AN OPEN LETTER TO WOTC: SAVE 3RD PARTY DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS PUBLISHERS

This is an open letter to Wizards of the Coast in a bid to stave off the flight of GSL companies and promote an atmosphere of mutualism to better all parties.

Dear Wizards:

I’ll attempt to word this letter in a fashion that promotes compromise and expresses my understanding of the situation. It  starts with the declaration that Wizards of the Coast are not obliged to follow anything mentioned here. They don’t owe anyone, and I am neither demanding action nor contending that what I request must be followed. I am suggesting a course of action that will benefit all parties involved.

On Friday, February 25th, I received a phone call from a writer experienced in 4th Edition wishing to produce his product. He had previously been tied to another major publisher that had recently dropped its 4th Edition lineup in favor of Paizo’s Pathfinder which they claim had been growing in sales to the extent of surpassing their 4th Edition products. This is not an isolated incident but only the latest symptom, following in the wake of similar announcements from Mongoose and Goodman Games. For all intents and purposes, despite declarations from fanboys on both sides about whether Pathfinder or D&D is the better seller, it is now glaringly obvious that from the 3rd party publisher outlook, the winner has been decided.

This wasn’t always the case. It’s important to mention that I am not threatening to cut my ties with the mother company. If DEM fails to make an impression with its 4th Edition lineup, we won’t be abandoning it in favor of Pathfinder. Most likely, if our 4th Edition products prove to disappoint, it may be the end of products from the DEM universe. This is not a threat; it’s simple fact of life and investment. Dias Ex Machina made its name with 4th Edition D&D. We already created an Amethyst 3.5 in 2008. We switched it to follow 4th Edition; stepping back to 3.75 feels…exactly that.

I am offering suggestions to make the 4th Edition D&D multiverse a welcoming place for 3rd party publishers, most involving D&D’s online presence. This is not like the days of the OGL, where companies could access and copy the entire rules system, a la Linux. Third party companies need to reference original WOTC products. This encourages sales. Additionally, more 3rd party products increase D&D penetration in the marketplace. It may not be a significant increase, but the investment is negligible, making a return virtually guaranteed. You wouldn’t even have to offer these to every publisher, only to those you believe have reached a certain level of quality—perhaps companies that are producing truly original products over those only offering variations on elements already created.

It’s important to know that 3rd party companies can keep up with the pace if you dare them to. Changing the rules through an errata is not as damaging as you might think. As a metaphor, I would offer that a 3rd party product (at least Amethyst) was a car using WOTC roads. WOTC can change the laws and the limits, where and how fast you can go, but we don’t have to rebuild our car. The problem is WOTC uses an express lane and refuses to open to those following them.

So here are my proposals:

TALK ABOUT US
Simply put, with the many blogs and official press releases WOTC issues, reserve a section to mention the products being released by third-party companies. This could include the many newsletters and online articles dealing official WOTC products. This would not be a one-time occurrence but a recurring practice so that players will know these products and companies are ever-present in the community. Currently, WOTC has a single page mentioning 3rd party companies and one forum group called GSL. We would like something prevalent and dedicated one blogger a week, one page in a newsletter, maybe even space in an issue of Dragon. You would be surprised the amount of free content 3rd party publishers would offer in exchange for a bit of free advertising.

SUPPORT US
In the many products released by WOTC, they put aside space for advertisements. Although you would imagine costs would be astronomical, offering a discount or a single gratis communal page dedicated to everyone (like those small market advertisers at the back of a Road & Track) could work wonders. Banner ads on the website would never come to pass, but allowing some advertisement, side by side with D&D, could muster up considerable leverage in convincing third-party companies that they are under your umbrella, not standing beside you in the rain.

REWARD US
Although there are perhaps dozens of products that may not reach your level of quality, if one does come about, acknowledge them. Perhaps even special awards dedicated to only 3rd party products. You could offer accolades for artwork, layout, writing and originality. You won’t even need to make plaques; a simple GIF would suffice.

SELL US
File this under improbable, but opening an online store is something Wizards still insists on not creating. They offer DDI as the compromise. But selling 3rd party PDFs via the official Wizard site would not only promote our products but also offer revenue for WOTC. If you think this is unprecedented, it is important to know that Amethyst Foundations (a 4th Edition 3rd party book) is available for sale (and does sell) on Paizo’s online store. If Paizo can sell a 3rd party D&D product, why won’t the creators of D&D. There is revenue there to be had.

DISTRIBUTE US
The DDI is the single biggest feature that sets 4th Edition apart from the rest of the RPG community, allowing up-to-date content a finger-tap away. Trying to get 3rd party content into Character Builder has been a poster-protest since the debut of the controversial application, something that WOTC has never been receptive to. They have come close, with the frank answer being that even though they are not against the idea, WOTC is not sure how to implement it. Meaning they could if they spent a large amount of money on programmers to enable the system and still keep it secure…ergo, they won’t do it. I am not talking about Character Builder; however, I am talking about all the other aspects of DDI, the exclusive content. Allow 3rd party products to post artwork, classes, and monsters. It would be part of DDI content and showcase the products offered by 3rd party companies.

