Friday, January 13, 2012

5 Reasons why 5e Dungeons & Dragons will use the OGL

1. You can't create D&D without it!

Not any D&D that actually looks and feels like pre-4e D&D, anyway. From 0e to 3.x, all of it's OGLed.

Any "Ultimate, Modular Edition" of D&D, is going to ooze OGL rules and terminology.

2. They Can't go for the Instant Kill!

Consider this quote from Mike Mearls:
"We plan to continue offering people access to tools like the D&D Character Builder and the D&D Monster Builder to support 4th edition. We're also exploring ideas for conversion tools so that some of the 4th edition characters and content will be playable with the next edition."

In abandoning 4e, they're taking a huge risk! While lapsed gamers, coming back to a familiar D&D is no doubt part of their overall plan, they've got to, but got to get PF player's to buy their stuff!

And, while comparatively small, OSR dollars are no longer something to dismiss. The Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperboria Kickstarter, has raised over 12k in just a month of fundraising. In this economy, that's rather telling.

WotC can't expect everyone to just flock to their banner, overnight! They'll get an initial sales bump, but to be sustainable, they're going to have to make inroads. They're going to have to woo their old customers.

Because sure as shit, their going to lose a chunk of their current ones!

3. There Will be No Edition War!

It'll be a matter of selling compatible products. Not enough gamers will abandon their favorite rule-set, for something too different. Not immediately. But, if it's close enough, with add-ons and modules that gamers can use with what they're already playing...

"Our Supplement CZ is absolutely perfect for you Pathfinder guys! It'll really add some nice options and tweaks, you can introduce for your game."

"Supplement O1 will work really, really well, with any Old School game, not to mention our own 5e Base. It's got just enough and just the right kind of material, that DIY DM's will feel right at home integrating it into their campaigns."

"The New Forgotten Realms is completely compatible with Pathfinder! Check out these Prestige Classes!!!"

If it's good. If PF, OSR, etc., gamers like it. They'll pick up more and more. From supplements to adventure modules. Hell, they don't even Have to really switch to the WotC main rule-set(s). But, even if they don't, they'll probably buy it (them.) There won't be an Edition War.

It's going to be a Seduction.

4. All those OGL Publishers!

Will be publishing, anyway. They need to be sporting the 5e logo and producing content for WotC's Game.

5. They're Going to have to Join the Club, if they're going to Take it Over!
"The new edition is being conceived of as a modular, flexible system, easily customized to individual preferences. Just like a player makes his character, the Dungeon Master can make his ruleset. He might say ‘I’m going to run a military campaign, it’s going to be a lot of fighting’… so he’d use the combat chapter, drop in miniatures rules, and include the martial arts optional rules.” - Mike Mearls.
"I'm the lead designer of a project that will likely evolve into a new iteration of the Dungeons & Dragons ruleset. It's meant to be a set of rules that unites all the previous editions, and the players of those editions. It's a big project, and we plan on involving all comers to playtest and voice their opinions, because really, what's the point of designing a game no one wants to play? And who knows better what D&D players want than, well, D&D players. " - Monte Cook.
To win back their former base, the new game is going to have to look and feel like D&D.

If they're going to be the Big Fish in D&D again, they're going to have to play in the same pond as the other fish. And then, Eat Them, if they can!  

Thanks to EN World, for keeping a handy compilation of 5e related quotes and news.


  1. "You can't create D&D without [the OGL]!"

    It's (arguably) true that we can't create D&D without the OGL.

    However, WotC isn't us. They own the IP and they can deploy it without using a license.

    If 5e ends up looking something like current games built from the 3e or 3.5 SRD, then it will be possible to clone those similar parts. But any parts that don't look like the relevant SRD or other OGL derivations based on it will be more challenging, if not impossible, to clone.

    1. The more alien material they bring in, the further from compatibility it'll take 5e. And the greater the risk of gamers giving the game a pass. WotC not needing the license, isn't the issue.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. The counter-argument is that WotC also wants 4e stuff to be compatible with 5e, right? How does one manage 4e compatibility without using material that's beyond the scope of the 3e SRD and its derivations?

    4. My argument is, that 4e compatibility is going to be limited. Partially based on the Mike Mearls quote I listed in the post.

  2. Also regarding the $12k kickstarter for AS&SoH: That's awesome for Jeff, and a very strong OSR total, but the workings behind the 12k number are totally unrealistic outside of small press / vanity press.

    Jeff isn't pushing it through distribution (if he were, his portion of the $12k would only be $6k or so), and his average cost of materials/production per kickstarter is relatively high (because of the T-shirt and free shipping, which isn't media mail b/c of the T-shirt).

