The most significant event in the world of roleplaying games during the past decade was Wizards of the Coast's Open Gaming License (OGL) for the d20 roleplaying system that the company developed for its Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition. Viewing the d20 system as an industry-wide platform rather than a proprietary fiefdom, WOTC made what it considered a generous gesture by allowing other game companies to use the d20 rules at no cost in hopes of invigorating the entire RPG category. So far at least the basic strategy appears to be sound -- a d20 boom of sorts has been created (see 'Sovereign Stone to Adopt d20 Rules' 'White Wolf to Publish....,' 'D&D Creator to Pen d20...' etc.) The d20 movement has also spawned a full complement of magazines (see 'Campaign d20 Magazine,' 'Another d20 Magazine Bows'). Now WOTC has dumped its laissez faire policy, which has seen the market blossom, in favor of a call for exact compliance with the Open Gaming Licensing agreement.
In an open letter to d20 publishers, a WOTC spokesperson enumerated four key areas of concern that WOTC would be reviewing. WOTC's first concern is proper usage of the d20 logo, followed by the misappropriation of WOTC materials other than the d20 system itself, which is the only thing that is available to other companies to use in creating games. WOTC is also concerned that the Open Gaming License and WOTC copyright is included in every game in which it is employed, and that all parts of any work that are Open Gaming Content are clearly labeled as such. The letter goes on to state: 'if WOTC finds a (publisher with a) product which is not complying with the licenses and (who) has not publicly announced a plan to fix those problems on their web sites and any other public venue (including this one-the opengaming foundation.org) that they have access to, Wizards will be triggering the clauses of the license to notify said publishers and/or websites that they are in breach of contract and have entered the cure periods as described by the licenses themselves.'
Is this a laudable attempt to standardize procedures and enforce a necessary discipline on sloppy publishers, or is it the stunned reaction of an organization that has created a runaway train? What effect will WOTC's reviews have on the burgeoning world of d20 publishing? ICv2 will be talking to a number of d20 publishers and industry experts over the next few days to get their reactions to WOTC's new campaign for d20 discipline. Stay tuned for further details.