At the end of my last post, where I expressed my concern that D&D 5e might not have a gaming license, I stated that “for all I know Wizards of the Coast will announce a liberal gaming license tomorrow and I will look like an idiot”. Well, that didn’t exactly happen but I was quite surprised to see Mike Mearls bring up this very concern in his post today.
I wish I could believe he was aware of my tiny little blog, but the reality is it shows how important the concept of a gaming license is to the gaming community as a whole. Obviously my concerns were shared by many.
Parsing Mearls post we can only be sure of a couple of things. First is that there will be some kind of “mechanism” that will allow fans to create their own gaming materials. Second is that whatever this mechanism is that it will not debut until sometime in 2015.
This doesn’t alleviate my concerns, although I am glad to see that it is on Mearls mind. I did notice that he was careful not to use the word “license” in describing how fans would be able to create their own materials, although I am not reading too much into it at this early stage of the game.
Whatever mechanism Wizards of the Coast provides I doubt we will ever see anything as broad as the OGL again. Maybe they don’t have to. In the comments of my last post it was noted by Nicholas Bergquist that the OGL is broad enough to make material that is functionally compatible with D&D 5e even if it can’t technically be billed as such. Ultimately that genie is out of the bottle already.
Regardless I hope that Wizards of the Coast does this right. Beyond simple books, it would be nice if they were willing to open things up a bit on the digital side. The D&D 4e’s GSL was much more restrictive, about how the license applied to digital tools than the OGL was. This isn’t surprising since Wizards of the Coast launched D&D Insider at the same time.
Unfortunately, software is not what Wizards of the Coast does best. Rather then control the tools I think it would be a smarter move to create API’s to allow others to create the tools while controlling access to their intellectual property. I believe having robust digital tools supporting D&D, even if they didn’t create all of them, would help fifth edition reach its full potential.