OGL Don't Give Ground

VenerableBede

Adventurer
Don’t give in. Don’t back down. Don’t give WotC an inch.
The TTRPG community, to my knowledge, has never been more unified than when WotC made a sneak attack on the OGL 1.0(a), in the process directly attacking 3PP large and small, trying to buy off other parties, and hoping to shove everything through fast enough that no one could do anything about it. We were rightly outraged. And while I’m not saying that we need to maintain anger—aside from being exhausting, anger also isn’t very good for rational thought—we do need to never let go of that vision. This battle is only worth fighting for if our terms are OGL 1.0(a) and nothing less.
The OGL 1.0(a) should be the minimum expectation for our demands—in essence, that the status quo is restored. I don’t think we need to demand restitution or penance from WotC, just open support of the OGL 1.0(a) and maybe—maybe—a 1.0(b) with no changes whatsoever except the necessary language on irrevocability. This version of the OGL, 1.0(a), created our current culture and community by bringing together thousands of individuals (and businesses) in a spirit of creativity and collaboration, built on a promised foundation of stability required to make such a thing possible. That shouldn’t be given up lightly—it shouldn’t be given up at all. It is the best, most unifying, and most clearly defined cause to rally around.
Like a pig in a wig with lipstick on its puckered lips, WotC followed up its astonishingly bad opening moves by trying to pretty itself up. Oh, dropping the royalties sounds nice—it was also something extremely unlikely for WotC to be able to legally enforce, at least as it was originally presented. The Creative Commons actions sound nice—they also were the parts of the rulebook nearly guaranteed for WotC to be told by a judge that they couldn’t copyright (based on game mechanics versus expression and such), so WotC didn’t actually give anything up there (but they did retain a significant amount of content available in the OGL 1.0[a] and included SRD, yet pretended to be generous). Saying that the OGL 1.0(a) would still be in force for everything already posted might sound like a step in the right direction—but accepting that “compromise” implies that you agree the OGL can be revoked, giving WotC exactly what they want. And the friendly letter with an actual name attached sounded nice—it used a lot of strategies commonly used by abusers, seductively half-lying and gaslighting to try and get us to believe we were being offered a good deal. In short, everything WotC has offered has been entirely empty and fully in keeping with an abuser changing tactics from being angry and aggressive to being manipulatively sweet. It was still a pig—still smelled like a pig—but it pretended to look better.
I find it disturbing that the pig in lipstick worked, at least for some. After lying often enough about the revocability of the OGL 1.0(a), WotC got people to go along, either because they believe the lie or because they see it as the point of least resistance. Now some are calling for working with WotC, calling for compromise, with arguments of, essentially, “They are taking the pie away anyway, so try to retain as much of it as we can.” This attitude risks creating fault lines in our unity. I don’t think there’s a problem currently, but I’m nervous about the cracks some people are trying to make. If we lose our unified power, we lose, plain and simple.
Don’t forget that the pie doesn’t belong to WotC at all, in the sense that the OGL 1.0(a) is irrevocable—as well as coupled with 20 years of promises and assurances, 20 years of industry growth, creativity, and art that doesn’t belong to WotC in the slightest.
Think of it this way: when a thief breaks into your house and steals your belongings, you don’t negotiate to get about a third of your stuff back and call it better than losing everything—you try to get everything that was stolen returned to you. Or, when a kidnapper takes your children away from you, you don’t negotiate to get three of five back because that’s better than losing all of your kids—you stop at nothing until you have all five back. The OGL 1.0(a) can’t be taken away, but it was, wrongfully and maliciously. That should be what remains fixed in people’s minds, always.
At least, I hope that there's still this strong idea in people's mind that OGL 1.0(a) should be the end result of this debacle, and I wish that was the one message being sent back to WotC: we want OGL 1.0(a). We want OGL 1.0(a). We want OGL 1.0(a). Nothing else is satisfactory. While I believe that the OGL 1.0(a) is irrevocable and that should end the discussion, I'm a realist—this issue is not settled in court. What's right (in my opinion) doesn't matter in a court of law, just what's interpreted to be legal and/or binding (and, to an extent, who is the most persuasive, or who is able to monetarily drag things out the most, etc). But I do know that the more WotC gets away with (even temporarily), the more risk there is of a precedent being set that could more strongly favor WotC if a lawsuit happens. That’s part of the reason why allowing WotC to get away with saying “Existing published content can continue operating under the OGL, that’s fine—just not new content” is dangerous. No, that’s not how it works. Irrevocable is irrevocable, and we should settle for nothing less.
Some people are going to paint the idea of digging in your heels and allowing no give to be the extreme side of the conversation. I disagree—it's never extreme to avoid compromising with, or giving up rights to, the abuser. In fact, that's the default position.
I'm not trying to tell you what to do here. I'm not even going to tell you to be respectful—although I think you should—because the point of this post is not to bash people over the head about what tone of voice they have in their communications with WotC. I just hope that this is a useful reminder that the central issue of the WotC debacle should be the restoration and fortification of the OGL 1.0(a). Period. It's the only clear, well-defined goal worth pursuing, it’s the best and most correct outcome, and it's directly representative of battling for our current game culture. It's not the easiest solution, it's not (currently) the most likely solution, and the compromisers are right that pushing all-in for OGL 1.0(a) could mean that we don't end up getting anything that we want. (Of course, if what we want is OGL 1.0[a] as a whole then anything short of that means we get nothing of what we want anyway.) But that doesn't change the fact that—and I really hope I'm stating something obvious here, I'm not trying to be novel—the best thing for the community to rally around, at least as far as communications with WotC are concerned, is the OGL 1.0(a).
And I really, really hope that most people who read this say, "Well, no naughty word, Sherlock." I really hope it's that obvious and I just misread the temperature. But if it isn't, it desperately needs saying.


