WotC Spokesperson Apologizes to Mystara fans

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WotC Spokesperson Apologizes to Mystara fans

Post by Havard » Sun May 13, 2018 8:27 pm

Image

If you have missed the drama today, it started when a Mystara fan discovered a WotC produced video from january this year where the hosts answer a question about what happened to Mystara. A link to the video was posted on the Mystara Reborn group on Facebook.

The response given in the interview angered many Mystara and Spelljammer fans, as well as Mystara Godfather, Bruce Heard, who wrote an article about it on his blog pointing out the problems with the video with regards to Mystara.

Anyway, Matt Sernett of WotC did appologize both to Bruce Heard and Mystara fans out there. We all make mistakes and it does show character to admit it and appologize.

Did Mystara fans overreact to comments made in the video? I think it would have been easier to accept this type of comments if Mystara had not been mostly overlooked for more than 20 years. Many Mystara fans still remember when bringing back the Hollow World was presented as an April's Fool's Joke on WotC's website many years ago. Most of us dream of Mystara being brought back to life. While that might never happen, it would be nice if the reason for it being ignored for another 20 years is that the people at WotC really haven't bothered to understand what Mystara was about beyond not liking the CDs and the art in the 2nd Ed Mystara Monstrous Manual.

Let's hope that at least one person at WotC now sits down and reads some gazetteers! :)

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Re: WotC Spokesperson Appoligizes to Mystara fans

Post by agathokles » Sun May 13, 2018 8:59 pm

I think Bruce's reply was spot on.

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Re: WotC Spokesperson Appoligizes to Mystara fans

Post by Gravesguardian » Sun May 13, 2018 9:23 pm

Some? Sorry; but, if they're gonna badmouth Mystara they better have read ALL the Gazetteers, at the very least.

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Re: WotC Spokesperson Appoligizes to Mystara fans

Post by Havard » Sun May 13, 2018 9:29 pm

agathokles wrote:
Sun May 13, 2018 8:59 pm
I think Bruce's reply was spot on.

GP
Agreed! :)

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Re: WotC Spokesperson Appoligizes to Mystara fans

Post by shesheyan » Sun May 13, 2018 9:59 pm

Very good rebuke! Apology accepted Mr. Sernett.

Mystara Gazeteers have always been my favorite line of products. I've used them as reference to create my own home-brew campaign worlds for decades.
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Re: WotC Spokesperson Appoligizes to Mystara fans

Post by stebehil » Sun May 13, 2018 10:49 pm

Gravesguardian wrote:
Sun May 13, 2018 9:23 pm
Some? Sorry; but, if they're gonna badmouth Mystara they better have read ALL the Gazetteers, at the very least.
Well, leaving out Ierendi and Atruaghin would probably be no big loss :D

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Re: WotC Spokesperson Appoligizes to Mystara fans

Post by willpell » Sun May 13, 2018 10:51 pm

Listening to the original video, I'm inclined to agree with the original speaker. I'm not sure he should have apologized.

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Re: WotC Spokesperson Appoligizes to Mystara fans

Post by night_druid » Sun May 13, 2018 11:17 pm

Havard wrote:
Sun May 13, 2018 8:27 pm
Anyway, Matt Sernett of WotC did appologize both to Bruce Heard and Mystara fans out there. We all make mistakes and it does show character to admit it and appologize.
No apology for the spelljammer fans, I see. I see where WE stand...:P
Did Mystara fans overreact to comments made in the video?
Given WotC's history regarding their treatment of their fan-base, no, not really. I've just learned that I really don't need them. Their "humor" has probably been Pathfinder's biggest selling point. :P
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Re: WotC Spokesperson Appoligizes to Mystara fans

Post by stanles » Sun May 13, 2018 11:27 pm

thanks Bruce for the succinct response
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Re: WotC Spokesperson Appoligizes to Mystara fans

Post by Mike » Mon May 14, 2018 1:13 am

willpell wrote:
Sun May 13, 2018 10:51 pm
Listening to the original video, I'm inclined to agree with the original speaker. I'm not sure he should have apologized.
I have to agree. He said right up front it was a great setting with a lot of great products and had lots of fans, but it had a few bad products. Fair enough; we all agree with that.

He mentions some good products, like the almanacs. I don't see egregious ignorance or hostility at all. He lacks the memorized detail that a true fan would have, but that's OK.

He said it was like Planescape, which started strong but then drifted of course and lost popularity. His examples were mostly from late AD&D Mystara. Since it was canceled it must have been losing popularity. I don't see anything inaccurate there, and it doesn't reflect poorly on what came before. He specifically says it was a problem with its reputation and with fan perception. How is this unfair?

