OGL The Moral of the Story Is....Maybe there's such a thing as (D&D being) too big

Mercurius

Legend
I remember a year or two ago, when we were all basking in the glow of D&D's unparalleled popularity. Some of us remember the Golden Age of the early 80s, when D&D experienced a similar-in-kind cultural blossoming, though in an era before the internet, and probably to a smaller degree, even adjusting for population increase (at the least, it is more international now, even if the overall player numbers relative to population aren't larger).

I vaguely remember little snippets of conversation, regarding why people were happy about D&D's popularity - anything from feeling less ghettoized to the potential benefits that would be reaped: movies, tv shows, and simply more D&D all around.

What I don't remember is talk about the potential downside. I'm sure it was discussed somewhere, but I think with OGLGate, we're experiencing it big-time. Increased popularity = more money = corporate interest increases = a game, formerly and mostly run by gamers for gamers becomes a commodity to be traded and sold; a profit-generating product for the rich to get richer on.

And woe is us. Actually, I'm reminded of an Alan Watts quote, in which he said something to the effect, "If you want to make changes in your life, never speak it out too loudly, lest you draw the Devil's attention." Or it could be similar to when a person makes it rich and finds out who their true friends are, and who just wants to hang around them for financial perks.

So the moral of the story is: Maybe there's such a thing as D&D being too popular. Maybe it isn't as great as we thought it would be.

Now hold on a minute! The story is not over; D&D will continue, and no matter what happens, no one can take our books away or prevent us from playing the D&D we want to play. From my cold, dead hands, and all. And furthermore, we don't know how this will play out. Maybe D&D will become better for it; maybe WotC will remember that crucial fact: that it is the fans that make the game what it is, not the stock-holders. Or even if D&D becomes and remains heavily corporatized, maybe other games thrive and new communities are formed, and creativity flourishes.

But...it does seem that we are on the cusp of an era in which there will be two RPG worlds: the corporate bubble of D&D and everything else. And ironically, it may be that we long-timers will be re-ghettoized as outsiders.

But the main point, and to repeat the moral of the story: Maybe there's such a thing as too big? Maybe there's a happy medium in which D&D thrives, but doesn't become so large that corporate culture and ideology takes over its course? For certainly that seems like its fate, at least in the foreseeable future.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Clint_L

Hero
Yeah, I think there's a kind of feedback loop happening that was probably bound to explode. The bigger the game got, the more attractive it became for 3PP, and the more 3PP there were, the more Hasbro became annoyed with sharing the game.

I have no idea what the moral of the story is, though. Too soon to know all the ramifications.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
YMMV, but I see a different moral. Greed is bad. And potentially self-defeating.

I think that D&D getting big did increase the risk of it being managed in the interests of greed, but I also think that was a risk that would approach but never actually reach 100%. Had it been managed by people who both loved the game and had profitability at heart, I don't think we'd be in this new OGL mess. The irony is, I believe that would have been far more profitable for them than the current path they've chosen.
 


I think the fundamental problem is that, particularly in this era of corporate induced government hostility to the public domain, copyright law makes no real dispensation for something passing into a broader cultural tradition. The rightsholder continues to have a legal right to fully control and capture the profits of their IP, no matter how much they are freeriding on a larger cultural movement. You never gain an ownership stake in the things that shape your life, no matter how much your emotional attachment makes you feel like and sometimes behave like it belongs to you in some part. If D&D as a folk tradition happens to be tied to D&D as a brand owned by Wizards of the Coast, then legally Wizards of the Coast does not become the steward of a thing bigger than themselves, they instead have just won the IP lottery and feel entitled to cash in. And figuring out new ways to cash in is a marvelous way for an ambitious executive to distinguish themself.

Which is all to say that there is such a thing as too big for any game that is still considered some corporation's sole intellectual property. Should another comparable monolith ever arise in the ttrpg space, hopefully it is open source, managed by a non-profit, or otherwise not at its core some (potentially someday) creepy corporation's sole property.
 

gamerprinter

Mapper/Publisher
Capitalism ruins everything
Then you're welcome to ruin me forever. I've operated 2 small businesses, then operated as a freelance illustrator and cartographer, now a small RPG publisher. I wouldn't have done any of it for free, and I believe Capitalism is the only economic/governing system in existence - all others fail eventually. Not saying Capitalism doesn't have negatives to it, everything does, but its still the best way to do it, and the only way I'd do it. True capitalism is at the Mom and Pop shop, small business in every community. Corporatism is not Capitalism, and it's that which WotC/Hasbro is ruining their house with. Corporatism is that evil, that is always blamed on Capitalism, which is nothing like Corporatism.
 
