A Walk in the Dark A look in to the mind of an RPG designer

27Nov/12Off

Continuing Education

Yesterday I posted about an apparent issue I had with Wizards of the Coast regarding their organized play program.

As it turns out the reason I can no longer access my events is because the FLGS changed owners; I haven't been there for a month (been busy moving in to a new home), but although I was aware it was going to happen I didn't think it happened so soon. Apparently I need to get authorization from the new owners to run any events there. Since I am currently without a car, that will have to wait.

That explanation is acceptable, but I have to admit the manner in which they handled it really needs a lot of work. The reason wasn't vocalized to me until I was locked out, submitted a customer service ticket and had it "escalated". Furthermore, sending an email to me saying in effect "we think you're a fraud" and that I need to be "educated", and then simply locking out my account without any warning, is definitely inappropriate and just not cool.

WPN, conceptually anyway, is a great concept. It works really well for WotC's bread and butter product - Magic: The Gathering - but I don't think it works as intended for D&D. The purpose of the program is to get people in the store to spend money on the product; sure it's conceivable for someone to be buying a new M:TG booster pack every week, but it's really hard to imagine someone buying a new D&D product just as often. Maybe I'm mistaken on this, but how often do the players participating in a D&D Encounters game change from week to week? Do you really get that amount of new blood in the middle of the campaign? Do they buy product from the store or do nothing more than take up space (at least from the store's point of view in terms of business revenue)? How often do the participants buy something in or out of the store?

In my opinion, I agree that WotC should promote in store play as much as possible in order to help the local business but they should not lock out anyone who is trying to run a game outside of the store. Right now, unless you're a WPN event coordinator bound to a store, you have no access to the Encounters and Lair Assault packages and are simply not allowed to run it at an alternate venue (anything from the library to your own home). I'm not saying it should be that way right out of the gate - having a new product only available in stores encourages would-be players to go there - but eventually that product should be available for anyone to run it. In a few months I should be able to buy War of Everlasting Darkness for the regular ticket price of an adventure, not for $200 or more on eBay.

Anyway, until I can sort out my transportation issue, go to the store and visit the new owners, I will remain blocked from doing anything WPN related. Life goes on, I guess...

Filed under: 4e, DnD, Live Play, RPG 1 Comment
26Nov/12Off

Lack of Education

Seems like Wizards of the Coast *really* doesn't like me...

A few weeks ago, on October 31st, I received the following email from Wizards of the Coast through their customer support site.

The subject line of the message is - and I'm not making this up - "Education Letter"...

10/31/2012

David Flor
[Address Omitted]
United States

Dear David Flor,

The Wizards Investigation Committee is sending this letter to follow up on the recent phone call you received from your WPN Representative. This phone call covered ways to avoid the conduct listed below in your future Wizards Play Network activities.

• Fake Events
• Event Result Manipulation
• False/Incorrect Reporting - WER
• Fake/Falsified Player

We are aware that many violations of event policy are due to a lack of knowledge of proper WPN procedures. This letter serves as confirmation that your WPN representative has educated you on proper WPN procedures in order to avoid these issues.

If any of the above issues detailed in this letter were not covered or clearly explained we strongly encourage you to contact your WPN representative with any additional questions. We appreciate your cooperative efforts.

Wizards Investigation Committee
Wizards of the Coast

First off, the ticket was entered in the system and immediately flagged as "Solved", so there is no discussing it. Secondly, they provide no phone number in order to talk about anything; I tried to look for one through the site, but the only form of contact is through email or through the customer service site (I ran in to this problem before).

Finally, let me go on record and state that I never received a call from any WPN Representative, so I have no idea what they are talking about. I considered the above letter a nonsensical warning, a form letter sent to most event coordinators at some point as a deterrent. The events that I have sanctioned through the Wizards Event Reporter - and I admit there hasn't been a lot of them, and it's been a while since I've been able to run anything due to real life situations  - have been genuine and with real players.

So I effectively ignored the letter.

Well, a week ago I suddenly find myself unable to log in to the Wizards Event Reporter or the WPN website. At first glance it appears I have been locked out of sanctioning any more events and reporting on events already in the system.

I have contacted WotC customer service. I am hoping this is an error on my end, such as a bad or forgotten password, and that it's not what I fear: that I have been flagged as a false reporter and banned from coordinating any events, without any further notification from Wizards of the Coast.

As soon as I learn more, I'll let you know.

Have any of you been "educated" in this manner? Has Wizards of the Coast questioned your integrity with such force?

