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D&D 3E
Thoughts on D&D 4th Edition and the OGL 
17th-Sep-2007 10:35 am
The furor over the impending release of 4th Edition (May 2008) is beginning to die down, although there are folks on the Living Greyhawk boards complaining about the death of the campaign at the end of next year and the beginning of Living Forgotten Realms. For those who are concerned about the 3.5 game being discarded in favor of 4th Edition, I have reason to say that there is no reason to fear the fate of any version of the game.

I have been a player and DM of D&D and AD&D since early first edition days. I started with the red boxed set with the painting of a warrior and maiden battling a big green dragon in a dungeon setting. My first adventure was B2 The Keep on the Borderlands. I played and ran AD&D from the time that it consisted of a Players Handbook, a Dungeon Masters Guide, a Monster Manual, and a Dieties and Demigods. The Fiend Folio had only just come out when I began playing and DMing the game. I saw 2nd Edition supplant first edition in 1989. I watched people complain about their favorite things in the 1st Edition game getting dropped from the ruleset. I followed the hype on 3rd Edition and ran my first 3rd Edition tournament without a good working knowledge of the game. And from all this observation, I can say that D&D 3.5 will not die by 4th Edition. 4th Edition might become the default supported edition of Wizards of the Coast, but it will not be the only edition being supported altogether.

When AD&D 2nd Edition supplanted 1st Edition, the rules differences weren't that noticeable. You could actually use 1st Edition materials to play, and no one would be the wiser. In fact, many people did use their 1st Edition materials with their 2nd Edition materials. I was one of them, as I chose to make the King Arthur's Britain game a hybrid using whatever rules that I found that I felt worked. I used the 1st Edition assassin class with the AD&D 2nd Edition ruleset until I decided that the AD&D 2nd Edition assassin kit worked better. My campaign rules continued to morph as I uncovered new rules that handled the paradigms I wanted to explore.

When D&D 3rd Edition came out, I was reluctant at first. I would not have played or DM 3rd Edition at all had I not already been involved with the RPGA, as I had just joined the RPGA to see what the organization had to offer. Because the RPGA was going forward with 3rd Edition, I had to get familiar with 3rd Edition. I often say I was dragged into 3rd Edition kicking and screaming because I didn't suddenly jump on the bandwagon with absolute enthusiasm. I resisted. In fact, I was still using AD&D 2nd Edition conventions to design monsters until the D&D 3.5 ruleset convinced me that 3.5 was the better way to go. Meanwhile, I allowed my players to choose which edition and game setting I would run, with the setting and edition closely tied together: Arthur would be run in AD&D 2nd Edition; Greyhawk would be run in 3rd Edition. My players were split down the middle, but ultimately it came down to Greyhawk in 3rd Edition.

In 2006, when I got my friend from Pennsylvania, Cullen, to start playing in my online D&D 3rd Edition game, he invited me to play in his Forgotten Realms game, run in 2nd Edition. And in the same year, an OGL ruleset for AD&D 1st Edition was released as OSRIC: Old School Reference and Index Compilation.

It must be put in context here that when AD&D 2nd Edition was released, many old-school D&D players dropped out of the scene or picked up other games, while many hybridized their games with 1st Edition material or played pure 1st Edition gaming. When 3rd Edition came back, the hype was so great that many of these players returned, and now with the coming of 4th Edition, there are people who use a variation of a Star Trek movie adage: "I only play odd-numbered editions."

While a vocal segment of the gaming population have lamented that 4th Edition will make 3.5 obsolete, I have to say that with the current gaming landscape, I think that this is impossible. I believe that every flavor of D&D and its variants will not only be supported, but it will thrive. Take a look at the variations of D&D that are currently available:
D&D 3.5 and its d20 derivatives
AD&D 2nd Edition
AD&D 1st Edition
Hackmaster 4th Edition

Add 4th Edition, the advancement of the OGL to it, and the continued background support of the 3.5 OGL, and you have a vast number of choices for your D&D-flavored roleplaying.

You have D&D 3.5 and the 3.5 d20 games, AD&D 1st Edition, AD&D 2nd Edition, Hackmaster 4th Edition, OSRIC, and any hybrid of any of the editions possible.

I believe that companies can continue to be viable using the D&D 3.5 ruleset rather than moving into the 4th Edition development. Companies are already making a profit supporting old-school gaming. And Wizards of the Coast will not make nearly the profit on 4th Edition that they made on 3rd Edition. Those days of publishing a new edition to make more money are over.
17th-Sep-2007 03:59 pm (UTC)
I realize this is somewhat off-topic, but what exactly is the relationship between D&D and Hackmaster? I was under the impression that the latter was a parody version of the former, but the more I hear about people actually playing it, the less I understand. What exactly is it?

