Kyle Brink Interviewed by Teos Abadia (Alphastream) on OGL, WotC, & D&D

D&D executive producer's Kyle Brink's second hour-long interview OGL/D&D has dropped--this one is with Teos Abadia, otherwise known as Alphastream. The notes below are my attempt to paraphrase the main things Brink said, but as always you should watch the actual video if you want the full context.

Company Structure
  • There's around 30 people on the D&D team, and that many again freelancers.​
  • The hiring process has equity targets to bring in a representative sample of candidates, after which it is who is the best candidate.​
  • There has been increasing diversity in the pool of designers while maintaining quality.​
  • Brink reports to Dan Rawson, senior VP of D&D, who reports to Cynthia Williams, president.​
  • D&D Beyond is the front door to D&D on the web and will be even more so. It is the D&D website, and will become more so.​
  • D&D Game Studio is center for game content. D&D Beyond turns that into a play service. Content gets expressed in ways appropriate to an audiance (ie digital, book, etc.)​
OGL/Creative Commons
  • It was a surprise to some of the D&D team that the OGL might be changed. Partly that was about shielding them from distracting stuff. Brink feels that was too strong a wall and their views might have been beneficial.
  • Some internal feedback from the D&D team reflected the views of external creators.
  • The community's point of view was not the one wining internally, but may have been had people there been able to speak more loudly.
  • The worry was about new technologies and big companies--Brink uses the VR example, with user generated content but poor content controls. They didn't want the term D&D to become 'that video porn game' looking ahead.
  • The position now is that the community is the strongest weapon against that.
  • The royalties were to discourage big companies moving in and redefining D&D. By 'drips and drips' they got to the wrong position. $750K was a ceiling which they felt would not affect most creators, and larger companies would deal directly with WotC.
  • Right now they're looking at protecting D&D via things not now in the Creative Commons. Community protects the open space and WotC protects copyright and trademark.
  • They feel that the community is able to take care of hateful content.
  • They want the creator community. A deal where WotC got more powers to act but lost the creator community was not a good deal.
  • NFTs are not the concern, it's about how people use them for scams.
  • WotC will be publishing a content policy (for representation, hateful content, etc.) and hold themselves to it. They cannot hold others to it.
  • The Creative Commons license chosen's lack of sharealike attribution isn't a problem for WotC. They want people to build stuff they own and don't have to share and build value in their own IP. They've chosen the road which gives creators the choice, and can make any of their content sharealike, but WotC isn't forcing them to.
  • CC means that nobody has to take WotC's word for anything as they don't control that license.
  • The drive to change the OGL was coming from various parts of the organization (legal, business, studio). It was an ongoing effort when Brink arrived.
  • The faster the audience grew the bigger the risk that hateful content or scams would arise, so there was a rising sense of urgency to take action.
  • Did anybody sign the v1.1 version? It was distributed with an NDA, and with some creators a discussion about other arrnagements/licenses they might make separate from the OGL.
  • 'The impression someone could get that I have to sign v1.1 is absotely a believable impression for someone to get'.
  • The design of v1.1. was always going to be an ongoing no-signature process.
  • Feedback from larger creators like Kobold Press, the failing is on WotC for not communicating that they were listening. 'Thanks for the feedback' isn't enough.
  • 'If you're going to write a new OGL to protect yourself from the vulnerabilties of the old OGL, you kinda have to take the old OGL off the table, otherwise you're not protecting yourself at all'. There's no point in changing the OGL if you don't de-authorize the old one.
  • They weren't worried about competitors arising from within the community. They love the creator community, and WotC can't satisfy all appetites. That serves the broad needs of the player community.
  • They wanted to have closer relationships with the most successful creators, talking to them about licenses and going bigger. The tiering structure was meant to identify those creators. 'The way it was executed was very cleary going to be an attenuating destructive structure which we did not want.'
  • The OGL survey results were clear, from a range of people, 15000 responses. The intent was to treat it like a playtest but it became obvious where it was going. The survey feedback supported CC, and there was no reason to drag it out.
  • WotC still has their concerns, but their approach to it has changed (to a combo of copyrght/trademark and community).
  • Putting D&D into CC has made de-authing the OGL unimportant to WotC.
  • The SRD will be updated to continue to be compatible with evolving rules.
  • They're looking at adding the 3.5 SRD to the SRD but they have to review that content to make sure they're not accidentally putting stuff into CC.
Company Culture
  • People being afraid to speak up is a sign of 'immature management' and leading from ego.
  • That's not the kind of leaders WotC has today, but Brink cannot speak about those who were there before he arrived.
  • Brink feels that every month he is there people feel more comfortable speaking up, though that doesn't mean they'll always agree. But they will listen.
  • 'That's not how we operate today but I can certainly believe echoes of that in the past'.
  • Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds are important to the hobby and WotC.
  • WotC is also making digital playspaces. The goal is to give more choice. The way WotC succeeds is if they make the best stuff. It's a 'virtuos' competition.
  • The license that Roll20 etc. has to sell WotC content still applies. Remains to be seen down the road.
  • It's possible that third party content will be seen inside DDB or the VTT but it takes a fair amount of work to being a piece of content in. It would have to be a pretty important piece of third party content. Brink could see a day when that would happen.
One D&D
  • The OGL issue has not impacted the One D&D strategy. It has maybe helped WotC express their plans publicly.
  • D&D should be a living game which evolves but is familiar.
  • The One D&D timeline is not changed, but the playtest timeline was impacted by the OGL situation. They'll get back on track real soon.
  • A professional research team gathers the survey information.
  • There are also internal playtests with robust feedback.
  • The game team has gained more of a voice.
  • More trust has been built between design leadership and the executive team.
  • Dan Rawson's role is new and is the first time the D&D brand has been represented at that level at the executive level.
  • Cynthia Williams is empathetic and data-oriented, and willing to change direction.
  • It sounds like they'd consider the SRD being placed into French, German, Italian, and Spanish, though Brink did not promise.