-=O=-

UPDATE 11/27/2012: It turns out that I've been blocked from running events at the store because the store has a new owner. You can read the details in my supplemental post, Continuing Education.

Filed under: DnD, Live Play, RPG No Comments
14Nov/12Off

The Absent-Minded Alchemist

A couple of months ago some of us had an idea for a special project, but due to our lives getting a little more complicated than we had planned that project has yet to develop. Maybe some day it will, but not now.

I had created a short, two encounter side trek/delve for this project, which I am now releasing under the name The Absent-Minded Alchemist. The delve developed from an hook presented by The Angry DM through Twitter, and I simply couldn't get the idea out of my head for a few days so I went ahead and wrote it up.

Here is the intro text:

     The great alchemist Zaelin has made quite a reputation for himself in these parts. Although he makes quality alchemical mixtures, potions and other items he is noticeably absent-minded and, in some cases, careless about how he goes about creating these mixtures. He’s had his share of accidents, ranging from injuring half a dozen apprentices to destroying a large portion of his home.

     Most recently Zaelin has gotten in to the nasty habit of disposing of his failed mixtures simply by pouring them down the drain. Over time these highly volatile mixtures have eaten through the city’s sewer system and accumulated in the ground beneath his feet. There, the other smaller residents of the city – the countless rats that live underground – have been exposed to these alchemical mixtures and have been the victims of some rather nasty side effects.

     Now Zaelin has a problem: his basement is full of rats, but these aren’t the normal rats he’s use to. They have been infused with alchemical energies by his own hand, and they are too many of them for the hapless wizard to deal with himself.

     If only a group of adventurers could come by and deal with the problem...

Hope you enjoy!

The Absent-Minded Alchemist on Drive Thru RPG

2Nov/12Off

Open Call for Playtesters

So I was able to successfully "finish" A Night in Seyvoth Manor by Halloween... But you may notice the quotes around the word "finish".

The module needs work, lots of it. Editing is the most apparent concern, but beyond that I have genuine concerns over the mechanics of the thing and whether the adventure (1) works, and (2) is fun. The only way to determine answers to that is to actively play it amongst a group. And since I don't have any local groups that would allow me to subject them to my DM-ing abilities, I turn to the Internet.

I have created another blog - http://pbp.brainclouds.net/ - in which I have place an open call for playtesters to do an online play-test of A Night in Seyvoth Manor. Right now it's the best I can do, and the best way I can think of to resolve the personal worries about creating an adventure style I'm frankly not use to.

So who's interested? Head on over to the other blog and read the details, then if you like whip up a 6th level character (guidelines are posted) and send it my way. If we get enough interest, we'll give it a go.

Thanks for your support!

Filed under: Uncategorized No Comments
1Nov/12Off

Feelings of Dread

So A Night at Seyvoth Manor is technically complete!

My original plan was to make it a release specifically for Halloween, but after a few minor setbacks (personal distractions, as well as one day losing the entire InDesign file to a corrupted drive) it seemed like it was highly unlikely t make it by then. But, amazingly enough, it did; I finished the last room at about 7PM on Halloween day. So it's ready to be released, right?

Not exactly, no.

You see, it hasn't gone through a lick of editing. And I've read through some parts of it, and it's quite a hurried mess as far as the writing is concerned. The mechanics might be all in place, but things like misspellings, contradictions between rooms, bad choice of words that make things hard to understand, simply wrong lore, etc... Things like describing the room have always been the hard part for me.

Plus, it hasn't been adequately playtested, which is something that's been a problem in anything I write. A module like this, one that defies the standard conventions of making balanced encounters, kind of requires a great deal of testing. I don't have an immediate means of testing this, so I'm up in the air as far as how many elements of it will play at the table. For example, putting a time limit on the adventure is virtually impossible without actually playing it.

Finally, I'm now faced with my own personal fears of releasing a product that is not perfect. I'm a perfectionist in that sense, and that's both a blessing and a curse most of the time. I become self-conscious of everything that I write, fearing that when I release it people are going to think it sucks and I'll be forced to crawl back in to my cave in humiliating defeat.

So now I'm torn on what to do. I can edit it some and release it, but for all I know it may be "broken". I can find playtesters, but that will delay release and no longer make the produce seasonal (which may or may not matter). I am also considering running it myself in a play-by-post format, but that's also a time consideration. And part of me wants to release for free just because I can, but the other part of me wants to put it up for sale for a small amount... like a buck (everyone tells me I suck at putting a price on my own stuff, so I might as well keep the tradition going).

So what would you do in my shoes? And anyone out there interested in participating in a play-by-post game of this?