An exclusive look at Wizards of the Coast’s new open gaming license shows efforts to curtail competitors and tighten control on creators of ALL sizes!
Despite reassurances from Wizards of the Coast last month, the original OGL will become an “unauthorized” agreement, and it appears no new content will be permitted to be created under the original license.
The original OGL is what many contemporary tabletop publishers use to create their products within the boundaries of D&D’s reproducible content. Much of the original OGL is dedicated to the System Resource Document, and includes character species, classes, equipment, and, most importantly, general gameplay structures, including combat, spells, and creatures.
The creation of the OGL version 1.0, which was originally published in 2000, has allowed a host of outside designers and publishers, both amateur and professional, to make new products for a game that remains entirely owned by Hasbro subsidiary Wizards of the Coast (WotC). While this arrangement sometimes created products that directly competed with WotC publications, it also allowed the game to flourish and grow thanks to the resources created by the wider D&D community.
In 2022, when WotC announced plans to develop a revised edition of the Dungeons & Dragons rules, codenamed One D&D, the company said it would update the OGL as well. The OGL has been tweaked multiple times since its 2000 release, and WotC has at times transitioned to other royalty-free licenses, but the original OGL 1.0 had essentially remained intact until the company said it would develop OGL version 1.1.
A lot, actually. While the original open gaming license is a relatively short document, coming in at under 900 words, the new draft of the OGL 1.1, which was provided to io9 by a non-WotC developer, is over 9,000 words long. It addresses new technologies like blockchain and NFTs, and takes a strong stance against bigoted content, explicitly stating the company may terminate the agreement if third-party creators publish material that is “blatantly racist, sexist, homophobic, trans-phobic, bigoted or otherwise discriminatory.”
One of the biggest changes to the document is that it updates the previously available OGL 1.0 to state it is “no longer an authorized license agreement.” By ending the original OGL, many licensed publishers will have to completely overhaul their products and distribution in order to comply with the updated rules. Large publishers who focus almost exclusively on products based on the original OGL, including Paizo, Kobold Press, and Green Ronin, will be under pressure to update their business model incredibly fast.
This is no mistake. According to the document procured by io9, the new agreements states that “the Open Game License was always intended to allow the community to help grow D&D and expand it creatively. It wasn’t intended to subsidize major competitors, especially now that PDF is by far the most common form of distribution.”
This sentiment is reiterated later in the document: The “OGL wasn’t intended to fund major competitors and it wasn’t intended to allow people to make D&D apps, videos, or anything other than printed (or printable) materials for use while gaming. We are updating the OGL in part to make that very clear.”
Paizo Inc., publisher of the Pathfinder RPG, one of D&D’s largest competitors, declined to comment on the changes for this article, stating that the rules update was a complicated and ongoing situation.
Chris Pramas, founder and president of Green Ronin Publishing, said that despite the fact that one of their own products—Mutants and Masterminds—was published under the original OGL in 2002, and is still available today, they had not seen the updated OGL, and they do not believe there is “any benefit to switching to the new one as described.”
Wizards of the Coast declined to comment for this article or answer specific questions about the leaked OGL document. A spokesperson directed io9 to a blog post the company published in December, which reassures the community that this OGL will not materially affect the majority of people working in the industry.