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Role Playing (Games) The Almighty Buck

D&D 4th Ed vs. Open Gaming 243

I'm no expert in this subject, but mxyzplk has written a good summary of the issues affecting open gaming and the upcoming release of 4th Edition D&D. The open licensing associated with the 3rd Edition spawned a number of successful 3rd parties and add-ons that made the system far greater than it might have been otherwise. I've attached his writeup on the subject below, and you should really read it if you are interested in D&D, Gaming, or trying to apply 'Open' licenses to things besides code.

mxyzplk writes "Dungeons & Dragons publisher Wizards of the Coast shocked the role-playing game industry today by announcing that anyone wanting to publish material for the new Fourth Edition of D&D, expected out in June of this year, must forgo open licensing entirely as part of their new Game System License.

With the launch of the third edition of the popular game eight years ago, Wizards had sponsored an open licensing scheme. This license, called the Open Gaming License, or OGL, was a kind of open source license designed for game publishers. The result was an explosion of third party game companies supporting D&D and establishing their own game lines. Many of these companies became quite large and successful, notably Paizo Publishing, Green Ronin Publishing, and others.

Now, however, Wizards has stated that any company hoping to publish products for their new edition must agree to discontinue any currently open licensed products and produce no further open products at all — Dungeons & Dragons related or not. A number of companies had leveraged the OGL for their independent games, for example the pulp game Spirit of the Century.

In response to questions about this policy, Scott Rouse, D&D Brand Manager for Wizards of the Coast, says that "We have invested multiple 7 figures in the development of 4e so can you tell me why we would want publishers to support a system that we have moved away from?"

It seems to me that this is the equivalent of Microsoft telling people "If you want to make and sell software for Windows Vista, you can't make and sell any Linux/open source software!" Since this is a small niche market without the visibility of a Microsoft, this play to muscle out competition by making them choose "between us and open licensing" will probably succeed. Some other game companies are rebelling; Paizo Publishing, for example, has declared their intent to move forward with the open-licensed previous version, essentially 'forking' the Dungeons & Dragons code base. But small gaming companies are small indeed, and Wizards of the Coast is owned by Hasbro (a recent development likely not unrelated to this change of heart)."

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D&D 4th Ed vs. Open Gaming

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  • by Grimfaire ( 856043 ) on Monday April 21, 2008 @10:09AM (#23142740)
    I've a friend who was in on the testing of the new edition. So I've seen some of the rules. And as someone pointed out above, it's a complete destruction of the core values of D&D and most role playing games in that it moves it almost entirely to a "WoW" format. Where each so-called class is now one of a role filler as in tank/healer/cannon. No more, well I'm a fighter but specialize in damage... there is now aggro and everyone can heal themselves... it's really not D&D in any shape or form. I for one, am not moving to 4e and neither is my roommate. Considering we both play extensively and have more than 2 book cases and a closet set aside for just D&D books... that's saying quite a bit.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 21, 2008 @10:38AM (#23143490)

    It seems to me that this is the equivalent of Microsoft telling people "If you want to make and sell software for Windows Vista, you can't make and sell any Linux/open source software!"

    It's more like "If you want to make and sell products for Vista, you can't make and sell products for XP." Both products are made the the same company, the older one has been around for quite some time and has developed a very good following, but now the owning company wants to push sales of their new product line.

    Actually... it's more like Apple saying if you make applications for OSX, you can't make them for MacOS9.

    You see, unlike Windows, Apple makes no attempts to preserve backward compatibility. But that's why people hate Microsoft so much!
  • by sckeener ( 137243 ) on Monday April 21, 2008 @11:15AM (#23144324)

    Where each so-called class is now one of a role filler as in tank/healer/cannon. No more, well I'm a fighter but specialize in damage...
    Here's my example: say you want to play a swashbuckler or a duelist, does a fighter fit? They wear heavy armor in 4e because they are tanks. So our fighter swashbuckler swinging from the chandelier is wearing plate mail...Not a good image for a swashbuckler...

    Ok how about the Rogue? Well they won't fall on their ass because of the heavy armor and they get while the swashbuckler or duelist is dancing around attacking, they can look for traps in the brassieres of the wenches.

    Basically if you wanted to play a class different than how WotC thinks you should min/max it, you are screwed in essence, getting junk you don't need (heavy armor or trapfinding as examples above)...

