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Gazing into the Crystal Ball
Mike Mearls

O ver the past week, we've shared a lot of exciting news with you about D&D's future. We've rolled out the details for our epic Tyranny of Dragons story, shared release dates for the core rulebooks and Starter Set, and spilled the beans on Basic D&D.

As we gear up for previews of the upcoming D&D products, I wanted to take a moment to address a common question we receive about the Open Gaming License and what it means for the future of D&D. Since the start of the fifth edition process in early 2012, we've committed ourselves to taking the time to getting things right. We passed the game through numerous playtests, painstakingly reviewed survey data and feedback, and reworked the game again and again. We held off on announcing anything until the time was right, until we knew that we were going to deliver a game that lived up to the standards that you set for us.

We followed a similar path with Basic D&D. We listened and we took notes. We looked at what people wanted from D&D, how they play the game, and what they value about it the most. Just as we took the time to get the rules right, we spent time making sure the core of the game would be delivered to you in the best way possible.

When it comes to the mechanism by which we want to empower D&D fans to create their own material and make their mark on the many, exciting worlds of D&D, we're taking the same approach. While we are not ready to announce anything at this time, I do want to share with you some of our goals.

To start with, we want to ensure that the quality of anything D&D fans create is as high as possible. The Dungeon Master's Guide will contain the guidelines for creating many elements of the game, from adventures to monsters. While Basic D&D will cover the basics that DMs need to create and run campaigns, it won't go into details on the thinking behind the rules and the consequences of tinkering with them. Basic D&D is aimed at new players or people who aren't looking for a lot of mechanical complexity or depth. It's enough to create adventures for use at your table, but not for material that you want to share broadly. For that reason, we don't want to launch anything at least until the Dungeon Master's Guide has been released in November.

Moreover, it's not enough simply to launch anything the day the DMG hits shelves. It'll take time for everyone to absorb the rules and how they all interact. The R&D team can also share what we've learned while working on the game and the traps and challenges to avoid in design.

Therefore, we want to share the timeline we're working with. While the details are still in flux, we can say that we plan to announce the details of our plans sometime this fall. After that announcement, we plan on launching our program in early 2015.

Until then, we hope you will familiarize yourself with the new edition as the products are released, learn how and why it differs from past editions of the game, and dive into your first campaign. There's no better way to learn the game's intricacies than by digging into it through play. Once the community has some experience with the game, both we and you will be ready to creating the next wave of material for it.

Hopefully, that's enough information to make our intentions clear. As with both the playtest of the fifth edition and the other projects we've worked on over the past few years, we're taking our time to make sure we get things right.

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Seems like WotC is doing things right. Let the brand be the brand, and once its had time to gel, think about something w/OGL and third parties. Historically it would seem to me that published modules are not the financial winner for the company - at best they entice people to buy the core rules, which is where they make the most $$$. Im guessing here. But if true, then the folks in the know at WotC must have learned from the past and realize that 3rd party publishers arent taking food off of their table, they're really bringing people into the fold and those folks will need the Core Books.
Posted By: Seewhatsinmybrain (5/30/2014 3:10:26 PM)


For some reason the Reply button isn't working for me, so in reply to Sands666:

Lack of an OGL doesn't stop people CREATING content, but it does stop them sharing it. Under copyright law as it currently stands, game mechanics aren't copyrightable, but that wouldn't necessarily stop Hasbro suing people who share homebrew content.

And it wouldn't matter whether it was for profit or not. After all, copyright law doesn't distinguish meaningfully between people who share copyrighted movies for free and those who pirate them commercially. There is even an argument that if they fail to sue people who copy in ways that benefit both society and the owner of the work, they have abandoned their "IP" rights. Can anyone say "IP law is no longer serving its intended purpose"?

So yeah, without some sort of basic licensing you could face a lawsuit if you share your character online - even privately among friends (since you have caused contested IP... (see all)
Posted By: Anthrope (5/30/2014 4:10:17 AM)


That was a reply to mattador666 below. - John
Posted By: Seanchai (5/29/2014 11:27:45 PM)


I don't think it makes a big difference. Personally, I found the large majority of what came out on under the previous license to be junk. If DnD Next doesn't have an OGL, I won't weep bitter tears. (I don't even care when they announce whether there'll be an OGL or not - I'm just irritated by the poor marketing and non-announcement posted today.)

