Dungeons & Dragons writer Wizards of the Coast has promised that One D&D, the following iteration of the well-known tabletop role-playing sport, will probably be backwards appropriate with its fifth version. Hassle is, some of us simply don’t imagine it — particularly after leaked paperwork confirmed that the long-lasting TTRPG might have gone in a really totally different path. That’s why third-party writer Kobold Press has a backup plan to maintain the preferred model of D&D alive, and it’s bringing a sizeable group of freelance artists and writers alongside for the experience.
Undertaking Black Flag is the codename for Kobold’s effort to “replace, streamline, and publish a core fantasy RPG primarily based on” the Programs Reference Doc 5.1 — the model of D&D ruled by the Open Gaming License (OGL). After fan outcry, Wizards lately transitioned that doc to the Inventive Commons, successfully inserting it exterior of its personal management. Whereas that change in licensing means the present system ought to stay open to behave as the premise for brand new works, there’s no assure that core fifth version rulebooks just like the Participant’s Handbook and the Dungeon Grasp’s Information will stay in print.
Picture: Kobold Press
Ultimately, Kobold Press co-founder Wolfgang Baur says, the present fifth version books will go away. Undertaking Black Flag might exchange them.
“Any person who’s in highschool, a junior in 2024 desires to select up the sport,” Baur mentioned in a current interview with Polygon. “The place do they go? Effectively, they may go to One D&D. And lots of people will. However for everyone who’s been enjoying and loving fifth version for approaching a decade right here, why not maintain [it] alive by placing the core books out in a phenomenal new hardcover? That’s Black Flag in a nutshell.”
Whereas which may sound like a wild concept, Kobold Press has the institutional information to construct a enterprise round it. In 2008, Baur received the distinguished Diana Jones award for his patronage system referred to as Open Design. Earlier than Kickstarter burst onto the scene, and earlier than the launch of Patreon, Baur was utilizing an analogous system to fund his work writing dietary supplements for D&D. From the Diana Jones web site:
In looking for an progressive option to fund the form of sport design Baur wished to pursue, he went again a whole lot of years to dig up the idea of patronage, add just a few fashionable twists to it, and apply it to the issue. In Open Design — as he calls his system — Baur posts a lot of concepts for potential initiatives and publicizes them together with a financial threshold for every. Because the sponsors chip in, they vote on which challenge Baur ought to pursue. When the funding for the chosen challenge reaches its threshold, he begins work in earnest.
“If I’d been actually sensible, I’d have based a Kickstarter,” Baur mentioned. “However I’m not that sensible. However we continued with that open publishing mannequin, and we nonetheless use it to a point. However the huge shift within the firm’s fortunes got here with fifth version D&D.”
Early on in fifth version’s lifecycle, Baur and the group at Kobold Press had been introduced on to draft a few of its first revealed marketing campaign books, together with Hoard of the Dragon Queen and The Rise of Tiamat. Kobold would later carry out related work within the creation of the favored fifth version anthology, Ghosts of Saltmarsh. Baur’s firm has parlayed that success right into a sequence of different standard books, together with the Tome of Beasts sequence. It’s that momentum — each in regular gross sales, and in a gentle pipeline of artists and authors accustomed to the world and its ruleset — that Baur says will assist Undertaking Black Flag get off the bottom.
“We’re gonna maintain that fifth version ruleset alive,” Baur mentioned. “And since there are nice huge holes in it, we mentioned, Let’s take these holes within the SRD and fill them with one thing superior and new. The monsters that aren’t within the SRD? Effectively, let’s discover different superior monsters. We occur to have three Tome of Beasts filled with nice monsters. I guess we might provide you with one thing to fill within the clean the place the beholder sits.”
Alongside these new core books that Kobold Press hopes to supply by way of a crowdfunding marketing campaign later within the yr, a brand new cohort of indie publishers can also be rising to the problem. First out of the gate with a piece primarily based on Undertaking Black Flag is Friday Strout, whose Kickstarter marketing campaign for The Winery RPG is at the moment searching for funding. At its core is a secretive society that may simply be plugged in to just about any setting you possibly can think about.
“The Winery operates by a sequence of debt-collection providers,” Strout informed Polygon in a current interview. “They mortgage out cash, [since] they’ve a monopoly on all the uncommon gems inside our setting. What that enables them to do is leverage political energy over totally different individuals. The Winery, it’s type of a slang time period […] primarily based on the truth that they had been in a position to domesticate loss of life into returns. If somebody is to die whereas nonetheless owing a debt to the Winery, the Winery continues to be going to gather in a method or one other.”
Inside The Winery RPG, gamers will discover 9 richly detailed villains, every with pages of backstory, motivation, and plot hooks — way over the web page or two discovered in lots of related books. Along with the requisite stat block, there are even samples of dialogue that can be utilized throughout social and fight encounters on the desk. Every part, Strout mentioned, is meant to make operating these vibrant villains simple for harried Dungeon Masters. The challenge additionally consists of a rare solid of writers, skills like Gabe Hicks (Important Position, The Session Zero System), Kienna Shaw (TTRPG Security Toolkit, Candlekeep Mysteries), and product co-creator M. Ebel (Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden). They even introduced in YouTuber LegalKimchi — a real-life lawyer — to gin up the Winery’s nefarious contracts intimately.
“Initially, we had been creating this for fifth version,” Strout mentioned, “earlier than the OGL debacle occurred in January. […] I needed to decide about who we wished to belief with our future, and who we wished to associate with. Kobold Press believes in an open and truthful system that enables them to associate with totally different creators all through the group, and to permit them to thrive on their very own, and to deal with individuals with respect and pay them effectively. So, I believed it was a no brainer for me to need to type of shift our product over to Kobold Press’ Undertaking Black Flag.”
The marketing campaign for The Winery RPG runs by Could 2. It gives bodily copies at $50, with digital copies operating $40.