‘Dungeons & Dragons’ open game license controversy explained

A major change in company policy could change the world of tabletop roleplaying games as it exists today forever. According to leaked documents, Hasbro and its subsidiary Wizards of the Coast are the makers of Dungeons and Dragonsperhaps the most popular TTRPG of all time, are proposing sweeping changes to its existing Open Gaming License, a move that could have far-reaching consequences for any properties currently using the game’s rules system.

Since 2000, Wizards of the Coast’s Open Gaming License, or OGL, has allowed countless developers to use D&D game mechanics in their own intellectual property for free, ostensibly in perpetuity. That all appears to be changing, according to a recently leaked copy of WoTC’s new gaming license, known as OGL 1.1, which not only seems to affect future work, but will affect everyone who has ever relied on the license.

According to Document leaked on Twitter, “This revised license aims to protect the D&D brand by reducing creator confusion, preventing bad actors from smearing it, and preventing big companies from profiting from it without proper controls and offsets.” But the backtrack is a long way off more threatening than just protecting the WoTC brand. At least that’s what angry users believe.

Under the terms of OGL 1.1, creators must log any work that generates profits with the company and receive a creator product badge, as reported by the D&D Beyond website. And it doesn’t just extend to funds generated from sales. D&D social media advertising revenue, book sales, and “homemade” content are subject to license. Additionally, according to the website, licensees who make more than $750,000 per year “have to share some of that success [WoTC] by paying a royalty of 20% to 25% of the “qualifying earnings” they generate in excess of $750,000.”

While this doesn’t seem to affect the community in general (few developers will find themselves in this type of tax bracket), there is another part of the license that will, and many players are upset about what they see as overkill by WOTC. Registration for a Creator Product Badge grants Company a “nonexclusive, perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, sublicensable, royalty-free license to use that content for any purpose,” making any intellectual property generated at least the de facto common property of WoTC. The clause does not go down well with the TTRPG community at all.

While smaller developers may not be greatly affected, larger companies and corporations like Pathfinder’s parent company Paizo, podcasts like Critical Role, and other community pillars like Green Ronin, Kobold Press, and others may find themselves effective WoTC contractors.

According to GameRant, so far over 4,000 users have signed a protest letter asking WoTC not to implement the draconian OGL update. Meanwhile, some companies are taking preventative measures, such as game maker Kobold Press, which announced the Code Name: Project Black Flag initiative, which will “create a new Core Fantasy Tabletop ruleset: available, open, and without subscription for those who love it.”

For its part, WoTC seems aware that its potential “improvement” is not well received. It remains to be seen whether OL 1.1 will feature the same implementations as stated in the leaked document after the official release. And according to Gizmodo, the leaked document states that they know they “will be pushed back by the community and receive bad PR, and we’re more than open to being convinced we made a wrong decision.”

It might be time they start preempting it. Or at least catch up with the rest of the community.

https://wegotthiscovered.com/gaming/dungeons-dragons-open-game-license-controversy-explained/ ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ open game license controversy explained

Lindsay Lowe

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