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ICYMI: Wizards backpedals on OGL 1.1

A lot has happened since I last wrote about the new Dungeons and Dragons Open Gaming License.  OGL 1.1, first leaked back around January 7, would have brought sweeping changes to how third party creators publish their content and how they can get paid for it.  Since then, discussion within the TTRPG community, especially on Twitter, Reddit, and Youtube, has been heated to say the least.  #OpenDnD and #DNDBegone have trended just about every day for the last week.  Thousands of players have canceled their D&D Beyond subscriptions in the wake of the OGL 1.1 leaks, and dozens of prominent community creators have come out publicly saying they are abandoning D&D for competitors.

On January 13, after a much-too-long silence, Wizards of the Coast finally made an official response on the subject of OGL 1.1.  It has been met with skepticism from the community and creators alike, and has done nothing to assuage the anger sparked by the original leaks.  The response reads like divorcing parents explaining to their concerned child how nothing is going to be different, even though there will be two houses with two different families in two states.  Parts even seem dismissive of the community’s concerns, repeatedly calling the leaked OGL 1.1 a draft and implying that we just don’t get what they were after with the new OGL.

Here’s a look at what WotC said – and didn’t say – about OneD&D and the next iteration of the Open Gaming License:

What they said about intentions:

OGL 1.1 is strictly for TTRPG content “like campaigns, modules and supplements.”  In their response, Wizards reiterated their anti-NFT, anti-blockchain stance with regard to Dungeons and Dragons.  It’s one of the few things the community and WotC agree upon: NFTs are bad for the environment and bad for D&D.  The public relations team is playing it safe in this release, and it’s obvious from the get-go.

Once again, WotC reiterated that the Open Gaming License is not intended to give free content to competing companies.  This time around, they frame it as a conflict between indie creators and major corporations rather than saying outright that they’re not here to “subsidize” major competitors.

What they didn’t say:

While the announcement claims that the changes to the OGL will not impact cosplay, live streaming, and virtual tabletop use, it doesn’t say what rules will govern those non-static outlets.  The Fan Content policy is not mentioned at all, nor is any alternative.  I’m going to stop short of saying they are going to put out a draconian “commercial media” policy down the road, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they did.

Also not included in the announcement is who exactly WotC are talking about when they refer to “major corporations.”  Presumably these are companies like Paizo and Kobold Press that make and publish a lot of TTRPG content.  Companies who since have made themselves folk heroes by announcing their commitment to open gaming with the still-mysterious ORC license.  Perfectly named, ORC stands for Open RPG Creative license, and the initiative is spearheaded by some of the biggest non-WotC names in the TTRPG industry.  I’m sure the specific names were left out for legal reasons, but with Wizards affirming again and again that the “vast majority” of the community is not the target, it would be nice to know just who is.

What they said about ownership:

My biggest concern as I’ve been following OGL 1.1 has been ownership of content and license-back clauses.  The draft version contained language that would grant WotC perpetual, irrevocable, and sub-licensable rights to content made under the OGL.  Notably, this language was already included in the updated terms of service for D&D Beyond back in May.  According to the WotC response, all ownership will remain in the hands of the creator.  There will be no clauses requiring any license be granted to WotC as a condition of use.  Perhaps most importantly, there will be NO royalties under the next version of the OGL.

Quote from the WotC response on D&D Beyond.  What it will not contain is any royalty structure.  It will also not include the license back provision that some people were afraid was a means for us to steal work.  That thought never crossed our minds.  Under any new OGL, you will own the content you create.  We won't.
from the WotC response on D&DBeyond.

What they didn’t say:

In the response, WotC assures us that there will be language to protect them from allegations of IP theft.  What they don’t give any indication of at ALL is what that language will be.  Will it be a disclaimer?  Some sort of waiver?  Mandatory arbitration?  WotC and Hasbro are concerned about being accused of stealing content because of “coincidental similarities” as they expand the brand.  It makes sense.  But can they really prevent that with a gaming license and terms of use?  Or should those disputes be handled as they come up?

OGL 1.1 laid out a very detailed argument for royalties and an elaborate system for calculating how much creators owe.  I can’t believe they would completely scrap that, and the idea of collecting a piece of creator profits.  There is no mention of alternative branding requirements, formatting guidelines or allowed content.  Content released under OGL 1.0a will be unaffected. That doesn’t mean that the community will be able to continue creating under it once this next iteration comes out.  This is going to be a big issue to watch as we move forward.


That’s the long of it.  The short of it is that WotC says the leaked OGL 1.1 was a draft.  They are listening to the community, and thank us for being so passionate about D&D and its future.  Big corporations are the bad guy, not WotC. They are just trying to protect themselves and the game for the future.  I am withholding judgment until we see the next “draft” of the OGL. First I need to get a good look at what WotC and Hasbro think we want to hear.

About the Author
Silver has been playing Magic: The Gathering and other trading card games off and on since 1999, and is a lifelong roleplayer. They believe in Rule 0 and The Rule of Cool, and that the gaming table should be a safe space for everyone.

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