OGL The Moral of the Story Is....Maybe there's such a thing as (D&D being) too big

gamerprinter

Mapper/Publisher
I mean, but it's never gone any other way lol. And 99%? By what methodology are you measuring that? If it's terms of ownership of capital it's more like 30-40% isn't. I feel you're conflating mere exchange-based systems with capitalism specifically, which is not the same thing. Having money as a form of exchange does not equal capitalism.
In the last 50 years or so where litigation becomes more and more a threat to small businesses, almost everybody is becoming an LLC just for the legal protections, but 50 years ago, almost every business was a partnership or sole proprietor, only larger concerns were corporations. Corporations always existed, but they were an outlier to the larger population of businesses. Not so much today, but still not full corporations. Most businesses are still Mom and Pop.
 

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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I don't see it as natural at all, just one way it can go. While there are many LLCs, the majority of businesses in the world are small family businesses, not what I consider the corporate environment. The truly big A type corporations are very few, but since they make all the money they get all the Capitalist attention. To me the attention should be placed on the 99% that aren't that kind of corporation, and what truly defines capitalism - to my perspective.
But because the few corporations make all the money, they will eventually drive the small businesses out of business. We are seeing it happen, that’s why it’s called late-stage capitalism. We’re in the endgame, where the wealth has become so consolidated in the hands of a few corporations that the competition capitalism is supposed to be founded on is becoming impossible.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
In the last 50 years or so where litigation becomes more and more a threat to small businesses, almost everybody is becoming an LLC just for the legal protections, but 50 years ago, almost every business was a partnership or sole proprietor, only larger concerns were corporations. Corporations always existed, but they were an outlier to the larger population of businesses. Not so much today, but still not full corporations. Most businesses are still Mom and Pop.
Right. Because we’ve entered the late stage.
 


gamerprinter

Mapper/Publisher
But because the few corporations make all the money, they will eventually drive the small businesses out of business. We are seeing it happen, that’s why it’s called late-stage capitalism. We’re in the endgame, where the wealth has become so consolidated in the hands of a few corporations that the competition capitalism is supposed to be founded on is becoming impossible.
I'm not going out of business, in fact I'm growing and have been doing this for 15 years. I'm a one person company, though I publish for two authors besides myself, and have used contractors in the past, but I mostly do all the work myself. Nobody is driving me out of business. While it was 14 years ago, WotC contacted my printing company which I ran at the time about becoming a print-on-demand servicer for Star Wars maps, but then it turned out that the Lucas License prevented that. What I'm saying as since the beginning of my publishing/cartography business I've done work for Paizo, Legendary Games, almost WotC, E.N. Publishing, Kobold Press, Gygax magazine and dozens of other small publishers. I even created all the multi-player maps for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Strategy Guide - so all the biggest corporations in our general industry have sought out my business at one time or another. They aren't driving me out, they are inviting me in. Maybe you can broad brush paint the majority of small business, but that brush isn't anywhere near me. I'm not a big company, but I am more successful all the time. Businesses large and small must adapt all the time, if you cannot adapt, you're doomed to fail. Those failed businesses doomed themselves.
 
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TheSword

Legend
I'm not going out of business, in fact I'm growing and have been doing this for 15 years. I'm a one person company, though I publish for two authors besides myself, and have used contractors in the past, but I mostly do all the work myself. Nobody is driving me out of business. While it was 14 years ago, WotC contacted my printing company which I ran at the time about becoming a print-on-demand servicer for Star Wars maps, but then it turned out that the Lucas License prevented that. What I'm saying as since the beginning of my publishing/cartography business I've done work for Paizo, Legendary Games, almost WotC, E.N. Publishing, Kobold Press and dozens of other small publishers. I even created all the multi-player maps for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Strategy Guide - so all the biggest corporations in our general industry have sought out my business at one time or another. They aren't driving me out, they are inviting me in. Maybe you can broad brush paint the majority of small business, but that brush isn't anywhere near me. I'm not a big company, but I am more successful all the time. Businesses large and small must adapt all the time, if you cannot adapt, you're doomed to fail. Those failed businesses doomed themselves.
Finally some sense on the matter… and experience! Rather than stereotypes and sour grapes.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
I guess I'll spell it out for you. Saying "capitalism destroys everyhing" is intellectually lazy and adds absolutely nothing to the converation. It doesn't provide any insight into the current situation or help make sense of anything. It's cheap. And you're better than that.
Mod Note:

Honestly, discussing the virtues and evils of capitalism only adds volat to this current discussion. So let’s not.