So why was Mystara canceled? Did it have anything to do with a ham-handed decision to market it to ad&d players? Let's see:

AD&D players already perceived D&D as a silly rpg for children, not serious.
AD&D players knew that mystara was a setting for "silly D&D" and weren't about to invest in D&D products to educate themselves on it.
AD&D did go for a darker grittier tone and obviously it's players liked that.
TSR did produce some odd products around the same time as the transition that were not well received. Some good ones too, but they really needed a home run and failed to deliver.

IMO it didn't help that TSR jumped on the metaplot treadmill, trashing the setting (and everyone's campaign) with WOTI and then rolling out almanacs, and also forcing the inclusion of Hollow World as part of the deal. These split the fan base in that not everyone was interested in going down that path.

The question was "what happened to Mystara?" not "was it a good setting?"
I think the response was reasonable and not inaccurate. I don't know all the reasons it was cancelled (so there may be more to it) but what he said makes sense and rings true for me. I thought he tried to be fair and respectful.

I clearly remember the disdain for anything associated with D&D in the late 90s. I remember defending it online and meeting bias and misperception in the rpg community. AD&D got at least some respect but D&D got none.

So we have: splitting the original fanbase, trying to spell to a new hostile fanbase, and then looking at flagging sales and canceling the whole thing. Saying "is not popular anymore" instead of "we destroyed our own market." Both are true, but one was a direct result of the other.

And Mystara is silly in places. The gonzo reputation is deserved. That is not bad, but TSR abandoned those that liked that sort of thing (D&D players) and marketed it instead to those that hate it (AD&D players) in a desperate attempt to cut costs and raise cash. When the experiment failed they just abandoned it altogether.

The fans didn't go away they were abandoned. Or told to get with the program and switch to ad&d. I suspect that was the real motivation: how do we get the D&D players to switch? Switch the rug they are standing on! Oops, fail.

Anyway I think the interview was fair as far as it went, but just failed to give a more complete context. This was 20 years ago (a generation!) and I'm not surprised some details are fuzzy.

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Re: WotC Spokesperson Appoligizes to Mystara fans

Post by Yaztromo » Mon May 14, 2018 2:18 am

shesheyan wrote:
Sun May 13, 2018 9:59 pm
Mystara Gazeteers have always been my favorite line of products. I've used them as reference to create my own home-brew campaign worlds for decades.
me too! :P
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Re: WotC Spokesperson Appoligizes to Mystara fans

Post by Morfie » Mon May 14, 2018 7:20 am

He seemed to think The Known World was a Greyhawk offshoot. No idea where that came from.

If you are talking about silliness in D&D there are some AD&D Greyhawk products that I have heard are much worse than anything else TSR made.

Definitely seems to have something against Red Steel though as he's mentioned it before:
Dragon was a monthly dose of D&D goodness. Maybe I wasn't interested in the latest "Complete Guide" or new Red Steel supplement, but Dragon was always sure to have good reading and at least a couple fun things to use in a game.
He was a senior editor of Dragon #315 which dealt with Campaign Classics. Maybe that was his only experience.

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Re: WotC Spokesperson Appoligizes to Mystara fans

Post by Morfie » Mon May 14, 2018 7:21 am


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Re: WotC Spokesperson Appoligizes to Mystara fans

Post by Morfie » Mon May 14, 2018 7:38 am

How can there be designers that haven't read the GAZ series? They should be blueprints on how to make a setting book ;)

Ah well, at least we have Mike Mearls. He seems to be a Mystara fan.

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Re: WotC Spokesperson Appoligizes to Mystara fans

Post by sam » Mon May 14, 2018 9:23 am

Most of us dream of Mystara being brought back to life. While that might never happen, it would be nice if the reason for it being ignored for another 20 years is that the people at WotC really haven't bothered to understand what Mystara was about beyond not liking the CDs and the art in the 2nd Ed Mystara Monstrous Manual.
I think D&D team will continue to disassemble the elements of Mystara,then put it in generic books.They will say:Why are you still not satisfied?But you and I all know this is not Mystara's return,it needs at least a complete book!

When some players say:They avoid old settings,or not create their own new settings,is to prevent the split of fan groups;I want to say: A long time ago,fan groups have already split.This splitting will only intensify,they will continue to organize "fan party",just the party is not for you but for "D&D fans",and these D&D fans think that Mystara/Spelljammer/Birthright are boring.

