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Author Topic: Kirt's Standard Rant #1: Metaplots  (Read 17974 times)
eyebeams
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Posts: 93


« Reply #45 on: August 12, 2003, 08:54:28 AM »

I'm not going to go into the rest of the stuff regarding your feelings on Indie games because it's off-topic for this thread. If you want to create a thread regarding "pro vs. indie relations", feel free, tho you already know my opinion from LJ -- I think the distinction you make between "pro" and "amateur/indie" is so thin as to be meaningless.

Then you shouldn;t have gone into it in the fisrt place.

In essence, it comes down to your assertion that metaplots must be good because they sell.

No, that wasn't it. My assertion is that people find metaplots valuable and attractive and that sales show that they do so on a consistent basis.

* Sales have nothing to do with quality.

Quality per se has nothing to do with my argument. It's utility. Metaplots have utility for lots of players.

* Even if I believed that sales indicated quality, I dispute the fact that they sell because you have no hard numbers to back this up.

You can find Ken Hite's annual bredown of industry sales in his Out of the Box column, as I mentioned before. White Wolf has about 20% to a quarter of the market. This is common knowledge.

Hell, I can give two examples of heavily-metaplotted games that aren't going quite so well nowadays: Deadlands and, as others mentioned in this thread, Tribe 8.

Tribe8 was never going to be a mainstream success. Deadlands *was* a mainstream success; it catapulted PEG to the top 5 until the Cybergames fiasco a few years back.

* And even if I concede all the points above, and believe that sales matter and indicate quality, it still proves nothing, because we have no way of knowing why the "metaplot" supplements in question were purchased -- they could have been bought for reasons other than the metaplot, such as art or extra rules.

I'm pretty sure lots of folks buy books for the metaplot. If metaplots were so problematic, they would break a purchasing decision and not be ignorable (which is what you originally claimed by citing another thread here), but they don't. They seem to either do no harm or enhance value for most gamers.

Sales of White Wolf metaplot-oriented books at GenCon arguably have more to do with marketing than actual content.

As I said before, one book that sold out rapidly (Manifesto) had no promotion at Gen Con, was 9 months old and was pure metaplot. There were probably others, but I kept my eyes on that one because that's a book where a few folks trotted out the complaints you're on about now. Apparently, around a hundred or so people begged to differ.

That is, I agree that guidelines for applying metaplots are lacking in most metaplots, which is why I keep saying -- over and over again -- that I am not against metaplots per se, but that I am against BAD metaplots. Not including guidelines for how a metaplot should work is an example of something a "bad" metaplot would do.

I think metaplots could be improved with guidelines, but even without them people seem to have no problem applying common sense and the needs of their game -- a given in all RPG play. This given doesn;t mafail to apply to metaplots.

The only thing I disagree with above is the "community building" thing. In my experience, metaplots don't build community -- they fracture it.

Then I would say that your experience isn't representative.

At its most basic level, there's those who want to remain within "canon" and those who don't, and then there several sub-groups within each of those categories, depending on how one feels about certain elements of the metaplot, such as, to use Vampire as an example, the difference between those who ignore the death of Ravnos and those who don't allow Camarilla Malkavians to have Dementation -- different levels of respect for "canon".

But these people still talk to each other. That's what communities do.

I have experienced this in Traveller, in several White Wolf games, and with regard to Deadlands -- and that's just off the top of my head. Now, IIRC, you response to this on LiveJournal was "some people are jerks", to which I say: It's a problem even when people are polite about it. I've never dealt with a rude Deadlands player, but the factions and the friction happen nonetheless.

I've never seen the friction fail to happen when it comes to any RPG fanbase of any size whatsoever. GURPS people just argue about different things.

And what's that old saying about what happens when you assume things? See, once again, this is the difference between good and bad metaplot. Don't assume too much.

I think it's reasonable to assume that people will play take wonership of what heppens in play and adjust things accordingly.

The fact of the matter is, White Wolf aside, there are bad metaplots out there that DO tell you how to run your game. Seriously. Ever read any Deadlands stuff? I own Deadlands supplements (Hell on Earth supplements, specifically) that explicitly say things like "don't kill this NPC, we have plans for him later."

They're letting you know ahead of time that the NPC is a part of the storyline. What real, play-impacting concern is keeping you from killing him and slotting a different NPC or PC into the role?