TALK TO US
The last proposal is to keep us 3rd party companies in the loop. With the exception of the first GSL license update, there has not been a single email sent mass to the companies signed under the GSL. There has been no attempt to keep them—us—informed of future products and changes in the rule structure. We are not told about rule updates until after they have gone up. We had no warning about the potential rule changes coming with Essentials. We are not made aware of the coming products; if we were, we could make an effort to support those very same product lines.

As long as you require, by word of GSL, to reference your products without copying information within them, then consumers must own those books to use ours. It’s a symbiotic relationship, not unlike the clownfish swimming around an anemone. All we’re asking is to open that umbrella just a teeny bit more to allow us the same protection, show us that we’re connected, not holding on for dear life.

Hoping and Optimistic (as they are different)
Chris Dias
Dias Ex Machina Games

Chris Dias

Chris Tavares Dias is the literary equivalent of that crusty burnt cheese at the bottom of the fondue pot. Some people claim he looks like Mathew Perry. He would like that to be true. It's not. In 2010, Chris co-wrote and created Amethyst Foundations, a 4th Edition setting based on the previous version under 3.5. It has received critical acclaim for integrating science fiction into classical fantasy. In August of this year, Chris was last seen staring at a dead raven that had fallen beside his car. Two months later, his watch and notepad were found in the stomach of a basking shark that had washed ashore off the coast of Florida.

56 thoughts on “AN OPEN LETTER TO WOTC: SAVE 3RD PARTY DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS PUBLISHERS

  • March 7, 2011 at 2:50 pm
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    Chris – this is an awesome open letter, and as a fellow 3rd PP, I thank you for wording such a reasonable and well-thought out response to the state of the GSL market. I think this letter serves as a wonderful “olive branch” to Wizards of the Coast, and I can only hope that someone over in the GSL Legal Department gives it a fair and open-minded read. Well done!

  • March 7, 2011 at 2:52 pm
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    Good luck! I hope they listen to you, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

  • March 7, 2011 at 5:33 pm
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    Great stuff Chris! Hope your comments are heard. Sounds like a very good plan to me.

  • March 7, 2011 at 5:42 pm
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    Chris – I want to thank you for writing this to explain the position of 3rd Party developers. To be honest with you I was not really aware of the situation that you guys find yourself in and I agree with the suggestions that you recommend. They seem reasonable, straightforward and are based in a feeling of respect for the ‘mother company’ as you put it.

    I have to say that I was a little skeptical of WotC’s intentions when they moved away from the OGL, and it would seem that my initial impressions have been somewhat confirmed.

  • March 7, 2011 at 5:42 pm
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    Hmm so some background before I post, I played 2e one summer in high school around 1996ish, then didn’t touch a RPG until 4e.

    I have little interest in buying anything 3rd party in my 4e world, because I see little value in anything 3rd party. Now, I don’t know if this is because WoTC has not done anything to promote or increase the quality of 3rd party stuff, or if it’s just anything 3rd party that’s created is something I can create or reskin with the existing source books out there.

    Even back when I played 2e, but even more in 4e, monsters are just numbers with strings associated with them, and I can mentally sed those changes to be what ever I want them to be. One monster from the MM can be anything I want it to be, why would I go out and pay someone to do that reskinning for me, or even pay WoTC for MM[2-9]?

    Classes, theme wise I can skin almost anything into the existing classes already in the core books. New mechanics is probably the only reason I’d buy a 3rd party product, but there are plenty of blogs and forum boards for new mechanics that people are putting up for free.

    Adventures/campaigns, maybe I’m just not the DM those are marketed for, I like creating my own and adjusting it making it specific for the campaign. But if I’m low on time/feeling lazy, again, there are plenty of resources out there free for the taking.

    I’m not trolling here, I say all this because maybe, like newspapers, the music industry, and video rental, the technology now exists where 3rd party commercial products isn’t as needed as it once was? Granted, given I missed out on much of the 3rd party hayday, I’m not understanding the want or need for 3rd party products.

    Just my two cents.

    • March 7, 2011 at 6:27 pm
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      Michael,

      I understand where you are coming from. I rarely get 3rd party product since the 3.5 days. But I have with 4e recently. Most notably Matt James’ Soldier of Fortune.

      You are probably in the minority out there who views 3rd party products like you do. There are plenty of people who do not have the time or the inclination to make things up for their games.

      There are also the people who just gobble up all things related to Product X.

      I also have to say that 3rd party publishers helped spur the innovation of 3e and 3.5 into what we have not. Paizo would not be here if it was not for it. Pathfinder owes its existence to 3rd party participation and the support it gets from it’s own 3PP.

