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Author Topic: Ever seen d20 when it doesn't need to be d20?  (Read 3209 times)
daMoose_Neo
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« on: August 26, 2004, 05:45:55 PM »

Not really a poll, but I want to gauge peoples observations out of curiosity, especially with discussion of OGL and various lisencing schemes around the net.

Has anyone encountered games lisenced as like d20 that really could be a seperate creature?

Case in point: Got my hands on a copy of BESM d20 (Big Eyes Small Mouth), an anime role players guide, at GenCon (sale - buy 1 get 3 free!) and have been thumbing through it. Got through most of it tonight and my reaction to it was "Just WHAT were they smoking when they made this d20?!"
The game has a nifty point based character generation system, attribute system and some other cool little character quirks I've been exploring myself in my off time on Twilight for my NBS game (from back when). RARELY does it involve anything resembling d20 and many times the references are about how it was modified from d20 to fit this system!

Looking at the system it could really stand alone, with nothing to do with D20, which leaves me wondering: did they do it for the attention?
Which I guess supplies me with a viable publishing/lisencing question: When possessing a rather spiffy system of your own, would you forego original writing to fill in some blanks with OGL/d20 property for sake of ease and notorioty?

Personally, I rather like the character generation of BESM. Its close to something I was playing with myself, with enough modifications and my own notes I think it could be a really nice stand-alone system. Course by the time I'm done it'll represent the original in "I use points, they use points", but its an excellent launching platform none-the-less (though now I have an insane urge to run a Cowboy Bebop campaign ^_^).
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Nate Petersen / daMoose
Neo Productions Unlimited! Publisher of Final Twilight card game, Imp Game RPG, and more titles to come!
greedo1379
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« Reply #1 on: August 26, 2004, 09:21:14 PM »

Because a lot of folks are comforted by the OGL/D20 label and probably wouldn't pick it up if it didn't say "OGL/D20" on it somewhere.
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smokewolf
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« Reply #2 on: August 27, 2004, 04:46:01 AM »

Everquest

They could have used the same mechanics (or close to) the ones of the online version. But instead - D20?

Ok if you do not play online, but I would imagine it to be confusing to play both.
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Keith Taylor
93 Games Studio
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salkaner
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« Reply #3 on: August 27, 2004, 04:52:16 AM »

Quote from: greedo1379
Because a lot of folks are comforted by the OGL/D20 label and probably wouldn't pick it up if it didn't say "OGL/D20" on it somewhere.


Exact!
It's simply a matter of marketing.

Maybe for BESM they're just using D20 as a trojan horse
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #4 on: August 27, 2004, 06:23:26 AM »

Hello,

BESM is one of many games which was first released with its own system or as a member of a house system, but then was re-released in d20 form. You guys are absolutely correct that this is a straightforward marketing tactic, both toward retailers and toward customers.

Other games which followed this tactic include Sovereign Stone and Haven: City of Violence, among many others.

The actual success of the tactic is highly controversial. Here are a few points to consider.

1. Many retailers are glumly staring at thousands of copies of books they ordered which do not sell. They cleared out the unsellable wads of AD&D2 stuff and promptly replaced them with similarly unsellable wads of d20 stuff (which resembled it strongly in all ways).

2. It is absolutely clear that a well-written, play-relevant, well-packaged d20 book of any kind, game or supplement, is a good seller. However, it is not necessarily a kick-ass this-is-it evergreen seller - just another sellable product, that's all.

3. On-line sales of d20 material are very strong, especially in PDF format. Both Monte Cook and Phil Reed profit greatly from them; the latter adds the extremely important point that a few d20 products apparently drive sales of the non-d20 products higher as well.

So - does recasting one's not-very-successful game into d20 turn it into a more successful seller? More importantly, does it become what the publisher really needs - a continuous seller, which the retailer re-orders when it leaves the shelf?

[Note: I do know that the first edition of BESM ran into trouble in stores, and I know why - because retailers in the mid-late 90s would absolutely not re-order a smallish, inexpensive game after it sold. I also know that Sovereign Stone had a rough time. I do not claim that Haven has had trouble selling, as I don't have that information.]

The answer to this question is unknown, because apparently it's not consistent. The factor of production quality plays a huge role, as does interest in the game before it became a d20 game, and as do many other factors.

