Over at storygames, folks are talking about a fun hypothetical:
Someone hands you “Dungeons & Dragons: The Game” to do a re-release. What would you do with it?
Here’s my answer!
I would stop mass-producing D&D anything. I would spend the same amount of money on having artisans hand-craft books, each of which was inscribed in a scriptorium with a different version of the D&D text (put together by a Manhattan Project of designers and lunatics, like in Watchmen). I’d geocache these in locations around the world which would require serious adventuring skills to reach, and would take considerable pains to do this anonymously, so that no one could tell which were “official” and which were just some nut writing up their own dream D&D on stone tablets and burying them for some other nut to dig up.
I would flood the interwebs with better-quality versions of everything that’d previously been released under the D&D brand, make it 100% open content using the OGL, and make these easy to find (text-only SRDs, etc.) for talmudic scholarship. If people tried to scan and share my geocached books I would flood them with variant scans to make it hard to tell which was the real gospel.
I would hire away top-level Scientologists and suchlike cult leaders to run my organized play program. They’d be in charge of managing the project johnzo proposed earlier in the storygames thread:
I’d recruit an elite street team; I’d partner with retailers to find the DMs with the best reputation and dumptruck those DMs with goodies in exchange for them running regular public games of D&D.
The cult leaders would be forbidden to interfere with the street team’s play experience but given a mandate to grab people as they get up from the table, sated and blown away, and turn them into fanatics. I would pay some other people to impersonate these cult leaders and perform bizarre occult performance art rituals, 5% of which I’d leak to the media.
At the peak of this activity I would fake my own death, get plastic surgery, lead a hostile takeover of the D&D brand, and then spend millions on a public image makeover devoted to establishing that D&D is a healthy, social alternative to video games, with grant money for researchers to prove this thesis. I’d open game cafe emporiums in every space that used to be a Barnes & Noble and sell drinks, books, and toys on the margins of a place to hang out and feel safe leaving your kids.
I’d do nothing to stamp out all the berserkers I’d created in phase I – I’d just distinguish squeaky-clean D&D from that occult media hysteria thing that never really happened anyway, pay no attention to the people who might invite you into their basement if you know their secret handshake. I’d harness all the edition war energy into a struggle between above-ground D&D and polyhedrals-inked-in-blood D&D, and let the geek one-true-wayism metastasize in the subterranean culture where people fight over which is the true apocrypha from phase I while in phase II we work on an elementary school curriculum designed to build mastery in the elements that all previous editions of D&D have in common.