See, you seem to make the implicit assumption that all my points are about the White Wolf metaplot, and that all metaplots resemble the ones you've worked on. They aren't and they don't. In some ways,White Wolf got things right. In other ways, they didn't.

You defined what you want instea of what you see right now, and that basically includes most published metaplots. WW's is illustrative of why metaplots are written the way they are, but this stuff can apply to most others.

(This speaks to the other problem I was having with you on LiveJournal -- you seem to think your experience holds for all games and gamers, and this simply isn't the case.)

I believe my statements are more representative of how gamers use metaplots than yours, because of both broad and anecdotal information.

Well, I think all I can say is I have more sympathy, and that disregarding canon isn't as easy as you claim, because it becomes a big social issue.

Why? Have you really lost friends and games over this, and if so, do you really think such extreme reactions are braodly representative of anything. If you do, why?

This I can agree with -- that is, that "bigness" becomes a problem. So we can add this to the list of the problems with metaplot.

"Bigness" is a function of the number of things that comprise one element of a game, and as my statement obviously intends, does not apply to metaplots alone.

That said, I disgaree about the non-viability of selling just a core rulebook, or selling supplements that aren't metaplot. However, this is off-topic for this thread. If you want to argue about the commercial viability of only selling a core rulebook and/or a metaplotless game, feel free to start another thread -- I'll happily participate.

You've made it clea that you don't think that feeding and housing the creator is a valid yardstick for success, so we just aren't going to see eye to eye, because I write stuff that feeds and houses me.
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Malcolm Sheppard
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #46 on: August 12, 2003, 09:00:05 AM »

Hello,

Everyone please refrain from line-by-line replies in this thread. See the Forge Etiquette sticky in Site Discussion if necessary.

Disagreement is OK; getting mad and snippy at one another is not. That's a warning, not an accusation.

Best,
Ron
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AnyaTheBlue
Member

Posts: 187


« Reply #47 on: August 12, 2003, 11:36:47 AM »

Quote from: eyebeams
The fundamental problem I personally have with metaplots is that they are adventures masquerading as setting details.

Adventures that are happening to characters that don't belong to my players.


Why don't you have them happen to your players instead, then? I really am interested: What's the psychological barrier here that keeps some people from just using the story arc as the adventure model it's designed to be?


I think the fact that you see it as a 'psychological barrier' is telling.  What psychological barrier do you have that keeps you from seeing how unwelcome and constraining a metaplot can be?

There are lots of factors that apply.  Here are some of them:

1) It requires MORE work than either using an adventure written to be used as an adventure, or writing a new adventure from whole cloth.

2) There are some players who will cry bloody murder that you aren't following Cannon.  No, this hasn't ended any friendships, but it has ruined gaming sessions for me (and others).

3) I don't have any players or established NPCs who fit into any of the available roles the metaplot assumes.

4) It lacks useful details about how the NPCs involved in them are interacting with PCs who have been swapped into a role that interacts with them, and the PC does something different than the scripted NPC who was there previously (see my point #1 above).

5) I find the metaplot uninteresting, while at the same time liking the overall setting and mechanics.

Does any of that help or make sense?  My criticism of metaplot is completely unconnected to whether or not metaplot makes a saleable product and to what target market it increases saleability.  I am a hobbyist.  I am heavily biased against metaplots, but heavily interested in well-crafted settings and systems.

The target market point is probably the crux of this whole discussion.  You and Xiomberg are probably both completely correct in your observations and experiences, even though they seem completely opposite.  But those observations and experiences are with entirely different demographic slices of the gamer market.  Yours are probably slanted towards a group which reacts to metaplot exactly as you have described.  Xiomberg's experiences sound like they closely mirror my own, and are largely metaplot-hostile.  If you could figure out how to make both groups happy simultaneously, you might have a bigger market.
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Dana Johnson
Note that I'm heavily medicated and something of a flake.  Please take anything I say with a grain of salt.
Valamir
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« Reply #48 on: August 12, 2003, 12:00:59 PM »

Malcolm, I gotta say that I think your idea about inserting the PCs into the metaplot instead of the stock NPCs is a great fix for the metaplot problem.

But to suggest as you have that that's the way its SUPPOSED to be.  That the meta plots were DESIGNED for that is rather disingenuous.  There is no possible way that I'll ever believe that dozens of prolonged lengthy metaplots have been carefully spooled out over the last decade and all of the writers just happen to forget to mention that the NPCs are meant only as place holders.  Such a scenario is so highly improbable that it doesn't hold any credibility with me.

