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Monday, May 26, 2014

What If 5e Doesn't Need to be OGL to be Served by the OGL (and the OSR)?

Word on the street, or in certain circles of the RPG Community, is that 5e is fairly close to 2e in nature with some new bells and whistles, and with options that can make it more like 3x and even a little 4e.

Now, 2e and all of the earlier editions have been retrocloned to death, and pretty much anything from 0e to 2e, Labyrinth Lord to Swords & Wizardry to OSRIC and all of the clones between are 95% compatible. I frequently mix editions and clones when it comes to adventures or monster sources when I run my Swords & Wizardry games.

So, if 5e is, in effect, a 2e retroclone (the edition when D&D was on everyone's lips and in all of the stores and boxed sets galore before the implosion of too many damn settings) does it need to be "open" or OGL? If the point of the OGL (or at least, the original intention before the genie in the bottle was fully realized) was to give a legal framework to create adventures, monsters, settings and the like with a communal base set of rules, don't we already have what is needed?

WotC went to 4e in large part to break away from the OGL. The system changed enough that 3x and 4x were different games and just not compatible. The OGL couldn't find space in a 4e world.

If 5e is going back to some sort of 2e / 3e hybrid (at least in it's core, and especially in it's free 15% of the Player's Handbook), you don't need the new rules to be OGL to create products that are compatible with the OGL - you just need to get "close enough" to be "compatible with the latest edition of the world's most famous RPG."

What if 5e was designed to be compatible with 3x and prior, and maybe with some work, even Pathfinder, while still being a "closed" ruleset?

WotC get's to keep control of it's newest child, and at the same time reap the benefits of the editions and clones that have come before.


  1. Um, there is a fatal weakness: It would be trivial to make a free clone of D&D 5e. If it's anything like Next I could produce a 100% legal clone and give it away just based on the SRD/OGL. Or I could just clone it and tell them to go fuck themselves, because they have NEVER succeeded in a cease & desist RPG case.

  2. In terms of trying to tie into D&D, the whole d20 symbol was a big boon (and then hindrance after the bust), but I think that those looking to keep in the 'circle' would probably go with Pathfinder, as Paizo is very friendly towards third party publishers, often featuring their products straight on their homepage. In terms of "cease and desist", I'm of course not quite sure what all was involved in ye old Mayfair's Role Aid line of games but legalities and gaming have hit many a time in the past ranging from Chaosium against TSR with the Moorcock and Lovecraft mythos, to Palladium against a whole host of individuals and more.

  3. My problem with Pathfinder...and 3.X before is the great complexity of it. And Pathfinder has become as bloated as 3.X. 5E is just cleaner and simpler. Sure, it will get bloated too, but the core is something I really can use for years and years to come without much that I will "need" to buy. Obviously, YMMV, but everything I've seen about 5E has worked for my needs and tastes.

    1. Let me add what works so well for me in 5E. The designers have created a solitary bonus economy based on Ability Scores and Proficiency. I don't need to figure out why a +1 to Hit is equal to +3 to a single skill (or +2 to two skills), which is equal to +4 for initiative, which is equal to +2 for a Save and all are equal to a Feat.

      It's what I, personally have been craving for years.

  4. I might hold out on 5e for the retroclones then.

    Or better yet, when will people get nostalgic for 4e?

  5. Commercial consideratins aside, how close does close really need to be? Write a good enough adventure, and people will run it no matter what they play. I say this as someone who's run a Star Frontiers adventure for classic Traveller, so maybe I'm biased, but...

    1. Honestly you don't ever need any sort of adaptation.

      You sub monsters out from the book and stat NPCs on the fly. Sub suitable magic items, or just go with them as is for weirdness sake.

      This sort of stuff doesn't even require much thought once you have DMed for a bit.