Monday, March 23, 2009

An open letter to sweetdragon.livejournal.com

Stumbled upon this post regarding a young woman's budding interest in D&D. I'm not going to go through the rigamarole I'd have to in order to post a reply directly, so I'm posting here to vent my spleen, as it were, in regard to the following comment:
I now find myself downloading the 4th Edition Player's Handbook (Yeah. Downloaded. Fuck you; those things are expensive.)
Dear Sweetdragon,

I'm really glad to hear that you've been enjoying playing D&D, and particularly that you're engrossed enough in it to create such an extensive backstory for your character.

But I'm deeply saddened that you don't think that enjoyment is worth your money.

I worked for three years with a team of the best game designers in the world to produce the game you're downloading. I'm more proud of my name on the front cover of the 4th Edition D&D Player's Handbook than I am of any other book I've worked on. Oh, but maybe you haven't seen the front cover?

The book retails for $35. I spent about that much taking my family to dinner and the $3 movie theater on Saturday night. Sometimes I spend it on just dinner. Two full-priced movie tickets plus popcorn and drinks will put you back about that much. It seems to be the going rate for maybe two hours of entertainment. Or I guess you could almost buy two DVDs, and have four hours of movies you can watch whenever you want to.

Or you can buy the D&D Player's Handbook and play D&D with it for the rest of your life. How many hours of enjoyment is that illegal PDF going to give you? You don't think it's worth your money?

OK, times are tough and money's tight for a lot of people. But look. You can buy a legal copy of that PDF from RPGNow for just $25. Or you can get the book from Amazon for only $23, or get the three core books as a gift set for $66.

I hope Talia has many grand adventures and manages to overcome the evil within her and attain the holiness she seeks.

And I hope you do the right thing and stop stealing my work.

Thanks,
James Wyatt

14 comments:

Jeff LaSala said...

A thoughtful post, James.

Although the tone in Sweetdragon's own post does suggest an illegally downloaded file, how do you know it wasn't one of the legitimate $25 PDF purchases? I can't really tell from her post.

I know I've had to purchase most of the 4E books myself in PDF format out of economic reasons alone (excepting the three core books). But obviously theft is beyond economics; it's just wrong.

Balard said...

Yeah, that is very sad. When you got the book as cheap as it comes there in the States, is sad to download it. Here you got to go to more than five full price movie sessions or eat a Very Expensive dinner to get just one core book. So I downloaded a LOT of books during the very bad years of financial trouble for my family, and my time in high school/college. But since I got the money I just HAVE to buy the books. Even if I still can easily download(and 4E has some very nice scans). Its not I like to own the books(but I do), it's respect. 4e is great. You guys did a wonderful job. I really wish I could live in a place quality RPG books wouldn't be SO expensive, than I would buy more.

Xzareth said...

Dear Mr.Wyatt
I would be livid had I read that article too.

From the other side of the table; I can explain why I at times have used the interenet to faciliate a gaming experience that I otherwise wouldnt have been able to afford.

Firstly, I pinched enough coin to get the core books.

Money well spent.

I download some other titles for dual purposes
1.) to make sure I want to buy them.
2.) I can play them while I save the money to do so.

The game you have made is the most progressive, fun, and fun game I am proud to call D&D.

Thank you!

Magica said...

To those of you making polite excuses for illegally downloading: It's wonderful that you can be polite, and even reasoned, in your own defense, but that doesn't really change anything. "It's too expensive"? "I wanted to use it while I saved up to buy it"? Walk into a department store and see if those excuses fly when security catches you shoplifting.

Maybe you think stealing something in electronic format isn't stealing. Think again. You're stealing James's work. If you think that doesn't matter, look at WotC's history of layoffs. If you're using a book you didn't pay for, you're affecting WotC's revenues. And that means you are directly affecting James's future employment.

If you can't afford something, save up your money. If you still can't afford it, do without. If you don't know whether you'll like something, read a few reviews, or flip through a copy at the shop.

But don't make excuses--however polite and friendly in tone--for doing something both illegal and reprehensible.

Xzareth said...

To Magicka,

Regardless of ethical implications surrounding this discussion one thing is certain: People will keep taking the works. Whether their "excuses" are good or not in the eyes of others.

The record companies finally have realized this. This is why they are adapting to it.

So must WotC.

To Magica: I'm explaining my actions, not excusing them.

This is my truth, however doleful it may be to some, it's real.

TheGoof said...

The fact is that this isn't just a case of one teenager doing something selfish without thinking about it.

It's a story about how wizards has really dropped the ball in approaching new players.

When I started DnD I got "the red box" and played by myself in a room.
There was a simple, complete product targeted at me.

With current web technology it would be trivial for WotC to have a "beginners page" where you could learn the basics of the game and roll up a few sample characters.

------

I know a lot of prospective players who started off downloading books, realized they liked the hobby and "graduated" to getting books of their own (and miniatures and battle maps and dungeon tiles and so on).

Wizards doesn't have an intro product that is attractive to the introductory player.
(The "basic set" box thing I've seen is too expensive, especially for someone who just wants to try it out).

-----------

If you'd been able to magically appear in front of her and say "you must give me 25$ before you can try this game" do you think she'd pay you?
Or would she just go off and do something else?

You're not talking about a lifetime player who's downloading all the books and running them off at kinkos.

