Wednesday, January 9, 2008

OGL D&D Specific

There was a conference call about the new OGL, with a summary posted on Enworld. What struck me as different and interesting is that the new OGL is D&D specific, limiting use by requiring that a game utilize the Player's Handbook. Games like Conan and definitely non-fantasy D20 products wouldn't work under the 4.0 OGL. Non fantasy products worked pretty poorly anyway, if you ask me.

With the OGL tied more closely to D&D, how would that impact the future impact of games like Spycraft or Mutants and Masterminds – games that in 3e used the core d20 concept but diverged radically from D&D?

The new version of the OGL isn’t as open-ended as the current version. Any 4e OGL product must use the 4e PHB as the basis of their game. If they can’t use the core rule books, it won’t be possible to create the game under this particular version of the OGL.

Future versions of the OGL, including a 4e d20 Modern version, may make certain games possible where they weren’t before.

Now that the OGL details have been announced, past d20 publishers are announcing their products for fourth edition. They mostly sound like update products rather than anything ground breaking. More of the same. Yawn. As a store owner, I won't be falling into the trap of buying past D20 products updated to 4E. In fact, unless I see some huge appetite for all things 4E, I'll likely choose to pass on third party D&D products, much like we do now with D20 being dead.


  1. Wasn't this how the original OGL was set up? I remember all the early D20 books requiring that you have the Players Handbook. Only later did they open up the license so that people could publish self-contained games.

    I think it sounds more like an attempt to insure that OGL products don't take away from sales of the core D&D books. That's what it always looked like the first time around.

  2. The D20 license requires that you say your product requires the use of the core books, either for D&D or D20 modern. D20 usually meant that a product could be easily dropped into one of these games.

    The OGL is different, it allows you to use D20 game mechanics without the requirement of the D20 license. For example, in Conan, you use D20 mechanics, but you have your own set of classes, skills, etc., to the desire you want to be different. You can't use the core books for the Conan product, but the mechanics are similar to D&D (D20). OGL meant a product would be familiar to someone who knows D20, but not the same.

    The new OGL is more like the old D20 license. The difference now is that there's no legal ability to use the game mechanics for something other than a D&D game, or a D20 Modern game if they come out with a license for that. You can still use the old OGL to create games that are 3.5 compatibe-ish, but you wouldn't be able to use new 4.0 game mechanics.

    This is my understanding. I'm no lawyer and this is really legal wrangling.

  3. Ah, maybe it just took a while for companies to learn when to use the OGL and when to use D20. I just remember the Traveller20 book had everything you needed to run the game except the experience progression chart, or something stupid like that. For that you had to buy the Players Handbook.

    I'm perfectly happy with a more restrictive OGL. I got tired of picking up a promising game only to find that it was another D20/OGL based system. The only one I ever thought was good was Mutants & Masterminds, and it uses so little of the core system that it shouldn't need to be upgraded.

  4. The idea behind D20 and the new OGL is they'll allow third parties to tie in with their core rules with the expectation that it sells more core rule books. The problem with the current (old) OGL is there's no financial benefit in allowing others to piggy back on your intellectual property without a tie in.

    Over the last eight years, if you were to publish an RPG, the big question would be why wouldn't you make it OGL or D20? It's got a gigantic installed base, it's well vetted - we know it's strengths and weaknesses, and for a long time, it was all anyone would buy (now it's the kiss of death). Now I'm hoping we see some innovative new systems that stray from OGL, especially games that aren't fantasy.

    We're really liking the Fate based Spirit of the Century game, and the new Dresden Files takes advantage of the SOTC experience to vet out the rules. As you mentioned, the 40K RPG will be based on WFRP, a well regarded system that many people like.

    As a store owner, I see massive fatigue with D20 and I tend to avoid games that use the system unless it's from WOTC. I'm hoping we see a kind of renaissance of RPGs with some actual creativity. Then again, there are a lot of issues right now that seems to prevent that, most importantly a general decline in RPG playing (but it's cyclical).