      There is nothing wrong with you opinion. 3rd party is pretty much everywhere in the world. From Cell Phone covers to Video Cards for computers to game controllers for your Nintendo Wii.

      But with D&D like I said, not everyone, especially new DM’s has the time or dare I say the imagination to constantly pull out new and imaginative monsters and adventures week in and week out.

      To each their own though.

  • March 7, 2011 at 6:31 pm
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    Chris makes an eloquent plea, but I am skeptical WOTC will take heed. Honestly, WOTC’s tone-deaf response to the gaming community in general is a greater threat than any competitor, Pathfinder included. Angry customers vote with their feet.

    Trask

  • March 7, 2011 at 6:35 pm
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    Being a 3PP who supported Paizo and Pathfinder since the first day, everything that you are asking WOTC to do is something that Paizo HAS BEEN doing. I am sorry to say that I think this request will fall on deaf ears. While you may not wish to, I would suggest thinking about supporting Paizo. Paizo will give you the relationship you would like from WOTC. You are in somewhat a situation of an abused wife looking for her husband to change, instead of just leaving the situation and finding someone who will treat you like you want to be treated. I hope you get what you are looking for, but if not come check out Paizo. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

    • March 7, 2011 at 6:58 pm
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      Paizo will treat you better.

      The GSL wasn’t abuse, it was a divorce notice.

  • March 7, 2011 at 6:40 pm
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    I remember the sheer deluge of d20 products in the 2000s and don’t want the 2010 decade to be the same. And I certainly don’t want dragon and dungeon articles replaced by content from some other company.

    I know this is a bit harsh, but why has the default position become that Wizards should work closely with other companies and open up their trade marks more so others can profit off of them?

    Why should WotC spend their marketing budget talking about your products? Why should they promote your work to their paying subscribers rather than their own? Wizards wants people to buy D&D products from local stores and subscribe to DDi. What part of that goal is helped by doing marketing for your company’s products?

    • March 8, 2011 at 4:09 am
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      Why should WotC promote 3PP?
      Because growth if the 4E industry is in WotC’s best interest. This is in fact the point to the GSL. However if 3PP are leaving the ship the 4E market is then shrinking, a smaller 4E market means less income for WotC as well.

      You know what is now “Unearthed Arcana” in Dragon is what the magazine used to be about in paper format. How is a 3PP article different? Especially if subscribers don’t pay any more? That’s the sort of thing I understand from Chris’ original letter.

      Further part if the advantage of a GSL is expanding the options (eg campaign settings) without WotC needing to spread their IPs out ever more. There are better ways to make money than releasing more products than you can support. Allowing 3PP in and showing off their stuff helps WotC do this without them having to invest the R&D time (& thus money) into it.

      And this is still only the surface of why it is in WotC’s interest to act to grow the 4E market.

    • March 10, 2011 at 12:43 pm
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      The mentality of US vs THEM is what fuels competition. Competition when used to drive development and innovation can be healthy. But desire to eliminated the competition is bad business because it destroys markets. It’s not like you’re picking from one cereal over another, or supporting one brand or another. In the case of 3rd Party products for D&D, you’re talking about a community. The gaming community is bigger than a single game. D&D, the brand, affords WotC or Hasbro the ability to bully and muscle themselves around – which can be abused. Which, as some people feel, they are doing. That is NOT supporting your customer base, when your customer base IS the gaming community.

      These 3rd party developers are members of the gaming community, period. The development of these products are how they support the community. So, WotC/Hasbro being the BIG GUY in the community would benefit from this support in the long run. It’s really a win-win situation for everyone.

  • March 7, 2011 at 11:58 pm
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    Nathan, it is not that WotC Should spend the money, but the courtesy. The OGL was an invitation to play in their pond. Too many bad products came out, but that was to be expected. I mean you open the gate to every geek’s dream of publishing RPG material. It was inevitable that too many people that thought they KNEW the perfect product was their homebrew campaign.

    Fast forward to the present & the GSL. The GSL is not an encouraging document for 3pps. Most of these guys are the polished 3pps that survived the OGL glut. They put out decent products. I may not like all of them, but most of them are consistently well published. If WotC really wanted to kick everybody back out of their pond, then they should NOT have teased them with the idea they were still welcomed.

    Maybe Wizards wants 4e all to themselves. Thats fine, it’s their right. Then come clean & tell all of the 3pps that they are not welcome here in plain English. Otherwise, prove that the GSL is not a load of crap & do something to make them feel welcome.

  • March 8, 2011 at 12:28 am
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    From my perspective, there are two important issues to understand. The first regards product penetration. One of the leading factors attributed to the success of 3.0/3.5 what its open source content, resulting in every major publisher releasing a book under the D&D framework. Back then, you could copy the entire rule system; with the GSL, you can only reference, consequently forcing any consumer to own the core books to utilize a 3rd party supplement. By encouraging and supporting content, you allow a greater saturation of the 4th edition market, increasing the number of 4th edition books on a shelf—books that all require the same core volumes produced by one publisher.

