Scenario Reward Inflation
A little while ago I came up with a theory about rewards in scenarios. I thought it was pretty good, so I thought I'd compose an email outlining my theory, and then send that email to a variety of games companies.
(I have to confess at this point that I might not have been totally serious).
I won't bother explaining more, because I think the email explains it all. Here it is.
Dear Sir, Madam, or Other*,
Firstly, can I introduce myself. My name is Jonny Nexus**, and I'm the editor of Critical Miss, the magazine for dysfunctional roleplayers (http://www.criticalmiss.com). You might have heard of us, but most likely haven't. (If you do a search for us on Google, you'll find links to us from a large number of websites, although since many of those are in foreign languages they might just be saying what complete wankers we are).
I'm sending this email to a number of companies who produce D20 scenarios, in order to research a theory I've come up with. I'd be very grateful*** if you could aid me by letting me know your thoughts on this theory. My intention is to put together an article which outlines first the theory and then the opinions of companies such as yourselves.
My theory is pretentiously titled "the inevitability of scenario reward inflation in a non-monopolistic competitive scenario production environment".
Which basically means:
Before 3rd Edition D&D, the D20 initiative, and the OGL (Open Gaming License) the only people who could produce "official" D&D scenarios were its publishers, Wizards of the Coast. Since a roleplaying campaign is basically locked into a single game system, this basically produces a non-competitive environment - once the gamesmaster has chosen which system he or she wishes to use.
But, since the OGL and D20, everything has changed. Now, when a party has completed one scenario, and the GM is in his FLGS looking to purchase the next scenario, he has a choice. Several dozen companies are offering D20 scenarios, and that D20 logo gives them an air of being "official" - of at least "officialish".
So why would a gamesmaster choose one particular scenario over another? Well it is my belief that the wishes of the players carry great weight here. A gamesmaster has to run a campaign which the players wish to play in, or there is no game. Imagine the following dialogue:
GamesMaster: "Okay, the next scenario will be a Wizard's one called ---"
Player 1: "Bollocks! Not a Wizard's one! The last one of those we played, we damn near got our nuts burnt off by a Dragon - and all for a measly 200 GPs!"
Player 2: "Yeah, why can't we do a scenario by that other company, you know, the ones who did that scenario about the flying castle?"
GamesMaster: "What, the one where you found a vault containing 10,000 platinum pieces and an armoured flying waggon?"
I think you get my drift here. In an environment where companies are competing to get gamesmasters to buy their scenarios, I believe there will be an inevitable temptation to add additional rewards to the scenario in order to get players "on their side".
I myself GMed a third-party scenario which included a sword worth 165,000 GPs and a treasure room containing 20,000 GPs. Luckily the PCs didn't realise the value of the sword, and never found the treasure room, or they would have ended up richer than their tiny minds could handle****.
A member of the Critical Miss editorial team, General Tangent, has pointed out the competion could also cause problems in the area of prestige classes. Sourcebooks containing prestige classes (e.g. a guide to playing crossbowmen for example) are generally aimed at players, and there may well be a temptation to produce "over-effective" prestige classes in order to make a sourcebook attractive to players. But that's this theory, not mine, so I won't mention it further (although you, of course, are welcome to).
So to get to the point, my question to you is this:
Do you believe that the competitive environment that now exists in the D20 scenarios market will result in a gradual increase, over time, of the rewards, both financial and magical, that scenarios offer to player characters?
Personally, I think that in five years time, the average litter of semi-feral pigs will be packing a thousand GPs and "Grandma's magic ring" in their money box. But that's my opinion. I'd like to know yours.
I look forward to your reply.
Thanks in advance,
Jonny Nexus, Editor, Critical Miss Magazine
* Some of the companies I'm sending this to are on the West Coast of the USA, so I thought I'd better hedge my bets.
** All right, it isn't. It's a pseudonym. Like you hadn't guessed that?
*** When I say "very grateful" I do of course mean it in the formal British sense of the phrase, which stripped of the politeness wrapper, basically translates as "mildly appreciative". I'm not offering blow-jobs here.
**** The team consisted of three halflings on riding dogs, who travelled the world righting wrongs. Kindof like a miniature version of the A Team. If you had a problem and were really, really, desparate...
I sent this off to thirty-five companies, including Wizards of the Coast themselves.
I got eight replies.
Wizards weren't one of them.
But the replies I got were pretty good, better perhaps than I'd been expecting. To be honest, my theory was very tongue-in-cheek, but the replies, as well as containing quite a deal of humour, also contained a great deal of thought. (It might be that they thought I was a lunatic, but weren't 100% sure, so decided to play it safe and polite demolish the theory, instead of saying: "This is crap, and you need help!")
One of the emails we received was *very* interesting in fact, so interesting that he/she/it wished to remain anonymous, to avoid upsetting several games companies that he/she/it has had dealings with. This is of course something we were happy to comply with.
In fact when we read the email a second time we realised that we wanted to stay anonymous too, so that the previously mentioned games companies didn't get pissed off with us. It is of course not possible for a publisher to publish anonymously, even with a marketting budget as non-existant as ours. So, cowards that we are, we have replaced every reference to either a company or a product with "[CENSORED]".
We hope this does not interfere with your reading pleasure.
Here is the anonymous reply.
And here are the other seven:
Thanks to all those who replied, and yah boo sucks to all who didn't!
If you've got any thoughts about either the theory, or the replies, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 2002 Critical Miss Gaming Society