Edit: ditto the political angles.
 

Aldarc

Legend
I remember a year or two ago, when we were all basking in the glow of D&D's unparalleled popularity. Some of us remember the Golden Age of the early 80s, when D&D experienced a similar-in-kind cultural blossoming, though in an era before the internet, and probably to a smaller degree, even adjusting for population increase (at the least, it is more international now, even if the overall player numbers relative to population aren't larger).

I vaguely remember little snippets of conversation, regarding why people were happy about D&D's popularity - anything from feeling less ghettoized to the potential benefits that would be reaped: movies, tv shows, and simply more D&D all around.

What I don't remember is talk about the potential downside. I'm sure it was discussed somewhere, but I think with OGLGate, we're experiencing it big-time. Increased popularity = more money = corporate interest increases = a game, formerly and mostly run by gamers for gamers becomes a commodity to be traded and sold; a profit-generating product for the rich to get richer on.
It was talked about here. The people who talked about it were shouted down and laughed at.
Hello. As @overgeeked said, there have been some of us (e.g., Campbell, overgeeked, hawkeyefan, and more) discussing the potential pitfalls of having a 800 lb. gorilla dominate the market and its effects on 3pp and non-D&D games for years now. 🤷‍♂️

I was told about WotC's market dominance that "a rising tide lifts all boats." It's a lovely-sounding aphorism, to which other critics of the saying have also noted that "the rising tide will lift some boats, but others will run aground" and "the rising tide just seems to lift yachts." As I said then, it seems like blind faith in trickle-down economics hiding behind an aphorism.

But I will fully admit that a lot of these discussions were perceived as being on the fringes of the hobby: i.e., these fringe discussions were just fans of other non-D&D games who were bitter and jealous of 5e D&D's popularity.

Even now, is there promotion of other products on this forum? No, its just all 5e OGL threads lul.
Usually the threads promoting other TTRPGs are in the General Subforum. There have been a few threads in the 5e Forum where people talked about alternatives. I have been contemplating creating a thread where people can constructively talk about the strengths and weaknesses of other systems for people who like 5e D&D. But I have also been worried whether such a thread would step on the toes of @Tales and Chronicles's thread here for discussing non-OGL alternatives to 5e.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I'm not going out of business, in fact I'm growing and have been doing this for 15 years. I'm a one person company, though I publish for two authors besides myself, and have used contractors in the past, but I mostly do all the work myself. Nobody is driving me out of business. While it was 14 years ago, WotC contacted my printing company which I ran at the time about becoming a print-on-demand servicer for Star Wars maps, but then it turned out that the Lucas License prevented that. What I'm saying as since the beginning of my publishing/cartography business I've done work for Paizo, Legendary Games, almost WotC, E.N. Publishing, Kobold Press, Gygax magazine and dozens of other small publishers. I even created all the multi-player maps for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Strategy Guide - so all the biggest corporations in our general industry have sought out my business at one time or another. They aren't driving me out, they are inviting me in. Maybe you can broad brush paint the majority of small business, but that brush isn't anywhere near me. I'm not a big company, but I am more successful all the time. Businesses large and small must adapt all the time, if you cannot adapt, you're doomed to fail. Those failed businesses doomed themselves.
Obviously not every single small business is struggling right now. It’s still the trajectory of the system for the wealth to become consolidated into fewer and fewer large corporations’ hands. Your personal anecdote does not negate that observable trend.
 

gamerprinter

Mapper/Publisher
I never pay attention to trends, I'm an anti-trender, maybe that's why I'm so successful.

Edit: I find trends to be mostly noise, sure it has some stats to back it up, but it's general information, not specific marketable data, only good for the masses. I look at the market differently, and negotiate the hazardous terrain carefully, but always seem to find a way through, I swim around the currents of trends, and find my own way. Trends are for those who don't know what to look for in the market, and need something to latch onto - I don't need that.
 
