Tuesday, January 10, 2012

"We both gain a lot of ground if we meet in the middle"

So Jeff has put forward what I think is the best response to Wizards of the Coast's announcement that they are working on Type V.

Here's how I think we can help: We all link to Jeff's response from blog posts of our own declaring what we're willing to do to meet WotC half-way so we can have the PDFs of older editions. Link to his post with links that say "Fifth Edition" so that his post will rise to the front page when people google "Fifth Edition." That way people, hopefully people that make decisions in WotC, will see it. Here's my message to WotC:

I got into roleplaying only a few years ago. I played in a 3.5 campaign, but started getting interested in older editions right around the time that WotC pulled the PDFs of 0e. In the years since, I haven't obtained an electronic copy of 0e, because that would be illegal and, even though I don't like intellectual property law, I respect that that's the way intellectual property works here in the US. I would really like to own my own, legal copy of 0e, even if it's only a PDF.

I've been following the Legends and Lore column for a few months now and I've been encouraged by what I see. It's been great to read references to the game I like to play that are respectful and understanding; at the same time, I realize that you've got people who like to play Basic, 1e, 2e, 3e (surely), 3.5e and 4e that all feel just as strongly, or morso, than I do about their preferred flavor of D&D, so I don't expect 5e to look exactly like- or, if I'm understanding what you plan to do correctly, be able to be made exactly like- 0e. If you did that, well, you could just re-publish 0e, but you'd lose all the players of the various AD&Ds. As a member of the OSR, I also know that I can homebrew the finished 5e just as much as I need to to make it fit me; please don't take this to mean that I don't appreciate you making 5e flexible, however! I just think that you'll find that fans like me can be more forgiving when you write, for example, a Magic Missile spell that isn't to our liking. After you've published the final 5e, if there's something I don't like, I won't write in and complain until you change it; I'll happily fix it myself, and I think you'll find that attitude among many of the followers of the Old Ways. If I've been reading your columns right, you've got that basic attitude yourselves.

But that brings me to what I'm willing to do to meet you in the middle on this issue of 5e and the older edition PDFs. As of this posting, I've already signed up to playtest 5e as my good faith gesture. I don't know exactly when you'll need me to start playtesting, but I'll be ready to when you need me. I also promise not to do any homebrewing that you don't want me to; I understand that that's important to the process of playtesting.

If you, WotC, will make the PDFs available for purchase at a reasonable price, I'll buy them. I'll also be sure to see my playtesting all the way through until either the end of playtesting or my players revolt, hopefully the former. If you make the PDFs available for purchase at a reasonable price, I'll see my playtesting through as far as is up to me, even if I can't stand it. I'll put in a good faith effort to improve your game in exchange for the improvement having a legal copy of 0e will make in mine. As part of my playtesting, I'll regularly blog, as much as I'm allowed to, about my experiences; 5e will have at least one good faith, supportive voice in the OSR at least until it's finally published, if not longer.

What's more, if WotC makes the PDFs available for free download, I will buy at least $100 of 5e merchandise- core books, supplements, whatever I find helpful, but at least $100 worth. So far as I'm concerned, you'll turn me into a customer if you make the PDFs free. I'll also give Type V an honest shot at becoming my edition of choice; if it's built for homebrewing the way it sounds like it's meant to be, it'll have a pretty good chance of making it too.

So this is me, and hopefully the rest of the OSR, reaching out our hands and trying to meet you in the middle. With the flexibility you've talked about and your "Sign Up!" sign on your website, we think we see some signs that you're willing to meet us half-way too. This is me asking you to win us back as your fans; I think you'll find that we'll be forgiving of small stuff if you treat us right in the big ways that really matter.

-Christopher "Staples" O'Dell
author of the Grognardling blog


  1. Very well said sir! I am too grumpy (and busy) to offer my services to WotC as a 5e Beta Playtester myself, but I love what you're doing here!

  2. Interestingly, a google of dungeons and dragons fifth edition right now results in 3 (!) OSR blogs in the first page of hits (Tim Brannan, Ramblings of a Great Khan, and Akratic Wizardry). That may change by the time anyone reads this comment, but it is still notable.

  3. I don't subscribe to 'One Game[Edition] To Rule Them All' myself. I see BRP, T&T, D&D, GURPS, Stars Without Number, even Burning Wheel*shudder* and many other rules proliferating and I see it as A Good Thing(I don't believe in the 'Tyranny of Freedom'). I don't think the Brand defines the Identity, if you will...

    WOTC has no use for me, as I haven't directly bought anything with their name on it, EVER.(Though I own Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, I got it through a second-hand bookstore. It's my only WOTC product, and probably will be for a long time, but who knows....) I'm Retro 4 Life with my T&T 5.5, B/X D&D/Labyrinth Lord and Big Gold Basic Roleplaying Bible.

    My stance is irrelevant to them, however: WizBro should be reaching out to people like you, who are enthused/cautiously optimistic about the new Edition. They especially should pay attention to your(and many other's) suggestions about re-releasing PDFs of past Editions.(Your moral stance on them is admirable for the conviction, but I'd say just download old edition stuff 'cuz WOTC will not ever re-release it, they already got the cash aeons ago, and if I'm wrong, you can just buy the official products later!) I'd add a Print On Demand option as well, if it were up to me.

    Interesting thoughts!

  4. I have no use for 5e and WizBro can teach its grandmother to suck eggs. They and their PR company, Porter-Novelli, completely shat in my face before 4e was released, and then they did the same to the rest of the fans by making the game completely incompatible with previous editions, trying to force the poison pill rule of the GSL, the utter half-assed failure of DDI, and of course pulling all the PDFs.

    I'm quite happy playing Pathfinder, thank you very much, and since WizBro told me they didn't want me and tried to get the attention of the MMO crowd instead, I hope 5e is as much of a dismal failure as 4e.

  5. Wow. I was just going to say that this was a well thought out post and that I agreed with you on pretty much every point, but I am shocked that my blog is in the top 5 google results for anything other than a google search very narrowly defined as looking for it. So that's pretty sweet.