Most of the NPCs in these metaplots are not designed to be place holders.  This is obvious because they are so specific that virtually no group would have a combination of characters capable of trading places with the NPCs in either abilities or background.  If the metaplot was truly meant as adventure ideas for PCs it would not be written as a meta plot.  

See Pendragon for book after book on how to design an extended story arc AROUND PCs right.  Lots of background on what the NPCs are doing.  Lots of plot hooks that can be mixed and matched as appropriate to the party.  Lots of suggestions on how to substitute a PC for Lancelot, or to insert them into canonical adventure in a way that matters.  Pendragon is a great example of what you're talking about.  WOD style metaplots...not so much.


I also find the idea that meta plot leads to community to be highly questionable.  All of my experience points to metaplot building walls.  Walls between "we're pure canon and you're not" players and "canon? this is roleplaying, we're making our own story here" players.  Not to mention the "the metaplot is broken so we're fixing it in our version of the world...but you didn't fix it in yours, so I'm never playing in your world, cuz it sucks if you don't fix this".

I've witnessed this first hand in L5R, 7th Sea, and Deadlands both in online groups and in "rival" groups at game stores.  I witnessed one group of L5R players nearly come to blows...literally...with another group because the 2nd group had killed off some fan favorite canonical NPC and was therefor playing "wrong".

Now granted this represents some fundamental disfunction at the group level.  But there are at least as many examples of meta plots causing community conflict as there are of metaplots building community.  

I myself have found the metaplot of 7th to be so egregiously stupid and vapid that after suffering through the first several splatbooks I said no more...these guys are hack wannabe novelists.  They suck as writers and could never get a real publishing house to publish one of their books, so they suckered an RPG company with low standards to print their drek instead.

A good metaplot can be a great asset to a game line, well done and well executed.

Problem is, most metaplots are not good.  They are not well done and they are not well executed.  Most metaplots are nothing but the bastard love children of horrible fan fic and vanity press.  This truth tends to tarnish the whole concept of metaplots for RPGs.

I don't think the *concept* of a metaplot is a horrible thing.  Just the execution of most of them.
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Gordon C. Landis
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« Reply #49 on: August 12, 2003, 12:45:16 PM »

Two things I'd toss out there as problematic for metaplots - one, what would help a set of metaplot books to be useful to play groups is NOT always the same as what helps the metaplot books be profitable for the company.  E.g., holding secrets for later books will, to a certain point, boost sales, but can often make the material harder for a play group to use (depending on the nature of the secrets and the style/manner in which they are concealed/revealed).  This conflict can be managed well, or not, but my experience (which is NOT particularly broad, mostly 7th Sea, Tribe 8, and a little Deadlands and Werewolf) is that mostly it's "not."

The second thing: I've seen several RPG writters acknowledge publically, and several more admit privately, that one reason unexpected stuff shows up in metaplot books is because that part of things just hadn't been invented yet.  Now, I won't pretend it's EASY to outline a metaplot in appropriate detail, but frankly - if they haven't even made a serious effort at that level of organization, I think they are doing themselves and their customers a disservice.  Not because what they end up producing is dreck - it might be, or not, and folks can and do obviously finds uses for it in either case.  No, I think they are doing a disservice because the impact of doing that (difficult, perhaps, and certainly not insignificant) up-front work would, IMO, be HUGE.

Then again, I'm not likely to become a big metaplot book customer, and I never was a huge one in the past, so I'm not sure what my opinion here is worth . . .

Gordon
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xiombarg
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« Reply #50 on: August 12, 2003, 01:55:20 PM »

[Off-topic aside: Malcolm, if you have any problem with the way I've handled myself here or elsewhere -- that is, if you have any sort of personal issue with me -- please feel free to take it up with me via Private Message or email. It's not on-topic for this thread. I'm hoping to keep this politer than LiveJournal because I actually have an interest in what you have to say.]

Malcolm, I think Ralph and Anya covered most of what I was going to say, and I'm interested in what you have to say in response to them.

As for your supposed hard numbers -- you're basing this all on the idea that White Wolf has 20% of the market? Um, I own TONS of White Wolf material that has little or no metaplot content, and so it returns to my original point that White Wolf's sales don't prove that those books are being purchased because of the metaplot. (And, as for your GenCon examples, two datapoints don't indicate a trend.) Your only response to that idea is this:

Quote
I'm pretty sure lots of folks buy books for the metaplot. If metaplots were so problematic, they would break a purchasing decision and not be ignorable (which is what you originally claimed by citing another thread here), but they don't. They seem to either do no harm or enhance value for most gamers.


