Wizards of the Coast is pleased to announce that third-party publishers will be allowed to publish products compatible with the Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition game system under the new Dungeons & Dragons 4E Game System License (D&D 4E GSL). This royalty-free license will replace the former d20 System Trademark License (STL), and will have a System Reference Document (SRD) available for referencing permissible content.

The D&D 4E GSL will allow third-party publishers to create roleplaying game products in fantasy settings with the D&D 4th Edition rules, and publishers who register with WotC will be granted the right to use a version of the D&D logo that denotes the product as compatible with the D&D 4th Edition Roleplaying Game, in accordance with WotC's terms and conditions. The effective start date for sales of D&D 4E GSL publications will be October 1, 2008.

The license associated SRD will be available on June 6, 2008, at no cost. A small group of publishers received advanced notice and will receive these documents prior to June 6, at no cost, in order to prepare for publication of compatible materials by the effective start date. If you haven't already been contacted by WotC, you will be able to access the documents on the Wizards website beginning on June 6, 2008.

Wizards is also working on the details of a second royalty-free license, the d20 Game System License (d20 GSL). This license will allow third-party publishers to create roleplaying game products in non-fantasy settings with the 4E rules. The exact details for the d20 GSL will be released as they become available.

From http://wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/4news/20080417a

I'm really glad that they've stopped calling it the "Open Gaming License," as it's stopped becoming "Open" with the new edition.

Even if they piss people off, at least they're honest about it.

That quote is especially amusing in the context of the 4th Edition changes since now clerics are the presumed leaders and fighters are just stupid tanks again.

I really don't want to sound all up in arms about this, but it is one of the assumptions that has consistantly frustrated me.

"Leader" is just the title of a assigned party role, a role that has the primary focus of assisting allies instead of hurting or manipulating the bad guys. The "leader" role isn't going to force any character to be the face of the party, or to be the decision maker, it's simply a useful term, a lot more positive-sounding than "assister," for what the character's role in combat is.

It certainly makes more sense to me that the fighter, paladin, or rogue would take up leadership in a party than the cleric. Heck, if we wanna go by Tolkien's standards, it should be the ranger or cleric that leads everybody.

I think you misinterpret the meaning of "leader". It basically means they "lead" the combat, not the party. The fighter is too busy being in the thick of combat, the striker is busy looking for places to deal out pin-point damage, the wizard is dealing out mass damage across the field from the back, which means the cleric who is generally supporting the party via healing/buffing etc has the extra time and presence to "lead" the combat, calling out targets and generally directing people.

I think for most people playing D&D (and now especially 4th Edition) there's little difference between leading the party and leading the combat, since most of the session is devoted to either hunting down, destroying, or looting the bodies of monsters.

That raises an interesting question, actually. Are they?

Most D&D players that I have contact with, IRL and on-line, don't really play that munchkin style of D&D. If it's a kill-fest you want, MMO games are your ticket. People who are still willing to play with dice, books and pieces of paper do so precisely because they want a different kind of experience, in which hunt-kill-loot isn't the be-all and end-all of the game.

On the one hand I think that WoTC are making a huge mistake in trying to turn D&D into a tabletop version of WoW.

On the other, I think that the online gaming table project will ultimately turn into an MMO anyhow, a few years down the line. Either by design, or by gradual metamorphosis.

Cleric? Which Tolkien standard puts him in charge?

Am I missing something, or did they scrap the $5000 option because they realized they couldn't make it in time for Gencon?

Wow, I didn't even realize I had mistyped that. I guess the WotC brainwashing is already getting to me.

I meant wizard, not cleric. Gandalf and all that.

Of all the groups I've been in since I started gaming back in '83, the majority of D&D campaigns have essentially been hack and slash kill fests, if only because the combat mechanics are such that combat inevitably takes three hours out of every four. So in my mind, it doesn't matter what you're role-playing as - when you're killing stuff most of the time, you're leading combat.

With that in mind, my fear is that a new edition that both lifts from MMO mechanics, and caters to that audience (to try and pull in some new blood) can only get even more hack and slashy, precisely because those MMO mechanics and players are geared towards grinding, killing, looting type gameplay.

One doesn't play WOW or Diablo or the like to role play. They play it to kill crap and get better loot. And I think that's unfortunately where D&D 4e is inevitably headed.

It should be noted that a few people do play MMOs to rp. I hate MMOs personally, but I have a friend who has no one else to rp with (due in part to the stigma his parents have attached to D&D before he left home, when they destroyed all his books), so he goes online and plays there. He actually does put an effort into rping and tries to make stories out of it all. Of course, it's not nearly as good as the tabletop, but he's doing the best he can with what he's got.