    The second issue involves mending and improving customer opinion. It will go a long way with both players and publishers if WOTC reached across with that olive branch. Consider the following: this open letter had been on LivingDice for nearly a week with not a single post. One mention by Morrus on the news page at EnWorld, and this post exploded. Imagine the impact of Wizards doing the same thing, adding news content for GSL products. If creating a news page or running a blog for 3rd party content—if producing a seal of quality to affix to superior books—is considered a significant dent in WOTC’s advertising budget, then they’re worse off that we thought. Every company sets aside money to improve its public image. It could be a charity or the sponsoring of a sports team. Supporting 3rd party companies improves public image and sale…and you wouldn’t even need to attend a game. Don’t equate support with money.

    As for DEM moving to Paizo, we made the decision early to embrace 4E, well before Pathfinder had existed. My group prefers and endorses 4E; they won’t touch Pathfinder. Its 3.75 system is still based on the foundation of 3.5. When Amethyst was released for 3.5, we could claim no fertile ground; it had been tilled to salt by dozens of publishers before it. With 4E, it was a new field, ready to sow. Paizo has not reached out to DEM and I doubt they will, as we can bring nothing to the 3rd edition landscape that has not already been done.

  • March 8, 2011 at 1:22 am
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    There is the potential for a mutually beneficial relationship if they are willing to reach across the table. My hand is out…has been out for some time.

  • March 8, 2011 at 2:11 am
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    While it’s certainly possible that there will be another shift in the corporate ethos at WotC, it is fairly apparent that the death of 3PP support for 4th Edition is not a bug: It’s a feature. 4th Edition and the GSL were designed to kill 3PP D&D support and it’s working just as intended.

    • March 8, 2011 at 9:32 am
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      Maybe I feel burned by the deluge of *terrible* 3PP 3.x products, but I see that feature as one I desire in an RPG product.

      I enjoy a lot of the creations on various people’s blogs and websites that might be analogous to the content of some 3PP products, but the difference is that it’s done for free. For example, the Save Versus Death blog isn’t trying to monetize FourthCore, but to simply return an old school approach to 4E.

  • March 8, 2011 at 5:49 am
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    I can’t help but feel this open letter is more about whining than anything else. In it, you speak about what WotC isn’t doing for you in regards to support. It reads as though you do not want to do anything for yourself, and how another, larger organization should do the work for you. Perhaps you should focus on what you are not doing, rather than WotC. There are plenty of 3rd-party publishers that do not use the GSL, and successfully produce 4e content.

    • March 8, 2011 at 7:23 am
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      Here’s a point to consider, though.

      Paizo has forums for 3PP news and announcements, including 4E. They sell 3PP products. It brings people in and exposes them to more material and discussion about the game while keeping them at the paizo site. People talking more Pathfinder means there’s more Pathfinder in the air, and that seems to raise its popularity.

      When you encourage 3PP who make 4E material and foster them in your community, you encourage people to talk about 4E material. No one’s asking Wizards to do their own promotion. The current CoC on the WotC forums prohibits 3PP from announcing products there– and that makes it tough to reach the community. I don’t think anyone wants to abrogate their responsibility for advertising to Wizards; they just want some space to safely promote their products where the customers are.

      -Ben.

    • March 10, 2011 at 12:58 pm
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      This is odd coming from someone who just released a 3rd Party 4e product, and has had the benefit of being promoted (and therefore essentially supported) by some of the bigger names in the D&D/Gaming Community; enworld, rpggeek, etc.

      I don’t think it would be hard, and to a disadvantage, for WotC to support their 3rd parties. As Louis Porter, Jr has noted, Paizo provides support for some of their 3rd party developers. Support could be a single article in Dragon, or an adventure in Dungeon, or at the least a “spotlight” in either site/magazine.

      • March 15, 2011 at 12:49 pm
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        What is it that you think stops those 3PP from submitting articles or adventures to Dragon/Dungeon? As you point out, Matt has done (and continues to do) both. Why does (for example, no insult meant) Louis Porter Jr need something that Matt James does not?

  • March 8, 2011 at 9:43 am
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    It’s an ill-mannered response to accuse of the letter of whining. Companies like Goodman and Mongoose have no issues promoting their own products to a wide base. And smaller companies have miniscule budgets to compete. Neither situation asks for a handout. We don’t want Wizards “to do our job for us”; this assumes some of these companies can do so—like we could if we got off our asses. Anyone who knows me knows I work constantly on this. From LivingDice to CombatAdvantage, From Here to There, and I’ve got three game books being written simultaneously. The first Amethyst 3.5 book lost several thousand dollars, due mostly by its release a month before 4E. I keep at it because I love it, as does all who write for RPGs. I wouldn’t accuse myself or any other 3PP company as being lazy.

