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5E A 5e OGL isn't going to cause another Pathfinder scenario and here's why

Gundark

Explorer
I've seen lots of comments lately about 5e and the possibility that it may go OGL especially that if 5e goes OGL then another Pathfinder like situation will arise (Pathfinder 2….the revenge!!!). I'm personally of the belief that the OGL was only one factor in all of this, there were many other factors that laid the ground work for Paizo and Pathfinder to take off like it did. I've been noodling this of late and I like to discuss them.

#1. The OGL. This gets blamed a lot for Pathfinders rise and the "failure" of 4e. While I believe that it does play a role, it's not the only and especially not the main culprit. There were other OGL games that were released around in the late 3e/ early 4e eras. Paizo has done a remarkable job of taking a game, re-branding it and re-selling it, however there were other innovative games being released around this time. Fantasycraft/crafty games took d20 and really did some amazing innovative work with the system, yet it remains a game that barely anyone knows about or even plays it. Despite it being a great ground breaking game, it did nothing to dent the D&D juggernaut. So while the OGL allowed Pazio to release Pathfinder, without other factors at play Pathfinder would have been just another Arcana Unleashed/Iron Heroes/Fantasycraft and we wouldn't be talking about it today.

#2. D&D 3.5. 3rd edition was released in 2000. 3 years later D&D 3.5 was released and this caused lash back. My home group complained about the change, and I know of others that refused to switch over at all. There were lots of complaints on the message boards (this one and others). I was looking forward to the release of a 3 party campaign setting (Iron Kingdoms) that got pushed back, this disrupted the schedules of lots of publishers who had to change their release schedule. I remember that in the case of the Iron Kingdoms the book was delayed a year or so longer, and people blamed WotC for the delay. Thus the "edition turn over" fatigue began here and gave others the impression that WotC was only interested in the all mighty dollar rather than listening to the fan base. So when in 2007 when WotC announces that 4e is on the way it was seen by some as a money grab and not a necessary change(remember 4e being referred to as 4$).

#3. Dungeon and Dragon Magazine. This was the first time that I had ever heard of Paizo. They gained a lot of "cred" with the community. I had my FLGS bring in Dungeon constantly and enjoyed a lot of adventures. Ironically it was one of their adventure paths (Age of Worms) that turned me off of 3.5 for good. Anyhow WotC cancels the magazines with the plans to bring them in house and part of their digital initiative and the community flips even more against WotC. There are still people to this day that have sworn off any WotC product because of this. Paizo comes out of this with a big PR boost and sets up the Pathfinder APs to come out a short time later.

#4. The GSL. I honestly think that if WotC had their GSL ready to go and in Paizo's hands (along with early access to 4e) the moment that they pulled Dungeon and Dragon from Paizo we might not have seen a Pathfinder. But a lot of us know this story, they GSL was delayed and delayed and when it came out we saw a licence that many refused to go with. Although some publishers where willing and went forward a lot didn't for fear that WotC could pull it at any time (ghosts of 3.5 rears its head). Interesting enough 4e has been declared "finished" and 5e is here and the GSL is still a valid thing (I think).

#5. The “it doesn’t feel like D&D”/ The Edition Wars. This one is complicated and in theory could take a whole ton of discussion. For me, I never once thought that 4e didn’t feel like D&D. There are others that feel the same. However….a lot of others felt different about all of this, from Chris Pramas referring to 4e like a “CCG” to others crying the now famous “it’s a MMO” tagline. The edition wars were ugly, I myself picked up the sword to fight to fight in them. I really believe that the previous points really set the stage for them though. The edition wars weren’t just fought by fans, a lot of publishers unwitting or not so unwittingly fanned these flames….so yeah there is some blame to dish around. While I believe that 4e is a good game and designed well we saw a lot of people that packed up and either went to Pathfinder, back to 3rd, OSR, or another game system altogether. I knew of a game more than one game group that packed up and left for Pathfinder. I should also mention that Paizo apparently has a really good living campaign.

So while there are other factors that I haven’t mentioned. I think that these are the main reasons why we saw Pathfinder become what it has and why I don’t think we’ll see another “Pathfinder” if 5e goes OGL. The Pathfinder phenomenon was a perfect storm of all the right elements.
 

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Zardnaar

Legend
I think the main 3 factors were.