Last edited:

Matt Thomason

Adventurer
I think the fundamental problem is that, particularly in this era of corporate induced government hostility to the public domain, copyright law makes no real dispensation for something passing into a broader cultural tradition. The rightsholder continues to have a legal right to fully control and capture the profits of their IP, no matter how much they are freeriding on a larger cultural movement. You never gain an ownership stake in the things that shape your life, no matter how much your emotional attachment makes you feel like and sometimes behave like it belongs to you in some part. If D&D as a folk tradition happens to be tied to D&D as a brand owned by Wizards of the Coast, then legally Wizards of the Coast does not become the steward of a thing bigger than themselves, they instead have just won the IP lottery and feel entitled to cash in.
One reason why I will always resist any urge to think of my self as a D&D or Warhammer hobbyist. I'm a roleplayer and wargamer first, IPs may come and go, and I keep my hand in on a variety to stave off the chance I get too dependent and locked-in to something that's under corporate control.
 

Incenjucar

Legend
The issue is the nature of modern business practices, especially for publicly traded companies, and their hard lean for destroying the company for a quick cash out.

There is a ton of money to be made selling good, quality products and merch and lifestyle nonsense and cartoons and whatnot, none of which requires any of this absurdity, just like video games don't need loot boxes and Mt. Dew ads to be profitable.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
What I don't remember is talk about the potential downside. I'm sure it was discussed somewhere, but I think with OGLGate, we're experiencing it big-time.
It was talked about here. The people who talked about it were shouted down and laughed at.
So the moral of the story is: Maybe there's such a thing as D&D being too popular. Maybe it isn't as great as we thought it would be.
Some of us have been here before. We’re still here after the Satanic Panic. Still here after the ’80s fad ended. Still here after the game died with TSR in the late ’90s. Etc.
Now hold on a minute! The story is not over; D&D will continue, and no matter what happens, no one can take our books away or prevent us from playing the D&D we want to play. From my cold, dead hands, and all.
Exactly. The greatest trick the devil corpo ever pulled was convincing people to stop playing with the books they already had and buy all new books with slight tweaks and changes.
But...it does seem that we are on the cusp of an era in which there will be two RPG worlds: the corporate bubble of D&D and everything else. And ironically, it may be that we long-timers will be re-ghettoized as outsiders.
That’s what we’re in the middle of. Corporate D&D ate the majority of the RPG industry back in the 2000s. Those not interested in that have been ghettoized since.
But the main point, and to repeat the moral of the story: Maybe there's such a thing as too big? Maybe there's a happy medium in which D&D thrives, but doesn't become so large that corporate culture and ideology takes over its course? For certainly that seems like its fate, at least in the foreseeable future.
A return to the pre-OGL equilibrium where D&D was no more than 40-50% of the market rather than the current 90-95% of the market.

If D&D is even that big (40-50%) it will still feel like a lost opportunity for the rest of the industry.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
To be perfectly honest, I kind of wish people would stop talking about whether or not D&D will survive. Of course it will! Hasbro won't let their second-biggest (after Magic: the Gathering) cash cow die easily, no matter how many self-inflicted wounds they suffer, and while the pushback from gamers everywhere against what they're doing with regard to the OGL (and potentially D&D Beyond as well) is both inspiring and heartening, it's never going to come close to killing off the game altogether.

What might be killed off are other games that relies on the OGL for theirexistence, if WotC pushes through their plan to "de-authorize" the OGL v1.0a. The very fact that they're able to cause so much fear, doubt, and uncertainty about the continued usage of the existing license has already caused a lot of smaller publishers to rethink their plans, which means that fans of those OGL games are faced with the very real possibility that they'll see no more (or at least markedly fewer) products published for the system(s) they love.

And while some of those systems might get a new SRD under Paizo's ORC License, not all of them will. While games that are designed from scratch can conceivably be re-released under the ORC License, that's probably not going to be the case for games whose publishers have since closed their doors (and so aren't around to release a new SRD under the ORC License) or are based off of the 3.5 or 5E SRDs. So if you're a fan of Mutants and Masterminds, for instance, then you might very well not see any more M&M products from third-party publishers (which have been coming out as recently as today) because those publishers are wary of the OGL v1.0a going away, and Green Ronin couldn't release the game (as it's based on the 3.5 SRD) under the ORC License.

The OSR, I suspect, is particularly vulnerable to this.

Now, ideally, WotC will back off and/or we'll get a court ruling that the OGL v1.0a cannot be revoked. Maybe we'll even see a miracle occur and (some portion of) the current OGL's Open Game Content will be usable via the ORC License. But at the very least, third-parties who published material for OGL games have been given a serious scare, and many will look toward safer pastures in which to publish their products. D&D will continue, but smaller OGL games will likely see a downshift, perhaps a massive one, in how much content is made for them.

