Some Further Thoughts

My previous entry sparked some lively debate over on EN World. I posted the message below earlier and figured I might as well add it to my blog. Here it is:

Running a hobby game company is a curious thing. Nearly everyone gets into the industry because they love games but at a certain point you have to face the realities of doing business. Now a part of me will always be a D&D; fanboy. I started playing when I was 10 years old and it really did change my life. I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today if I hadn’t cracked open that white boxed set all those years ago. Tapping into that passion is an important part of being an effective game designer, but it takes more than that to run a successful business.

It is tempting to just say, “Wohoo, it’s D&D;, let’s go for it!” That is in fact just what I said back in 2000 when I started Green Ronin. At the time though the company was a side project and the only money I stood to lose was my own. Now I have seven staffers relying on me to make the right decisions for Green Ronin and I don’t take that responsibility lightly. I thus have to be a little more sober in my assessment of what’s going on and what will be good for GR.

Right now Green Ronin has four important lines: Mutants & Masterminds, Freeport, True20, and the upcoming A Song of Ice and Fire RPG. We could easily keep ourselves busy handling just those four lines and we don’t need to rely on any other company to do so. M&M; and True20 are stand alone games and they won’t be changing because of 4E, A Song of Ice and Fire has its own brand new system and doens’t use the OGL, and the new Freeport book is systemless and can be used with any fantasy RPG. So really none of what we’re doing at the moment is reliant on what WotC does or doesn’t do with the new OGL.

The question we are now wrestling with at GR is what to do with 4E. Should we support it or just keep doing what we’re doing? If we do support it, should pay the 5K to become a phase 1 publisher or wait until next year? My blog post took a short look at some of the factors in play. We are giving this serious consideration but we are not ready to finalize plans yet. First we must see the new OGL. I have to know under what terms we’d be doing business before I agree to anything.

There are absolutely some great designers at WotC. Hell, many of them have done work for Green Ronin. Jesse Decker, Chris Thomasson, Rodney Thompson, and Matt Sernett all worked on d20 books for us. I have a lot of respect for 4E’s lead designer, Rob Heinsoo, who has been a friend and collegue of mine for over a decade. I know these folks can kick ass, but having worked at WotC for four years I also know that it’s an environment that doesn’t always get the best out of its designers. I hope 4E is a real step forward, but the question is whether or not I’m willing to bet $5,000 that it is? I don’t think it’s unreasonable to wish I could see what I was buying before I write a check, though I do understand why WotC is handling things this way.

I’m heartened that so many of you want to see GR keep its place in the d20 world. I hope that we’ll be able to and that it’ll be a win/win for everyone.

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