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Mike Mearls (briefly) addresses the gaming license.

A Hero Twice a Month - Thu, 05/29/2014 - 00:44

At the end of my last post, where I expressed my concern that D&D 5e might not have a gaming license, I stated that “for all I know Wizards of the Coast will announce a liberal gaming license tomorrow and I will look like an idiot”.  Well, that didn’t exactly happen but I was quite surprised to see Mike Mearls bring up this very concern in his post today.

I wish I could believe he was aware of my tiny little blog, but the reality is it shows how important the concept of a gaming license is to the gaming community as a whole.  Obviously my concerns were shared by many.

Parsing Mearls post we can only be sure of a couple of things.  First is that there will be some kind of “mechanism” that will allow fans to create their own gaming materials.  Second is that whatever this mechanism is that it will not debut until sometime in 2015.

This doesn’t alleviate my concerns, although I am glad to see that it is on Mearls mind.  I did notice that he was careful not to use the word “license” in describing how fans would be able to create their own materials, although I am not reading too much into it at this early stage of the game.

Whatever mechanism Wizards of the Coast provides I doubt we will ever see anything as broad as the OGL again.  Maybe they don’t have to.  In the comments of my last post it was noted by Nicholas Bergquist that the OGL is broad enough to make material that is functionally compatible with D&D 5e even if it can’t technically be billed as such.  Ultimately that genie is out of the bottle already.

Regardless I hope that Wizards of the Coast does this right.  Beyond simple books, it would be nice if they were willing to open things up a bit on the digital side.  The D&D 4e’s GSL was much more restrictive, about how the license applied to digital tools than the OGL was.  This isn’t surprising since Wizards of the Coast launched D&D Insider at the same time. 

Unfortunately, software is not what Wizards of the Coast does best.  Rather then control the tools I think it would be a smarter move to create API’s to allow others to create the tools while controlling access to their intellectual property.  I believe having robust digital tools supporting D&D, even if they didn’t create all of them, would help fifth edition reach its full potential.

From DM Screens to Poker Tables

dungeonmastering.com - Wed, 05/28/2014 - 01:56
It’s like real-life Revenge of the Nerds. An awkward teenager who grew up on D&D or Magic: The Gathering starts playing poker, soon rakes in a fortune and begins living the high life....

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D&D Basic is free, so how can I ask for more?

A Hero Twice a Month - Tue, 05/27/2014 - 21:15

Mike Mearls revealed today that Basic D&D will be a freely downloadable PDF.  This is big news.  I thought it was genius when during the fourth edition Wizards of the Coast made the Keep on the Shadowfell module alongside the standalone character generator (which allowed you to create characters of levels 1-3 without a D&D Insider subscription) free downloads on their website.  It was a great gateway into the new edition for those who wanted to give it a try but weren’t ready to plunk down $35 a piece on the 4e Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide and Monster Manual.

Obviously providing Basic D&D as a freely downloadable PDF is an even bigger deal.  According to Mearls’ post, “It runs from levels 1 to 20 and covers the cleric, fighter, rogue, and wizard, presenting what we view as the essential subclass for each. It also provides the dwarf, elf, halfling, and human as race options.”  Frankly, this is awesome.  It really lowers the barrier to entry for those that are even vaguely curious about the fifth edition.  When the price is free, if you are at all curious there is no real reason not to try it out!

So why am I disappointed about this?

Well, while I appreciate “Free as in Beer”, I really appreciate “Free as in Freedom”.

Nice, but not the best kind of free.

For those who are unfamiliar “Free as in Beer” versus “Free as in Freedom” (see also “libre” versus “gratis”) is used by the open source software community to explain the difference between “free software” which is built on closed source but given away free of charge and “free software” that has a license that allows others to build on what you created.

Since D&D 5e was first announced I wondered if there was going to be a license that would allow others to build upon it.  When D&D 3e came out, the most revolutionary thing about it were the Open Gaming License (OGL) and D20 license.  I could not believe that Wizards of the Coast had open sourced D&D!  With the D20 license, as long as you didn’t violate the terms anyone could create content compatible with D&D.  Perhaps more importantly, the OGL allowed an even greater variety games to be created from the same basic set of rules.

True, there was a lot of crap in the initial glut of material that was created after D&D 3e was released.  However, amazing games like Mutants and Masterminds and (much later) Pathfinder were a direct result of the freedom the OGL allowed.  There were also a variety of software tools, such as PCGen, which took advantage of this license.  It is amazing how much this license helped the hobby thrive.

Unfortunately, this may not seem like such a good thing from Wizards of the Coast’s point of view.   After all, one of their biggest competitors now is Pathfinder, a game that is really just a refinement of their own D&D 3e rules.  It must be hard to explain to the bean counters why another game company is outselling you with your own rule set.

There is really no reason to expect D&D 5e will have a license like the OGL.  No such license existed for AD&D 1e or 2e.  D&D 4e had a Game System License (GSL), but it was much more restrictive and much less used.  I get the feeling that Wizards of the Coast feels they gave away the crown jewels with the OGL and is determined not to make the same mistake again.

