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...

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'.
VTTs/Digital/DDB
  • 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.
Other
  • 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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Retreater

Legend
Emphasis mine.

Rappan Athuk would like a word.

I haven't run Dungeon of the Mad Mage yet and probably won't for a while. I'm wrapping up a multi-year campaign in a much larger mega dungeon and am looking for a very different setting for my next campaign. But I'm glad they published it and I bought it. Mega dungeons, and old-school dungeon delves in general, tend to have as many detractors as they do admirers. Same thing with collections of smaller adventures. As for collections of smaller adventures, I'm in the camp of wanting more of those. I'm just never going to be able to run most of the large adventures that can take months to over a year to run and I like to have some good, shorter adventures to throw into my own campaign or to play as a one-shot or over just a couple of sessions. WotC is obviously trying to give homage to the major tropes and cater to a variety of tastes in that adventures. That means that there are always gong to be significant factions of detractors who don't like a particular trope or format.
I've run Rappan Athuk (well, some of Rappan Athuk) and over half of Barrowmaze. I have also tried running DotMM.
I get that tastes vary, but DotMM doesn't hold a candle to either of those (IMO). It's big, empty, and boring. Around half the rooms are empty, there are numerous corridors going nowhere (too many to say "these are just an opportunity for the DM to expand the dungeon.")
I think the room that broke us was an immense chamber that contained a single dwarf-sized boot. We had entire sessions (granted, those lasted two hours) where the group encountered nothing - no creatures, NPCs, or traps.
 

Levistus's_Leviathan

5e Freelancer
I personally really like their bestiaries. I backed their Kickstarter campaigns for Tome of Beasts and Creature Codex. I've used quite a few of their monsters in my games, especially from Tome of Beasts. I really like the 2D cardboard standee miniatures and the Book of Lairs they sell as supplements to their monster books. The art is generally quite good, the editing is very good, and I find the monsters tend to be more mechanically interesting and more challenging than similar CR creatures created by WotC. I didn't buy Tome of Beasts 2, but that had more to do with me already having a small library of monster books and cutting back on my Kickstarter spend in general. What about their monster books do you feel makes them "mid-quality" and what would you hold out as a top-notch monster book for 5e?
A lot of the monsters felt less "professionally made", or poorly fitting for the 5e system. There were lots of experimental features that didn't feel like they'd been playtested enough, and didn't work well at the table. Or redundant/obscure monster types that I could never imagine using at the table. Some of them were cool and creatively interesting, but others were just too ridiculous or niche. And I don't like the art style and a lot of the time it felt like the art was of lower quality than many WotC books' (which is understandable because of their lower budget than WotC, but it still makes the books feel low quality). Oh, and I'm not a fan of the setting. It's too much of a kitchen sink, and I say this as someone that tends to love kitchen sinks.

So, with art that I mostly didn't like, weird mechanics not built well into the 5e system, extremely niche monsters that I probably would never use the majority of (and haven't since, even when I've actively tried to find ways to incorporate them in my sessions), and a lot of it being too weird for me (which is saying something, because I'm generally a fan of weird things), I just always felt that their monster compendium books were kind of "meh". Definitely not worth the money for me.

To reference official monster books that I prefer: Fizban's Treasury of Dragons (and I don't really like official D&D dragons), Mordenkainen's and Volo's, and the Eberron and Wildemount bestiaries found in their respective official setting books. Multiversal elder dragons that have basically achieved apotheosis? Awesome. An aquatic serpentine basilisk that secretes petrifying mucus? Amazing. A 50-foot tall magitech mech that can shoot laserbeams? Chef's kiss. And I will admit that Kobold Press does have some pretty great monsters, too. Just, in my personal experience, they're way less applicable/useable in my campaigns.
 


MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I've run Rappan Athuk (well, some of Rappan Athuk) and over half of Barrowmaze. I have also tried running DotMM.
I get that tastes vary, but DotMM doesn't hold a candle to either of those (IMO). It's big, empty, and boring. Around half the rooms are empty, there are numerous corridors going nowhere (too many to say "these are just an opportunity for the DM to expand the dungeon.")
I think the room that broke us was an immense chamber that contained a single dwarf-sized boot. We had entire sessions (granted, those lasted two hours) where the group encountered nothing - no creatures, NPCs, or traps.
Ugh. Didn't realize it was coloring book.
 

ThorinTeague

Creative/Father/Professor
it’s not a lie, he explained that. You are free to not believe it, but that is not the same as it being a lie
No disrespect or hostility intended, but I do not believe 1.1 was a draft. Maybe they knew it was a long shot, but if enough 3pps had signed on to it for that initial wave, the leaked version we saw would now be codified policy. (I believe)
not disagreeing that he is a convenient shield for others to hide behind right now, my disagreement is with the term scapegoat
That is entirely reasonable, I don't necessarily disagree even. Like I said it is 100% gut hunch. Voluntarily or not, I believe those in charge of this whole fiasco are using him as a--call it whatever you like, he's being used. (I believe)
 


My belief that he is being used as a scapegoat in the hopes that community anger will be misdirected onto him.
I don't agree with this assessment.
He is doing damage control that is all. The community is not suddenly gonna shift their anger to mid tier management within a subsidiary and blame him for the OGL fiasco unless he screws up badly and gets caught up in his own lies.
 

ThorinTeague

Creative/Father/Professor
I don't agree with this assessment.
He is doing damage control that is all. The community is not suddenly gonna shift their anger to mid tier management within a subsidiary and blame him for the OGL fiasco unless he screws up badly and gets caught up in his own lies.
I sure hope not. I believe those responsible for the ogl debacle are hoping we will.
 

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