After the announcement of Fourth Edition Dungeons & Dragons back at GenCon, I wrote in my blog about what would need to happen for this to really benefit Green Ronin. Today WotC announced the new terms of the Open Game License and how publishing would work under it. I was part of a conference call yesterday with nine other companies in which WotC gave us the skinny, so I’ve at least had a day to chew over the news. Back in September I said six things would need to happen for 4E to work for us. Let’s take a look at these again in light of the new info.
1) The new rules need to be good.
Jury is still out on this. More to the point, I can’t find out if they are good any time soon unless I’m willing to shell out $5,000 to get early access. That’s a big leap of faith.
2) WotC needs to convince the lion’s share of their fanbase to make the switch.
The marketing of 4E has not been stellar to date. This is still an open question.
3) The new rules need to be more successful at recruiting new roleplayers.
This remains unknown.
4) The d20 brand needs a new iteration that sheds the bad connotations the original took on.
We now know the d20 logo is dead. There will now only be the Open Game License, but it is going to include the type of strictures that previous only appeared in the d20 System Trademark License. The new OGL apparently will allow the use of some kind of compatibility language that includes a variant of the D&D; logo. This may remove some of the onus of the d20 logo, but it is going to make it harder to solicit books to retailers and distributors.
5) WotC needs to get us the new rules in time to learn them well enough to design good product and to make strategic plans that can capitalize on the game’s launch.
If you are willing to pay $5,000 up front, this can happen for the hobby market at least. It doesn’t help the book trade business of companies like GR and Paizo, since we needed to get info on our summer releases out this past October. One hopes that six months of lead time is enough to learn the rules and design for them, but without seeing the rules it is still hard to say.
6) WotC needs to do something to prevent a second d20 glut.
They have done something but perhaps not enough. The six months of exclusive time for those that pay for the Designer’s Kit will prevent a huge rush of stuff from small companies. This plan does nothing to prevent well funded and established companies from flooding the market with junk though and that was just as much of a problem in the original d20 market.
Naturally, people want to know what Green Ronin’s plans are for 4E. All I can tell you right now is that we are still debating internally. When WotC gets us the new OGL, we have to review it and see what we can and cannot do under it. So while I was hoping that this news would make our decision easier, our path is not yet clear. It may be that the smart play is just to put all our muscle behind a A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplay and push that like mofos. We’ll see.