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Re: WotC Spokesperson Appoligizes to Mystara fans

Post by agathokles » Mon May 14, 2018 9:23 am

Mike wrote:
Mon May 14, 2018 1:13 am
willpell wrote:
Sun May 13, 2018 10:51 pm
Listening to the original video, I'm inclined to agree with the original speaker. I'm not sure he should have apologized.
I have to agree. He said right up front it was a great setting with a lot of great products and had lots of fans, but it had a few bad products. Fair enough; we all agree with that.
Bruce Heard provided an in-depth reply to the interview, which explains why the apology was quite needed:

http://bruce-heard.blogspot.it/2018/05/ ... stara.html

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Re: WotC Spokesperson Appoligizes to Mystara fans

Post by Sturm » Mon May 14, 2018 10:23 am

Indeed I find very irritating when a setting is labelled as "silly" for two main reason:
- D&D is a game therefore taking it so seriously to refuse any element perceived as "silly" is very, very stupid. Obviously some people may prefer gritty dark games over more funny ones but personally I've experienced fun at the table only when people game without taking the game too seriously. There is in general a modern trend in games (which applies also to movies and videogames) which takes fantasy and the fantastic too seriously, achieving only ridicolous results.
- Also what is often labelled as "sillyness" by some people, such as the Orcs of Thar Gaz, is a serious lack of understanding on how intelligent some products were, for example presenting the viewpoint of humanoids, or re-imagining sci-fi as a medieval man could have imagined it, as in the case of Spelljammer.
Threfore Bruce's reply noting how disinformed Sernett was is quite on point.

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Re: WotC Spokesperson Appoligizes to Mystara fans

Post by night_druid » Mon May 14, 2018 10:31 am

Morfie wrote:
Mon May 14, 2018 7:38 am
How can there be designers that haven't read the GAZ series? They should be blueprints on how to make a setting book ;)
To be fair, how many setting books is WotC cranking out nowadays? ;) Knowing how to write one isn't exactly a prerequisite these days.
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Re: WotC Spokesperson Appoligizes to Mystara fans

Post by night_druid » Mon May 14, 2018 10:35 am

agathokles wrote:
Mon May 14, 2018 9:23 am
Bruce Heard provided an in-depth reply to the interview, which explains why the apology was quite needed:

http://bruce-heard.blogspot.it/2018/05/ ... stara.html
The part that made me laugh was the notion that Spelljammer was more popular than Mystara. I'm a huge Spelljammer fan, but I find that claim...dubious. :P
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Re: WotC Spokesperson Appoligizes to Mystara fans

Post by Big Mac » Mon May 14, 2018 12:56 pm

Mike wrote:
Mon May 14, 2018 1:13 am
So why was Mystara canceled? Did it have anything to do with a ham-handed decision to market it to ad&d players? Let's see:

AD&D players already perceived D&D as a silly rpg for children, not serious.
AD&D players knew that mystara was a setting for "silly D&D" and weren't about to invest in D&D products to educate themselves on it.
AD&D did go for a darker grittier tone and obviously it's players liked that.
TSR did produce some odd products around the same time as the transition that were not well received. Some good ones too, but they really needed a home run and failed to deliver.
I'm not sure where you got that from, Mike, but this AD&D 2nd Edition player never thought of BECMI D&D as silly.

In fact, I was hovering over buying Hollow World, to use with Spelljammer.

For me, the problem was that the "AD&D" hype and the "BECMI" hype did such a good job of selling me the "you can't play this game without learning the core rules" that I was convinced that I would struggle and not be able to understand the books.

Since coming to The Piazza, and meeting both Mystara fans and Classic D&D fans, I've come to realise that mars eting hype was a bit overdone and that I could have gotten into Mystara with a bit of help.

From what I can tell the 2e Mystara line was supposed to help us AD&D fans get onboard with Mystara. Sadly, I had already given up on D&D by the time it had come out. TSR had cancelled Spelljammer and some of the books I was buying had pretty large print in them.

Things have changed now, as DMs Guild means I can gain access to (some) Mystara products without either paying eBay bandit prices or depriving a true Mystara fan of a book that is in limited supply.

I'm hoping that will mean that I can continue to learn a bit more about Mystara.

But - I have to say that I've never thought it was silly and that nobody in the gaming group I used to play in ever said that BECMI or Mystara was silly.
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Re: WotC Spokesperson Appoligizes to Mystara fans

Post by shesheyan » Mon May 14, 2018 1:32 pm

Big Mac wrote:
Mon May 14, 2018 12:56 pm
But - I have to say that I've never thought it was silly and that nobody in the gaming group I used to play in ever said that BECMI or Mystara was silly.
I concur. The only reason my group was using AD&D instead of BECMI was because we didn't like the race-as-class concept. With its beautiful covers, detailed maps, setting backgrounds and NPCs we never thought Mystara was «silly».
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Re: WotC Spokesperson Appoligizes to Mystara fans

Post by Havard » Mon May 14, 2018 3:11 pm

Mike wrote:
Mon May 14, 2018 1:13 am
willpell wrote:
Sun May 13, 2018 10:51 pm
Listening to the original video, I'm inclined to agree with the original speaker. I'm not sure he should have apologized.
I have to agree. He said right up front it was a great setting with a lot of great products and had lots of fans, but it had a few bad products. Fair enough; we all agree with that.

