Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Yet Another OGL 1.1 Post

 I know, everyone's talking about it. so I guess I have to talk about it, too. It's made all the more difficult by the fact that this whole thing has been moving rather quickly, while I do not. Much of this was written before WotC acknowledged and attempted to apologize for the situation, but I think there's still something here, so I'm going to let it ride.

There's a lot of hullabaloo going on about the leaked Open Gaming License 1.1 going on and a lot of it is very Chicken Little (The shy is falling! The sky is falling!)

I'm not that. That's not what I do. I'm more of a cynic. I have been ever since the OGL first began as an attempt by Ryan Dancey to offload the unprofitable bits of the D&D business onto the fan community (In case you doubted how cynical I am.)

In short, the Open Gaming License lets people access and refer to a pool of Open Gaming Content freely in published works. The most prominent piece of Open Gaming Content is called the System Reference Document, which describes the core mechanics of Dungeons & Dragons. As D&D has released multiple editions in this time, there have been multiple SRDs. Other creators can declare their content Open Gaming Content according to the terms of the license, but whether anyone actually does is very hit or miss.

Using the license has been fairly simple. Just include the text of the license in your product, declare what Open Gaming Content you're using and what bits of your original creation you're releasing as Open Gaming Content. No fees, no approvals, no worries. So easy, even your dog can do it (and believe me, especially in the early days, it felt like a lot of them did).

But now there's a (supposed) new game in town. There's a new revision of D&D coming called OneD&D and for the first time in over 2 decades, the OGL is getting revised. To be clear, this has not been officially released and all of this is based on something that is "leaked." However, there have been no denials and a few confirming details.

There are two major issues with the new OGL.

The first is that it's much more restrictive than the original. It's much more work to use, requiring the prospective user to notify WotC what they'll be publishing (at minimum). The more money you make, the more information you're expected to provide until finally, you start owing royalties.

My initial take on the royalties issue was overall meh. It only applies to publishers who make more than $750,000, which is more money than I'll ever see in my lifetime. If you're the Jeff Bezos of the gaming scene, I'm not worried about you.

But it's been pointed out that the royalty rate is designed to be throttling to a business of that size. They might make it as a million-dollar company, but they'll never make it to become a multi-million dollar company. They're trying to prevent another Paizo (more on that later), which on the one hand makes sense, but on the other hand is monopolistic and therefore anti-capitalist and unamerican.

The second issue is that the new OGL specifically revokes and supersedes the old one and there's a lot of panic about exactly what that means.

Specifically, what happens to the 20+ years worth of content that has been released under the original OGL? Does it have to abide by the new restrictions and requirements, or can it continue to exist and be sold as is?

This is my big concern because as time went on, the amount of Open Gaming Content that people could draw upon expanded immensely. While people think of it as a D&D/D20/Wizards of the Coast thing, a lot of publishers released Open Gaming Content. In a lot of cases, this was as simple as publishing a fantasy scenario where the quest objective was some new magic item and in order to get it, you had to defeat some new monster and both the magic item and the monster were declared to be Open Gaming Content. In other cases, entire rulesets were released as Open Gaming Content.

I think the interesting, and possibly revealing question would be: What happens to the D6 System? Originally the ruleset for the formative Star Wars RPG of the 80's and 90's, a new owner tried to make a comeback with the company and the system. When that didn't turn out as well as he needed it to, he released the system into the pool of OGC as a way to render it "abandonware." Should theses (or any) changes go through, would it still be abandonware? Or does it wind up back in the old owner's possession, seemingly like a haunted doll that keeps turning up when you finally think you're rid of it?

While the OGL has technically been in existence consistently since the year 2000, there was a period when it wasn't supported. The OGL was released to accompany the 3rd edition of D&D, but when the time came for 4th edition, they decided not to release the 4e SRD into the pool of Open Gaming Content. The fan backlash was pretty strong and multiple companies tried to create new core products that would be released under the OGL that would let players continue to doing what they were doing.