However, aeon, you're right. Let's face it. D&D is made for combat. That is one source of endless frustration for me. I like combat, but too much is just too much. In one session, it took us 2-3 hours to kill a plant that really had a minor role. I won't blame this on the GM, cause he did a good job and always has, but the game screws you over like that. For me, the best rp moments are either devoid of combat or make the combat feel climactic. You don't get that if it's all fighting. That same GM told me the best way is to let the players have 1 or 2 combats a session while advancing the story (we play long sessions, btw). I agree. That way, we all get a little of everything we love.

It's true that this emphasis on combat won't do any good for D&D. But I still like some of the advancements they're making, and know that, if I don't like something, I can just change it.

Also, WotC has made a strong effort to make combat quicker and more streamlined. Give thanks!

In my ideal game, combat would take as long as it takes in the movies. A single fight scene would be no longer than 5 or 6 minutes. 10-15 at the absolute longest. Maybe a half hour for a war.

Actually the wizard has the role of "controller" meaning that their magic is used to have mass effect over the encounter.

From my understanding, controllers are busy sitting back, watching the situation as a whole and taking action to try and deal with the situation "on mass", defenders are the front line to protect the leaders and controllers while directly opposing the enemy, strikers are specialists who float around looking for an opening to strike individuals and leaders can fulfill any of the other roles as needed, but are also there to influence the party themselves as they tend to have more time to take the situation in and plan tactics etc.

A bard makes a great leader because they are not really tough enough for the front line, not really powerful enough to be a controller, not really specialized enough to be a striker, and can influence the entire party through their performing while using their sharp mind to direct the encounter.

It doesn't actually mean that the bard is barking out orders that everyone else follows, it is a "Class Role" not a "Character Role". The purpose of which is to allow players the chance to make sure their party is balanced by having classes from various roles.

Maybe a half hour for a war.

You mean a battle, right? A war has got to be worth a whole campaign....!

(Oh, and note to Wolfgang Peterson - making the Trojan War last only two weeks is just wrong.)

I'm thinking that they scrapped it because nobody wants to drop $5000 to find out if they want to publish for 4E. Especially since Paizo jumped of the 4E bandwagon, there are maybe two other publishers (Green Ronin and Mongoose, that I can think of) that could even consider taking them up on this deal.

Also, has anybody else noticed that Firefox hates Gamegrene? I can't stay logged in when I'm using Firefox.

I agree with ya there. However, there's that balance between simulation (getting it as close as possible to reality) and cinematic potential. Most systems excel in one at the sacrifice of the other, and those that try to straddle both usually fail.

aeon, if you're looking for a game with quick conflict resolution, you may wanna check out Primetime Adventures. It's a game in which you role-play the characters in a television show, and so resolution is very cinematic. I know there's other stuff out there that goes for speedy resolution, but I can't think of any off the top of my head.

D&D always has been primarily a combat resolution system. The social mechanics are getting just as huge of an overhaul in 4E, but they haven't had nearly as much publicity, for whatever reason.

From what I understand, social mechanics are gaining more depth than the one-roll solution that 3.5 presented. Instead of "roll Diplomacy to see if the king agrees with you," it will be more like "roll Diplomacy, modified by role-play, to see if the king accepts your argument. Now the grand vizier is rolling to dissuade him. What now?"

It's really hard to judge any of this without having actually seen the system. Unfortunately, I won't be able to do so until 2010. :(

Whoa, whoa, let's back up here. I know the whole "controller" idea, and that the wizard is one of them, and I'm not really debating it. I totally get the distinction between Class Role and Character Role.

My point was that Tolkien, being the first big fantasy writer, set the precedent in which the "party leaders" (Aragorn and Gandalf), were, roughly translated into D&D mechanics, rangers and wizards. I, myself, would consider Gandalf more of a druid, but that's beside the point.

As far as I can tell, the whole idea of the fighter as a party leader was entirely contrived from D&D and similar games. It makes perfect sense, if you think about it, as the fighter is the guy leading the charge and taking hits so that his less durable friends don't have to.

I just find it interesting that the D&D stereotype completely belies the fiction that inspired the game in the first place. In the fiction, the leaders are traditionally the wise or well-traveled, while in the games, the leaders are the strong and resilient. Granted, you could roll those together into one character, but they are stereotypically seperate.

Also, I think this article wins the award for the most tangental discussion. It's funny that this conversation, which has since branched into three seperate conversations, was sparked by aeon's innocuous comment on my quotation.

Firefox is evil. Notice the fire in it's name? That means it's from HELL!!!

Sorry... I missed the tangent :)

But now that I am on it... The leader was either the one who felt they had to drive the rest of the people, the one who was put in charge (ie military), or the one who manipulated from behind the scenes. It could conceivably be anyone for any reason.

