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Wizards of the Coast released the core rules of D&D 3.5 under the OGL, but only added a small amount of material after that point.

Was there some historical reason that the rules for psionics were released in this fashion when so little else was?

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Interesting question! At a guess (not good enough for an answer), it was because psionics (unlike pact magic, shadowcasting, truenaming, meldshaping, or initiating) gets referenced, sometimes pretty heavily, by campaign settings (a huge part of Dark Sun, a substantial part of Eberron). It's also quite a lot older than those subsystems, each of which was (as far as I can tell) created for 3.5. So my guess is setting authors wanted to be able to reference this material, which is less easy to replicate without XPH than just another base class, and that was why. –  KRyan Mar 18 '13 at 13:58
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Psionics has a very deep/rich tradition in DnD, my hypothesis was that by releasing it as OGL they were baiting the people of the "old school renaissance" to release d20 books with the OGL psionics, thus providing some free d20 publicity among the really old players market.

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Hi, I can easily speculate as to the reason. But what I want is something more concrete. –  starwed Mar 18 '13 at 19:04
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Unless a WotC board member comes strolling on to this site, it is hard to come up with an answer that isn't hearsay and speculation.

We know that the original 3.0 SRD is published in 2000, and came to include the base system of the time, as well as the significant 3.0 subsystems:

Two monsters of the 3.0 Monster Manual 2, September 1, 2002 (Razor Boar and Scorpionfolk) were released as Open Game Content as well, becoming the last WotC content relating to D&D to be released under the OGL until Unearthed Arcana came out in 2004 (but that is a special case, see below).

Given what we know of WotC's and D&D's history, we can find some factors that may be relevant in their departure from the OGL philosophy. I leave this article on WotC's history as reference.

  1. Ryan Dancey, OGL prime mover leaves WotC in 2001 (according to his Linkedin profile). Much of the content we'll see relating to 3.0 is already in motion, but the person who is, at least outwardly, responsible for much of the OGL ideology is not present for the development of 3.5.
  2. Following a massive spike of d20/OGL products in 2000-2002 or so, the "d20/OGL aftermarket" sees a massive crash around the time D&D 3.5 is published. While the details of that crash (usually just called "the d20 crash") are not important, what is important to our story is that d20/OGL wasn't very successful in the minds of many during the later part of the D&D 3.5 life-cycle. While clearly, it didn't prevent the existing SRD from being updated to 3.5, the business model being perceived as a failure in the following years doesn't exactly encourage the company to divert resources (see item 3) to converting their products to the format. Paizo later revives it with Pathfinder, but within the timeframe the famous 3.5 subsystems other than Psionics are being developed, the OGL isn't all that huge. To top it off...
  3. Financial/corporate pressure from Hasbro comes in strongly during the period, a visible sign being the closure of the WotC retail stores in 2004. The ship was run tightly at the time, and the OGL is of dubious importance to the company itself.

Unearthed Arcana (2004) is another story. It was (as far as I know) never added to the official 3.5 SRD, but it did contain content originally released under the OGL in other d20 publications (like d20 Modern, the core book from 2002), so it could not be made illegal to use that content in other publications, like this handy reference page.

So. My final word is that I say I have reason to believe that psionics (unlike the other 3.5 subsystems) were included in the SRD because that system was developed during the small timeframe during which the OGL was truly being pushed forward by a Ryan Dancey-directed, OGL-positive, Pokemon-money-overflowing WotC, whereas the others... weren't.

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Could you go into a bit more detail about the 3.0 stuff? I (re)started playing D&D right when 3.5 came out, so don't have a good idea of that history. If everything 'extra' released for 3.5 had its roots in 3.0 OGL product, that would make a lot of sense. –  starwed Mar 18 '13 at 21:51
    
Added some dates (sorry for the late reply, been busy). And yes, I don't know of any Open Game Content by WotC not originally released before 2003. –  Ernir Mar 21 '13 at 2:03
    
I can find the OGL 3.0 psionics material, but can't find the epic and divine rules. I'm curious, can you find a link to that material, or something else to point to that "proves" they were released as part of the 3.0 SRD? (Or at any rate, released as OGC in some way before 3.5) –  starwed Mar 22 '13 at 20:14
    
Hmm, actually, I can't (in fact, I can't find any reference to when these two were made OGC at all). If I've mucked up the timeline, and those 3.0 systems were only included when the 3.5 SRD came out, that weakens the argument considerably (and really makes me wonder again what on earth was going on at WotC HQ at the time)... –  Ernir Mar 22 '13 at 20:33
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