So, WotC has announced they are leaving OGL 1.0a completely alone.
AND releasing the 5.1 SRD under CC.
YOU did this. Congratulations!
There’s a lot to talk about in “Now what” territory, but I’ll get to that later this weekend, after I have had some time to process.
For now, I thank WotC for listening to the fans and industry as a whole. A lot of people said this would never happen. It’s to WotC’s credit that they decided not to keep pushing this.
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There’s a new OGL draft, 1.2, which WotC has released for discussion.
It still claims WotC has the power to stop people from using the OGL 1.0a by “de-authorizing” it. That’s not a term acknowledged by the OGL 1.0a, and it’s not one with a legal meaning.
WotC is still trying to take away the promises of the OGL 1.0a, and that is 100% unacceptable. (The short version of why is if someone gives you 20 things for you to use however you want, and promise never to take any away, then they say they are taking back 18 of them anyway, it is NOT a victory if they decide to only take 12, or even only take 1. And WotC should be well aware of this.)
First, while some base set of rules is supposedly going to be released on a Creative Commons license, that explicitly does not cover things like Magic Missile and Owlbears. WotC opted to release those concepts under the OGL 1.0a, and did so multiple times over the years. They don’t now get to claim can force you to use a new license rather than follow the old one.
Second, their claim they “have to” to prevent “harmful, discriminatory, or illegal” is spurious at best. If you publish *illegal* content, obviously they have legal options to stop you. As far as “harmful” and “discriminatory” go, a huge part of making something Open is to prevent a corporation from getting to decide what is in good taste.
The license specifically forbids “obscene” material, without defining it. If you decide to include a happy gay owlbear couple, Wotc can say that it’s obscene under OGL 1.2 and cancel your license. That’s not a power they reserved for themselves under 1.0a, and given big corporations’ track records, there’s no guarantee they won’t abuse the power if it is given to them.
Third, they restrict the OGL 1.2 to “any content in the SRD 5.1 (or any subsequent version of the SRD we release under this license) that is not licensed to you under Creative Commons.”
So WotC is claiming you can’t do *anything* with the 3.0. 3.5, and d20 Modern SRDs. They are not part of the CC release. They are not allowed under OGL 1.2. Also, of course, they’re shutting off OGL products built off Open d6, Fate, Fudge, and other game systems released under OGL 1.0a that WotC had absolutely no hand in creating.
So when the survey opens? If you can fill it out without making a D&D Beyond account, do so and tell them this is 100% unacceptable. The only reason to attempt to invalidate the OGL is to steal back rights that were openly and freely given, which WotC has significantly benefited from, and which entire careers were built in reliance on.
That bad faith effort must be refused and fought.
And if you can’t fill the survey without making an account? That’s also a bad faith measure, and will call for strenuous protest to keep this debate in the public.
And ALL of those efforts must focus on the actions of WotC itself, NOT on attacking WotC staff or spreading rumors. At this point, WotC is telling use exactly what they are planning to do, and that’s the ground to fight them on.
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Because I need to encourage people to sign up for my Patreon to pay for the time I take to write the material in this blog, I have taken to making Tuesday and Thursday posts Patreon-exclusive. But the issue of the safe continuance of the OGL 1.0a is too important to paywall my thoughts, so I’m breaking my own rules and making this freely and publicly available.
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I have talked about OGL facts before, but not previously written an opinion piece here on my blog about the bad faith efforts WotC prepared to try to force people to give up the OGL 1.0s, which has driven the creation of tens of thousands of products over 23 years, in favor of a draconian “OGL 1.1” which would bad for anyone who agreed to it.
So, here’s the big kicker on why today’s official WotC response is unacceptable. A non-starter that even with the tiny concession they want to use to turn down the heat of anger directed at them by the community doesn’t even begin to address the root of the real problem with what they are trying to do. Taken from the very first paragraph of their response today.
“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.”
Fuck you, WotC corporate. You DON’T get to ensure that, and the fact you want to means you still think you can change the rules on how people interact with and use the OGL.
You released SRDs for 3.5, d20 Modern, and 5.1 under OGL 1.0a. That license was NOT released with any restrictions on who could use it, and you know it.
The OGL 1.0a was designed to be something you couldn’t force people away from — could NOT force them to used a changed version of it — and you know it.