Even in Tolkien leadership is very much hierarchical. Was Gandalf truely the leader? Or was he following the orders given to him by the Valar? Was smeagle a leader? After all he was directing Sam and Frodo. Was Theodin really the leader being king or was it Grima who was leader because he ensorcelled him? Even Aragorn was purposely reluctant to lead and followed what everyone else wanted until he finally took charge. You could even consider Frodo to be the leader as he is the one who initially states he will take the ring to Mordor, thus causing the fellowship to form?

I find that "in fiction" the leader is the reluctant hero who takes up the position of leadership because nobody else will. Richard from Terry Goodkind, Druss from David Gemmell, Nevyn from Katheryn Kerr, Ender/Bean from Orson Scott Card, Pug from Raymond E Feist, etc, etc

I love Pug. But Thomas is better.

Well, I think it should first be pointed out that Aragorn as reluctant leader was a new development from the movies, and was not part of the books. In the books, Aragorn was almost eager to be king. Out of all the characters, his was changed the most in the transition from book to movie. Personally, I like it.

Yeah, I think it's pretty obvious that "leader" as defined in D&D 4e party position is very different from "leader" as defined by popular fiction writers. After all, the "leader" in popular fiction is very often a wizard or a sorcerer type character, or the person who's the "face" of the group, which could be any of the party positions.

"That means it's from HELL!!!"

So, d'ya think that Firefox is a diabolical creation of Asmodeus himself, or that it's merely a thrall to some lesser inhabitant of the Lower Planes?

I'd say that the term "leader" is one that I would consider to be more abstact than literal. Gandalf and Aragorn were "leaders" because they because they knew best what was going on with the larger situation, took a course of action to affect it, and had a group that aligned with their motives. Yes, Smeagol "led" Sam and Frodo through the swamp, but wasn't a "leader" in the traditional sense, because his motives differed from Sam and Frodo's.

The problem with the "reluctant hero" archetype in role-playing games is that, in most cases, everybody sitting at the table WANTS to be a hero. If you're playing a character who will only leave his home if forced, that just means that if the GM doesn't force him to be a part of the game, well, you'll be creating a new character for the next session.

Enigmatic, I'm afraid I'm not all that familiar with most of your literary references, but I will point out that Ender only became the "reluctant hero" towards the last few weeks of his time at Battle School (and the subsequent time at Command School), when the teachers were pushing him too hard. Before that time, Ender was chomping at the bit for authority, and even refused to back down to his superiors when they were wrong.

Actually, I see the label of "leader" as a party role in 4E to be a bit of an insult. They are effectively saying you are too weak to defend the party, lack the abilities to control the party, and lack the offensive capability to strike out for the party.... So there really isn't much left for you to do but sit back and support the party where you can. Maybe while we are all out fighting the hard fight, you could look around, see if there is anything we are missing because we are focused on what we are doing and point it out ;)

This may be offset a bit by the "Warlord" class whose purpose is both as a leader in the party role sense, and as a leader in the real sense.

I'm actually really interested by the concept of the "leader" role, as I tend to play assisting sort of characters.

The leader could be the friendly, personable guy in the party, the one that that isn't all that strong or powerful on his own, but one that draws strength from working with his companions.

I could also see a pacifist character working quite well in the leader role, which is an idea that has almost never translated well into D&D. Instead of hurting his enemies, he protects his friends.

Sure, these aren't that exciting in a tactical combat sense, but it's a really cool way to reflect those ideas and still help the group in physical conflicts.

The saga continues:
I was made aware of this poignant announcement by the lively discussion it generated over at the Yahoo RPGpodcasters group. It seems WotC demands companies to stop publishing OGL material as part of the new 4Ed license.

Also, in WotC news: Wizards have not submitted any event schedule to GenCon, and might not have any, referring to the chapter 11 by GenCon LLC as the reason.


Is that "The Imperial March" I hear playing in the background?

By the way - here is what I wrote on another forum almost exactly a year ago:

What next, I wonder? Paizo intend to continue publishing OGL content -


- but how long before WotC decide that the 'OGL experiment' has outlived its usefulness?

When WotC think they have the muscle, distribution-wise, to fully meet the demands of the marketplace without needing the support of independent publishers, then they would have no financial incentive to continue support for OGL or d20. Surely its whole raison d'etre was to put more products out there that would encourage people to buy the rulebooks.

If WotC feel they can put enough product out there themselves to saturate the market they will have no reason to license others to do so. They will start to regard the independents publishing OGL or d20 material as competitors rather than partners.

I think their aim with OGL was to grow the market. I'm guessing that because they can't see this happening, their strategy has now shifted towards capturing all of the existing market.

Ultimately, there is only so much they can copyright, and other companies will still be able to get away with producing 'compatible' material - but it won't have the logo that means so much in this brand-conscious era, and those companies will constantly run the risk of litigation unless they are very careful.

