Over here at youtube, you can see the “Future of D&D” Panel. At minute 7:45 of the video, Mearls says the thing that makes me cringe. And makes me say, “RPGs are a flawed business model.”
And Mearls, if you’re watching buddy, I love you. But I’m not attacking you. I’m targeting the group-think that postulates these notions…. and because I’ve never heard anyone in the industry say what I’m about to say, I’ve got to get it off my chest.
Mike says, “The GM is more important than the designer.”
Yes. Correct. This is 100% correct when you look at the experience of the “game” vs. the experience of the product. It’s conversely, the reason I hate more video games.
But it’s also the unstable hinge upon with all editions of D&D rest after 1st edition.
Let me provide an analogy if I may:
A Mechanic buys a toolbox from Snap-On Tools (you probably go to Sears, but be goes to Snap-On). He buys a wrench and a ratchet and a hammer and vice-grips and a screwdriver. He, the mechanic, is a sapient tool user, so he uses these tools until the day they break. Just like a GM who runs his favorite edition of something, until he doesn’t work for him any longer. The Mechanic is more important than the tool. This means he only needs to buy a very good tool once. He might own duplicates of the same screwdriver or wrench or whatever, but he can only really use one at a time. And he isn’t expected to buy expansions to his tools.
To make matters worse, if the mechanic is bad at his job, he loses customers, just like a GM who loses players. However…
… and this is where the RPG business model fails…
…the tool company does not lose money because the mechanic screwed up your tune up.
But a RPG company’s income is based upon the need that the GM brings value to the brand. Their entire connection to the hobby is contingent on a GM being good at his job. If the GM is an overbearing control freak, chances are he is not inspiring a new generation of players.
And I don’t even know if game companies see this dependence? Do designers who are good GMs just assume that their game will always attract a new crop of players?
The entire philosophy that requires good demo sessions, run by quality GMs, who may in turn sell one $40 RPG after a two-hour long demo… It’s just… what the hell?
Mearls goes on to explain it’s how the GM expresses the world that matters — in fact a good GM can pave over the problems with the design… essentially just selling a “baseline” to me.
So, Mike and WOTC… you’re selling me “modularity.” Well, I hate to tell you this, but you’ve sold me FOUR DIFFERENT editions of modularity, which have inspired 5000 derivative games (most importantly successful games like OSRIC and C&C). Why do I need another edition?
And how are the sales of a GM-powered product that requires no expansion expanded into the expansion-product market driven by expansion books inherent in the second half of the business model? Ouch. I hurt my keyboard.