Wednesday, January 25, 2023

[Announcement] James Mishler Games Extended Hiatus & End of the OGL Sale


UPDATE: With Hasbro's apparent change of heart, I am at this point reconsidering removing my products from DriveThruRPG. That will depend on further developments. I will not be satisfied that this is all irrevocably resolved until they release OGL 1.0b, properly adding the term "irrevocably" and properly excising the term "authorized." At that point I will consider everything properly finished to my satisfaction for the protection of all OGL products. 

In any case, I still have to wait and see what shakes out with Labyrinth Lord and Shadowdark and other games and Open Licenses and whatnot before I decide how to move forward.

Until then, the 23% off sale continues as planned. Barring another reversal of Hasbro's decision, my existing products will remain available until further notice.

After much consideration, I have decided that the simplest course forward after the OGL Debacle is to simply purge James Mishler Games of all products, go on hiatus, and return when the whole situation clears up.

I have no desire to publish new products for game lines that might be forced to disappear overnight.

I have no desire to support games that were designed to support earlier versions of games that Hasbro still owns.

Don’t get me wrong; I still love BX Dungeons & Dragons and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and the Labyrinth Lord/Advanced Labyrinth Lord games that were developed to support those lines.

I will never stop playing them… probably in the Advanced Labyrinth Lord format, as that is closest to how I originally played the game.

But I cannot support them anymore.

Dan Proctor is working on a new edition of an OGL-less Labyrinth Lord. I will always support Dan with his endeavors.

Kelsey Dionne is working on an updated OGL-less Shadowdark RPG. I will always support Kelsey and her work.

If possible, I will support both games with published products.

But my current product lines are going away.

I am not going to wait until Hasbro decides what to finally do with “OGL” 2.0-whatever. I have no desire to follow all the malarky anymore. They are going to do whatever they want to do, right or wrong, moral or immoral, ethical or unethical, legal or illegal, fans, long-term viability, and simple common sense be damned.

I’m just done.

The JMG End of the OGL 23% Sale Off resumes on Friday, January 27th, and will run through Friday, February 24th. 

The sale might end sooner if Hasbro puts out the new “OGL” before then.

Everything comes down that weekend. 

Everything.

All my products on DriveThruRPG. Everything, including all maps. Everything will be deleted from their system. I’m just going to purge it all and start anew.

I will have something new. A placeholder, to keep JMG active on the site.

But otherwise, everything will be completely gone. 

This is the absolute last chance to buy anything JMG from the OGL era. 

This will be your last chance to download anything you have bought.

I will also be deleting all my Dungeons & Dragons, OGL, Labyrinth Lord, and Shadowdark-related entries on my personal and company blogs. Gone.

I will return to blogging sooner than later, and once things shake out for the new Labyrinth Lord and Shadowdark and other Open License Games, I will return to publishing. That might be three months, six months, probably a year on the outside. I will be happy to support them and other RPGs that pique my interest and have a true Open Gaming License

I will never support Hasbro or Dungeons & Dragons again. 

They get nothing from me. Nothing. Nada. Nix. Niente.

Not so much as a bent copper.

No more print books, no more classic PDFs from Wizards. No collectibles. I will not go to the movie, and I will not watch the streaming show.

I have been a hard-core Dungeons & Dragons fan for more than 40 years. My entire adult life, my career, was chosen because of the love of games that was inspired by Dungeons & Dragons. I met most of my friends through games. I met my wife because I got a job in gaming.

For 40 years, I have been a walking, talking advertisement for Dungeons & Dragons.

But no more.

Dungeons & Dragons is dead to me.

Long live Open Gaming.

Long reign the Age of the ORC.

Saturday, January 14, 2023

The OGL: Analysis of Hasbro's Non-Apology Apology


OK, here we go, an analysis of Hasbro’s An Update on the Open Game License (OGL),” in order:

“When we initially conceived of revising the OGL, it was with three major goals in mind. First, we wanted the ability to prevent the use of D&D content from being included in hateful and discriminatory products.”

First off, remember this: the Constitution guarantees that the GOVERNMENT cannot interfere with your free speech. If you are on someone else’s property or using someone else’s material under contract (the OGL is a contract), they can limit what you say on that property or with that material.

