View Full Version : Interesting Article on the new D&D license...

04-25-2008, 01:47 PM
D&D “version 4.0” will soon be released, and many game beta testers believe the system has been radically overhauled and improved. However, this new system will not be released under the OGL. It will however, be released under the “Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition Game System License” (GSL).

The GSL license has not yet been made public, but there are rumors, speculations, and concerns, fueled by online posts made by the brand manager and licensing manager for Dungeons and Dragons, and relayed by the lead writer of third-party publisher Necromancer Games that the GSL will contain a “poison pill” clause – that is, in order to use the GSL, a game company must not publish anything under the OGL.

This would be like Microsoft saying that developers for Windows Vista are forbidden from publishing anything under the GNU public license. And the upshot is now that developers have to choose between not developing games with the improved system or destroying their back-catalogs.

Full Article here (on MySQL, then D&D) (http://www.networkperformancedaily.com/2008/04/mysql_isnt_going_from_open_to.html)

-Rob A>

04-25-2008, 03:06 PM
The "poison pill" if it exists, probably won't matter much. All that will happen is that a company like "Malhavoc Games" will spawn two legal incorporated entities, something like "Malhavoc, Inc" and "Malhavoc Enterprises", and one will make OGL and the other will make GSL. It will be an inconvenience for these companies, but won't have any tangible effect (other than feeding lawyers).

04-25-2008, 07:15 PM
Even us poor lawyers won't be fed (sob!) they'll just buy the companies off the shelf.

04-27-2008, 09:59 AM
I have for some time been screaming that the writing is on the wall when it comes to the new 4th ed. license. Obviously as a game company they are free to alter the license in any way they please, and we are free not to buy. But what galls me is that the new game system, by all accounts, has collected all the most popular alterations made by 3rd party companies for their own products under the 3.5 ogl and simpy incorporated them into 4ed. I refer in particular, but not exclusively to Iron Heroes which I play and which was originally written by Mike Mearls, who coincidentally is one of the lead writers on 4th ed.

Legally and strategically speaking it has been brilliant. When Wizards launched 3rd ed. they perceived that the reason 2nd ed had been a relative failure financially was because so many competing prouducts sprang up made by small companies with no real long-term prospects that diluted the market. The OGL was drafted to prevent this from happening again. As a useful by-product it also allowed many gamers to make cool stuff for their favourite game legally, and maybe even make some money out of it. Many did and some fantastic systems sprang up under the ogl which relied on the D&D body of work to give them a powerful context. Many of these, in my humble opinion, were simply better than the Core products themselves, and were alternatives to them.

Most of those products have been around long enough for the new designers at wizards to see what works and what doesn't and to incorporate all those things that worked, and were brought to light by 3rd party publishers, into the new D&D game. The new license now shuts all these people out. Under it you can make a new monster manual, but an alternative Players Handbook is out of the question.

A poison pill clause on top of that....doesn't surpise me at all. Its perfectly in line with a corporate strategy that is designed to be a shut out.

Am I an over cynical copyright lawyer? I think we'll know in a few months.

Appologies for the rant, but this is a pet peeve of mine and has been for some time.


04-27-2008, 10:49 AM
I've been railing against WotC for ages now because of their business practices. This is just more proof that I was correct. The sad thing is that the players that are real D&D fans refuse to see the truth or make excuses for them. Cognitive Dissonance at it finest.

04-27-2008, 11:17 AM
One of the problems might be that gaming is a sharing activity, and published games (as it stands with WOTC et al) are capitalist products. Sharing and capitalism don't mix ... not for long, anyway, with a nod to Torq's rant.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm a capitalist -- it's the best system we have -- without revenue & profit, WOTC could not publish. But, like Windows, just because capitalism is "best" doesn't mean it works very well.

It's too bad that the systems we use to play our games have to be "owned and licensed." Too bad for anything, really. /end rant

04-27-2008, 07:35 PM
I am closely involved with a couple game publishing companies myself. I'm actually a pseudo partner in fact, and I have to agree with you toff. However, the problem isn't really the system, it is how it is used. This particular move specifically doesn't have to be handled this way, but they are choosing to do it this way. That is where I have the problem. It actually extends to Ha$bro, and I believe that is where the problem comes in.

04-28-2008, 11:48 AM
Yeah, I would not say the problem is with the WotC people. I actually have met and talked with a great deal of them personally, and none of them seem to want to shut out the player base, and actually open up a lot of internal design things to us 'fans' to try and make the game better.

