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The Dungeons & Dragons community holds its breath as Wizards of the Coast prepares a new OGL

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A leaked copy of a new, more restrictive open gaming license put much of the surrounding thriving ecosystem Dungeons & Dragons in a nervous stalemate. yesterday, io9 released snippets of a reported preview build of OGL 1.1a public copyright license that can be used by developers to create third-party material for Dungeons & Dragons. Reported new version claims to “deauthorize” previous versions of OGLwhich would force publishers to agree to a more restrictive license in which publishers and creators must declare their work OGL, pay royalties on revenues over $750,000 (regardless of a project’s profitability), and award grants Wizards of the Coast a “non-exclusive, perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, sublicensable, royalty-free license” to use content created under the OGL for any purpose.

OGL is one of the reasons why Dungeons & Dragons’ dominating the tabletop role-playing game market for decades. First published in 2000, OGL encouraged third-party creators and publishers to produce their own work using D&D game mechanics as a framework. Work produced by OGL provided Dungeons & Dragons with two huge benefits – all this third-party material was basically free advertising for their game and it also gave D&D a bigger footprint within the TTRPGs without increasing additional resources. Instead of learning a new game to play out a sci-fi themed story, players could instead use a re-skinned D&D featuring laser guns and aliens. The OGL encouraged designers to use D&D as the basis for their games instead of creating bespoke game systems, which not only created competition within the D&D ecosystem, which in turn improved the quality of D&D design, which ultimately benefited Wizards of the Coast as well. It also limited the number of viable competitors to D&D by keeping people using the system even when not playing D&D and keeping the game in a dominant position in the market even when the brand struggled early on. of the 2010s.

One of the keys to the open play license is that Wizards of the Coast has previously stated that while they have the right to change the license (by releasing a new one), creators can still use older versions of the game. ‘OGL, which gave the creators confidence. to publish material using the license. In a 2004 FAQ originally posted on the Wizards of the Coast website, Wizards states that “Even if Wizards has made a modification with which you do not agree, you may continue to use an earlier acceptable version at your option. In other words, there is no reason for that Wizards makes a change that the community of people using the Open Gaming License would object to because the community would simply ignore the change anyway.” However, according to io9, the new version of the OGL stipulates that previous versions of the license would become an “unauthorized” document, meaning that publishers would only be able to use the new OGL. The lawyers pointed out that the original OGL is not an “irrevocable” document, despite what its creators or Wizards of the Coast intended, a point that will almost certainly play out in court if the new OGL tries to undo. authorization of earlier versions.

Rumors surrounding the OGL have swirled for weeks, putting many creators on edge. And while Wizards of the Coast previously sought to relieve creators who use the OGL to publish their own D&D material for profit that the changes to the OGL would be minimal and would only affect a handful of creators, the new leak has caused many publishers to put their upcoming projects on hold waiting to read the new OGL and make a final decision on whether to support Dungeons & Dragons.

ComicBook.com spoke with over 20 small and medium-sized creators who said ongoing projects that were slated for release under the OGL have been put on hold due to yesterday’s leak. Some projects were set to launch on Kickstarter or other crowdfunding projects, but were put on hold pending to see if they could be released under the current OGL 1.0a. Others were looking for alternative game systems to use, and more than a handful of creators were worried about whether they would be able to recoup their development costs if they chose not to go with the new OGL ( and still unpublished).

“Web DM’s next book is in early development, and we intended to write it using OGL,” said longtime D&D material creator Emma Lambert. whose last Kickstarter raised over $340,000 in 2021. “If the current information on 1.1 is accurate, we will change course; even though we are unlikely to pay royalties at this time, report our income, waive permission to use our work (even theoretically ) and risk it [Wizards of the Coast] may decide to adjust their royalty threshold at any time to affect us are far too great a risk to our business. We are adjusting our next book to exclude any content that would require us to be submitted to an OGL.”

“I have a Kickstarter that’s almost ready to launch, but my finger is hovering over the button because I don’t want to release it as OGL 1.1,” well-known designer and Ennie Award nominee Jordan told ComicBook. com. “I’m afraid the new license will drop halfway through Kickstarter and include ridiculous terms that I can’t agree to, and I’ll have to drop the project and all the art and writing I’ve been diving into.” Jordan told ComicBook.com that she’s already invested $1,200 in the commissioned artwork project in addition to the hundreds of hours of unpaid work she’s done.

