This past October, on a whim, I decided to write a letter to the offices of Wizards of the Coast (WotC) in regard to their plans for Dungeons & Dragons as published in 1974 by the now defunct Tactical Studies Rules (TSR). Specifically, the first boxed volumes better known as the Little Brown Books (LBB). The publication which is known 'round these parts as OD&D.
My motivation for this initial contact was to encourage WotC to release a 35th Anniversary Edition of White Box D&D that so many fans of the game never really got to experience, let alone see in printed form. If WotC had never been so generous to make these volumes available in PDF to begin with, I doubt I would have ever become so driven. As longtime readers know, I became enamoured with OD&D a little over a year ago thanks to my rediscovery of those innocent little booklets from 1974.
My initial plan was to gather a petition of sorts, a letter with the signatures of many devoted fans who would hopefully be able to convince WotC of the viability of such a release. But where to address such a letter? I began with a fairly generic correspondence to WotC offices in Renton, WA which included my name and email address in an effort to find out exactly how to go about such an inquiry.
I was convinced, at the time, that a slick, fancy reproduction of the White Box, along with some intelligent marketing efforts, would ensure WotC would get a return for their investment. Afterall, there was nothing to write except for an advertising strategy. It seemed fairly straightforward. Design a professional package, call it the "Collector's 35th Anniversary Boxed Set", have some luminary write up a brief introduction and dedication, and watch the boxes sell around the world.
Sometimes you just have to test the waters. Well, much to my surprise, someone in WotC's Sales & Marketing Division actually recognized my name. That my initial inquiry wasn't simply put into the shredder without so much as a "Thanks but No Thanks" form letter is a miracle in and of itself. Sidd Finch was the first to contact me via email, relating to me the fact that he had personally placed my idea in the agenda list for an upcoming D&D Strategic Marketing Meeting. Sidd even addressed me as Sham in the email. "Keep this under wraps for now!" was the last line of that email.
While I was mildly pleased that my little blog here had reached out as far as Renton, WA, I assumed at this point that this was no more than a friendly gesture put forth to appease a fan of D&D whose name had been recognized by the individual finding my letter on his desk one fateful Monday morning.
I had nearly forgotten about the so-called D&D Strategic Marketing Meeting, that is until I received another email (I guess WotC is striving to go green) from Mr. Finch. I was informed that I was being forwarded an electronic Non-Disclosure Agreement and that once signed I would be informed of the results of said agenda topic in that meeting (Don't worry, as of yesterday at 5 PM Pacific Time, I am no longer bound by that NDA). My little idea probably fell flat on the proverbial meeting table, but at least Sidd was willing to share the results with me.
Validating the electronic legalease was undertaken forthwith by yours truly. Days passed, turning into weeks, and it was all I could do to not send Mr. Finch another email. But I waited patiently. Good things and all that, I kept telling myself. It took an agonizingly long 10 weeks, but I finally received a somewhat cryptic email from Sidd.
"Things have hit a snag. Some people that should have kept their noses out of the idea got involved. As of right now the project is still in the Think Tank, being delayed by two factions, the "By The Book Guys" and the "This Isn't WotC Material Guys". I'll keep you posted. Your idea grew some legs, but might die before it gets any farther."
I thought long and hard about this. You mean some of them are actually considering this? Even a faint glimmer of hope was all I needed. Yet I was still under the NDA. Taking a few bold steps, and talking out of my ass, I sent another letter, this time addressed to Sidd's boss, Olaf Priol, Senior Director of Sales & Marketing. What the hell, I thought. Perhaps a slight nudge would push this thing out of the WotC Think Tank and into drafting stages.
I related to Olaf Priol that not only would I be able to have an introduction and dedication professionally written, but I could, through various contacts, amass enough gratis labor from the internet fanbase to formulate a sound advertising and distribution network for the 35th Anniversary Collector's Edition of Dungeons & Dragons. The catch would of course be that I would require a lifting of that NDA I had signed in regard to such a publication.
Fast forward to March 18th. Apparently my suggestion was just the kind of nudge I had been hoping for. Mr. Priol informed me that the only solution was to hand this project over to capable individuals outside of the Renton, WA corporate offices. WotC was willing to budget an initial investment of $15,000.00 towards this 35th anniversary box. Sales would determine whether the box would become a single printing, or be included in their D&D line for the months of June through December 2009. The NDA I signed was to be lifted on March 31st at 5 PM Pacific Time. All I had to do was sign another electronic document which bound me to follow the WotC copyrights and NOT CHANGE A THING in regard to original D&D.
I am currently recruiting professionals from around the internet to help with advertising, writing an introduction, designing a new box, printing and then distributing these facsimile copies of the White Box under the contractor label which has been formed with the signing of the copyright and hold harmless legal document. The temporary subcontractor division beholden to WotC, named Sham's Campaign (or Sham's Cam for short) will see to the spending of the initial 15K investment to get this thing to a draft state by the April 30th deadline. WotC will then step in to "dress things up" as Olaf puts it. This entails assigning the box a product code, bar code, and holding the rights to last minute artistic box changes.
Sham's Cam is then charged with investing its own capital to see the box printed and distributed. WotC is demanding exactly $7.56 from the sale of each box. I'm not sure how they came up with that figure, but who cares at this point. I've done some initial leg work, and I think the box will be a bit pricey, but it just might be doable with the right number of D&D fan volunteers.
I'll need professionals who can work quickly with very little direction, and are willing to invest their own money in Sham's Cam. This seed money will cover costs which surpass the WotC investment of $15K, and will likely be needed for such things as contracting a printing company capable of producing boxes and booklets, as well as distribution costs. DO NOT send money without first contacting me via email, as Sham's Cam will have a seperate temporary Bahamian off shore bank account set up this week. If the initial limited print run of 500 boxes sells before July 15th, WotC will step in and add more limited runs to carry the project through 2009.
There's one other caveat. We have to name the publication D&D for Dummies.
Oh well, you can't have everything.
~Sham, Quixotic Referee