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.

log in or register to remove this ad

Burt Baccara

At the part about the revenue caps. That just sounds so anti-competitive, is that even legal?

Plus, if we are talking Disney or Meta, they are just going to buy another RPG company or partner with one and market the crap out of that attaching to their existing brands in the case of Disney with a huge installed base.

log in or register to remove this ad


Time stamps are included in the video’s dooblidoo.

I really appreciated how Teos gave the interview room to breathe, asking good, even pointed questions, without expecting Kyle to dish on all the internal goings-on at WotC, or to throw anyone under the bus.
Greatly appreciated! And thanks to Morrus on the awesome summary. I work with a lot of corporations, so I understand that this is PR while also being a great way to better understand what took place and how WotC operates. It hopefully now clarifies that this project was underway for a long time, and it wasn't just at the C-level. But the way it took place, it led to dissenting voices and partner feedback not being loud enough. I've seen a lot of projects where you start with a great list of goals and at the end the way they mixed together is an undesirable mess. If the right people don't point it out, everyone thinks the goals have been met.


So yeah quality has been a really bummer for me, and the art has taken a serious down turn, just embarrassingly bad! Check out the legacy Volo art vs the "current monster" art for good examples of what I'm referring to.
I just disagree on the art. There as been hit and miss stuff from the beginning and there is now too. Every new product I have purchased has had both and so did the old stuff. I mean there were a lot of angry threads about halfling art in 2014 and there is subpar art in the MM too. The thing is, art is subjective. Just because you think it is bad, doesn't make it bad.

Are there specific pieces of art you are referring too?

Here are a few newer pieces I like (and there a lot more):
Also, I am very picky about art and I would hire any of the artists below.






Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
There might have been increasing diversity in the pool of designers, no issues there, but the quality of products over the last couple years has been the worst I've seen in over 20 years. Totally not saying it is diversity's fault but the quality has been just terrible.
The products may not all be to your or my taste, but 5E products are better by every criterion than early 3E products were.


Timestamps from a post over on the DnD Beyond forums that may be helpful to some

  • (2:13) Why did management feel the need to change the OGL?
  • (4:19) OGL 1.1's reach stretched far beyond megacorps like Disney. Can you give us insight into the decision-making process behind the original leaked version?
  • (5:42) So you guys were developing the document for a year but lost sight of who it might affect?
  • (6:24) You didn't have anyone in place to oversee this before it was released?
  • (7:00) Can you comment on the rumors of closed-door meetings with large creators?
  • (8:42) Did anybody at Wizards later inform you of who was being spoken to and what was discussed?
  • (10:00) As someone on the outside it didn't feel quick at all, the initial response took over a week. If 1.2 was already being worked on why was there such a long delay?
  • (12:00) So why not have a smaller announcement during that time, "we're working on something" to try and calm the community? We had insider sources saying that you all were delaying to see if there would be a financial impact or if this would all blow over, were those true?
  • (13:01) It seemed like that was the case, from our perspective nothing changed until the DnDBeyond subscriptions began getting cancelled, surely that can't be coincidence.
  • (14:44) If you all were so worried about saying the wrong thing, who put out the "you won and so did we" statement and signed off on that?
  • (16:12) How did you feel when you read that / what did you think of it?
  • (16:55) Putting the phrasing aside, that statement also referred to the 1.1 leak as a "draft" and said WotC always intended to ask for community feedback. If it was really a draft, couldn't that have been stated immediately? Why did it have specific dates, places to sign etc?
  • (19:23) And the other part of that? If it was a draft why was that not stated immediately?
  • (21:00) Were there dissenting voices about OGL 1.1 prior to the leaks? Were those voices in WotC, outside, or both?
  • (22:48) Does that mean the dissenting voices are the minority in WotC?
  • (23:55) How are you giving them more of a voice going forward?
  • (24:45) So you're saying you have more authority to influence these decisions?
  • (25:39) Can you give more specifics on who was being met with and what those meetings were about?
  • (26:41) Is WotC's intention to add OneD&D content to the Creative Commons license now?
  • (28:01) Are there plans to introduce a new OGL that's specific to OneD&D?
  • (28:30) To be clear, there's no chance of OneD&D becoming a "closed system" where you say "everything 5e and earlier is covered by 1.0a, now we're making our own thing?"
  • (29:23) Now that the new OGL is no longer happening, what plans does WotC have to try and address the megacorp and morality issues mentioned before?
  • (30:57) The community had concerns that with a "morality clause:" of some kind, that could be turned against LGBT+ creators if leadership at WotC became more conservative. Is that still a possibility and if so, what protections are being put in place to prevent that from happening?
  • (33:15) Relying on the community is all well and good, but do you have plans to improve your reflection on these things internally before they're put out for the community? (Hadozee example.)
  • (35:35) If D&D has cultural consultants now, why were they not being used sooner?
  • (36:54) {Talk a little bit lot more about how the Hadozee thing slipped through the cracks}
  • (40:07) DnDShorts had insider information about how WotC isn't considered a safe work environment, particularly regarding Chris Cao. What are executives like you doing to help ensure a safe work environment?
  • (43:34) You mentioned that different teams can have different cultures, but aren't there overarching systems in place to prevent mistreatment?
  • (45:06) Could the failure to pick up on the Hadozee issue point to a lack of diversity within WotC itself? What are you all doing about that?
  • (47:02) Touching on Orion Black's statements from 2020, what is WotC doing to have more diversity in positions of leadership or power?
  • (50:08) One fear people have about OneD&D is that it's going to move to a primarily digital focus and the books will become secondary collector's items. Is that the case?
  • (52:30) How do D&D and WotC plan on rebuilding trust with the community?