"Pretty sure"? I don't want to risk descending into the flame war that happened on LiveJournal, but this ain't exactly the overwhelming evidence that you've claimed to have -- and I still don't see why your experience trumps everyone else on this thread.

I don't deny that you've had good experiences with a metaplot, or that anyone has. It's just that a lot of people haven't.

Now, along those lines, I don't deny Anya is right -- some people DO like metaplot. However, it does not change the fact that most metaplots are problematic at best, and could certainly be written for better usability, which is a succinct way of putting the point of my original rant.

Now, Malcom, you assert that my claim is that metaplots hurt sales. Not at all! I think BAD metaplots hurt sales, just like any sort of bad material hurts sales, but that isn't the issue.

See, it isn't about sales. It's about usablility. Other types supplements are easier to write and more easy to use than metaplots. Therefore, in my rant, I invite designers to reconsider doing metaplots at all, but if they do choose to do metaplots, I encourage them to design them for greater usability, especially for people whose experiences have been different than yours -- and, I think there is more than enough evidence on this thread and elsewhere that your experience does not hold for everyone.

Even if you're interested in supporting yourself exclusively through your RPG writing and are utterly convinced that you MUST do a metaplot because "metaplots sell", all I'm saying is that one should consider writing the metaplot so it's more useable in an actual game.

I don't understand how you can object so strongly to that.
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love * Eris * RPGs  * Anime * Magick * Carroll * techno * hats * cats * Dada
Kirt "Loki" Dankmyer -- Dance, damn you, dance! -- UNSUNG IS OUT
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #51 on: August 12, 2003, 02:46:27 PM »

Hi Kirt,

In support of your point, I'd like to add the following concepts.

1. A "sale" is not always a sale. The three-tier system permits a publisher to move many more books to distributors' warehouses than actually touch the fingers or are actually bought by end-users. Unsurprisely, reported sales figures

2. No role-playing publisher has demonstrably profited from the sustained "periodical" model of supplement publishing, whether for splatbooks or metaplot chapters. Ryan Dancey accurately calls it the "treadmill," and I specifically cite White Wolf and TSR (several times) for suffering badly from employing this strategy. Why these two companies are held up as flagships of success in the so-called industry has to do with brief subcultural fads, not with their publication models.

In other words, I think the commonly perceived notion that "metaplot sells" is inaccurate: an illusion sustained simultaneously among consumers and among retailers in an extremely negative relationship, to the detriment of both as well as to the publishers.

Walls of books on the retailer's shelf do not necessarily indicate profit for anyone. In most cases, they indicate debt.

Best,
Ron
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eyebeams
Member

Posts: 93


« Reply #52 on: August 12, 2003, 10:24:34 PM »

To respond to Ron:

1. Consumer sales may have a delayed impact, but they do always have an impact. Before the late 90s, some games were artificially bouyed, but that was by the sales of games from the same company. Once that ends, there's really no avoiding the impact of consumer slaes. case in point: Wraith.

Some companies do, on the other hand, still do this, if only for nostalgic reasons. Case in point: Caosium's RPGs and their relationship to its fiction.

In any event, it's stretching it a bit to claim that end sales and distribution are so different as to be inapplicable to the discussion at hand.

2. Publishers benefit from the so-called treadmill all the time -- so much so that WotC is eagerly climbing back on it. Monte Cook (who's the molst informed person who'd talk about it to the public) seems reasonably confident that 3.5 exists to spark another product cycle, and WotC's reexamining of class books and stated intent to wholly revise some books is indicative of this.

The difference between this and the serial publishing habits of the mid-90s is the repositioning of books as "sub-core" material to stave off the drop in sales. Because RPG consumers are a relatively static group now (they don't replace their numbers the way they used to), eventually the number of people who own a book is going to reach criitical mass. The sub-core appraoch broadens the number of people in this group that will buy these books.

If Ryan Dancey is right about something, it's the fact that RPG purchasers and players are two different things. Traditional serial supplements are, crassly, an attempt to keep the active buyer in a group buying books -- and it works. It may not work for companies that have printruns of under 2000 or so a supplement (such companies are much more vulnerable to fluctuations in the consumker base; 5 guys not buy out of 200 is a bigger deal than 5 guys not buying out of 10,000), but it does apply to more successful companies.

