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We talk about the recent (at the time of recording) changes to the Open Game License (or OGL) in this episode, and both Rob and Tim have very closely held opinions about those recent changes. They are two very passionate table-top gamers, and we wanted to keep their opinions on the matter in-tact. The only editorialising we did was bleep the odd swear word - of which there were only two or three.
Please listen responsibly.
Jay covered the intro in this episode:
From active timer battling to zombie slaying, Waffling Taylors covers all kinds of gaming and beyond.
This week we were joined bit Rob and Tim of Gold Mountain Gamer to talk about their new TTRG campaign "The Saltreach Isles" and how they went about creating it.
It’s important to note that we recorded this episode during the height of the changes to the OGL (or Open Gaming License) from Wizards of the Coast. This is the backbone of Dungeons & Dragons and Dungeons and Dragons-like content, and the changes brought about by Wizards of the Coast brought about a LOT of backlash from the community; which we talked about.
Also, unfortunately Squidge was ill when we recorded episode, so he’s not in this one. But I talked with both Rob and Tim afterwards, and they are more than happy to come back to the show and talk both Squidgey and myself through their updates as they continue their world-building and production of "The Saltreach Isles"
Gold Mountain Games
A discussion about Gold Mountain Games, their table-top RGPs and the personal thoughts of both Tim and Rob on the recent changes to the OGL couldn’t have happened without first discussing what Gold Mountain Games are and what they do:
Yeah, absolutely cool. We’ve got a couple of one shots out and we’ve also got a settings book. We can go into a bit more detail about that later on, I think, but yeah table-top RPGs is what we do.
But they’re not just another TTRPG company, as Tim explained:
And we like to approach everything from a very professional mindset. Right. So as much as we’re all still fans that are playing the games and really wanting to make this a fully realized company and everything else, we’re still working with artists and writers on professional, contract level work in order to make certain that our visions are as clear and concise and as awe inspiring as possible for the end users once they get the products.
But what about the people behind Gold Mountain Games? First Rob:
I’m Rob. I’m the owner and executive director of Gold Mountain Games.
I’ve been playing tabletop RPGs for about a decade. I’ve been - before that, I was massively into the boardgame scene. I set up one of the biggest boardgame clubs in the UK. I’ve got a boardgame tattooed on me. I’ve got my favourite fantasy author tattooed on me. I’m a mega geek and tabletop RPGs have been a large part of my life and kind of formed a lot of my friendships and helped me with lots of troubles in my life. And I just think they’re great and I wanted to give back some of that awesomeness.
So my name is Tim. I am one of the directors at Gold Mountain Games.
My primary function is the business and the sales. The marketing, the business side of it actually my day job, if you want to call it that. Heavy quotes there is. I work within the gaming industry during the day. I’m actually a sales representative at Cryptozoic Entertainment and I also do contract work for other companies.
So it’s funny, when Rob actually reached out to me the first time, I was just like, "yeah, I want to do some writing." And then we got to talking, I was like, "oh wait, no, we need this slot filled more for a lot." So for folks out there, what I do is the boring corporate stuff, but it’s also very necessary stuff for when we get to the point of getting the products out there, really letting them shine.
What’s The Saltreach Isles Isles All About?
Discussion turned to that of their new campaign (due out soon) called “The Saltreach Isles”, and it’s amazing just how much world-building the team at Gold Mountain Games has put into this campaign:
The Saltreach Isles is a massive archipelago world. We’ve got 24 islands ranging from kind of big central, kind of multiple kind of species and empires on them. We’ve got tiny little islands that have a one group may occupy more than one of them.
It came about really from there isn’t really a setting for D&D - which is what it was written for - there isn’t one that kind of takes in the scope and the differences that you get in kind of island nations and archipelagos. And I think it gave us this really interesting mechanism we could use with kind of over time, the islands breaking up from a - I forget the word now - a Pangaea, one big continent. So a lot of the world is tied into kind of the evolution of the planet as a whole.
We’ve got Gods that aren’t really Gods. We’ve got real kind of unique takes on a lot of the species that people would be used to from DnD. And we’ve also added orcs, trolls and goblins because I love me a green skin. I think they’re all great. My very first Warhammer were orcs back when I was like 12 or 13 and I’ve just loved them ever since.
But one of the things I really wanted to do is I wanted to bring them kind of into the modern age. I wanted to get rid of this idea that they are unintelligent roots who kill and maim for fun. That had its place. I think the Middle earth needed its bad guys and the orcs were amazing. However, I wanted to do something more interesting with them.
Whilst the game uses the typical creatures and species you might find in most DnD fantasy campaigns, the team have spent the time to really think about why the creatures should exist:
And for me, I really wanted to do everything I could to make certain that they felt like there was a reason for them being in this world other than like, hey, I made a monster throw it against your players. Every creature I wrote has a reason for being there.
And Rob went on to talk about how they are creating deep culture and lore around the histories of the different species, and the factions within them. The team behind the game have also thought very clearly about diversity and inclusion in creating this campaign.
…one of the other things we’ve tried to do, and I think we’ve been very successful with it, is we’ve tried to be very open and accepting and inclusive with our writing.
