The uproar today in the d20 portion of the industry is WotC‘s recent changes to the System Reference Document, which tells all the d20 publishers out there what they can and can’t make use of from established D&D rules. Why the concern? Well, apparently several creatures that were in the old version of the SRD are now conspicuously absent, which would seem to say non-WotC game developers can’t use them anymore. Missing in action from the revised SRD are the Beholder, Carrion Crawler, Displacer Beast, Kuo-toa, Mind Flayer, Slaad, Umber Hulk, and Yuan-ti. What will this mean for upcoming products such as Goodman GamesComplete Guide to Beholders (recently announced to distributors)? Damn good question, I’d say.


  1. Between this and “D&D 3.5”, I wonder if Hasbro has put the screw to WotC, who is in turn passing the pain down to the rest of us.

  2. Well, it’s not like Hasbro has put a gun to your head and forcing you to buy 3.5e … although the visual is nice (yeah, I have a dark sense of humor when it comes to violence and death).

    As for the monsters being left out of the SRD, either it’s an oversight or Wizards wish to retain them as Product Identity or closed content. Perhaps they might have some future use for them.

  3. Hard to say, Starhawk…

    In truth, I don’t know as there’s a difference between WotC and Hasbro anymore. Remember that big mess last year with one of WotC’s former CEOs and an outside ad firm rep allegedly embezzling money? Then another exec promptly retired, and Hasbro rushed in two corporates to fill the slots? The names and titles escape me at the moment, but they were pretty high up the decision-making tree. In any event, undoubtedly “What Hasbro says, Goes” in Renton these days.

    With D&D 3.5, I think we ALL knew that one was coming. I mean, c’mon – 13+ pages worth of errata on the heels of the *first* printing of the PHB, followed by a revised *second* printing not long thereafter? Sheesh! Over four years in development and they STILL released it prematurely. Guess it was a lot harder squeezing all those Rolemaster skills and mechanics into a D&D shell then you first thought, eh Monte? I’m sure the good folks at I.C.E. really appreciated that from a former employee. Oh, but then, through the miracle of bankruptcy court, Iron crown manages to come back from the dead. Holy Crap! Time to change the secret formula! 😉 I guess we’ll see just how *much* it gets changed this July.

    Now as for the revisions/omissions to the SRD, it could be any number of things, including good old fashioned human error… but smart money says otherwise.

    I would hazard a guess that this situation is tied either directly to the new & improved campaign setting WotC was after, or the poor state of the economy. (I haven’t seen the new version yet, but the last one seemed to omit certain critters that were directly tied to the Forgotten Realms setting). Obviously you can’t claim a certain creature is unique to your specific setting if everybody and his brother is cranking ’em along with theirs.

    But I also don’t think we can totally discount the idea that the d20/OGL was a “corporate setup”, so to speak, from the beginning. Right now, for example, despite a number of old favorites being MIA, there are still plenty of D&D-specific critters left to play with under the revised SRD. But what if they decide to revise it again six months or a year down the line? And what’s to stop them from doing just that? Absolutely nothing, that’s what.

    Let’s take the above “Complete Guide to Beholders” from Goodman Games. With the beholder completely removed from the SRD, how can they *possibly* make the book “OGL Compliant” in 30 days (as specified by the current licensing agreement)? Answer: They *can’t*. They have two options – scrap the whole project and kiss their money goodbye (they might be able to recycle the paper for a pittance), or come to some sort of arrangement (i.e., royalties) with WotC/Hasbro.

    Said corporate entity *might* give GG a break and let the book circulate, but I wouldn’t bet on it. Let’s face it; most corporations aren’t in the habit of “doing the right thing”. And that means that every d20 publisher out there may soon find themselves in GG’s shoes. Because given its overwhelming success, the d20/OGL market has become, in essence, like a bright, shiny fishing lure. And y’all know the rules of fishing, don’cha? Entice ’em in, let ’em take the bait, play out the line… then set the hook.

    Will WotC/Hasbro claim breach of contract and try to scoop up all the third-party d20 material out there that can’t be rendered “OGL compliant” in 30 days? I very much doubt it. It’s far more likely they’ll use this tactic to weed out the few remaining lesser known/poorer quality publishers completely, then resort to a lot of legal saber-rattling with the larger, more successful houses in hopes of frightening them into paying royalties.

    And perhaps this whole situation really did come about as a result of the current economy. Amidst the ever-present clamor of stockholders for more money, some hungry junior exec smelled an opportunity and pounced on the d20/OGL file in preparation for the next board meeting. Whether the end result is another corporate cash cow they can milk with both hands or the untimely death of a treasured pastime, only the next quarterly financial reports will tell.