    In 3rd edition you would have run into similar problems with the fighter...but not so with the rogue.

    4e is just making the matters worse with the Roles, which basically tweak characters to min/max one way.
  • Summary is WRONG (Score:4, Interesting)

    by halivar ( 535827 ) <[bfelger] [at] []> on Monday April 21, 2008 @12:06PM (#23145554)

    Now, however, Wizards has stated that any company hoping to publish products for their new edition must agree to discontinue any currently open licensed products and produce no further open products at all â" Dungeons & Dragons related or not
    Absolutely incorrect, and the linked post from Scott Rouse doesn't even support that conclusion. You will not be allowed to mix GSL mechanics with OGL mechanics in the same product. IOW, you can't have a book that is both 4E GSL and 3.5 OGL. This is a far cry from the sensationalism written up here.

    To quote Scott Rouse [] further:

    Publishers can put out a product under the OGL - OR - they can put out a product under a 4E GSL.

    3.x or 4E

    Not both.

    One or t'other.

    By "mutual exclusivity" I mean, different versions of the same product cannot occur at the same time.
  • Re:wiki rpg (Score:2, Interesting)

    by igneousquill ( 1276834 ) on Monday April 21, 2008 @12:16PM (#23145752) Homepage
    I haven't played for years, and am really turned off by recent D&D publications. If I get back into gaming, I'll probably use what my brother has been working on developing with others: []
  • Re:Liar. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mudbunny ( 1239806 ) on Monday April 21, 2008 @12:50PM (#23146546)
    Ummm, no. Aggro, as used in MMOs, means that the MOB that has "aggro" on you has no choice but to attack you. It is a number in a file somewhere that MMO devs use to try to recreate the intelligence of a DM controlling a monster. In 4E, the marking may make it an unpleasent choice to attack someone else, but the option is still there if the DM determines that it makes good tactical sense for that monster. A stupid monster may just attack the last creature that attacked it and hurt it. A smart monster may say "OK, I will accept the damage I get from not attacking the dude in plate-mail so that I can take out the guy flinging around fireballs."
  • Re:Liar. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Viking Coder ( 102287 ) on Monday April 21, 2008 @01:18PM (#23147094)
    Considering that there were, to my knowledge, no game mechanics for anything like it in previous editions, and now there are classes in the core rulebook which heavily rely on the mechanism to control the flow of combat, I'd definitely agree with the point that it's "like aggro."
    Not that I think it's a bad thing. I had a bit of a hard time explaining it to my players, when I ran "Raiders of Oakhurst" - the first 4E session we had. And honestly, when I explained it, what I said sounded similar to Aggro...
  • by Valdrax ( 32670 ) on Monday April 21, 2008 @05:17PM (#23150952)
    Besides the fact that marked enemy can take non-aggressive actions without penalty, it's important to note that aggro systems generally apply to the entire party -- not just to the class that's designed to "take" aggro. (After all, there has to be aggro to take away from allies.)

    Thus, 4e does not suffer from the problem of over-zealous healing or nuking causing enemies to blindly charge at the Cleric or Wizard. Enemies will only do so because it's a sensible choice and not because some numeric threshold has been crossed.

    Marking is purely a feature of current Defender classes and has nothing to do with how other classes interact with monsters, unlike aggro.
  • by Sentry21 ( 8183 ) on Monday April 21, 2008 @09:01PM (#23153278) Journal

    What part of this audience makes you think it's a fair metric for how good the game actually is?
    The people under NDAs haven't given me any specific information (i.e. 'I love the way Level 12 Wizards can cast Dispel Undergarments at-will!'); it's only been generic information ('I'll never go back to 3.5; 4th edition makes everything so much simpler and more fun, by taking out all the useless and overly complicated junk that shouldn't have been in there in the first place').

    My fiancée and I created 15th level characters the other day for a group we're joining, and it was all manner of messy.

    We had to figure out what our hit points were, which meant (for her fighter) 10 + 14d10 + (CON bonus x 15)â¦Âafter finishing that up, we got her an Amulet of Health, which added +6 CON, so that was another 45 hit points. This also changed all of her skills (because her CON bonus changed) so we had to consider that.

