OGL Ryan Dancey -- Hasbro Cannot Deauthorize OGL

I reached out to the architect of the original Open Gaming License, former VP of Wizard of the Coast, Ryan Dancey, and asked his opinion about the current plan by WotC to 'deauthorize' the current OGL in favour of a new one.

He responded as follows:

Yeah my public opinion is that Hasbro does not have the power to deauthorize a version of the OGL. If that had been a power that we wanted to reserve for Hasbro, we would have enumerated it in the license. I am on record numerous places in email and blogs and interviews saying that the license could never be revoked.

Ryan also maintains the Open Gaming Foundation.

As has been noted previously, even WotC in its own OGL FAQ did not believe at the time that the licence could be revoked.


7. Can't Wizards of the Coast change the License in a way that I wouldn't like?

Yes, it could. However, the License already defines what will happen to content that has been previously distributed using an earlier version, in Section 9. As a result, even if Wizards made a change you disagreed with, you could continue to use an earlier, acceptable version at your option. In other words, there's no reason for Wizards to ever make a change that the community of people using the Open Gaming License would object to, because the community would just ignore the change anyway.


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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

RyanD

Adventurer
Thank you. If you don't mind a follow up, how did you reconcile this anticipation of something like Pathfinder with the stated business goal, as you articulated it here in this blog post:
The Skaff Effect suggests that ALL activity in the category eventually benefits the marketshare leader; so competitive RPGs benefit D&D. The benefit is obviously not as great as stuff expressly designed for D&D but it is not zero. I would argue that the least beneficial is content designed for a game very different from D&D; like Burning Wheel, for example. In the middle are games that are not D&D but share many similarities - and that includes the D20 games that Wizards itself published including Star Wars, Wheel of Time, Call of Chthulu, etc.

Pathfinder is a very close branch to the D&D branch. If Skaff is right, it contributed enormously to the long term benefit of D&D.
 

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RyanD

Adventurer
Obviously, by the time they were released, the OGL and d20 STL were two separate licenses. But they were originally conceived as a single license, according to Ryan. Perhaps he can confirm if he returns to answer my follow-up question.
The project began life as one license. However it quickly became obvious that entangling a trademark license and a copyright license in one document was problematic. I don't even know if a version of the One Big License ever made it into public view.

I suspected that the trademark license was going to need to be revised often. The trademark license was, to my view, the more important of the two for the actual financial and equity interests of the company. Having a mechanism that allowed the trademark restrictions to be altered while not changing the copyleft mechanism was just unnecessarily complex.

Two licenses meant that me and my team spent a lot of time starting replies to enquiries with "there are two licenses" but that was a small price to pay for the value gained in simplicity, clarity, and transparency.
 

Reynard

Legend
The project began life as one license. However it quickly became obvious that entangling a trademark license and a copyright license in one document was problematic. I don't even know if a version of the One Big License ever made it into public view.

I suspected that the trademark license was going to need to be revised often. The trademark license was, to my view, the more important of the two for the actual financial and equity interests of the company. Having a mechanism that allowed the trademark restrictions to be altered while not changing the copyleft mechanism was just unnecessarily complex.

Two licenses meant that me and my team spent a lot of time starting replies to enquiries with "there are two licenses" but that was a small price to pay for the value gained in simplicity, clarity, and transparency.
In retrospect is seems sort of obvious: the OGL was the ideological document that made Open gaming a real force, and the STL was the one designed to make WotC money, but I imagine it was not so cut and dry at the beginning.

A friend of mine just commented in my private FB group that "businesses should have known better" publishing under the OGL. It's infuriating. He is a indie designer that HATES D&D to his core, though, so I wasn't surprised.

In any case -- thank you @RyanD for having the insight and courage to create the OGL. Not only has it provided a bunch of entertainment, it has also provided me freelance work I would not have otherwise gotten (including work on d20 Gamma World, which I know no one loved but I was very proud of).
 



darjr

I crit!
Ryan says that WotC themselves were safer under the idea of the OGL and now they’ve entered a realm of unknowns and are at risk themselves.

Disney could make a video game and use 5e rules and say it’s compatible with D&D. And WotC may not be able to do anything about it.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
this is my only issue with the OGL and I find it funny. Coming out in 2000 when there were so many changes from 2e. Today (and 2008) when you try to make such stark changes you end up with not just "Well I will just stay with the last edition and never get new content" but "Well I can stay with a retroclone and people still supporting it like it's the current edition" and I have to wonder if there was a 'pathfinder' of 2001 if 3e would have caught on at all.

