Dungeons & Dragons editor Wizards of the Coast finally broke his silence regarding the game’s open play license on Friday, attempting to calm tensions in the D&D community and answer questions that have arisen after Gizmodo announced the news on the content of a draft document last week.
In a post titled An update on the Open Game License (OGL), published on the website for D&D Beyond, the official digital toolset of Wizards of the Coast, the company has addressed many of the concerns raised after the Open Gaming 1.1 license was leaked earlier in the week, and the returned quickly. Notable changes include the elimination of royalty structures and a promise to clarify copyright ownership and intellectual property.
But it may be too little, too late.
Despite assurances from the Hasbro subsidiary, Wizards of the Coast (WotC) may have already suffered the consequences of its week of silence. Several sources inside WotC tell Gizmodo that the situation inside the castle is dire, and Hasbro’s concern is less about public image and more about the IP treasure the dragon sits on.
The bottom line seems to be: After a fan-led campaign to cancel J&D Beyond the subscriptions that went viral, he sent a message to the superiors of WotC and Hasbro. According to multiple sources, these immediate financial consequences were the main thing that forced them to react. The decision to further delay the rollout of the new open play license, and then adjust the messaging around the rollout, was made due to a “provable impact” on their bottom line.
According to these sources, in meetings and communications with employees, the message from WotC management has been that fans are “overreacting” to the leaked draft, and that in a few months no one will remember the uproar.
The licensees push back
But despite any hope that it could all blow up, well-known publishers who have used OGL in the past – some almost exclusively, like Kobold Press and MCDM – have already released statements saying they will be moving away from all versions of the OGL. ‘OGL, or explicitly offering their own gaming licenses for their base games.
“The negative impact of implementing the new OGL may be a feature and not a bug for Wizards of the Coast,” said Charles Ryan, COO of Monte Cook Games. “A savvy third-party publisher could look at where 5e is in their lifecycle,” he said, and if they were considering 5e products, reconsider their investment. Monte Cook Games released its own open, perpetual license for its popular Cypher System last year.
Small independent presses have gathered resources to help people create third-party content for small games. Rowan, Rook and Dekardfor example, published The resistance toolboxa document intended to help designers move away from 5th edition D&D rules and write third-party content for their acclaimed RPG Arrow.
A third-party publisher told Gizmodo that they expect WotC to update the OGL as shown in the leaked documents, but not until 2025 when DnDOne is fully released. Now, many third-party publishers have moved their migration timelines forward following the publicity disaster surrounding the new leak. Dungeons & Dragons OGL.
One of WotC’s main competitors, independent publisher Paizo, owner of the Scout and star seeker RPGs, is currently campaigning to create a Open RPG Creative License (ORC) which would be managed by a non-profit foundation. Other publishers, including Kobold Press, Chaosium, and Legendary Games, have already committed to this effort.
Another third-party publisher who asked not to be identified told Gizmodo that their company “has worked with other third-party publishers before” to mount a legal defense of the original, circa 2000, OGL 1.0(a).
The OGL 1.1 text and the 2.0 FAQ
Last week, Gizmodo received draft copies of an “OGL 1.1”, then a few days later, a Frequently Asked Questions document referring to an “OGL 2.0”. (This is an important distinction, because although a 1.1 version may be considered an update to the original 1.0(a) version, calling the new chord 2.0 may indicate that it is envisioned as an entirely new and separate agreement.)
One of the most telling parts of the OGL 2.0 FAQ included a statement that clarified one of the most inflammatory points of the leaked OGL 1.1, namely whether or not the original OGL 1.0a would be deauthorized. . The leaked FAQ stated that “OGL 1.0a only allows creators to use ‘authorized’ versions of OGL, allowing Wizards to determine which of its previous versions should continue to allow use when we exercise. our right to update the license. As part of the rollout of OGL 2.0, we are revoking authorization for future use of OGL 1.0a and removing it from our website. This means that OGL 1.0a can no longer be used to develop content for publication.
