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An Open Letter to Wizards of the Coast

It’s no secret that I’m new to this whole game design thing. In fact, until I wrote School Daze last week, I had never actually designed much of anything. That said, I think about design concerns quite a bit around here (as you might have noticed), and one of the things I’ve thought about a lot is which rules to use for what I’m working on.

For Shadows of the Collegium, I’ve made it no secret that I’m breaking the setting into chunks and assigning each chunk a different system of rules. I made those choices based on a few factors:

  1. Do the rules fit the kinds of stories that I want to see told in a given area?
  2. How familiar am I/could I be with the rules (Secondary concern here: do I like the rules?)
  3. How open is the system? Can I use it as I see fit?

Answering those questions led me to pick Pathfinder, Savage Worlds, and FATE. The first and third are OGL licensed, and Savage Worlds has a very easy-to-obtain license based on the quality of the work. Open enough, as I see things. I’ve also considered other rules systems such as Mutants & Masterminds (oh yes, I’m considering it, even now), or Old School Hack. One system that I had to dismiss from consideration quickly was, sadly Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition.

The GSL under which 4e is licensed makes it extremely difficult to publish original setting material. If I wanted to include elves in my setting, under the GSL, I could change nothing about them from how they’re presented in the core 4e books. No stat changes, no racial ability changes, no flavor changes, no nothing. Those kinds of restrictions make it near-impossible for me to work with 4e for Shadows. And that’s sad. I’d love to support the most widely recognized tabletop RPG in the world. Sadly, I can’t.

Or, can I?

Today’s announcement about the next edition of Dungeons and Dragons gives me hope. Wizards of the Coast is saying that the development and playtesting will be much more open. They want it to be our edition of D&D. My sincere hope is that my ability to publish my own work based on their rules and races will return to at least OGL levels of possibility. I would dearly love for them to publish the next edition of D&D under a Creative Commons license, but I’m not holding my breath.

Many small, independent developers make stuff for, and about games because they love the games. Why do it otherwise? I love D&D. It’s the game that started it all, for me, and for millions of other games. I would also love to produce content for it. I hope Wizards of the Coast allows me to do that.

About Tracy Barnett

I am the creator of Sand & Steam. Hopefully you like what you see here. If so, use it to game. That is the whole point.
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  • Commondialog

    Funny you mention that Tracy, we were just talking about that over at Heroic Journey Publishing. Our fear is that 5th Ed won’t be very open at all, but I’ll keep hoping that we’re wrong.

    The strength and weakness of 3/3.5 was the openness. Here’s to hoping 5 will be open.

  • Runnetib

    Sounds like they’re taking some marketing strategy from Paizo’s book for Pathfinder. In any case, I’m happy with Pathfinder, and I don’t see myself dropping it for a(nother) new edition of D&D, history be damned.

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  • http://darktouch.net DarkTouch

    They keep using the word ‘open’ in relation to the play test. So far no real word on the use of the OGL. I think they’d be better off for it but it is definitely a wait and see scenario.

  • Sathas213

    I’m just trying to catch up on what you’re doing with the setting, and in that it sounds like you want 3 systems in one world? As in 3 systems one specific to different areas of the world? Of player interaction (skills, combat, magic, etc.) At the moment I’m going with 3 in 1 world. If I’m wrong forgive me on this one.

    However, I would caution the use of multiple systems for different chunks. You need only look so far as the Iron Kingdoms RPG which had MASSIVE promise, but it just wasn’t compatible for those that ran both, indeed intermixed the RPG and the wargame. Then trying to shove a d20 system into original mechanics that had no parallel in other settings only helped to make it more difficult to get into or at the very least balance. Thankfully they’re creating an original system that borrows heavily from the wargame creating more ability to intertwine the two.

    Not only is it more difficult to immerse yourself in a world with 3 different mechanics working in your head, there are glaring pros and cons of each system when you start getting down to the mathematics of it.

    I’d happily take some corrections on my line of thinking though if I’m getting the wrong idea.

  • Anonymous

    You’ve generally got the right idea, but this, sadly, isn’t the place to discuss it. I’ll direct you to this older post that explains what’s going on: http://www.sandandsteam.net/2011/08/01/what-dreams-may-come/ I will say that the different sections of the setting will largely not interact unless gaming groups wish them to. Essentially, each piece is its own campaign setting, but they’re all tied together.

    As an aside, this makes me think that something like a forum might not be a bad idea… pondering.