The OGL doesn’t allow anyone to make “D&D” products with content you object to, as they can’t even mention the name of your game, much less use its logo, and you know it.
You’ve benefited from the ubiquity of each edition of D&D you released an SRD for, reaped profits as a result, and you know it.
You don’t get to bully or bamboozle people into changes now, because you don’t like what the OGL 1.0a means for your current business plans.
I feel it would intellectually dishonest not to include this, written 12 or so hours later. I’m not walking back anything I said above, but I have to acknowledge that writing the above happened on the same day I wrote the below.
“The ttRPG industry is small.
One thing that means is that dozens of people asked me to be one shows, consult on the future, or lead on the OGL issue. I have done my best.
But ANOTHER thing it means is I have hurt friends and family-of-choice in the process.
That was never my intent, but some soul-searching tells me I didn’t give that possibility the weight of consideration I should have.
Would I have done things differently? I don’t know, but I should have given it more thought.
Apologies don’t undo harm, but I’m sorry folks.
That said, I need to step back and ponder the current reality very, very carefully.
So, I’m taking the next few days off from any OGL-related news, links, or posts. I’ll wake up Tuesday, and see what I think I need to do for my career, industry… and friends.
ALL my friends.”
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With the excellent article written by Linda Codega, and the video released by Roll For Combat that brought in a contract lawyer, there is a lot of news about WotC’s (Wizards of the Coast) plans for a “OGL 1.1” and why it is an act of bad faith on the part of WotC if they go forward with it.
So I’m not going over all that again here.
What I DO want to do is present some groundwork for what the OGL is, and isn’t, and what WotC have said about it in the past. This is an editorial by me, based in factual information, and is not itself part of the OGL content on this blog.
1. WotC themselves wrote an FAQ about how the OGL was to be used, back in 2004. This is important, because it shows (for example) that they were of the opinion if they changed the OGL publishers could ignore their new version, and that the OGL could be used for software. Obviously WotC doesn’t host that FAQ anymore, but the Wayback Machine has the original archived for us to all read and draw out own conclusions.
2. There is a huge difference between the OGL and the various SRDs (System Resource Documents). The OGL is not tied to any one game system or product release (see Point 3, below). For example, none of the D&D core rulebooks has ever been released under the OGL. Instead, pared-down versions of the rules for D&D 3.0. 35, D20 Modern, and 5e had SRDs released (and the Psionics handbooks back in 3.x days).
3. The OGL does not just cover products that are designed for use with D&D. For one thing, there are game systems that have been released under the OGL that were not created by WotC, and have no ties to any edition of D&D, including d6 Adventures, Fudge, and Fate.
There are also numerous complete RPGs that are their own things, separate from D&D, including Pathfinder, Starfinder, Mutants & Masterminds, and 13th Age, just to name a few.
4. It’s entirely up to WotC whether or not they release a One D&D SRD. If they don’t, those rules aren’t open. And they could release it under a totally separate license, unrelated to the OGL 1.0a. So, WotC is not under any threat from people using genuinely new rules from One D&D using the existing OGL. (Of course they have said One D&D will be compatible with 5e, so that raises a question if they are *new* rules, and if there aren’t, that might speak to motive on their part.)
5. The OGL does not allow anyone to mention D&D, WotC, the Forgotten Realms, or any other trademarks, or emulate any trade dress. So WotC does not need to worry about the OGL allowing people to associate repugnant material with D&D — all the brands trademarks, characters, and stories, of D&D are off-limits to OGL users, as are many even iconic creatures such as beholders and mind flayers.
6. WotC always knew the OGL would be used by their major competitors to make big profits. The OGL was shared with numerous representatives of various companies before it was made public. I was part of the email chain that was used by Ryan Dancey to do that. And it’s why Sword & Sorcery Studios (a newly-created division of White Wolf, a major ttRPG publisher at the time) was able to put out the Creature Collection in October of 2000, *before* the official 3.0 Monster Manual got published.
7. WotC benefitted from the existence of the OGL. They crafted it, with the knowing intent it would last forever, as part of their D&D relaunch business plan.
But don’t believe me. Believe Keith Strohm (and learn about why you care about his opinion on it in this fireside chat with Peter Adkison, president of WotC when the OGL was created). This is from a comment Keith made on Facebook, and is shared with his permission.
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