    The suggestion is to encourage a mutually beneficial relationship, somewhat skewed in our direction so we can survive in a very competitive (and almost vitriolic) environment. There actually very few companies out there producing consistent 4E content, GSL or not, especially when comparing it to the ratio of 3rd Edition. And to stress what I said early, a news blog or a jpg award would not be much work for Wizard’s advertising budget. There are employees working for WOTC who would be imposed only minutes a week sustaining such a project and the positive customer feedback and industry growth potential would be nearly immediate.

    And finally, it would encourage more companies to join the GSL. I refuse to take the alarmist view that the GSL was originally designed to kill 3PP. Someone at WOTC had their heart in the right place. By actually entering the community or creating a community to share with companies supporting them, it encourages more of us move under their umbrella. There is almost a Windows / Mac parable at work here.

    As said, win-win.

    • March 10, 2011 at 2:46 pm
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      Chris,

      You wrote: “The first Amethyst 3.5 book lost several thousand dollars, due mostly by its release a month before 4E.”

      I understand that you personally aren’t interested in the Pathfinder RPG, but I wonder if you’ve considered the possibility of having someone convert your 3.5 product to the Pathfinder RPG, and rereleasing it in PDF form using the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Compatibility License. It probably wouldn’t cost very much to do, and you may be able to at least recoup some of your losses.

      If you’re not sure how to find people to do that conversion, you could post a request on our “Compatible Products from Other Publishers” forum ( http://paizo.com/paizo/messageboards/paizoPublishing/pathfinder/pathfinderRPG/licensees ), and I’m sure you’d get a few recommendations (and possibly even volunteers). You could also try the WereCabbages ( http://www.werecabbages.com/ ), who have recently completed the upcoming Tome of Horrors conversion.

      Let me know if there’s anything else I can do to help you.

  • March 8, 2011 at 1:27 pm
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    The OP has already basically said he considers Pathfinder to be inferior (otherwise moving back from 4E to 3.75 wouldn’t feel like such a mis-step) so why even bother trying to tell him to go to Paizo? Some of us felt that Paizo tried to fix the wrong things and took Pathfinder in the wrong direction, so they already lost us as customers.

    I don’t think expecting WotC to advertise 3rd party and roll them into the CB is all that realistic. Could they do all that, sure, but they have enough problems w/the CB right now. The OGL had certain requirements to be able to publish underneath it, but every product was not submitted to WotC for review. Reviews were done mainly upon complaints of non-compliance.

    If they were to add all these products to the CB, they would need to code other people’s work, add it to their system, make sure the new material didn’t break anything and that there was an easy way to add or remove 3rd party material. If WotC is going to be doing all of this extra work to add the material to the CB, they would need a cut of the product sales. If they allowed others to write their own code to add in as modules of information, the other publishers would need to add at least one coder to their staff, which for many is prohibitive.

    I think if the GSL ever got opened up to work more like the OGL and then you advertise thru places like ENWorld, that is probably the best case scenario.

  • March 8, 2011 at 4:27 pm
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    I appreciate this post. It mirrors what Living Forgotten Realms, as a WotC organized play campaign, has said asking for support, promotion, and consideration.

    In this era, encouraging a wider stance than just “your product” is healthy.

    While I see some successful ventures into non-WotC 4E material, it is a very tough road. Kobold Quarterly comes to mind as a company that has done well, in part due to a clever straddling of demographics… but that too isn’t without a cost (a player that likes just one edition may not subscribe). Individuals have been able to have healthy relationships with WotC… but that is probably more individual charisma than any proven road for success. We can’t say something as simple as “work hard and it will happen”.

    The reality is that 4E is too far to the side of “only WotC” just as 3.x was too open. I hope that some middle ground can be found. It is in WotC’s own interest to have third parties provide good content. More importantly, it is critical for WotC to be exposed to and learn from that content.

  • March 8, 2011 at 5:57 pm
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    Honestly, not to be rude, but you sound like a battered wife who refuses to leave her husband, yet who complains of how she’s abused and miserable. Allow me to break this down, you’d rather:

    – Support a company that could honestly give a damn less about what you think, instead of a company that heralds their 3pp’s since they themselves were once a 3pp. (The only time WotC cares about it’s partners and fanbase is when Hasbro sees red ink, imo).

    – Support a company that sends Cease and Desists on third party app developers who write apps for their edition, instead of the one that happily licenses it’s content to a 3p developer (Hero Labs, fyi, which allows for building custom modules).

    – Support a company has zero transparency with their products, does hardly any communication with their community, and allows for zero open playtesting on new products in the works, vs a company that is completely transparent about the development of their products (check their blog), has a staff that does more than their share of conversing with their community (check their forums), and holds regular open playtesting on their upcoming products (check their site).

