This email was sent to the REALMS-L mailing list on 14th July 2002 by Sean K Reynolds, once an employee of Wizards of the Coast and working on numerous Forgotten Realms products. Sean was heavily involved in the Forgotten Realms production and development. This posting to the mailing list is a non-linked response to a members review of The Silver Marches. Make of it what you will.....
This is a story about the elves who work in Gameland. The elves write recipe books ... two kinds of books in particular: books about Donut Cores, and books about Forgotten Rums. The Donut Core books had a lot of recipes (the elves called many-recipe books "crunchy books" for a reason that is too long to relate here), and gave a lot of suggestions about things you could make with Donut Cores, but didn't have a lot of history and interesting descriptions of where the Donut Cores came from, their history, or famous people who used Donut Cores. The Forgotten Rums books were less crunchy, but had the stories behind the Rum recipes, history of where the Rums come from, and information on the people who make those Rums. Still, the elves knew that a lot of people like the Donut Core books and a lot of people like the Forgotten Rums books, so they continued to make both kinds.
Unfortunately, the elves are ruled by a foolish but powerful race called the Bean-Counters. The Bean-Counters are are only concerned with beans. Not fun, not adherence to the old ways, just beans. The more beans, the better. They didn't even soak the beans before they ate them ... they liked things crunchy.
One day, after three of the Rums books were printed, the Bean-Counters took a look at the number of books the elves sold in their shop, and they had questions. They went to the elves' workshop, ensnared a few in nets, and dragged them back to Castle Meeting-Room for interrogation.
"We have been looking at your books," the Bean-Counters say, "and of these Forgotten Rums books, two are very crunchy--the Forgotten Rums Camping Session and Magic of Fae Rum--and one is not so crunchy--Lords of Rumness. Now, the average Donut Core book sells 75 copies, and the two crunchy books sold 75-100 copies. But the less crunchy book only sold 40 copies. We are concerned because your next Forgotten Rums book, The Sliver Munches, is just as less-crunchy as the Lords of Rumness book. We don't think people will buy it. We want all of your books to be more crunchy, even the Forgotten Rums books. Take out some of that history, stories, and crap, and put in more crunchy. MORE CRUNCHY!"
The elves were frightened and confused. "But part of the appeal of the Forgotten Rums books is their non-crunchy parts! People like learning about where the Rums come from, famous Rums-makers, and stories behind the Rums-recipes."
"MORE CRUNCHY!!" came the reply.
"But," the elves protested, "forty books still a respectable number! Why, only a few years ago, we were lucky to sell 10 copies of one of our books. Forty books is wonderful!"
"MORE CRUNCHY!!!" the Bean-Counters bellowed. "But," still trying to get through the soggy much that fills a Bean-Counter's head, "a Forgotten Rums book costs more to buy than a Donut Core book! We make more money with each Forgotten Rums book of the same size than a Donut Core book! More money means more beans!"
That seemed to get through to one of the less mushy parts of the Bean-Counter's brain. "Still, we like it when you sell 75-100 copies better. Selling 75-100 looks better than selling only 40, especially to _our_ evil overlords, the Haze Brothers, who do not understand beans, only things sold."
The Bean-Counters scratched each others' heads (for their heads were so swollen with power that their feeble, never-have-done work arms could not reach every part of their own heads and so they had to help each other with the scratching) and thought. After a week of thinking (during which time the elves became very bored and hungry, as they were still trapped in the nets used to drag them to Castle Meeting-Room), the Bean-Counters made a decision.
"We will give you a sort of test to see if what you say is true--that people like the books that are not crunchy. We will look at how well this next book, The Sliver Munches, does. If it does better than Lords of Rumness, then we will look favorably upon these other Forgotten Rums books you want to do--Raisins of Fae Rum and ... I cannot read the title of this next 'regional book,' but it does not matter--and let you make them. If The Sliver Munches _doesn't_ do better than Lords of Rumness, we will make you change what the Forgotten Rums books are all about. You will take out the stories, and histories, and people, and make it crunchy. Oh so crunchy...."
"But that will ruin the nature of the Forgotten Rums! Why call it a Forgotten Rums book at all if it's going to be exactly like a Donut Core book?"
"People will buy it just because it says 'Forgotten Rums' on it."
"Do we have any choice in accepting this test?"
And so the elves were released, and they went back to their tree-houses and hill-houses. They wept and prayed, for they knew the Forgotten Rums were at stake, and they knew that the people who bought Forgotten Rums books would never understand why the books were changed if they failed the test of the Bean-Counters.
They sent out a silent wish that people would like and buy The Sliver Munches. They hoped that people would talk about the things they liked about The Sliver Munches, which would encourage other people to take a look at it. And they hoped that people interested in The Sliver Munches would pick it up in the first three months after the book was released, for the Bean-Counters carefully watch those first 90 days and virtually ignore the rest. The doom of the Forgotten Rums was nigh, and only quick interest in a quality book could save it.
. . . . .
End of story.
...And oddly enough, you can now enter your views of the Silver Marches on the online survey on the Wizards site.
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