The WGA Strike and what it means to me.
Social Media has been buzzing with talks about TTRPG Writers supporting the recent decision to strike by the Writer’s Guild of America. May 2, WGA East went on strike and WGA West shortly thereafter. The strike is not expected to end any time soon according to CNN Business News and other sources.
Paramount+ writers make about $26/hour on the low end. Paizo Inc pays its low end writers a rate of around $34/hour according to Glassdoor.com. Paizo being the second largest manufacturer in the TTRPG industry. We won’t discuss Hasbro/Wizards of the Coast, the biggest employer currently in the TTRPG sphere in terms of salary. It’s not even close because the revenue difference between WotC and Paizo is enormous.
Why would TTRPG creators care?
With all of the shenanigans Wizards of the Coast has pulled so far this year, other TTRPG companies have experienced a dramatic increase in interest and sales. Several new games are popping up all over the place in the wake of the WotC Dungeons & Dragons 5E Open Game License scandal in January. The April 3, WotC Content Creator’s Summit which was aimed at trying to make nice with the Twitch and YouTube D&D streamers effectively backfired, further alienating some Third Party Publishers of D&D Products.
In Fall of 2022, WotC announce the release of a new edition of D&D to coincide with the 50th anniversary of D&D in 2024. Paizo just announced Pathfinder 2E Remastered at GAMA on April 26. The four books that form the basis of the Pathfinder RPG are getting an overhaul to free them from further entanglements with WotC OGL. While the 5.1 SRD is under CC-BY-4.0, many publishers fear further hijinks by WotC could cause legal headaches and a loss of business within the industry.
Paizo was the first TTRPG company to have a union form within its ranks. Since the OGL scandal, some European game companies followed suit. Most TTRPG publishers have too small of a full time staff to even consider such a thing. Many TTRPG writers are freelancers or work-for-hire producers. Heck, let’s be honest- a lot of indie TTRPG writers are a solo or family operation working around a full time work schedule at another job.
The TTRPG industry is still considered niche when compared to major streaming services such as Netflix, Paramount +, and Disney +. When the WGA goes on strike, people take notice nationally and internationally. If TTRPG industry writers go on strike, maybe a million people are affected? I’m not 100% sure it would be that noticeable, but the effects on the hobby could be devastating.
It’s always the darn elephant in the room.
We know Hasbro/WotC is huge, and we hear relatively ruthless when it comes to dealing with their employees. WotC literally sent the Pinkertons to a Magic: the Gathering YouTubers house to retrieve some cards. The Pinkertons are well known for breaking picket lines and harassing strikers in the early 20th century. Do we really think WotC would hesitate to employ the same tactics on their own people at this point?
Also, if Paizo and other companies falter, WotC wins at this point. WotC is currently working on Virtual TableTop development totaling hundreds of millions of dollars which, combined with the release of the new edition of D&D could very easily put them on top of the TTRPG hobby for good. Paizo, Green Ronin, Kobold Press, Chaosium, Darrington Press, and others can’t really afford to slow down or go on strike right now or they might not have a business to return to at all.
The Reptilian Overlords at Hasbro likely believe game designers are a dime a dozen. When it came to WotC in years past, that was certainly the case. Is it that way now? Would people still be willing to do just about anything to write for D&D? It is the biggest, most well known TTRPG in the industry. I bet there are plenty of writers who would be more than happy to cross that picket line if there was even a chance of writing game material for a living. Or email their work into an editor at corporate HQ far away from those pesky striking workers.
This is an unfortunate decision for anyone to make.
Chase the dream or support others who just want to chase their own. My take might be a bit controversial compared to others. I have no love of large corporations as I’ve said many times. On the other hand, I have a family to feed, and I haven’t worked in almost two years. I know how much unemployment sucks and being underemployed almost sucks worse. I think it’s important that Hollywood writers get paid a fair wage for their work.
That having been said, I don’t want to see Paizo, Third Party Publishers, or anyone else take a hit on behalf of the WGA by refusing to work in another industry. That said, I wouldn’t replace a striking worker for a million dollars. Help support the WGA strikers in other ways. Sure. Let’s do that.
Let’s help the WGA keep going by helping their workers. Coffee, energy drinks, soda, tea, food, office supplies, and social media support for protesters really can make a difference. Offering sympathy for workers and their families at times like this goes a long way.
Bur going on strike within the TTRPG industry right now is like handing WotC the keys to the front door of the business. WotC is chugging on ahead unaffected by anything going on outside of their offices. They just announced the opening of a new third party publishing platform on D&D Beyond. Does anyone think the DMsGuild is going to survive much longer? If anything, TTRPG writers should be outside their offices and on social media protesting that move.
I questioned my own sanity heavily before sitting down to write this.
There are a lot of moral and ethical boundaries to question when it comes to labor strikes in general. My heart definitely goes out to the workers first and foremost. I’ll side with a lot of things before I’ll ever side with management. I’ve always believed that executives should be the last to get a raise and the first to take a pay cut. If companies fail, it’s usually not the fault of the common worker.
Unfortunately, the TTRPG Industry is very vulnerable to predation by one company right now, and WotC is probably not going to have any concerns about people going on strike. WotC isn’t always the devil, but let’s not hand them their horns either. There’s room for us all to grow from this WGA strike. I know the media companies haven’t seen it yet, but it’s there.
Thanks for stopping by. As always, take care of you and your loved ones. I appreciate you.