I don't think you can ascribe WotC and WW's positions at this point to brief fads, given that the DnD brand is creeping up on 30 and the WoD is over a decade old.
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Malcolm Sheppard
eyebeams
Member

Posts: 93


« Reply #53 on: August 12, 2003, 10:46:11 PM »

Xiombarg, to condense my replies somewhat:

1) I think slaes are a rough measure of whether people have found metaplots to be useful. People do in fact buy books with metaplot. They are useful.

2) Your rant defines "bad metaplot" broadly. Off the top of my head, the only one I can see would meet your criteria is the old Heavy Gear metaplot, which was in the format you stated you liked (updates unconnected to the basic setting or other expansions). DP9 apppears to have killed that, which tells you how viable it was.

But people are buying and using what you hate *all the time* -- more people, I wager, than the entire community+lurkers here (or at RPG.net, for that mattter).

3) Do you really, honestly believe that people are buying these books for the art, despite your assertion that the actual content is destructive? People may buy them for added systems, but in many cases, these systems only exist to support the metaplot (Time of Thin Blood).

If metaplots have an obvious bad effect you state, people wouldn't buy books with them. They do speak to usability. I don;t claim that you go out and say that they hurt sales. I claim that for your argument to make any sense, they *must* hurt sales. This is the oytcome that fits with the substance of your argument.

If you need further evidence of their community building and utility as a story element, then you can peruse the communities that talk about it. These communities are often argumentative, but not much more so than for other games. Y'see, people don't have to get along to constitute a community.

By "Pretty sure," I mean "really, really sure." I can only repeat that the raw data and specific examples are ther for public consumption, some of them overwhelmingly so.

4) I've already talked about how metaplots could be improved. These points are not compatible with yours, unless you wish to alter your initial statement. Your suggested alternatives have  been tried and failed to work well (like DP9's HG metaplot, or TSR's split between several settings).

5) How exactly can metaplots be problematic in spite of people liking them? This seems nonsensical to me.

Despite some people's personal preferences, it turns out that there is rhyme and reason to why metaplots work the way they do. If you objection is on personal aesthetic ground, that's valid -- but it does not necessarily have merit as a general statement.
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Malcolm Sheppard
eyebeams
Member

Posts: 93


« Reply #54 on: August 12, 2003, 10:49:34 PM »

You can definitely overdo that aspect of things. I think the benchmark for this is when it omits fundamntals of the setting. Brave New World apparently had this issue, as did earlier editions of Trinity.

On the other hand, it does at times work as a legitimate device, usually when it involves the outcome of surrent game history rather than a setting basic.

Quote from: Gordon C. Landis
Two things I'd toss out there as problematic for metaplots - one, what would help a set of metaplot books to be useful to play groups is NOT always the same as what helps the metaplot books be profitable for the company.  E.g., holding secrets for later books will, to a certain point, boost sales, but can often make the material harder for a play group to use (depending on the nature of the secrets and the style/manner in which they are concealed/revealed).  This conflict can be managed well, or not, but my experience (which is NOT particularly broad, mostly 7th Sea, Tribe 8, and a little Deadlands and Werewolf) is that mostly it's "not."

The second thing: I've seen several RPG writters acknowledge publically, and several more admit privately, that one reason unexpected stuff shows up in metaplot books is because that part of things just hadn't been invented yet.  Now, I won't pretend it's EASY to outline a metaplot in appropriate detail, but frankly - if they haven't even made a serious effort at that level of organization, I think they are doing themselves and their customers a disservice.  Not because what they end up producing is dreck - it might be, or not, and folks can and do obviously finds uses for it in either case.  No, I think they are doing a disservice because the impact of doing that (difficult, perhaps, and certainly not insignificant) up-front work would, IMO, be HUGE.

Then again, I'm not likely to become a big metaplot book customer, and I never was a huge one in the past, so I'm not sure what my opinion here is worth . . .

Gordon
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Malcolm Sheppard
eyebeams
Member

Posts: 93


« Reply #55 on: August 12, 2003, 11:07:36 PM »

Valamir and Anya:

As far as my experience as someone who actually works with metaplot, I can only think of two incidences where metaplot was designed with no thought for playability or the concept of the NPC as an exemplar for the PC. One of these hasn't been a going concern for roughly 5-6 years. The other one was actual fiction that was only adopted as metaplot after fans were fairly excited about it.