Although many people have come forward to debate the legitimacy of this interpretation, including former WotC executive Ryan Dancey, who helped write the original OGL 1.0, the FAQ has continued to push this language. Additionally, the January 13 update does not explicitly state that the company will not attempt to deauthorize OGL 1.0a. “I don’t believe OGL v1.0a can be undone,” Dancey said in an email to Gizmodo. “There is no mechanism in the license for deauthorization.”
“When v1.0a was released and licensed, Hasbro & Wizards of the Coast did so knowing they were entering a perpetual license regime,” Dancey continued. “Everyone involved at the executive level – Peter Adkison (who was the CEO of Wizards), Brian Lewis (who was the in-house attorney for Wizards) and me (I was the VP of Tabletop RPGs ) all agreed that was the intent of the license.”
While the OGL 2.0 FAQ has been distributed to several teams within Wizards of the Coast, sources indicate that this FAQ was not released on January 12 as planned due to the impact of canceled subscriptions and the wave growing backlash online.
The OGL 2.0 FAQ also stated that “the leaked documents were drafts, and some of the content that bothered people had already been changed in the latest versions at the time of the leaks.” However, what was bothering people – including copyright endorsements and royalties – still seemed to be in place in the FAQ for 2.0.
“The part of OGL 1.1 that states that once you publish under OGL 1.1 other people can also use your work is very similar to the DMs Guild language,” explained Jessica Marcrum, co-creator of Unseelie Studios. “But it’s not an ‘open’ language. And it seems they are using the old OGL guise to claim that 1.1 is an open license when it is not.
Additionally, multiple sources reported that third-party publishers received OGL 1.1 in mid-December as an incentive to sign a “darling deal”, indicating that WotC was ready to accept the initially leaked draconian OGL 1.1.
According to an anonymous source who was in the room, at the end of 2022, Wizards of the Coast made a presentation to a group of approximately 20 third-party creators who described the new OGL 1.1. These creators were also offered offerings that would replace the publicly available OGL 1.1; Gizmodo received a copy of this document, called the “Term Sheet,” which would be used to outline specific custom contracts within OGL.
These “cherished” agreements would entitle signatories to lower royalty payments – 15% instead of 25% on excess revenue over $750,000, as outlined in OGL 1.1 – and a commitment from Wizards of the Coast to market these third party products on various D&D. Beyond channels and platforms, except during “blackout periods” around WotC’s own releases.
Third parties were expected to sign these Term Sheets. Noah DownsA tabletop RPG space lawyer who was consulted on the terms of one of those contracts said that while the sheets included language suggesting negotiation was possible, he felt like he didn’t. There wasn’t much room for change.
Make the right choices
In its “Open Play License Update” released on Friday, WotC promised that the new OGL was still in development and not ready for the final release “because we need to make sure we’re doing it right.” . The company promised to consider community feedback and continue making changes to the OGL that made it work for both WotC and its third-party editors.
But it may be too late. “Even if Wizards of the Coast were to work entirely [the leaked OGL 1.1] on the back, it leaves such a bitter taste in and in my mouth that I don’t want to work with OGL in the future,” said David Markiwski of Unseelie Studios.
Meanwhile, the “#DnDBegone” campaign encouraging fans to cancel their D&D Beyond subscriptions continued to gain traction on Twitter and other social media sites.
In order to delete a D&D Beyond account entirely, users are redirected to a support system that asks them to submit tickets to be handled by customer service: sources inside Wizards of the Coast confirm that earlier this week, there were “five digits” of ticket claims in the system. The moderation and internal issue management has been “a mess”, they said, in part due to the fact that WotC recently downsized the D&D Beyond support team.
Wizards of the Coast stated in the unpublished FAQ that they weren’t making changes to the OGL just because of a few “loud voices,” and it’s true. It took thousands of votes. And it’s clear that Wizards of the Coast didn’t make the latest changes on its own initiative. The entire tabletop ecosystem is holding Wizards of the Coast to the promises they made in 2000. And now fans are setting the terms.
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