Tag Archives: OGL

“Sleazy” Proposed New D&D License

Apparently independently of my SlashdottedWizards Declares War On Open Gaming” article, there’s a BoingBoinged article referencing, oddly enough, Network Performance Daily about Wizards’ plan to get rid of open licensed D&D for good with their new Fourth Edition licensing scheme.  Fight the power!

Pathfinder Alpha 2 Out!

Paizo Publishing has put out “Alpha Release 2” of their Pathfinder RPG today.  For those of you who don’t know Paizo, they were the company that was producing Dragon Magazine and Dungeon Magazine for the last many years under license from Wizards.  During that time they took the two magazines to their highest point ever, and their “Adventure Paths” in Dungeon were some of the best D&D adventures to ever see print.

And if you don’t know about Pathfinder, it’s an open game based on the open content from D&D 3.5e.  Their goal is to take the game forward while maintaining back compatibility (D&D 4e is fundamentally different from 3.5e in many ways – no old rules content of any sort will port forward without substantial modification).  It will be a fully open game, and they are conducting a fully open year-long playtest; the final Pathfinder will premiere at Gen Con 2009.

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About “Wizards Declares War” Article

There’s quite a row about my article on WotC trying to get rid of open gaming using new licensing terms.  I wanted to note that as of now (4/21) none of this is 100% confirmed as the GSL hasn’t been released to anyone outside WotC so there’s no way to tell for sure.  Some people are griping about my reporting on this without the company confirming or denying it being only rumor and thus unfair to pass on to an august venue like Slashdot. 

Unfortunately, this complaint is ignorant of the definition of “rumor.”

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Open Gaming for Dummies

If one thing’s clear from the discussion about the new Wizards license for D&D Fourth Edition, it’s that people like to spout off on the subject without knowing what the heck the OGL says, what the difference is between the OGL and d20 STL, and what an “open” license is in the first place.  So here’s a convenient summary if you want to know what all of this means.  Read and understand – personally, I don’t mind differing opinions, but I do mind ignorant opinions.

Open Gaming License (OGL): A license written by Wizards of the Coast to be a generic “open” license suitable for RPGs.  WotC released most of the core 3e and then 3.5e D&D rules under the OGL.  Many other gaming companies have published OGL games – some partly based on D&D OGL content, some completely original and unrelated to the D&D rules.

The official OGL v1.0a: http://www.wizards.com/d20/files/OGLv1.0a.rtf

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Wizards of the Coast Declares War On Open Gaming

Dungeons & Dragons publisher Wizards of the Coast shocked the role-playing game industry today with the revelation that anyone wanting to publish material for the new Fourth Edition of D&D, expected out in June of this year, must forgo open licensing entirely as part of their new Game System License.

With the launch of the third edition of the game years ago, Wizards had sponsored an open licensing scheme. This license, called the Open Gaming License, or OGL, was a kind of open source license designed for game publishers. The result was an explosion of third party game companies supporting D&D and also establishing their own separate game lines. Many of these companies became quite large and successful, notably Paizo Publishing, Green Ronin Publishing, and others.  There are open gaming products covering every genre under the sun – science fiction, horror, wild west, and anything else you can think of.

Now, however, Wizards has stated that any company hoping to publish products for their new edition must agree to discontinue any current open licensed products and produce no further open products at all – Dungeons & Dragons related or not.  In a phone conversation about 4e licensing with Clark Petersen, president of Necromancer Games, a company representative explained this policy and was adamant that it was not going to change. A number of companies are leveraging the OGL for their independent games, for example the pulp game Spirit of the Century; the gaming community adopted the OGL on good faith and more than 90% of the openly licensed games in existence are using it.  This “poison pill” clause means that in exchange for any further involvement with the Dungeons & Dragons game line, a company must abandon any past OGL products and vow not to produce any more.

In response to questions about this policy, Scott Rouse, D&D Brand Manager for Wizards of the Coast, says that “We have invested multiple 7 figures in the development of 4e so can you tell me why we would want publishers to support a system that we have moved away from?”  Linae Foster, Licensing Manager, also notes “We understand the impacts this license will have on the 3pps, fans, community and industry in general. We respect that companies will need to make the decision that is right for them and their supporters.”

It seems to me that this is the equivalent of Microsoft telling people “if you want to make and sell software for Windows, you can’t make any Linux/open source software either!”   Though this move might be legally shaky, especially in the EU, side players in the small RPG industry are often only a couple people strong, and Wizards is owned by Hasbro, making any challenge to these terms doomed from the start.  (The buyout of Wizards by Hasbro is likely the source of this change of heart away from open licensing; events like the Scrabble/Scrabulous lawsuit have Hasbro trying to define and expand their scope of IP control.)   Some of the more well-established game companies are rebelling anyway – Paizo Publishing, which used to publish Dungeon and Dragon magazines under license from Wizards, had already declared their intent to stay with the open prior version and develop it moving forward instead, effectively “forking” the D&D code base.  But even they admit this is effectively a niche play. 

