OGL An IP lawyer just broke down the new OGL draft (v1.2)

demoss

Explorer
One is that AW doesn't support a commercial publishing model based on selling people lists of mechanical elements and stories to play through.

The other is that most RPGers appear to want a type of gameplay that is based around lists of mechanical elements plus stories to play through.
I think these are deeply linked.

"Selling lists of elements" is such a successful business model that most games want to do it. If your game really is "just one book", you will have a much harder time building a business around it.

This makes it much easier to find games following this model than those that don't.

Hence people who don't like lists are easily turned off by the whole hobby because they don't encounter the games less dominated by lists.

Upshot is that I don't think we really have a good idea how the listless games appeal to people in general.
 

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Nikosandros

Golden Procrastinator
The other is that most RPGers appear to want a type of gameplay that is based around lists of mechanical elements plus stories to play through. The best-known non-D&D example of that that I know is CoC and variants like Trail of Cthulhu. But for whatever reason those don't seem to be able to grow as big as D&D.
This seems a bit dismissive... ;)

I appreciate the design of AW, but I'm not interested in the experience it provides except for the occasional one-off.
 
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In my view, there is an obvious in-principle competitor to D&D and D&D-like RPGs: AW and AW-like RPGs.

There are two obstacles that I think exist, though.

One is that AW doesn't support a commercial publishing model based on selling people lists of mechanical elements and stories to play through.

The other is that most RPGers appear to want a type of gameplay that is based around lists of mechanical elements plus stories to play through. The best-known non-D&D example of that that I know is CoC and variants like Trail of Cthulhu. But for whatever reason those don't seem to be able to grow as big as D&D.

Just some thoughts about the above and your back-and-forth with @Olrox17 .

Going to quickly link Vincent Baker’s brilliant article on concentric design as it’s relevant!

So (as we know!) AW definitely can’t address “stories to play through” as the Adventure Path/Metaplot format is fundamentally anathema to AW play (AW being an alternative that is designed to create emergent story merely as a byproduct of aggressively playing and allowing the system to have its say). However, concentric design components 3 and 4 (4 in particular), I think, can fill that niche of OMG I NEED MECHANICAL LISTS AND WIDGETS.

That 3 and 4 (especially) is the large chunk of what makes Mouse Guard so different from Torchbearer and Dungeon World so different from Apocalypse World…or Stonetop so different from Dungeon World. Custom Moves, varying xp triggers, new Threats and Threat Moves, new Gear & Crap and how each of these things integrate with layers 1 and 2 (we haven’t touched upon new Playbooks yet) do a considerable amount of lifting to invigorate and differentiate player and GM decision-space from game to game. An easy “for instance” is the difference between DW equipment loadout and the Stonetop equipment loadout (which pulls directly from Blades in the Dark). Just that one change at layer 3 makes a very sizable difference for both player and GM.

I think this AW model (and any other gsme that employs it snd executes it well) intersects with and supports your position in your back-and-forth. Layer 1 is the base substrate of play. It is “a complete game” (though, Imo, not terribly compelling for more than 2-4 sessions; Harper’s Lasers & Feelings is a good example here). Bring in layer 2 and you’ve suddenly got quite a robust, though neither a terribly complex nor terribly demanding, game that can last for a long while. I mean…there is all kinds of hackery that can be done even at tge simple layer 1 (again, L&F is a good example) and certainly at 2. But, again, 3 & 4 are the big ones and where all the “lists and stuff” exists. This is where complexity amplifies and becomes a positive feedback loop. This is where a publishing model for a company like WotC can (and does out there in the PBtA space) “do its work.”

@Olrox17 , do you know how people can play Elden Ring in a (I mean this descriptively and without judgement, not as an epithet) very shallow fashion? Run about with your horse > explore and “herb” and farm xp > interact with some world vendors and Hold NPCs > kill things and keep moving? You know how the same can be done in an MMORPG? That is layer 1 and some (or all…depending upon how you play) of layer 2 in VB’s concentric design. Because ER is designed so well (concentrically), it allows a massive amount of diversity in play aggression and intricacy. You can play as depicted above or you can explore a myriad of extremely consequential aspects of play at very deep and intensely intricate level (NPC stories individually, how they integrate, significant and impactful herbing & crafting, finding “Boss Hacks” via exploration, deeply investigating the huge diversity of weapons/distance control/AoE/builds, interrogating and/or mastering “the meta” of each individual boss and location, and discovering the wide array of endings) while the base substrate of play still holds.

So I think WotC can monetize a “simple”game chassis…and I think it can draw in a huge player base that can play it in a wildly diverging manner…that can scale up enormously in depth and intricacy while (a) the “system unwaveringly and transparently has its guiding say” (eg not encumbering a GM with intensive interpretation and mediation, and likely uncomfortable decisions around deploying Force, in the face of the vastness of silent or disconnected rule-space) while (b) the base substrate of play still holds. They just have to design an absolutely brilliant game like Baker’s AW (or something like Elden Ring)!
 