Since most metaplot material is written by freelancers, it sure as hell isn't vanity publishing or "frustrated novelists." That's really an ad hominem broadside, not a valid poiint.

When a signature character is fulfilling a PC role in a way a PC never could (and thus, you couldn't use an an example to spark play) then it isn't necessarily well written. But that's a mattter of technique, not form. When I write up cabals and Mage NPCs, they're there to demonstrate the breadth of concept you can get out of something, and provide an example that allows folks to plug in their own tools. Plus, of course, you can shoot at them. It they come up again, just toss in somebody new.

It really is that simple.

At times, this is ambiguous. I'm going to make a risky statement here, and one that will no doubt offend certain sensibilities:

It's supposed to be that way.

Remember how I've said that we assume that players take ownership of their games? This means that we don't dictate the precise function of a plotline or character for them either. We have lots of ways it can be interpreted, though, and a specific sequence of events. Experience has shown that for many, many players, it's much easier to provide a specific story arc for folks to adjust than vague story suggestions with a hardwired set of interpretations.
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Malcolm Sheppard
AnyaTheBlue
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Posts: 187


« Reply #56 on: August 12, 2003, 11:10:40 PM »

Quote from: eyebeams
To respond to Ron:
2. Publishers benefit from the so-called treadmill all the time -- so much so that WotC is eagerly climbing back on it. Monte Cook (who's the molst informed person who'd talk about it to the public) seems reasonably confident that 3.5 exists to spark another product cycle, and WotC's reexamining of class books and stated intent to wholly revise some books is indicative of this.
[snip]
Traditional serial supplements are, crassly, an attempt to keep the active buyer in a group buying books -- and it works.
[snip]
I don't think you can ascribe WotC and WW's positions at this point to brief fads, given that the DnD brand is creeping up on 30 and the WoD is over a decade old.


(Offtopic:  I'm not sure if editing your post, as above, constitutes the 'point by point' sniping disallowed by the Forge social contract.  If so, I appologize in advance)

Okay, so Wizards is attempting to crassly 'milk the cow' of the existing fanbase by releasing DnD 3.5.  Is this going to work?  For how long?  Why are they doing it?  Because they have market research that tells them it works, or because they have anecdotal wisdom that 'Metaplot Sells'?

You ascribe this sort of publishing treadmill as a reaction to the current marketplace, where there is little or no replacement of purchasers in the hobby.  Why has that happened?

Is it a reaction, or a cause?  I don't know, but I'm curious if you have data one way or the other stronger than anecdotal.  The only other industry I'm familiar with which has a similar demographics issue is the comic book industry.  And they now seem to perceive their treadmill rather differently than they did in the 80s when they were busy shooting themselves in the foot by focussing on the existing core market instead of focussing on bringing in and appealing to a larger group of people through innovation.

Part of what irks me about Metaplot/serial publishing stuff is that the crassness of it is obvious and insulting.  Sometimes the non-metaplot stuff is strong enough to be a benefit even if it comes with a 'metaplot surcharge'.  More often than not, it makes me avoid games with a heavy metaplot element altogether.

People keep saying that metaplot sells.  Well, it doesn't sell to me.  It doesn't sound like it sells to Xiombarg, either.  So who does it sell to?  And why?  And how useful is it to them, really?

Everybody's doing it and Wizards is doing it, so they must see some value in it, therefore it has a real benefit are not proof or hard numbers.  It's more speculation, with no more real validity than anything I've offered as my opinions on the subject.

Just like everything else, Metaplot is not a universal good, nor is it a universal evil.  But in my experience it is done poorly far more often than it is done well.  And many of the companies that seem successful while simultaneously focussing heavliy on metaplot are companies that don't get much, if any, of my business.  How many like me are out there?  You have no firm idea.  You may know how much you sell, but you don't know how much you don't sell.

As for brief fads:

Age doesn't imply robustness.  Pre-d20/DnD3E, how much D&D was being played?  How respected was the D&D Brand?  D&D peaked in the mid-to-late 80s, and lots of gamers gravitated away from it to other games because it wasn't giving them the experience they wanted.  That's how the game industry came to be, after all -- people trying to innovate beyond the rigid structure of D&D.  D&D was where you started, more often than not, as opposed to where you ended up.