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DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
Hello. As @overgeeked said, there have been some of us (e.g., Campbell, overgeeked, hawkeyefan, and more) discussing the potential pitfalls of having a 800 lb. gorilla dominate the market and its effects on 3pp and non-D&D games for years now. 🤷‍♂️
It is true there was a pitfall with almost everyone hitching their wagon to the 800 lb gorilla-- we're seeing that pitfall now.

But we also can't deny that the only reason this is being seen as a pitfall was that hitching a wagon to the 800 lb gorilla in the first place was so darn successful. If the OGL never existed... who knows how many of these designers (either individuals or companies) would not exist right now-- with everyone needing to somehow make money only by making their own games or their own generic supplements and whatnot. The RPG design and publication scene was so much smaller prior to the OGL... because there just wasn't as much of a market for non-D&D RPGs to allow that many people to be successful (which we could define perhaps as being able to pay their bills.) The OGL and hitching to D&D allowed more people to jump in the pool-- which rose the water of that D&D pool substantially.

I think none of us would disagree that without the OGL these past 20 years and the ability to continually publish for the D&D game that the entirety of the RPG scene would be smaller right now (with every would-be designer having to go generic or not even produce at all.) I also do not doubt that due to the internet and social media that the non-D&D RPG gaming scene would be bigger right now than it is-- but with a lot less people able to make a living off of their work while within it.

So what ultimately is worse? No OGL these past 20+ years and thus a much smaller publication pool of people making money in game design (but wider in the number of games it created and served)... or with the OGL that has given people 20 years of making a living by living their dream (which they otherwise wouldn't have done?)

Yes, having the 800 lb gorilla has resulted in more people being up ship's creek without a paddle due to the potential removal of the OGL... but the only reason they are in the creek in the first place was because paddling in it was so easy and worked so well for so long.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
Look at it this way... there are hundreds of thousands of people who are making a living and have a full career right now due to social media platforms-- YouTube, Twitch, TikTok etc. And 99% of these people would most likely NOT be able to make their livings right now doing this kind of stuff in this sphere if these social media platforms didn't exist. Make money playing video games all day? Not unless you were one of the few working as a QA tester.

So all these people have hitched their wagon to these social media sites, and all of them think that their ability to do so is seemingly irrevocable-- because they cannot foresee a reason why these social media outlets would stop doing what they are doing. Especially with these sites making more money hand over fist because of all these people working within their systems. All of these creators have made YouTube the 800 lb gorilla of video broadcasting, who in turn have made these creators more money they otherwise would have made outside the YouTube sphere.

But just because none of us can see a reason why YouTube might change their payment structures on money handed out to creators... doesn't mean at some point Alphabet and Google won't. And if that happens... yes, a whole bunch of YouTube people will be up ship's creek without a paddle too, just like the OGL folks are. But isn't this truly a "Let The Buyer Beware" situation? When you get into YouTube or publishing game supplements for Dungeons & Dragons (because they are both the easiest, fastest, and most successful methods for making money and having a career)... you are knowingly putting yourself into the hands of YouTube or Wizards of the Coast for your livelihood (for all the good and ill that comes with it). You've hitched your wagon to them and thus are stuck having to go along with whatever archaic decisions these companies ultimately go with... because the alternative is not hitching your wagon, but also not having a career in the first place that you ultimately might lose somewhere down the line.
 
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Aldarc

Legend
It is true there was a pitfall with almost everyone hitching their wagon to the 800 lb gorilla-- we're seeing that pitfall now.

But we also can't deny that the only reason this is being seen as a pitfall was that hitching a wagon to the 800 lb gorilla in the first place was so darn successful. If the OGL never existed... who knows how many of these designers (either individuals or companies) would not exist right now-- with everyone needing to somehow make money only by making their own games or their own generic supplements and whatnot. The RPG design and publication scene was so much smaller prior to the OGL... because there just wasn't as much of a market for non-D&D RPGs to allow that many people to be successful (which we could define perhaps as being able to pay their bills.) The OGL and hitching to D&D allowed more people to jump in the pool-- which rose the water of that D&D pool substantially.

I think none of us would disagree that without the OGL these past 20 years and the ability to continually publish for the D&D game that the entirety of the RPG scene would be smaller right now (with every would-be designer having to go generic or not even produce at all.) I also do not doubt that due to the internet and social media that the non-D&D RPG gaming scene would be bigger right now than it is-- but with a lot less people able to make a living off of their work while within it.