This is what happens. Yeah WOTC make a 1billion last year. But it has to make 1.2 billion this year now. And there's no 500m-1b company for them to worry about when making decisions. So there's only us to look at.
Do you think this situation arose because of the OGL 1.0a? I've heard several people vaguely allude to this being the case, but they never really present a coherent reasoning.

Nobody was forced to employ that license. And D&D was the biggest brand before 2000 too. Vampire the Masquerade had some real traction in the 90s, but I don't think this was so much because they were capturing market share from D&D. They expanded the player pool by tapping into new markets.

I guess you could argue that the OGL meant that Paizo didn't go with an original system back when they first launched Pathfinder. But I'm not sure they would have even considered releasing a directly competing product if they didn't have the OGL. I think it's way more likely that they would have begrudgingly accepted the GSL and kept making supplements and adventure paths for D&D 4th edition instead. Or even gone rogue with "knock-off", unlicensed supplements - possibly exposing themselves to the silly type of IP lawsuits that tend leave both parties broke and dissatisfied.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Do you think this situation arose because of the OGL 1.0a? I've heard several people vaguely allude to this being the case, but they never really present a coherent reasoning.

Nobody was forced to employ that license. And D&D was the biggest brand before 2000 too. Vampire the Masquerade had some real traction in the 90s, but I don't think this was so much because they were capturing market share from D&D. They expanded the player pool by tapping into new markets.

I guess you could argue that the OGL meant that Paizo didn't go with an original system back when they first launched Pathfinder. But I'm not sure they would have even considered releasing a directly competing product if they didn't have the OGL. I think it's way more likely that they would have begrudgingly accepted the GSL and kept making supporting supplements and adventure paths for D&D 4th edition instead. Or even gone rogue with "knock-off", unlicensed supplements - possibly exposing themselves to the silly type of IP lawsuits that tend leave both parties broke and dissatisfied.
Yes. It let build off something that was already popular and with a built in fanbase over risking it on their own new system. Most independent RPGs are very niche and it was wose 10 and 20 years ago.

When Paizo made Pathfinder 1e off D&D 3.5e, it made WOTC it made D&D realize that the OGL helped create competition in TT. But they couldn't do anything because 4e wasn't popular enough and D&D was still niche.

When the pandemic hit,it made WOTC realize it did the same for other revenue stream at the time when D&D had its greatest growth.

That's why Paizo is handling te ORC off to an independent owner. Because Paizo upper staff knows if Paizo gets bigger and ownership changes, they might want to drop the ORC too.
 

Let me rephrase my question. Do you think we would have more 1b TTRPG publishers if it wasn't for the OGL? And what kind of games do you envision that these hypothetical game studios would be making?
 

Olrox17

Hero
Going to quickly link Vincent Baker’s brilliant article on concentric design as it’s relevant!

@Olrox17 , do you know how people can play Elden Ring in a (I mean this descriptively and without judgement, not as an epithet) very shallow fashion? Run about with your horse > explore and “herb” and farm xp > interact with some world vendors and Hold NPCs > kill things and keep moving? You know how the same can be done in an MMORPG? That is layer 1 and some (or all…depending upon how you play) of layer 2 in VB’s concentric design. Because ER is designed so well (concentrically), it allows a massive amount of diversity in play aggression and intricacy. You can play as depicted above or you can explore a myriad of extremely consequential aspects of play at very deep and intensely intricate level (NPC stories individually, how they integrate, significant and impactful herbing & crafting, finding “Boss Hacks” via exploration, deeply investigating the huge diversity of weapons/distance control/AoE/builds, interrogating and/or mastering “the meta” of each individual boss and location, and discovering the wide array of endings) while the base substrate of play still holds.
Elden Ring is a very interesting example. It's a really smart evolution of the already successful Souls-like formula, for many reasons, including the ones you cited. No wonder it's their most commercially successful title yet, it manages to retain all the hardcore appeal, while appealing to the casual audience, too.
So I think WotC can monetize a “simple”game chassis…and I think it can draw in a huge player base that can play it in a wildly diverging manner…that can scale up enormously in depth and intricacy while (a) the “system unwaveringly and transparently has its guiding say” (eg not encumbering a GM with intensive interpretation and mediation, and likely uncomfortable decisions around deploying Force, in the face of the vastness of silent or disconnected rule-space) while (b) the base substrate of play still holds. They just have to design an absolutely brilliant game like Baker’s AW (or something like Elden Ring)!

And yeah, I could see a D&D (or D&D-like...) game built like that. In fact, I think the original plan for 5e, with a very basic, stripped down game you could add modules to, could have turned to be something like that. Unfortunately, the "modularity" ended being a smattering of half-assed variant in the DMG.
 