Whether you think this is a good thing or not, is a moot point. It is what they can do, it is within their rights. It is their sandbox, their rules.

Deal with it.

Moving on:

“Second, we wanted to address those attempting to use D&D in web3, blockchain games, and NFTs by making clear that OGL content is limited to tabletop roleplaying content like campaigns, modules, and supplements. And third, we wanted to ensure that the OGL is for the content creator, the homebrewer, the aspiring designer, our players, and the community—not major corporations to use for their own commercial and promotional purpose.”

These two bits here tell us the real, core reason they want to change the OGL – to kill the Clones.

OGL 2.0 is basically the Clone Wars.

They aren’t too worried about Labyrinth Lord, or Swords & Wizardry, or OSRIC, or any of the old-school Clones. It is Pathfinder they want to kill out of vengeance. They also want to kill any chance of there being a 5E Clone to compete with 5.1E.

Just as the original OGL intended, they want others to do all the heavy lifting and create all the support material for their core rulebooks and supplements. They have no desire to publish all the fiddly little low to no-profit yet ABSOLUTELY NEEDFUL stuff that supports the sales of their books.

“Driving these goals were two simple principles: (1) Our job is to be good stewards of the game, and (2) the OGL exists for the benefit of the fans. Nothing about those principles has wavered for a second.”

Fluff and nonsense. While I think they did do a fairly good job with 5E, all things considered, being a “steward” of the game was never a goal. It was all about profits. And they only care about the fans to the extent that they buy their products. So… fluff.

“That was why our early drafts of the new OGL included the provisions they did. That draft language was provided to content creators and publishers so their feedback could be considered before anything was finalized.”

They were testing the waters to see just how far they could go and how much they could get away with. They fucked around and found out.

“In addition to language allowing us to address discriminatory and hateful conduct and clarifying what types of products the OGL covers, our drafts included royalty language designed to apply to large corporations attempting to use OGL content. It was never our intent to impact the vast majority of the community.”

They would have LOVED for the royalty portion to affect a larger number of companies. That would have been free money for them. From my perspective the royalties were never an issue. My sales have always been beer & pretzel money (well, PDF money). It would take me a thousand years of sales to hit that $750,000 minimum.

But yeah, for you guys out there with the big Kickstarters? That’s a killer provision. As in it kills your profit and kills your company

“However, it’s clear from the reaction that we rolled a 1.”

How do we know this was written by some poor schlub and not an executive? They actually used an in-game reference.

“It has become clear that it is no longer possible to fully achieve all three goals while still staying true to our principles. So, here is what we are doing.”

Time to bend over and smile this time, folks!

“The next OGL will contain the provisions that allow us to protect and cultivate the inclusive environment we are trying to build and specify that it covers only content for TTRPGs. That means that other expressions, such as educational and charitable campaigns, livestreams, cosplay, VTT-uses, etc., will remain unaffected by any OGL update.”

I am not sure what all they mean by this; it is fairly non=specific and throwing a bunch of stuff together in with the kitchen sink. I suppose the filkers and gaming mimes will be happy, so we are supposed to be joyful at this clause… oh, wait, there it is

“Content already released under 1.0a will also remain unaffected.”

Ah, there it is, indeed.

‘Already released’ is the operative phrase here. They are saying that with their ‘de-authorization’ of OGL 1.0 and 1.0a that anything already published may continue to be published but that you may no longer continue to publish new items under the OGL 1.0 or 1.0a.

This of course kills all the Clones, stakes them through the heart.

For players, this is meaningless. They can’t take away your books. For publishers, this is disastrous. Game publishers survive based on their latest, greatest work. Without continual support and line dies, the ‘long tail’ of sales depends on new product to help sell the old product.

For example, when I produce a new product, I sell about a third of all copies I sell in the first month. Another third is then sold in ever shrinking numbers within six months. The final third in the next 18 months. Any sales following that are incidental.

HOWEVER, those incidental sales can be very nice when a new buyer finds my product line through my publication of a new product. Invariably, when I publish a new product, I get a couple of new customers who go through my back catalog and buy anything from a few to every other product in that back catalog. With more than 50 products in that back catalog, those can be very, very nice sales.

