Save Third Party D&D Publishers!

Aren’t third party D&D publishers doing fine?  No, we mean third party publishers for 4e.  So you can see the problem.

Chris Dias wrote this Open Letter to WotC: Save 3rd Party Dungeons and Dragons Publishers, asking WotC to do something, anything, to help out their third party business partners, please.

Of course, this reasonable request brought out the psychos of the Unpaid WotC Defense Brigade, who rebut Dias by telling him that he and his whole grey market sub-industry should consider themselves lucky to be suckling at Wizard’s teats. Bonus, one 3pp’s “lawyer” chimes in to give his opinion on how draconic business practices are the only way to go.

Surprisingly, I’m on WotC’s side on this one. Well, at least kinda. Let me explain.

Q: What do you tell a third party D&D 4e publisher with two black eyes?

A: Nothing, they obviously don’t listen.

Look, man.  Wizards has been making it clear for three years now that they would like every other company to die in a fire. They pulled all their licenses from third parties.  Then they abandoned the OGL, dragged their feet on putting out any kind of license, and then when they put out the GSL it had a “poison pill” clause saying you couldn’t use the new license if you were doing anything OGL. (They retracted that eventually in the face of a firestorm of criticism.) They don’t let 3pps into the DDI, they don’t promote them at all, they clearly see them as leeches upon their largess that they’re not even clear themselves why they tolerate.

So by continuing to try to publish for them, you’re really just getting into battered spouse syndrome.  “Hey maybe if you just beat me a little less I can really please you!” Why are these people still trying to do it?  “I know WotC still really loves us, even though they treat us so bad!”

Sorry, baby, they don’t love you. And they’re not gonna stop whupping on you. It’s time to go find yourself a new man/woman. Try Paizo and Pathfinder, they cheerfully promote their third party partners and those guys are creating large amounts of great content and selling it. Open Design, Rite Publishing, LPJ Designs, Adamant Entertainment, and many more.  Heck, I have personally bought Pathfinder stuff from those guys plus Green Ronin, Sagawork, and probably some others I’m forgetting. On RPGNow there’s 4x the number of third party products for Pathfinder than for 4e.

Morrus from ENWorld seems to be the only one happy about publishing for 4e, he says “it’s great being a big fish in a small pond.”  I would hope you could sell SOME copies when you slather ads for your product over every single ENWorld page all the time. And I’m glad you’re happy with “a big slice of a small pie instead of a small slice of a big pie” – but that’s not really what real companies usually try for, and it certainly doesn’t breed innovation or excellence. Try using software written for a niche industry sometime; you’ll discover where all those Nazi scientists fled to and what they’re doing with their time – Gmail it’s generally not.

You’re left with two choices – embrace the indifference, mediocrity, and occasional ass-beatings, or break up with that abuser and find a new sugar daddy, one that’ll treat you right. Come on, baby.  We’ll give you what you need.

14 responses to “Save Third Party D&D Publishers!

  1. Yeah I hear that Vic at paizo reached out to them.

    • I bet he did, because that’s the kind of collaborative business environment Paizo helps foster. The only time WotC ‘reaches out’ to anyone is to slap them with a cease and desist.

  2. Oh, SWEET. Another mxyzplk post where he refers to those who disagree with his comically inflamed opinions as “psychos”.

    • Actually Betts, a critical reading would indicate that I was applying it to the people attacking Chris Dias in that thread for his temerity to suggest WotC might lift a single finger to help out the 3pps. But I’m glad you can just skip to the end of the logical chain of events after that and self-identify as a psycho, it saves us both time.

  3. Wait, so you are comparing the non-relationship that 3pps have with WotC to the relationships that abused women often have with their abusers? And then you Godwin your own post??

  4. Hey all, I just saw the Open Letter to Paizo from one of their third party publishers… Notice any difference between the two? And then many of the other 3pps jump in to share how Paizo has made their lives easier too.

    Night and day.

  5. I 100% agree with Mxyzplk. Those who repeatedly try to beg WoTC into treating better should pay attention to what WoTC is doing and saying. I further agree that battered wife syndrome is an apt comparison to use in describing their behaviour as the two are very similar.

    The days of WoTC embracing a community of 3pp are over forever. The D20/OGL era was a disaster for them. Pre-3E, their hope was that by fostering a community of 3pp they would create a tidal wave of interest in their game which would provide vast profits. This did not happen. Sure, there was increased interest in D&D, but with so many places for players to buy from, WoTC found themselves eating from a large buffet where their portion was constantly shrinking. Thus, 4E and it’s vastly different business philosophy. WoTC has returned to the mindset (with respects to 3rd party use of their IP) as TSR had in the late 80s & early 90s – it’s their pool and everyone else can get out!

    Whining about it isn’t going to change anything either. There are zero reasons for them to want other companies feeding at their D&D trough, that only leaves less for them. The roleplaying community as a whole is smaller and less profitable than it used to be 20+ years ago, so more players in their game are NOT welcome. Besides, lets be fair, it IS their IP and they are free to run it as they please. If they don’t want anyone else publishing 4E material, they are well within their rights to tell everyone to PFO and there isn’t a thing anyone can do about it.