So, finally, to your question, daMoose:

Quote
When possessing a rather spiffy system of your own, would you forego original writing to fill in some blanks with OGL/d20 property for sake of ease and notorioty?


I don't know about "would you" (always a bad question-phrase), but I do know that many companies have done exactly this. Here are the outcomes.

1. Yay, blow-out! The game does immensely well, due to the d20 association, which in this case helps it get into the stores and grabs the attention of folks who are already enjoying d20 (modern, dungeon, whatever).

2. Whoops - screw the pooch. The game may have had a loyal if small following based on that nifty system, and as d20 it may not offer anything to d20 users that they're not getting from one of the standard applications.

3. Combination of #1-2: at first it looks like a good idea, but only for about a month or two of sales, then it's a long dry nothing forever after.

Again, the real issue seems to me not whether it's d20 or not, but whether it's any good or not, and whether there's a demand for what it uniquely offers (whatever that may be).

And also again, oddly enough, for on-line sales, a combination of d20 and non-d20 seems to be a very powerful tactic.

As I happen not to publish any d20 or OGL stuff, and as I have not made any formal study of the issue, take all of the above as non-expert musings. I hope one of the publishers who's really looked at this exact issue - conversion of an existing system - can help out.

Best,
Ron
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madelf
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« Reply #5 on: August 27, 2004, 07:54:14 AM »

Another factor to consider is compatibility of D20 support material to your unique system.

Even if the base system bears little resemblance to the actual workings of d20, having a system that could use existing d20 material could be plus. If this hypothetical new system could take material from any D20 source for weapon stats, creatures, npcs, etc. and run with them unchanged (even if the way it handled those stats was substantially different) then this hypothetical new system instantly has a huge amount of existing support material.

Now I don't know if it's actually possible to build a system that used D20 material that wasn't inherently like D20 (and I personally feel BESM D20 is very much just d20 with some tweaks, more than being its own system), but I've thought that it could have some interesting possibilities if it could be done.
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Calvin W. Camp

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daMoose_Neo
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« Reply #6 on: August 27, 2004, 09:29:12 AM »

Quote from: madelf
(I personally feel BESM D20 is very much just d20 with some tweaks, more than being its own system)


Hm, maybe it is a little more than what I was seeing (did alot of skimming on it),  didn't realize BESM had a pre-d20 system otherwise I'd have picked that up. Only reason I got this d20 copy was it was free ^_^
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Nate Petersen / daMoose
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Brennan Taylor
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« Reply #7 on: August 27, 2004, 12:57:29 PM »

I can relate my own personal experience here. I had a game (Bulldogs!) that was based on the old Marvel Superheroes system, a home-brew sci-fi game quite popular among a local gaming group. The group broke up and several members came into my gaming orbit, and we picked up Bulldogs!. I tried adapting it to several systems (not being a Marvel expert myself), but nothing worked out. I have a predilection for gritty, brutal, and lethal combat (I really like Burning Wheel and Riddle of Steel, for this reason). This, unfortunately, really killed a Bulldogs! game. Everyone got way too cautious and tactical, when what I wanted was just general ass-kicking. Then the OGL came about.

I looked at the d20 situation, I looked at Bulldogs!, and I decided they were a good match. I converted everything over and published the game as a d20 product, and I have gotten 3x or 4x the number of looks I would have gotten as a stand-alone. Part of this is that Bulldogs! is a sci-fi game, and I think sci-fi is a really small market and hard to break into. Secondly, there wasn't anything particularly special about the actual game mechanics of the original. It was already piggybacking on an existing system, and the whole point of the game universe was pretty much mindless violence. d20 fit, and the game was born.

I think if you have a game that would actually work in d20, it is perfectly acceptable to go ahead and use. Marketing it will be easier, for sure. But don't try to shoehorn something else into the system unless you will actually gain something from the conversion.
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philreed
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« Reply #8 on: August 29, 2004, 03:44:18 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
3. On-line sales of d20 material are very strong, especially in PDF format. Both Monte Cook and Phil Reed profit greatly from them; the latter adds the extremely important point that a few d20 products apparently drive sales of the non-d20 products higher as well.


Absolutely. I know that Ronin Arts is making more money per month than a lot of print pubishers. The biggest secret is that, by not printing, the break-even point on each project is quite low. And for those that I do not use art on -- most of the 10-page or shorter products do not use art -- the break-even can be as low as 20 copies.