However, an open license does allow customers to get access to that rare gem as well.

Why not create their own game? The benefit for the customer is that they get additional material for a game they already own, presumably like, and presumably already can find players to play with. There are benefits to publishers as well, but...meh. It's the customers we should care about. - John
Posted By: Seanchai (5/29/2014 11:27:05 PM)


Thank you, Mr. Mearls and WotC. I wish you the best with the new game.
Posted By: SirAntoine (5/29/2014 8:51:44 PM)


Also, Mr. Mearls, most people who gaze into a crystal ball see something happen when they stare at that badboy long enough. Non-announcement announces nothing.
Posted By: mattador666 (5/29/2014 8:20:43 PM)


I'm curious what difference it makes whether there's some sort of OGL/GSL. It doesn't seem as though it will limit fan-created/homebrew stuff, only profiting from it. If you want to profit from creating tabletop gaming content, why not make your own game and sell it?

Are folks worried that someone else won't create something they themselves want, but are unwilling to work on?

Or is everyone just all wound up about something that probably won't matter? Go throw some dice yall.
Posted By: mattador666 (5/29/2014 8:19:04 PM)


It's too bad they didn't pay more attention to 13th Age. It's not really a complete game in the normal sense, but it has a lot of good ideas that bring it closer to being a real 5th Edition than anything else I've seen so far. And being in the OGL, Wizards themselves could have used and referred to those ideas in their own product simply by giving credit. Take the strongest points of 3E and 4E, marry it to the new ideas in 13th Age, add in some of the cool things they were doing earlier in the Next playtest before they got timid and backed away into too-familiar territory, flesh it out like Wizards is great at doing so it becomes more of a full fledged product than 13th Age is... The result would have been a superior 5th edition to the one we're going to get.
Posted By: Fuzzypaws (5/29/2014 7:32:48 PM)


It wasn't the OGL that hurt Wizards, not directly. The OGL was never a problem while Wizards was actively supporting 3E, because the Wizards products were just directly superior to most of the third party stuff and people recognized that. What actually hurt them was simply that they abandoned a product people loved to sell a product that people didn't want to buy, at least at the prices specified. It's more like "New Coke" than anything.

This isn't a personal judgment by me on 4E. I actually think there were a lot of really great ideas buried in there, which I was sad to see not return to 5E in their mad dash to kowtow to grognards who won't buy the new edition anyway. (Due to the reversal of progress on a lot of fronts, I actually expect 5E to fail as well, but that's neither here nor there.) Unfortunately, the total package didn't come together, and the marketing failed, and people got a bad taste in their mouths... and it was done.

That's not Paizo's... (see all)
Posted By: Fuzzypaws (5/29/2014 7:25:01 PM)


I can't wait for the new edition to come out. Looking forward to see how it goes, but have to admit that the announcement was sort of a non announcement.

Still excited to get and DM and play the new version. I agree that WoTC doesn't owe anybody anything in the OGL front but they do owe us (people who will pay and buy all the books) the best quality game that they can make. So until I see the product all I really have to say is that I have high hopes and expectations for the new additions and July cannot come quick enough.
Posted By: Klatub (5/29/2014 5:56:31 PM)


For those who are wondering why he even said this, it is likely due to the fact that the forums exploded with arguments and questions about whether or not their was going to be an OGL after Tuesday's article. I'm sure he got tweets too.

In effect, the announcement was "We will make an announcement in the fall," and "there will be something, but we aren't saying what."

That may not be what you wanted to hear, but it *is* a useful announcement, and it will at least satisfy some people enough to stop arguing about it needlessly.
Posted By: Sword_of_Spirit (5/29/2014 5:12:53 PM)


Yes, there have been a number of questions about the OGL. And, yes, making an announcement about it is good customer service and wise.

But WotC and Mearls didn't do that. Not really. They didn't even say there would be an OGL, just that there would be "a plan."

