Tuesday, March 3, 2009

New GSL License

Wizards has released a new version of the Game System License here. Reading it over it appears that they fixed many (but not all) of the issues with the first version. The two most important are the removal of Section 6 the poison pill clause involving the OGL, and the fact you can now send in a notice of termination and get a 6 month grace period to sell off your stock.

One of the bigger outstanding issues is that you still can't copy any statblock or description from the core books. This means effectively you have to create all new content if you want to publish an expansion or a module for 4e. This hasn't changed from the first version. I will say that what been published by 3rd parties so far has many of the classic monsters renamed and changed in trivial ways.

Clark Peterson of Necromancer games has announced he going to start work on a project called 4e Classic. One advantage of a exception based rule system is that you can easily change the feel of the game by changing the powers. Clark intends to do this to produce a version of 4e that plays and feels more like 1st Edition AD&D.

Is the new license a good thing? Sure it will cause many that have been hanging back to publishing again particularly Necromancer Games. It not as good as the OGL which is sad. Some publishers will continue to avail themselves of the fair use doctrine. Most others will continue on an independent path like Paizo and Pathfinder.

The big news for this industry, sadly, is going to be the impact of the deepening recession. It still too soon to see how it plays out.


Helmsman said...

Okay... got some questions, kuz you seem to be pretty knowledgeable on the whole thing. First, some context to the questions though.

As a long time gamer I saw what the d20 open license did to the gaming industry in the late 90's and am only starting to see the industry as a whole start to recover from it. What I mean by that is that d20 which isn't a particularly great system to begin with (a matter of opinion I know) forced most indy publishers to convert their IP's to the d20 system causing much stagnation in the crunchy aspects of the industry. Instead of publishers creating new games that had their own feel because of a unique system, they were conforming to the same crappy level-based, roll your stats, one-stat-for-social-4-stats-for-physical, poorly representing skill use d20.

Even if you do believe that d20 was the pinnacle of game crunch and that every game company should be thankful that wizards provided such a rare gem to use so freely, there is the small fact that generally it is bad business to hedge the core of your business model on someone else's product, and we saw that. Stagnation in the industry, lack of new IP's old one's went bust, and those of us who didn't like d20 for one reason or another were forced to look to games that were no longer supported, or a handful of companies that were tenaciously holding on to their IP's.

These days I'm less worried about 4e doing the same thing as d20 did a decade ago for a few reasons, the main one being that I think a lot of game designers are not at all pleased with 4e, and many gamers aren't too keen to be exclusive 4e players either. That's my impression though as a definite D&D critic, and I'd like to hear your thoughts on the matter... potential implications to the industry and all that.

Robert Conley said...

I don't agree that the d20 craze caused a large indy publishers to convert. Some existing publishers (KenzerCo, SJ Games) released D20 products but their original games lines continued.

What I did see is that a large number of NEW publisher got going because of d20. The OGL seemed to release the inner gamer in a lot of people and get them on the market. Necromancer Games, Goodman Games, Green Ronin, etc.

4e is having a lot less of an impact. Not only because of the more restrictive license because simply there a smaller pool of people waiting to get into the market.

What I see happening is that the long tail of the gaming market growing steadily. At one end you have the D&D behemoth and the other all the RPGs that sell dozens of copies and have a handful of fans. The revised GSL for 4e will contribute to this by bringing a handful of new publishers.

Dwayanu said...

Good luck to Clark! I don't think that 4E fans want a "first-edition feel."

If a contract clause dissuades people from trying to sell endless reprints of the same material, then good on it in my opinion. I saw enough of that pardon-my-French from Goodman Games in the 3E era.