The Dungeon Masters Guild: WotC’s New User Content Marketplace

WotC has opened up a marketplace of sorts to fans who’d like to create and upload content, and sell it online. That marketplace is called the Dungeon Masters Guild, and it’s a partnership between WotC and a company called OBS, i.e., the folks behind the DriveThruRPG and RPGNow websites.

Not coincidentally, WotC released the much pined for Systems Reference Document for 5E  on the same day, and they did it under the Open-Gaming License! (The online, non-PDF version of the 5E SRD can be found here.)

What makes this so interesting is that WotC has released the Forgotten Realms IP for self-publishing purposes, meaning a user can write content for the Realms and potentially sell it through the marketplace! (The user receiving half the take, while WotC and OBS split the other half.)

Looking around places like ENWorld and Facebook, some Realms-related commentary jumped out at me.

MarkCMG writes (emphasis mine):

(…) Then, I think we’ll see some cream rise to the top as some quality risk-takers do their own thing and pick out some underserved sections of FR and put some new but well-integrated spins on subjects folks discover they didn’t know they’d need. These will be the ideas and products WotC would do well to latch onto as they move forward.

Make no mistake, DMGuild is a talent show with WotC in a front row seat. Much in the same way they snagged the consistent and prolific Mike Mearls out of the Era 3.5, they have the chance to re-invigorate their freelancer list from what shows up from many unexpected corners of the gamerverse. The best of the folks that will do well on DMGuild will be creators who are both innovators and know how to follow the rules WotC has set up, and WotC will have access to the hard sales data and customer feedback to know precisely who is doing what.

I wonder how soon users will realize there is an enormous pile of unpublished Realmslore (in the form of answers from Ed Greenwood, and others) sitting in places like Candlekeep, just waiting to see print. (No pitchforks, please; I’m not talking about stealing from the Candlekeep website by taking Ed’s replies, copying it wholesale and trying to make money off of it.)

There are some rare nuggets of Realmslore that could be built on, expanded and transformed into a useful chunk of content. I think a Dungeon Masters Guild user would be well-served by creating content that’s anchored in Realmslore most people didn’t know existed.

What’s more, that Realmslore covers parts of the setting that WotC has produced a lot of material for already. This might seem a bad thing, but for gamers who really like, say, Waterdeep or Cormyr and prefer to set their games there, truly new material that’s based on official Realmslore is going to grab their attention.

Looking at the Dungeon Masters Guild website, it appears WotC’s emphasis is on adventures (and primarily material that expands on their storylines, such as Rage of Demons), and monster conversions to 5E from older editions.  This may not be as limiting as it sounds. One could easily include Current Clack-style entries, as well as NPC and location write-ups.

From the Content Guidelines page:

  • Your content is rated and reviewed by fans who purchase your adventures, allowing you to improve as a designer, and allowing Wizards to easily identify the best creators for additional publication opportunities. The best work will also be eligible to be selected by the Dungeons & Dragons team at Wizards, to provide our digital partners with salable, downloadable content (DLC) for games such as the Neverwinter MMO and Sword Coast Legends.
  • While all types of content are welcome in the Dungeon Masters Guild, there are certain types of content we think are more in demand by players, and we will therefore tend to promote it more prominently on the DMsGuild marketplace. Primarily, we’d like to see short adventures that can be run in a single session, especially ones that can complement larger campaigns already published by Wizards (e.g., Rage of Demons). Also in demand are fifth edition conversions of monsters absent from the fifth edition Monster Manual and new backgrounds for players to use with their characters. Again, we’d like to emphasize content that would be useful for other D&D players looking to expand on existing official storylines, such as a collection of demons useful for Rage of Demons. At the end of the day, though, the best content for you to write is the content you’re inspired to create. The Realms is a big place. We look forward to seeing what you create for it!

My questions about the new program are:

  • How best to price a product?
  • Is there still a market for lore-heavy Realms products?
  • How about a market for products that are rules-minimal, like the Volo’s Guides? And will WotC allow something like this?
  • Is artwork something that other users can re-use, just like the marketplace allows for content to be re-used with attribution?
  • Does content that borrows from Realms sources found online require attribution (or rather, can it be attributed to catch a reader’s attention)?
  • What are the restrictions (if any) imposed by WotC on what Realms content can and can’t be used?
  • What are my minimum production values? “Looks great in PDF format” or “Wow…this would be great as a print on demand book”?
  • How will the Ed Greenwood Group approach this? Will some of the old hands that “WotC has sidelined for a decade or more,” according to James Lowder, start writing again? Personally, I hope they start writing like crazy.

My takeaways are:

  • WotC has figured out a way to publish content for the Realms without having to worry about canon.
  • I am on the fence about the Guild policy of allowing other users to take something I create for one of my own products and put it in their product. All they need to do is cite their source.
  • I need to produce some new content, quick! Everything I have that’s good is already available for free at Candlekeep, and soon here (once I port everything over and edit it to my current standard of writing).
  • REMEMBER: the best content may be selected by WotC for purchase and inclusion in the Realms!
  • WotC sits on royalties for 60 days, and they charge $2 per withdrawal.

Finally, there is a Reddit AMA (e.g., ask me anything) scheduled for Friday.

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