Personally I think it's good for the hobby that this stuff is available to try without having to pay. It's a shame that wotc hasn't bothered to create a legal gateway. They've basically abandoned that segment to fend for themselves.

This DM who introduced her... he probably said "go here and download this and do this to get ready for the game" because there was no other (easy) way to do it.

-------

I respect you. I think you're a brilliant, talented and very moral guy (and an Obie of course) but I think you should look at it in the bigger picture.

Any maybe, you should think about, suggest to WotC that if they made a simple flash web page for starter players. They'd "naturally" pick up people (who wants to start on 200+ page book if there's a 30 page book?).

Get them into it -> and get them subscribed to DDI for a couple of months (at a reasonable price).

Best,
Graf

CK said...

You are wasting your breath, James (or rather your keyboard). If it is any consolation, there are plenty of us who buy the books AND pay for the download at RPGnow.

PS: Since you do not post at ENworld, I just wanted to take the time and thank you for being part of making what is turning out to be (for me and my group) the greatest version of D&D.

Cheers

langley said...

I'd just like to pitch in and I say that I have legally purchased every single hardcover 4th edition book that has come out to date because the game is just that good and every one of the books has been worth my money.

You want to talk about economics? I'm working and going to college at the same time. I have no financial aid or student loans. 3 times a year I make huge tuition payments. I do -not- have a large excess of money. But I still work hard to save enough to pay for the books because I respect their work and I understand that I would be directly screwing over WotC by illegally downloading their work. I -could- download it if I wanted to; it's trivially easy. I just choose not to.

So to all the lamers who make pitiful excuses for downloading copies of the books and never paying for them: Screw you; your reasoning is pathetic and I have no sympathy for you. Enjoy your selfish lives rationalizing every poor decision you make until you wise up enough to actually do the right thing.

To James Wyatt and everyone else who's worked hard to make 4E the best RPG system to ever come out, period: Thank you very much and take heart from the fact that you do have SOME loyal customers who are willing to pay for your effort.

Parvati V said...

As of today, it is no longer possible to buy that copy from RPGNow (or DrivethruRPG, or any other site for that matter).

I have already posted on the WotC boards, but I'd like to ask a personal favour of you here, since your post kind of hooks me. If Wizards of the Coast is thinking of going back to the infamous DRM or some similar limiting technology, please talk some sense into them. That wouldn't hurt piracy. It will hurt customers, though. Me, for one: my ebook reader does not support DRM.

I really want you guys to get whatever share it is you get from the books I'm buying and enjoying. But I cannot support company choices that effectively blocks my access to what I'm buying, if it comes to that - and not buying is the only real weapon I have.

sweetdragon said...

Oy.

Okay, I'm not here to defend my actions or make excuses, because I really, honestly do get where both sides of the fence are coming from.

I've been out of work for a really, really, really long time. I don't really get to go out and do all kinds of things that I'd like to.

I downloaded a PDF of the PH so I could enjoy a new hobby with my friends UNTIL SUCH TIME AS SOMEONE WAS ABLE TO BUY ME A COPY OF THE BOOK. I had a birthday coming up swiftly, and lo and behold, I now have a shiny copy on its way to my house courtesy of someone awesome.

Yes, of course it's still stealing, inasmuch as I couldn't get away with that at a legitimate bookstore. And I apologize, but I honestly had no other way to acquire a copy of the PH before someone could buy it for me.

Arguments can be made on either side of the fence over the morality of my actions, and I won't really say much else here about my reasoning, but I do at least want to let everyone know two things:

1) 4th edition ended up being so much fun - after, mind you, a lifelong prejudice AGAINST D&D - that I simply had to find a way to access the books in the meantime.

2) My story still ended with a legitimate purchase very shortly after my download.

thekamisama said...

I've played D+D for decades without buying one product. I haven't even downloaded a book illegally to do it! Years before the internet even existed. It costs nothing to borrow books from a friend. My brother has been giving me his old manuals and books when he buys new ones since the 80's. Our local library even had a small collection of D+D books availible for years until a church group complaints and book theft made the library remove them. It costs nothing to play over at someones house and have them help you learn the game. That is how I did it as a younger man. Obviously I am a bum who owes you all lots of money, just like the folks that go play Monopoly or Boggle over at the neighbors house without buying their own board game must owe countless millions to Milton Bradley.

alliancesjr said...

This DM who introduced her... he probably said "go here and download this and do this to get ready for the game" because there was no other (easy) way to do it.

Actually, what I did was bring my copies of the books over to her house and let her read through them at her own pace, and also gave her a step-by-step tour of the mechanics.

But that, and other posters above me, brings up an interesting point, one that sweetdragon and I have discussed on our show.

There are no easy ways to rent a book, be it a comic book or a textbook such as this. Going and reading in a bookstore is one thing, but taking it home to use until you pay for it yourself is another.

One would argue that this is what libraries are for. The libraries near me do not carry these books, however, and had I not purchased the book myself, I would be hard-pressed to find a way to try it out myself.

I am, of course, not making excuses. Downloading illegally is, after all, downloading illegally, no matter how you try to dress it up. But things to think about, perhaps?

In any case, I am proud to have been able to help make this game fun for her, though the hard work lies with the developers for making this game fun to play.

James said...

Sweetdragon, thanks for posting, and I'm glad to hear you have a book in your hands now.

And thank you all for your thoughts.

I'm going to request no more comments on this topic, please.

rpgtreehouse said...

Well said sir.