A non-trivial part of 3e's success was people who'd walked away from D&D because of its incoherence in design and the irritations that came from that who came back for at least a while. Retroclones would have had no impact on them (and of course there's always the question of how many people would have heard about a retroclone at that time anyway--its easy to overestimate the footprint of that sort of thing on the D&D-sphere as a whole.).

Paizo had the advantage that a large number of D&D players already knew about them. I doubt anyone else would have had similar success with a an off-fork.
 

Reynard

Legend
Paizo had the advantage that a large number of D&D players already knew about them. I doubt anyone else would have had similar success with a an off-fork.
This is key, and there is no one else in their position now. The revolutionized and perfected the Adventure Path in Dungeon and were trusted stewards of 3.x D&D. And the fact that they were "wronged" by WotC (pulling the magazines) helped them garner sympathy and support. It was a perfect storm.
 

A non-trivial part of 3e's success was people who'd walked away from D&D because of its incoherence in design and the irritations that came from that who came back for at least a while. Retroclones would have had no impact on them (and of course there's always the question of how many people would have heard about a retroclone at that time anyway--its easy to overestimate the footprint of that sort of thing on the D&D-sphere as a whole.).
correct... for the analogy and the compairison to work it would have to be a splinter company people trusted that had published Dragon and Dungeon magazine for a few years saying "We don't really like this new way, lets keep multi classing and thac0 the way it was... with some minor improvements"
Paizo had the advantage that a large number of D&D players already knew about them. I doubt anyone else would have had similar success with a an off-fork.
correct... but if the OGL didn't let them make a 3.75 none of that would mean much.
 



Thomas Shey

Legend
correct... for the analogy and the compairison to work it would have to be a splinter company people trusted that had published Dragon and Dungeon magazine for a few years saying "We don't really like this new way, lets keep multi classing and thac0 the way it was... with some minor improvements"

correct... but if the OGL didn't let them make a 3.75 none of that would mean much.

Sure. I'm just saying they also had the advantage that they were working with a fork off the version of D&D that had pulled back in (at least for a time) a lot of lost D&D fanbase; an attempt to do something at the start of D&D3e would have had no such advantage (there were certainly contraversies when D&D3e came out, but the split was hosed down because 3e was getting even more people than it lost, something there's no sign was true with 4e).
 



Vaalingrade

Legend
Ryan says that WotC themselves were safer under the idea of the OGL and now they’ve entered a realm of unknowns and are at risk themselves.

Disney could make a video game and use 5e rules and say it’s compatible with D&D. And WotC may not be able to do anything about it.
And people say two wrongs can't make a right.
 

drow

Explorer
let's be honest, if the OGL /did/ include the word "unrevokable", who doesn't think that some lawyer could be paid to argue that it can still be "rescinded", "annulled", or "disintegrated" lacking the opposites of those particular thesaurus entries? its all banter and wordplay until its before a judge.
 

mamba

Hero
let's be honest, if the OGL /did/ include the word "unrevokable", who doesn't think that some lawyer could be paid to argue that it can still be "rescinded", "annulled", or "disintegrated" lacking the opposites of those particular thesaurus entries? its all banter and wordplay until its before a judge.
agreed, then they would argue that they are not revoking it, it just is no longer authorized, which is a totally different thing, it just acts the same way
 

Drake2000

Explorer
Ryan says that WotC themselves were safer under the idea of the OGL and now they’ve entered a realm of unknowns and are at risk themselves.

Disney could make a video game and use 5e rules and say it’s compatible with D&D. And WotC may not be able to do anything about it.
Speaking of Disney, does anyone know if the in-development Marvel RPG uses the OGL?
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
let's be honest, if the OGL /did/ include the word "unrevokable", who doesn't think that some lawyer could be paid to argue that it can still be "rescinded", "annulled", or "disintegrated" lacking the opposites of those particular thesaurus entries? its all banter and wordplay until its before a judge.

Yeah, but that at the very least would be pretty good ammo for even a very limited lawyer team (like, say, a lawyer) to argue to get the whole thing tossed out. As it is, open licenses are a muddy enough part of law that they will probably at least have to be looked at by a judge (though I'm dubious they're going ignore the information about apparent original intent presented by representatives of WOTC at the time).
 

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