Fortune Cards, my two cents…

There’s been a storm in the Twitterverse and the Blogosphere, a storm of FORTUNE! (Fate would have sounded much cooler, thanks designers at WotC for ruining my opening line; you are the cause of all evil!) Well that does seem a little bit extreme, but I had NO idea what the D&D Fortune Cards until I started reading tweets about them. So I went to the Internet to find out what they were and found this.

I don’t play D&D 4th edition anymore and have only marginally kept up with the newest incarnation of Gamma World where similar cards seem to come from. I try not to write about D&D much since I don’t play, and my last rant on 4th edition was a little angry. So I’ll follow Newbie DMs advice oven on Twitter and take a deep breath.

The thing is, I don’t think the idea of the Fortune Cards is bad per se. I recently wrote a post about Paizo’s Plot Twist Cards and the use of that sort of tools in the game. From what I read, and the two samples posted in the webpage, Fortune Cards are aimed at enhancing combat. I think circumscribing them to just combat is a missed opportunity. Other similar tools like the Plot Twist Cards, the Swashbuckling Cards, or the old TORG Drama Deck, are designed to enhance combat and role-playing, they engage the player in the storytelling.

Making the cards combat oriented also reinforces the view that D&D is a combat game and not a true role-playing game. I don’t agree with that statement, you can role-play with any rule system, even a combat heavy one. And besides I think they are gearing their product to their target audience, obviously if you are playing D&D 4th edition you enjoy the way the game is nowadays. Will the idea of Fortune Cards slow down combat? I have no way of knowing, but from using similar products I don’t believe they would be a major complication to players used to the system.

Which brings me to another point Newbie DM made that I agree with (and I paraphrase here) Wizard of the Coast produces D&D to make money, just like all other game companies, and they have the right to make money of their products as best they see fit. I recently read a column by Javier Grillo-Marxuach on his year without Star Wars which only tangentially has to do with what I’m writing about (and happens to be a great read), but makes the point that as attached as we might be to something the owner/creator can do with it as they please. We have NO say about WotC does with D&D; all we can do is play the games we like and support the companies that produce the games we enjoy.

Having said all that (and can you believe all that was a disclaimer so I could finally rant!) I think there is one thing WotC may be doing wrong. Well two… First of all making the cards collectible, i.e. random, and having different levels of rarity. I guess there must be some crossover market between role-players and collectible card gamers, but I don’t think every single D&D player is a CCG collector or vice versa. I’ve played the collectible game before, with CCG in the distant past and with the D&D miniatures recently. With the minis at first I did not mind, heck copies of extra minis just expanded my collection, but it came to a point where I could no longer rationalize getting 10 pig carrying peasants searching for a beholder, so I gave up.

From the echoes out there in the Internet I gather many D&D fans are not too keen on the collectible aspect, of the miniatures in the past and the upcoming Fortune Cards. WotC must have other data; after all they are still in the CCG business. But they did drop the completely random minis and tried another strategy, which apparently did not work as well either. Still the collectible Fortune Cards are a smaller investment, is not a requisite for playing and they believe it can enhance a players enjoyment so more power to them if they can sell it to the fans.

The one thing that did bother me was this quote from the Fortune Cards page: “For some Wizards Play Network programs aimed at experienced players, Fortune Card purchase will be a requirement to participate, but our broadly-appealing programs like D&D Encounters will feature their use without such a requirement.” How will dealing with random Fortune Cards challenge experienced role-players? I can understand this for CCG, but for an RPG? It just seems to be a way to make a quick buck, the cost of playing built into the buying of cards. Again they have the right to make money, but the rationale here, without further information on how it will works seems strange.

Still I don’t think the current economic environment supports this type of strategy. I can understand the need for a company to create a revenue stream and find new ways to sell their merchandise, but I believe the RPG market is better served by quality products, exciting rules and new ideas, not bells and whistles. I can’t wish them ill, I agree with the idea that a healthy D&D brand is good for the RPG business, that may be changing, but so many still associate D&D with RPGs in general that I hope them all the best.