Let me rephrase my question. Do you think we would have more 1b TTRPG publishers if it wasn't for the OGL? And what kind of games do you envision that these hypothetical game studios would be making?
I take the opposite position from most others, which is that OGL doesn't really do much for the game industry. People publish RPGs, and plenty of non-OGL (that is non-D&D-like and thus not having any specific need to use OGL) games are out there. OGL may encourage some people to design D&D-likes, or publish D&D related setting/adventure/supplement material instead of doing something else. Maybe that makes a bit more money for WotC, its hard to say. The boom in publishing GENERALLY though is not related to OGL, and you can see this instantly because it isn't even restricted to RPGs! Today you can put together a PDF and 'publish' it yourself, and even get kickstarted with some money to gussy it up if there's a modicum of interest. The result is a vast array of Eurogames, RPGs, self-published novels, heck there are even self-published TV SHOWS! (I admit, the quality levels are a bit limited there). Clearly we are in an era where small content producers can flourish. The costs of entry into the market are nearly non-existent, and production costs can be close to that as well, depending on the target quality level.

I mean, OK, OGL (or some other effectively similar licenses) are not bad things, but CC-BY-SA does 99% of what OGL does (all it doesn't do is bar licensees from using their inherent IP rights, fair use, etc., to deal in Product Identity). Its not like we would lack Open RPGs if the OGL didn't exist. Heck, by now much greater clarity might exist as to what IS fair use of D&D-like elements, making the need for an OGL fairly moot.
 

Elden Ring is a very interesting example. It's a really smart evolution of the already successful Souls-like formula, for many reasons, including the ones you cited. No wonder it's their most commercially successful title yet, it manages to retain all the hardcore appeal, while appealing to the casual audience, too.


And yeah, I could see a D&D (or D&D-like...) game built like that. In fact, I think the original plan for 5e, with a very basic, stripped down game you could add modules to, could have turned to be something like that. Unfortunately, the "modularity" ended being a smattering of half-assed variant in the DMG.
I don't think there was ever a serious commitment to 5e as a base for 'anything you want to do'. It very systematically and deliberately creates barriers to story play. That wasn't an accident; you would have to think Mike Mearls is a total idiot and forgot everything he ever read, and wrote, on The Forge in order to believe that. The 'modules' of which you speak are simply empty gestures meant to deflect criticism and let 5e's supporters feel good about it.

I mean, its possible some other members of the team that worked on 5e might have wished for something different, but AFAICT, and judging by what I saw in the playtest period and the WotC forums during the 'D&D Next' foofarah the game is in essence a 100% MM design. I think that's why Monty didn't stick around either, not that he necessarily disagreed with Mike, but what would be the point if your role is purely to watch Mike do what he's going to do anyway? Now, in terms of details of various mechanics, there was definitely trial-and-error and debate, but the design principles of the game were dictated straight from Mike, and they were basically "do the opposite of 4e" from top to bottom.
 


pemerton

Legend
@Manbearcat

Your post makes an interesting conjecture. I'm probably a bit more sceptical than you, but maybe not for any very good reason!

4e is an interesting example of WotC publishing a game which had a substrate - more complex than AW layers 1 and 2 - which supported the promulgation of layer 3 and 4 style lists (new power; new classes; whole new build elements like Themes as a Heroic-tier analogue to Paragon Paths, or variants on treasure like Grandmaster Training (or whatever its called in DMG2)). It clearly didn't support selling stories to play through (witness the general sadness which is most of the 4e modules; not quite all of them).

I don't think they want to go back to the 4e model. What would be interesting would be a different approach to modules/settings/APs: instead of introducing baroque subsystems (say, for spell jamming or for avoiding heat in the city or whatever), that sit somewhat inertly alongside the story, they could bring it closer to AW-style custom moves for threats.

But that would be a big change in design approach. They'd need to recruit the Bakers, John Harper, the BWHQ team etc (or apprentices of all of the above) to be their new RPG team!
 



rcade

Hero
I guess you could argue that the OGL meant that Paizo didn't go with an original system back when they first launched Pathfinder. But I'm not sure they would have even considered releasing a directly competing product if they didn't have the OGL.
We don't know what Paizo would have done without the OGL offering a safe harbor that WOTC said repeatedly was written to be relied on forever.

We do know that Paizo is exceptionally good at publishing and supporting a game compatible with D&D. It's reasonable to believe that it could've done the same thing with an unlicensed game, everything else being equal, and achieved success.

WOTC has put the publishers who trusted the OGL in a worse position than the publishers that didn't. If there is any litigation, I'd like to see a court weigh in acts of sabotage against competitors by the market leader.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I don't think there was ever a serious commitment to 5e as a base for 'anything you want to do'. It very systematically and deliberately creates barriers to story play. That wasn't an accident; you would have to think Mike Mearls is a total idiot and forgot everything he ever read, and wrote, on The Forge in order to believe that. The 'modules' of which you speak are simply empty gestures meant to deflect criticism and let 5e's supporters feel good about it.