As a final, tangential note, if you want a quick compromise with WotC to try and protect the 3PP (companies and individuals) who are scared right now, the better solution is still to go all-in for OGL 1.0(a). Anything less than solving the issue of the irrevocability of that license once and for all just guarantees that this exact same situation is going to happen again down the road. Maybe even soon. Fighting for the OGL 1.0(a) in no way harms or steals from WotC, in part because WotC is not required to publish new editions under the OGL 1.0(a) anyway—just look at 4e as an example of when they didn’t. Anything WotC puts under the OGL 1.0(a) is done entirely voluntarily. There is no room or position from which to empathize with the abuser, except to understand the abuser and use that information to prevent the abuse from ever happening again.
 

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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Yeah okay.

I definitely gave them notes on what an acceptable OGL 2 would look like, being actually irrevocable, not under wotc control, and containing otherwise very little change from 1.0a.

I encouraged them to add to the open game, by putting the entire 5e mechanical structure, with enough “examples” to actually play the game, in the CC, and then put all past editions basic rules into either CC or the OGL 2, but I was very clear in all that that the only outcome that is acceptable is to enshrine irrevocably that 3pp can make anything they want with the 3.5 and 5e SRDs, forever, without any of the strings they are trying to attach. OGL, CC, whatever, the either remains genuinely open, or they lose the 3pp community, and the most engaged segment of the fans, including secondary content creators like YouTubers, and anyone we can influence.
 

Horwath

Hero
Give-Them-Nothing-But-Take-From-Them-Everything-300-Spartan-Quote (2).gif
 

delericho

Legend
The OGL 1.0(a) should be the minimum expectation for our demands—in essence, that the status quo is restored. I don’t think we need to demand restitution or penance from WotC, just open support of the OGL 1.0(a) and maybe—maybe—a 1.0(b) with no changes whatsoever except the necessary language on irrevocability.
IMO, that OGL 1.0b is essential. The status quo ante doesn't work now, since it just means WotC may try again in another couple of years. We need the license protected, as strongly as the language allows, and that protection built into the license itself.

But I agree that that's all we (well, I) need - the PR situation probably means yet more fulsome apologies from WotC if/when they back down, but I personally don't require that.
 

IMO, that OGL 1.0b is essential. The status quo ante doesn't work now, since it just means WotC may try again in another couple of years. We need the license protected, as strongly as the language allows, and that protection built into the license itself.
I don’t really see the point of demanding just that update in the language, personally. It’s kind of meaningless in this context. They’re going with this nonsense idea of "deauthorization" now, so shouldn’t we be asking for it to be explicitly "undeauthorizable" instead?

This gets silly fast. They could always try to repudiate, withdraw, retract, disclaim, disown, disavow or dismiss it instead – or whatever new nonsense term they want to come up with. What I think we really want is for them to transfer their ownership and powers provided by the license to a trusted custodian.
 


delericho

Legend
I don’t really see the point of demanding just that update in the language, personally. It’s kind of meaningless in this context. They’re going with this nonsense idea of "deauthorization" now, so shouldn’t we be asking for it to be explicitly "undeauthorizable" instead?

