More Thoughts on the Dungeon Master’s Guild

dmsgI’ve had a little bit more time to look into the DM’s Guild, and think about what it means. The big thing it revealed is that there are a lot of issues about ownership of material that I breezed past which probably merit a little bit of unpacking. So a few more thoughts:

  • Right this second, there is not a huge amount of material available. As of last night there was an adventure template, some maps and a lot of art. The Forgotten Realms stuff still seems to be in the pipeline. This is not bad – some rollout time for these things are entirely reasonable, but it means that some of the benefits of going with the guild are currently hypothetical.
  • That does not mean people aren’t using it. There is already fan published material up there, mostly class and ability stuff that you would expect, and the early adopters are almost certainly seeing a bump. Interesting that many are adopting “pay what you want” as their model – curious to see how that shakes out.
  • There is some genuine uncertainty about how the DM’s Guild is going to handle product identity, especially with regards to art and such. At the moment there are no protections (more on that in a bit) against re-use, and that needs to be made clear before publishers start risking their IP.
  • There are some very scary seeming terms and conditions in the signup, but they are largely the same unilateral rights that you grant to any online storefront or website because they need those rights to host and serve your content. This is absolutely not worth getting worked up about.
  • That is not to say there is nothing to worry about. DM’s Guild rules are designed for a community of re-use, and anything that you put up can be re-used by anyone else. There are guidelines to prevent abuse (like someone just republishing your stuff), and hopefully those guidelines will be backed with enforcement, but it’s definitely a bit wibbly wobbly. Where it gets interesting and complicated is if you pull your stuff off the store, and other products are still using it – by the terms of the site, they can keep doing that (because there’s no way for this work, otherwise). This is not necessarily good or bad, but it’s a problem if you’re not aware of it.
  • It is easy for publishers to flinch at these terms, because it gives up a lot of autonomy, but if you are a publisher who worries about such things, then DM’s Guild is probably not for you. It is, however, remarkably well suited to *fan* publication, and I suspect that will be its bread and butter (supplemented by smaller publishers who understand how to play in the sandbox). As a seller, that whole “re-use anything” seems ominous and threatening, but as a fan community, that is a path to vibrant shared creation.
  • If I’m right and it’s really going to be strong fan driven, then it will be an absolute MESS, but it will be a *glorious* mess. And if WOTC does not find a way to give the community voice (direct link to forums or the like) then the community will probably make their own.

Personally, if I were to do things under DM’s Guild (and I might) then I would feel obliged to do “fire and forget” materials – things that I am not going to look to recover, or which are only valuable in the context of D&D 5e. Important qualifier – I’m talking about me as me here – Evil Hat considerations are a whole other matter.

For example, I have a few background write ups – those could very easily be released as DMs Guild products With no real loss because they don’t have any real utility outside of 5e.

On the other hand, I did several Warlock patron writeups that I like a lot, but which contain implicit setting material. If I were to release it through the guild, I would be more or less releasing that into the wild. I’d also probably lay it out with the WOTC provided art only, because until the art rules are sorted out, I don’t even want to use clip art.

That seems like a compelling reason to go OGL, which I could absolutely do, but I can’t shake the feeling that I’d be surrendering a certain amount of audience that way. That is not really a big concern, but this other bit is – maybe it would be *cool* to share those ideas and let other people run with them. Certainly, if I’m not going to do much more with them, that is a safe path. And even if I do want to use them again, I still own them – even if they knock around perpetually within the walled garden of the DM’s Guild, I haven’t given up any rights outside of that (I think).

That community element has a certain amount of appeal, especially since I know I’m not looking to get rich off this. Creating things with the intent of sharing it liberates me from a number of concerns. Of course, I can also just OGL my material too, which shares it, but it maybe introduces a little more friction (at least for people willing to buy into DM’s Guild).

I admit some temptation to release some stuff on DM’s Guild, if only to see how it works out. I’ll probably pull some stuff together and see how I feel once it’s ready.

2 thoughts on “More Thoughts on the Dungeon Master’s Guild

  1. DP

    Very interesting. Good point on the audience vs. autonomy issue.

    In regard to fan made materials, what sort of layout quality expectations are there likely to be among the audience and the would-be publishers? As far as I understand it, the adventure template WOTC put up is a Word template… does that mean a lot of publishers may be just basically doing an MS Word to PDF conversion, or are more sophisticated (In Design, etc.) layouts and professional looking material going to rule?

    1. Rob Donoghue Post author

      I think we’ll see a LOT of word stuff, and that will be fine, but the stuff that doesn’t look like a template is going to stand out enough that people will have to do some layout if they care about sales (which they may not). But that’ll be slow going until there’s more clarity regarding art.


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