They spent 627 words saying, basically, "We'll let you know next year."

It's weird. And confusing. And doesn't - at least for me - inspire confidence in whatever the "plan" may be. - John
Posted By: Seanchai (5/29/2014 7:08:51 PM)


Sounds good so far. I hope I can help in any way
Dale McCoy
President of Jon Brazer Enterprises
Posted By: DaleMcCoy (5/29/2014 3:06:32 PM)


Going off my previous comment, it's worth noting that you have (presumably) built-in playtesting.
Posted By: OskarOisinson (5/29/2014 2:53:36 PM)


With respect, this is worse then the 4E GSL. It offers absolutely no way for fans and 3rd party publishers to publicly share or publish anything related to Next for the first six months to a year of the game. This announcement says "We're going to see how Next sells and how big fan backlash is, and then we'll come out with something eventually maybe."

I've been playing DnD for over 20 years, like the feel and direction of Next, and want it to succeed. I love this game. But if you're going to take a "wait and see" approach until 2015, then so am I. My gaming group and I will just keep playing the open 3.5, Pathfinder, and FATE systems until Hasbro announces an OGL for 5E, or someone makes a clone of 5E using the old OGL.
Posted By: Person_Man (5/29/2014 12:44:17 PM)


awesome, awesome, take your time, thanks!
Posted By: sjap (5/29/2014 12:41:34 PM)


I'm fine without the OGL for now. The OGL was in large part what has put the brand into the dire straits it is currently in. If you look at 3e, there were many design decisions that maybe weren't the best, (though it is probably my favorite edition mechanically, excluding 5e), obviously, things like Pun-Puns, monster balance, etc. needed to be errata'd somehow but what the OGL did was allow others (PF) to profit from essentially doing errata. No doubt PF has blossomed into a solid game in its own right and I love the adventure support they have done, but why would WOTC go down that road again? Likewise, 4e suffered from the OGL because, though it was easier to homebrew things that were mechanically balanced, it was more onerous to homebrew many things (particularly classes or anything with a DC) because everything had to be scalable and specific in effect. This, I think, made a lot of homebrewers jsut jump ship to PF as well. I think they should just create a homebrew submission data-b... (see all)
Posted By: OskarOisinson (5/29/2014 12:32:39 PM)


I actually appreciate this announcement, thank you Mike.

I agree that the quality concern is a genuine one, there was a lot of crap released for the 3.5 ogl. Have you considered perhaps adopting a similar policy to the one surrounding Pathfinder's Compatibility Logo?
Posted By: Taervaan (5/29/2014 12:20:40 PM)


If by "make our intentions clear," you meant, "make our intentions as opaque as they could possibly be," you succeeded.

What I'm taking away right now (and feel free to correct me if I'm wrong) is "No third-party publishers. You can support our game all you like, but don't go thinking you'll get paid for your work." Which, fine, that's how you want to do things, go for it. It's your IP. But if I were contemplating putting in serious work to create an RPG-related product, Pathfinder would look a whole lot more welcoming.
Posted By: Dausuul (5/29/2014 11:49:24 AM)


As an initial Next hater Wizards has slowly been winning me over with their good decisions and designs when it comes to this game. I am glad they are taking their time with this decision and license because if they get it right the they have a real winner in DnD Next.

They need to strike a balance between encouraging third party support and retaining their IP with this license. It sounds crazy at first but I think something similar to the iPhone or Android app store would work wonders. Setup some type of approval process, with clear outlines, where developers could submit PDFs of their content then have an online store where users can buy and rate these PDFs. Through this developers have the freedom to make and profit from their content but Wizards can also add a margin on top of the price and have control over what content actually appears.

I'm not quite sure what they would do with third party hard copy content.
Posted By: RadWab (5/29/2014 11:46:14 AM)


Huh? Why post this? Mearls said, "I wanted to take a moment to address a common question we receive about the Open Gaming License and what it means for the future of DnD," but then didn't say anything about the OGL at all beyond, basically, wait a year. Is that the big news? Wait a year until there's news? - John
Posted By: Seanchai (5/29/2014 11:37:47 AM)


This is a non-nouncement.
Posted By: VB_Baysider (5/29/2014 11:04:18 AM)


I loved the Basic DnD Announcement.
This 'Announcement', however, is meaningless. RnD told us about what they'd /like/ to do with the GSL back before 4E came out and look how that turned out. And this time you aren't even saying that much!

