Neuroglyph Games Only a Pen is Mightier Catch it on the Rise Dust shaken from a Book

The State of the GSL (Part 2)

Last Monday, I posted a blog, The State of the GSL, in preparation for an article I am working on regarding whether the GSL is still viable.  Along with responses to polls I included, there were a number of interesting comments about what folks thought were good and bad about the Game System License.

I mentioned a thread on the Wizards of the Coast Community Forums entitled Anybody here is earning money selling his/her own GSL products?, which is now reaching its fifth page of response.  Most of the responses seem pretty down on the idea that a 3PP or Third Party Publisher can make much in the way of profit under the GSL, mainly due to how Character Builder has closed off player-based content such as new feats, skills, powers, and character classes/builds.  This pretty much means that third party publishers are left with adventure modules, monster manuals and templates, campaign settings, and other content that is mainly dungeon master-based.

Of course, some companies have gone a different route, and used the GSL and the fundamental 4E system to launch products that are not entirely D&D related.  For instance, Dias Ex Machina released the Amethyst Setting, which used a few classes from the PHB, but mainly created brand-new modern style classes, like the Grounder and Operator.  This setting is a mix of fantasy and science-fiction, and suffers little from changes to the rules, such as what we have seen with Essentials.

The fact that D&D has become an evolving game system is actually a very exciting feature for many 4E gamers.  Players and Dungeon Masters can look forward to new dynamic content, rules tweaks, and a constant rebalancing of classes and builds to make sure that the game continues to function at “peak efficiency”.  However, to Third Party Publishers operating under the GSL, this constantly evolving game system is pushing them farther and farther away from what some would consider the standard play experience.  Although the game has had sweeping evolutionary changes, as it has recently with the Essentials line, the GSL still contains the same basic set of sourcebooks it had as of February 2009!

Under the GSL, Third Part Publishers may only reference material from the Players Handbook, Players Handbook 2, Dungeon Masters Guide, Monster Manual, Monster Manual 2, and the Adventurers Vault.  This excludes 3PP authors from referencing a number of crucial and key products which made sweeping changes to how D&D 4E operates, such as the Dungeon Masters Guide 2, Monster Manual 3, and the recently published Rules Compendium.  Changes to important rules such as skill usage, skill challenges, trap building, and treasure distribution are just a few of the examples of how these more recent books have altered the basic play experience of D&D 4E.  Writers of GSL products cannot take advantage of these rules changes when designing dungeon master-based content without risking having their license revoked, making what little content they can create for D&D 4E actually out of synch with the existing rules!

Obviously, 3PP writers can hope that the GSL SRD will be updated to include more recent sourcebooks – at the bare minimum the new Rules Compendium – but there is no indication from WotC that such a revision is in the works.  Without revisions to the GSL SRD to keep up with the evolution of D&D 4E, there is little incentive to keep producing products for 4E, and companies like Mongoose Publishing and Goodman Games have already begun to phase out their 4E lines.

So what do you think of the current state of the GSL?  Should WotC make other sourcebooks available to Third Party Publishers?  As always, your opinions and feedback are most welcome!

So until next blog… I wish you Happy Gaming!

About The Author

Michael is an Adept of a Secret Order of Dungeon Masters, and dwells in a hidden realm with his two evil cat-familiars, deep within the Vale of Wolverines, called by some "Michigan". He has been esoterically conjuring D&D Campaigns for nearly a Third of a Century, and has been known to cast ritual blogs concerning Dungeons & Dragons every few days with some regularity. Michael has freelanced for Wizards of the Coast, and writes reviews of D&D and other Role-Playing Game products on EN World News.


2 Responses to “The State of the GSL (Part 2)”

  1. underthepale says:

    I think it didn’t work then, and it still does not work. I compare the volume of 3rd party support OGL got to what we’re looking at now, and I weep. I think Wizards really dropped the ball, and I’m frankly happy that the WotC stuff is generally good, otherwise we’d have nothing to run the game WITH…
    .-= underthepale´s last blog ..Random Quickies Now With Less Anger! =-.

  2. Johnny says:

    If they wanted to stop the proliferation of 3rd party creations using 4E rules and tight their control, they did so.
    Unfortunately, the content quantity for 4E is laughable. On the other hand, there are plenty alternatives. And 3rd ed. is playable, alive and renovated by the hand of others.

Leave a Reply