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News and other things from around the gaming world
For Those Who Don't Know...
For those who don't know, giant multinational toy company Hasbro Inc. has purchased Wizards of the Coast. Hasbro, the world's number 2 toymaker, purchased the makers of AD&D for $325 million. The transaction was complete as of the end of September.
This is an important milestone in the history of gaming. Wizards had already begun a push to make gaming more accessible and merchandisable by setting up their own line of stores, encouraging mass retailers to give game selling more emphasis and by retooling their games to remove the sharp learning curve. They also market the incredibly popular collectible card games, Magic: the Gathering and Pokemon, which bring many new people into the hobby. And the upcoming third edition of AD&D (or just D&D as it will now be called) will be cross-marketed in computer and online games.
The purchase of Wizards by Hasbro - who own the licenses for Monopoly, G. I. Joe and Star Wars toys - is indicative of Wizards' success in expanding the market. It is also likely that Hasbro will want to continue to push this approach in order to bring gaming into a similar position as their other products.
In a sense, gaming has come of age. It has reached a point where it might just be able to go beyond a cult hobby and become a major mainstream commercial interest. But many have wondered whether such a move would change much of the hobby for the worse, as commercial pressures inhibit creativity and sterilise genres. Others worry that much of the appeal of gaming arises from its cult, artistic-like status. Such changes will not happen in the short term, obviously, but this purchase could prove the landmark of some very large changes in the future of gaming. Thus it is a very historic event.
President of Wizards, Peter Adkison, who founded the company on his own in 1990, has stated that nothing will change in the management of his company because of this purchase. Adkison and senior management will continue to run Wizards in their Seattle base.
Upheaval at UK GenCon
Once again, Steve Dempsey reports from on the scene at UK Gencon:
UK Gencon '99 was largely a quiet affair until the final half-hour. Nothing major had happened but a few novelties caught my eye.
Hogshead, publishers of Warhammer FRP and the excellent beer and pretzels (or should that be brandy and petit fours) game Baron Munchausen, have a new line in roleplaying games called New Style. The idea is to produce colourful but low cost games in small A4 booklets. There is no better way of drawing attention to oneself than with controversy and appropriately the latest game in this line is Violence.
Take AD&D, the traditional orc in a 10' room with an axe and a box of treasure and transpose this to New York. You have a granny with some warbonds and a .45. Your fighter becomes a juvenile delinquent with a crack problem and an Uzi. Initially it may sound quite fun but that is in fact missing the point. The game's writer Designer X (a thinly disguised Greg Costikyan) has actually written a savage critique of the kill-the-monster take-the-money RPGs, masquerading as a game. Costikyan takes this to extreme levels, and possibly too far, such as the section which suggests gang rape as something to interest the PCs.
As a result, many stores have refused to stock this, at GenCon US it was only sold in plain paper bags. This of course meant that it sold out. It was similarly successful here. Whatever you think about the offensivenss of the product, Costikyan's point is a good one, and Violence is worth checking out.
In the same line, Hogshead have also reissued Puppetland, the RPG of dark puppets (as seen in British RPG print magazine arcane, plus some extras) and Powerkill, a metagame that seeks to psychoanalyse players after an RPG session. This is another critique of RPGs that is more mature than Violence and almost playable.
I also had the good fortune to play in a Hawkmoon game run by Lawrence Whitaker, the author of the 2nd edition for Chaosium. This should hopefully be out in the new year. It is greatly expanded from the original edition and should be followed up with scenarios. Chaosium also previewed Beyond the Mountains of Madness, a fine scenario for Call of Cthulhu that is actually thicker than the rulebook!
The big shock however was held back until after the prize giving. As it was running two hours late, many people (including myself) had left when John Brown, UK Wizards' representative, announced that as a result of the merger of the UK branch of RPGA (a world wide roleplaying support group run by Wotc) with DCI (WotC's CCG organisation) he and the entire RPGA(UK) steering committee were resigning. As you can imagine, this bombshell changed the whole mood from that of a fun-filled con to something more like a wake.
The RPGA(UK) had been in decline, but lately was showing signs of new life with some successful GenCons, an internal magazine and a vibrant Living City game. However, WotC recently closed their UK warehouse, which meant that TSR was hardly represented at the Con - they didn't even have a trade stand! The UK branch of RPGA had long been at loggerheads with the US branch, who wouldn't allow the UK players access to their website or their Living City game. This was mainly due to the UK branch not handing over its membership lists, something that would have broken English Data Protection Laws.
Putting a CCG player in charge of the roleplaying society was seen as the last straw and John took what he thought was the only reasonable course open to him. This was equally as big a surprise for Peter Adkison, WotC Chairman, who was present. These events were rather overshadowed by the purchase of WotC by Hasbro, which cast even more uncertainty over the whole sordid affair. However, things have progressed since then.