    It's not clear what the upper bound on OSR unit sales is yet (but thanks to Raggi's transparency, the numbers are becoming clearer). He has 168 pre-sales, which is strong for the OSR, but it's not yet clear what the sales tail looks like, and it could be mostly pdf buyers from here on out. (i.e., the rest of his sales will probably not be at $75 per unit.) Even if he's so lucky as to match LotFPRPG's sales (600+) over a length of time, he may only take in another $4k (total) over the life of sales.

    Not that that's bad, mind you, but I wager his per-hour wage from this effort ends up being lower than you'd expect. And I'm sure Jeff isn't paying his health insurance from his intake on AS&SoH.

    My point being that, from the perspective of a company like WotC, who is paying some significant fraction of multiple peoples' salaries (and benefits) to produce one product, that $12k and 168 pre-sales probably looks terribly insignificant. Even if you factor in WotC's inherent ability to make more sales of an equivalent product (through presence, brand recognition, and marketing), I'm having a hard time seeing how WotC sees AS&SoH as any kind of reason to produce OSR-like games.

    1. Not my argument. OSR sales as a whole, is the issue. That, and potential OSR sales.

      D&D belongs to WotC. That's going to be their P.O.V.

      Ever see that old Frasier episode, where Roz quits her job, then regrets it? Someone, Niles I think, jokingly suggests she waltz into the office like nothing ever happened and pretend she never quit. Which, she promptly does.

    2. No doubt OSR sales have grown in the last couple years. Publishers have thankfully shown numbers on a few occasions. But the growth has been moderate; where one could sell 100 copies a few years ago, now one can sell 300. But do you really envision OSR sales increasing the two orders of magnitude (!) a company like WotC would need? Are there *that* many people flocking to OSR purchases instead of other purchases?

      Maybe (and that's a *big* maybe) there's very little overlap between the purchasers (or would-be purchasers) of LotFPRPG, AS&SoH, OSRIC, S&W, LL, DCCRPG, and the various vintage TSR copies of the games (sold in the after market). So *maybe* the potential unit sales for a universally praised OSR game is the sum of all those sales. (But the evidence I've seen suggests otherwise; I and others I know have bought several of those games.) And *maybe* that's one of aforementioned orders of magnitude.

      But where does the other 10x the number of people come from? Where are the signs that the OSR is going to reach it?

      Is it that there are 10x the number of current (idealized) OSR-preferring buyers out there who are simply buying nothing today because they don't happen to like what WotC currently has to offer and because they haven't heard of the OSR stuff?

      Is there any evidence that the yet-to-be-realized OSR market is worth losing existing 4e players over? (And based on 4e sales, that number of players is really big. Generally #2 or #1 in sales, depending on the person making the argument, and the data they are looking at.)

      Or is it more likely that WotC is trying to recover some portion of the 3e-based players, who were lost to pathfinder? There's plenty of hard data out there that shows 3e-derived sales are way, way, way higher than OSR sales.

    3. LotFP has at least 3 products that have broken 1k in sales.

      And no, OSR sales, even in potential would not be worth WotC abandoning 4e. Not alone.

      But, abandoning 4e is what they're doing and from what they've said, I think they're going for the whole enchilada.

      And "pre 3e" style of play, perhaps in a bastardized form, will increase. Because more people will try it. And it's more fun.

  3. It would seem to me that the goal is to gain back the growing number of folks fleeing WotC. 4e has been a failure and I feel even 4e fanboys don't touch the number of folks playing many of the 3.X clones and OSR games. From Fantasycraft by Crafty games to Paizo's Pathfinder and the Troll Lord's C&C, that's a huge cut into a former D&D fanbase.

    Goodman Games going for a Old school clone like game, and the hype behind the new Hackmaster has got to be putting a whole into a former D&D fanbase too.

    Fact is 4e fractured the community and now we have hundreds of ways to play "D&D", so do we need a 5e? Is it going to pull enough folks away from games they have been playing for years now, just because they throw us a few bones and slap D&D on the cover?

    I don't have a 100% solid opinion yet but as of right now, I wish WotC would just go away.


  4. I like those quotes from Mike Mearls and Monte Cook


    don't they imply that the playtest will be a bit of a farce?

    What if people don't want an edition that's compatible with everything? What if they hated AD&D want 3rd edition back?

    1. If it works, I suspect most player's to end up on a sort of 3.x end of the spectrum. God only knows, what WotC will call it, or exactly what it'll look like.

  5. 3E has always been an over bloated and complicated system to GM for me. I really wish WoTC would just forget 5E and keep publishing new 4E material anyway. 4E is great to GM and play, there's nothing wrong with it, it is a new system unto itself and redefined D&D, WoTC is taking two steps back catering to the wishes of the 3E crowds who wont come back anyhow, they're all playing PF anyhow, so let them.