Sunday, June 5, 2011

Pathfinder and the Open Gaming License

[Note, this article contains some observations that I had for a long time.]

This article should be titled How Wizards of the Coast Killed the Open Gaming Movement, and how Paizo saved it

But that's just too much.  Recently there was a thread on Paizo's boards were a poster was concerned that the Pathfinder SRD Wiki (Pathfinder OGC) was posting material before it was published.  However, Paizo came to the site's defense and said a public thank you.  Several other publishers followed their lead.

Paizo supports the Open Gaming Movement, as the company now carries the torch for Open Gaming.  This is because they use the OGL, or Open Gaming License, which is been generally good for the creative side of our little interest.  So, why is Paizo carrying the torch?  Why isn't Wizards of the Coast still carrying the torch?  That's simply because they dropped it.

About eleven years ago, Ryan Dancey convinced Wizards of the Coast to open up and release the Dungeons and Dragons 3rd Edition System to all of us.  This is simply because Dungeons and Dragons was the most popular roleplaying system in the world (followed by GURPS, et al.)  And it is true, most every RPG markets their system as different from D&D.  There is a lot of D&D hate, and a lot of love at the time.

In truth, I wasn't going to buy in to the system, as 2nd Edition really is something I was content with.  I was frustrated over the rejections I've been getting so I prayed that I wouldn't have to go through TSR or Wizards of the Coast to publish my ideas.  Well, the OGL was an answer to a prayer!  From my perspective it was the best thing to happen in a long time!  Well, that is until Wizards of the Coast reserved the right not to OGL everything they came out with.

I went -- "huh?"

So began years of non-support.  Wizards of the Coast did not support the d20 system.  Yet, they were coming out with a lot of good stuff that should be put in the System Reference Document.  A partial list includes:
  • Kalashtar
  • Warforged
  • Shifters
  • Tactical Feats
  • Several Feats
  • Racial Substitution Levels
  • The new NPC format

Plus, they were bought out by Hasbro, which was not a good thing.  Wizards of the Coast had lost their self-determination, and many of their products started going downhill.  d20 was dying.  Not just because of all the not so stellar products, and how the FLGS treated the d20 market; but also because Wizards of the Coast did not give any support.  There was no reviews by Wizards of the Coast staff on what they liked.  There was no referrals, there was no use on really what they liked, except for one or two pieces.  And every new product they put out, except for d20 modern products and Unearthed Arcana, information wasn't added to the SRD.

The SRD was dying.  And the death knell was the 4th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons.  Good bye SRD, good bye WIzards OGL.  The d20 System was going to die, after all, 4th Edition is a completely different game than from the other three. Most established publishers (creative types) got frustrated with the GSL, and they didn't want to adopt the new system and publish derivative works for 4th Edition.  Only a few got on the ball, and they had to work around the GSL to publish.  After all, the GSL was designed to really inspire creativity and originality.  I guess no one ever got the memo, no one ever has.  The OGL Movement seemed dead.

However, all is not lost.  Enter PAIZO PUBLISHING.

Paizo,  got its start by publishing the Dragon and Dungeon magazines.  Paizo broke off Wizards of the Coast to publish these magazines for Wizards of the Coast.  This was a good thing until WotC cut off the license to print these magazines.  The reaction was less than stellar, as WotC thought it was better to make them apart of their DDI.

Paizo responded by creating Pathfinder.  Pathfinder cleans up the 3rd Edition of the D&D game.  The System itself streamlines the 3rd Edition and makes it work.  Clearly a derivative, Pathfinder took two years to write and edit before it came out on the market.   When Pathfinder was published, several companies were started and they jumped aboard.  The OGL movement was restarted anew.

It also made it easier that PAIZO couldn't pull the same trick that Wizards of the Coast did.  That is, claim full ownership over the d20 System and any derivatives they pumped out.  Each new book had an OGL attached, meaning that the d20 System was still owned by Wizards of the Coast.  The Pathfinder OGC site was started, where the whole gaming system could be documented and referenced besides the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Reference Document (or PRD).  Paizo offered full support to 3rd Party Publishers.

On the Paizo Blog, the Paizo folks would -- by all accounts -- review 3rd Party products that used the d20 System on their Blog.   Plus they sell 3rd party products, and allow people to critique them.  The mistakes that Wizards of the Coast had made it seemed that Paizo has learned from.  Where Wizards of the Coast now acts like a bully, Paizo is much more respectful of creativity.

Most say that Copyright is a good thing.  It was designed to forment Creativity and help authors produce new works.  However, it's not necessarily so now.  Copyright serves the publisher today, and the publisher only.  However, the OGL is the best thing that happened to gaming and creativity in this arena of Roleplaying Games.  After all, despite of the lackluster products for the d20 System out of third party publishers, there is no doubt that the d20 System (D&D and all) is enriched because of stiff competition.  It's an experiment that works in opening a game system and provides output.

For other personal opinions on how the Open Gaming Movement has been good I have a few references here:

Monte Cook's The Open Game License, as I see it pt 1
The Open Game License, as I see it pt 2
Copyright and Game Rules
Why do we need Open Source Games?


Brutorz Bill said...

Paizo is top notch in my book!

Elton said...

That is simply because you need to treat your customers as top notch or go out of business. Wizards of the Coast hadn't done that.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...