I do know that if it was not for WotC, D&D would not be here today. T$R not TSR ran the game into ground, threatening to sue anyone who had a D&D Fansite up claiming it infringed on their intelectual property. Also, because of their desire to totally flood the market and perform Brand Cannibalism* on themselves, they were losing money, and were in a very real danger of going under.

Along came Wizards of the Coast, flush with cash from Magic the Gathering (TM) and the Pokemon (TM) licenses, and they bought the game they loved (Wizards of the Coast is actually the Adventuring name of the Party from when they played D&D as teenagers).

They saved D&D, and became a powerhouse of Gaming licenses, including the license for Star Wars. Around that time they were bought by Hasbro, not for the D&D License, but for the MAGIC revenue.

So, I see what's being done as a way of HASBRO controlling what is being done, not so much what WotC is doing, as they are small part of a Whole.

That said, I will be switching to 4e, but will likely limit myself to CORE** and not get anything else.

*Brand Cannibalism: A term referring to the instance where a company puts out two very similar products targeted towards the same consumer. The company needs to spend twice the internal resources but recoups less than 50% of the revenue as the two products compete against each other. EXAMPLE: TAB cola and COCA Cola are both produced by COKE, were originally both COLAs, and were marketed to the same Consumer. COKE had two divisions COKE and TAB both competing against each other.

** CORE: the basic three rule books: Players Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, Monster Manual.

04-28-2008, 11:59 AM
If you look at other things that Ha$bro does, you can see that they do not really care about the customer, or perhaps have no idea how to market correctly? Not sure. The best example is HeroScape. The game has a tremendous fan base of extremely talented and fanatical people. See Heroscappers.net to see what I mean. Yet Ha$bro is trying to market to adolescents and doesn't even know what its customers are wanting. It is a really interesting study in corporate/customer disconnect. If they would simply open themselves to the idea that their fans may actually know what would work for product line, they would likely be raking in the dough but instead they are looking at HeroScape as a loss leader of sorts. I fear that if D&D 4e doesn't live up to their expectations they may treat it the same as they are treating HeroScape and I will really feel for the WotC folks at that point.

04-28-2008, 02:20 PM
I have to disagree with that assessment of HeroScape, RP...

I happen to be an AFOL (adult friend of Lego). I (and my other AFOL's) waste stupid amounts of $$ on Lego. In my case robotics, and for others, trains, etc. But regardless of our fanaticism, the talent, and even the cash outlay, we can't compete with the total sum of $$ spent by kids (and parent, grandparents, etc.) That small handful of people purchasing multiple $1000's annually can't compete with the tens of thousands spending $40 per year. Hence Lego's target demographic. (And the reason we have Bionicle).

Ha$bro will continue to market to adolescent males, as they will make more money from all the one-off sales leading to unused copies of HeroScape sitting in closets than the purchasers made by the fans at Heroscapers.net.

They are a company, after all, and making money for their shareholders is why they exist... I'm not defending them, just clarifying motivations.

-Rob A>

04-28-2008, 02:44 PM
I suppose I wasn't clear. Ha$bro isn't marketing to anyone. They tried marketing to kids, but it fell extremely short and now there is next to no marketing being done at all. They aren't even sending out new product. Whoever the marketing team was that was in charge of HS should be sent back to school in my honest opinion.

The difference is that Lego has their act together and while they understand their target market very well, they also understand that there is interest from the adults out there who played with them as kids, and will get them not only for themselves but for their own kids as well. Ha$bro on the other hand made a sad attempt at marketing and when they didn't see their sales meet expectations they didn't bother finding out why. I know this first hand because some of the HS developers were on the forums early on, but they were forced to not participate after it was discovered they were helping the fans by answering questions and offering advice for mods and the like. Ha$bro just really didn't get it, and that is where my concern lies.

As for the business angle, you'll get no argument from me. I am very much for capitalism as indicated in my posts up above. That is why I'm bothered by Ha$bro. They had a cash cow for their shareholders and the dropped it because they refused to listen to their customers. That is what has me concerned.

05-04-2008, 07:49 PM
WOTC responds... (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/4news/20080502)

...and it doesn't look that bad...

Q. Do I have to give up my right to publish 3.5 OGL products in order to publish 4e compatible products?
A. No. Publishers are free to print product lines under either the OGL or 4E GSL. We would love to see our industry colleagues convert their entire product offerings to 4E, as we are doing, but we do not expect or require entire companies to convert to the new edition.

-Rob A>