Can you tell the readers a little about yourself and your role as a contributor to Open gaming?
My name is Jacob Wood, and I’m the owner of Accessible Games. When D&D 3rd Edition was released I was really intrigued by the Open Gaming License. It was the first time I had encountered a game that literally gave people the license to publish their own works based on the system it used. It allowed people like me, who were homebrew junkies, to share their work with others and get paid for it.
I started working on an ambitious setting that was going to be my first breakout success. Like other young designers, I had this fantasy heartbreaker that I thought was going to be everyone’s favorite new setting. Part of me is glad I never finished it, but another part of me (that broken heart part) still regrets it. All of the files and everything I and my co-author ever wrote are still on my hard drive even though it has been more than a decade since we abandoned the project.
What I gained from the experience was a love for design and writing, which I never gave up. Since then, I have gone on to publish several OGL products. In fact, most of the games I published are published under the OGL.
What does Open gaming mean to you?
To me, open gaming is what gaming should be about. It’s rare to find a role player who doesn’t, at least at some point in their gaming lifetime, tinker with their own mechanics or setting ideas. The very format of tabletop games fosters imagination and creativity, and it does it in a way that is infinitely accessible. Movies and video games require special expertise to produce, but anyone can design a new game mechanic with just a pencil and paper (or a mouse and keyboard).
Homebrew settings and mechanics exist for just about every popular setting, but only those published with open gaming licenses allow fans to freely share their ideas with others. Open gaming is really the freedom to be imaginative in public.
What Open games have you contributed to?
I have self-published material for Pathfinder and Fudge, both published under the OGL version 1.0a. I also contributed to a few scenarios for Living Greyhawk back in the D&D 3.5 days. My Pathfinder material is all part of a short product line called Alliterative Amusements, and my Fudge product lines are Psi-punk and Monster Kart Mayhem.
In addition to my written work, I did some layout for Lords of the Night, a vampire-themed Pathfinder supplement by Dreamscarred Press, and Time Heroes, an ill-fated Fate Core product that ran a successful Kickstarter but sadly never saw completion.
Finally, I am working on a new game called Survival of the Able which is built on a system inspired by Fudge and Fate but isn’t quite either one. It will be published under the same OGL.
What Open games do you most enjoy contributing to or playing?
Fudge is my favorite system both to play and to design. It is incredibly flexible and highly accessible. As someone with a visual impairment, I find the tactile Fudge dice (and their even more tactile Fate Dice cousins) refreshing.
Of course, I also love the incredible crunchiness of D&D and Pathfinder. There’s something to be said about constrained creativity.
How do you think an Open game system you’ve contributed to can most be improved?
I’ve never been a fan of Fudge’s Scale rules, which were designed to handle things like diminutive pixies and gargantuan giants. I find this rule set to be the crunchiest part of Fudge and the hardest to wrap my head around. I haven’t developed a fix for this; I tend to just design games that don’t require Scale rules to be included.
What other contributors to Open gaming do you admire or respect the most (and why)?
Fred Hicks, the creator of Fate, is a really smart and down-to-Earth guy. I love his complete transparency when it comes to sharing wisdom and sales figures. He also donates product to a lot of great causes and is far more generous than many larger publishers. I also love that he kept Fate Core open even though he rewrote it from the ground up not to include any language from Fudge. He’s the kind of person a lot of designers look up to and the kind of person who deserves that.
Is there an Open game that you wish had more exposure or appreciation?
Fudge’s biggest drawback is its lack of audience. It’s often compared to, and overshadowed by, its little brother Fate. I used to think I could revive it single-handedly just by producing great material for it, but the reality is that I don’t have enough reach to do it myself. Thankfully the new Princess Bride RPG, written by Fudge’s original designer Steffan O’Sullivan, is built on his venerable system and may very well be what it needs to earn a few more minutes of fame.
How do you see the future of Open gaming? Growing? Staying about the same? Shrinking?
Growing, for sure. Just look at how many sites have been added to the Open Gaming Network recently. I think open gaming is huge.
It helps that Pathfinder remains popular, but even without it, I think that open gaming would be strong. It seems like more and more designers are publishing under Creative Commons nowadays because they understand the importance of letting your biggest fans advertise your games by producing material for it.
Can you share any useful resources to Open gaming contributors that other potential contributors could benefit from? Such as good sources for art, editing, or the like?
Enmanuel Martinez is a fantastic artist and a contributor to many great products. He has done art for Psi-punk, Monster Kart Mayhem, and Alliterative Amusements: Scroll of Styles… and that’s just what he’s done for me. Last I checked, he was still on Patreon creating stock art, but you can also contact him for commissioned pieces. I often recommend him to others.
I’d also recommend looking into the Indie Game Developers Network. I’m a member myself, and I can attest to just how helpful and knowledgeable other members of the network are. We’re not all devoted specifically to open gaming, but many of us release our content under OGL or CC licenses. Membership comes with other perks too, such as booth sharing at conventions, a small discount on offset printing through Kraken Print, and access to several game distributors who may not otherwise choose to carry your products.
Anything we didn’t ask you that you wish we had? Tell us what is most important for readers to know about you, or your contributions to Open gaming!
Accessible Games’ mantra is “games for absolutely everyone.” I believe open gaming does a lot to make that happen. The alternative (which I guess you would call closed systems) makes it difficult to adapt materials to suit a particular need or taste.
Two of the earliest pieces of content I produced for my blog were large print character sheets for D&D 3.5 and Pathfinder. Although I could have produced these for virtually any system, there are certain publishers who feel so protective of their content that they wouldn’t appreciate having me post such things even for free. By allowing anyone to produce material for your games, you give people the freedom to produce and distribute material that might help people with disabilities have a better experience with your product. That’s something we should all be on board with.
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