    Meanwhile, as Piazo is proving, the OGL does still function even if WoTC isn’t using it for 4E and thus there are alternatives. Pathfinder is one, and if it isn’t your cup of tea then there are a multitude of others to choose from. As for any complaints that writing for the smaller games results in smaller profits, surely it can’t be worse than trying to write for a company that is actively trying to squeeze you out. Where’s the profit in that?

  6. rorschachhamster

    Though I mostly agree, your post is a bit contradictory:
    Fact is, the OGL was a HUGE success for WotC and D&D. At least in the beginning.
    The lost more and more ground to 3rdpp at the end, but they made the mistake to blame the ogl, instead of asking: What do they make better than we? And one part of the answer is, of course, there are a variety of tastes and no monopoly will hold forever (TSR in the 90’s)… the ogl only made this trend much easier to come by.
    But the main reason 4e was not as widely accepted, imo, is the non-ogl, non-online community approach of it. No open playtest, no srd, no trying to get all the fans over to the new system: they tried to get new consumers to the D&D game by neglecting the needs of a big part of the existing community (which saw this approach as step back, and rightly so!) and failed.
    This is business logic: you have to grow fast to make the shareholders happy. It didn’t work out for them, because the old fans (and the 3rdpp fans) where such a big part of the crowd, that they couldn’t replace them with the new gaming kids and by trying to grow faster than a rpg environment warrants (something the business people of hasbro probably didn’t understand), they failed.
    And they made Paizo big in the process. Epic fail, but understandable as Paizo is a company that exactly knows what their customers want and how the online rpg community works. Simply because they are part oft it.

    Yeah, they have the right to say PFO (They are already implying it). And it is just another nail in their coffin. The times of the 800lbs gorillas are coming to an end. At least in gaming.

    • @rorschachhamster
      My apologies sir, I was not clear enough. You are correct, there is contradictory logic in my post, but it is because WoTC is using flawed logic. I do not agree with their assessment of the situation, nor do I agree with their course of action taken in response to it. Paizo has shown that there is a viable alternate course to take and that it is a profitable one as well.

  7. Isn’t this the same approach that saw the decline of TSR and its eventual buyout by WotC in the first place?
    Shall we say those who do not learn from history…?
    How long before Paizo (who has long published a superior product even when they worked for WotC see Dragon and Dungeon magazines) buys out WotC in turn?

  8. I don’t foresee Paizo buying WoTC/D&D. Pathfinder is a huge success for them, fostering accessorial products, spinoff products and a whole raft of 3PP publishers. with all the bad press that D&D is generating, what would be the benifit to Paizo to take it on? It would be a division of their resources away from their core product, Pathfinder. Nope, not likely at all.

    • Why would it have to be a distraction? They would just want the D&D brand, which would boost their sales and distribution.

      1. Buy D&D from WotC/Hasbro
      2. Put D&D logo on Pathfinder
      3. Fire everyone from WotC and discontinue all existing D&D products
      4. Profit

      • @mxyzplk
        I don’t know why Piazo would consider it a distraction, I said that acquiring the D&D brand would be a DIVISION or their resources. Your scenario outlined above would be very unlikely and quite detrimental to both D&D and Pathfinder were Piazo to simply copy & paste the D&D logo onto thier product. Why? Here are my opinions on it, take it as you will.

        1) Paizo has invested a lot of time and effort into distinguishing themselves from D&D, building a community of fans who like Pathfinder because it ISN’T D&D. To suddenly slap “D&D” on the cover would come across as a vote of nonconfidence in their own brand at this point.

        2) D&D is not 3.5 any more, and it certainly isn’t 3.75 as Pathfinder is oft times described. Like it or not, D&D is now 4E. To drop that ruleset in favour of relabeling Pathfinder as the “new & improved” D&D would simultaneously alienate both the current Pathfinder fans who like Pathfinder for being bold enough to stand behind their independant creation and the 4E fans who like the current incarnation of D&D and wouldn’t appreciate their game being abandoned in favour of Pathfinder – if they wanted to play Pathfinder, they’d be doing it already and labeling it as D&D isn’t going to satisfy them.

        3) As gratifying as it might be to an anti-WoTC gamer to envision everyone being fired wholesale, that would be a LOT of people in the industry suddenly made unemployed. In an industry as small as the roleplaying industry, that kind of behaviour isn’t going to win them any friends with other publishers. They’d be axing a lot of good people who aren’t responsible for anything the average gamer dislikes about 4E. Many professionals would view such behaviour as mean-spirited and unprofessional, and justly so. This would seriously hurt their credibility as a trustworthy company to do business with.

        4) Even if everyone in WoTC were baby-eating demon-worshippers fully deserving of sacking, and everyone in the industry would send Paizo congratulatory chocolates, it still would be a massively expensive and time-consuming task to dismiss all those employees, liquidate unwanted assets, etc. No matter what else they did with WoTC, this would require a lot of Paizo’s limited resources to accomplish – thus, they would have fewer resources to devote to the development of Pathfinder.

        No matter how you cut it, taking on the D&D brand wouldn’t be a positive move for Paizo at this point. They’re too far down their own path at this point to want it. Had they been offered the D&D brand before either Pathfinder or D&D 4E were released, then I could see them being possibly interested, but certainly not now.

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