So what ultimately is worse? No OGL these past 20+ years and thus a much smaller publication pool of people making money in game design (but wider in the number of games it created and served)... or with the OGL that has given people 20 years of making a living by living their dream (which they otherwise wouldn't have done?)

Yes, having the 800 lb gorilla has resulted in more people being up ship's creek without a paddle due to the potential removal of the OGL... but the only reason they are in the creek in the first place was because paddling in it was so easy and worked so well for so long.
However, I'm not sure if it was needed, and that seems to be one of the legal opinions about the OGL: i.e., mechanics can't be copyrighted.

So whose interests does the OGL actually serve? According to Ryan Dancey, the OGL served WotC's self-interest because it encouraged people to support D&D's ecosystem. Moreover, during the d20 system days of 3.X a lot of those designers couldn't pay their bills and a lot of bubbles were burst. A lot of OGL designers and publishers that made it were those that already had connections designing for D&D or WotC. There were a lot of designers in the design scene before and after the OGL, and some of its most prominent designers were designing games that didn't use the OGL at all.

It's not like an OGL was necessary for Jonathan Tweet to design Over the Edge, or Mark Rein-Hagen to design Vampire the Masquerade, Greg Stafford to design Runequest and Pendragon, or Sandy Peterson to design Call of Cthulhu, or Mike Pondsmith to design Cyberpunk, or Ron Edwards to design Sorcerer, Robin Laws to design Gumshoe, or Shane Hensley to design Savage Worlds, etc. IMHO, one of the biggest game changers with tabletop RPG design had less to do with the OGL and more the explosion of online fan communities. There were, for example, a lot of indie designers who cut their teeth not with the OGL but as a result of the Forge community: e.g., Vincent Baker, John Harper, Luke Crane, Paul Czerge, etc.

It seems like the primary designer beneficiaries of the OGL prior to 5e may have been the OSR community as they realized that they could reprint most materials from older editions while making minor tweaks to the pre-existing systems.
 


Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Folks almost seem to be talking as if, if D&D were not so dominant, we clearly would have hit some utopia of gaming, or something. That's... not really a well-supported conclusion. That fact that we are currently living through some stuff that seems sub-optimal does imply that another path would certainly have been superior.

Change is inevitable. Ultimately, the only steady state nature supports is the stasis of heat death.
 



DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
However, I'm not sure if it was needed, and that seems to be one of the legal opinions about the OGL: i.e., mechanics can't be copyrighted.

So whose interests does the OGL actually serve? According to Ryan Dancey, the OGL served WotC's self-interest because it encouraged people to support D&D's ecosystem. Moreover, during the d20 system days of 3.X a lot of those designers couldn't pay their bills and a lot of bubbles were burst. A lot of OGL designers and publishers that made it were those that already had connections designing for D&D or WotC. There were a lot of designers in the design scene before and after the OGL, and some of its most prominent designers were designing games that didn't use the OGL at all.

It's not like an OGL was necessary for Jonathan Tweet to design Over the Edge, or Mark Rein-Hagen to design Vampire the Masquerade, Greg Stafford to design Runequest and Pendragon, or Sandy Peterson to design Call of Cthulhu, or Mike Pondsmith to design Cyberpunk, or Ron Edwards to design Sorcerer, Robin Laws to design Gumshoe, or Shane Hensley to design Savage Worlds, etc. IMHO, one of the biggest game changers with tabletop RPG design had less to do with the OGL and more the explosion of online fan communities. There were, for example, a lot of indie designers who cut their teeth not with the OGL but as a result of the Forge community: e.g., Vincent Baker, John Harper, Luke Crane, Paul Czerge, etc.

It seems like the primary designer beneficiaries of the OGL prior to 5e may have been the OSR community as they realized that they could reprint most materials from older editions while making minor tweaks to the pre-existing systems.
Absolutely... there have been a good number of people who indeed have made product and made a living outside of the D&D and OGL sphere-- both prior to 3E and the OGL and after the release of the OGL. No arguments there.

So the real question going forward becomes... how do all these OGL D&D/d20-like game designers transition away from it (if they even try to?) Can they afford to transition to their own non-D&D SRD games? Or will this bubble burst the same way the 3E bubble did (not because of OGL removal but because of product glut?)
 

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