Fourth edition might not be out until the summer, but according to a news post by WotC you can already buy a pre-release copy. However, there’s a catch: it costs $5,000, and it’s only open to developers.
Here’s the jist: Wizards of the Coast are to release the 4th edition SRD under a new Open Gaming License in June 2009, one year from now. If you want to publish 4e material before then, there’s a hefty license fee.
This actually makes a lot of sense, and for the most part I think it’s largely a good thing. Third edition’s third party material was characterized by a flood of products which were often mediocre and poorly balanced, and worse yet for Wizards of the cost, competed directly with their own releases. It was bad news for Wizards, and I was very surprised in August when it was announced that the OGL was to be continued, having expected myself that Wizards would instead sell licenses to the major publishers only. As it turns out, both were correct!
Ultimately, this announcement has the biggest effect on small third-party publishers, including the PDF market and Kobold Quarterly. Except for the more established companies (Wizards, Mongoose et al) and online Dragon submissions, small freelancers are limited to 3.5e material for the forthcoming year. The writing community is thus in the interesting situation of writing 3e stuff or nothing at all, even for several months after the launch of 4e. It’ll be interesting to see how this turns out.
Still, at least this allows larger third-party publishers to have material ready for release right after 4E launches. Anyone who can’t afford the $5,000 pre-launch license can still get their copy of the OGL and SRD after it launches and won’t be any further behind for future OGL releases. It’s just this one-time head start for the strongest d20 publishers.
I know we’d all love for everyone from Kobold Quarterly to that guy who wrote a cool feat for my elven bladesinger to my very own self to be able to line up for an advance copy of the rules, but they can’t just give the stuff away, can they?
Also, you may be more adept at reading the legal terms of licensing and all that than I am, but I seem to read WotC’s announcement (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/4news/20080108a) a little differently. You say that “Wizards of the Coast are to release the 4th edition SRD under a new Open Gaming License in June 2009, one year from now. If you want to publish 4e material before then, there’s a hefty license fee.” From what I read, the 4th Edition SRD goes live when the core books release, in June 2008. The OGL allows publishers to start printing their own books on the first day of 2009, or, if you publish under the pre-license Designer’s Kit, you can get the rules immediately, write your books now, and publish on the first of August, 2008. If you sign the NDO, you can even look at the stuff before you decide to buy the license.
Think of all the ideas that are shooting around the meeting rooms of third-party publishers at this very moment.
Correction. You sign an Non-Disclosure Agreement: NDA. I don’t know what I thought an “NDO” was.
I’m still not convinced shutting out so many 3rd party producers was the brightest idea. 4.0 has an uphill battle ahead of it. Too many players feel burned after the 3.5 release. The marketing has been less than convincing. When 3.0 was released, it was surrounded by a flood of product that was either written specifically for it, or was fairly compatible with it, thanks to the OGL. 4.0 will be trained by a trickle of product, while facing all the stuff being written for OGL products. While a lot of stuff that came out around 3.0 was garbage, it still made an impression when you saw the tables loaded down with new books at the FLGS.
It will be very interesting to see how things turn out.
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