    However, one thing is for certain: We haven’t heard the last of this fiasco… not by a long shot.

  4. Vince Calouri was the President of Wizards. He resigned since he bears responsibility for one of his employees that committed a white-collar crime of embezzling money from Wizards’ business operation.

    Heck, if I couldn’t keep track of my employees, I would have done the same, too. Let that be a lesson to you all. If you are running your own business, you better keep track of your subordinate because if they committed a crime, it would reflect badly on your as his supervisor and on the company as a whole.

  5. Amen, Grumpy! And had it been anyone other than WotC, such a crime wouldn’t have just made them look bad – it would’ve killed the company and landed ’em in the poor house. Quite the wakeup call. *Attention Wizkids!* It’s noon on a Sunday – do you know how your employees are spending their lunch hour?

  6. Yes it seems that the Wotc, afraid of the too good games that publishers as Alderac and Ffg and others are putting on the market, would take a step to obstacle them. If the new rules will damage these houses ok, go on. Is not a mistery that the good ideas of the lesser publishers have been mined badly by Wotc. Is the case of the bad product “book of challenge” is the case of the “The book of vile darkness”, not very good projecys printed well after other sourcebooks more imaginative. And what about the really good d20 products coming out of the Sword&Sorcery Studios family? No no no… someone at the Wotc has said “Here we must stop them. Let’s go with a new edition disguised by a not-so new edition with rules that hampers the lesser annoying ones!”

  7. True enough. WotC support products have pretty much *always* sucked – even BEFORE Hasbro got involved. Now, thanks to the overwhelming success of the d20/OGL market, WotC is being shown up for the piss-poor design house that they are, and Hasbro is likely taking them to task for it. Solution? Throw up a bureaucratic roadblock to impede the progress of those more talented than you and call it an “improvement”.

  8. doesn’t this remind you of the constant rules changes in Magic: the Gathering?
    D&D: “this spell is the wrong level”
    MtG: “this card is now restricted/banned”

    or the changes in multi-lands/trample rules. . . does this lead to analogies with cleric domains/spells-per-day/attacks of opportunity/etc.?

    perhaps they (WotC) still imagine a time of disposable income, where one will blindly buy the latest official expansion; if they took the time to balance things the first time, this cash cow of updates wouldn’t be “necessary”. then again, they have to recoup the cost of the first ed. hardcovers @ $19.95. . . .

  9. Yes. The official excuse has been many times “please, keep in mind that we are a publisher and that we need to make money” yeah yeah but… I would like to say to Wotc that they have to keep in mind that we are common people and that we haven’t ever so much money to expend. For me, I’ve quit to buy the Magic cards after less then two years, when I understood that in that game doesn’t win the smartest but win the one that keep wasting his money in every damn expansion set. I’m not there to buy hundreds and hundreds of beatifoully pictured cards to play a game. Sorry for the Wotc but the consumers are not stupid. This thing of the 3.5 edition stinks of T$R and they know it.

  10. Well, I wouldn’t worry about any remaining WotC employees starving to death. From what I understand, after D&D3E debuted in mid-August 2000, they sold over *500,000* copies of the *first* PHB printing before the end of the month. Then there was that “oops, we *forgot* to add these 13+ pages of errata, so we’ll have to do a revised *2nd* PHB printing” hose job. I hear tell there was supposed to be a refund/rebate situation on those, but *I* sure as hell never saw one. =P In either case, it won’t be just the consumer who pays for THIS “upgrade” – with the crap they’re pulling with this revised SRD, they’re obviously looking to screw d20 publishers as well via licensing agreements (read: percentage of all sales) for use of any of the missing creatures.

  11. Yes, is obviously clear that, bcause they cannot make good sourcebooks, they would like to earn something from the work of the others. Hey, the Scarred Lands series of the SSS and the Lore series of the FFG are selling well! Let’s make some money from those books!!

  12. After asking around a bit, I’ve been hearing that WotC is being very understanding toward companies that have already announced products involving the newly removed creatures. However, those products will require a special copyright declaration.

  13. Well, that should go a long way towards smoothing ruffled feathers. But I’m guessing the key factor here is the “have already announced products…” bit. I don’t doubt that anyone attempting to create such a product in the future will run into a solid wall, so to speak… or have a very strong argument for being granted a licensing agreement.

  14. I noticed the comment stating that Alderac products are better than Wizards, interesting since Hasbro owns Alderac & Wizards…

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