Don't talk about the successor to the OGL and GSL and SRD until you have something concrete.

I wish you'd just use the OGL so we can have an amazing site like d20pfsrd for 5E, but somehow I doubt that will happen.
Posted By: Scottbert (5/29/2014 10:35:17 AM)


We can't gaze into Mike's crystal ball until several months after the release, when we'll have characters of a high enough level to use that powerful of a magic item. Makes total sense.
Posted By: JoeyLast (5/29/2014 10:26:35 AM)


What this should mean: no license to publish content for profit (reducing but not eliminating competition from 3rd party publishers like Paizo); providing free online tools, like a character generator; providing a revamped community page where fans can share (for free) user-generated content that can be posted and downloaded (and also regulated by the WotC mods): content such as backgrounds, traits, classes, subclasses, feats, campaign settings, monsters, etc.

What it will mean: not sure - pretty vague language by Mearls.
Posted By: jfriant (5/29/2014 10:18:21 AM)


Sorry, but waiting until 2015 is not going to happen.

The game is not out yet and people are already making homebrew classes and races, eyeballing the options from the playtest.
It does take time to absorb and digest new rules, and we've had two years.
Once the final rules are out, no one is going to wait six months until WotC is ready to tell us how they want us to manage fan created content.

This is just leaving the fans in a legal limbo for half a year, when they don't know what content WotC considers acceptable and what is unacceptable.
Posted By: The_Jester (5/29/2014 9:57:36 AM)


What about non-fan content? 3rd-party publishers? Repackaging the rules like the ever-useful d20pfsrd and d20srd?
Posted By: JoshR (5/29/2014 9:29:35 AM)


Anybody who thinks we are going to see a 3e style OGL is dreaming. WotC knows their biggest competitor (Pathfinder) exists because of the looseness of the 3e OGL. I have no doubt that WotC will release some kind of license, but you can bet they will retain all legal rights to shut down any project based on 5e if they feel like it. Hasbro has a bulldog reputation when it comes to protecting their IP's and there's no way they're going to let another DnD clone threaten their own IP. And I'm totally okay with that.
Posted By: Lubok (5/29/2014 7:43:13 AM)


The only reason I *really* care about an OGL for 5E is so that there can be a 5E SRD online. I'm totally going to be buying the books (and getting a lot of use out of Basic at the table!), but there's no comparison to the convenience of the (PF/)SRD when I need to look things up. or build a character.

That said, still certainly looking forward to a new wave of community adventures/classes/etc. once [Insert 5E OGL Name Here] goes live!
Posted By: Krayt1 (5/29/2014 7:37:57 AM)


Of course, we can have an SRD without an OGL. Personally, I'd rather they go that route, since I enjoy the convenience of reference but I don't like what OGL does to the creative side of the RPG industry.
Posted By: Sword_of_Spirit (5/29/2014 5:07:56 PM)


This is very good news. I appreciate the desire of many for an OGL or something like it from the beginning. However, it's best for everyone to get to know DnD in its latest expression first, to have played it, and (here's the crux) to come up with new things precisely as they arise in actual game play. After all, the original subclasses (paladin, druid, assassin, monk, ranger, illusionist) came from player requests and desires, i.e. players actually playing the game, and they were made bit by bit. I'd rather know that new material has come from a real gaming experience and real gameplay, which is going to take time. Let's enjoy kicking the wheels of the new ruleset and take it for a few roadtrips before rushing to release our favorite ideas on an unsuspecting public!
Posted By: Llenlleawg (5/29/2014 6:03:20 AM)


This tells me that when WotC are ready they will surprise everyone again. I don't think we will see an OGL, but something even more shocking.
Posted By: Prom (5/29/2014 5:53:36 AM)