I guess published material they have already designated as OGC is safe for the moment. The move to discontinue OGL would probably happen with future WotC publications. OGL would then slowly start to wither, and finally die with the next iteration of the core rules.

This was before the announcement of 4e, I believe.

Well, I'm no expert in demonology or devil...ology, but I was thinking it was more of a creation of that babboon guy, the primal demon or whatever. I mean, it IS a fox. An evil fox.

Only one question pops on my mind... Why didn't they call it the Game License System?

The really funny thing about this is that WotC can't pull back the OGL on 3E, so the folks that want to continue messing with the old OGL wjust won't upgrade.

I've heard that some of WotC's reasoning (or, at least what their PR department claims is their reasoning) is so that they can better control the quality of future d20 products, and so they don't have to explain awkward items like the Book of Erotic Fantasy.

Seems to me, however, that there are plenty of high-quality 3rd-party d20 supplements out there, more than the flops, at least. Mutants and Masterminds? True20?

Some more up-to-date information:

Please keep in mind that none of this is final, as the license itself isn't out yet.

They damn themselves very eloquently with their own words in that article.

Most of my players play MMOs. The very reason they still want to play tabletop D&D is that it's an entirely different beast.

quote from the mentioned interview:
When D&D 4th Edition was announced last year, some publishers were going to be allowed a buy-in to get early access to the material. Did that happen?

No. We had some delays with the drafting of the game system license. One of those delays was adding this new alternate Modern roleplaying license. Our original intentions were that in February publishers would be able to buy a Games System License developers kit for $5,000 that would give them early access to the rules and an exclusivity window for publishing that would last through the end of 2009. The license would turn on in August at Gen Con and they would be able to sell from August to December. Because of the delays in drafting the license, that plan just didn't make sense. We abandoned the phase one plan for the GSL and moved directly onto phase two, which was opening the system to everybody and that will happen on June 6th when we release 4th Edition, and those publishers will be able to start selling their products starting October 1st.

Another quote from the interview:

There's some confusion about the status of the old d20 Open Game License and how you're transitioning to the analogous Open Licenses for the 4th Edition. Can you go over that?

Let's start with the Open Gaming License. That is a license that's a perpetual license. It has no clause for revocation so it will continue to exist out there in the gaming community and publishers will continue to use the open content that was released under that license to publish games. Then we have our d20 system trademark license, and this was a license that allowed publishers to utilize the d20 system trademark. It gave them a few extra perks like being able to refer to trademark products like The Player's Handbook, The Monster Manual, The Dungeon Master's Guide, and in exchange, there were some limitations on that license, including character creation, and the advancement of characters with experience points. We wanted the license to support the core rulebooks that we release either under the d20 Modern campaign or under the Dungeons and Dragons campaign, and in June of 2008 that license will be terminated as we release the new game system license.

We're going to give publishers a sell-off period where they'll have until the end of 2008 to move through any stock that they have in their warehouses. Once it's at distribution or in retail, the product can continue to sell through in its natural progression. We're not going to ask publishers to recall that product and destroy it. But any excess inventory that they may happen to have in their warehouses at the end of '08 would need to be destroyed. Any subsequent reprints they can still publish through the Open Gaming License, they just have to remove the d20 system trademark logo. That would include both PDF and physical product that continues to be sold after 2008.

However, there's that balance between simulation (getting it as close as possible to reality) and cinematic potential. Most systems excel in one at the sacrifice of the other, and those that try to straddle both usually fail.

Noted and agreed. The time is right for something new and fundamentally different to come along.



D&D's main failing, inherited by many other systems (including GURPS, one of my favorite alternatives to the d20 system I so loathe) is that it has its roots in miniatures-combat gaming, and if anything d20 has steered it back in that direction. The tactical combat simulation has a LOT to do with why combats take so long in this style of RPG.

I have played a sort of "unofficial preview" of the 4e social mechanics, and I have to say I like what I saw. Rather than one roll, it's a series of rolls, modified not so much by roleplay as by the usual assortment of abstract modifiers (though roleplay does get a nod and a hat-tip).

Your RP group is the exception, in my experience, and not the rule. The combat system has drawn the vast majority of D&D games I have joined (and run) to tactical combat simulations. Is it possible to do this without hack'n'slash? Yes. But it requires a great deal of preparation on the part of the GM, and it also requires a group with maturity, experience, and strong commitment to roleplay (as opposed to roll-play).

Mencken might have argued that such groups have, in role-playing gaming, "no legitimate place. They are, where they are encountered, pale and clammy orchids, half-fabulous beasts in cages."

With very few exceptions, roleplaying has followed the torch of the leader, D&D, in the direction of sheer combat simulation for a very long time. The hobby itself will soon vanish, a sidenote of interest only to historians of the late 20th century, unless a new and very strong paradigm comes to the fore.

