Why We Should Work With WotC


I’ve been arguing with other posters about this for a while, outlining things piecemeal. I decided it made more sense to just present my thoughts and arguments in a big, concise post.

Now, I like the Open Game License (hereafter referred to as the “OGL1”). Back when I operated a blog I wrote and shared OGL content. I was dismayed by the GSL back in the day.
I was thrilled when the OGL1 allowed Paizo to keep 3.5e alive as Pathfinder and ran three campaigns of PF1 prior to the launch of 5e.
I support Open Gaming and have given Monte Cook Games, En5ider, MCDM, Kobold Press, Green Ronin, Frog God Games, Nord Games, Goodman Games, and many more large chunks of money. Under the OGL I’ve written content for four of those names. And I was quick to sign petitions and planed to delist my content on the Dungeon Master’s Guild with the early news of the new Open Game License 1.1/ 2.0 (hereafter referred to as the “OGL2.”)—a move that would have killed my limited disposable income.
This is the disclaimer so people know where I stand when I make my position known.

My position being that, at this point, it benefits the community to work WITH Wizards of the Coast on the OGL2 and not fight it. To pause hostilities and enter into reading the draft with an open mind and providing positive and negative feedback on the survey.
Because I believe that this is the best way for both sides to get what they want. For us both… (oh lord, I’m about to say it aren’t I?) … for us both to win.

Here’s the thing, WotC apparently really wants to deauthorize the OGL1. They seem willing to give up on revenue, earnings reporting, or even “owning” OGL content but do not seem to want to waver on deauthorizing the OGL1. That they’re willing to just abandon the idea of collecting 25% of revenue made over $750k without hesitation but balk at the idea of keeping the OGL1 is telling.

Why Should We Compromise?
The big question.
Why should we, as a community, compromise or negotiate at all when we don’t want the OGL to go away? How can we trust WotC not to change the deal again, when they’re already set on changing the existing OGL? To use an overly simple analogy, it’s like being at someone’s house and them deciding to order pizza. But you want to order Mexican instead. If you protest and refuse to budge, they’ll just order pizza without you and you’ll have nothing. But if you compromise and instead request a taco pizza, at least you’ll have a seat at the table.
WotC is going to kill the OGL1. But what the final draft of the OGL2 looks like and how that benefits 3PP is still flexible. If we begrudgingly accept loss of the OGL1 but negotiate and fill out the survey in good faith, we can try to have the OGL2 benefit 3PP and the community as much as the OGL (if not more). AND we can support and advocate for the clauses that make the OGL2 harder to alter or be even more perpetual and irrevocable. So this never happens again.
Because right now WotC is willing to listen. In part because reportedly something like 50,000 people unsubscribed from DnDBeyond. WotC is pausing with the hopes of getting those subscribers back. That those subscribers can be placated and will return. However, it's worth remembering DnDBeyond has tens of millions of users and likely millions of subscribers. Losing 50k out of just 2 million subs (a lowball estimate) is a drop of only 2.5%. And only a small fraction of D&D players use DnDBeyond.
If the OGL1 hold-outs refuse to compromise or negotiate in good faith, WotC will just decide that 2-5% of fans are “acceptable losses” and move on.

Paizo Will Fight
But will they?

A common sentiment is that we don’t need to compromise as Paizo will fight for Open Gaming. But Paizo isn’t some noble, selfless shining knight. They’re a business too. In cynical terms, they’re also out to make a profit, and right now it benefits them to position themselves as WotC’s opposition, as Paizo likes to present themselves as the plucky Rebels to WotC’s evil Empire. Because it garners them good will, which translates into sales. (Remember that less than eighteen months ago, Paizo was in the hot seat for mismanagement and treating employees so poorly that events culminated in their workers forming a union.)
Even in slightly less cynical terms, Paizo still has hundreds of employees to take care of who all have families. They’re not going to risk those on a prolonged lawsuit with no benefit other than winning points for the fandom.
Plus, realistically, WotC doesn’t have to win to “win.” They just have to drag out the lawsuit beyond Paizo’s ability to pay. Lawyers are expensive and have a terrible return on investment. And, again, since Paizo is a business, they're not going to fight a lengthy lawsuit with no profit at the end, when all WotC has to do is offer them a sweet deal and that problem goes away. But a backroom deal between Paizo and WotC doesn't benefit us and we have no say in its terms.
Paizo will fight… so long as they have to in order to keep selling books. With the news that WotC will let publishers like Paizo keep selling their back catalogue and there likely being a window for Paizo to sign the OGL2 or segue over to their own ORC license, Paizo’s not going to fight if they don’t have to.
(Y’know, assuming WotC doesn’t just buy Paizo. They paid over $146 million for DnDBeyond. They can get Paizo for a fraction of that.)

