Rumors have once again resurfaced that the 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons will feature an Open Game License (OGL) similar to 3rd Edition that made the game such a roaring success and would eventually lead to creation of Paizo Publishing’s Pathfinder. Most recently, Chris Dias’ Amethyst Kickstarter openly commits to the eventual creation of an Open Game License. The Kickstarter concludes on November 1 and is currently $688 over its $8,000 goal.
There’s good reason for Dias to be confident: Mike Mearls, head of the Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) Research and Design team at Wizards of the Coast, collaborated on over 90 OGL products, including Unknown Armies, Feng Shui, Warhammer FRP, Vampire, and the Lord of the Rings RPG. Mearls was such a prolific contributor to OGL publications that he was awarded GameWyrd’s “The Author Most Likely to be a Caffeine-Powered Robot” in 2004. As I said back in 2012:
…Mearls’ plan for D&D is largely the same goals that were created for the OGL. The difference was that the OGL had a built-in assumption that publishers would create a better game by cooperating through iterative design; instead, authors were motivated to ignore each others’ innovations and recreate the same rules so that they were paid additional cents per word. Wizard of the Coast leading a modular-designed version of D&D means they can better channel innovations to the system. In short, Wizards can add any innovation in the RPG industry as a whole to D&D.
I asked Mearls if 5th Edition’s “open toolkit” approach would reduce fragmentation amongst gamers in the industry by giving game designers a common framework to work with. He answered:
I think that if we do our jobs right, that fragmentation will give way to a shared language like you saw with the SRD and the games it helped spawn. In terms of game designers, I think that, again, if we do this right they’ll have a nice starting point to tinker with in creating their own ideas.
But by far the surest sign that an Open Game License is on the horizon is the departure of former Wizards of the Coast employees who launch their own game companies that still cater to the D&D brand. This happened back with the release of the 3rd edition OGL, and it seems to be happening again with Sasquatch Game Studios. Sasquatch Game Studios was formed by former WOTC employees Richard Baker, Stephen Schubert, and David Noonan, and announced in June 2013 that the company would produce content for 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons, which is no longer being supported by WOTC. It seems more likely that Sasquatch Game Studios’ team knows there will be an open game license for the next iteration of D&D and is preparing to take advantage of it.
Chris Dias’ Kickstarter for a reboot and expansion of the sci-fi/fantasy mashup setting, Amethyst, brazenly commits to 5th Edition, listing D&D Next as one of the rules systems the game will support, including 4th Edition, 13th Age, Fate Core, Pathfinder, and Savage Worlds. In the FAQ, the answer to “How can you support D&D Next?” is:
DEM has been part of the alpha playtest and the original friends & family playtest earlier this year for D&D Next. We’ve been in contact with a core member of the D&D Next development team and we are certain that OGL and/or SRD support will be part of D&D Next’s philosophy. We are more confident of third party support for D&D Next than we were for 4th Edition, and DEM was the first to sign onto the GSL back in 2008.
It seems all but certain that a new open game license is on the horizon for 5th Edition.
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