In a quick question-and-answer session on the Wizards of the Coast website, Ryan goes into the bits and pieces of his idea, paying homage to Richard Stallman and the Free Software movement as the basis for his crusade. He makes it rather clear that people will be able to write their own modules and game systems using the D20 System, and sell them on their own, without permission from Wizards of the Coast.
Like computers and caffeine, Dungeons and Dragons is a geek staple. The chances are good that geeks who aren't 'clued in' to the Free Software movement may get their first impression from reading a paragraph about it in a RPG manual. For the system to arrive on store shelves, though, it needs support from individual stores and distributors. The good thing is that they're excited about this, too. I recently spoke to Tony Kautz at Bridgetown Hobbies and Games, an RPG shop located in Portland, Oregon.
Slashdot: What was your first impression of the 'opening' of the D20 System?
Tony: I think it is a really good idea. The reason why Second Edition and Second Edition Revised did well is because they were based on the First Edition, which had a lot of resource material available. When they change the rules to the D20 system from the one they're using currently, a lot of their previous statistics won't be usable. Now that they've opened it up for other people to make supplements using their rule system, it'll make resource material a lot more available and a lot less expensive, because they'll have to compete with competitors with their own rule system.
Slashdot: Do you think that your store would carry D20-compatible modules and home-grown games using the system?
Tony:Yeah. We'll probably carry just about anybody that we can get a hold of. Some companies are too small to use distributorships, and so they have to do direct, like via mail order or online, but everybody else we will. We're pretty open to any manufacturer that comes along.
If you build it, they will come. One of the key reasons that Dungeons and Dragons is so popular is because you're limited only by your imagination. Experienced gamers thrive on being able to make their own choices and doing things their own way. Sounds like Linux system administration 101, doesn't it?
Needless to say, Open Source software developers think that the extension of the Open Source ideology into different industries is a fantastic idea. Downtime developer Justin Wheeler shares his thoughts with us: "The whole concept of keeping things open is the way most business should have been from the beginning. Imagine if Einstein kept the theory of relativity private? We'd not be able to work on it, or build on it. When thoughts are kept within a small group/society, others don't have a chance to work on them. If everyone has a chance to help at it, the company may find something that they missed. Companies often fear they're going to lose money if they give out their trade secrets. If Coke gave away their recipe, do you honestly think I'm going to brew up my own batch of Coke when I'm thirsty?"
Cooperation and a Laissez-Faire approach from Wizards of the Coast may make the D20 System the most popular approach to Open Gaming the world has ever seen. Until the boxes hit the store shelves, we'll just have to wait and see how successful Ryan Dancey is in promoting the ideals of Free Software and Open Source in the RPG arena.