We’ve looked at what Fourth Edition D&D does right (here, and here) and now it’s the turn of Third Edition D&D. We are taking a stroll through every edition of Dungeons & Dragons to highlight some of the positive aspects of each one to see what they could bring to the next Edition of the game.
This time it’s the turn of Third Edition D&D, and the variants thereof. Good word, thereof.
Open Game License
This is a biggie, so it goes right at the top of the page. The OGL wasn’t just a single page of legalese at the back of the books; it transformed the industry and was the one thing which brought Dungeons & Dragons back from TSR created near extinction. No matter how good Third Edition D&D was, without the OGL allowing third-party publishers to spawn a plethora of satellite gaming material, Third Edition D&D would have failed.
I really can’t stress this enough. Call me crazy and demand proof of this claim? Cool.
Here’s your proof: Fourth Edition D&D.
4e D&D sorely lacks that third-party support (in fact, I would struggle to name three third-party publishers creating 4e material right now), and that translates to a lack of buzz about the game and fewer options. Fewer options means fewer gamers. Simple as that.
Picture the scene. Two gamers.
Gamer 1: “I like Third Edition D&D, but I wish it did [insert game option here] (mass combat, urban warfare, modern era, dragon PCs, whatever)”
Gamer 2: “Well, [insert game publisher name] have just released a supplement that does that. Then there’s [insert another publisher] or [insert another publisher] as well. They’re only a couple of bucks on RPGNow.”
Gamer 1: “Cool!”
Gamer 1 immediately orders a copy of the PHB, MM and DMG from Amazon along with a handful of PDFs from RPGNow, and another happy gamer is born.
Let’s try the same scene in Fourth Edition D&D.
Gamer 1: “I like Fourth Edition D&D, but I wish it did [insert game option here] (mass combat, urban warfare, modern era, dragon PCs, whatever)”
Gamers 2: “Yeah. That sucks.”
The wind blows tumbleweed across their path.
If Fourth Edition D&D had the OGL from the start, it would not have gotten into the mess it has. Any issues or player preferences regarding the game would have been tackled by third-party publishers. We’d be seeing retro-clone variants of Fourth Edition, stunning adventure modules, new and innovative campaign settings and much more, all of which ultimately help generate revenue and love for Wizards of the Coast. But without the OGL, watch that tumbleweed fly.
Here’s how I would love to see the next Edition of D&D play out. Spoiler: It’s pretty much how Fourth Edition was released, in reverse.
1. Release Dungeons and Dragons Basic. It’s a box set covering levels 1-5, entirely released under the OGL. Game mechanics are fast, simple and readily adaptable to all styles and eras of play.
2. Dungeons and Dragons Essential is launched. This is a set of small format books which update the rules from the Basic set with minor errata (the game having been extensively playtested prior to Basic‘s launch so there’s no major bloopers) and covers the full 30 levels. Players get a series of books and they’re chock full of lovely fluff to spark the imagination, GMs get campaign settings and monster books – again, all fluff filled. Parts but not all of the rules (campaign specific elements, unique monsters, etc) are released under the OGL.
3. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. This is a set of three core books containing dense text, advanced options and are the final word on the core rules. These are high crunch, low fluff tomes designed with expert players and GMs in mind. The PHB contains the full set of core character classes and races along with many feats, abilities, etc. the DMG covers DM-specific rules as well as advanced world building tips and advice. The MM contains 400+ monsters with relatively little fluff. The OGL is updated, and finalised.
4. With the core rules officially closed, WoTC focuses on campaign settings, adventures, new non-OGL game options (custom character classes, new class options and stuff that just doesn’t need to go in the OGL) and quietly begins thinking about 6th Edition D&D.
Just the OGL alone is enough to chew on for one post about Third Edition D&D. I’ll continue with part two in…..errrr….. Part Two!