Again, for me and other vanity press companies, that’s just money to buy PDFs from other companies.

For real publishers, that’s their bread and butter.

Hasbro wants to starve the Clones and their creators.

“What it will not contain is any royalty structure.”

Yeah, that would have been some sweet, sweet FREE cash, but really, a drop in the bucket compared to what they can make with that effort placed elsewhere. So, an easy sacrifice to mollify the masses.

“It also will not include the license back provision that some people were afraid was a means for us to steal work. That thought never crossed our minds. Under any new OGL, you will own the content you create. We won’t. Any language we put down will be crystal clear and unequivocal on that point. The license back language was intended to protect us and our partners from creators who incorrectly allege that we steal their work simply because of coincidental similarities. As we continue to invest in the game that we love and move forward with partnerships in film, television, and digital games, that risk is simply too great to ignore. The new OGL will contain provisions to address that risk, but we will do it without a license back and without suggesting we have rights to the content you create. Your ideas and imagination are what makes this game special, and that belongs to you.”

I’m on the line about this one. They do, indeed, need to include language as to that effect, to protect their own IP, as there have been plenty of stupid lawsuits over similar issues, and they are a gross pain in the ass. The language in the ‘OGL’ 1.1 might have been over-zealously written; it has shark written all over it. Or maybe they were hoping to get away with something. Could go either way.

But if it was an accident, that’s pretty damn stupid.

And if it was intentional, that’s either not reading the room right (which they do continually), or it was put there as another easy sacrifice.

“A couple of last thoughts. First, we won’t be able to release the new OGL today, because we need to make sure we get it right, but it is coming.”

Thank you for telling us to bend over and get ready for it. See, this time they kissed us first.

“Second, you’re going to hear people say that they won, and we lost because making your voices heard forced us to change our plans. Those people will only be half right. They won—and so did we.”

Wow. That’s just so sad.

“Our plan was always to solicit the input of our community before any update to the OGL; the drafts you’ve seen were attempting to do just that.”

Really?

“We want to always delight fans and create experiences together that everyone loves. We realize we did not do that this time and we are sorry for that.”

Please keep giving us your money. Please stop canceling your subscriptions to D&D Beyond! Please?

“Our goal was to get exactly the type of feedback on which provisions worked and which did not–which we ultimately got from you.”

We really did not think that you peons cared enough and would scream this loudly. Quelle surprise!

“Any change this major could only have been done well if we were willing to take that feedback, no matter how it was provided–so we are. Thank you for caring enough to let us know what works and what doesn’t, what you need and what scares you.”

We can now dump the provisions we included as easy drops and still look like we listened to you. Suckers.

“Without knowing that, we can’t do our part to make the new OGL match our principles.”

SCREW YOU GUYS, MAXIMUM PROFITS!

“Finally, we’d appreciate the chance to make this right. We love D&D’s devoted players and the creators who take them on so many incredible adventures.”

You buy our tuff and pay us money. What’s not to love?

“We won’t let you down.”

Too late.

TL; DR: Nothing has really changed, they gave up two things that were there most likely just to be sacrificed, gave up some stuff that was kind of fuzzy anyway, but kept the main provision that kills the Clones. Still rat bastards.

At this point I still expect to take down my products about a week or so after "OGL" 2.0 is released, or a day before the sunset clause on OGL 1.0/1.0a.

Friday, January 6, 2023

[James Mishler Games]: The OGL: Known Unknowns and Unknown Unknowns


I go away for less than two weeks and all Hell breaks loose.

That'll teach me to try to take a vacation!

I'm sure you've seen the news all over the place.

We know that some elements of the leaked New "OGL" are true, from statements by those who are already working with it or have negotiated to do so.

We do not know if Hasbro intends to "de-authorize" the Old OGL for everyone or only for those who opt-in on the New "OGL."

We do not know if they try to kill the Old OGL for everyone else if it would even be legal or not.

Doesn't really matter, if they intend to lawyer up and follow up C&Ds with actual lawsuits.

Might not be moral; might not be ethical; might not be legal. But that's the way the system works here.

