OG(hel)L week - what's happening?

OG(hel)L week - what's happening?

This past week in the TTRPG Empire has been wild. What's been happenin' with Wizard of the Coast OGL fiasco? Lemme break it down.

This past week or so, there has a been a huge uproar in the D&D community regarding the new OGL rollout from Wizards of the Coast. So much so, that long time D&D fans and subscribers are pulling their money out of their D&D Beyond subscriptions, creating and signing online petitions against the OGL, and it birthed the #OpenDnD hashtag. So, let's start here: What is OGL anyway and why is it such a big deal? OGL is a free copyright license developed royalty by Wizards of the Coast. The penalties associated with this could make your work as D&D Creator potentially liable to any one of the groups below:

  1. Anyone in the copyright notice section.
  2. Anyone who receives Open Game Content and relies on you to ensure your work conforms to the terms of OGL.
  3. Someone with a copyright trademark interest in work you have distributed. 
  4. Copyright infringement.


This past week, there was a leak from inside the walls of WoTC where the leaker disclosed some opinions and inside scoop on the stance of Wizard higher ups. They lamented on the health of the community and gave some insight on what WoTC leaders were looking at:

  • They say that leaders are briefly delaying the changes due to backlash
  • That their decision making is based entirely on provable impact to their bottom line
  • Specifically they are looking at DDB subscriptions and cancellations
  • They are still hoping the community forgets and moves so they can push through

Seems pretty cutthroat, huh? In any case, it seems the D&D community turned up the heat just enough. When WoTC finally posted a response following their OGL 2.0 delay announcement, they had made some alterations to the original plan. Here is the opening to their statement:
"When we initially conceived of revising the OGL, it was with three major goals in mind. First, we wanted the ability to prevent the use of D&D content from being included in hateful and discriminatory products. Second, we wanted to address those attempting to use D&D in web3, blockchain games, and NFTs by making clear that OGL content is limited to tabletop roleplaying content like campaigns, modules, and supplements. And third, we wanted to ensure that the OGL is for the content creator, the homebrewer, the aspiring designer, our players, and the community - not major corporations to use for their own commercial and promotional purpose."
They lead with an air of "good intention", bringing clarity to their supposed reasoning. 
"Driving these goals were two simple principles: (1) Our job is to be good stewards of the game, and (2) the OGL exists for the benefit of the fans. Nothing about those principles has wavered for a second."

"That was why our early drafts of the new OGL included the provisions they did. That draft language was provided to content creators and publishers so their feedback could be considered before anything was finalized."
(They got some feedback alright LOL) They assure us the earlier versions of the information were nothing more than drafts. 
"In addition to language allowing us to address discriminatory and hateful conduct and clarifying what types of products the OGL covers, our drafts included royalty language designed to apply to large corporations attempting to use OGL content. It was never our intent to impact the vast majority of the community."

"However, it's clear from the reaction that we rolled a 1. It has become clear that it is no longer possible to fully achieve all three goals while still staying true to our principles."
And they did, in fact, roll a 1. A couple of their alterations included that the new OGL would not require creators to pay a royalty and content previously created for 5e will "remain unaffected". They also said there will be no license back provision as a means to steal work, meaning creators will own any content they create. However, according to io9 who say they have seen (or has a source who has seen) the full document:

  • The full doc includes multiple trap doors
  • There is a clause that revokes the existing OGL
  • Any OGL-related earnings must be reported to WoTC
  •  From those making more than $750K from OGL-related materials, Wizards will demand a 25% royalty payments starting in 2024

Who can really say what Wizards real intentions are, but they are painting a money hungry picture. Paizo plans to move Pathfinder and other game systems off OFL and onto a new, independent agreement announced by Paizo on Thursday. They have committed themselves to a legal battle with WoTc, if necessary. They are moving their products off the OGL. Paizo is now working with Seattle-based law firm, Azora Law, to develop the Open RPG Creative License (dubbed ORC). No one organization will own ORC; however, Azora will take "ownership of the process" and provide "stewardship" in order to create "safe harbor against any company being bought, sold or changing management in the future and attempting to rescind rights or nullify sections of the license."

The D&D tabletop franchise is absolutely moving in a new direction. They are caressing the mainstream with an 8-episode live action series coming to streaming platforms and a Chris Pine film set in the universe. Is it possible to capture the spirit of D&D through is TV series? D&D is a majorly a theatrical art, in my opinion, and it is the magic of our imaginations that make the game so impactful. We worry for the integrity maintenance of the collaborative, interactive storytelling experience that has impacted a lot of our lives.

Sink Your Teeth Into The Game,
ShadowXxFang, Lead Writer

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