Category Archives: Other Systems

My thoughts on OGL, GSL and beyond

d20 OGL LogoWhen Wizards of the Coast decided to release the 3.0 (and the following 3.5) Edition of their popular roleplaying game D&D we saw a lot of 3rd party supplements and OGL games. Of course not every book released was of the same quality. And it was appearent that Wizards’ control over what their competitors released using the OGL or the d20 System License was limited at best. So they decided to discontinue the d20 System License with the release of the 4th edition.

The new GSL (Game System License) prohibits anyone from using the OGL at the same time, so if you want to release a book for 3.5 D&D, you can’t release anything for 4th Edition as well. There are of course a few loopholes. You can of course found a new company that handles the 4th Edition stuff while your original company sticks to 3.5 Edition or vice versa. But only a few publishers jumped onto the 4th Edition bandwagon. Paizo Publishing also decided to release an updated version of the 3.5 edition under the name “Pathfinder Roleplaying Game” that should be almost 100% compatible to every other OGL material.

One thing is clear: the OGL has brought us a lot of great games and supplements (and quite a few very bad ones), it’s much easier now for us fans (and bloggers) to write up some new class, race, rule etc. without being in a legal grey area all the time. But the 4th Edition changed all that. When a blogger now posts his homebrew 4E campaign, some rules he came up with etc., he or she is in a legal grey area all the time. Wizards has promised us a fan site policy but it hasn’t been released yet.

In my opinion the OGL was a step in the right direction, but it has not gone far enough. What the community needs is a popular game backed by a large company (or several smaller ones) that is released under Creative Commons preferably of the Attribution-Share Alike (see license here) variety. We all have witnessed how Open Source Software has enriched our daily internet lives. If you need a good browser software, office package, blogging software, etc. you can get it on the net for free and if you are technically-adapt you can even give something back by contributing to the code. 

I am sure something like this could work in the RPG business too. And I am sure it would help to bring more people to the hobby than ever before. When D&D 3.0 was still young I noticed that a lot of people started to use it just to be able to play in all that cool and new settings released by 3rd party publishers. Or they used the SRD to play it totally for free using their homebrew settings. OGL is there too stay but having a set of rules with a less limiting license would benefit us all.

Some companies have made steps in the right direction, FUDGE and FATE used the OGL, Savage Worlds has a pretty nice Fan Works Policy and in the last years a few people have decided to release their games under the CC. But those are mostly games written by fans and they are not as popular as D&D, Savage Worlds and some others. And in my opinion having a almost totally free system for all of us to play with would be a great boon. I am still hoping for an Open D6 System (the one WEG hinted at) released under CC…

What are your thoughts on the subject? Would you be interested in a truely free game system? Or are you happy with the several OGL games and fan site policies?

Dungeoncraft: New Races for Asecia

The last time I wrote about Asecia I planned to use the FATE rules and I decided against non-human races. But in the end things always turn out differently than planned. My current draft of the Asecia Campaign Setting uses the Savage Worlds rules and I have created two original races: the Tolkyn and the Skarians.

The Tolkyn
The Tolkyn are a race of humanoids that are probably closely related to humankind. The average Tolkyn is a couple inches taller than the average human, has an athletic build, a long slender neck, broad shoulders and muscular arms that are sleightly longer than human arms. All Tolkyn have a dark blue almost black skin and feline eyes. Tolkyn have large pointed ears and usually long hair that ranges from white to dark blue.
When humanity first encountered the Tolkyn had already settled most of southern Asecia. Tolkyn cities could be found from the grasslands south of Cerynia to the Ciazah Desert. Because of the human advances on Tolkyn settlements it came to war. After many battles the Tolkyn retreated to the desert regions. 
In moden Asecia the Tolkyn are the main exporter of meteoric iron and all kinds of products crafted from that rare ore. Most of the Tolkyn live in the Ciazah Confederacy that consists of the five major Tolkyn city states Maranis, Alaraby, Nevehnu, Ciarish and Urechar.

Tolkyn

  • Strong: Tolkyn characters start with a d6 in Strength
  • Low-light vision: The Tolkyn’s feline eyes allow the Tolkyn to see in the dark. A Tolkyn character ignores attack penalties for Dim or Dark lighting.
  • Outsider: Tolkyn are outsiders in a human dominated society. They get -2 on Charisma when dealing with humans.

The Skarians
The Skarians are a race of small (an adult skarian is approx. 1 meter tall) humanoids. They have a greenish-gray skin, large heads with a mouth full of razorsharp teeth and big eyes. Skarians do not have hair. Skarians are strict carnivores and tribal Skarians even eat the flesh of their defeated enemies. Like Tolkyn they have rather large and pointed ears but a close relation between the two species is not confirmed by modern scholars. Skarians are very cunning and have a knack for mechanical things.

When the human settlers arrived in Asecia they soon stumbled upon Skarian tribes. What followed can only be described as a massacre. Several hundred thousand Skarians were wiped out, the rest fled to the deep woods of northern Asecia. A few tribal Skarians still live in those woods until today. They survive by ambushing caravans and small settlements.
Much to the surprise of the human settlers the tribal Skarians were only a subspecies. In the mountains to the east they encountered the Mytagiir Empire, a nation of civilized Skarians that were excellent miners and blacksmiths. The Mytagiir Empire still exists today and it’s a close ally of Cerynia since Imperial times.

Tribal Skarian

  • Bite: Str+d4
  • Small: Members of the skarian race are very short. Substract 1 from you character’s Toughness.
  • Berserk: Tribal Skarians have the ability to go berserk during combat. See the SW rulebook for details.
  • Low-light vision: The big eyes allow the Skarians to see in the dark. A Skarian character ignores attack penalties for Dim or Dark lighting.
  • Outsider: Skarian are outsiders in a human dominated society. They get -2 on Charisma when dealing with humans.

Mytagiir Skarian

  • Bite: Str+d4
  • Small: Members of the skarian race are very short. Substract 1 from you character’s Toughness.
  • Mechanical Apitude: Civilized Skarians start with d6 in Repair and Lockpick.
  • Low-light vision: The big eyes allow the Skarians to see in the dark. A Skarian character ignores attack penalties for Dim or Dark lighting.
  • Outsider: Skarian are outsiders in a human dominated society. They get -2 on Charisma when dealing with humans.

This is my first try at creating custom races for Savage Worlds, so there might be some balance problems. If you have any ideas on how to improve the Tolkyn and Skarians, please let me know.

UPDATE: I added Low-Light Vision and Outsider to the Skarians.

Freebie: HARP Lite

HARPA friend of mine is an avid fan of ICE’s classic roleplaying game Rolemaster. I still have some very fond memories of our Rolemaster campaigns set into his homebrew world Ebur. When ICE announced HARP he preordered it and when it finally came out we tried it out as soon as possible. And it felt much like Rolemaster but more modern, more streamlined.

Rolemaster (especially in its later editions) can be mindboggling. If you like math-heavy and crunchy systems with a lot of tables (including very cool critical hit tables) Rolemaster is the perfect game system for you. But everyone else should have a look at HARP.

In my opinion HARP is Rolemaster done right. It still has the old-school feel of Rolemaster but is much less crunchy. And the best thing is that there’s actually a free preview version of HARP available. The 89-page PDF includes everything you need to play, including rules for character creation, combat and even a set of monsters. 

By the way, my fellow blogger Zachary posted about HARP today, too, so check out his blog while you’re at it.