Roll up your sleeves, old son. We've got our work cut out for us.

"The hobby itself will soon vanish, a sidenote of interest only to historians of the late 20th century, unless a new and very strong paradigm comes to the fore."

While I can see your point, I don't know if I would agree with such a panicky, post-apocalyptic statement. ;)

Roleplaying will probably always be a small hobby, but I don't believe it's ever going to disappear entirely, and here's why:

The hobby is bigger now than it ever has been, and I expect that 4E will help that growth even more. WotC has been doing anything and everything they can to expand the hobby, and I think shooting for the MMO crowd is the right way to do it. Granted, many longtime D&D fans may feel alienated by the direction the game is taking, but those that don't like the new verisions will either continue to play old versions or move on to other game systems. Either way, the hobby stays alive.

Similarly, the types of RPGs out there are diversifying. I honestly believe that there either is or can be a tabletop roleplaying game out there for everybody, and that every person would roleplay on a consistent basis if they 1) found the right game for them, and 2) were willing to set aside the social stigma and actually enjoy themselves. As I've discovered and explored the indie RPG market, I've realized that roleplaying could very well become as universal a media as television is, and the only reason it hasn't is because the big movers and shakers in the market have targeted the geek market. That market focus, however, is slowly expanding, not only in RPGs, but in all forms of media. Science fiction and fantasy aren't just for the nerds anymore, as evidenced in popular television these days (Battlestar Galactica, anyone?)

Many also like to comment on the fact that the pen and paper RPG crowd is aging, with the majority of players these days in the 25-35 year age bracket, and that there isn't a huge influx of. There are some of us, however, that are a part of the "second generation" of roleplayers, namely myself and the people I play with. I'm only 19 years old, and I'm one of the oldest people that I game with on a regular basis. Through my own over-exicted gaming evangelism, I've brought about 4-6 other high-school age kids into the hobby. I know that there's at least one other organized roleplaying group on my college campus, and probably several more that I'm unaware of. Granted, the number of MMO players on campus completely outranks us tabletoppers, but we do exist, in whatever small fashion.

In short, I'm totally fine with D&D becoming the "gateway drug" of sorts for roleplaying. It served that function for me in it's current incarnation, and I think streamlining it to be more accessible to newer players is a good move.

I don't know that I feel particularly panicked, but I don't see any indicators that the hobby is on the verge of a massive turnaround. My conviction is and has been that something grounded in miniatures combat cannot reach a broad audience. I do think there is a solution.

I'd love to be wrong about tabletop RPGs being on the verge of dying, Lorthyne, but I'm going to require more than anecdotal evidence. When/if 4e sells record numbers of copies, I'll concede the point.

Agreed. We all know there are better games than D&D, but it remains one of the best for drawing in young teenage males, mainly due to the combat aspect. And then you have World of Darkness for more mature (supposedly, tho the blood poetry is getting old) players, particularly females. I think the market is expanding, and I'm just waiting for the day to come when the indie market becomes the main market. I think we shouldn't bemoan D&D becoming more MMO because it will draw more players in. Think of it like a strainer. All those who are into rping only for getting better items and experience will either drift to MMO or stay with D&D. All the rpers willing to actually rp will move on to more interesting, challenging games, games like Dogs in the Vineyard, Prime-Time, Don't Rest Your Head, and a billion others, many reviewed on this site. Don't get me wrong, I do believe that MMOs pose a possible threat, but I also know that there isn't a single MMO in existence, nor will there ever be, that will eliminate the experience of real rping. Frankly, most of the mainstream rping stuff is of the past and always will be. So get on the wave and ride the new stuff to where it's going, because, for once in my glass-half-empty viewpoint, I'm actually optimistic about where this is going.

I think the market is expanding, and I'm just waiting for the day to come when the indie market becomes the main market.
How do you see this happening? I tend to agree with you and Lorthyne on nearly all your points, but I do want to know how and why the stigma attached to tabletop roleplaying will be overcome. As you note, there is World of Darkness - which has become to many "mainstream" people a parody of itself, and which has, much like the D&D stigma, used an existing stigma (dislike of goths and sensitive 'poets' as opposed to dislike of old-fashioned, sci-fi/fantasy-loving nerds) to create a new, if overlapping, stigma. As you note, dozens of very good, alternate systems exist. What is their market share and level of exposure? Do you really see signs that 4e will expand the market for its second- and third-tier competitors?

I don't find much of anything in 4e to bemoan, frankly. It just seems like a swan song to me.

There are some of us, however, that are a part of the "second generation" of roleplayers, namely myself and the people I play with. I'm only 19 years old...

You mean third generation, Lorthyne. I'm a second-generation gamer and I'm in my 40's! The first generation are in their 60's now.

