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ICYMI: WotC to charge royalties for One D&D

On December 21, Wizards of the Coast stealthily released long-awaited news in a blog post on D&D Beyond.  After weeks of controversy on social media, WotC announced what One D&D will actually mean for the OGL.  The biggest change by far is that creators making over $750,000 in a year from independent D&D content will have to pay royalties to Wizards.

What is the OGL?

OGL stands for Open Gaming License.  It’s what lets your favorite content creators release their unofficial supplements and homebrew materials without facing an endless stream of lawsuits from Wizards of the Coast.  One D&D will introduce version 1.1 of the OGL, which refines the rules content creators have to play by in order to stay on the publisher’s good side.

The heir apparent

The current version of the OGL, version 1.0, allows use of all SRD (Systems Reference Document – we’ll get to that in a minute) royalty free.  No creator, big or small, has to pay Wizards of the Coast a cent to put out custom content so long as they don’t use the few words, phrases, locations and characters which are explicitly forbidden under the License.  In other words, those really nice “5E compatible” modules at your LGS that are thicker than the official DMG?  The Open Gaming License doesn’t require the company putting that product out to pay a royalty for using the D&D system as its foundation.

What’s in the SRD?

Short version, the SRD contains all of the material content creators are allowed to use when making their unofficial D&D content.  It dates back to the year 2000 and D&D 3E, when WotC decided to dip their toes in the Open Source movement.  In a business sense, it was a brilliant move because it turned a lot of potential competitors into allies.  It turned the D20 system into the Android or Windows of TTRPGs.  It’s easily adaptable and used by what feels like everyone.

The official unofficial content site

Longer version, the SRD spells out the bare bones of what you can and can’t use of the Dungeons and Dragons rules. This includes classes/subclasses, spells and monsters.  It also distinguishes between the OGL and the DMs Guild.  The first you already know, the second is a Wizards-supported platform where creators are allowed to use some restricted D&D goodies, like the Forgotten Realms setting.  DMs Guild also gives creators a chance to stick their content out for WotC to see and, if the company wants, market or more widely publish.

What’s changing for One D&D?

One D&D will see the release of version 1.1 of the OGL, sometime in 2023.  Because the new format is supposed to be backwards compatible with all previous editions of Dungeons and Dragons, the SRD is also going to be updated with an expanded range of allowed (and disallowed) content for reuse.  The new version of the OGL spells out specifically what it does and does not cover so that independent creators are more easily able to find out what agreements regulate their content.  

  • The One D&D OGL only applies to “material produced for use in or as TTRPGS” in print (digital or physical);
  • The One D&D OGL does not apply to videos, livestreams or podcasts;
  • The One D&D OGL does not apply to virtual tabletops, games, or digital player toolkits.

Why does everyone think the One D&D OGL is bad?

Under the One D&D OGL, successful creators will have to report their earnings to Wizards of the Coast.  In other words, if you independently publish your own campaign setting and you make $50,000 in sales, Wizards wants to know.  And if you make a blockbuster hit and sell $750,000 worth, they want a percentage of your sales as royalties.  

OMG BUT WHAT ABOUT <Major D&D Content Producer>????

According to Wizards, this affects less than twenty creators worldwide. Odds are, your favorite actual play podcaster or YouTuber isn’t one of them.  Wizards has separate contracts and agreements already in place with the biggest content creators and platforms. Critical Role, Dimension 20, and Roll20 aren’t going to die because of this.  Those agreements aren’t going anywhere.  I beg of you, please stop panicking that a famous person will have to pay Wizards of the Coast money to play pretend for a living.  It’s cluttering up my Twitter and Reddit and it’s annoying

TL;DR: One D&D licensing changes are not going to eat you.

The OGL is not going anywhere.  Essentially nothing is going to change for most homebrewers.  WotC depends on independent creators to keep the game fresh and keep new players coming into the hobby.  They rely on fan content to grow and spread the D&D brand and legacy.  It’s essentially free marketing and product development for Wizards and Hasbro.  They’re not going to make omelets out of the golden eggs and strangle the goose laying them.

Do you self-publish 5E content? Are you worried about your ability to keep doing that when One D&D launches? Am I a horrific WotC/Hasbro apologist? Hit the comments or tag me on Twitter and let me know how you really feel!

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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