A widely publicised copy of OGL 1.1 from Wizards of the Coast got loose on the Internet.
People are pretty upset right now in the #ttrpgcommunity. People have been using the OGL 1.0 to create 3rd/3.5, and 5th Edition content for Dungeons & Dragons since the year 2000. It looks like WotC might be driving one of the last nails in the proverbial coffin.
This news comes following the flap in December 2022 over whether or not there would even be an OGL and accompanying System Reference Document for One D&D, the newest incarnation of the game. (But don’t call it an “edition” around WotC.) Fans were loudly upset and #OpenDnD began gaining traction. Other creators of third party content simply stated they would continue to make materials (and profit) off of 3rd Ed and 5E products. Wizards finally put out a statement that there would be a new OGL and SRD to go with One D&D in an attempt to connect with their customers.
Please don’t sue us?
The tune at Lawyers of the Coast/Wizards of the Court is rapidly changing to ligious and stupid (in my opinion) as of the wording reportedly in OGL 1.1. The Gizmodo article found here points out that legal language aside, WotC wants to squash third party competition. It’s not pretty.
Basically, the gist of the article points to the fact that the new One D&D paradigm is that WotC wants to be the only company on the block making significant money on the game. Companies such as Troll Lord Games, Paizo, Kobold Press, and others who have been making OGL content for over twenty years in some cases, are going to be expected to find another system/game because D&D will simply not be commercially available to them.
I think the WotC McAttitude is that third parties should make all the free content in the world and distribute it to promote the game like the drooling fanboys and girls they think we are. It’s okay to promote D&D and give them money, but WotC doesn’t want anyone significantly profiting from the game except for WotC.
It’s beginning to look a lot like 4th Ed everywhere I go
D&D 4th Edition gets a bad reputation everywhere not just for its mechanics; not just because entire iconic classes were initially removed; not because it looked like pen and paper World of Warcraft; not because of its hellishly slow combat; but because there was almost nothing that could be done about it from the fans’ point of view. Back then WotC had plans to build a massive website, digital platform, and Virtual TableTop full of microtransactions. It would have probably worked had it not been for the tragedy that befell the two lead designers.
But, WotC opted for a very specific, closed, unapproachable game license that very few companies even tried to get involved with. This is similar to the beef I have with Pinnacle’s Savage Worlds and a few other companies in the #ttrpgindustry. To loosely paraphrase these companies, “Don’t use our stuff unless you submit it and we eventually getting around to approving it (Or running to the photocopier and then not approving it.) Do anything on your own and we’ll take you to court.” But they still offer up some game licensing. yay?
There truly was an era when WotC spent a lot of time in court pursuing their Intellectual Property rights. At the time their attitude was they wanted to be the only ones making money off D&D. As a result Pathfinder 1E from Paizo actually took the number one slot in the industry for a while. When D&D 5E happened, WotC not only gave us an OGL again, but created the Dungeon Masters Guild on OneBookShelf.com, the owners of DriveThruRPG. And that was pretty cool up until all of this talk about the language in OGL 1.1 that sounds a lot like the 4E GSL that was friend to no one.
It’s all about the Benjamins, Hasbro.
WotC made it ridiculously clear in their message to stockholders that D&D is becoming a “lifestyle brand.” The brand is reportedly “under monetized” and they want the focus to be on the players spending more money. Honestly, they talk about us like we’re all walking dollar signs and I hate it. It’s one of the things I detest about corporate America and I really hate it in my hobby.
The wasn’t a lot of talk about the GAME of D&D in that little press conference. Even OGL 1.1 gets into non-game issues such as NFTs and VTT licensing. For crying out loud, they’re even talking about cracking down on Actual Play podcasts and streams. Their poster child, Critical Role, might even have to start coughing up the big bucks to WotC in 2024. (*I take back everything bad I ever said about Matt Mercer and CR. Sorry, family.)