He mentions some good products, like the almanacs. I don't see egregious ignorance or hostility at all. He lacks the memorized detail that a true fan would have, but that's OK.
I think these are the problems people reacted to:

1) He started off in a dismissive tone, satirizing the Red Steel CD, slamming the artwork etc. It is true that he backtracks a little, but some of the damage was done there.
2) He displayed ignorance, when giving examples of good and bad products only referred to products from the last 2-3 years when Mystara was in print for more than 15 years and had more material supporting it than most other TSR settings. His examples of why Mystara was bad were the CDs and the illustrations in one book. When the host suggested that Spelljammer had a larger following than Mystara, he does not dismiss or even comment on that statement.
3) He represents WotC. Showing off a negative attitude towards one of their own properties and its fan base is just a stupid PR move.
4) TSR's attitude towards Mystara in the late 1990s is one thing. WotC has shown even more disregard for the setting over the last 20 years. From the Hollow World April's Fool Joke, to stripping vital Mystara locations like the Isle of Dread and the Lost City and moving them into whatever setting is default at any time.
5) The question was "What happened to Mystara". That could mean "why was Mystara cancelled in 1996", but it could also mean "Why hasn't Mystara been brought back since". The response could have been: Well after more than a decade of highly successful products, TSR made some poor decisions when adapting it to 2nd ed and that we haven't looked at it. But that's not what he said.

So why was Mystara canceled? Did it have anything to do with a ham-handed decision to market it to ad&d players? Let's see:
To be honest I am not sure Mystara was cancelled. Or rather, in 1998 when WotC bought TSR, they immediately declared that all setting lines were discontinued. Sure, there wasn't much support for Mystara since 1996, but TSR was a sinking ship at the time.
And Mystara is silly in places. The gonzo reputation is deserved. That is not bad, but TSR abandoned those that liked that sort of thing (D&D players) and marketed it instead to those that hate it (AD&D players) in a desperate attempt to cut costs and raise cash. When the experiment failed
they just abandoned it altogether.
Sure, but Greyhawk (WG7?), Spelljammer and Dragonlance aren't without their silliness either. Looking at the AD&D 2nd Ed Mystara Line and Red Steel lines, most of those products aren't particularly silly.
The fans didn't go away they were abandoned. Or told to get with the program and switch to ad&d. I suspect that was the real motivation: how do we get the D&D players to switch? Switch the rug they are standing on! Oops, fail.
There were alot of factors going on at the same time and different motivations from different people. One of the reasons Classic D&D was continued for such a long time was the fear of lawsuits from Dave Arneson. But that is not enough to explain the number of products supporting classic during the 80s and early 90s. I think another reason was that it sold well. The Red Box Basic Set is apparently the best selling TSR product of all time. But TSR's increasing problems in the 90s combined with the elements you mention, pluss alot of bad decisions when it came to how to market and produce the line probably lead to its demise.

Not of this explains why Mystara was not revived for 3rd edition however. But I think that new people coming in and the old TSR guys leaving was a huge part of it. The new guys just didn't know Mystara. And they still don't.

There is nothing wrong with ignorance. But at least admit that you don't know and move on.


I think he guy was right to appologize and now I hope he and the rest of the crew sits down and reads up on some Gazetteers! :)

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Re: WotC Spokesperson Appoligizes to Mystara fans

Post by Thorf » Mon May 14, 2018 5:35 pm

His comments were clueless and ignorant. They amounted to saying something like: "It's silly, you know for kids, with gimmicky CDs, really bad looking art, and did I mention I've never actually read any of it?"

No one is disputing that the line failed when it got transferred to AD&D - although Håvard has a point there too. The trouble is if you just look at the AD&D stuff you're missing the vast majority of the setting.

But the real reason for the reaction is that this is not some random podcast: it's the official D&D podcast. They should know better.

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Re: WotC Spokesperson Appoligizes to Mystara fans

Post by stebehil » Mon May 14, 2018 6:33 pm

It was a bad moment that should not have happened. It was less than professional and apparently caused by a lack of preparation. But he saw that he offended some people and apologized for that. I think it is time to move on now. Nothing we can write will change anything about the past.

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Re: WotC Spokesperson Appoligizes to Mystara fans

Post by Ambreville » Mon May 14, 2018 8:20 pm

stebehil wrote:
Mon May 14, 2018 6:33 pm
It was a bad moment that should not have happened. It was less than professional and apparently caused by a lack of preparation. But he saw that he offended some people and apologized for that. I think it is time to move on now. Nothing we can write will change anything about the past.
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