    – Support a company that releases all of their rules to the public, instead of a company that walls up their rules behind an poorly updated, 3pp unfriendly, online-only application and an MMO-like subscription service that really isn’t worth the $10 to begin with.

    I understand you love 4th edition, and there is nothing inherently wrong with that. But the decision to continue to support a company that ignores your work in favor of brushing aside a company that would cherish and promote your work is not only a poor business strategy but outright delusional. And your product fail, I think it’s fate is well deserved.

    Just my semi-professional opinion. Let the flaming begin.

    • March 10, 2011 at 1:07 pm
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      That’s the nature of commitments, ain’t it. But I hardly consider it an abusive relationship, but one of someone that wants some recognition, you know, a “thank you” for doing the dishes.

      And developing 3rd party products isn’t so much supporting WotC/Hasbro, as it is supporting the community, and in this case those that enjoy 4e AND Amethyst.

  • March 8, 2011 at 6:00 pm
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    Amendment to that sentence “And *should* your product fail…”. My apologies.

  • March 8, 2011 at 8:42 pm
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    Edited from another post I made…

    DEM made the decision early to embrace 4E, well before Pathfinder had ever existed. My group prefers and endorses 4E; they won’t touch Pathfinder. This is not an opinion I reflect. I have nothing against Paizo. I don’t hate it. I have no opinion whatsoever. I love the art. I have talked with several of its writers, including Monte Cook. We at DEM prefer 4th Edition. I liked what it offered. I could propose adopting it to my other writers, but this is the same group that hates Essentials as well, a series I actually enjoy. The fact they hate it didn’t stop me from making Essentials classes for Amethyst in the next book.

    WOTC has the traffic and the original franchise. There is nothing I can do on my end to measure with that. I can’t create a website and suddenly expect a million hits in a day. To prove my resolve, I’ll say this: if WOTC were to allow such a blog or news page on their website, talking about 3rd party companies and their products, I would gladly write it for free, and I would do so for a month before even mentioning me work or my company. Offer me the soapbox and I’ll shout how awesome 3rd party products are.

    • March 9, 2011 at 7:37 am
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      Couldn’t you start a group within the Wizards community and blog there? Open Design has one, although it’s not frequently updated.

    • March 9, 2011 at 7:53 am
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      WotC is not a franchise.

      • March 9, 2011 at 8:47 am
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        No, he said, “WOTC *has* the traffic and (has) the original franchise.”

        (emphasis/clarification mine.)

        I still think a 3PP forum within the community site would go a long way without impinging on their IP. It’s their house, we’re just enthusiastically sharing it.

        • March 9, 2011 at 1:40 pm
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          A 4E community forum does exist in many ways. Enworld, though having a pronounced Paizo community, does have a news page for 4E products. Case in point: the explosion that occured with this post when Morrus mentioned it. Doing it ourselves wouldn’t be effective unless we had the traffic that could equal or rival that of Wizards. As stated, if WOTC offers the soapbox, I’ll stand on it. They have the traffic and the consumer base. I would go a month raining the praise on Neuroglyph Games and Emerald Press before the word Amethyst ever lept from my lips.

  • March 8, 2011 at 9:38 pm
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    “It is in WotC’s own interest to have third parties provide good content. More importantly, it is critical for WotC to be exposed to and learn from that content.” (Alphastream)

    True, but irrelevant. WotC is not in control anymore; a multinational, publicly-traded corporation is and could not care less about good content or D&D’s long and storied relationship with its fans and players.

    There’s more to say, but Ghaladen above said it so well that I won’t bother.

    • March 10, 2011 at 2:24 pm
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      Sorry, but I disagree. There is money to be made if you can A) skim revenue off of 3PPs, B) Have the additional content not reduce the quality and direction you have for the products. There are many examples of either not working for various industries (including RPGs). There is no reason why Hasbro would not want revenue and success. There are reasons why both Hasbro and WotC would want controls in place.

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  • March 9, 2011 at 5:21 pm
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    I have to agree with the whining label. You ask/beg/cajole/demand (pick your verb) things from WOTC, yet offer nothing in return nor any reason why WOTC would benefit from these actions. The closest you come is the reference to 3PP driving more WOTC sales, but you do nothing to emphasize this, nor do you provide any information to support this. How many sales of what books? Don’t assume they have the numbers, or that their numbers agree with yours. State your case, with support, or you risk it being dismissed. Heading everything you want them to do for you, with no heading about what you can or are doing for them make is read like a wish list for Santa Claus, not a reasonable request to a business.

    Make no mistake, WOTC is a business. Few businesses even let competitors access and use their IP to create competing products. To demand more from WOTC, even if Paizo is doing so, without so much as a well-stated reason why, is less useful than spitting into the wind.

