5th Edition D&D Goes Open License

Wizards of the Coast made a big announcement this week. The fifth edition of Dungeons and Dragons has gone Open License in much the same way as the 3rd edition was. In some ways they’ve gone even further with 3e by making some of their intellectual property open(ish) license as well. It seems that through their Dungeon Master’s Guild program people will be able to set adventures and supplements in the Forgotten Realms, release them and get paid for them.

I think this was a good and necessary move. I really like the 5th edition of D&D. In many ways I prefer it even to 3rd edition, which was the last edition I seriously played. The main flaw in 5e compared to 3rd edition is that it has not exactly had huge support.

Compared to previous editions, there has not been an abundance of material from WotC itself. Third party work is thin on the ground as well. I am really looking forward to seeing a wave of new worlds, supplements and scenarios for 5e. It will probably prove bad for my wallet but good for my gaming. It should also prove good for WotC as well.

In some ways this move proves that pen and paper games have become like computer operating systems and mobile phones. It’s not just about the brand, it’s about the ecosystem. I suspect the open licensing of 5e is an admission of the fact that no one game company can maintain an ecosystem by itself, not even one as large as WotC.

Currently there is a fork in the pen and paper D&D world. There is Pathfinder which is an enhanced version of 3rd edition based on the OGL and there is D&D 5e. (I’ll ignore my favourite fork, the OSR, for now.) At the moment we are in the bizarre situation of having the non-official variant of D&D better supported than the brand name version. This move by WotC should change the balance of power in that particular competitive struggle.

I’m not sure what the logic of opening up the Forgotten Realms IP is. It is a bold experiment and it does provide a way for WotC to monetise the open license. (They get a cut of everything that goes through the DungeonMaster’s Guild storefront.) I am looking forward to seeing what happens there.

For me 5th Edition is the best ever official version of D&D, and I am very hopeful that it will now get the support it deserves.

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