It's been a very hectic last month, with leaked documents indicating Wizards of the Coast's intent to "deauthorize" the Open Game License, massive public outcry, and then their surprise release of the D&D 5e SRD under an ultra-permissive Creative Commons licence.
The aftermath of these events is still playing out, but like many other publishers, we were forced to reassess our plans and priorities. We considered a lot of contingency plans for a lot of different possible scenarios. In the end, many of the contingency plans proved unnecessary. But one very important one has stuck.
We’ve decided to publish Dolmenwood as a standalone game, rather than as a supplement requiring a separate core rules book (e.g. the Old-School Essentials rules).
Dolmenwood as a Standalone Game
First up, let’s look at what it means for Dolmenwood to be published as a standalone game:
- The Dolmenwood Player’s Book will be expanded by about 80 pages (to around 200 pages total), and will include the core game rules, all character classes, and complete spell and equipment lists.
- The Dolmenwood Campaign Book will be expanded by about 40 pages (to around 450 pages total), and will include full referee guidance and a chapter of all-new Dolmenwood magic items.
- The Dolmenwood Monster Book will be expanded by about 50 pages (to around 150 pages total), and will include around 60 additional monsters.
While the concept of publishing Dolmenwood as a standalone game first emerged during the “sky is falling in” OGL panic, there are some really major benefits to the idea that made us stick with it.
Flavour: The most exciting benefit for fans of Dolmenwood is that this gives us the freedom to make Dolmenwood more Dolmenwood. Many of the spells, magic items, monsters, and so on will be tailored to the unique flavour of the setting, rather than simply reproducing already familiar material. Also, during the development of Dolmenwood, quite a few ideas were dropped or side-lined because they didn’t fit well with the OSE core rules. Some of these ideas are now being brought back. A good example is the distinction between magic weapons of arcane, fairy, or holy origin, which doesn’t exist in OSE but which plays an important role in Dolmenwood.
Accessibility: Publishing the setting as a complete game (rather than also requiring a separate book of rules) makes it accessible to a far wider audience, including people who don’t already have Old-School Essentials and perhaps have never dipped their toes into old-school gaming before. We’re really excited about this, as we want the fantastic world of Dolmenwood to reach as many players as possible and to hopefully be a great introduction to old-school RPGs.
Timeline: As announced in our previous blog post on the OGL topic, we’ve decided to create a revised, non-OGL edition of Old-School Essentials. Publishing Dolmenwood as a standalone game means that rather than delaying Dolmenwood until the revised OSE is published (which would entail a long wait), we can continue and publish the setting with only a small delay.
How Does This Affect the Timeline?
A little bit, but nothing major. We had planned to launch the Kickstarter for Dolmenwood in March 2023. We’re now pushing the Kickstarter date back a few months, to around June / July 2023.
What Will the Dolmenwood Rules Look Like?
Our aim is for the Dolmenwood rules to be comfortably familiar to old-school players, while being accessible to those new to old-school gaming. The general approach we’re taking is:
- Maintaining strong core rules compatibility with Old-School Essentials and the broader old-school games ecosystem.
- Streamlining some game mechanics and improving the clarity and consistency of the rules, making the game easier to learn.
- Building in more guidance for beginners, with a focus on introducing the old-school play style.
How Does This Affect the Revised, Non-OGL OSE?
Now that the pressure from Wizards of the Coast seems to be off, we plan to continue printing and selling OSE in its current form (under the OGL) for the time being. Then, once Dolmenwood is finished, work will start on the revised, non-OGL version of OSE (perhaps in 2024).
As things currently stand, we’re envisaging basing the revised version of Old-School Essentials on the 5e SRD that’s now released under Creative Commons (rather than on the OGL-released 3e SRD). This will likely require reworking some game elements that aren’t present in the 5e SRD.
It’s possible that some of the new Dolmenwood material may make its way into the revised version of OSE, but that’s something we’ll assess a bit further down the road.
We’re excited to share more news and updates on Dolmenwood as work continues!
Please reopen the Patreon! I’d love to support your continued work on this project.
While I understand the decision, this is disappointing. The charm of OSE and my reason for gravitating to it was in faithfully recapturing the “glory days” of gaming, not just approximating them. I hate what WOTC did, and the fallout was expected, but I don’t know if I will come along to Dolemnwood with this new approach. A new BECMI world was intriguing, I doubt a new game system will be.