Welcome Back to the Labyrinth

"We have been away far too long, my friends," Ashoka declared, his face lit by the eldritch green glow of his staff. "But we have finally returned to the labyrinth whence our adventures first began."

"Just imagine the treasures that lie within," said Yun Tai, flexing his mighty muscles. "Wealth enough to live in luxury the rest of our days."

"And arcane artifacts of great power," added Ashoka his words dripping with avarice. "All ours for the taking!"

"Umm...guys?" Nysa interrupted. "Do you hear something dripping?"

Friday, March 4, 2011

Who Owns D&D?

There's been some chatter the last couple of days about how what WotC is doing has no relevance to the type of games that we are playing; that maybe it's time to find a new name for the games we play and leave Wizards to their brand name.

Except that Wizards of the Coast doesn't own D&D.  I do.  So do you, and so does everyone who has spent their lives playing the game and keeping it alive.  I figure that makes D&D our moral property, which to my mind trumps any claim to "intellectual property" made by a bunch of Hasbro executives who threw some greenbacks at a game they've never played and know nothing about.

I've was playing D&D long before Wizards of the Coast was a twinkle in anyone's eye, and I reckon I'll still be playing it long after Hasbro has lost what little interest they ever had in it.  That makes D&D mine, and I'm not giving it up to anyone; they can have it when they pry my dice and character sheets out of my cold dead fingers.

The idea of D&D transcends a mere brand name, it even transcends a particular set of rules.  D&D is a philosophy of play that no corporation can claim ownership of.  When my players want to know if there is a game on this weekend, they don't ask "hey, are we playing S&W this weekend?"  They ask, "are we playing D&D?"  They'd probably ask that regardless of the rule system I was actually using.  I could be running a campaign using GURPS and they'd still ask if we were playing D&D because that's my style of play - and I'm sticking with it.

Hasbro and WotC have long since given up any moral claim to D&D, what they are producing these days has nothing to do with the game created by Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax.  All they've got is legal use of a brand name that has no meaning anymore.  They could make a My Little Pony roleplaying game and call it Dungeons and Dragons if they want, but that doesn't make it so.  So they, and their followers, can play The Dungeons and Dragons Brand Roleplaying Game.  Me?  I'm playing D&D.

"Get your damn hands off my game, pilgrim"


Kiltedyaksman said...

Very well said.

Gygax's and Arneson's lineage doesn't rest with WotC, it rests with us.

Anonymous said...

It's funny how WotC will totally change everything about the rules every several years and then think the "D&D brand" is worth anything at all. To be worth something, it has to mean something, and right now it doesn't (thanks entirely to their handling of it.) Say "D&D and nobody is sure what what you're talking about. Now Mearls is putting up polls to try and get a clue from gamers, but it's split down the middle and it's 100% WotC's fault!

If they want to reclaim the name as anything with a value to it, they need to revert to something closely resembling the rules as they stood for 30 years and then admit the last couple editions were failed experiments. Open up 4E to the masses under an open license and embrace the actual game of D&D, before they mucked with it.

But yeah... regardless of what they do, D&D belongs to the players. It may be problematic for them as a business, but then RPGs were never the kind of thing that could be easily controlled by a company. The genie is out of the bottle, so to speak.

Anonymous said...

While most of this post screams "I have a chip on my shoulder," the basic premise is absolutely true. D&D is an idea and a style, which one company just happens to use as their brand name. Gamers too often get preoccupied with what Hasbro-WotC is doing, as if most of us don't play the game in our own living rooms.

It's almost as if some gamers see D&D's current 'owner' as a kind of corporate Pope, which holds the sole conduit to salvation by role play.

Dr Rotwang said...


Aaron E. Steele said...

I heartily endorse this product and/or service.

Clovis Cithog said...

If Hasbro admits that 4th edition is a failure,
Then a new design team comes on board and Mearls is unemployed
(lead designer Heinsloo lost his job in Dec 2009).

Thanks to Ryan D and the OGL,
variants of the older additions are still available and popular . . .

A simple decision for Hasbro would be to ditch the pnp RPG,
and retain the brand for
books, toys, video games, movies and table top board games.

After all Hasbro/WotC still OWNs the term
"Dungeons & Dragons"
we play OGL
(open gaming license)

Bob Reed said...

Well said! I second Clovis in thanking Ryan D for the OGL.

Sean Robson said...

Yes, all hail Ryan and the OGL for putting D&D beyond the reach of any one corporation to destroy!

@Clovis: I suspect that what you suggest is exactly what will happen - Hasbro will lose all interest in table top roleplaying games and retain the Dungeons and Dragons brand for other media.

Shane Mangus said...

I have explained to people that my main hobby is roleplaying games. I always get a strange look. Then I follow with, "you know, games like Dungeons & Dragons," and the strange look changes to a look of understanding.THAT is how ingrained the term Dungeons & Dragons is in our society. The straights recognize it more often than they do a generic term like roleplaying...

The *idea* of D&D is bigger than Hasbro or Wizards of the Coast. It is bigger than TSR. It is bigger than Gygax and Arneson. At this point it is obvious that no one truly owns the terms Dungeons & Dragons or D&D. But it is the players that own the game... every time we play it. Or house rule it. Every time we blog about it we take ownership of the game. TSR and Wizards have both tried to reinforce their ownership of the game with each new edition, but their efforts are futile, because the players are the true owners. Always have been, always will be.

Sean Robson said...

Well said, Shane. The very concept of D&D has become a gestalt that cannot be defined as a brand or an "intellectual property". We are the owners of that gestalt and that is a wonderful thing.