OGL Why We Should Work With WotC

Jer

Legend
Supporter
D&D is only the gateway if enough people play it. To keep it as the gateway, funneling money back to you, you need to ensure the maximum amount of people play your game or use your rules. You accomplish this by getting the game so big that everyone plays it and keeps playing it.
Exactly. D&D only becomes profitable because of network effects. Grow the network and reap the benefits in the long term. It's exactly the insight that had Dancey create the OGL and the SRD in the first place - better to have 3pp supporting D&D and growing the game Wizards would profit from than to have everyone fracturing the market into tinier networks that weren't supporting D&D.

And it was controversial at the time among game creators precisely because what the end result could be was one system to rule them all, one system to bind them. Everything becoming D&D. And if you are not a fan of the D&D model of gaming, or you don't trust that one company owning D&D would be a good steward for the entire ttrpg industry, that sounds awful. The market actually looked like it might go that route for about 3 years until Wizards made their first product blunder - releasing a 3.5 edition of the game that was just different enough to invalidate a whole bunch of 3.0 products on the shelves just 3 years after the initial release! That was the first point where companies that were doing third party stuff took a step back and started saying "do we really want to hitch our wagons to Wizards' business plans too tightly?" The first real point of broken trust, if only a minor one compared to the ones that would come.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

TheSword

Legend
It's the exact same phenomenon. That the situations are different in societal impact (and number of likely deaths) does not change the underlying logic.
Only if you cast 3pp as hapless, powerless underclasses struggling to feed themselves and not successful entrepreneurs thriving in a exploding market. Which judging by the proliferation (what 15,000 according to one thread here) means it can’t be that bad a gig.
 

Autumnal

Bruce Baugh, Writer of Fortune
Adventures were always the lowest selling books for WOTC D&D. They always rank lower than core and options books.

We'd need internals to see exact numbers.
When Paiso was founded, I’d have confidently drawn on the experience of many publishers to say that adventures just don’t pull it in like other kinds of supplements. Then Paizo made an ongoing success with its adventure paths. It turns out that with the right mix - or rather one of many possible mixes - of contents, they can sell great, in conjunction with other kinds of supplements. I’ve learned to be a lot more cautious in how I generalize.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
When Paiso was founded, I’d have confidently drawn on the experience of many publishers to say that adventures just don’t pull it in like other kinds of supplements. Then Paizo made an ongoing success with its adventure paths. It turns out that with the right mix - or rather one of many possible mixes - of contents, they can sell great, in conjunction with other kinds of supplements. I’ve learned to be a lot more cautious in how I generalize.
Pathfinder runs on having its core rules, players options, and monsters on a free wiki It focuses heavy on its adventure paths. And its setting books are few as it focuses on the base setting.

WOTC, on the other hand, focused on core books and option book sales. It's setting books are hit and miss. And it's adventure books are either TSR conversions, packaged with a settting, or bad.

And we all know about TSR.

It seems that no matter what, a company can't do everything well and be big. And that's bad for business if your goal is to be huge.
 

Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
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.
This is not a abuser and victim situation. Nobody slapped anybody. Do not send a message to victims of actual violence that a license negotiation is the same as their physical harm from actual violence.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
If you don't think there is an underlying logic to how people behave and how crowds react, then there is no way for you to predict anything to do with human behavior, so no then I guess there wouldn't be any reason for us to keep discussing this topic.
Yeah, no. There isn’t. Humans do not behave logically, and because of that all prediction is guesswork.

In fact, emotional intelligence is much more useful than logic to predicting human behavior.
 


doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Only if you cast 3pp as hapless, powerless underclasses struggling to feed themselves and not successful entrepreneurs thriving in an exploding market. Which judging by the proliferation (what 15,000 according to one thread here) means it can’t be that bad a gig.
Yeah, and like…wotc isn’t a king, no one in this situation is afraid of starving to death because of what wotc does, wotc doesn’t impose order on anyone via force, and we aren’t in a situation where the only path to freedom is fire and blood.

And no one is dying.

The idea of equivocating the two is just too wild to credit.
 

Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
With all due respect - you are not the language police.
Free speech is free but it's not consequence free. If you're going to compare a FREE license negotiation over a role playing game to actual physical violence, expect a logical consequence to be called out for going way over the top with your hyperbole.

Nor is my calling it out me being the language police. He posted it publicly for response, and that's my response, and I think it's a widely shared one.
 

raniE

Adventurer
Only if you cast 3pp as hapless, powerless underclasses struggling to feed themselves and not successful entrepreneurs thriving in a exploding market. Which judging by the proliferation (what 15,000 according to one thread here) means it can’t be that bad a gig.
Most of the people shouting down with the king were middle class people who had it pretty good but wanted influence on the government that they didn't have under the monarchy. That's how the 1789 revolution and the constitutional monarchy happened, and those were the people who led the later revolution that deposed and later killed the king. So no, it doesn't require that at all.
 

raniE

Adventurer
Yeah, no. There isn’t. Humans do not behave logically, and because of that all prediction is guesswork.

