Cannibal Halfling Radio Episode 19: In-game Incentives

How do you encourage players to engage with the game? How do you bribe, er, guide them into certain habits? How can the players do the same for the GM? Where do designers fit in all of this? Aki, Aaron, and Seamus are plenty incentivized to figure it out!

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Intellectual Property for Gamers

The biggest piece of news in the RPG world so far in 2023 has been OGL 1.1. Wizards of the Coast announced a revision to the Open Gaming License for Dungeons and Dragons back in December, and then earlier this month a copy of the new license, OGL 1.1, was leaked to the gaming press. As of last week, the full text of the leaked license is available for anyone to read. While the terms of OGL 1.1 are simply worse for third party creators than OGL 1.0a, the previous version of the agreement, the worst part of the whole thing is the attempt to ‘de-authorize’ OGL 1.0a, a move which, if deemed legal, could threaten the futures and possibly even the back catalogs of dozens of creators. With the stakes that high, there has been an outcry on social media directed towards Wizards of the Coast and its parent company Hasbro. Among that outcry, though, is a lot of armchair legal work which is only confusing matters.

There are really only two things that need to be understood about what’s going on with the new version of the OGL. First, OGL 1.1 is a problem for game designers because it gives Wizards of the Coast a lot of control over licensees’ work, and takes away licensing rights which many designers assumed would be there in perpetuity because of the earlier version of the agreement. Second, intellectual property law and contract law, which cover what goes on both in and around the OGL and games affected by it, are both arcane enough that nothing about the new agreement’s legality, applicability, or enforceability is truly known unless a case goes to court. With that said, let’s take a look at intellectual property law and why it’s particularly weird for games.

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For RPGs, storytelling will win

Role-playing games were initially an offshoot of wargames. What made them different was first a question of scale, moving down from military units to single combatants, and then a question of intent, aiming to play out scenarios with more ambiguity than a classic side versus side battle scenario. As soon as the RPG medium began spreading out from its origin, many people other than wargamers saw the promise that these games held. Science fiction and fantasy fans flocked to RPGs, driven by the promise of new stories and new paracosms that could be created with the games. They were the largest influx into the hobby until the Basic D&D Red Box completely opened the floodgates in 1981.

Now, at the beginning of 2023, the influence of the RPG is seen a little differently. Sure, we’re still over here with our books and dice, but over the last fifty years or so RPGs carved a path through interactive media, permanently changing the board game, wargame, and video game hobbies. In the same way, these hobbies, no younger than the RPG at their youngest, have changed the RPG. The world of games, in a broad sense, is different, and that means the RPG fits into that world differently. With the constant growth and innovation happening across the tabletop games industry and across entertainment, it’s clear that the differentiator in RPGs is story.

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Crowdfunding Carnival: January, 2023

Happy new year! First month of the year, first week of the month, that means it’s time for a Crowdfunding Carnival! We’re in the post-holiday doldrums, for sure, and between the solstice season behind us and ZineQuest ahead of us, there aren’t many games being crowdfunded right now. Fear not! I did find a few. At the same time, there’s a whole new year ahead of us, like a blank character sheet. Now seems like a great time not only to look at the games which ran out of the 2023 starting gate, but also at what I think 2023 will bring for RPG crowdfunding in general.

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A Return to PAX Unplugged (2022 Quick Recap)

PAX Unplugged returned to Philadelphia this year, marking the fifth time the convention has taken place. I was fortunate enough to attend this year, making it the third year I’ve managed to go. Before I begin, I want to take a moment to thank the organizers for a few things: One, for continuing to choose Philadelphia as the site. I think that the area and community are an excellent fit with abundant transportation, housing, and food for a bunch of tabletop nerds, along with a city that prides itself on inclusivity. Philadelphia has gotten some bad press as of late, but I never felt anything but safe and welcome as I walked through, to, and from the event space.  Second, I want to thank them for the amount of logistics and cat wrangling it takes to get a group of tabletop gamers to do anything. My GMing has increased since my last visit to the convention, and with it so has my appreciation for the work that it takes to get this rolling each year. This year, the team made sure that getting through the door was about as pain free as possible despite requiring proof of vaccination along with the necessary ticketing and security checks for entry. So I absolutely want this convention to keep going. 

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A Glimpse Into The Vault: Andor

In the aftermath of a great storm, a wolf has appeared outside the walls of the city of Rietburg. Her cubs are missing, having fled into the mines on the edge of the kingdom. A band of heroes set out to find and rescue them, but it won’t be a simple journey. Mart, the bridge guard, needs help with various tasks before he will let anyone cross the bridge over the river and into the mines. Gors are emerging from the mountains, slouching towards Rietburg every night. Worst of all, in the clouds left above a fell dragon approaches the city – if it gets there before the heroes can finish the rescue, they’ll have to abandon their efforts. Designed by Inka and Markus Brand and published by Thames & Kosmos, this is Andor: The Family Fantasy Game!

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