The victor of this struggle was Paizo with their Pathfinder system derived from the D&D SRDs that WotC had released as OGC. It didn't hurt that they were started as a magazine company, so they were geared to produce regular support products of their own in the form of Adventure Paths.

In the years since Pathfinder was released, it and D&D have been neck in neck for the top 2 RPGs in the industry as a whole. Even after 5th edition and the return to the OGL this has been pretty consistent. Which puts Paizo in the distinct position of being the company most dependent upon the pool of Open Gaming Content.

Another problem with all of the Chicken Littles running around is that a lot of anger and worry creates some misconceptions.

There are a couple of things that are less worrying than some people make it out to be. For example, the OGL 1.1 leak states that it only applies to books, whether print or digital and not other forms of media. This created a number of declarations that WotC was coming for Critical Role, because the new OGL explicitly excluded game streams/webshows (Streams are actually covered under the WotC Fan Content Policy, and Critical Role is probably big enough that they've got WotC on speed dial if they need anything specific). But really, this is just a clarification. A lot of technological development has happened over the last 20 years since OGL 1.0 was released, so it makes sense to mention how the OGL might interact with new technologies. Some people are complaining that this is so WotC can monopolize OGL NFTs, but based on what I know of both, an OGL NFT makes zero sense. If someone can explain that to me, I'm listening.

The "license-back" provision caused a stir, but it has something of a reason to be there. Because this license would be more intrusive, there's a very high likelihood that anything you release under it would be to be seen by WotC design staff. The license-back therefore means that they're not necessarily liable if they wind up being influenced by something that they read. It does have a pretty blatant downside in that it really relies on how hard the WotC design staff is trying not to be influenced by anything that they might be called upon to review. In the hands of an ethically dubious company, this would be a big red flag reading "Plagiarism is okay!"

In the week since I started writing this, a lot has happened. A number of publishers have forsworn publishing anything that supports 5e, with some projects being canceled, others repurposed to other systems, and in some cases, announcements of new systems being designed to support other projects. Paizo has capitalized on WotC's latest misstep by announcing their own Open RPG Creative (ORC) License. All of these announcements are, of course, preliminary and it's hard to say exactly what will come of any of them in the fullness of time, but it will be interesting to see.

The other thing that's happened is that WotC has actually responded. And it's not great. They claim that the leak was only a "draft" that they were considering, even though the dates included in the leaked document were fairly concrete and very close. The day this statement was released was, in fact, the date that this whole thing was supposed to go live, and I don't think that's necessarily a coincidence.

It's not really an apology and comes off very defensive. Some might say that putting it on the D&D Beyond website was an attempt to "hide" it away from the WotC site so they can brush it off. But there's also the fact that one of the big outpouring of fan feelings came in the form of cancelling D&D Beyond subscriptions. So the idea might have been to put it on the front page of everyone who might be thinking about cancelling their subscription.

I have more thoughts, but this has been brewing long enough and will probably be even more out of date by the time anyone actually reads it.

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

I made it through all of the holidays and am looking forward to some semblance of regular life.As a pretty introverted person, I find that most social interaction has a cost. And over the last few weeks, I've been paying that cost to keep up with friends and family until I am in debt.

I think every introvert has some version of this. But what really sucks as a gaming introvert is that these interactions cost the reserves that I could be gaming with.

There's a thing going around called #dungeon23 which has people creating their own megadungeon, describing one room every day, with each month creating a level, until you have a 12 level megadungeon with 28-31 rooms on each level. It's a neat idea and it does tempt me. The downside is that I only have a small window of time each week to do my creative stuff. That's probably something that I should put more effort into changing this year. Those of you who are participating, I salute you!

Since a major project like that won't be taking up my time, I should probably put some of my limited effort into deciding what I will do.

I want to do a campaign, which means multiple sessions. So no Fiasco, since that's built around one-shot play.Fate's a maybe, now that I've gotten some actual practice with it. I still haven't done a Powered by the Apocalypse game and my collection does boast a number of them.