    • March 10, 2011 at 4:10 am
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      He offered to write material (homebrew and not to be implemented on CB), reviews, and whatever for DDI … a work done free of charge as a way to show 3PP to more people.

      I can’t see any problem with this. For me it would be a win win situation, I’m becoming tired of the monotone mentality of DDI articles.

      A bit of 3PP things, along with news about works done by other people would make the “ezine” more useful for me.

      • March 10, 2011 at 11:19 am
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        That’s a mitigation to what he’s asking for, not a benefit he’s offering to WOTC. Asking someone to buy you a bike, then saying you’ll assemble it yourself, doesn’t make it a win-win. The buyer still hasn’t gained anything from the process, only the recipient.

        If the intent is to convince WOTC to change policies, the only way with a realistic chance of success is showing them how it would benefit them. All that’s been done so far is showing them how it benefits 3PP and their fans.

    • March 10, 2011 at 1:21 pm
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      I completely disagree. I’m coming from the point of view of a member of the community of D&D gamers that want choices and support from all developers (official and otherwise), and when we look at WotC, who own and control the BRAND of Dungeons & Dragons, we recognize that they own the biggest soapbox and the largest sound-system in the community. It’s hard to explain this without sounding like a conspiracy theorist, but it’s obvious that Hasbro is a corporation whose main goal in the world is to make a profit. Monetizing and/or capitalizing a product you develop is part of our culture, and it goes without saying–reiterating that fact is just mute. But what some of us are ultimately saying is that 3rd party developers are NOT competitors. They ADD value, as Paizo will attest. Acknowledgement of this benefits the community as a whole.

      • March 15, 2011 at 12:59 pm
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        ..and what DustMan is saying is “you’ve stated your claim without a shred of evidence or support. There’s a difference between *repeating* your claim and *supporting* it.”

        Anyone who thinks that it is simply obvious that wider 3PP support will be a win for WotC has forgotten (or just missed) /some/ of the lessons of the OGL. The best you can hope for is that it’s not *obvious* either way.

        Step into that opening and make a case.

        • March 31, 2011 at 12:01 pm
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          Chad,

          The original OGL was based around the idea that people don’t like learning new rule systems. By letting others use WotC’s rules, they assimilated every other popular game system, transforming their game settings into settings for D20-based rules. Companies that would have been competitors suddenly had an interest in seeing WotC’s rules become more popular and successful.

          Of course, pitfalls soon became apparent. Some companies had no desire to “play nice” and marketed texts intended to compete head-to-head with products like WotC’s core rulebooks. Some produced shoddy or scandalous products that could have undermined the game’s reputation.

          Despite this, WotC flourished as the “big dog” of the marketplace. They were well-positioned to benefit from the creative blossoming of third-party publishers, incorporating innovative aspects of their work. Freelance creators could sharpen their skills working elsewhere, with WotC hiring the cream of the crop.

          So, how would WotC benefit from a vibrant, boisterous 3rd-party community?

          1. Potential rivals or competitors are transformed into supporters and collaborators eager to see D&D succeed. Right now, WotC has effectively created their own competition, something they could have avoided entirely by bringing companies like Paizo and Goodman into their orbit.

          2. Supporting third-party publishers made their marketing becomes D&D’s marketing, bolstering D&D’s position in the mainstream.

          3. A robust creative community gives WotC the opportunity to draw designers and artists from a larger, more experienced pool of talent.

  • March 10, 2011 at 6:40 am
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    Hi Chris,

    Well written, but I think it’s too late. We dropped out of the RPG Publishing business when our 4e sales paled in comparison to 3.5 and I have many products I could finish and release with just a bit of work. I wish WotC would turn this around, but I don’t think it’ll happen.

    I’d love to continue to make Violet Dawn work as one of the best campaign settings out there, but there just isn’t an audience for 4e products and like you, I have no desire to step backward.

    I never picked up Amethyst, but I always saw a lot of similarities with what we were doing with Violet Dawn. Unique world, high production values, good artwork, etc.

    I hope you get some traction with this.

    Best of luck to you,

    Jeff Visgaitis
    The Inner Circle
    http://www.icirclegames.com

  • March 10, 2011 at 9:43 am
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    There are many that would love to have content put up on Dungeon/Dragon, free of charge or otherwise. Jumping the line only serves himself.

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  • March 12, 2011 at 4:20 am
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    It may be a case of too little too late, but one thing that I thought of is that you could go and be a freelancer for WOTC and build up enough “street cred” with the 4E audience so they might want to check out your 3rd party works…

  • March 12, 2011 at 9:38 am
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    One observation (and I hope it is not taken antagonistically – but I don’t particularly care either) from this whole event is that 4e players as a whole don’t really seem to want 3PPs either. I’ve read a few blog posts already that begin with “I don’t really buy or peruse 3PP offerings but…” and “back during the OGL, I got quote burned endquote by 3PP products…” And the ENWorld thread is one massive multi-page of Ouroborous of an argument, with one side being particularly loud and clear, at least to my reading.