    We also figured out her attacks at +15/+10/+5, plus her STR bonus (+4) which increased by one because of ability point increases at two levels, and damage as 1d12 + 5. Then we had to add more STR bonus (+6 STR from Belt of Giant Strength = +3 to Attack and Damage). Oh, and it's a magic Warhammer (+1 to attack and damage) with Weapon Focus (+1 attack) and Weapon Specialization (+2 damage). Oh, and she's got power attack tooâ¦

    So her attack is 15 + 8 + 1 + 1, and her damage is 1d12 + 8 + 1 + 2. So, you can remember those as 25 and 1d12 + 11⦠except that she has Power Attackâ¦

    In some specific cases, because of all the feats she has, she could charge a foe and use Power Attack (-10 to attack, +20 to damage for a 2h weapon), except she can take that penalty to AC instead, and if she hits, she gets (in the next round) to power attack and get 3x the penalty instead of 2xâ¦ÂOr, if she Bull Rushes someone to push them back, her next round she gets +1 to attack/damage per five foot square she pushed them back.

    When she's Bull Rushing, she makes an opposed Strength check (1d20 + 8, for her); but then she has Improved Bull Rush (+4), might be charging (an optional +2), is a giant-equivalent (+4 size bonus) and can Enlarge Person herself (+4 size bonus)⦠Nice, if you figure that as 1d20 + 20, except that not all of those things apply in all situations; if she's not Enlarged, then no +4; if her adversary is also Large, no other +4; if she were in an antimagic field, -6 to STR, for a -3 penalty (oh, and Enlarge Person would wear off).

    These are the sorts of calculations that need to be done in every single round in a modern, high-level game of D never mind trying to factor in the opponent's capabilities, cover, visibility, miss chances, critical chances, and so on.

    3.5e can be very fun, but it's also obscenely complicated. It took us two days to make two level 15 characters; in 4e, we could probably do it in an hour or so, because there's a lot less pointless variation. Ok, so my wizard gets 4 HP per level instead of rolling 1d4. That's bad, because every 15th-level wizard has 60 HP, but good, because my 15th-level wizard doesn't end up with 22 HP (and yes, I have rolled that before). Hell, if I didn't have a CON bonus (not unlikely), my fiancée's damage, even if she rolls ones, would kill me in two hits; if she rolls max, one hit. Not really something you want to be trying to play on the battlefield.

    4e is going to be pretty awesome in a lot of ways; if it does suck in parts, which is likely, it'll suck in much more tolerable ways than the current edition. At the very least, I'll have less books to dig through to build a character.
  • by 2short ( 466733 ) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @12:09AM (#23154558)
    I should note that my Chess-Checkers analogy was just the first way I could think to jam a rule from one ruleset into another; I'm not claiming 4E is chess to 3E being checkers as any sort of analogy about the quality or sophistication of the games.

    If you wanted to say 4E was really a whole new game and calling it D&D was just a marketing ploy, I'd say it was both an excellent marketing ploy and an obvious one and WotC obviously wouldn't pass it up. I certainly wouldn't assume that WotC would always put what made sense ahead of marketing, to put it mildly.

    Or one could say that 4E maintains the essential character of D&D, and therefore deserves the name, even though practically all of the details are different. You're still charachters in a fantasy setting doing a fair amount of fighting, and conducting that fighting via rounds during which you roll polyhedral dice and track hitpoints, etc, etc.

    In any case, I have seen the rules and will tell you: it is not an incremental change, it's a rewrite. Whether it's worthy of the name or a cheap marketing trick you'll have to decide for yourself; I'm just encouraging you to judge it in totality, not as individual rules fragments that can be expected to make any sense jammed into the context of a different ruleset.
  • Re:Why? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mxyzplk ( 1216282 ) on Wednesday April 23, 2008 @01:58AM (#23168260) Homepage
    Yeah - the problem is, they snookered people into it. They release the D&D rules under an open license, and pledged support to open gaming. So a) people used the D&D rules to make other games, when what they "had to say" with the game was more story and less rules oriented, and b) people used the "generic" open license WotC had derived for non-D&D based games. One massive personnel turnover later, they are trying to poison pill *both* these groups. The information we have on the GSL indicates that it forbids a publisher to touch *any* open game, regardless of whether it's D&D-based or not. Hosing the (a) group is dickish but you can kinda understand it, but going after the (b) group is just kinda... evil.

"Being against torture ought to be sort of a bipartisan thing." -- Karl Lehenbauer