Something OSR is tempting, but I don't want to step on my own toes should I actually get my ambitious OSR campaign started. On the other hand, it would mean that I could do the #dungeon23 and have the campaign be running the players through that.

Or is this the year that I finally try to run D&D 5e? I've actually put some effort into acquiring the books. with a Players Handbook and a Dungeon Master's Guide in my possession. Maybe I'll finally manage to get caught up with the Joneses.

I'm also thinking maybe Starfinder. It's a game that I really want to like, but my first two experiences with it have not been good. I don't know that I could commit to one of the Adventure Paths, but their series of Free RPG Day one shots do have a continuity to them, so a sort of mini-campaign with them could be fun.

Lots of things to think about.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

The Holidaze

 Here we are, in between two of the major holidays of the year.

I wound up getting a pretty good grip on my All Outta Candy Canes scenario, but the holiday has been draining enough that I don't know if I have the ability to squeeze it in this year. The good news is that I've got some pretty well developed notes, so it shouldn't take much to get things into shape when I look at them again next year.

Speaking of next year, it's about time to talk about New Year's Resolutions. In spite of what people say, I'm not interested in being a "new me" in the new year. I just want to be better at being the same old me.

My resolution right now is to run a campaign. I've got a really ambitious campaign in mind, that I've been working on for years, but I don't know when/if that will be ready. To make things more manageable, I'm going to say that in order to fulfill this New Year's Resolution, I must run at least 2 sessions of the same game with the same characters and setting.

I've gotten to the point that I'm okay doing one-shots at the monthly Meetups, typically using improvised scenarios (my big games are Fiasco and Fate Accelerated using the It's Not My Fault! cards). My next steps are doing something a bit more scripted/planned and/or something that goes for multiple sessions. The ideal is both.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Did You Miss Me?

The reason that I didn’t update my blog last week is that I’ve been having internet connection issues and I wasn’t able to access Blogger. I actually still can’t, but I’m writing this offline and will upload it when I get a chance.

It has made working remotely more difficult. For a couple of days, I wound up hanging out in coffee shops most of the day using their WiFi. I eventually figured out a workaround, which consists of disconnecting and reconnecting to the router until it finally decides to let me online. And then it works for a few hours until it decides not to again.

I’m pretty much done with my All Outta Candy Canes scenario. At least, I think I could run it if asked. I almost ran it last Saturday, which was when my Meetup group has its monthly meeting. When we’re done socializing, we see who brought a one-shot game to play. Normally I’m one of only a few who brought something, but this time, there were enough that I didn’t get any interest. Which was fine. I got to play a fun game called Spire. It’s a game of revolution in a fantasy mega-city and I had heard many good things about it from my much cooler nerd friends.

If I have a stumbling block with the project, it’s figuring out how to define characters. According to the rules I’m using, characters only have one stat and it’s more of a pacing mechanism than an expression of competence. But players like to know who their character is supposed to be and what they do, as well as suggestions for any funny voices and shenanigans to get up to while playing. I think that's where most of my time is going. this week.

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

New Month, New Challenge

 Unfortunately, I will not be continuing with Apothecaria. It was fun and a good writing exercise, but it took most of my writing time for the week. Actually, even a little bit more than that. It does suck that I only really take my writing club time to write. One of the downsides of working from home is that I spend my entire day in front of my computer, so it takes effort to park myself back in the chair to do any personal writing.

And I do have a project that I'd like to be working on. For years, I've wanted to do a Christmas themed adventure using the system "All Outta Bubblegum" switching out bubblegum for candy canes to fit the seasonal mood. I had toyed with a number of possible scenarios, but it wasn't until just after Christmas last year that the best inspiration ever struck.