This also appears not to be limited to publishing companies, but also to individuals wanting to put content on their Web site or other venue.  When asked about individual licensors, Scott Rouse replied that yes, individuals would need to fill out a GSL license agreement and send it in to WotC to participate.  Some ten or so years ago, TSR (the original company, which was bought by Wizards and then Wizards by Hasbro in turn) liked to send out “cease and desist” legal threats to people posting D&D-related content on their Web sites.  Will we see a return to that?   By the letter of the law as much as it’s been revealed to us, some guy on their Web site putting up 3.5e related content and 4e related content at the same time is subject to the same limitations…

D&D 4e Licensing – The Fine Print Begins To Surface

So guess what.  As of yesterday, the new GSL was sounding fun.  But now the other shoe drops.  You aren’t allowed to publish a product both under the new GSL and the old OGL.  Which means that anything you do for D&D compatibility can’t be made truly open.  Implications include, that if a publisher updates a product to 4e, they’re not allowed to sell the 3.5 version.  It is also Wizards throwing their weight around specifically at Pathfinder – telling companies “you can make a product for them, or for us, but not both.”  Oh, in fact, it looks worse than that – it’s not by product, it’s by company.  If you sign up to put stuff out under the GSL, you can’t put *anything* out under the OGL.  Nice.  No dual stat publishing.  No “Free PDF download of 3.5e stats for this adventure.”  In fact, as this is portrayed, even a free Web site can’t have 4e and 3e items both on it.

In fact, it’s unclear whether this is restricted by game line.  So if, for example, Green Ronin wants to publish any GSL’ed 4e products – does it mean they have to choose between that and their OGL (but not 3e SRD derived) Mutants & Masterminds and True20 properties?

I’m on the warpath to find out!

WotC Rethinking Open Gaming Update

So it’s the work week now.  Discussion rages on ENWorld, the Wizards forum, and other places (e.g. Chris Pramas’ blog).  Response from WotC?  Jack!  I guess their attitude is “you can suck it!”

If any of the links go bad it’s because the ENworld mods are trying to bury the discussion by moving them to disused forums.  (Vote here to ask them to quit it.)  Update: 90% of voters say they should move the discussion back into the main forums, but no action has been taken yet.  I assume it’ll just get delayed until WotC finally puts the nails in the coffin of the GSL to save them some embarassment.

Go and let your opinion be known, pro or con!  In this day and age, companies ignore their customers at their own risk.

Mongoose Traveller at the Printer!

The new version of Traveller, which will be OGL and had an open playtest, is at the printer!  Look for it to drop in a gaming store near you soon!

The Economics of Open Gaming – An Open Letter To WotC

Why Open Gaming Is Good For Business

The OGL was largely single-handedly responsible for reviving the RPG industry overall and it and 3e took D&D from a bankrupt and largely irrelevant position back to its current state of RPG primacy and pop-culture relevancy.

Let me note something about real world economics. A healthy market sector means more for everyone. My IRL company has been posting record revenues for many consecutive quarters. Our stock took a big hit lately. Why? Because our major competitors posted big losses. This cast the entire sector in a bad light. Doing well in a bad sector isn’t any better than doing poorly in a good sector, and is arguably worse, to investors.

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WotC Rethinking Open Gaming

In a post on the ENWorld boards, a WotC rep says that they’re still reviewing the basic premises behind the GSL.  Has Paizo’s Pathfinder RPG play scared them into thinking that any degree of openness isn’t the way to go?

To me, this is one of the largest decisions that Wizards could make regarding D&D 4e.  The prior OGL was a huge moment in gaming and helped catapult D&D back to the top from being a bankrupt and irrelevant little thing.  In my opinion, any decision to go back on it would be both stupid and ultimately harmful to D&D/WotC.  I’ve played D&D a long time and would love to keep playing it.  Even if 4e has retarded stuff in it, I can houserule it, heck, publish my own “nonretarded” variant, and keep going.  If they choose to make it not open however – then I won’t bother, I’ll go with Pathfinder or something else exclusively.

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The New Open Gaming License Is Revealed – Kind Of

Well, I’m glad they finally got around to letting third party publishers know how they’re going to be able to stay in business.  There’s a couple unfortunate things about this, however. 

1.  The $5000 fee.  That’s a lot of money for a RPG publisher.  This effectively prices out everyone except the very largest third party companies.  I’m not sure why – I can see them wanting to keep it out of the hands of “dude in his garage” but that’s steep.  And it’s only for a couple months of lead time, so the publishers would need to be making more than $5k profit on their 4e product(s) in that time to make it worthwhile. 

2.  The community standards.  I worry about this one, especially with some of the frankly candyass things some of the Wizards have said lately, like leaving out half-orcs because of the “disturbing implications of their creation.”  Where do they plan to draw the line?  Just the Book of Erotic Fantasy (which did lose its d20 license)?  How about the d20 version of Macho Women With Guns?  Some of the recent Rise of the Runelords Adventure Path episodes have definitely been R rated.    

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