I mean, its possible some other members of the team that worked on 5e might have wished for something different, but AFAICT, and judging by what I saw in the playtest period and the WotC forums during the 'D&D Next' foofarah the game is in essence a 100% MM design. I think that's why Monty didn't stick around either, not that he necessarily disagreed with Mike, but what would be the point if your role is purely to watch Mike do what he's going to do anyway? Now, in terms of details of various mechanics, there was definitely trial-and-error and debate, but the design principles of the game were dictated straight from Mike, and they were basically "do the opposite of 4e" from top to bottom.
Ah, okay. I read all the way to the end thinking, "what is going on? what on earth are you talking about? what strange bias leads someone to think that the game is just Mearls all the way down or whatever, or that 5e is full of intentional barriers to story play?" and then I got to the end.

Of course.

It's just veterans of the edition wars shaking their fist at ze germans as if the war never ended.
 

Olrox17

Hero
I don't think there was ever a serious commitment to 5e as a base for 'anything you want to do'. It very systematically and deliberately creates barriers to story play. That wasn't an accident; you would have to think Mike Mearls is a total idiot and forgot everything he ever read, and wrote, on The Forge in order to believe that. The 'modules' of which you speak are simply empty gestures meant to deflect criticism and let 5e's supporters feel good about it.

I mean, its possible some other members of the team that worked on 5e might have wished for something different, but AFAICT, and judging by what I saw in the playtest period and the WotC forums during the 'D&D Next' foofarah the game is in essence a 100% MM design. I think that's why Monty didn't stick around either, not that he necessarily disagreed with Mike, but what would be the point if your role is purely to watch Mike do what he's going to do anyway? Now, in terms of details of various mechanics, there was definitely trial-and-error and debate, but the design principles of the game were dictated straight from Mike, and they were basically "do the opposite of 4e" from top to bottom.
There’s a good chance you are correct about that, there’s a fair bit of evidence on your side.
Still, the idea of a modular D&D was interesting, even if they only came up with it as a disingenuous gesture to placate their customers.
 

Ashtagon

Adventurer
Regarding the Creative Commons bit...


I can't place the concept of "wolf" into creative commons because it's literally thousands of years old (at least in so far as a traceable language etymology exists), and therefore public domain. A similar issue exists with much of the other content that WotC has assigned to CC. No one needs to give any particular legal credit to public domain material, but you do have to acknowledge use of creative commons material.

In order to assign something to a Creative Commons licence, doesn't it have to be yours in the first place? Otherwise, it gives companies freedom to enclose the commons by forcing others to include licence notices for things that previously didn't need licences.

Edit: Additional question: If a 3PP does use pubic domain content that WC has assigned to CC, without including a CC licence notice, does that enable WC to take that 3PP to court for breach of their "copyright"? It might be a spurious lawsuit (the purpose of which would be to make it financially unviable for the 3PP to continue publishing, rather than to actually win the law case), but it seems to me the theoretical grounds are there for it if we as a community accept it as being CC and not public domain.
 
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Iosue

Hero
WotC isn’t placing the “concepts” of the D&D rules in CC, they are placing their text expressing these rules, for which they indisputably have always had copyright to, into CC.
 

mamba

Hero
Let me rephrase my question. Do you think we would have more 1b TTRPG publishers if it wasn't for the OGL? And what kind of games do you envision that these hypothetical game studios would be making?
we have no 1B publishers today, most of that is MtG money. D&D is around 150M of that.

Would we have more larger publishers today without the OGL? I think we would have more mid-range, and WotC would be amongst them. The OGL helped 5e immensely imo, not the least by retaining 3e players that came back with 5e who otherwise would have moved to a different system altogether or out of the hobby

Also, look into network externalities, most of the 3pp do bring players to D&D as they create D&D products
 
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rcade

Hero
In order to assign something to a Creative Commons licence, doesn't it have to be yours in the first place? Otherwise, it gives companies freedom to enclose the commons by forcing others to include licence notices for things that previously didn't need licences.
Anything that's in the public domain -- such as a wolf or the adventurer Allan Quatermain -- can be used in a Creative Commons-licensed work or any other copyrighted work. This wouldn't be enclosing the commons because other authors could still use them. The only things that would be protected from reuse are the unique and distinctive things that the author introduced about them, such as giving the wolves lasers that shoot out of their mouths (for good or evil) or making Allan a member of a K-Pop dance band.

WOTC putting D&D rules under Creative Commons doesn't stop anyone from deciding that those particular rules are not protected by copyright and thus require no license to use in a new work. It only limits those who choose to use the rules under the Creative Commons license.
 

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