Wizards, finally, put up their FAQ covering some of the questions raised at http://www.Enworld.org and on their own forums. Here’s the gist of it and my understanding of what these points mean:
Q. Will there be a fee to participate? Do we still have to pay $5,000?
A. The Game System Licenses are royalty-free licenses and there is no developer’s kit fee associated with them.
This was the early-on idea of getting people to pay for the ability to access the GSL and to produce material before it becomes generally available to do so, which, IIRC, is in October. Due to all the delays with the license and various PR fubars this whole idea has been dropped, which puts all the publishers back on an even keel – which is good – but also means that as soon as it becomes possible to publish 4th Edition stuff we’re likely to see a massive flood of it.
Q. Can anyone participate?
As before with the d20 STL you had to fill out a card so they knew who you were, where you were and so on so they could collar you if you were breaking the bounds of that agreement or being a bit naughty. This is so the necessary cure period can be guaranteed so that everything remains cushty and above board. Personally I found some of the clauses of the d20 STL a bit restricting, much preferring the OGL – as did many others – so I’m likely to chafe under the restrictions of the GSL, but we’ll see.
Q. When can we start publishing GSL products?
A. The effective start date for sales of D&D 4E GSL publications is set for October 1, 2008. The timing for the d20 GSL has not yet been determined.
Which is a shame as that paralyses my ability to update my d20 Modern compatible lines as there’s no point doing more Freakshow material – for example – until I know what the state of play with the new modern rules-set and GSL is. Which puts me back in the ‘wait and see’ for now. Still, October is far enough in the future for many people to get some 4th Edition products out ready for the Christmas seasonal rush, I do think the market will be flooded though, especially the PDF market which will allow for ‘rushed’ projects which can be – later – patched or updated without having the expense of going to print.
Q. Is the new license finished yet? Can you provide a firm timeline?
A. The D&D 4e GSL will be released when we launch Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition on June 6, 2008.
So books and license together, which makes things easier on everyone and without an SRD as such, guarantees Wizards a few extra sales as companies buy them up for reference!
Q. What are the specific details of the license?
A. The specific details will be available to the public upon the release of the licenses.
While this new information is welcome and has caused many sighs of relief from the third party companies it does seem odd that the full terms of the GSL can’t be released yet, unless it isn’t fully finalised yet. Anyway, this means it’s still not really possible to make any concrete plans as of yet, but there’s a tolerably short amount of time to wait.
Q. How will the GSL interact with the OGL?
A. The two GSLs are new licenses, separate from the OGL. They are designed for companies that wish to publish 4th edition compatible products.
I think what happened with the kerfuffle on ENworld and across the net was that people on all sides, including Wizards, got the OGL and the d20 STL mixed up. The GSL license with its terms and conditions supersedes and replaces the d20 STL and not the OGL. The OGL is untouchable while the d20 STL always allowed for revision and replacement. This is what lead to the panicking about ‘poison pill’ clauses trying to kill off the OGL, something which was always legally questionable, especially in Europe. They’re now separate entities covering entirely different rules sets that just happen to share common memes.
Q. Can companies still produce 3.x products under the OGL?
A. Yes, but we anticipate that interest in the 4e GSLs will be greater.
In my opinion we’re going to see a split. If Wizard’s marketing etc is successful then you’ll see a younger crowd of more CRPG influenced people buying into 4th Edition while the more RP oriented will stick with 3rd Edition or migrate to other RPG systems. Personally speaking my products for 3rd Edition have never done particularly well, my Mongoose RunQuest stuff has tended to do better, but I intend to convert old products and support 4th Edition to test the waters.
Q. Can publishers release new products under both the OGL and 4E GSL?
A. No. Each new product will be either OGL or 4E GSL. If a new product is published under the 4e GSL, it cannot also be published as 3.x product under the OGL; and vice versa.
I think what is meant here is that if I have an old product under the OGL (3rd edition rules set) that can continue to be sold as a long-life OGL product – d20 products will have to be converted to OGL products to continue being sold – but any NEW projects will have to pick and choose one or t’other, not both. EG: If I create a 4th Edition version of Feast of Crows I can continue to sell the OGL 3rd Edition version, no problem, if the old version had been released under the d20 STL I would have to convert it to the OGL strictures to keep selling it. Meanwhile, if I come up with a new addition to Feast of Crows, say Feast of Gulls for naval combat, I would have to choose whether to release it under 3rd Edition OGL OR the 4th Edition GSL, not both. This is annoying, but fair enough really.
Q. I have multiple product lines. If I update one product line to 4th Edition, do they all have to be updated?
A. No. Publishers are able to choose on a product line by product line basis which license will work best.
As best as I can tell this is still referring to d20 STL products, not OGL products. Either way, each product line is its own ‘thing’ so far as the GSL is concerned.
Q. Will there be a different license for other lines, such as d20 Modern?
A. The d20 GSL will allow for other genres of roleplaying games.
Well this is the next waiting game I suppose, to see what they do with the d20 Modern rules set for 4th Edition and whether it’ll be suitable to produce for. 4th Edition is quite abstracted and metagamey so if the modern rules set follows that tack it may be very hard to mangle it into shape for something more grim and gritty, especially with the 1st level superheroes and hit point bloat of D&D 4th Edition.
Q. Why are there two different licenses?
A. The D&D 4e GSL is specific to the Dungeons & Dragons brand. The d20 GSL allows for non-fantasy genres. Both licenses tie to the 4th edition rule set.
Oh dear, I can see a great deal of argument over the semantics of what constitutes ‘fantasy’ coming in the future. This really is rather woolly language to be playing around with.
Q. Do I have to give up my right to publish 3.5 OGL products in order to publish 4e compatible products?
A. No. Publishers are free to print product lines under either the OGL or 4E GSL. We would love to see our industry colleagues convert their entire product offerings to 4E, as we are doing, but we do not expect or require entire companies to convert to the new edition.
This is directed to allay fears about the poison pill clause that was perceived to exist from the earlier press releases and that caused ‘the fear’ in so many people. In other words, if you produce 4th Edition stuff you can still produce things for other lines.
Q. Can publishers update their previous publications from older editions to the D&D 4th Edition rules?
A. Yes. Publishers participating in the Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition GSL will be allowed, and encouraged, to convert their publications from earlier editions to the 4th Edition rules.
This was already answered above, so I’m not really sure why they felt the need to say it again.
For my part, from reading this, I’m satisfied that there shouldn’t be too many problems. The one grey area I’m still concerned about is multi-system books, my Freakshow line – for example – produces material with stats for Blood!, MRQ and d20 Modern. The MRQ uses the OGL, d20 Modern will be under the GSL… I think that, provided the open material is clearly marked, it should be OK to do both, we’ll see.
I’m now happy enough, moving forward, to declare that Postmortem Studios will be supporting 4th Edition with a new line, converting old products and producing new ones under the ‘Sally Fourth’ imprint.