It’s official! Paizo Publishing is the gaming company that was publishing Dragon Magazine and Dungeon Magazine for years until WotC pulled their license. Since then they’ve been publishing the best D&D adventures on the market (and Dragon and Dungeon are languishing in low-content electronic-only hell on wizards.com).
Well, Wizards screwed around and screwed around; even after announcing that they’d get the license and rules to third party publishers (for $5k a head) they never executed on it. So now Paizo has decided to fork D&D by creating a RPG called the Pathfinder RPG based on 3.5e via the OGL. The “alpha” version of it is freely available – in fact, they say once they start selling the beta sometime around Gen Con it’ll still be available freely as a PDF. The beta will be an open beta for a year and the “final” version will launch in August of 2009. They are also launching the Pathfinder Society, which sounds like a competitor to the RPGA.
My analysis – great! It’s about time! Now, in general, I’m against forking a “code base”. Too often, it’s done for no good reason, or for people to make a more proprietary version. However, in some cases – like the case of the open source CMS Mambo forking to become Joomla – it’s a great idea. In general you can analyze it by which branch is becoming more open and serving its customers better.
In the case of 4e, Wizards was essentially “taking back” its commitment to openness seen with the initial OGL. I’m sure they now feel like it was a bad idea in the first place for this exact reason – but that’s why open licenses are a thing of beauty. You are saying “hey, when we become evil again – you can take it away from us.” So a big retroactive thanks to Ryan Dancey and the other forward-thinking people at Wizards lo those many years ago.
Furthermore, few of the 4e changes really feel into the category of “improvement” and really just into the realm of “change for the sake of being different.” Whatever your view of the collectible minis/MMORPG feel of the new 4e, it’s one step forward in terms of fixing the game (better skill system, more “long haul” abilities”) and two steps back in terms of adding a lot of other stuff. I was excited and on board with both the 2e and especially the 3e revisions – I’m not just “against change” and am not one of those 1e revivalist types. 3.5 has gotten mighty crowded and broken and I would like “a” 4e. But the 4e they’re peddling – they claim it’s in response to customers, but it’s not in line with what I want, what anyone in my current gaming group wants, or what anyone in my previous gaming groups wants.
So, go Pathfinder! Maybe Wizards will figure out where they went off track and 5e will be better.