[MUD-Dev] d20

Travis Casey efindel at earthlink.net
Wed Aug 15 22:17:22 New Zealand Standard Time 2001

On Wednesday 15 August 2001 07:52 am, Michael Tresca wrote:
> Travis Casey posted on Tuesday, August 14, 2001 10:56 AM

>> Of course, you'll note that, to date, only one major game company
>> besides WotC has produced a d20 RPG -- thus, there's very little
>> evidence to support the idea that a d20 logo would double sales
>> of an RPG.

> Hmm, I assume you're talking about White Wolf. I imagine Alderac
> Entertainment Group and Pinnacle Entertainment Group disagree. >:)

Actually, I was thinking of Chaosium, but I was wrong -- in fact,
*no* other companies have released a d20 RPG at this point.  Note
that I'm saying RPG, not supplement -- plenty of people have
released D&D supplements using the d20 STL, but no major company has
released an actual *game*.

>> It could be that the d20 logo will help things sell, but there's
>> no proof of that yet.

> All the D20 logo is providing, for good or bad, is a common gaming
> platform.  It's taking it one step further than say, creating a
> Rifts computer game -- product identity in this case would be
> Rifts the RPG and thus carrying over to an electronic version.
> Instead, it's more generic.  This is a new concept to the
> role-playing community -- even GURPs wasn't as pervasive and
> immediately recognizable.

I beg to differ.  As I mention above, the only actual *games* that
use d20 and are widely known are WotC's D&D3 and Star Wars.

Does anyone care about the "d20 System"?  We simply don't know yet.
The "d20 System" materials that people are buying are D&D materials.
We know D&D is popular and well-known, so the fact that D&D
supplements can sell is no surprise.  Would the "d20 System" logo
help anyone producing a *different* game, though?

Lastly on this point, it's not a new concept.  The new state of
affairs is basically the same state that used to prevail in the late
70's through mid-80's, before TSR came under new management and
started trying to sue people who were producing compatible
materials.  The original Arduin books, the Bard Games "Compleat"
series, Thieves' Guild, Mayfair's Role Aids series, and others were
all D&D-compatible products, which sold mainly because they were
D&D-compatible.  The only reason their makers stopped producing them
was because TSR started suing companies that were doing so.

(And, I'll add, they never won a case in court -- the other
companies had nothing approaching the resources TSR had, and could
not afford to defend themselves against the lawsuits, so they

> WOTC used its marketing power to disseminate the core rulebooks,
> and since the D20 system is based off of those books, the barrier
> to entry for any game based on that same system is reduced.  No
> RPG has had that level of distribution and visibility before.

AD&D has.

> This means that players know how to play your game before they
> even play it.

And you can do that regardless of the OGL and d20 STL.  The D&D
mechanics are not protected -- game mechanics are not covered by
copyright, and D&D is not patented.

[snip a bit]

> I haven't seen any numbers yet, but I heard that one-third of RPG
> sales were third-party D20 products at Gen Con.  If that's any
> indication, then slapping the D20 logo on your game may still have
> merit.

Since D&D is the only d20 game that people can currently make
3rd-party products for (they can't make Star Wars supplements, since
Lucasfilm hasn't licensed their various trademarks), all that proves
is that people want D&D supplements.  And, as I said above, we
already knew that -- 3rd-party D&D supplements also sold very well
before TSR scared people into no longer making them.

If you're planning on basically making a D&D mud, then, the d20 STL
might do you some good -- but then again, it might not.  Part of the
reason that d20 licensed games have been so successful is that WotC
has decided to release very few supplements for D&D3 themselves,
leaving the field open for the d20 licensees.  As you mention above,
there are already plenty of D&D-alike fantasy computer games on the
market -- thus, the vacuum that WotC created for paper D&D
supplements, they cannot create for computer ones.

There's another factor to consider as well.  The d20 System licensed
products that have been created so far, and have sold so well,
aren't games -- they're supplements and adventures for an existing
game.  Many people buy them not to use "as-is", but to take what
they like from them and integrate that into their own campaigns,
creating worlds that use elements from many different products --
all compatible, because they're all for D&D.  Unless major changes
are made to the way that computer RPGs are made, though, this won't
be possible to do with them -- chances are that you won't be able to
take your favorite monsters out of game X and put them into game Y,
even if they're both "d20 System" games, since the underlying system
doesn't ensure compatibility between file formats, and definitely
doesn't ensure the ability to take only certain things from file

Indeed, thinking about it, it seems to me that WotC has probably
thought about this too, and was careful to define an "interactive
game" in the d20 STL the way they did for just that reason.  While
the d20 STL prohibits you from creating a computer game and using
the d20 trademarks with it, it does *not* prevent you from creating
adventures, monster packs, tile sets, etc. for a d20 computer game
(i.e., NWN) and using the d20 trademarks with *those*.

Thus, it seems that WotC may be trying to set up for the same
situation they've tried to create with paper D&D -- that no one can
create a competing game and advertise it as a "d20 System" game
without their permission, but they *can* create supplements for NWN.

       |\      _,,,---,,_     Travis S. Casey  <efindel at earthlink.net>
 ZZzz  /,`.-'`'    -.  ;-;;,_   No one agrees with me.  Not even me.
      |,4-  ) )-,_..;\ (  `'-' 
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