PCat

  9. Piratecat don't worry about it man. I thought your behavior was odd, because like others here have said, you've always seemed the fairest mod there. The puppy thing explains it. I've got nothing personal against you, man. Apology accepted, and as a dog lover I'm sorry about the puppy.

    My beef was more against Morrus, who seemed to break his own rules of questioning motives. I figure he is just a guy who wants to be a bigger player in the industry than he is, and has hitched his caboose to the WOTC/4e train, financially and/or otherwise. Whether consciously or not, that comes across in protecting Rouse/WOTC from being placed in uncomfortable situations in threads, like my directly asking WOTC that question on their position on Retroclones did.

    PS, on a sidenote, I found it ironic that 4 people gave me XP for leaving ENWorld,while leaving me nasty messages. Check out my ENWorld profile to see them. I actually leveled up upon leaving the Board. I'm now a level 5 Hobgoblin something-or-other. I still log in there to check messages or see hot topics or news, but I won't post there anymore.

    I'm over at now.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.