To me, that's the real loss here. Not what happens to D&D and its surrounding 5E ecosystem of products, but the smaller games which required the OGL to survive. Even if this isn't a fatal blow, it's likely to deal them harm which they may never fully recover from.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Then you're welcome to ruin me forever. I've operated small business, operated as a freelance illustrator and cartographer, now a small RPG publisher. I wouldn't have done any of it for free, and I believe Capitalism is the only economic/governing system in existence - all others fail eventually. Not saying Capitalism doesn't have negatives to it, everything does, but it’s still the best way to do it, and the only way I'd do it. True capitalism is at the Mom and Pop shop, small business in every community. Corporatism is not Capitalism, and it's that which WotC/Hasbro is ruining their house with. Corporatism is that evil, that is always blamed on Capitalism, which is nothing like Corporatism.
I disagree with your assessment but we aren’t supposed to talk about it here.
 

gamerprinter

Mapper/Publisher
One reason why I will always resist any urge to think of my self as a D&D or Warhammer hobbyist. I'm a roleplayer and wargamer first, IPs may come and go, and I keep my hand in on a variety to stave off the chance I get too dependent and locked-in to something that's under corporate control.
I'm a creator first, then a roleplayer, never been a wargamer. I've created an IP, and I intend to create more. I won't touch an IP that isn't mine. So corporations have no hold over me...
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
5e's success attracted the suits and the suits realized that 5e was the least monetized, undercooked, and weakest booked edition of D&D. And they went for the easy fad route of subscription and not.. you know.. attempt any traditionally accepted ways to make more money to please the shareholders.
 

MGibster

Legend
Capitalism ruins everything
Tetris was originally created by Alexy Pajitnov while he was with the Soviet Academy of Science in 1984. It was just a little side project of his, but his coworkers absolutely loved the hell out of it, and the academy ended up banning it beacause people spent to much time playing it. Pajitnov wanted a way to introduce his game to a wider audience, but there were no mechanisms for him to introduce Tetris to the wider Soviet population nevermind the world. Crazy, right? If I asked you if you'd ever heard Kobrobeiniki you'd probably say "bless you," but if I asked you to hum the Tetris theme I bet you could do it. Where did Tetris really gain popularity and become a household name? In the western world under its capitalist system.
 

MGibster

Legend
One reason why I will always resist any urge to think of my self as a D&D or Warhammer hobbyist. I'm a roleplayer and wargamer first, IPs may come and go, and I keep my hand in on a variety to stave off the chance I get too dependent and locked-in to something that's under corporate control.
Games Workshop always refers to the Warhammer hobby and never war gaming. I started a thread not too long ago arguing that it was bad for D&D to overwhelmingly dominate RPGs the way it does. It's okay that it dominates, something is going to be the most popular so why not D&D? But it's a bad thing when one game is synonymous with the hobby in the ears of so many people.
 


TheSword

Legend
Anti-corporate rhetoric and attacks are making the boards feel very hostile to folks who work for large businesses. Particularly in a managerial position. There has always been an undercurrent but now it’s a torrent. Maybe you don’t know, or don’t care, but it kinda stinks. Lots of people work for corporations that they like working for and don’t deserve to have the workplaces constantly attacked by generalizations and sweeping statements.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Anti-corporate rhetoric and attacks are making the boards feel very hostile to folks who work for large businesses. Particularly in a managerial position. There has always been an undercurrent but now it’s a torrent. Maybe you don’t know, or don’t care, but it kinda stinks. Lots of people work for corporations that they like working for and don’t deserve to have the workplaces constantly attacked by generalizations and sweeping statements.
Yeah, it is important that people understand that the issue isn't WOTC being a bigger corporation.
The issue is Hasbro and WOTC being run by people who don't understand their products northeir products' communities.
The key is the the suit didn't take the acceptable and more sucesseful methods to make money with MTG and D&D because they don't know the games enough to know how to build money on them.

It can happen with big corps and small companies. I've seen many small businesses fall apart due to the higher ups not getting the business (typically hand-down to a child or sell out by an owner's child).
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Tetris was originally created by Alexy Pajitnov while he was with the Soviet Academy of Science in 1984. It was just a little side project of his, but his coworkers absolutely loved the hell out of it, and the academy ended up banning it beacause people spent to much time playing it. Pajitnov wanted a way to introduce his game to a wider audience, but there were no mechanisms for him to introduce Tetris to the wider Soviet population nevermind the world. Crazy, right? If I asked you if you'd ever heard Kobrobeiniki you'd probably say "bless you," but if I asked you to hum the Tetris theme I bet you could do it. Where did Tetris really gain popularity and become a household name? In the western world under its capitalist system.
Cool story bro
 

And while some of those systems might get a new SRD under Paizo's ORC License, not all of them will. While games that are designed from scratch can conceivably be re-released under the ORC License, that's probably not going to be the case for games whose publishers have since closed their doors (and so aren't around to release a new SRD under the ORC License) or are based off of the 3.5 or 5E SRDs. So if you're a fan of Mutants and Masterminds, for instance, then you might very well not see any more M&M products from third-party publishers (which have been coming out as recently as today) because those publishers are wary of the OGL v1.0a going away, and Green Ronin couldn't release the game (as it's based on the 3.5 SRD) under the ORC License.

I wouldn't worry about M&M specifically -- the 3rd edition of M&M is completely divorced from the 3.5 SRD, which they had to do to get the DC license. It could easily be moved to the ORC and built on there -- it's even further from its 3.x roots than Pathfinder 2e is.

I get your point, though, and have no arguments about the rest of it. It's stuck in the same "will they sue if we proceed?" dilemma the rest of the hobby is in, ORC or no ORC.
 

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top