So the big news of the week is that Wizards of the Coast have released a D&D 5e OGL, and have opened up the Dungeon Master's Guild, a vehicle for fans of D&D 5e to self-publish material with some official backing, but which has caused a lot of controversy. Especially, it has been controversial to the OSR, some of whom are highly critical of what they feel is like an attempt by WoTC to do a takeover of the independence and creativity of the OSR. Others are also suggesting it is potential exploitation of creative independents by WoTC.
So here's what is clear about the DM's Guild:
-to publish under it, you will have to write material for 5e D&D. It will have to be set in the Forgotten Realms. So this means that there won't be very much room for creativity in system, and almost none in setting. You'll be able to make new items or spells, but you can't publish your own setting as a 5e product, or make a highly-altered set of rules; nor can you make an 'OSR' D&D and publish it under this banner.
-Publishing under the DM's Guild will mean that OBS and WoTC will take FIFTY PERCENT of your profits. This is considerably more than the 30-35% you normally pay for selling your book on OBS.
-It appears that what you write under the DM's Guild will become open content, which means that other writers, or indeed WoTC itself, will be able to take it and use it without paying you anything further for it. In essence, it is idea mining for Wizards.
-It also appears that WoTC could take down your product if there's any reason they don't want it up. If there's controversial content, or if there's just content not fitting their agenda, it's out. Not really surprising for a big corporation, but its worth noting that this is not going to be the "avant garde", it's going to be bowdlerized stuff.
But is all this a threat to the OSR?
I don't think it is. Unless Wizards tries to pull some kind of ridiculous legal maneuver and this whole DM's Guild is cover or justification for that. But this is conspiracy-theorism, and the much more logical situation is that this is what it looks like: an attempt to a) Idea-Mine without having to pay creatives and b) Make a fast buck off other people's work by granting them the theoretical 'privilege' of using their mechanics, using their world, and using their logo/page.
Nor do I think that this will in any way replace the OSR.
But on the contrary, what MIGHT happen is that some content creators from the DM's Guild, that end up getting a little attention for having made something good or interesting, doing well for themselves in the strictly controlled environment of the DM's Guild could end up later moving to the OSR! People who didn't dare publish for themselves before, or who were overlooked, might be able to use the default 'publicity' of the DM's Guild to draw some regard. And they might, once they've made a rep for themselves, switch to independent publishing, doing stuff under the OSR aegis, where they get to keep more of their own money and get more legitimacy as designers.
In other words, Wizards aren't the only ones who could end up using the GM's Guild. WoTC might be doing free idea mining for us, over here in the OSR, finding creatives that we can later subvert and embrace.
The OSR might really be the ones getting something for nothing out of all this.
Currently Smoking: Ben Wade Canadian + Image Latakia