    If the players themselves don’t want, or at the very least don’t acknowledge, 3PP support then it is definitely not going to thrive. So without touching on what WOTC should or should not do (and I agree with the sentiment that from their perspective there’s nothing to be gained from this) the situation is already pretty dire for 4e 3PPs.

  • March 13, 2011 at 2:54 pm
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    I understand that it’s DEM’s choice to not deal with Pathfinder. However, as a freelancer for a PFRPG 3PP, everything that you ask for is basically part of what we get from Paizo. Heck, in discussions about how 3pps are treated, Lisa Stevens, the CEO of Paizo, actually follows and contributes to the conversation. As 3PPs we feel like we’re encouraged to be part of their game. That’s a lot different than what this letter is describing.

  • March 13, 2011 at 3:03 pm
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    For the longest time, it was not a choice to turn our back from Pathfinder. PF didn’t exist with the release of 4E, and after, it was a compulsion instigated by the GSL. Now that both situations have changed, we have begun addressing changing our business outlook. We’ll let you know to what extent soon enough.

  • March 13, 2011 at 5:37 pm
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    I don’t consider WoTC to be “the Mother Company,” and I think that approach – internally on their part – is the cause of a great deal of their troubles, both in how much they changed a long-standing product, and in how poorly their attempts to market it to their longest fans, panned out.

    WoTC is an upstart, made wealthy by a signature card game (one that borrowed heavily from the product they eventually bought, but whose borrowing they have never acknowledged), and by the ownership of a too-broad patent on card games, which wrongly thought that by PURCHASING the Mother Game, they would somehow turn themselves into the Mother Company.

    3.5 was a success, and rightly. But success has a way of going to our heads. Sometimes we forget that the success we are experiencing in flight comes from having launched ourselves off the shoulders of giants. WoTC was never really the mother of any of this.

    Except maybe for collectible card games. But as to the Mother Game, they are proving consistently, by failing more the farther they move from it, that it was never their brainchild in the first place. In short (too late now, I know), much success has been heaped upon them that was not actually earned internally, and it’s not surprising that they would then flounder when left to their own devices.

  • March 14, 2011 at 9:19 pm
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    Translate this however you want, but I think it’s safe to say we at Emerald Press have done more than our fair share as an independent publisher (I hate the term “3pp”) to promote the entire spectrum of non-WotC published 4e material through Combat Advantage, both the ezine and website. To date, we have over 40,000 downloads over 20 issues. As a publisher, the primary objective is to attract readers to our products through free, promotional material. We have provide all 4e publishers the opportunity to preview their material within our pages, conducted interviews, and more. Were we publishing Pathfinder, I’m EXTREMELY confident Paizo would make a point to showcase Combat Advantage (which would be redundant, I know, because why would a Pathfinder mag be called “Combat Advantage?”).

    Over the past few months, we have made several attempts to contact WotC to discuss the GSL through interviews or off-the-record shoulder nudges. All disregarded. It’s not a lack of an answer, it IS an answer. I am in total agreement with you, Chris, there would be a considerable difference in our market were WotC to at least ACKNOWLEDGE our presence. They made an effort, but I’ll be goddamned if anyone there would ever return an email to say “Sure, we’ll add you to our 3pp link page.” I’m not even sure that page still exists.

    I think this shows a considerable difference between management styles. I support D&D in all its forms and, like Mr. Dias, have chosen to focus my attention on 4e as a more challenging approach than the “simpler” (given with no intended offense) applications with Pathfinder. That being said, I can’t bring myself to support WotC’s decisions on utilizing that brand. They pulled all PDFs from the market; Paizo put out their core book for free. Who’s #1 now? Any good manager learns from their competition. Call it unoriginal thinking, but when you fall from your pedestal, you have to look at how your competition beat you so you can learn from their triumph and kick them right back down. As it stands, there’s nothing like that on the horizon. This lack of confidence from WotC towards their own GSL demonstrates to their customers that the GSL is a spot of bother. If they don’t respect it (or us), why should everyone else? Hell, even I’m starting to wonder what I’m doing here and I’m a stubborn SOB.

  • March 18, 2011 at 4:09 pm
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    Chris you definitely have my support. I’m not holding my breath that WotC would change their ways, but it would be nice if they realized that by supporting the 3rd party publishers (particularly since the GSL prevents wholesale copying of the core books) they are in fact supporting themselves.

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  • May 25, 2011 at 2:46 pm
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    I wish, I really wish WOTC would read this and bother with it, but it just won’t happen. WOTC is starting to become the Games Workshop company of RPGs. The company everyone hates but still uses their products from time to time but would really love a change in things.

    I will support Dias Ex Machina Games as long as they keep producing an excellent product.

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