WotC Wants to kill 3PP
But do they?
This is the argument seen for why WotC is killing the OGL1. They’re out to eliminate their competition.
Except Paizo and the like doesn’t compete with D&D. Pathfinder competes with other 3rd Party D&D publishers, vying for the #2 spot on ICv2 charts. WotC probably didn’t even consider 3rd Party Publishers in their plans, viewing them as insignificant. It'd be like a Starbucks store worrying about sales lost to a little girl's lemonade stand.
It took 50k people dropping their DnDBeyond subs for WotC notice (and, again, those might be replaceable numbers): they’re not going to care that Matt Coville’s Flee, Mortals! was sold to 27,009 backers on Kickstarter. That’s huge numbers of D&D Kickstarter but a couple orders of magnitude below WotC’s sales numbers. A book that only sells 25,000 or even 75,000 copies wouldn't be worth WotC's time.
If WotC really wanted to kill Paizo… Paizo would be gone. They could do something like demand Wizard Play Network stores not carry or display non-WotC books in exchange for the "perks" of being a WPN store. Or force book distributors to sign exclusive contracts. There's all kinds of underhanded movies an effective monopoly like WotC can do to crush competition.

What Does a Compromise Look Like?
Where we outline our terms.
The big one I had considered while drafting this before WotC surprised everyone by releasing the OGL2 early was making it clear the new OGL was irrevocable. So WotC couldn't do this again in another twenty years. It sounds like this was already done. But it's worth praising this move so WotC doesn't pull back and also making sure the language for this is airtight.
Another necessary compromise would be releasing the 3.0 SRD and d20 Modern SRD for the new license. This is practically necessary for a few small publishers as well as the Everyday Heroes RPG.

The other concern is the protective options, which are designed around preventing people from releasing "harmful, discriminatory, or illegal content." Stuff like the flagrantly racist content of nu-TSR's Star Frontiers (which is so bad if I typed out the text here I'd be banned) or the Tournament of Rapists adventure for Pathfinder, which was on DriveThruRPG and published under the OGL. Or a purely theoretical d20 version of F.A.T.A.L. (Because WotC can't risk an offensive product using 5e going viral, hitting the mainstream news cycle and causing a new Satanic panic despite being wholly unofficial.)
Personally, removing that stuff sounds pretty damn good to me. But there's the concern that WotC might use it to unfairly remove content. For reasons. That they can't be trusted or might shut down products that use the term "race" or "dwarf" or have racial ability score negatives.
But policies designed around preventing bigotry aren't new or unique to the OGL. ENWorld has an "acceptable content" policy, with mods frequently banning people who espouse hate. Kickstarter has a policy preventing "Projects that promote discrimination, bigotry, or intolerance towards marginalized groups." DriveThruRPG has content guidelines and the ability to report violations. Even Paizo has rules for it's Community Content that asks you "Don’t do anything that might hurt or damage Paizo," such as making offensive content. Clearly, these policies are needed and serve a purpose in our community. They're not a new idea: why should the OGL be any different?
As for the fear that WotC will use the policy to beat down offensive content, this feels unfounded and bordering on paranoid. As mentioned, WotC doesn't have real competition, being in a league of their own, and wouldn't need a license to crush an opposing product. And abusing the provision would cause a huge negative commotion and drive people away from using the license. Even legitimate use would be controversial and dealing with such a product would be better served through an intermediary like DriveThru. It's the nuclear option.
But there's still lots of room to compromise, such as outlining unacceptable content through external sources, such as the anti-defamation league, external sensitivity readers, or setting up guidelines on their website. Possibly with an appeals process, where the product can be edited and resubmitted or allowing publishers to have a few "strikes" before they lose access to the OGL.

Okay... now I've got that off my chest I feel better and will probably go back to lurking for a time, as it's better for my mental health.
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No. This is a mess of their own making, and they made it out of greed. We are the wronged parties here. You do not compromise with an abuser in such a manner as to give them the opportunity to victimize you again.

They walked up and slapped us. We do not need to and should not let them bully us into taking steps back.


I have no problems waiting to see what they come out with. We should give them a chance to make things right. I tend to not say things like "You are dead to me" unless they ruined their chance.

A cover to the Golder Vault book might be a start.


My position being that, at this point, it benefits the community to work WITH Wizards of the Coast on the OGL2 and not fight it.
the jury on that is still very much open

I agree with giving feedback, but 1.2 might still turn out to be entirely unacceptable and the only real remedy might be to stay with 1.0a.

If 1.0a content cannot be used in work licensed under 1.2 then the whole thing is a nonstarter, and apparently that is how it currently is.

If they cannot fix that, then we have nothing further to discuss (not that there is nothing else to discuss too…). This is a problem entirely of their making, so I have zero sympathy

At this time I am not sure I should even care anymore. They burned down their house, why should I help rebuild it.

I’m much more excited about what is happening on the ORC side, if I never have to deal with WotC again, then good riddance.
For now I am not completely lost to them, but it will be very much an uphill battle for them and a struggle for me to even keep caring.
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