What do you think that could be? If it's not a) no license, b) fans get to make material but not for profit, or c) some kind of OGL, what do you think it'll be? Everything is free and there's no licensing requirements? - John
Posted By: Seanchai (5/29/2014 11:34:41 AM)


I find myself both pleased and frustrated by this announcement. On the one hand I'm pleased that there will be some sort of OGL, this is great news. On the other hand it's frustrating that it will not be released until next year. I get the desire to "get it right" but legal have had the whole play test time to figure the OGL out. Well I guess I've got 6 more months to develop and get writing in now.
Posted By: Cailte (5/29/2014 5:42:04 AM)


Huh? Mearls didn't say there would be an OGL at all. He said they want "fans" to be able to create their own materials and share them. He didn't mention companies or plans for an OGL at all... - John
Posted By: Seanchai (5/29/2014 11:30:57 AM)


Abscence of an OGL doesn't limit anyone's ability to play other game systems and it doesn't limit people's ability to create their own content. It only limits who profits off of content created using the new DnD system. WoTC did the work, so they should get the profit for the content. Moreover, they bent over backwards to try to appease the hord of complaining fans. They've been working their butts off to try to make us a game that keeps the hobby alive and pleases as many of the new and old fans as they can. In addition to this they're giving us the core rules for free. I will feel 100% satisfied paying $50 a book for the new system because of how much work and attention has gone into it all. I am in full support of WoTC gaining all the profit they deserve for this content. OGL can wait. Now is the time to appreciate what WoTC and the fans have created for the newest edition of Dnd
Posted By: Sands666 (5/29/2014 4:01:06 AM)


An OGL isn't owed to anybody, but neither does anybody owe DnD their attention when there are so many other games to play. OGLs support vibrant, creative communities around a game. Yes, you get unimaginative or unworkable stuff, but the crowd enjoys exploring options and filters that stuff out; and the abundance of content is one of the things that draws a crowd.

Personally I think the loss of quality third-party-publisher products did more to harm DnD than the over-standardisation of the early 4E class designs - and that's saying quite a bit. since I consider that the excessive mechanical similarity between the early versions of the classes was one of the two fatal flaws that distracted people from some of the positive innovations in the underlying rules!

As for the timing - the sooner the better, though I can respect giving it some time after publication of the core books. Waiting till you're out of ideas for your own books is giving them the chance to gather r... (see all)
Posted By: Anthrope (5/29/2014 3:16:07 AM)


I don't know squat about the game-selling industry, but I'd think an Open Game License is something you either a) don't do at all, or b) do when you're ready to wind down with your campaign worlds, splat books, and such. If they really put all the stuff fans love from 1e through 4e, plus a few new things, they have years of material to write, illustrate, and publish. I don't want to see a 3rd party book on 5e Psionics, or an eerily familiar post-apocalyptic desert world setting before WotC publishes it.

Also, the format and rules for 5e need to be codified and errata'd before they are leased out to other publishers. Remember how 4e had the 'Essentials' that should have been published first, all that errata, and the MM 1 stat block vs. the MM 3 stat block?

5e isn't even a game yet. It's a few playtest packets people (like me) still have, and a virtual ton of internet speculation. With a few official announcements, like release dates, sprinkled on top.
Posted By: seti (5/29/2014 1:27:51 AM)


I agree. An OGL is not owed to anyone.

Posted By: Fallen_Star_02 (5/29/2014 1:08:27 AM)


I'm glad WoTC isn't just opening the OGL doors quite yet. All these complaints about wanting OGL seem short sighted to me. I like that the DnD brand is going to have a chance to be what it is. OGL can be good in some cases, but let's see what the product is under the DnD brand first. The company put a lot of work into this product and has a right to own it's name. OGL isn't owed to anyone IMO.
Posted By: Sands666 (5/29/2014 12:46:54 AM)


I couldn't be more excited for the next 12 months of gaming. Thanks for the hard work and taking time to give your best efforts. Rock on.

P.S. is Chris P being held captive behind a portaculas?
Posted By: tiles (5/29/2014 12:37:11 AM)



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