I don't believe that WoTC seeking to create World-of-Warcraft flavoured D&D is market diversification. I think it's more like Pizza Express deciding to sell takeway sandwiches instead of sit-down Italian meals, because they see how successful Subway is, and besides all their staff have become big Subway fans.

Remember, they have declared war on the OGL, by refusing to grant an SGL license to companies unless they discontinue OGL output. This is nothing less than drawing battle lines. It might also be deemed anti-competitive practise. Think Microsoft refusing to license Windows to OEMs who also sell Linux boxes.

I'm afraid I don't share your optimism about a more MMO-like, more combat-oriented D&D leading a new generation of gamers to explore the diversity of available tabletop roleplay systems, any more than I am optimistic that Guitar Hero will inspire a new generation of guitar virtuosos.

I really hope that the indie market doesn't become the mainstream, because part of it's genius is that it's so small and individualized. Especially with new formats like .pdf distribution and print-on-demand publishing, the line between game players and game designers is becoming heavily blurred.

As for market share, indie RPGs don't have even enough to make a significant monetary profit, but indie RPGs continue to be released because it's part of the hobby. The reason that so many excellent indie games exist is because gamers have taken the Do-It-Yourself attitude to extremes, creating their own games not for the monetary benefit, but for the sheer joy of doing it.

Indie RPGs, however, do excel in sheer internet presence. I discovered the indie market through podcasting, and I would say that 90% of RPG podcasts out there are hosted by indie-RPG fans. Also, if you look at pretty much any forum dedicated to roleplaying that's not Gleemax, you'll find that there is a whole lot of indie RPG evangelizing going on.

I think RPGs will, eventually, permeate the market just as television has and video games are coming close to doing. It will take much, much longer, but the biggest thing that RPGs have going for them is the aforementioned Do-it-Yourself idea, which I can't say I've ever seen in any other form of entertainment.

How do we overcome the stereotypes? I don't know it will ever go away completely, but we can do a lot to combat that by, as loathe as I am to say it, going the way of video games. There need to be some games that are simple and fun enough to appeal to the general person on the street (a la Nintendo Wii), and then games with more depth for those that are looking for more.

On the other hand, I remember listening to WotC's official D&D podcast, and one of the game developers there making the comment that while they put tons and tons of hours into creating products to introduce new players to the game, the number one contributor to new players was the older cousin, pulling his relative in to play because "we need a cleric."

So, it's our responsibility, as gamers, to be the "older cousin". Will this hobby die? Not if I can do anything about it.


Maybe I've got my generations screwed up. Oops.

Point taken, though, gherkin. I agree with the idea that MMO-like tabletop games aren't going to take MMO players away from the MMOs, as it's a lot easier to let the computer calculate things for you than to do it yourself with dice.

However, if the market's going to support itself, it needs to expand its audience, and it makes more sense to take an idea that works and convert it than it does to take a risk on something that's never been tested. And it's a lot easier to get that kid looking curiously at the D&D books in your Friendly Local Gaming Store to jump in on a roleplaying game than it will be to rip them away from their computer screen.

...it makes more sense to take an idea that works and convert it than it does to take a risk on something that's never been tested.
I agree with the spirit of this statement, but I don't think D&D has ever 'worked' for a broad audience...especially women. Yes, I know there are women gamers; my wife is one, though she never gamed before she met me. I am looking into other ideas than miniature/heavily tactical combat as means for supporting story in roleplay. And I think there are some very popular "mainstream-ish" game mechanics that have been ignored by RPGs for decades because D&D set the tone.

So let's change the tone.

Well, actually Lorthyne, I hope my pessimism about this proves unfounded. You know, it's entirely possible that in absolute terms, people who play tabletop RPGs might enjoy an increase in numbers over time from their introduction to gaming in general through MMOGs.

And maybe, just maybe, WoTC's future interpretations of D&D will succeed in remaining a distinctly different sort of game to WoW. For this to happen, though, 4e needs to be a big, profit-generating success for them - not just profitable, but profitable enough. If not, they'll make it more and more similar to whatever looks successful in the marketplace. I've seen this happen in so many other creative activities that get turned into 'industries'. It's all a matter of greed.