In the weeks following the con, the ex-RPGA committee went into negotiations with WotC and they all were reinstated. John Brown was not. The RPGA(UK) has once again been given responsibility for GenCon and will stay independent from WotC. Only just this week Ian Richards, RPGA committed member, has been appointed UK RPGA Branch Manager. Whilst these may be seen as positive events, a number of questions still hang in the air. The events have also pointed to deep problems within RPGA, with many members having little or no idea about the recent turmoil until after these events.
Planning Commences For Brisbane May Convention
Briscon/Maelstrom officials gave us the following update:
Planning has commenced for Brisbane's May Day long weekend convention for next year. Auran is still going to be the major sponsor, however due to the amalgamation of all the resources of BrisCon and Maelstrom, a new name has been chosen for next year.
The Auran BIG Weekend (with BIG standing for Brisbane Indoor Gaming) will be over the weekend of 29th, 30th April, 1st May (Sat, Sun, Mon) with registration and the like on the evening of Friday the 28th. Current plans are to have 10 three hour sessions (4, 4, 2) or 9 three hour session with a banquet on Sunday night (4, 3 + banquet, 2).
The name of the Big Weekend was chosen because Amnesty International in 1997 ran a single day event called The Big Day, and since Amnesty International is still the major beneficiary of all the monies raised, it was decided to use a similar name.
Submission forms for people intending to run games will be out shortly in all the major roleplaying and related stores in Brisbane, however you can also get a copy by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I can either send you a copy by email (in Word 97 format, or any format you specify) or post one via snail mail.
Current timetable is for game submissions to be in by the end of November, with the booklet out by mid-January (in time for Cancon) and the early date for entries being the end of March, however entries will be acceptable up to and including the Con.
I hope to see you there.
Small RPG Company Totally Bummed About New Release
Seattle, WA: Small RPG Company, Dragons Ate My Dicebag(TM), stunned the RPG community yesterday with their announcement that they were totally bummed about their upcoming game release.
"Oh man, are we ever depressed about this game" said head designer and CEO of DAMD, Gavin Malson. "We've made a big mistake, and we're on a major bum vibe about the whole thing."
This attitude sets DAMD apart from almost all other companies, industry expert Sandy Atunes said today. "Most companies," he added, "and particularly small ones, tend to be consumed with excitement and passion for their new releases. It's truly revolutionary for a company like this to be on such a big-ass downer."
"It's depressing even hanging out with them. They should like, get over it already" he concluded.
Insiders say that the reason for the general shitbox attitude around DAMD lately is the sure knowledge that their new product is "total crap". The game, entitled "Fuzzy Vampires", was originally described as "a wild and zany RPG...[where] the players play super-powered vampiric teddy bears bent on destroying humanity while they sleep". The game was also touted by the company as being "fun and free-spirited, with a cavalier attitude to rules found lacking in most games on the market today" and "a wonderfully witty parody of some of the industry's big guns, which every gamer will find hilarious". However, Malson recently recanted these claims, stating that the above quotes are "total crap" and that the game is "seriously screwed".
"I mean, really, seriously rooted", Malson continued as he slumped defeatedly to the ground outside his Seattle home. "When we came up with the idea, it seemed funny, but now it's written down, it just seems so fucking stupid. Plus the whole anti-Vampire movement is like, way old now, and we didn't even realise. We thought we were so damn cool, but in fact, we were just shithouse. Typical."
"The worst part is that we didn't even wake up to how much we sucked until after the first print run. Now we have like thousands of these pieces of crap we have to desperately try and unload on the poor gamers out there. We've just screwed up so incredibly badly, and I feel like such a loser. I'm really, really sorry, everybody."
Industry observers have commented to the staff of DAMD that their negative attitude can only hurt them further, as it will drive down sales and thus the venture could potentially bankrupt the fledgling company. Upon hearing these comments, Malson replied "Oh man, just bring me down even further, why don't you!". Malson then began rocking back and forth and sobbing to himself.
Following this, Malson's girlfriend and co-designer of Fuzzy Vampires, Jennifer Dart, requested that the members of the gaming industry "get the hell off Gavin's back about it already". She added that Malson's ego was "trashed enough already, without all you bad vibe merchants dumping your own negativity on him as well".
Malson later issued a statement saying that the experience had taught him much about RPG design, most importantly that he is "total shit at it". He was philosophical about his future plans in the industry:
"As usual, I've fucked up my entire life again because I'm such a total failure at every single thing I do. I think I should just kill myself."
The game will be on shelves in time for Christmas.
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