I cannot be sure whether or not the OGL was the best move for Wizards of the Coast.  However, I do feel it was good for the hobby, providing a robust base that people could build on.  As talented as the game designers at Wizards of the Coast are, they can’t fulfill every need.  Ultimately, I feel what is good for the hobby is good for D&D.  It may be hard to prove, but I don’t think it was a coincidence that D&D was at the top of the heap when the OGL reflected their most recent edition.

Of course, for all I know Wizards of the Coast will announce a liberal gaming license tomorrow and I will look like an idiot.  I tend to doubt it though.  I think Wizards of the Coast feels giving away D&D 5e Basic for free (as in beer) will be enough to keep their fans happy.  It is both a shrewd marketing decision and a genuinely nice move for the fans.  I even feel like a bit of a jerk complaining about it,  after all who doesn’t like free beer?

I guess I was just hoping for a bit more freedom.

Basic Dungeons & Dragons

Wizards of the Coast D&D - Tue, 05/27/2014 - 03:00
Mike talks about Basic D&D in this week's Legends & Lore.

Crest

Flickr Dungeons and Dragons Tag Feed - Mon, 05/26/2014 - 10:56

kleinnick has added a photo to the pool:

Crest

Categories: Dungeons and Dragons

Kenku Wing Mage

Flickr Dungeons and Dragons Tag Feed - Fri, 05/23/2014 - 14:21

ridureyu1 has added a photo to the pool:

Kenku Wing Mage

He makes up for his lack of wings by making magical ones.

Categories: Dungeons and Dragons

Kenku

Flickr Dungeons and Dragons Tag Feed - Fri, 05/23/2014 - 14:21

ridureyu1 has added a photo to the pool:

Kenku

Crow people! They like shiny things.

Categories: Dungeons and Dragons

Wallpaper: Tyranny of Dragons

Wizards of the Coast D&D - Thu, 05/22/2014 - 03:00
To further celebrate the Tyranny of Dragons, we're pleased to offer the following wallpaper set.

Coming Soon: D&D Adventurers League!

Wizards of the Coast D&D - Wed, 05/21/2014 - 03:00
Starting this August, the face of D&D public play changes with the launch of the fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons. Today, we’d like to share some information about those changes and what you can expect from our future public play programs.

DnDClassics New Releases

Wizards of the Coast D&D - Tue, 05/20/2014 - 03:00
This one-stop-shop for D&D content offers an easy way to access and download favorite classic titles electronically by computer, mobile phone, or tablet (including iPads). Coming to DnDClassics this week...

Neverwinter Tyranny of Dragons Announced

Wizards of the Coast D&D - Mon, 05/19/2014 - 03:00
Today, Perfect World Entertainment, Inc. and Cryptic Studios are pleased to announce that Neverwinter: Tyranny of Dragons will launch on August 14, 2014.

Tyranny of Dragons Announced

Wizards of the Coast D&D - Mon, 05/19/2014 - 03:00
Today, Wizards of the Coast unveiled new serialized entertainment offerings that will bring the upcoming Tyranny of Dragons storyline to life, as well as announcing the D&D Player’s Handbook, Monster Manual and Dungeon Master’s Guide for the highly-anticipated new rules set for the D&D tabletop roleplaying game.

Girallon

Flickr Dungeons and Dragons Tag Feed - Sun, 05/18/2014 - 17:02

ridureyu1 has added a photo to the pool:

Girallon

Something is wrong with this picture.

Categories: Dungeons and Dragons

Clawfoot Rider

Flickr Dungeons and Dragons Tag Feed - Sat, 05/17/2014 - 11:41

ridureyu1 has added a photo to the pool:

Clawfoot Rider

Halflings train their clawfoo... wait a second. This is a Hobbit riding a velociraptor. A HOBBIT RIDING A VELOCIRAPTOR.

Categories: Dungeons and Dragons

Choker

Flickr Dungeons and Dragons Tag Feed - Sat, 05/17/2014 - 11:41

ridureyu1 has added a photo to the pool:

Choker

These horrific creatures stalk the feygroves and strangle life from their prey!

Categories: Dungeons and Dragons

Roper; it’s what’s not for dinner

dungeonmastering.com - Fri, 05/16/2014 - 23:30
Behind The Monsters by Tricky Owlbear Publishing was an ongoing series that took familiar D&D monsters and gave them a new twist, adding interesting histories, backgrounds and plot ideas....

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Rotten Belle

Flickr Dungeons and Dragons Tag Feed - Thu, 05/15/2014 - 23:28

mephiston_l has added a photo to the pool:

Rotten Belle

Categories: Dungeons and Dragons

Rotten Belle

Flickr Dungeons and Dragons Tag Feed - Thu, 05/15/2014 - 23:28

mephiston_l has added a photo to the pool:

Rotten Belle

Categories: Dungeons and Dragons

The Horned Skull

Wizards of the Coast D&D - Wed, 05/14/2014 - 03:00
The secretive Horned Skull group uses a special item to help it achieve its goals. What is this group, and what are ornskulls?

Adventure Seeds: Time Travel!

dungeonmastering.com - Tue, 05/13/2014 - 10:49
Who doesn’t enjoy a good time travel story? The idea’s been prevalent in fiction for centuries. Whether it’s something where time travel is usually just a framing device like Doctor Who, or whether...

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