Following on from Brian’s post about the 80/20 rule I have been thinking about Rolemaster’s attitude to community created content.
Right now, community created content is the ‘big thing’ in games publishing. The big names are shown below but OneBookShelf hosts 18 community content schemes.
The way they work is this…
The rights owner, the publisher, makes available some or all of their intellectual property and with it a set of guidelines about what can and cannot be done with it. In return anyone can take that IP and their own ideas and publish their own adventures, addons and supplements. The whole thing is managed through a single portal so the publisher has the final say over what is published and what isn’t and they control the revenue split between themselves and the content creators.
The granddaddy of them all in this is WotC. They have made available the core rules of D&D 5e, a selection of the most common monsters and the Forgotten Realms setting. Furthermore if you create something amazing then there is an option for WotC to adopt it as official and put their resources behind it and your content can end up in the WotC licensed games.
So now WotC have an army of content creators working purely on commission so it costs them nothing. They can cherry pick the best to include in future books and the gaming community gets a regular free flow of new content. On average there are 7 new products released for D&D 5e each day. Many of them are free or Pay What You Want. In the past week 20 of the 49 new releases had prices ranging from $0.50 to $14.95.
For Traveller, the TAS programme, there have been 20 community releases this year so this is not just a WotC and the OGL phenomena.
ICE maintain two avenues for community created content. The forum and the Guild Companion. You can publish your ideas on either but with different restrictions applying to both. On the forum you cannot lists spells, but list names are OK. You cannot quote substantial parts of the rules and the like. What ICE do not want to happen is for people to be able to play RM by collecting the rules piecemeal from posts on the forum.
The Guild Companion on the other hand will allow you to post entire spell lists of your own creation and most recently Nicholas has been posting excerpts of forthcoming books presumably to whet your appetite.
You can publish adventures, new professions, monsters and so on but everything has to go through Peter Mork and his team of editors.
None of these options give the creator an opportunity to get any compensation for their efforts. The Guild Companion has been limping along for a couple of years now with no or just a single community created article per month.
There is a misconception amongst many people that see things like the OGL (open game license) as taking revenue away from publishers. Community Created Content Programmes do not require games to be published under the OGL or anything similar. There is just a simple agreement between the rights holder and the community about what can and cannot be released. The publisher in return is earning probably 30%-40% of the revenue from all the sales for virtually no effort. The community gets a steady stream of new content and as the prices can be so low that they can buy things for less than a Dollar just to use it for ideas.
ICE struggle to put a single new book out each year, mainly because of the bottle neck created by RMU. A new system is a massive undertaking for a small company of part timers. That is one of the reasons why community content should, in my opinion, be embraced. Just how long will it take for Kevin to update all the Shadow World books to RMU? Years? A decade?
I think most of us think that there should be a ‘lite’ or ‘quick start’ edition of RMU to encourage people to give it a try.
I think Shadow World should be made open to a Rolemaster Community Created Content programme along with a core RMU reference. Let the gamers contribute and get something in return.