What frustrates me even more is Dungeon Masters, who allegedly make up a large portion of the game’s revenue, are basically being left out of much of the conversation. I think WotC believes that we’re just going to fall in line and buy everything regardless. If I’m being realistic, that deserves the middle finger from me and many other DMs out there. Supposedly there was already a shortage and now they’re kinda sh🦆tting on us? Really? Hmm…
Let me deepen the conspiracy a little.
Supposedly, WotC is rewriting the Dungeon Masters Guide to make it friendlier for new DMs. What if that just looks like a tutorial for the online platform. They’ll say something like, “Don’t stress over game mechanics and scary math, kids. Our virtual tabletop has you covered.”
I think WotC expects DMs to just show up and buy whatever module is newest on the site along with all of the virtual (Unreal Engine) dungeon terrain or furniture, virtual monster minis, and NPC skins to run one module. “DMs act now and get this VTT Ancient Red Dragon for just $24.99 while it’s in the shop for a limited time!”
You want me to really make it worse? I’m not trying to fearmonger and this is not established yet, but… What if? Just WHAT IF WotC decides to convert all DMs into players?
What if WotC decides an AI can run the game and they don’t need DMs any more? That way they can squeeze even more money out of all us players. It’s not us writing our own adventures, creating our own worlds, and making it our game. It’s their game, their platform, their world, their AI and we’re just walking dollar signs to them. The Unreal Engine is the basis of the popular First Person Shooter video game, Fortnite, after all.
Now, what about third party publishers?
You can word the OGL 1.1 any freakin way you want. If no one is creating content with intentions of making money, it doesn’t matter. As long as my website does not make a single dime directly anywhere on it, I can give away as much free gaming content as y’all can take in. True story. Love you all. (*A while back I even had that conversation with Goodman Games and that’s how I explained it. They’re happy. I’m happy.)
WotC seems to (stupidly) think that we’re going to go sign some agreement and register our content on their OGL website. Pfft! Who they kidding? I might just be done with D&D after this as far as they’re concerned.
My real concern is for all of my friends and #ttrpgfamily that are making third party content of DMsGuild.com and DriveThruRPG.com . I know one creator who is already scrambling to pull all of the D20 rules out of her newest creations. Why try to bank on a license if WotC can randomly revoke it on a whim? It’s not worth it to many of us. Plenty of other games systems to be found or created.
I’m just talking about the small entities. WotC isn’t demanding much from anyone clearing less than $50K per year. We still have to register to receive their stamp of approval, but that’s about it. I feel really bad for the Kickstarters that break $750,000 before they finish. Troll Lord Games, Kobold Press, and others are really going to get hit hard. They would do well to adopt a new system such as Powered by the Apocalypse or some other game engine designed to go with others’ settings.
What about DriveThruRPG and the DMsGuild? WotC seems bound and determined to monopolize the fantasy RPG market. The wording of the new OGL 1.1 makes it sound a lot like they don’t want anyone squatting on their profits. They want to crush their competition, not support it. Remember how Roll 20 merged with OneBookShelf last year? (The biggest VTT and the biggest PDF/Print On Demand vendor?) Yeah…
Conspiracy time again: What if WotC pulls all their classic material from all the other editions and products over to their own website? That leaves OneBookShelf high and dry. WotC may very well do the exact same with the DMsGuild. Why make some profit and share with OBS if they can make ALL the profit with a little teensy cupcake for the creator over on the D&D website. Between the rather harsh wording of OGL 1.1 and their seemingly new cutthroat attitude toward making money, WotC might crush all of the other VTTs on the market and force them to only show non-D&D, non-OGL D20 products which are a fraction of what is offered for D&D.
I sure hope One D&D is the coolest thing since sliced bread to make us want to buy into it or…
I’m doing my utmost to remain optimistic.Things could potentially still turn around for One D&D. Maybe we’re not screwed yet.
I’m sure my pleas fall on deaf ears at WotC as always. I’m sure the internet naysayers with say I got it all wrong. But, as Battlestar Galactica and The Matrix both pointed out, “This has all happened before, and it will all happen again.”
Back tomorrow with more. Thanks for being here again.