I don't trust any of them really, so I just spend my money on products I like or that I need. There are lines, but trust is not one of them for me.
Yes, it was nice to get to know him a bit better in this interview. From everything he says he seems like a good person and I like how he talks about his management style (hopefully he lives up to it). I hope it is all true and he can help guide D&D and WotC moving forward.

Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
I don't know. I'd take Sunless Citadel and Forge of Fury over many 5E offerings.
Would you take the two Greyhawk booklets and the floppy splatbooks like Masters of the Wild? How about the Hero Builder's Guidebook? The 3E Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Game? Enemies & Allies? The Fright at Tristor? Deep Horizon?

WotC flooded the zone with a lot of books in the 3E/3.5 era, and that obscures that a lot of them were pretty underwhelming, even at the time.

While I haven't bought many WotC-published 5E books, relatively speaking, that's because the subject matter doesn't interest me, not because of a perceived lack of quality. (I've done big wars against giants and cultists attempting to summon Tiamat in my home games over the years; I'm not in the market to do it again.)


I think the lesson here is that there are older products that were good and a lot that stunk... just like there are products now that are good and many that stink. And it's unnecessary to try and differentiate between "then" and "now" statements.

I mean I'll take most of the adventures in Radiant Citadel over the "3 combat encounters on various Dungeon Tiles" adventures from 4E Dungeon Magazine any day of the week. So to claim that ALL products from a particular publishing time are better or worse than another publishing period just never holds water. Especially considering that all of us have such esoteric wants and needs for D&D products that anyone's opinion on the subject won't get 100% agreement anyway.


The EN World kitten
Would you take the two Greyhawk booklets and the floppy splatbooks like Masters of the Wild?
I don't know what you mean by "the two Greyhawk booklets," but if you mean the D&D Gazetteer and the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, then absolutely. Those books were superb, with the former being an excellent "lite" introduction to Greyhawk, while the latter was for people who wanted a heavier, single-book edition. And the softcover ("floppy"? Really?) products were nice ways of offering expanded character options, unless you have something against expanded character options in particular or softcovers in general.
How about the Hero Builder's Guidebook?
An excellent guide to making an interesting character, one that was (as I recall) near-totally system-agnostic.
The 3E Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Game?
I seem to recall that was a starter set, which presumably did a better job than that awful 5E Stranger Things starter set, which encouraged the use of unkillable DMPCs and hyped a mini so awful that it became a subject of mockery.
Enemies & Allies? The Fright at Tristor? Deep Horizon?
You mean a useful book of out-of-the-box NPCs and two fun adventures? Because just dropping their names doesn't seem to prove whatever point you think it does.
WotC flooded the zone with a lot of books in the 3E/3.5 era, and that obscures that a lot of them were pretty underwhelming, even at the time.
As opposed to a lot of 5E adventures that were famous for being underwhelming. There's a reason why no one seems to remember Princes of the Apocalypse anymore.


You never should have trusted them. Nor should you trust Paizo, or KP, or any other corporation. If you trust another RPG company to the apparent extent you trusted WotC, then you will eventually be in for another shock.
I think I mean "trust" in a different way. There's trust like if you're jumping off a height that someone will catch you. That's not the trust I have for gaming companies.
It's "trust" that they will deliver a consistently good product, a system I want to invest in, that I can develop third party content for without them pulling shenanigans, that I can depend won't be pulled from my VTTs in the middle of a campaign, etc. That's the trust that WotC has lost from me.
I wasn't trying to suggest it was for you. Retreater and I have talked about our mental health issues in the past.
Yep. And it's ... well, things aren't the best overall. Some bad family issues going on, coupled with losing the stability of my biggest hobby and watching my community tear itself apart. So thank you for your support.
I'm not sure why you can't separate WotC from D&D, but if you can't - then you should (let D&D go). Your were already frustrated before this debacle and this seems to have pushed you over the edge. No need to do things that make you uncomfortable.
Well, WotC "owns" D&D. Every time a player purchases a PHB, that's money they get. But it's more than the money - it's the cultural space. It's realizing that my players are "D&D players" who will likely go on to run "D&D" games in college for other players, who will then be exposed only to D&D. While everyone is going to see the D&D movie in their D&D t-shirts. And bringing D&D Yahtzee and D&D Monopoly to casual game nights with other friends.
It's trying to introduce groups to Call of Cthulhu, Mothership, Runequest, WFRP, Pathfinder, Kids on Bikes, etc. It's trying to prove that we have an identity bigger than what the massive corporation tries to sell us.

Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
And yet the very first 3E adventure, The Sunless Citadel, was so good that it was reprinted in 5E's Tales From the Yawning Portal.
By that logic, lottery tickets are a great value, since someone wins every time. ;)

Yes, there was good stuff in the 3E era. I still own that stuff! But the batting average was not great.

Level Up: Advanced 5th Edition Starter Box

Visit Our Sponsor

Latest threads

Level Up: Advanced 5th Edition Starter Box

An Advertisement