Initiative Or What? – Archives – Apr/2009

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

WotC and the Disappearing Portable Document Format

The RPG Blogosphere has been set alight over the past couple of days over the announcement that Wizards of the Coast® is pulling all of its PDF products from the virtual shelves of not only its own store, but from third-part providers like Paizo® as well.

Reveal over at RPG Centric posted this article about the event. I originally was going to just respond on his fine blog, but I had a bit more to say than respectable comment-space would allow. Instead, I decided to post on the topic myself.

With all due respect to my fellow bloggers, I find the hoop-la surrounding WotC’s decision a little humorous. Like Greywulf implied in his own posting about the event, it’s not like the PDF download industry is that huge. I’ve never paid for a PDF I could download, when I could simply order a book from Amazon.com.

I suppose I can understand my fellow blogger’s ire about Wizard’s decision; but lets not forget that Wizards made a decision based on money, like ALL corporate decisions are based on. For good or bad, that’s how these things work. My guess is that they used the “pirating” story, because they weren’t ready to release the marketing reasons for their decision. WotC (owned by Hasbro) is a large conservative company. My experience has been that large conservative companies don’t often make “rash” decisions. They sometimes make poor ones, but they are almost always thought out.

In Reveal’s post, I think the last sentence from the last quote by WOTC_Trevor is the most telling:

“We are exploring other options for digital distribution of our content and as soon as we have any more information I’ll get it to you.”

I imagine the entire catalog was pulled in order to figure out how to revamp the PDF files in order to prevent easy pirating. No, it won’t make stealing the material any more difficult, anyone with a flatbed scanner can do that. However, it’s quite possible they’re looking for ways to better protect their digital assets.

It’s been shown time and time again that WotC doesn’t exactly have a firm handle on the digital age. Hasbro® (WotC’s parent company) is a pretty conservative company, and conservative companies move like juggernauts when it comes to “new” trends and technologies. So, when things like multiple lawsuits happen at once, such juggernauts tend to panic. It’s sort of like when an elephant sees a mouse. The elephant does everything it can to not step on the mouse, and to get out of its way. The mouse is harmless, of course.

I believe that once the panic has subsided (and the lawsuits settled), there will be a return of some kind of digital download content.

Now for the WILD SPECULATION part.

The material that WotC provides for download are largely books and modules. These are normally printable materials. Now, if only there was an “easy-to-connect-to-and-download” format for WotC to use, that would better protect their stuff.

There is. It’s Amazon.com’s Kindle. I’ve linked the name, so you can see what this is. It’s basically an e-reader that’s been designed to read like a book. I’m not an expert on the technology by any means, but it would be an ideal solution for WotC. You pay for the download, and the download goes straight to the Kindle. I’m not saying that this would totally eliminate pirating, but access points to the information would be greatly reduced. WotC sells its print material through Amazon.com already, so connection is already there.

There are some synergies that make the Kindle an ideal tool for gaming material. First, the Kindle is smaller than a laptop, and would be extremely portable to the game table. Second, the Kindle is a gadget. D&D gamers are largely geeks (I use this term in the positive way), and any chance a geek has at using a gadget, they often jump at. Now, imagine a specially licensed Kindle with a D&D motif and logo. Don’t tell me there aren’t some gamers out there that wouldn’t buy it.

Again, this is just wild speculation. I’m not saying that Wizards of the Coast will do this, but I think they’d be foolish if they didn’t consider a number of different digital download options. I’m sure they will decide on something, but it will take the juggernaut some time to adjust.

In the meantime, let’s wait and see a bit to see if Wizards releases any more official information. Remember, you might think that Hasbro is a “big evil mega-corp”, but they’ve been selling toys for nearly a 100 years (if not more). They must be doing something right, or we wouldn’t still be buying them, right?

Until next time…

Game excellently with one another.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

World Building: Smokefire Bay

I have recently been privileged to work on a world building project with some of my fellow bloggers at the Role-Playing Game Blogger’s Network. The project site is here. So far, a lot of the development I’ve seen seems to be quite creative and diverse. The campaign setting is “system neutral” so when it’s complete, you should be able to use it whether you’re running a D&D campaign, or some other game system.For my own part, I’m documenting three different areas; all within an area called “Smokefire Bay“. Beyond the bay itself, I’ll be covering a place called “Smokefire Island”, a coastal city called, “The Free City of Helmsport”, and a dungeon area known as the “Mosswind Caverns”. In the coming weeks, I’ll keep you updated on the development of these areas. I’m hoping that once everyone has completed work on their part of the project, we’ll be able to publish it in some form that everyone can share in equally.

For my first update, I wanted to share with you the map that I completed for the Smokefire Bay area. The map was designed in a program called “Autorealm“. This program is great for designing campaign maps, and best of all…it’s free! After the map was drawn, I imported the file into Macromedia’s Fireworks (I’m using an older version of the program, I actually believe this is an Adobe product now), and entered the text of the map using that program (it has a better refresh rate, and I could manipulate the text the way I wanted.

Well, that’s enough jabbering. Without further ado, here’s the map: (click on the map, to see it full sized)

Until next time…Game excellently with one another.


Part idiot. Part old man. All geek. R.M. Walker, who can be found in numerous places on the internet as “DeadOrcs”, is a long time gamer with some 30 years experience playing RPGs. Despite occasional forays into the bizarre, Randall has always come back to Dungeons & Dragons.


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About DeadOrcs

R.M. Walker, who can be found in numerous places on the internet as “DeadOrcs”, is a long time gamer with some 30 years experience playing RPGs. Despite occasional forays into the bizarre, Randall has always come back to Dungeons & Dragons.

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