One of the more interesting holiday traditions of modern times involves NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command. While there are differing stories about how the whole thing started, NORAD has released reports of Santa's whereabouts since some time in the 1950's. Which brings up an interesting question: With all of the stories that involve Santa getting derailed on his deliveries, what would NORAD's response be if that blip that they're tracking all of Christmas Eve were to disappear?

So the short version of the pitch is "The Expendables Save Christmas." I hope that I'll be able to get enough notes together that I can run it this year.

And if you liked reading my playthrough of Apothecaria, let me know. I might be willing to revisit it on slow weeks, or if I can get my butt in my writing chair for more than 2 hours a week.

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

 Time to resolve the downtime for Week 5 and see if I can get the ingredients to treat Bas Bata's shattered tooth.

I got all of the Slime Shell I needed, but I still need some Shield Cap. So it's off to Glimmerwood Grove to gather some.

1. As I'm exploring, I hear a faint voice just on the edge of my hearing. I try to make out any words, but the more I pay attention to it, the harder it is to focus on anything. Finally, I can't focus at all and simply lose consciousness. I come to in the middle of a fairy circle. Once I manage to get my bearings, I realize that I've much farther into the Grove than I normally go. Thankfully, a Shieldcap is growing nearby, so I grab it before I head on my way.

2: This is definitely a place in the Grove that I've never been to. The legendary Glimmerwood Giant sleeps here. Were he to stand up, he would be twice as tall as the trees. Very gently, I gather a Shieldcap that grows between his toes. I don't know what would happen if he were to wake up and I'm not sure I want to be there when he does.

3. As I reach for the last Shieldcap that I need, I hear a loud bang and feel a sharp pain in my side. I feel the wound, grateful that it's just a graze. A dirty hand reaches out for the Shieldcap just in front of me. I hear a small, angry grunt as the Shieldcap is thrown back onto the ground. Once they are gone, I reach into my healer's kit for a salve to control the bleeding. The pain causes me to curse, but when you're a hedge witch, that doesn't just mean saying a dirty word. I just hope that bad luck for that truffle hunter makes for good luck for everyone else in Glimmerwood Grove.

4: That was the last Shieldcap that I needed. Now I think I'll try to track down some Giant Spider Venom. It would be easier to get this in Hero's Hollow, but getting shot already cost me some time. Fortune is smiling on me, as I see a unicorn in the clearing up ahead. It seems to be doing battle with a Giant Spider until it finally spears it with its horn. Detecting my presence, it dashes off with supernatural speed. I take advantage of the opportunity and catch the venom as it drips from the dying spider's mandibles.

5. Given my last experience in the Weaver's Wood, I'm not heading directly there any time soon. I wind up following a path well worn by various animals. Along the path, I find a Wild Rose bush. Not what I'm looking for, but the seeds have their uses. I gather some and head home to wait for my next patient.

Week 6

That wretched vampire has struck again! This time, a villager named Milton Cash has come to my door and he has clearly been Drunk. This time, however, I am ready. I still have the Ambergris that I was able to gather for my first attempt, and rather than Moon Moss, I can use Slime Shell to take care of the Blood Tag. I'll still have to get some more Slime Shell when I'm ready to treat Bas Bata's tooth, but the ability to treat an Ailment that I failed to treat previously is my priority.

I crush the Ambergris into a fine powder, which I then combine with the slime from the Slime Shell to form a paste. I then apply this paste directly to the vampire bite and color returns to Milton's face almost immediately.

After receiving my fee of 20 silver pieces, I head out to Hero's Hollow to gather more Giant Spider Venom for Bas Bata's tooth.

Downtime

1: Following a path of spider webs, I enact my plan. I locate a giant spider and draw it towards me. As it snaps at me, I block with my left arm, which I have wrapped in thick, absorbent material to catch the venom. Once the spider has successfully bitten my padding, I smack it squarely between all 8 eyes to dissuade it from pursuing me further. As I turn around, I find myself now facing The Baron, one of the more notable denizens of these dungeons. A poltergeist animating a large suit of armor blocks my path. He lets out a booming villainous laugh and draws a wicked looking sword. I do my best to stay out of the path of that sword. He bellows "Coward!" but I don't care. I'm an apothecary, not a hero. He swings at me and misses, hitting the stone dungeon wall with enough power to force the sword from his gauntlet.