In fact, emotional intelligence is much more useful than logic to predicting human behavior.
That there is an underlying logic does not mean that anyone is behaving logically.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
That there is an underlying logic does not mean that anyone is behaving logically.
Save it for a philosophy class, please.

We have established that we view human behavior, at least in groups, very differently.

The logic that applies, the patterns, to use a more accurate term, that apply to violent revolutions do not apply to customers being mad at a CEO.


Even ignoring that no two revolutions are even the same, we aren’t under wotc’s power, we aren’t existentially desperate for ourselves and our families, and there is nothing we would be revolting against, no reason to employ violence, etc.

If you can’t see how all the differences change the situation…I genuinely don’t know what your perspective even is, here.
 

Haplo781

Legend
Free speech is free but it's not consequence free. If you're going to compare a FREE license negotiation over a role playing game to actual physical violence, expect a logical consequence to be called out for going way over the top with your hyperbole.

Nor is my calling it out me being the language police. He posted it publicly for response, and that's my response, and I think it's a widely shared one.
Ok. And there's a consequence to you saying that. Care to guess what it is?
 



raniE

Adventurer
Save it for a philosophy class, please.

No, I'll use appropriate phrases when they are appropriate.
We have established that we view human behavior, at least in groups, very differently.

The logic that applies, the patterns, to use a more accurate term, that apply to violent revolutions do not apply to customers being mad at a CEO.

I absolutely think the same patterns hold. Especially at the basic level of "one angry person means little, thousands of angry people mean a lot".

Even ignoring that no two revolutions are even the same, we aren’t under wotc’s power, we aren’t existentially desperate for ourselves and our families, and there is nothing we would be revolting against, no reason to employ violence, etc.

If you can’t see how all the differences change the situation…I genuinely don’t know what your perspective even is, here.
Most of the driving forces of the French revolution's different stages weren't existentially desperate for themselves and their families either, they were upper middle class and in the earlier stages often of the nobility and wanted more/any influence in how the government was run and a rationalized form of government.
 

Steel_Wind

Legend
Well, I'm not certain how all of this will turn out in the end. It is entirely possible WotC escapes from this and goes on to make WoW money with 6e.

It is also entirely possible that 6e and the OGL 1.1/1.2 become the short hand for 4th ed, the GSL and a failed edition of the game.

Time will tell.

However, I am certain about this: if this thread and the past two weeks tells us anything, it should tell us that the next "Edition War" is going to make past such wars look minor and gentlemanly in comparison.

People are genuinely pissed off; not just here, but all over the internet. Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, Message boards hither and yon. It's bitter and acrimonious and the comments are MEAN and ugly AF. And for a significant number of them? That's not going to go away. This is Dungeons & Drama now. This time, social media and streamers both who depend upon leveraging anger and emotion for clicks and traffic are not going to miss out on the opportunity to fan those flames. When a wound heals and begins to scab over? A lot of somebodies will go picking at it at the slightest opportunity. Companies will release forked 5th editions -- and more than just one. (Yes, I am aware EN Publishing has already done so with A5E/Level Up).

While some will doubtless move on, if you think this is all just going to go away? You are dreaming in technicolor. This one will be nasty.
 

Caerdwyn

Villager
I must strongly disagree.

Hasbro is trying to revoke and claim ownership of rights that it never actually owned.
  • They cannot copyright, patent or trademark game mechanics; that's settled law with cases going all the way to the top.
  • They cannot copyright the rules systems in the SRD, only the verbatim text thereof, and the verbatim text of the Player's Handbook etc. And they do not need an OGL to assert proper copyright protections.
  • Similarly, they do not need an OGL to assert trademark protections and associated product identity.
The OGL in all its forms is irrelevant and unenforceable; it serves only to list trademarks and product identity, which third parties need not even acknowledge as long as they don't use those trademarks. If I don't say "Mordenkainen" or "Forgotten Realms" or anything else in the list, I don't even need to admit that anyone in Hasbro still draws breath.

Has-been is claiming ownership of something that it does not, in fact, own (the rules system mechanics and the ability to publish material adhering to and compatible with the mechanics of the rules); what they are trying to do is to have third parties (including you, Gentle Reader) to give up rights which you own to Hasbro, without compensation. They are relying entirely upon the fear of incurring legal costs. And for that, there are laws about anticompetitive behavior, and anti-SLAPP laws,

There is no need to negotiate, and if they litigate, they have a lot more to lose than we do. Per the major investor advice site Motley Fool, WotC accounts for only 22% of revenue but 72% of profit for Hasbro as a whole. MTG and D&D are almost 4 times as cheap to extract profit from than anything else Hasbro has, and they think this is a cheap way to squeeze even harder to support the rest of its underperforming lineup. WotC is carrying the rest of Hasbro on its back; it's as close to "free money" as can be. And Hasbro is dead set upon killing the goose that lays the golden eggs, strictly out of fear of competition that applicable law insists MUST be allowed to exist unhindered.