This gets silly fast. They could always try to repudiate, withdraw, retract, disclaim, disown, disavow or dismiss it instead – or whatever new nonsense term they want to come up with.

The OGL was modeled on various Open Source licenses that existed at the time. When those licenses were updated to make explicit that they couldn't be revoked, the OGL should have been updated to match. (This wasn't done, because by then WotC were already rowing back from open gaming, of course.) But updating to use the same language as in modern Open Source licenses should be enough - that way, there's too much of a vested interest from the really big players to allow any challenge.

But, ultimately, that's going to be one for the lawyers - presumably there's a way to draft these things so that they really, really can't be got rid of.

What I think we really want is for them to transfer their ownership and powers provided by the license to a trusted custodian.

Yeah, that would do it too. Probably better if it's not one trusted custodian, though.
 

aco175

Legend
At what point is the fight over? We want everything and give them nothing. Take everything back and more, make them squirm and pay to the point of bankruptcy and spin off WotC. Got it. But, can't they just make a 6e and take their ball and go home like 4e but worse. Then 90% of the players will just follow them to 6e. Then what do we have? Careful what we ask for.
 

At what point is the fight over? We want everything and give them nothing. Take everything back and more, make them squirm and pay to the point of bankruptcy and spin off WotC. Got it. But, can't they just make a 6e and take their ball and go home like 4e but worse. Then 90% of the players will just follow them to 6e. Then what do we have? Careful what we ask for.
Will they? At the risk of edition warring, did 90% of the players follow to 4e or did a large enough chunk splinter off to PF1e that WotC eventually threw in the towel on 4e and we got 5e as a result?

Those who don't learn from history something something.
 

Vaalingrade

Legend
WotC eventually threw in the towel on 4e and we got 5e as a result?

Those who don't learn from history something something.
Sure, there were some negatives, but even though we got 5e instead of 4e, 5e had an OGL SRD.

Frankly, I'm fine if 5.5 is under a GSL or whatever and not letting anyone else participate with it as long as they aren't putting the rest of the industry under threat.
 

Will they? At the risk of edition warring, did 90% of the players follow to 4e or did a large enough chunk splinter off to PF1e that WotC eventually threw in the towel on 4e and we got 5e as a result?

Those who don't learn from history something something.
not wanting the edition war either (and I am totally a 4e guy) but I can't believe that it was close to 90/10...in my mind it was closer to 70/30 but really more like 65/25 with the other 10 being old editions and just leaving D&D...
 

Clint_L

Hero
Folks who are blaming licensing for 4e's struggles are really forgetting the wider reaction to 4e as a version of D&D. Again, trying to skirt the editions wars issue, but the main issue there was that PF stayed a lot closer to 3e (it basically was 3e), which made it easier for some groups to do that.
 

At what point is the fight over? We want everything and give them nothing. Take everything back and more, make them squirm and pay to the point of bankruptcy and spin off WotC. Got it. But, can't they just make a 6e and take their ball and go home like 4e but worse. Then 90% of the players will just follow them to 6e. Then what do we have? Careful what we ask for.
I've said from the start of this debacle, that's perfectly fine. At that point, they're just competing in the market. There's no requirement that they continue creating SRDs compatible with the OGL, so if they see it as beneficial not to do so, more power to them. The problem is that they're trying to burn down the community they helped build as they sail off to plunder new lands. That's what I want to prevent.

They don't have to continue to operate under same arrangement with new editions if they don't want to, but if they try to renege on the promise made when they bought the game, I'm prepared to give D&D a viking funeral.
 


I'm fine with the detente being "We keep the status quo of the 1.0a remaining intact, they make their walled garden around 6E," since that is what I assumed they were going to do already. The thing I'm pissed at is trying to shut down the 1.0a to funnel people into their walled garden, instead of them trying to make the walled garden so awesome that people want to go their of their own accord. They don't get to take from the Commons just because it's inconvenient for their microtransaction hellscape plans.
 

Haplo781

Legend

mellored

Adventurer
Never gonna give you up
Never gonna let you down
Never gonna run around and desert you
Never gonna make you cry
Never gonna say goodbye
Never gonna tell a lie and hurt you

 


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