He laughs again, this time with some measure of ... mirth? "Well fought!" he booms. He extends a hand with a small vial in it. "A token of my esteem. There are few who have stood against me and lived." The liquid in the vial is a pale red. Vampire's Venom. Not what I was looking for, but it should work just as well.

2. The ground gave way beneath my feet! Pick myself up and take stock of my situation. I'm now in a small cell with a barred door of rusted iron. The lock is rusted as well and it takes just a little effort to work it open. As I'm celebrating my cleverness, a giant spider skitters down the hallway towards me. Thinking quickly, I throw the cell door wide and dodge as the spider lunges at me, luring it into the cell. Throwing the door closed and pressing my body against it to keep it closed, I present my specially prepared left arm. It's bites into the padding and I absorb another dose of Giant Spider Venom.

3. I discover a puzzle room in the dungeon. The floor is covered in lettered tiles. There is a mirror on the far wall showing the reflection of a word. Easy enough. But as I step on the first letter of the word, my foot falls through as if the floor isn't there. I mange to catch myself, but manage to hear a telltale chittering beneath the floor. It turns out that the tiles where the letters are reversed are solid, but not the other stretches of the floor. Passing my left arm through an illusionary tile, I smile when I feel the pressure of spider mandibles filling my padding with the final dose of Giant Spider Venom that I need.

4. Since I used that one Slime Shell for my cure this week, I'll need to make it up. Since I'm in Hero's Hollow, I'll try to collect some Liquid Fire, which has the same power against Infection** that Slime Shell does. I pass through a dusty crypt and step on an old, dry bone. The bone snaps and the sound fills the silence of the crypt. Ghostly voices grumble "Knock off the racket!" I freeze for several moments and proceed carefully, trying to avoid waking the dead.

5. Wandering through the tunnels and caverns, I find myself is a large, elaborate dining hall. At the head of the large table is a figure cloaked in shadow. It can only be the Dark Ruler of the Underlands. "Come!" they say. "Join me for dinner!"

The food and drink at the table were not things that I was accustomed to. Thankfully, my apothecary skill helped me identify which things are poisonous and which are not. And one of the libations is actually Liquid Fire.

We have a pleasant conversation over the unusual meal. While there's a wealth of foes and challenges in the Hollow, there's very little company. I discovered that Ira, my first patient, had moved into the Hollow with her vampire lover, just waiting for them to turn her into a full vampire. I mention that I treated another victim this week, preventing them from having another Renfield, which caused the Ruler to laugh.

As thanks for being such pleasant company, they opened a mysterious portal to a realm called The Strange. The prior apothecary left notes that some strange and wondrous Reagents might be found there.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

 Week 5

Seth's patient this week is Clara Lucas, a local seamstress who has acquired Magnetic Thumb. The Tags for the Ailment are Pain* and Blood* and there's no Timer. I actually don't need any time this week, as my explorations have provided the necessary ingredients already. While those are the same ingredients I was attempting to accumulate in order to treat Bas Bata, it will allow me to focus on my downtime and accumulating more of the Reagents that I need.

So I boil the Shock Fish to extract the electric essence and once it's cool, I mix in some slime from one of my Slime Shells. I give it to Clara to drink and within a few minutes, the thimble finally releases itself from her thumb. I earn 20 silver pieces and 1 point of Reputation for a successful cure.

For my downtime, I will head to Meltwater Loch and try to acquire more Slime Shells. I need 4 more to treat Bas Bata's Infection

1: As I'm walking along the beaches, I notice a strange set of footprints in the sand. They have four clawed toes that are widely splayed and the line of a tail dragging between them. The gait is clearly bipedal and they disappear into the sea. I wonder what sort of creature (person?) might have left them.

