By | November 5, 2022
Wizards of the Coast breaks its silence on the Dungeons & Dragons OGL

Illustration of a dragon representing Dungeons & Dragons OGL 2.0

Illustration: Vicky Leta/Gizmodo

Wizards of the Coast, the Hasbro subsidiary that publishes Dungeons & Dragons, revealed details of its new Open Game License on Friday, trying to answer questions about the future of the D&D community raised after io9 broke the news about the contents of a draft of the document last week.

A leaked copy of an updated “OGL 1.1,” received and reported on by io9 last week, outlined restrictions on third-party publishers including a 25 percent royalty payout for revenue over $750,000 and a copyright clause that appeared to transfer ownership of content to Wizards of the Coast (WotC). All these issues were raised online, which D&D fans, content creators and third-party publishers answered to the report with concern. Several prominent game publishers announced plans to stop creating new licensed content to focus on their own systems.

The update from Wizards of the Coast says; “the next OGL will contain the provisions… [so that it] only covers content for TTRPGs. This means that other expressions, such as educational and charity campaigns, live streams, cosplay, VTT uses, etc., will remain unaffected by any OGL update. Content already released under 1.0a will also remain unaffected.”

This seems to suggest that the Fan Content License, previously mentioned in the OGL 1.1 draft that continues under the new license agreement, will be used to protect Wizards from fan content such as Real Play podcasts and videos. The fact that they also say that VTTs will be unaffected is a significant change, as previous releases said that “non-static” media would be disallowed under the new OGL 1.1. This is likely to be a huge relief for many companies working to create and innovate in the VTT space, but without the fully updated OGL there are no rock-solid assurances yet.

Another announcement is the fact that each updated OGL “will not contain any royalty structure.” This is a huge change from the previous iterations, which had a royalty structure that required all commercial projects to report to Wizards of the Coast. One of the reasons for this change seems to be the response people had to the copyright and ownership language in OGL 1.1. The update says, “any language we put down will be crystal clear and unambiguous on that point. The license language was intended to protect us and our partners from creators who falsely claim we’re stealing their work just because of passing similarities.”

The announcement goes on to include the expansive IP Project as Wizards takes on—a movie, a television seriesand digital games. It’s clear that Wizards of the Coast cares a lot more about protecting the cultural currency Dungeons & Dragons before they think about anything else – including fans, content creators and third-party publishers.

Although the updated OGL 2.0 will not be released today, it will come. There will be no backing down entirely for Wizards of the Coast. They have put too much time, money and effort into their IP to allow it to be completely written off under OGL 1.0(a) and the suits at Hasbro are not going to allow everyone to get rid of their name and number.

Also, the last thing to note about this update is that Wizards of the Coast is doing some incredible spin doctoring to lay the groundwork to try and save the situation they’re in. The company would love you to think this is part of the plan, but nothing of this was part of some plan.

The drafts that io9 received were not a thought experiment. They were intended to gauge a reaction, but from individual publishers that Wizards could silence with an NDA, not from the general public. For for that matter, the OGL 1.1 leaked to the press was meant to go ahead. Wizards has realized they made a mistake, and they’re going back several parts of the leaked OGL 1.1, saying that “any changes to this major part could only have been done well if we were willing to take that feedback, no matter how it was given – so we are.”

However Wizards wants to spin it, the fact is that if hundreds of thousands of fans hadn’t said something on Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, and Reddit, the current capitulation would most likely have happened after OGL 1.1 was released. “Finally,” Wizards of the Coast concludes its statement, “we would appreciate the chance to make this right… We will not let you down.” It may be too late for that.

[Editor’s Note: This article is a breaking news story, and the information cited on this page will change as the story unfolds. Our writers are updating this article as new information is released.]

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