I think the market is expanding because I keep on meeting more and more rpers. I started out just 5 years ago, being introduced to D&D and GURPS by a neighbor. He moved, however, so I didn't do much concerning it. But then I met another kid who rped D&D, and he got 3 of our little group into it, with another kid that moved in and joined us. For a little while there we were a happy bunch. Also, we introduced at least 10 other people to the game, all of which liked it to varying degrees. You forget, Cocytus - young people are desperate for rping. They just don't know it yet. I think the best way to eliminate the stigma would be to just simply call them board games - there's little stigma to playing Risk every now and then, at least until people understand that this isn't nerds only material. I really believe the market is expanding with this new generation, for several reasons. First, as Lorthyne said, subjects that were previously nerds only subjects are now becoming mainstream. Lord of the Rings? Pirates of the Caribbean? Battlestar Galatica? People love this stuff, and a lot of people get into roleplaying games because they like a show, say BSG, and then see a rp game designed around it. They check it out, they like the idea, they're hooked. Also, our society is getting increasingly compartmentalized. Our primary human contact these days is over a computer screen. People hunger for real human contact, with regular friends. I think as people realize this more and more and need it more and more that roleplaying will increase in desirability - it offers a chance to spend some real time with people, but you also have something to do that's different and exciting every time. This is particularly true of young people. The more I look at this particular generation, the more I see rping becoming more and more popular.

But what about indie games? I do believe this will bring out a trickle down system. Serious rpers, like people on this site, will eventually get sick of D&D and WoD, as much fun as they can be. They'll want to move on. They'll discover d20 Modern, they'll start looking at rping stuff on the net, and, like Lorthyne said, indie games have a huge presence there. Eventually, they'll find indie games and their interest will be piqued. There's so many great, interesting games, and indie games I think do an excellent job of catering to the more relaxed crowd as well as the hardcore crowd. Many indie games are designed specifically to be 1,2, or 3 session games. Board games, anyone? This is the kind of thing where you can get together with friends or family one night, play through the game, and have a great time. A little while ago, a couple of people from my regular group and I played "Shab-Al-Hiri Roach" (something like that) with a new guy. It was great. In fact, the new guy brought in some of the best ideas. I don't think D&D or WoD would've worked for him. But Roach was perfect. The trick is to find the right game. Some people like Monopoly, some people like Risk. I think indie games are usually designed specifically to reach out to both the usual gamer and someone who's never rped before, but is interested in, for instance, playing a pulp hero. D&D and WoD don't have that. They're expensive, and expansive - it takes a lot of dedication to get them going, particularly on the part of DM/Storyteller. I don't see that with indie games. The guy who's brought them into our group, has, with little difficulty, been able to start us up almost right away. They are meant to be low on complexity. So perhaps I was wrong about the trickle down thing - the way to get rping out there is to market it like board games, prove that it can be popular with the general public, because it can. I can seriously see the day when people have the board game closet filled with board games and little rping books. In order for a table-top game to reach a wide audience, it needs to be simple and capable of being different and interesting with minimal effort every time. Risk accomplishes that. So do most indie rpgs.

So perhaps the future will make mainstream and indie switch as the public becomes increasingly aware of what's out there. I bet board games weren't very popular when they first came out, and then slowly grew in popularity. RPGs, in most ways separated from the stigma carried by D&D and WoD, can do the same thing. They need to be marketed as family games. Based on all this, I don't think rping will die at all, I think, if done right, it'll flourish.

I know my home will have lots of indie games to play with my children. Even a session of D&D every now and then so we can kick it old school.

Exactly, Cocytus! And this is precisely what so many indie games have done, is changed the tone. Changed it from "here's your chance to be the badass you never were in life" to "here's your chance to have fun with friends being a college professor trying to get tenure, etc." A major problem with D&D and WoD is that they require a huge time commitment from at least one person (DM/Storyteller) and also that that person carries the majority of the story. He decides when the face the big bad guy, who that's gonna be, and how they're gonna get there, generally. They might change things a little bit, but they'll always end up back on the original storyline. Indie rpgs do away with that. In fact, the great majority of them posit the "GM" as simply the guy who knows the rules best and makes sure everyone else follows suit, like the banker in Monopoly. Even the games that do use a traditional "GM" remain very light on just how much he influences game play. The great majority of the story is player driven. Take Dogs in the Vineyard. In this game, the PCs are "Dogs" kinda like religious policemen, given the authority to eliminate problems in religious communities as they see fit. So, what the "GM" does is simply make the town, with it's problems and keep them in mind. He then lets the PCs loose in the town to discover and solve these problems as they wish. It's open-world, to borrow from current video game innovations. It's player driven. As a Dog, I decide whether the dude who cheated on his wife lives or dies or whatever else. The "GM" can only influence that minimally, maybe reminding me of something I'd forgotten that changes my mind. But, utlimately, the story is driven by the players.

The tone has been changed.

You're right there, gherkin. That's why I'm putting my money with the indie games.

