Words from the Wise (Guys)

Copyright Nicholas HM Caldwell © 2008

Edited by Nicholas HM Caldwell for The Guild Companion


To the 111th issue of The Guild Companion.

Xa-ar and Rolemaster Companion I Updates

A quick update on Xa-ar. I completed my editing of Terry Amthor's complete manuscript of The Land of Xa-ar module, including the production of RMSS/FRP stats. Terry is busy making some final tweaks and additions - his turn to do the "Columbo" impression of "Just one last thing" - before a final layout pass.

Andrew Ridgway, aka ictus, has sent another forty-odd pages of Rolemaster Companion I to me for approval, of which I have about half to check for any errors that have crept in during layout or escaped the proofreading passes. In terms of where that means in book sections, we're now past all the spell lists (and that includes the Delver lists which have been given a proper position with the other lists) and deep in the singleton spells. Good progress.

Xa-ar probably still has the lead currently in the race to publication, but it's getting much closer to call.

The Game System License

The good news is that Wizards of the Coast/Hasbro have decided that there will be a Game System License after all to replace the Open Gaming License. In fact, there'll be two in due course. One will be aimed at providing for compatibility with D&D in terms of fantasy settings and rules, while the other will be more targeted at d20 Modern rules and settings (once of course they have a 4e version of d20 Modern that is.) Even better, they've scrapped the whole idea of charging people 5,000 USD to be early adopters, which given how delayed the whole GSL issue has become, was not going to fly. There's no point in having a month's headstart at this point in the game.

The Big Catch

The first catch is that the Game System License is still (more or less) under wraps. The second catch is that spokespersons for Wizards are describing it as an exclusionary license. In other words, you can't publish a product that has say 3.x stats under the OGL and a set of 4e stats under the GSL. A product can only be OGL or GSL, not both.

Well, publish it as two books then - one book with 3.5 stats under the OGL and one book with 4e stats under the GSL. Apparently not, the intent from Wizards is that companies are not allowed to sit on the fence - they either stick with 3.x or leap bravely into the unknown of 4e. That is, the intention is that once you publish a version of a book under the GSL, the OGL version if any has to be retired permanently and so no longer published/sold in print or pdf format.

As you might guess, a lot of publishers have discovered that it is possible to make money from pdfs forever. No pesky worrying about incorrectly guessing the size of a print run or physical warehousing costs. And the consensus, especially from the pdf-only publishers, was they didn't like this one bit. And quite a few customers weren't happy about the idea of vast tranches of rpg material suddenly disappearing.

And there's worse to come. One interpretation of the consequences of the GSL, which has yet to be cleared up by Wizards one way or another but has not been denied, is that once a company uses the GSL, it has as a corporate entity to forfeit the right to use the OGL for anything. The twist is that d20 3.x isn't the only system that uses the OGL. In addition to d20 derivatives such as True20, Blue Rose, Mutants & Masterminds, etc., other companies have released completely different game systems and/or System Reference Documents under the OGL, i.e. FUDGE, FATE, Spirit of the Century, and Mongoose's version of Runequest (and shortly Mongoose's version of Traveller).

Time for a John McEnroe impression - "You cannot be serious!" (I really must find time to try recording these editorials as podcasts.) It seems they may be.

There are a number of publishers that are either publishing for their own OGL'ed game system and d20 or are third-party publishers for multiple OGL'ed game systems. They are also unhappy.

Wizards do seem to have heard the crescendo of angry voices and promised to provide clarification. At the time I wrote this editorial, everyone is still waiting on those clarifications.


Needless to say, I am not terribly impressed with what's being hinted at as the intent and consequences (deliberate or accidental) of the new GSL.

The d20 System Trademark License is going away and all products with the d20 System logo need to lose that logo or be retired. For the Guild Companion magazine, this just means we locate all the articles with the logo and drop it from the html, so our archives will not be degraded by this. It's just a nuisance. For City of Archendurn, it will mean bringing the pdf down temporarily - I am seriously considering taking this opportunity to throw the d20 3.0 stats out of Archendurn and have them replaced with RM2/Classic and HARP stats, particularly since Dun Cru has stats for RM2/C, RMSS/FRP and HARP. That's more work and we'd have to figure out some way of ensuring that people who bought the original version could get the new version for free.

And what of Shadow World Master Atlas OGL Edition? Huge amounts of effort have already been expended on that. I am loath to simply throw that work away. Our intention remains to publish it as-is with the 3.x rules set under the OGL. Depending on how the GSL turns out, we may keep it in the 3.x rules set. Indeed, if the worst interpretations of the GSL turn out to be the case, we will be avoiding the GSL like the plague. I would much rather retain our ability to publish FUDGE, Runequest, or Traveller material (multi-stat deck plans for Spacemaster, HARP SF, and Mongoose Traveller, anyone) than commit ourselves to 4e and be at the mercy of Wizards' next set of licensing revisions.

Something Wicked - Elementals

I had hoped to have the time to report a bit more on progress with Something Wicked, but if I want to get this issue to our webmaster before May, it's time to bring this editorial to a close. I can report that I've preserved consistency between the Elemental Subplanes as described in HARPer's Bazaar #5 and the relevant chapter of Something Wicked - the latter includes everything that has been revealed so far and extends and expands upon it. Likewise while there will be changes made to Elementals in my presentation, there'll be a broad compatibility between versions.

Farewell for now ...

Time to start zipping and emailing. We'll be back in June with issue 112, but until then …

Keep gaming and have fun,
Nicholas HM Caldwell
General Editor for The Guild Companion