1. The back lash against 4E and the populartiy of the 3E system.
2. Dragon and Dungeon Magazine. Paizo got a lot of cred form these, more importantly Paizo has said they got 66% of the subscribers to sign up for Pathfinder Chronicles which at the time were 3.5. The subscribers provided the initial funds to keep Paizo going. Lisa indicated they needed around 1/3rd or a half of the subscribers to stay viable in the Paizo retrospective.

3. The OGL. As you said there were other 3.5 OGL publishers Paizo was only 1. They had quality adventures and reputation/goodwill from Dragon and Dungeon, and they had the subscriber lists assets no other OGL company had.
 

Mistwell

Legend
How is this a different thread from the other one? I am trying to see a different perspective here, and I am failing to see it.
 

77IM

Explorer!!!
Supporter
I agree with you on all 5 points. But nothing prevents Wizards from bungling things up with similar mistakes. All that's needed is a major 3rd party publisher to earn broad fan respect, Wizards to alienate fans again, and a 6e that's not what many players want. I doubt we'd see a 6e like that anytime soon, and I like to think Wizards learned their lesson, but you never know.
 



Mistwell

Legend
The original thread was about the possibility of a 5e OGL. This was how I think there won't be another Pathfinder

Right but that topic was raised multiple times in that thread...using the same argument you're using. Wasn't it?

The reason I am asking is because the other thread became a massive edition war. And then just as it was finally calming down...you seem to be re-starting the very thing the edition warring was about, in another thread, with the same arguments that exacerbated the edition war.

But maybe I am wrong. Maybe there is a different point being made here, that's not about to cause another edition war. That's why I am asking. I'm tired, maybe I am misinterpreting your point?

Edit - You know what, it doesn't matter. You think a second thread on this issue is warranted, OK what do I care. I was just confused as to what the point was. But...I don't need to understand I suppose.
 
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DaveMage

Slumbering in Tsar
I think the lesson is: if you use the OGL for one edition, you must use it for the next edition.

If WotC had used the OGL for 4E from the start, Paizo may have gone 4E. All the 3PPs were lining up to use 4E. Then delays happened. Then the GSL happened.
 

Crothian

First Post
The reason is there is not one set up to take advantage of 4e. At the time Paizo was a popular company that had a large fan base of 3e fans. There is no one in the 4e 3pp remotely close to what Paizo was. So even if everything was ripe for it there is no one out there that could take advantage of it.
 

2. Dragon and Dungeon Magazine. Paizo got a lot of cred form these, more importantly Paizo has said they got 66% of the subscribers to sign up for Pathfinder Chronicles which at the time were 3.5. The subscribers provided the initial funds to keep Paizo going. Lisa indicated they needed around 1/3rd or a half of the subscribers to stay viable in the Paizo retrospective.

As far as I can see, this is the decisive factor. Because Paizo had access to the thousands of Dragon subscribers, they had a massive leg-up on the competition. Without that, I doubt Pathfinder could have succeeded.

And because of that, I don't see how a "second Pathfinder" could come about - nobody else gets to start with that in-built market. More likely, IMO, is that if 5e does indeed go OGL then Paizo might adapt some of the more popular mechanics for the second edition of Pathfinder, if and when that comes about.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
As far as I can see, this is the decisive factor. Because Paizo had access to the thousands of Dragon subscribers, they had a massive leg-up on the competition. Without that, I doubt Pathfinder could have succeeded.

The idea that this gave them a built-in customer base cannot be over-stated. In fact, it's something of a literal truth; if you had excess issues in your subscription when Dungeon and Dragon expired, you were eligible to roll them over onto a Pathfinder adventure path subscription. I suspect that helped to transition most of their existing customers over.
 

if you had excess issues in your subscription when Dungeon and Dragon expired, you were eligible to roll them over onto a Pathfinder adventure path subscription. I suspect that helped to transition most of their existing customers over.

Yep, including me - I was offered 14 issues 'free', and figured that I had nothing to lose (since I'd prepaid my subscriptions), so gave it a go. And then, of course, they nailed it with "Burnt Offerings", and the rest is history - I'm still a subscriber, despite having never actually played Pathfinder.
 

I've seen lots of comments lately about 5e and the possibility that it may go OGL especially that if 5e goes OGL then another Pathfinder like situation will arise. I'm personally of the belief that the OGL was only one factor in all of this, there were many other factors that laid the ground work for Paizo and Pathfinder to take off like it did. I've been noodling this of late and I like to discuss them.

I have to agree. The rise of Pathfinder was an anomaly, only partially the result of the OGL.