I don't think anyone has the money or wherewithal to fight this thing; it would take years and years before anything was resolved, likely without the ability to publish under the Old OGL until it was resolved.

We don't know how this is going to work with DriveThruRPG.

We don't even know all the things we don't know yet!

But I do know one thing. I'm not going to deal with it.

Even if they don't follow through now, there is no knowing if they might try to follow through later.

And besides, I'm no fan of the way they are mistreating the community of designers and players by even toying with these ideas. No sir, I don't like it at all.

Ergo, James Mishler Games is getting out of the OGL publishing business.

Starting tomorrow morning (Saturday, January 7) most of my products will go on sale at 23% off...


In celebration of 23 years of the OGL, almost all our products are 23% off!

The sale is scheduled to last through January 12th. Rumors have it that the New "OGL" might be released on Friday the 13th. 

How apropos.

If so, and if there is as expected a sunset date on the Old OGL, right or wrong, legal or not, I'll have my products down on or before that date.

So, if you've been on the fence about buying my products, buy them while you still can. And download them right away, as we don't know if we can still keep them hosted after that. Then save them in several locations (backing up in multiple locations is always a good idea, anyway).

My return to publishing thereafter depends on a couple of things.

First and foremost, Kelsey Dionne of The Arcane Library has already announced that she is pivoting away from 5E and going to focus on the Shadowdark RPG, which will be rewritten to ensure it is not entangled with the OGL.

I will be supporting Shadowdark once it releases. That release is now, of course, delayed.

Unfortunately, this whole kerfuffle means that I will no longer be able to publish for Labyrinth Lord. However, Dan Proctor has already considered some options of what to do in the event that Labyrinth Lord has to go away, so I will be looking into that, as well.

Many other companies are considering creating their own RPGs and offering them in a true, non-revocable, perpetual license. I'll look and play through some of those, and then see what strikes my fancy.

Until then, as the mood strikes me, I'll probably concentrate on writing system-free products, such as encounters, NPCs, Locations, and various worlds and world elements.

I've got a LOT of Hexographer maps I can offer.

Finally, I will also look into re-writing Isle of Eldisor to be essentially system-free. That would require extensive changes and require some time. I hope to be able to offer it in the same "slot" as the original Isle of Eldisor product so that those who purchased it can simply download it. I'll have to see how that works on DriveThruRPG.

Thank you for your support for the last 10 years. None of this would have been possible without you.

This is definitely not the way I wanted things to go on the 10th Anniversary of James Mishler Games.

But sometimes, you just never know...

Friday, December 23, 2022

Taking Stock – Going on Sabbatical

I figure I’d start taking stock at the beginning of my gaming career. I started working in the industry full time on January 1st, 1995; my last full-time day in the industry was September 28, 2012. 17 years total, with a few minor interruptions in-between, and since January 2013 I have been self-publishing part time through James Mishler Games

In that time I have designed, written, edited, and published games; written magazines and books about games; bought, sold, marketed, and advertised games in manufacturing, distribution, and retail; and run conventions and other gaming events. The only thing I’ve not done is anything artistic, other than cartography, but that’s due to lack of talent rather than any lack of desire or need.

This January will be James Mishler Games’ 10th anniversary, with the release of the first (and only) issue of Hercynian Grimoire on January 9, 2013. In that time my wife and I have published 57 products, ranging from simple maps and character sheets to Hexcrawl gazetteers and monstrous sourcebooks, and everything in between. Of these, six are Silver Best-Sellers (sold 100+) and 13 are Copper Best-Sellers (sold 50+). 

I’ve sold 2,680 units at an average of $1.57 each (net) and given away 3,321 units. This will be the first year I get a 1099 from DriveThruRPG, which tells you how piddly some… well, most year’s sales have been… 

Here are the Top 5s based on units sold and dollars earned:

Top 5 Sellers by Numbers
1. Vampires of the Olden Lands 
2. Barbarian Class 
3. Necromancer Class 
4. Chronicles of Mhoriedh Map 00 Olden Lands Continent 
5. Ogres of the Olden Lands 

Top 5 Sellers by Dollars
1. Isle of Eldisor Hexcrawl Campaign Cyclopedia & Gazetteer 
2. Hercynian Grimoire #1 
3. Ghosts -- The Incorporeal Undead 
4. Vampires of the Olden Lands 
5. Ogres of the Olden Lands 

2022 was a banner year in many ways. We published 20 of the 57 products on our list this year, including the Isle of Eldisor, which was the culmination of three years of attempts to realize a specific vision of a campaign setting. 