So perhaps I was wrong about the trickle down thing - the way to get rping out there is to market it like board games, prove that it can be popular with the general public, because it can. I can seriously see the day when people have the board game closet filled with board games and little rping books. In order for a table-top game to reach a wide audience, it needs to be simple and capable of being different and interesting with minimal effort every time. Risk accomplishes that. So do most indie rpgs.
This is definitely the way to go, marketing-wise, but the level of awareness of these kinds of games still needs to be increased. As long as D&D and WoD hog the spotlight, I predict the stigma and the general lack of interest will remain. We, as gamers, must focus on how to shine beacons on the little indie games with broader appeal; otherwise, I can't see how your prediction about the games-closet being filled with board games and RPG books alike will come true. The money and the media attention are against the indies, as surely you know. Saying the public will become increasingly aware is very optimistic, for the public needs someone to make it aware. As a citizen of the US, I can attest to the fact that the pipelines of information available to the average person do not adequately convey the necessary facts...and this is about important issues. RPGs, much as I love them, are small change compared to the things my fellow citizens are not being told. So if you want the public to become aware, you're going to have to help me and everyone else who cares about such things. Word of mouth and grassroots marketing can work, but they require conviction and persistence.

Then let's roll up our sleeves and get to work.

I and some of the others here are already on it, but you can help me right now: since I have two kids, two jobs, a "secret" project, and limited time, I would be exceedingly grateful if you could post links to or even start a forum regarding some of the systems you have referenced. I'd like to investigate them and, if possible, help promote them.

While I'm on that subject:

Rune Stryders
Ninja Burger

Anyone interested in playing a PBP game of Ghyll? I am.

Sounds fun. I'm all in.

I would be, but I'm going to be taking a two-year hiatus from the internet in about a month, so I won't commit myself when I can't follow through.

Sounds fun, though. :(

Does internet include e-mail?

Either way, that's going to be an interesting experiment. You should write a book.

Where are you going, if I may ask?

So they don't have internet at the local penitentiary then? Isn't that a human rights violation?

I'm afraid it does include email, aeon, with the one exception of a weekly email to my family.

I'm going to be in West Virginia, serving as a proselyting missionary for my church for two years. Part of the commitment there is to dedicate yourself wholly to the work, leaving behind all other personal affairs, including school, work, hobbies, and, unfortunately, roleplaying.

As for writing a book, I'm afraid my situation isn't unique enough to warrant that, never mind my utter lack of writing ability. It's a sort of gentle commandment for all men of my age within the church. We're all sort of expected/commanded to go, but there isn't any kind of moral consequence for not going. I believe the latest count is something like 56,000 of us serving worldwide.

Hey, sorry about the cheap wisecrack about going to prison!

You know, getting away from worldly matters for a while is no bad thing. I'll look forward to your return in a couple of years' time and I hope that you find inner peace and fulfillment in what you're doing.

And maybe in a couple of years' time when 4e D&D has inspired a new generation of roleplayers you can come back and say 'I told you so'!

Haha, no worries, Gherkin, I just happened to reply to two comments while forgetting the third. I hope you don't feel left out.

Loking over my previous post, I've realized that it sounds kinda negative, which is not accurate at all. I'm really excited for this opportunity, and my only real regret is that I'll be leaving behind roleplaying and the roleplaying community, and that's a pretty small factor in the big picture. Before I go, I'll most likely end up writing and posting a love letter to Gamegrene, in the hopes to illustrate and thank all y'all for the massive impact you've have had on my gaming experience, and through it, my life. I don't think I can quite measure up to Calamar's most recent article, but there are some things that need to be said.

As for the eventual result of 4E, who really knows? In the interest of sounding hypocritical, we can't really judge where along the combat-narrative spectrum it's going to fall, as we haven't seen the whole thing yet. As fun as it is to speculate, guessing how 4E will impact the market is a shot in the dark at best.

I'm for it. Now that schools out its not like there is much of anything else taking up my time.

Not if you have prophetic powers, like me!

Good luck out there, btw. Maybe this will give you a taste of my prophetic powers!

Some fears assuaged:

According to this recent FAQ, WotC will allow companies to publish both OGL (3rd) and GSL (4th) games, just not products that work with both.

At least we'll get this S#@% for free, they should play us to play this crap and have it dominating their products.

I mistakenly paid for the three core books in a small hope that the game mechanics would have improved greatly from the AD&D days. Although I'm glad they gotten rid of THAC0 (To Hit Armor Class 0) I'm disappointed that the combat mechanics of the game are still as choppy as they were when TSR still held rights to the D&D title.
Lets face it the only thing that WoTC is doing for this dinosaur is keeping it afloat above the RPG tar pits, and in my opinion they're hardly even doing that. This series didn't need a new edition. It needed a whole new make over. Scrape the mechanics completely and have the players ( People like you and me ) design the game mechanics then maybe we won't have to listen to how great 3.5 is or was.
P.s: Is it me or does the addition of mini's make the game feel more like a rip off of War hammer and War hammer 40K.

There's been a revision of the GSL. Has anyone read it and can make us all better informed?