The freedom of third party creation in the world of Dungeons & Dragons was severely threatened in the last two weeks. Wizards of the Coast was generally liberal with its royalty-free OGL (open gaming license) for the past twenty years. Its original version v.1.0 stated a rather forgiving set of guidelines to follow, which allowed for free use of Dungeons & Dragons' world, races, creatures, characters, and weapons in any user-created setting (i.e. independent modules, campaigns, etc.). For the tabletop role playing community, this has been the backbone for game creators, dungeon masters, and players.
In an interview in 2002 (by way of ArsTechnia), former WotC vice president Ryan Dancey stated that anyone can use the material royalty-free with zero restrictions. Namely because it would prove to be difficult and cumbersome to claim copyright on the use of game mechanics.
This seemingly went up in smoke with the leaked information of the new version v1.1., which under these new guidelines, Hasbro would charge the creators and seller if enough revenue was generated from their work(s) within a calendar year, based on a user license agreement. In other words, anyone using the works to sell via crowdfunding, retail, or receiving payment through crypto and bartering, will require signing an agreement under the the rules of Dungeons & Dragons OGL v1.1. The 15 page document(contrast to v1.0's single page) contains literature that states the changes are for protecting the community from negativity.
"A lot has changed over the last half century, including the rise of the internet, apps, Web 3, and even virtual TTRPGs. Now in 2023, we are updating the Open Game License to address some of these new realities and fix some of the loopholes and contradictions that made their way into the Open Game License during the time since its first release.
The OGL: Non-Commercial and OGL: Commercial together make up the updated OGL. This revised license is intended to protect the D&D brand by reducing creator confusion, preventing bad actors from tarnishing it, and preventing large businesses from profiting off it without proper checks and balances."
The backlash to this leaked draft from the community was swift and heavy, as the united front led to trending hashtags and a massive number of people unsubscribing from Wizards of the Coast. This picked up significant traction when a whistle-blower from within Wizards outed the seemingly true intentions behind this drastic change: the higher-ups had it out for the players, who they viewed as having a free ride and are "overreacting".
I'm an employee at WotC currently working on and with business leaders on the health of the product line. If you want I can provide proof of this.
I'm sending this message because I fear for the health of a community I love, and I know what the leaders at WOTC are looking at:
They are briefly delaying rollout of OGL changes due to the backlash.
Their decision making is based entirely on the provable impact to their bottom line
Specifically they are looking at DDB subscriptions and cancellations as it is the quickest financial data they currently have.
They are still hoping the community forgets, moves on, and they can still push this through
I have decided to reach out because at my time in WotC I have never once heard management refer to customers in a positive manner, their communication gives me the impression they see customers as obstacles between them and their money, the DDB team was first told to prepare to support the new OGL changes and online portal when they got back from the holidays, and leadership doesnt take any responsibility for the pain and stress they cause others. Leadership's first communication to the rank and file on the OGL was 30 minutes on 1/11/23, This was the first time they even tried to communicate their intentions about the OGL to employees, and even in this meeting they blamed the community for over-reacting.
I will repeat, the main thing this leadership is looking at is DDB subscription cancellations.
Hope your day goes well,
PS will be copying and pasting this message to other community leaders
Huge leak from an insider @Wizards— DnD_Shorts (@DnD_Shorts) January 12, 2023
It's what we feared: the higher ups despise us, the D&D community, and see us only as an "obstacle to their money".
Subs on D&D Beyond are all WotC care about, so I've cancelled mine. Let your voice be heard #opendnd #StopTheSub pic.twitter.com/LhaBM4tGML
The backlash doesn't stop with just the fans. Top publishing companies like MCDM and Kobold Press have moved to distance themselves from all versions of the OGL, or issuing their own gaming licenses for their core products. As of this writing, Hasbro, who also owns Magic: The Gathering, and Wizards of the Coast have not finalized this OGL update, but the damage may have already been done. One of the grander overreaches of player freedom has backfired on a massive scale for Wizards of the Coast.
SOURCES: ArsTechnia, document credit to HipstersOfTheCoast.com