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So it turns out that, like a good D&D NPC, at least one of the WotC executives isn’t a one dimensional cookie cutter suit, but a living breathing human, with his own thoughts, goals and perspective on events. a pretty reasonable guy as folks have posted. Even though two weeks go it was acceptable to post his CV online to attack him further as RPG enemy number 3.

Lets hope no other execs give an interview like that otherwise we might be forced to conclude that they aren’t all foaming at the mouth vampires, determined to suck the blood and money from all players everywhere.

Its a good reminder for us all to go for the ball in discussions and not the players, and that perfection is not the standard required for success in business. In fact it’s the enemy of progress. There are some folks, more than a few influencers and a small number of people posting on this forum that have taken a very partisan position and they’re going to increasingly look foolish as WotC looks more and more reasonable.

Fair play to him. You need to be sure of your position and values to deal with the savage tide he’s had to deal with.
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Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast

They said the content from the past couple years of 5E has been the worst in over 20 years-- in other words, all the product produced like 3 years ago all the way back to 2003 give or take was better than these past two years of products.

Thus they were stating with a straight face that they thought the adventures of early 4E Dungeon Magazine (which fall within those 20 years) was better than Journeys Through The Radiant Citadel or Fizban's Treasury of Dragons or Call of the Netherdeep.

So I'm not exactly sure what part you seem to have misunderstood, or made your comment in such in a way that I misunderstood you.
Fair enough, I misunderstood. But to be fair, maybe the poster simply isn't familiar with every WotC product for the last 20 years. I've never read the adventures you're talking about, or much of Dungeon in general beyond the occasional random issue from the 90s.

Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
I mean hasn't Tomb of Horrors been reprinted in every edition? That is not a good adventure (IMO). Being reprinted doesn't necessarily mean it was good.
Yeah, I reran it under 5E and, honestly, it shows its age.

Even if one accepts the basic concept as valid, which I don't think everyone does, there are a lot better ways to accomplish it than how it was done in the late 1970s. Both Goodman Games and WotC have taken their cracks at doing it better in the 21st century.

Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
Over like Strixhaven, Radiant Citadel, Spelljammer, Van Richten's Guide - sure, why not? At least they take up less space on my shelves than the bloated mess of printed stream-of-consciousness WotC has been producing the last couple years.
Given how much content people have complained each of those books are missing, I'm not sure how bloated they could possibly be.


Given how much content people have complained each of those books are missing, I'm not sure how bloated they could possibly be.
My experience From the reviews I've read since I have not purchased or read Spelljammer myself is that it's bloated in ways that aren't helpful and missing actually usable content.
I guess kind of like watching a 3.5 hour movie without an engaging plot or developed characters.
[Edit: to clarify that I haven't purchased or read Spelljammer.]
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Krampus ate my d20s
I am surprised at the quick turn around by WotC over the OGL debacle. Corps aren't generally nimble. They also aren't always good to reaching out to mend fences. Look at the first letter responding to the OGL 1.1, 'we both won' indeed. Having Kyle Brinks come out and talk to 'creators' is another turn around. Cynthia Williams and Chris Cocks may not be TTRPG gamers, but they know enough to recognize and process feedback.
I was not as concerned about the under-monetized statement. It is all completely unnecessary to run a game of D&D. The VTT will be a cash cow for Hasbro. Miniatures, dungeon textures, and character avatars are low hanging fruit. People pay stupid amounts of money on pixels already. Is it predatory? Yes. FOMO and deceptive digital currencies are terrible traps, but if they build a straight forward storefront they will still make money for the price of a few digital artists. I don't trust WotC not have more predatory ideas in the digital realm.
As for the nature of trust in corporations, like @Dave2000 said, DON'T. I understand that WotC had done some more altruistic seeming things in the D&D space over the last 25 years, i.e. the original OGL/SRD, the open play test of 5E. Never forget that for most of the time D&D was an after thought to Hasbro. WotC was Magic, well Pokemon TCG at first, to Hasbro. With the meteoric rise of 5E and D&D deep IP potential, Hasbro has seen great potential in our little RPG. Corporations are not people, they are not nuanced or influenced by different tastes. They are money extractors. It is what they are designed to do. So I trust that Wizbro will attempt to extract as much money as possible from me. The over reach of the OGL 2.0 by WotC revealed that they were not part of us. The sheep's clothing had been removed. They were always a wolf, but at least had the courtesy of hiding it. The trust of Wizbro being restrained in its wealth extraction has been thrown away.

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