2: As I'm gathering a Slime Shell, I see Grobeck the dwarven fisherman. I wave to him and he waves, then rows himself towards me. He shows me his catch and I notice a Wigfish among the fish. I ask if I can have it and he explains that even though they are very rare, they're not very good to eat. I rattle off a few conditions that Wigfish can help to treat and he is happy to give it to me.

3: Scouting the beaches for Slime Shell, I find an old bottle with a note inside. It reads "Hello! My name is Maggie. I am 6 years old and I go to Lakewood School. I like peanut butter sandwiches, but without jelly. I would like you to be my pen pal. Put your letter in the bottle and put it in the water." I pause for a moment to write back. "Hello Maggie. My name is Seth. I am too old to go to school, but not too old to learn. I would like to read about where you live." I throw the bottle back in the water. Will she actually get my message?

4: A blood curdling bark echoes over the loch. The call of a cu-sith on the hunt. I scramble to a pile of rocks near the shore and hide in a recess just big enough for me. I wait for another Timer to make sure that the creature has passed before resuming my search. The good news is that my hiding spot was also the home to a Slime Shell, which I grabbed before I left.

5. I go hunting for Slime Shell in an old, barnacle covered shipwreck on the shore of the loch. In a cabin below deck, I spot a large chest of waterlogged wood next to a skeleton that's been picked clean by either sea boards or carnivorous fish. I open the chest to find a collection of wine bottles, the liquid inside turned to vinegar.

That's all the downtime I have and I managed to collect all of the Slime Shell I needed to treat Bas Bata.

Week 6

This week's patient is Vicki Hampton, an adventurer who went exploring the wrong tunnel in Hero's Hollow and came out with Phodothropy, which is kind of like lycanthropy, but for hamsters. Yes, Vicki needs my help to prevent her from turning into a were-hamster.

The Tags for Phodothropy are Curse* and Hair* and it has a Timer of 6. The Wigfish that I acquired from Grobeck can take care of the Hair Tag, but it looks like I'll have to go to Glimmerwood Grove to find some Fairy Dust (6) to remove the Curse.

1: I follow some boar tracks, hoping that it will lead me to some Fairy Dust. No luck on that front, though it does pass by a Nurse Willow, so I take the opportunity to collect some Surgeon's Sap/

2: It seems that the boar I was following was not a wild boar, but a boar trained by a truffle hunter. She starts hurling accusations of truffle poaching as soon as I'm in sight. A warning shot from her pistol passes right by my ear, temporarily deafening me. I hide in a hollow tree until the ringing in my ears fades, costing me a Timer. As I'm getting ready to resume my foraging, I spot a small shimmering on a mushroom cap. I've got my Fairy Dust.

3: Since I lost all of the Shield Cap that I collected last week, I give myself one more opportunity to collect some. I tried to avoid where I had my encounter with the pixies last time, but instead found myself wandering into Weaver's Wood, a section of the forest overrun with spiders of every size and description. I try to carefully avoid the webs, but the chittering of spider legs and mandible soon gives way to barely audible whispers. The whispers get closer, becoming voices just behind me. While most of the spiders are content to stalk me, staying just out of my senses, one approaches me. I recognize it. It's the spider that I aided a few weeks ago. It guides me through the webs and keeps me just one step ahead of its hungry brethren until I'm clear of the Weaver's Wood.

Returning home, I sprinkle the Pixie Dust on the Wigfish's wig and apply it as a poultice to the cursed hamster bite. I collect my fee of 20 silver pieces and 1 point of Reputation.

Reputation: 8

Silver: 84

Reagents: Ambergris, Gas Weed, Pixie Fur, Sea Beast Saliva, Shield Cap (x2), Slime Shell (x5), Surgeon's Sap

Familiar: Spider (Magic Eye; Glimmerwood Grove only)

Golem Helper: Make Garden Plot (Will be finished by the end of Spring)

 

I'll do Week 5s downtime next week.

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