4th Edition Ruminations…

Or, as I’ve seen in countless publishers’ blog posts since the announcement: 4e or Not 4e?

A lot to consider. Various random thoughts:

1) A recent poll on ENWorld, asking what publishers people would like to see 4e products from (from the list of those of us on the advance call, plus a few others) — Adamant is only polling at about 7%. This may be because we’re more known for our genre explorations of d20 Modern, rather than fantasy material. Still…

2) Wolfgang Baur was successful in raising 5K from patrons. Would something like that also work for Adamant? At least enough to defer some of the costs?

3) Possible co-branding and partnership with other publisher(s)? Is the loss of individual control and brand identity worth the increased impact of being a Phase 1 publisher?

4) Given a focus on PDF and POD direct-to-consumer and direct-to-retail (avoiding the broken distribution system if at all possible), is being a Phase 1 publisher even worth it?

5) It occurs to me that under the current 3.5 version of the rules and license, it’s probably eminently doable to release products lightly-statted enough to work with ANY edition, and make a big launch of those products the minute 4th Edition is available, rather than having to wait even for the August 1st go-live date of Phase 1, much less 2009. From what we’ve heard of 4th Edition, it’s not changed so far as to be unrecognizable….so under the unrevokable OGL 1.0, it should be nothing more than a slight design challenge to come up with “close enough.”

Any comments or thoughts would be welcome. I’m brainstorming here.

23 Replies to “4th Edition Ruminations…”

  1. My thought was (5). Although it was my big, secret thought, that I wasn’t going to tell anyone. ;)

    Actually one could go for an OGL Warcraft approach, i.e. blatant: “Compatible with the 4th Edition of the world’s most popular fantasy roleplaying game.”

    That would avoid the need to comply with the likely more restrictive 4.0 OGL too.

  2. Don’t sell Wizards that short. Assume that they have language in the new OGL covering such eventualities. Considering how things worked out with OGL 1, they’d be fools not to.

  3. It doesn’t matter what their license says if you don’t follow it. They don’t get to magically overturn the law. See, this is the shitty thing about the OGL, past and present: It makes people forget about the set of things they can legally do without asking anybody for permission.

  4. Well, fresh content is still king, and there’s is a lot of info out there about what 4E is going to feel like. Can you refer to things like Tieflings, Dragonborn, etc. without the license?

    On the other hand, is there any way to raise $5K? E-bay stuff? Do you think people would pay in advance for something like a 6-month/1-year membership to Adamant Entertainment Official 4E adventures/supplements, and if they do, would you be able to get ahead or just come out even?

  5. Dragonborn are sure to be protected. Tieflings already appeared as open content.

    The question about raising the 5K remains. The thought of membership had occurred, but I’m not sure.

  6. He was doing the ‘top ten contributors get to be ‘freelancers’ under my imprint’ thing, though, wasn’t he? I have a feeling that’ll cause problems.

  7. I suspect you would have a more difficult time doing what Baur did, but I think you have enough fans who would be interested that it would be possible for you. Offering a 4e “membership” to people who contribute over a certain amount might be good. (“Wanted: 4ward-looking people….”) The advertising for your subscriptions is often creative, such as the Secret Squadron; you could probably come up with something that would interest people.

    There could be advantages to being one of the few 4e fish in the PDF pond, but probably not $5000 worth.

    It seems to me that having several months to trumpet “upcoming 4e releases” (and have the information copied hither and yon as people look for more news to discuss when there isn’t much news yet) could be one of the biggest benefits to being a Phase 1 publisher. The name recognition of being in all the lists with Goodman, Necromancer and so on would be valuable if one can capitalize on it.

  8. 1)I think your rep outside of mainstream D&D support is very much why your fans don’t care if you lag a few months on 4th edition product. They know you’ll have plenty more cool Adamant products they can get their fix with.

    2)Would it be worth it if it did? Baur’s plan still sounded to me like it had some potential flaws that haven’t been properly thought through. Hopefully they won’t cause problems for him down the road.

    3)Hell no. You’d be nuts to dilute the Adamant brand with a partnership, at least as a full merger of equals into a new company. Collect a few smaller (but quality) publishers as imprints under the umbrella of the Adamant brand maybe, but that’s about as far as I think it’d be smart for you to go. The problem then is whether anyone small enough to be willing to imprint is going to be able to contribute enough money to matter.

    4)I’d say no. Especially given all the other non-D&D product lines you have established and can concentrate on.

    5)Heck, it’s possible to release products lightly-statted enough to work with any GAME, much less any edition.

    You could (probably) even put out system-less (or 3.5) products with the specific intent to update them with 4th edition stats when the new OGL is a go, and do it as a sort of two-part subscription, allowing you to essentially sell 4th edition products even before 4th edition’s release.

  9. I also pointed out the fact that WOTC has said that Phase 1 publisher will only get 3 uncopyable hardcopies of the game, which would make distribution to multiple top contributors a problem. It didn’t appear to bother him, so I’m not sure what his plan is.

  10. What I’d *like* to see you do is ignore 4e entirely, and prove 3e can still be a viable way to produce good products. If you and someone like Paizo (who is still undecided) or Green Ronin were to make a big show of ignoring 4e *together*, I beleive the fans would reward your 3e products with additional sales.

    I know that may not be a safe gamble. But since you asked, it’s what I’d *like*. But if you go another route, I’ll check that out too, since you never dissappoint.

  11. But then Wizards specifically states that D&D4e is released only under the new OGL. What then? This is new legal territory we’re talking about here. Wizards could present the claim in court that D&D4e is another game entirely for the purposes of OGL2, and the courts could agree with them. The litigation that ultimately led to the original OGL established some precedents, we could see precedent being established again.

    If you don’t want to use the new OGL, go fair use. Remember, you can’t copyright individual words, and you can’t trademark a word like “strength” the way it is used in D&D.

  12. Game rules aren’t subject to copyright, though — only the text in which the rules are expressed. Certainly many of the rules from Star Wars Saga Edition (assuming speculation is right that this is the way D&D 4.0 is going) are not new in concept, as compared to other RPGs, including plenty of 3rd party OGL & d20 material. So one could release a game that was compatible with 4.0, but which didn’t include any copyright material from 4.0 — just OGC from the SRD and from extant 3rd party material, along with one’s own wording of any sections that need to be directly compatible with any rules changes in 4.0.

    Words like “Strength” for abilities can be used under the extant OGL from 3.0 / 3.5.

  13. The $5k seems worth it to me for some publishers (depending ultimately on the nature of the OGL) especially those with a strong print presence and a close tie to DnD. However, I don’t think its that great an option for publishers that are a)not strong print publishers, b)not closely tied to DnD fantasy products, or c)have other strong RPG systems to work from. Thus not the best necessarily move for Adamant as it is not known for print products and is, I think, better known for d20 Modern than fantasy.

    Having said that, as the author of IA Magick (and some other IA stuff that is coming out soon) I have been indulging myself with “What if Gareth did it and asked me to contribute?” In the process I have come up with some ideas that take of the expressed themes of 4e but could be easily done as systems-less books (or minimal mechanic books) or as 4e books appropriate for a publisher like Adamant. The question in how much support one can provide for 4e without treading into dangerous grounds, and without knowing what the new OGL says I couldn’t really hazard a guess on what would and would not have to be done to make option 5 above the best choice.

    I do think a subscription/patronage option would be possible for Adamant, to off set the cost at the very least. I am not sure,however, if even that would be worth it.

    So, not much help there beyond saying I would like to see Adamant at the front of a new era of RPG publishing and would support that effort as best I could.

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