We have very many kind of NPCs named characters, some of the Gods as well. They’re male, female, and they/them. Inclusivity is really important to us as a company, right? Whether that’s because of life choices, whether that’s because of religion, whether that’s because of disability; whatever it is, I think it’s really important that everyone gets the chance to play who they want to be in a game.
So that’s kind of that’s influenced a lot of our decision making through it, especially because we’re not writing a kind of Eurocentric or Western centric setting, we’ve kind of made sure that we’ve talked to people from cultures similar to the one in the Saltreach Isles. And so that’s been I’ve learnt some amazing things and we’ve got one of our writers, actually South American, and there’s a lot of influences from their culture within the monsters and some truly terrifying creatures from folklore from around the world that we brought in.
One interesting point was the way that they came up with the “bad guys” for the campaign:
…there’s no like one race of human that’s inherently evil. There’s factions within the human race that have done some pretty abhorrent things over history.
So that’s kind of the motivation within the books too, right. Where it’s like, "yeah, they’re all different species. They have their own cultures depending upon what island they come from." Like orcs on Osconar could be totally different from orcs on another set of islands is because again culturally, but what faction are they aligned with? Right? That’s where their viewpoints come in.
So it was important for us to kind of look at it from more of a real world perspective, that if we are going to create absolute aholes for bad guys, there’s a motivation behind it other than, like, green skin and go charge it.
There are some great bad guys in films and literature and everywhere. The great bad guys are not bad because of physical things, they’re not bad because of anything they can’t change. They’re bad because they make choices that are bad. And that’s what we’re doing. And I think that’s what a lot of people are doing now. And it’s really refreshing and really quite pleasant to see.
Jay here: I absolutely love this. "they’re not bad because of anything they can’t change. They’re bad because they make choices that are bad." That’s some great character motivation and growth there.
The Elephant In The Room
On the date of recording
Jan 18th, 2023
things were still in a weird state with the OGL, and there was a discussion (before recording) about whether Jay should ask Rob and Tim for their thoughts. But it really was an elephant in the room, so Jay soldiered on and asked:
Like I said earlier on, I’m asking you chaps your own personal opinions. If you want to make it this is the opinion of the company, the group, then that’s fine. But I’d love to know a couple of things about, because we talked right at the beginning and said, "hey, it’s DnD5e," and you went, "well..". So leading question: is that because of what happened with the OGL earlier this week into last week?
Well, Tim answered it rather succinctly:
Simple answer is yes. I guess the next question I’m going to have for you naturally on this subject, are we allowed to swear on this podcast?
this is why we included the bleep button
On the back of that, Rob and Tim wanted to talk about their own, personal opinions of the recent changes. Gold Mountain Games had already put out a statement on the OGL changes.
I’m sad. It’s my feeling.
Dungeons and Dragons for me, I’ve got quite a few chronic health problems, and I’ve had some really dark times in my life, and I relied on DnD to get me through them, and it did that job really well. It’s brought me closer to my friends, it’s brought me closer to my brother, and they’ve turned around and they’ve sullied it, and I’m sad. I think they have taken, Wizards the Coast have taken the community that made Fifth Edition as big and as popular as it is, and they’ve turned around and they’ve gone, "you don’t matter any more. We’re going to take all of your hard work and we’re going to do what we want because we don’t want other people benefiting off this any more."
And I think that’s cruel. I think it’s mean and I think it’s selfish. And I know they’re a company, and I have no issue with them making money; that’s what their job is. They’re allowed to make money. We live in a capitalist society. Go ahead, but don’t [REDACTED] on the people who gave you help, and that’s what they’ve done. In a nutshell, that’s my feeling, yeah.
…I’ve been mentioning this quite a bit on different videos I’ve watched on the subject and different Facebook groups and things: that with every statement they come up with and all these, like, apologies that are not really apologies and bull[REDACTED] that comes with it. The one thing I’ve said over and over and over again when it comes time to how they’re treating this whole thing is that the community holds the spirit of Dungeons and Dragons, Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro at this point is just parading around with their corpse because they own the brand and the ampersand. I don’t think they really understand what it took to even get this game to the level it’s even hit now.
And then when they came out with an apology, they tried to pretend that multimillion pound company didn’t have a legal team that told them what their contract would do. It was the most patronizing thing I think I’ve ever read.
And I think there’s a very real problem here in that a lot of the small creators are going to lose money and they’ve got to pay their mortgages and they’ve got to send their kids to school and it’s a massive cottage industry that the OGL created and it was meant to be, and they were told it was permanent. People rely on it for their livelihoods
I know quite a few and now they’re all in limbo.
But, like, we need an answer, we need to know what we’ve got to work with because it might turn out that they backtrack on everything and we didn’t have to cancel our Kickstarter. But at the time we had to cancel our Kickstarter. And you’re like, "come on, this is not fair. We’ve done nothing that you didn’t tell us that we had every right to do," and we’re being punished for it. And I think a lot of people feel like that
And that’s just a carefully selected quote from each, please listen to the fuller episode for the full context and the fuller feelings of both Rob and Tim.