Other creators said they didn’t see many options other than using the new OGL, even though it came with more unfavorable terms. Alastor Guzman, who wrote an adventure for the book Wizards of the Coast Journeys through the radiant citadel, said their publisher Axo Stories’ upcoming D&D project had been put on hold after the OGL leaked, although Guzman said they would likely opt for the new OGL as they had a project that raised over $45,000 and which was in the process of editing. Guzman noted that Axo Stories was the livelihood of five people who depended on revenue from D&D projects. “Although we do freelance projects, they’re not the ones footing the bills,” Guzman said. Some smaller creators well below the $750,000 threshold who are actively living with this are going to have to adapt to [the new] OGL unless it’s extremely awful.

Even projects that weren’t “D&D adjacent” were impacted. Dale Critchey of Wyrmworks Publishing told ComicBook.com that he is considering changing the rewards for a planned Kickstarter involving disabled character miniatures. “We’re still planning a February Kickstarter with disabled minis,” Critchey said. “He was going to include a PDF that could be ordered separately with the 5e stat blocks. If needed, we’ll release this free fan content, which will definitely be a big financial loss, but it’s all already paid for, so we don’t.” have no choice.” Critchey also said he was also considering reworking a follow-up adventure using these characters to avoid using OGL, which meant creating a new syntax guide, rewriting the mechanics of game to avoid Wizards of the Coast terminology, then post stat blocks for NPCs and monsters under a separate fan content document.

Some creators who have been part of the D&D ecosystem for years have said they plan to stop doing it Dungeons & Dragons projects entirely. Designer Steve Fidler said he has halted work on two upcoming projects. “I am putting these projects on hold indefinitely as I re-evaluate my relationship with the Dungeons & Dragons product,” Fidler said. The leaked OGL terms erased my trust in Hasbro and the Open Game License as a stable and reliable publishing license. I’m researching alternative licenses to release these projects under and talking to other designers and publishers about a group effort to create a competing D&D product with its own open license.”

Other publishers have stated that they are moving away from 5E in favor of creating their own system. Houndsong Games said on Twitter that they were moving away from 5E in favor of a new, self-created system called Relict, though founder CD Corrigan told ComicBook.com there would be sunk costs due to the move. “We’re looking to our own system and trying to salvage as much as we can,” Corrigan said.

The new OGL rumor even impacts products that aren’t designed for Dungeons & Dragons. Pathfinder and many OSR (Old School Reniassance) games have been released under OGL builds and the creators have expressed concern that they might be impacted as well. Hydra Collective’s Humza Kazmi noted that their OSR project was put on hold while in the final stages of layout. “We don’t know if the backclone we plan to use, Old School Essentials, will continue to be a valid release option under WotC’s proposed changes to the OGL,” Kazmi said, noting that the project lasted for years. manufacturing.

Keep in mind that all of this uncertainty comes despite the fact that Wizards of the Coast isn’t actually releasing its new OGL. While the version read by io9 was supposed to be released on January 4, this deadline has passed. However, even the rumor of a drastic change and the possibility of Wizards trying to revoke previous versions of the OGL has created an uncomfortable degree of uncertainty for many who make a living. Dungeons & Dragons adventures and gear. ComicBook.com has contacted Wizards of the Coast regarding the most recent OGL leaks, but has yet to receive a response.

It’s unclear if Wizards can even “deauthorize” previous versions of the OGL – some creators are exploring the possibility of a class action lawsuit while Ryan Dancey, one of the architects of the original Open Game License , recently told ENworld that it was their intention that the license would never be revoked. If a new OGL attempts to restrict the D&D ecosystem, it will likely be years before the legal issues are finally resolved.

While the Dungeons & Dragons the brand has never been bigger thanks to mainstream exposure on shows like StrangerThings and the Big Bang theory, the ecosystem surrounding the game, which not only improves the game, but also allows hundreds of creators and designers to earn a living doing what they love, is apparently under threat. This ecosystem has always existed under an air of goodwill – one that has given creators the freedom to publish and own their own work despite using a license from another party. With the leak of the new OGL (which had already been shared by many creators under NDA), this goodwill has been significantly eroded and puts a 20-plus-year-old sub-industry in jeopardy.

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