S03E09 – Castle Greyhawk

Oh, shucks! Today we’re talking about one of the worst official D&D modules ever published: Castle Greyhawk. An enduring part of TSR’s post-Gygax legacy and an enormous letdown and slap in the face to everyone who gave a single flying frick about the legacy of the setting or the lore of one of the most famous D&D landmarks of all time.

It’s been a weird few years in a lot of ways, but most salient to Save Vs. Rant is the sort of weirdness we see in the gaming world. Gaming has always been a landscape dominated by the strange and niche, and the current decade has certainly been no exception, but today I would like to draw your attention to the fact that Wendy’s (yes, the burger chain with unnatural square burger patties) has released an RPG.

It’s a joke, of course. And it’s an ad, of course. And… it’s a fully playable game with a ruleset that permits characters to go from level 1 to level 5 along pre-designed advancement paths in one of four different “Orders” (yes, I understand the joke). The attribute system is a classic OD&D style “roll for your stats” system, and the standard roll to generate stats is a 4d4 roll (4 for $4 (yes, I understand the joke)). The story of the provided campaign involves an evil jester that wants all beef to be frozen and features monsters based on various fast food items NOT features at Wendy’s (a monster based on the happy mean and another based on the third piece of bun from the Big Mac). There’s a simple campaign setting with allusions to other fast food chains that may, in fact, someday be expounded upon.

This game is silly, of course. It’s a free game created as an advertisement, so it’s bound to be bizarre, but from the perspective of the puns, tone and humor, it’s still better than Castle Greyhawk, and the included art is pretty phenomenal. No, really. There’s not a lot of it, but flip through it when you get a chance and just look at the work they commissioned for it.

But Wendy’s kind of sucks. I mean, let’s ignore the socioeconomic issues inherent to being a fast food restaurant (which are myriad) and just focus on this one thing they did. First of all, tell me who wrote it – use only the actual “Feast of Legends” rulebook. I’ll wait. Expand your search to the website. Still nothing? The only credits I’ve been able to find in the whole thing is the Maps and Illustrations, which, yeah, totally deserve credit because they’re fully professional quality… just like the writing… and the rules… and the playtesting that no doubt went into this.

I don’t think it’s too much to ask for a multibillion dollar company to credit their talent. I understand – though do not agree – that the business of commercials, despite being significant creative works, do not, by default, credit anyone involved in them. This, however, isn’t just an ad. It’s a game experience. Let’s compare and contrast the RIDICULOUS Burger King commissioned Xbox 360 game Sneak King, which contained credits for everyone who worked on the project and, furthermore, ended (if you would ever finish this rather lackluster game) with a full credit sequence. Because creators deserve to be credited for their work.

I’m not trying to make a mountain out of a molehill here, but I’m so exhausted of the gig economy dystopia wherein some of the most successful companies in history get to direct the creative energy of incredibly talented writers to turn what could be decent projects into ironic advertisements you play with your friends, then, to add insult to injury, don’t openly credit the writers who made it possible. Perhaps some are delighted by the notion of companies actually trying to court them based on their interests, but regardless of how well put together it is, how cute the puns are or how interesting the rules, I don’t see myself playing a Wendy’s RPG any time soon, doubly so if they’re not going to clearly and openly credit the creative forces behind it.

Next up – DMing 103! More advice on how to maximize the fun you and your players have.

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