What the New GSL Means for 4e Players

As rumored and then announced yesterday, the long-promised revision of the Game System License for 4e D&D was released. While it’s certainly important news, I think the actual effects on the average gamer are minimal.

  • Since publishers no longer have to choose between the OGL and GSL, more third-party publishers can adopt the license to produce 4e-compatible products. As reported earlier, Clark Peterson of Necromancer Games was used to judge the revisions, and he is planning on releasing 4e products now. Other publishers may follow suit, but it’s probably too soon to tell. (Of course, the interesting test will be if Paizo decides to release 4e products).
  • Player’s Handbook 2, Monster Manual 2, and Adventurer’s Vault content is fair game for third party publishers now, which means products such as The Quintessential Avenger Sorcerer are now a possibility. (As others have pointed out, only some things were added from PHB2 and MM2, mostly sticking to classes, races, and monsters that were formerly in D&D).
  • Along those lines, since the new System Reference Document includes those books, you can get an early peek at the power names of all the classes, and a list of many of the new monsters.
  • However, the clause preventing unaltered material is still there, so third-party publishers still cannot print statblocks in their adventures (at least without making up new monsters or altering existing ones).
  • The fan site policy is still absent, but that was never going to be in the GSL.
  • Generally, while there’s a little begrudging acceptance that the changes are for the better, few minds seem to have been changed by this new version.
About Dave

Dave "The Game" Chalker is the Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Critical Hits. Since 2005, he has been bringing readers game news and advice, as well as editing nearly everything published here. He is the designer of the Origins Award-winning Get Bit!, a freelance designer and developer, son of a science fiction author, and a Master of Arts. He lives in MD with e, their three dogs, and two cats.


  1. It’s extremely frustrating not to be able to print monster stat blocks for official monsters in my original modules or one-off encounters. And not being able to list a page reference from the MM is additional insult to injury.

  2. If you’re just posting on your website, this doesn’t affect it at all. If you’re planning on publishing, then yeah, that annoying bit is still intact.

  3. To be fair, 3E adventures often didn’t print statblocks either. My Dungeon magazines here and a copy of Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil only give page numbers for existing monsters.

    I suspect that you can reprint most 4E monsters simply by levelling them up or down by one. A slight variant is also easy, and adds variety: not all goblins are sharpshooters or warriors or blackblades, and I’d be more interested in an adventure if I thought it brought me new monsters stats for new types of goblin.

  4. Erekose says:

    I believe you can only publish things based on material from PHB2/AV/MM2 thats in the SRD. So no Quint. Avenger, but the Quint. Bard/Barbarian/Druid/Sorceror are all open game.

  5. Why can’t you reference/cite page numbers? Seems harsh.

    Edit: In response, looks like that’s a No Go on Paizo, according to Vic Wertz…


    Zachary Houghton´s last post: Classic 4e–Will It Fly?

  6. Yeah. Ironically, only the classes that have appeared in 3.x are in the SRD (except Warlock and Warlord) but the new classes (Avenger, Invoker, Warden, Shaman) are not included in the SRD.

    Warforged, Shifters and Goliaths don’t seem to make the cut as well.

    Questing GM´s last post: Necromancer Games Going Both Ways

  7. You can’t use page numbers, because the material may change and page numbers may not match after changes. At least that is what I read somewhere.

    Shent´s last post: Found a Great Movie for Game Inspiration

  8. Generally, while there’s a little begrudging acceptance that the changes are for the better, few minds seem to have been changed by this new version.

    Actually, a number of new GSL applications seem to be going in, including from some of the bigger companies who were against it.

    Necromancer Games, for instance, who was very against version 1:


    I just scanned and sent in our acceptance of the revised GSL on the first possible date to do so.

    I sent it to Scott personally

    Paizo had already made it clear they had little intention to do 4e stuff, aside from publishing for companies like Necromancer, so I am not surprised.

    Graham´s last post: Scales of War – All sorts of updates

  9. And… apparently I missed the part of the post that already discussed Necro.

    Oh well.

    Later in the thread he also says what changed that he wanted (section 6 was his “poison pill”).

    So… there’s that…

    I’ll shut up now.

  10. To everyone who pointed out what’s lacking from PHB2, thanks. I’ve updated the post to correct that. I noticed the lack of races but somehow missed the classes.

    As for the lack of page numbers, the GSL FAQ specifically says it’s because page numbers might change between printings.

  11. It looks to me like the MM2 is only providing 3 metallic dragons. Copper, Gold, and Silver are listed. Can we safely assume that the new monsters listed in the document is a comprehensive list of new monsters from MM2? I didn’t see demogorgon on the list, and noticed references to gods changed, I assume this is part of what happens with the GSL but someone more in the know can probably enlighten me a bit!

  12. It’s NOT comprehensive (as noted in the piece above). The things that Wizards is claiming specifically as their intellectual property (like Demogorgon, but also apparently the Iron and Adamantine dragons) aren’t in the SRD.

  13. Hm, thanks Dave!

  14. bujoojoo says:

    So can companies now publish for both 3e and 4e? Or do they still have to pick one? I understand WotC/Hasbro’s position of moving on to the new edition, but if someone has a popular game add-on/book/module/whatever, why not allow it for both editions?

  15. They can definitely now publish for both, which was probably the biggest change in version. I’ll have to do some research to see if products with both statblocks appearing in the same publication can be done now.

  16. bujoojoo says:

    Thanks for looking into this, Dave. Publishing dual stat blocks in the same publication _would_ be more economical. However, if that is not allowed, it may help to forward the cause of PDF publishing even more. I love the heft of a core rule book in my hands, but I would prefer to save my money and buy inexpensive PDF modules than $25 printed modules in expensive folders…

  17. Crimson-Hawk says:

    I sincerely hope they update the SRD further. Keeping publishers away from Demogorgon, shadar-kai, mind flayers, and beholders, I can understand… they’ve done that from the beginning.

    But they’re publishing a book where only half the content is open to be referred to? “You can discuss how barbarians, bards, druids, and sorcerers fit into your campaign, but you can’t discuss how avengers, invokers, shamans, and wardens fit in. Take that and chew on it.”

    If I knew that was going to be the case, I would have just stuck with the Advanced Player’s Guide and told the PHB2 to go shove it. At least the Advanced Player’s Guide has monks.

    And I don’t even plan on making money on my campaign. I plan on offering it up as a fan-work.