Having decided to do a True20 core rulebook, we now had to answer several more questions. When should the game come out? How big should the book be? What else should go in it? What could we do raise its profile?
Looking over the schedule, I did not think it was practical to add True20 to our planned 2005 releases. In the summer and fall we not only had the Thieves’ World line to release, but we were also launching Mutants & Masterminds 2nd edition. We didn’t have the resources to do another major launch in that same time period. If we were going to do True20, we were going to do the book right. I therefore decided to schedule the full True20 core rulebook for Q1 of 2006.
The rules as they were took up a little less than 100 pages sans art. I thought True20 would do best as a hardback and that argued for a bigger book. Certainly expanding out the rules to cover modern and scifi would take some room and of course we’d add art. We still had a good amount of potential space so I thought one or more sample settings would flesh out the game nicely. Giving people rules is great; giving them concrete examples of how to use them would be even better.
Our initial discussions revolved around existing Green Ronin settings. We had been doing Mythic Vistas, a whole line of campaign settings, for several years, so we had a lot to choose from. While adapting some of those settings would have been easy enough, I was worried that doing so might send the wrong message. I did not want gamers to think that True20 was just an excuse to rehash a bunch of stuff we had published already. Providing new settings seemed a much better idea.
At this point my thoughts turned to the other publishers that asked about licensing True20. We had been running a program for Mutants & Masterminds called M&M; Superlink for several years. This allowed third parties to publish material compatible with M&M.; While the program had been and continues to be quite successful, it also sucks up a fair amount of GR staff time with approvals. If we did a similar program for True20, we’d be looking at potentially doubling the number of approvals and that was not attractive. On the other hand, having other publishers supporting the game would be a plus, so I didn’t want to forget the idea entirely.
It was this train of thought that led me to conceive of the True20 Setting Search. The idea was pretty simple. We’d put out a call to other publishers, asking them to submit 15,000 word True20 campaign settings. The winners would get their settings in the core book and a free license to do their own support material for that setting. This would give us new settings for the game and a small group of quality publishers to help us support it. The Setting Search was also a great marketing tool that would help keep True20 in people’s minds as we worked towards getting the core book out.
To make this work, we could, of course, need to make the True20 rules available to other publishers in some form. This contributed to our decision to release a no frills PDF of the True20 rules in June, 2005. This would be just the rules from Blue Rose with a new modern appendix. No art, no fancy layout. The bonus of this plan was that it’d get the True20 rules out there in some form in the short term. We figured people would greet the news that the full book wouldn’t come out until 2006 a lot more positively if we announced the interim PDF at the same time.
This then was the plan conceived in May, 2005. We would create a no frills PDF for release the following month. We would debut it on the same day we announced plans for the full core book and the Setting Search. The rulebook itself would be a 224-page hardback with a targeted release window of Q1, 2006. It would feature the best entries from the Setting Search. Publishers would be encouraged to come up with entries that would show off “the elegance and flexibility of the True20 system.” June 16, 2005 the core rulebook and Setting Search were announced and the interim PDF was released. True20 was officially on.