I recently listened to an episode of Green Ronin Publishing’s podcast on the future of open gaming, and it has me more than a little worried about what WotC is planning.
We know that the OGL is going to continue in its present form, for the most part. We also know that there is a Game System License that is coming which will cover 4E compatible materials coming out from third party publishers and small presses and whatnot. We also know that the OGL and the GSL are going to be different.
What I didn’t know until I heard it on this podcast is that the D20 trademark license (in the article, scroll down to “Trademark License”) might be running out at the end of 2008. What this means is that all of the books with the D20 logo on them from third party publishers will have to be pulped.
That’s a hell of a New Years’ present. I really hope that isn’t true.
I think that the OGL was awesome for gaming. Its opened up dozens of venues for new publishers and new writers and designers to put out their work, and that is always good. It has provided even more of a lingua franca for the gaming community. Whatever you think of D20, there are thousands of supplements out there for it, some of which are pretty good and a few of which are truly excellent. While it hasn’t led to earth-shattering advances in game theory and design, it does mean that when you sit down at a table with gamers you’ve got something in common right off the bat. I used D20 (specifically Eberron) as a starting-point for my current group because everyone knew how to play in that system. Since, we’ve moved on to other systems, but the common baseline helps a lot.
If I can speculate for a moment, I’ve gotten the overall impression that 4th Edition is…less of a labor of love than 3rd Edition was. There seems to be more of a hybrid of game enthusiasts and corporate number-crunchers at work here. I just see decisions being made which appear to be more calculated, and a lack of concern for the frustration being experienced around 4th Edition from third party publishers and fans.
I realize that WotC doesn’t owe what are essentially competitors anything – or do they? There’s something to be said for the idea that competition improves a system overall. I think the crew that came up with 3rd Edition and the OGL knew that, and that the current group…knows it less. And there are definitely decisions that WotC could make which might seem beneficial to them but which will hurt the hobby overall in the end. I don’t get a clear picture of whether they care yet.
I fervently hope that the news about the D20 license isn’t true. That would be what we call a bitch move.
Maybe the difference is this: some want to treat RPGs like they are part of an industry, while others treat it like a hobby. If it is in an industry – a tiny, tiny, niche “industry” – then this might be acceptable behavior. Most “industries” are nasty, selfish, cutthroat environments. If it is indeed a hobby, however, then this is not acceptable at all.
Maybe this is why I’ll never be in business.