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:
- Do the rules fit the kinds of stories that I want to see told in a given area?
- How familiar am I/could I be with the rules (Secondary concern here: do I like the rules?)
- 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.