One third of all published items, more than a third of all sold items, and almost half of all JMG income were realized in 2022, mostly in early 2022.

For most, that would be a reason to push through and move on to the next level of publishing. 

But no, not for me. 

After the Adventure Games Publishing Debacle, I decided I would only make my game writing a sideline at best – something for fun and for money to buy more games. Self-publishing games for anything more than that, well, I found out it is not for me.

And on top of everything, right now is a very, very slow time for sales. Between Labyrinth Lord moving to a 2nd Edition next year and the Shadowdark RPG not even yet being released, sales have been slow the last couple of months. Very, very slow since September when the new edition of Labyrinth Lord was announced.

So, between the big push to publish earlier this year, and the big slowdown while waiting for the new edition of Labyrinth Lord and the release of the Shadowdark RPG, I think it is time to take a break. 

We’ll call this one a sabbatical.

The sabbatical will last at least until the release of the new edition of Labyrinth Lord and the release of the Shadowdark RPG, both of which I expect will occur sometime in early to mid-Summer (fingers crossed!)

In the meantime, I am going to recharge my batteries by spending time with my wife; gaming with some friends; and cataloging and rebuilding my once-extensive game collection. I have one other neato Secret Project I need to work on for some friends, but other than that, all my gaming will be purely for fun until I see some cool new books in hand.

I do not plan to do any blogging during the sabbatical. Blogging… isn’t what it once was. There was the Golden Age of early Blogger & Forums; then the Silver Age of Blogger/WordPress and Google+; and finally, the Bronze Age of, well, whatever was left. And then there’s now, the Iron Age, with the Wastelands of Discord and the Fall of Twitter. So… meh.

Check back here around July 1st, 2023, to see what comes next; by then I hope the new edition of Labyrinth Lord and the new Shadowdark RPG will either be on my shelves or on the way.

Until then, good gaming!

Friday, December 9, 2022

[Now Available] The Witch, the Shepherd, His Goats, and Their Daughter Shadowdark RPG Adventure

An Adventure Designed for use with for Shadowdark
By James Mishler and Jodi Moran-Mishler
Challenge Level: GBX


The Witch, the Shepherd, His Goats, and Their Daughter
is a fairy tale adventure designed for use with the Shadowdark RPG. Help the Shepherd find his Goats and Daughter who have been kidnapped by the Witch of the Woods. The woods are home to all manner of strange, fearsome, and fey monsters… not to mention the witch!

Featuring 12 encounter sites, each with various dangers and rewards, The Witch, the Shepherd, His Goats, and Their Daughter provides action and adventure for one to three sessions.

The Witch, the Shepherd, His Goats, and Their Daughter is a forest point-crawl based on the art of Evlyn Moreau. It presents three Challenge Levels and can thus be used for three different kind of adventuring parties.

This adventure is designed for three separate Challenge Levels of play – Gauntlet (G), for parties of 0th level characters; Beginner (B), for parties of 1st or 2nd level characters; and Expert (X), for parties of 3rd and 4th level characters. Note that G level adventures are more difficult than B level and slightly less difficult than X level, as they are designed for four or five players each with four 0-level characters, rather than four or five players each with one character of 1st or 2nd levels or 3rd or 4th levels. Most, though not all monster and danger difficulties and treasures vary depending on the level of play – the greater the danger, the greater the reward! Choose the level of play based on the characters at hand – of course, you could also go with a lesser or greater level of danger, depending on the desires and fears of your players and their characters to seek danger and reward regardless of level! Higher levels of play in subsequent adventures include Champion (C) 5th to 6th, Master (M) 7th to 8th, and Legend (L) 9th to 10th.

JMGSD04, 20 pages (17 pages of content), $3.00.