#1. The OGL. This gets blamed a lot for Pathfinders rise and the "failure" of 4e. While I believe that it does play a role, it's not the only and especially not the main culprit. There were other OGL games that were released around in the late 3e/ early 4e eras. Paizo has done a remarkable job of taking a game, re-branding it and re-selling it, however there were other innovative games being released around this time. Fantasycraft/crafty games took d20 and really did some amazing innovative work with the system, yet it remains a game that barely anyone knows about or even plays it.
Yeah, everyone seems to have forgotten the plethora of stand alone d20 games that existed during the 3e era. And everyone also seems to forget that while Paizo created the most successful 3e with revisions, other 3PP did as well. Pathfinder was just the most successful because it was the one backed by a published capable of print products and high production values. I'm not sure this will be as possible for future editions. If we do see a new OGL and WotC moves to 6e, there's less chance of a single voice emerging like Pathfinder.

Now, I doubt that Pathfinder alone killed 4e. Pathfinder's sales were good, but didn't match 4e's early sales. For every person that left 4e for Pathfinder another left for 3e or another game system (or just left gaming). Of course, without a visible alternative, 4e might have limped along for another year before ending. But maybe not. There were signs of worry over sales prior to Pathfinder's release and prior to Pathfinder really taking off.

#2. D&D 3.5. 3rd edition was released in 2000. 3 years later D&D 3.5 was released and this caused lash back. My home group complained about the change, and I know of others that refused to switch over at all. There were lots of complaints on the message boards (this one and others). I was looking forward to the release of a 3 party campaign setting (Iron Kingdoms) that got pushed back, this disrupted the schedules of lots of publishers who had to change their release schedule. I remember that in the case of the Iron Kingdoms the book was delayed a year or so longer, and people blamed WotC for the delay. Thus the "edition turn over" fatigue began here and gave others the impression that WotC was only interested in the all mighty dollar rather than listening to the fan base. So when in 2007 when WotC announces that 4e is on the way it was seen by some as a money grab and not a necessary change(remember 4e being referred to as 4$).
I definitely remember being upset at the quick edition change, still thinking 3e had lots of life.
The edition turnover also hit the Ravenloft community hard. White Wolf had licensed the campaign setting for their 3e line but a stipulation was they had to reprint any campaign sourcebooks with an edition update. So in 2003 we saw a re-release of the campaign and monster book (badly) updated from 3.0 to 3.5. Having to wait longer for new material delayed to reprint books didn't help my opinion of WotC.

#3. Dungeon and Dragon Magazine. This was the first time that I had ever heard of Paizo. They gained a lot of "cred" with the community.
The magazines certainly helped, as it allowed the company to get used to producing monthly products and get started on making the type of content they wanted to make. It made the first few Pathfinder products much more solid as they already had a wealth of artists and writers and experience. Plus the reputation/cred.

#4. The GSL. I honestly think that if WotC had their GSL ready to go and in Paizo's hands (along with early access to 4e) the moment that they pulled Dungeon and Dragon from Paizo we might not have seen a Pathfinder.
Maybe. Maybe not. But if Paizo had the GSL from the start they might have opted to go the safe route and produce 4e content. The fact WotC didn't share the ruleset or get the GSL out certainly made the choice easier for Paizo.

#5. The “it doesn’t feel like D&D”/ The Edition Wars. This one is complicated and in theory could take a whole ton of discussion.
One of the reasons for the OGL was encouraging quality. It was remarked that WotC couldn't just publish a new edition and expect everyone to follow along because the old books were out of print. The new edition had to be undeniably better and designed for the broadest possible audience. And 4e was very much a deniable improvement. A lot of people were unhappy from the very start, from before the edition launched, and that really gave people time to make an alternative product. And there were people with a fanbase positioned to make an alternative. And those people were not given a reason to not do their own thing.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
As far as I can see, this is the decisive factor. Because Paizo had access to the thousands of Dragon subscribers, they had a massive leg-up on the competition. Without that, I doubt Pathfinder could have succeeded.

And because of that, I don't see how a "second Pathfinder" could come about - nobody else gets to start with that in-built market. More likely, IMO, is that if 5e does indeed go OGL then Paizo might adapt some of the more popular mechanics for the second edition of Pathfinder, if and when that comes about.

Well Paizo have out right said the retention rate of Dragon and Dungeon subscribers was what kept them going. I would assume they got that 66% or 67% retention rate because of the quality of the magazines.

The other OGL companies did not have that advantage and 4E provided the push effect. I think those 2 factors are the key ones. Some try and blame the economy as well which may have been a small factor but Paizo had to deal with the same thing.