As for the main topic, I'm more irritated about the timing - I just started buying into 3E, after many years of ignoring it, and they go and announce a new version! All the same, it's their property, and it's their call, but nothing invalidates the books I already own. I'll reserve judgement on whether 4E was necessary or not until I actually see it.
17th-Sep-2007 06:00 pm (UTC)
Hackmaster is partly a parody of D&D, but it was developed under a special agreement between Wizards of the Coast and Kenzer and Company that allowed K&Co. to use AD&D 1st edition as a springboard off which to launch their own sort of parody game - which actually plays as a game. You could, theoretically, use Hackmaster monsters and adventures in AD&D 1st or 2nd Edition games. In fact, I have a couple of adventures, and find that if I wanted, I could use Hackmaster adventures to play older edition games - except that since being dragged into 3rd Edition, I have not wanted to go back to previous editions.
17th-Sep-2007 10:05 pm (UTC)
Thanks, that clarifies things a bit.

I'll admit to being very perplexed at the sheer number of D&D variants out there, or at least what LOOK like D&D variants (Sword & Sorcery being chief among them) - they're still d20 games, but what, pray tell, is so different about them? I have to do a bit of research, it seems...
17th-Sep-2007 10:45 pm (UTC)
Generally, the d20 variants aren't necessarily "different." They are "add-ons" or supplements, really. Sword & Sorcery, I think you are referring to White Wolf's Sword & Sorcery line of d20 supplements, particularly their Scarred Lands campaign setting and supplements to support it. It's really D&D when you think about it. You need the D&D 3.5 Core Rule Books to play, but the Sword and Sorcery stuff is compatible add-on material you can play D&D with. The Scarred Lands products are to D&D what World of Greyhawk is: a setting in which to play, along with customized mechanics and materials to allow you to play in that setting. I have a bunch of this stuff and use what I like in my D&D gaming as I see fit.

The d20 system is a universal system at its bottom line. It's like GURPS. The difference is that GURPS didn't open the system to other companies and rather bought licenses to write material to emulate settings like the Car Wars universe, Riverworld, Conan, or even King Arthur. WotC opened up the system to other companies to develop what they want using the base game system.
17th-Sep-2007 06:06 pm (UTC)
I might have been unclear in my thoughts, but I am aware of that fact. That said, the red box was our gateway into the AD&D game. At that time, the red box supported only B1, B2, and B3 by the time I started buying more supplements. The Basic game was not as extensively supported until the mid 80s, while I was in high school and living in a podunk town that had no contact with the rest of the world. The Expert rules in the blue box extended support to X1 and X2, but that support did not expand until a couple of years later - when I had no immediate access to it.

To get more stuff, I had to expand into AD&D, and my friends and I did just that gleefully.

My d20 collection is even more extensive. For about a year after the 3rd Edition and d20 game came out, I was spending $1,000 a month on d20 gaming stuff - fantasy, modern, future, space. I have a room at home that has a desk, a computer, and three shelves and a closet full of d20 stuff. Plus more of it in stacks on my floor. I have no need to go to 4th Edition since I am pulling back from involvement in the RPGA at the close of Living Greyhawk. That said, I might check out the books, and if they look compelling, I might pick them up, but that is unlikely since my gaming will continue in the 3.5 version.
18th-Sep-2007 12:50 am (UTC)
I thought I remember reading somewhere that 4th Edition would be easier to play online. This is something that interests me, that means I get to meet and play with a lot of other gamers. However I am definitely not looking forward to rebuying all the books like anyone else.

Overall, I'm going to reserve my final judgment until I get at least a PHB and go from there ^_^
18th-Sep-2007 02:54 am (UTC)
You're right... I really do have all of the materials that I need to play for a very long time. There are a number of things I have not tried.... and a number of games that have not been run. The rules allow for so much variety that you can do almost anything with them as is.

I've really been itching for a superhero game lately (partially from watching heroes). If only there was a d20 version of a superhero game!
18th-Sep-2007 03:46 am (UTC)
There are actually several. The most popular, and I hear the best, is Mutants and Masterminds, which is more OGL and does not put the d20 label on itself, but it is a d20 superhero game.

There was a really bad superhero d20 game that came out when 3rd Edition was first released called The Foundation: A World in Black and White. The game company even promised to make free updates and improvements to their ruleset, acknowledging that the book sucked, but even the updates sucked. It just goes to show the half-baked game designers that threw in with d20 in the beginning.

I think that d20 Modern (Wizards of the Coasts's modern d20 system) has extensions available for superhero d20 gaming, and if you check out RPGNow, you will find a lot of PDF game support for superhero d20 gaming.
18th-Sep-2007 02:52 pm (UTC)
Maybe <a href="http://forums.gleemax.com/showpost.php?p=13818246&postcount=10>this</a> would interest you then? Just a thought.
18th-Sep-2007 11:23 pm (UTC)
Also, Paizo (former publisher of Dungeon and Dragon magazines) is sticking with the d20 OGL (3.5) system and will continue publishing great stuff for it.

So, yes, 3.5 will still be alive and well for awhile. Of course, as you stated, 2.0 and everything else is still alive and well too ;-)
19th-Sep-2007 10:39 pm (UTC)
Those days of publishing a new edition to make more money are over.

I certainly hope you're correct.
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