In the 90s, Vampire caught on with the goth crowd.  This was a terrific boon, and seems to have honestly expanded the gaming market.  How many of those gamers remained gamers?  How many of them bought non-WoD products from WW?  I don't know.  How many Goths still play Vampire?  Heck, are there still Goths in the same way, or have the high school and college kids moved on to Japanese Anime subculture?

Call of Cthulhu is an older game than Vampire.  So are Gamma World and Traveller.  Are they as commercially successful as White Wolf's lines are?  Does their age equate to an equal or greater non-fad-ness as the WoD?

Think about this -- the simple fact that the hobby has stopped growing and replacing its members is an indication that Role Playing Games as we know them may be a fad.  If they weren't, they'd still be bringing more new people in than are leaving.

I'm not trying to say that you are wrong, eyebeams.  I'm trying to say that I think your opinions are only one view of the market, and not a complete one.  I agree that there is a market segment exactly as you describe.  I think there is another that is very different, and your attitude seems to be that it's either non-existent or unimportant.

Being someone who is both existent and who falls into this other group of the market, I have a (hopefully understandable) problem with that viewpoint.  And, as a freelancer who is trying to support a family, wouldn't you like to be selling things to me?
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Dana Johnson
Note that I'm heavily medicated and something of a flake.  Please take anything I say with a grain of salt.
AnyaTheBlue
Member

Posts: 187


« Reply #57 on: August 12, 2003, 11:30:06 PM »

Quote from: eyebeams
Valamir and Anya:

As far as my experience as someone who actually works with metaplot, I can only think of two incidences where metaplot was designed with no thought for playability or the concept of the NPC as an exemplar for the PC.
[snip]

Remember how I've said that we assume that players take ownership of their games? This means that we don't dictate the precise function of a plotline or character for them either. We have lots of ways it can be interpreted, though, and a specific sequence of events. Experience has shown that for many, many players, it's much easier to provide a specific story arc for folks to adjust than vague story suggestions with a hardwired set of interpretations.


Sigh.

Two words: Divis Mal.  How would you have replaced him with a different NPC (or PC)?  How would you have replaced him with a different NPC who had a different agenda?

All of the details you ascribe to the gaming public, I'm sure, applies to the share of the gaming public who avidly purchase metaplot heavy WW products regularly.

How much market share is that?  I think you said somewhere in the 20-25% of the gaming market.  What about the other 75-80%?  Would you like to sell to them?  Does metaplot work with them as a selling point?

75% is definitely bigger than 25%, so I guess I have to question your assertions that people like them.  Perhaps only 25% of the people like them?

Finally (yes, I do eventually shut up :) ), you think sales is a rough measure that metaplot sells.  That's patently false.  If the books had no rules, but only metaplot info in them, well, then you could make that argument.  But if you have a mix of material in the book, then you don't know why people bought it.  You could just as easily say that it's putting rules expansions and NPC stats in there that sells, as opposed to the metaplot.

D&D3E core books has no metaplot, yet they seem to have sold well.

As always, all IMHO.
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Dana Johnson
Note that I'm heavily medicated and something of a flake.  Please take anything I say with a grain of salt.
contracycle
Member

Posts: 2807


« Reply #58 on: August 13, 2003, 12:06:01 AM »

I agree that sales cannot be used to draw the conclusion that a book's content has approval in any *particular* way.  Consumers are not clones who all make the same purchasing decision; you cannot assert that consumers made a particular decision that supports your point, becuase you do NOT know.

There are many potential motivations for the purchase: collectors completeness, defending yourself against rules citations in material you don't own, expanded locations and history, expanded mechanics.  The proerty is a brand and consumer identification with a brand is quite complex.

It simply is not the case that you can easily and comfortably claim that metaplot works have sufficient approval *as metaplot works* to be viable.  I think the fact that the pool of players is not refreshing indicates a severe pathology and should provoke much questioning of the extant model.And the consistency of peoples reports negative experiences cannot be disregarded either: I know people who have not contact with internet gaming culture and yet produced a carbon copy of the charge against WOD that the metaplot made them feel like tourists.  It's not just some internet meme floating about or sour grapes.
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eyebeams
Member

Posts: 93


« Reply #59 on: August 13, 2003, 07:35:47 AM »

(Double post- moderator please remove, since it won't seem to let me do it)
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Malcolm Sheppard
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