The OGL was relevant as well as it allowed Paizo to stick with 3.5 but without 4E providing a push effect that would not have mattered that much either. You can lead a horse to water but you can't force them to drink.

66% retention rate with the magazines.

http://paizo.com/paizo/blog/v5748dyo5ldp4?Paizo-Publishings-10th-Anniversary
 
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gribble

Explorer
Maybe. Maybe not. But if Paizo had the GSL from the start they might have opted to go the safe route and produce 4e content. The fact WotC didn't share the ruleset or get the GSL out certainly made the choice easier for Paizo.
I seem to recall someone at Paizo (Erik Mona?) stating flat out that their intention was always to support "the current version of D&D" if possible. However the commercial realities around having to keep content flowing to pay the bills, and the lack of information from WotC around 3rd party publishing meant they had to pursue other alternatives.

Edit: Can't seem to locate the article I'm thinking of now, but here are a couple of quotes from another article:
"[WotC] made all sorts of assurances to the community of third-party developers about how open the new game would be, how they planned to share the rules early with key publishers, and how we could all get on board with supporting the new edition," Mona said. "But something happened behind the scenes over there at about that time, and a licensing agreement that had been touted as a 'more open than ever' failed to materialize."

"All of a sudden our subscribers started begging us not to convert to the new game system," Mona said. "The fact that many members of our editorial staff shared some of these concerns underscored our uneasiness with the dragged out licensing situation. We finally made the decision that if we weren't able to support the game at launch, we might as well not bother supporting it at all. So we decided to stick with [D&D] 3.5."
 
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Well Paizo have out right said the retention rate of Dragon and Dungeon subscribers was what kept them going. I would assume they got that 66% or 67% retention rate because of the quality of the magazines.
(Of course, the magazine retention to Pathfinder APs happened before the announcement of 4e. The first volume of PF was released at the same GenCon as the announcement, so people opted to continue their subscription prior.)
 

I seem to recall someone at Paizo (Erik Mona?) stating flat out that their intention was always to support "the current version of D&D" if possible. However the commercial realities around having to keep content flowing to pay the bills, and the lack of information from WotC around 3rd party publishing meant they had to pursue other alternatives.

Edit: Can't seem to locate the article I'm thinking of now, but here are a couple of quotes from another article:
"[WotC] made all sorts of assurances to the community of third-party developers about how open the new game would be, how they planned to share the rules early with key publishers, and how we could all get on board with supporting the new edition," Mona said. "But something happened behind the scenes over there at about that time, and a licensing agreement that had been touted as a 'more open than ever' failed to materialize."

"All of a sudden our subscribers started begging us not to convert to the new game system," Mona said. "The fact that many members of our editorial staff shared some of these concerns underscored our uneasiness with the dragged out licensing situation. We finally made the decision that if we weren't able to support the game at launch, we might as well not bother supporting it at all. So we decided to stick with [D&D] 3.5."

It'd be interesting to think about a world where WotC got the GSL out earlier and Paizo opted to support 4e. But that's pretty far off topic.
 


casterblaster

First Post
Sorry if I am restating what has been said or whatever...

If 4e had been OGL and PF never existed I still believe some other form would have emerged. I love DnD and I bought the 4e core books but I couldn't get into it, and just didn't like the feel of it overall. Saying that I did jump over to PF and turns out it wasn't what I wanted either, too complicated (and now bloated) for my casual gamer group. Before 5e officially launched we had turned back to 2e for our DnD fix. So if 4e was OGL and Pazio hung with them producing amazing adventure content (albeit with hour long battles) I don't think 4e would have had a different fate. We would be debating this topic still with some other form of competition that emerged and took advantage of WOTC's risk with 4e.
 

Sorry if I am restating what has been said or whatever...

If 4e had been OGL and PF never existed I still believe some other form would have emerged. I love DnD and I bought the 4e core books but I couldn't get into it, and just didn't like the feel of it overall. Saying that I did jump over to PF and turns out it wasn't what I wanted either, too complicated (and now bloated) for my casual gamer group. Before 5e officially launched we had turned back to 2e for our DnD fix. So if 4e was OGL and Pazio hung with them producing amazing adventure content (albeit with hour long battles) I don't think 4e would have had a different fate. We would be debating this topic still with some other form of competition that emerged and took advantage of WOTC's risk with 4e.

Arcana Unearthed probably would have gotten a share if Pathfinder hadn't been launched. Or one of the other pre 2008 alternate corebooks.
 

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