Firstly there was the return of the SRD, in 5th Edition form.
Secondly there was something new. Something that is going to allow people to not just publish OGL content, but to publish content that uses the Dungeons & Dragons branding and even the Forgotten Realms campaign setting.
After seeing both stories and writing about Dungeon Masters Guild opening up Forgotten Realms over at the Forgotten Realms forum at The Piazza, I’ve been talking to a number of fans.
And it seems like there is a bit of confusion between the two stories.
If you just want an answer to the question, then, no. Wizards of the Coast did not just make Spelljammer into open content. But if you want to find out what the Systems Reference Document (SRD) announcement and the Dungeon Masters Guild announcement mean for Forgotten Realms – right now – and what they potentially might mean for open Spelljammer publishing at some point in the near future, read on.
What is the difference between the SRD, OGL and this new Dungeon Masters Guild?
The first thing that you need to understand, if you want to publish your own 5th Edition content, is that you are looking at two different publishing options. The first is the SRD/OGL route, and the other is the Dungeon Masters Guild route. They are two different options and you can not mix and match between the two.
Here is a copy of a handy table you can see on the Systems Reference Document (SRD) announcement:
The area of overlap is the ability to design your own content using the fifth edition rules for Dungeons & Dragons.
The OGL goes onto allow you to publish your own campaign worlds and to make your own arrangements for publishing your content (either free or commercially).
The Dungeon Masters Guild allows you to do more things than the OGL does, but it also ties you down more. The extra things you get are the ability to use the Forgotten Realms world, the ability to sell your content in the Dungeon Masters Guild store, have it get rated by D&D players and have Wizards of the Coast potentially market your content and perhaps even buy it from you outright.
The trade off for using the DMs Guild is that you are not operating under the Open Game Licence and you can only sell via that route.
What’s the difference between the new OGL and the original OGL?
I think someone was confusing the OGL and the SRD when they asked this. But they asked how much the OGL has changed. The answer is that it has not. Wizards of the Coast have published the new SRD under the original SRD.
That means that, in theory, someone could use Open Game Content written for the original (3.0) SRD, the 3.5 SRD, the Pathfinder Reference Document in the same document as Open Game Content written for the 5e SRD.
(But you can not use Open Game Content written for the 4e SRD, as that version of the SRD was released under a different licence, called the Game System Licence or GSL.)
What’s the difference between the OGL and the SRD?
The OGL is a licence – the Open Gaming Licence. It isn’t the content. It is just the legal paperwork that allows people to use anything that Wizards of the Coast…or anyone else…releases under that licence.
The SRD is a document – the Systems Reference Document containing roleplaying rules. (Back in the 3rd Edition Era SRD stood for System Reference Document, without an “s” on the end of the first word.)
Some third party publishers used the term “OGL” back during the 3rd Edition Era, as if it means “3rd Edtion D&D Compatible” but although the licence was created to allow people to share content compatible with 3e D&D, it was never restricted to the SRD created to be compatible with 3e D&D.
And now Wizards of the Coast have switched back from using the GSL to using to OGL, there is going to be products using the OGL that are designed to be compatible with 5th Edition D&D. So the term “OGL” is going to be even less meaningful.
What might Dungeon Masters Guild do for Spelljammer?
Dungeon Masters Guild does not allow people to publish anything other than Forgotten Realms content, but will it do more in the future?
There is an option to select DMs Guild content by campaign setting. Right now, the only option is “Forgotten Realms”, but if they have added that as an option, then they are allowing for other campaign settings to get added later.
There is also an option to select DMs Guild content by edition. Again, there is only one option: “5th Edition”. Again that implies that they have decided to make it possible to add in support for earlier editions of D&D.
So it is possible that they will add other campaign settings, including Spellammer. And it is possible that they will add other rules, including 2nd Edition AD&D. And it is possible that they might even add both things one day.
So if you like the idea of playing 5th Edition Spelljammer games, you might be able to buy content from Dungeon Masters Guild, at some point in the future. And if Wizards of the Coast bring back Spelljammer, as a campaign setting they publish books for, they might buy the best fan created content and fold that into the canon of the campaign setting.
And if you don’t want to play 5th Edition, you might still be able to buy some content from Dungeon Masters Guild, that can fit into your Spelljammer campaign, at some point.
What might the new SRD do for Spelljammer?
The new Systems Reference Document is never going to allow people to write Spelljammer material, but it will allow third party publishers to produce campaign settings that are compatible with 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons.
Nocturnal Media have already announced that they will be brining back the 3rd Edition campaign setting, Scarred Lands, as a 5th Edition campaign setting (as well as a Pathfinder one). Other D&D compatible worlds are sure to follow.
Perhaps one day, fans of both Scarrred Lands and Spelljammer will work on a “Scarnspace” crossover and there might be a Scarnspace page on the Spelljammer: Beyond the Moons website one day.
What is happening next?
Keep watching the skies, because there could be something interesting coming out of the void. And share your thoughts, with other Spelljammer fans, over at the Would you support DM Guild products for Spelljammer? topic at The Piazza.