Specifics and sources:

You do not need a license or permission from Hasbro to say "my product is compatible with Dungeons and Dragons." That's backed by a U.S. Supreme Court decision: Hidden Trademark Landmines in Comparative and Compatibility Advertisements I can put out an adventure for D&D, say it's 5e-compatible, and there's not a damned thing Hasbro can do about it... unless I, not they, say it's released under the OGL.

Hasbro cannot copyright game mechanics, directly per the U.S. Copyright Office itself. Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/96/U.S._Copyright_Office_fl108.pdf

Hasbro cannot patent game mechanics. The relevant case is Baker vs. Selden 1879 (Baker v. Selden, 101 U.S. 99 (1879)). The U.S. Supreme Court decision that held that methods of accounting were neither copyrightable nor patentable. The court ruled that a method of accounting could not be protected by copyright, because it was a system or process, and therefore not subject to copyright. The court also held that it was not patentable because it was a principle or method, and not a tangible invention. Intellectual property lawyers recognize that this is a very strong precedent for game mechanics claims.

Even were this theoretically possible, it's much too late for that. There are almost 50 years of widely established prior art and "public disclosure"; you have at most one year after disclosure to seek the patent. Even if a patent had been issued back in the 70's, the patent would have lasted only 20 years. Source: Grace Periods for Disclosure of an Invention before Applying for a Patent

My conclusion is that Hasbro has no rights to assert any sort of ownership or control, or to demand royalties for, D&D-compatible products... unless the third party foolishly signs a contract giving that all away, or foolishly uses something from a very limited list of trademarks in very specific ways, i.e. use of registered Hasbro logos in trade or claiming Hasbro specifically endorses the product.

I am not a lawyer. I am a GM of 45 years of experience, a software quality engineer of 30 years experience, a publisher of widely-distributed independent print-media comics, with a keen interest in intellectual property law, who does not back down to a meaningless cease-and-desist just because it's on fancy letterhead.
 

raniE

Adventurer
Well, I'm not certain how all of this will turn out in the end. It is entirely possible WotC escapes from this and goes on to make WoW money with 6e.

How many companies, video game companies with experience of doing this rather than a company that really doesn't have much experience in video games, have attempted to create an MMORPG to make WoW money and failed? How many have succeeded?
It is also entirely possible that 6e and the OGL 1.1/1.2 become the short hand for 4th ed, the GSL and a failed edition of the game.

I think it's entirely possible for it to go worse than that. If the VTT doesn't pan out at all, that is they never get it working, that could be financially ruinous. Even if it does work, if it becomes unpopular, like most attempted WoW-competitors, then what? Might be even more financially ruinous, as now they'll have to pay to maintain those servers and try to get it to work while they bleed subscribers every month. It's entirely possible, and in my view likely, that WotC is pushing more money towards something hard to recoup expenses on, while a fad wave they've been riding for years is coming to an end and they're getting a lot of revitalized competition and dropping core customers, all at the same time.

I think the scenarios for a failure well worse than 4e are far more likely than any sort of massive success from this.
 

Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
  • They cannot copyright, patent or trademark game mechanics; that's settled law with cases going all the way to the top.

I really wish people would stop making this legal claim. The issue is not as simple as that. There is a great deal of nuance to it. You cannot copyright an individual rule, but if a large bundle of rules is copied by someone it can in fact run afoul of copyright/trade dress. It's really a somewhat complex area and is not subject to a single legal declaration like you're making.

By releasing the core rules to the CC, it does in fact help out third parties. A somewhat fuzzy line as to when a company would have cross into violating their trade dress is answered cleanly by it being in the CC. There is value to that certainty for a company.


Hasbro cannot patent game mechanics. The relevant case is Baker vs. Selden 1879 (Baker v. Selden, 101 U.S. 99 (1879)). The U.S. Supreme Court decision that held that methods of accounting were neither copyrightable nor patentable. The court ruled that a method of accounting could not be protected by copyright, because it was a system or process, and therefore not subject to copyright. The court also held that it was not patentable because it was a principle or method, and not a tangible invention. Intellectual property lawyers recognize that this is a very strong precedent for game mechanics claims.

This part is inaccurate. Some game mechanics can be patented and methods of accounting law is not where you'd look for that. If game mechanics are unique useful and nonobvious it's open to some patent protection. Hasbro owns patents on several games including their mechanics, like Monopoly. Twister is another game where the mechanics are protected by patent.

I am not a lawyer.
Understood. It might be wiser to maybe not talk with declarations of certainty about what the law is then. Intellectual Property law is an entire field, people sue each other all the time with legitimate opposing views on how that field of law works for a given set of facts, and it's often not as simple as "It's this way and we know for sure it's this way!"

One last twist here - D&D is a game played across the world and not just in the U.S. and the laws regarding Intellectual Property nuance vary greatly from nation to nation. Even if you think you have a handle on the law in one nation, you likely don't for another. Putting stuff in the CC tends to allay rational fears across a large number of national IP laws.
 

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top