But what do I know… I can’t blame them for trying to try new things, they want to entice new players to try out the game and I know that younger gamers may have different expectations. What do I know I’m just a grognard.

That’s my opinion, your may be different, and I would sure love to hear it!

PS – A big thanks to Newbie DM, I learned of the Fortune Cards from his tweets and he made some excellent points, even if I don’t agree with all of them. ¡Gracias!

6 thoughts on “Fortune Cards, my two cents…”

  1. I take issue with the "Wizard of the Coast produces D&D to make money, just like all other game companies, and they have the right to make money of their products as best they see fit" notion. We have extant examples of companies that interact with their supporters, with a better product as the result. There used to be an idea that a business would treat its customers well in order to retain their business and build a positive reputation; that idea mostly seems to have gone out the window, with the exception in the gaming world of companies like Paizo. While it is WotC/Hasbro's right to ram products down our throats however they please in an effort to force the market into the mold they want, that doesn't make it the best practice. Nor does that eliminate our right to be displeased with their methods and to express this displeasure. "Like it or lump it" doesn't fly with me.

  2. Andrew, I agree, we do not have to take it. I was trying to be a little facetious. But at the same time I don’t pretend WotC will change their strategy because I write a Blog or post in a forum. I agree that many corporations have forgotten that treating their client base right is the best way to keep them spending money on their product, as common sense as that may be. And we can certainly be displeased, but despite having written a post about it I spend little time thinking about WotC because they are not a company I spend my money in, I buy products from companies that make games I like, which means WotC has no need to heed my voice, they already lost me…
    Tanks for the post, it’s always fun to talk about the rpg industry.

  3. I've been using the similar Adventure cards in my Savage Worlds games and it's been fun. Of course, these are easily affordable pdf documents I print myself. Going the way of CCGs will be fun for some (who like collecting and have larger budgets to play with) and not for others.

    On the "economy", I wonder if publishing too many products doesn't encourage piracy. You create a need for product in people who can't afford it (say, teens) and your stuff might just end up as a torrent.

  4. I just don't know what to think about "right to make money". What??? lol Really? I'm sure they have the freedom to produce, but they certainly don't have any rights to revenues whatsoever… if they make a shitty product, then they have the right to go bankrupt.

    I think the problem is exactly that: the company.

    It's a glorified publishing house disguised as a "game" company.

    They took from 'boxed sets' to White Wolf's method. It worked fine for 3rd ed. Problem is: it gets either old or pretty much…done? So what's next: ('Madonna method')- reinvention. Rewrite the whole ordeal all over again and charge $35 per book again. But this time, make the books shorter and fill em up with more pictures than text. It's eyecandy sure, but… 3 Player Handbooks? 3? Really? LOL

    They had cards for Dragonlance Fifth Age, that didn't bode so well…wonder why do they keep trying. Sounds like Magic The Gathering producers are having a say in this. Funny how it's casually all in the same company.

    I'll keep treating it like I treat Music, I may have loved the old stuff but if your new album sucks I will not buy it.

  5. I think that making them collectible is saving them cost. I know that seems radical, but hear me out for a moment.

    WOTC spent a lot of money making the Power Cards for common use back when 4E was launching. They spent money in developing a new packaging, die cutting, and organizing the sets of cards. Also the spit hired labor to check for errors in the sets. It's a lot to do, and it's goes against their current model to do so.

    By making their cards "Collectible", however, it allows the company to use the already existing Magic the Gathering distribution method. No costs are lost for building new boxes. The distribution of the cards are already pre-programmed and the equipment is already set. No additional oversight against errors is needed.

    I am sure that someone thought of a box set at some point, but the main point is that for them it's cheaper to distribute the cards like they distribute Magic Cards, as it doesn't add to costs to do so. Like it or not, it does make sense.

  6. Cards in D&D aren't at all a bad idea, if you want to replace dice with something more strategic/less dramatic but in this form… I don't know, seems there would be less brand rot if they made 4th edition as the Magic the Gathering RPG expansion, and left D&D alone until they wanted to make something in the spirit of the classics, rather than slowly morphing D&D into something it wasn't and then glomming on collectibles and splat books.

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