Between publishing the Pimp cardgame (glorifying violence against women! yay!) and the Digital Rights Management fiasco over at DriveThru, I honestly thought that White Wolf had used up its supply of stupid. But they were just getting started. Now they're trying to hit up the players of their games for $20 by suggesting that pay-for-play (such as LARP organizers asking for a cover charge to offset rental of a venue) is a violation of White Wolf IP unless all participants are members of the Camarilla. Basically, they're claiming that unless you cut the Camarilla in for a piece of the action, your game is somehow stomping on White Wolf's rights.
I first caught wind of this new development in a thread over at RPGnet, and I've read the original White Wolf forum post that started this mess. Now well-known geekblog Boing-Boing has an excellent summary and commentary on just how moronically counterproductive this whole idea is. I'm not a White Wolf fan, but this sort of thing really burns my britches for at least five reasons.
One reason given for this draconian change of policy is to insure quality of play. Motherfucker, please. Every story I've every heard about the Cam has been a tale of woe. All my informers indicate that the organization is a multidimensional clusterfuck comparable only to government bodies in terms of sheer incompetence, factional infighting, and general dickery. In other words, much like the RPGA circa 1992. There was a reason I stopped sending the RPGA my money back in the day.
Secondly, their story about pay-for-play being an IP violation just plain doesn't hold water. I've never seen a copyright or trademark issue that hinged on whether a profit was being made or whether money was changing hands. If I started printing Mickey Mouse T-shirts and giving them away for free then Disney would have just as much right to squash me as if I charged for them. They might have less motive, but the legal issues are unchanged. If you think I'm wrong ask yourself how much money was changing hands before the RIAA got up the butt of the filesharing community. Answer: none. Since whether money changing hands is irrelevant to the IP issue, we are left with two equally shitty possibilities: Either White Wolf is of the opinion that ANY game played with their books is an IP violation (A position that would be absolutely ridiculous. Imagine Hasbro trying to claim that they never intended anyone to actually play Monopoly without first coughing up an previously unmentioned licensing fee.) or they know they are full of shit and are trying to strong-arm folks into paying the twenty bucks and joining up.
Also, how does White Wolf expect to enforce or indeed even inform people of this policy? If Joe Blow buys a copy of the new World of Darkness corebook and recruits some friends, how does White Wolf know these people exist? Given that this policy is new, I'm certain that none of the WoD books printed recently have a End User License Agreement inside. (Grodd forbid EULA's start appearing in print RPGs. Any company that pulled that would be dead to me.) Seems that the only way to enforce this policy would be via a network of snitches. Perhaps they need to get an 800 number for grassing on rogue RPG groups. If they don't use spies, then this new policy essentially becomes a tax on those WoD fans net-savvy enough to know about it who are also honest enough to care. Should those poor bastards really bare the brunt of this nonsense?
And what does that 20 bucks get you? Considering that RPGA membership is free nowadays those twenty bucks better buy you a heck of a lot. My free RPGA membership allows me to organize official Living Greyhawk events in my home, yet White Wolf thinks it needs twenty bucks to dispense this priviledge even for non-sanctioned play? Funk dat. Even worse, I have been told by others than Camarilla membership grants admission to any Camarilla game. In other words I might have to let any goth freak catpiss man that shows up at my door into my game room? Man, double funk dat.
Finally, there's Justin Achilli. I don't know his exact position at White Wolf at the moment, but his Pen&Paper entry is a mile long. I like Mr. Achilli. He's a smart, funny guy whose presence contributes a lot to the RPGnet scene. But every time White Wolf pulls a boner like this he turns into a rapid attack dog, viciously flaming anyone who has the temerity to question White Wolf. And most unforgivingly of all, he stops being entertaining when he does this. If he retained Gary Skarka-esque snark techniques I would be able to live with it. God that man was a flaming legend on RPGnet. But Justin just loses all cool and flips out. I want the old Justin back.
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