With PDFs, I can make more money per word than if I sold the work to another publisher -- it just takes months.

I've been crunching numbers lately, going over figures for this year compared to last year. What I'm finding is that for over a year now Ronin Arts has made roughly $18/month per product available. Last year, with 45 products available, August net income was about $800. This year, with 137 products available, August net income is about $2500. This is a trend that has continued for over a year. Does it mean that once Ronin Arts has 200 products we'll be bringing in $3,600/month? I don't know. But the sales trends indicate that's very likely.

So, unlike print, old PDFs continue to sell as they age.

Another example. 101 Spellbooks is almost 2 years old. This month it's sold 10 copies. 10 copies of a 2 year old PDF is, to me, excellent.

I'm learning that my plan to write and release PDFs, and not worry about short-term sales, is working. I'm in this as a long-term investment and as of now I'm feeling pretty confident in its success. As PDFs become more accepted, and resistant players start shopping, sales will only continue to rise.
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Vaxalon
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« Reply #9 on: August 29, 2004, 08:29:59 AM »

"Has anyone encountered games lisenced as like d20 that really could be a seperate creature? "

Sure.  Just about every D20 RPG could be its own creature.
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JSDiamond
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« Reply #10 on: August 29, 2004, 12:04:51 PM »

A better question would be "Wherein has it worked better?"  But that sounds too much like flamebait so...

The first example that comes to my mind is Deadlands.  IMO it was (at first) a wholly original game from its system to its setting.  And although not a straight conversion, the same goes for latest Conan the Barbarian rpg.  The world of Conan is not a 'keep track of your resources' world.  D20 makes it D&D in Hyborea and the few teaks aside, that's still way off the pace and overall raw and savage feel of Conan's world.    

But some d20 games I fully endorse.  Example: Although the StarWars d6 system still has a following --me included, I was glad for the d20 conversion as it works (IMO) better overall.  And it fits Spycraft perfectly, too.  In fact, for Spycraft --again in my opinion only, d20 fits the feel of that game to the point where it seems to belong there.  It's seamless with the feeling of 'being there' (being your character) in the game.

And again, this is my opinion only.  But I think that any system is only succeeding when it's like that --when you don't notice it in the course of play.  

So, Deadlands and Conan --no.  StarWars and Spycraft --yes.
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JSDiamond
greyorm
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« Reply #11 on: September 02, 2004, 07:41:43 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Other games which followed this tactic include Sovereign Stone... 2. Whoops - screw the pooch. The game may have had a loyal if small following based on that nifty system, and as d20 it may not offer anything to d20 users that they're not getting from one of the standard applications.

My own personal take on Sovereign Stone is exactly this.

I was immensely interested in the original system developed for the game and it was on my "to buy" list. I even had the preview booklet that had been produced signed by Mr. Elmore himself at GenCon 2001.

However, when I actually went to purchase the game (post-GenCon), all I could find was "Sovereign Stone...d20." And it went right from my hands back onto the shelf. I haven't looked at it since.

Now, this isn't because I have anything against d20 -- as most everyone knows, I run a regular 3E game and have for a number of years now -- but I'm simply not interested in yet another fantasy world iteration for D&D.

Shortly after discovering this disappointment I also found the same sentiment independently echoing on a number of forums by other would-be or actually-used-to-be players.

I do have to wonder how much damage was done to the developing fanbase for SS by the move to d20? SS was a blip on my radar prior to the conversion; afterwards, it was simply JAFFW (Just Another Forgettable Fantasy World).

Now, I don't know anything about the actual sales numbers of the game, but regardless of those, SS is stuck in the JAFFW category now, consigned to never be more than a quick couple bucks here and there before fading into the mists of memory.

Prior to the conversion to d20, (I feel) it would have had a better chance of avoiding this ignoble fate and establishing an actual presence (no matter how small) as a unique entity due in no small part to its unique system.

Yes, games are businesses; but games are also art -- because writing and creating are art. It seems to me that in many cases the art is sacrificed for the business, in order to produce more art (ie: money)...but if the art is replaced by business in the equation, then its simply business for business' sake.

That's a sad fate for something that comes about as a creative endeavor.

[And, for the record, I am not saying that works of art or creative works must ignore business, or anything as stupid and egotistic as "pure art isn't sullied by money."]
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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