Thursday, June 05, 2014
The original OGL was intended to encourage DMs to publish their adventures. At the time, the conventional wisdom was that adventures were necessary to support an RPG, but in general cost more to make than they brought in. As with “box sets killed TSR” it was part of the conventional wisdom that turned out to be untrue as Paizo and James Edward Raggi IV proved, both building empires on a foundation of adventures.
Granted, the OGL and d20 license didn't work as planned. Instead, they resulted in a rash of splatbooks. If WotC is lucky, they'll get that again with 5e.
It's pretty obvious that WotC is following Paizo's lead with their linked adventure “storylines” like Tyranny of Dragons. They want to continuously publish entire campaigns worth of adventures, teased and supported by their weekly play Encounters program. And they want to keep the barriers to entry into the game low, hence the free-to-download Basic D&D PDF.
And because of that, they need to avoid 4e's new-hardback-every-month policy like the plague. It didn't take long for that to result in needing software to actually generate a character. Keep that sort of nonsense up, and D&D will lose its status as gateway product into the hobby.
(In comparison, notice how Paizo, in the 6 years they've been doing the Pathfinder thing, have only released two additional books of character classes. Frankly, even that may be a bit fast; it'll be interesting to see how far they can ride this train. Conventional wisdom says that they'll need a reboot via a new edition in the next two years, but Paizo's made their money by bucking the conventional wisdom.)
Letting third party publishers generate extra character classes and feats and all of that would allow WotC to keep the core of the game simple and approachable, but still have the variety people will start to desire once the new has worn off.
That said, I do agree with Mythmere that sooner is probably better than later. After all, part of the appeal of 5e is that it's back to being the sort of game we all know and love. So some of us are going to want some sexy newness or oddness right out of the gate.
Which is why I disagree with Matt Finch. The whole purpose of “open sourcing” is to invite variety and adaptability. If the goal is to get as many people as possible playing D&D, then they want a 5e version of Carcosa and they want Zak's nephilidian vampires and Aos' sci-fantasy Metal Earth and Jeff's rule-of-cool Saturday-morning-cartoon fueled insanities.
More importantly, it would allow for a plethora of splat books with variant character classes, spells and magic systems, skills, and whatnot. Again, WotC gets the best of both worlds: the 3rd party splatbooks give D&D the variety experienced players crave, but since they are 3rd party, the game doesn't get buried under a mountain of official material that makes it increasingly harder for new players to join in on the fun.