WotC Backs Down: Original OGL To Be Left Untouched; Whole 5E Rules Released as Creative Commons

Hundreds of game publishers sigh in relief as, after extensive pressure exerted by the entire open gaming community, WotC has agreed to leave the original Open Gaming License untouched and put the whole of the 5E rules into Creative Commons.

So, what's happened?
  • The Open Gaming Licence v1.0a which most of the D&D third party industry relies on, will be left untouched for now.
  • The whole of the D&D 5E SRD (ie the rules of the game less the fluff text) has been released under a Creative Commons license.

WotC has a history of 'disappearing' inconvenient FAQs and stuff, such as those where they themselves state that the OGL is irrevocable, so I'll copy this here for posterity.

When you give us playtest feedback, we take it seriously.

Already more than 15,000 of you have filled out the survey. Here's what you said:
  • 88% do not want to publish TTRPG content under OGL 1.2.
  • 90% would have to change some aspect of their business to accommodate OGL 1.2.
  • 89% are dissatisfied with deauthorizing OGL 1.0a.
  • 86% are dissatisfied with the draft VTT policy.
  • 62% are satisfied with including Systems Reference Document (SRD) content in Creative Commons, and the majority of those who were dissatisfied asked for more SRD content in Creative Commons.
These live survey results are clear. You want OGL 1.0a. You want irrevocability. You like Creative Commons.
The feedback is in such high volume and its direction is so plain that we're acting now.
  1. We are leaving OGL 1.0a in place, as is. Untouched.
  2. We are also making the entire SRD 5.1 available under a Creative Commons license.
  3. You choose which you prefer to use.
This Creative Commons license makes the content freely available for any use. We don't control that license and cannot alter or revoke it. It's open and irrevocable in a way that doesn't require you to take our word for it. And its openness means there's no need for a VTT policy. Placing the SRD under a Creative Commons license is a one-way door. There's no going back.

Our goal here is to deliver on what you wanted.

So, what about the goals that drove us when we started this process?

We wanted to protect the D&D play experience into the future. We still want to do that with your help. We're grateful that this community is passionate and active because we'll need your help protecting the game's inclusive and welcoming nature.

We wanted to limit the OGL to TTRPGs. With this new approach, we are setting that aside and counting on your choices to define the future of play.
Here's a PDF of SRD 5.1 with the Creative Commons license. By simply publishing it, we place it under an irrevocable Creative Commons license. We'll get it hosted in a more convenient place next week. It was important that we take this step now, so there's no question.
We'll be closing the OGL 1.2 survey now.

We'll keep talking with you about how we can better support our players and creators. Thanks as always for continuing to share your thoughts.

Kyle Brink
Executive Producer, Dungeons & Dragons

What does this mean?

The original OGL sounds safe for now, but WotC has not admitted that they cannot revoke it. That's less of an issue now the 5E System Reference Document is now released to Creative Commons (although those using the 3E SRD or any third party SRDs still have issues as WotC still hasn't revoked the incorrect claim that they can revoke access to those at-will).

At this point, if WotC wants anybody to use whatever their new OGL v1.x turns out to be, there needs to be one heck of a carrot. What that might be remains to be seen.

Pathfinder publlsher Paizo has also commented on the latest developments.

We welcome today’s news from Wizards of the Coast regarding their intention not to de-authorize OGL 1.0a. We still believe there is a powerful need for an irrevocable, perpetual independent system-neutral open license that will serve the tabletop community via nonprofit stewardship. Work on the ORC license will continue, with an expected first draft to release for comment to participating publishers in February.


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Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
Remember, there is no "they." WotC and Hasbro, like all companies with more than one employee, is a group of people, many of whom will disagree on strategy and policy. "They" don't only value money and "they" aren't true believers in open gaming -- there are almost certainly people on different points on those spectrums, which is in part why company policy and behavior has swung back and forth over the decades.


my two thoughts
1) welp I suppose I can buy Hasbro stuff again. Didn't really expect this much of a concession.
2) Something is going on behind closed doors at WOTC that we won't hear about for 5-10 years. I don't know what kind of arguments or power struggles are happening but no way we get something this big and this quick without someone having been pushing for it hard, most likely from the beginning.

Matt Thomason

A few thoughts.

First and most importantly thank you to everyone that held corporate feet to the fire over this. Personally, I'm relieved that there's no longer an imminent threat to my main source of income, am understandably relieved, can put my feet up, celebrate, get back to what I was doing before all of this, and...

...and Secondly, this is not a victory, as much as sighing in relief that the dragon that wanted to eat us has flown in the other direction for now. The potential holes in the OGL did not go away. The CC thing is welcome (along with its amusing leak of IP into the commons), but still doesn't directly protect the far larger library of 23 years worth of non-WotC Open Game Content released under the OGL. It's also caused many of us to recognize that the OGL is a very weak single keystone to rely on, and that an alternative outside of the control of one single party in the marketplace is still needed, so we don't remain open to the exact same threat in the future.

Also when it comes to metrics, the news yesterday that Paizo hold sold out of 8 months of Core Rulebook stock in 2 weeks was probably confirmed by distributors to WotC, too.

I expect that sort of metric would not be ignored either. WotC has no desire to re-visit 2009. Customer churn is one thing -- actual mass departures is quite another.
Sitting on 8 months of rule books means you overprinted and paid taxes on a lot of books sitting in a warehouse or more than likely…it’s a small number that sold but equates to 8 months of sales….I’m going with the later since Pf2e doesn’t sell like hot cakes at Waffle House at night.


But to get people to switch from 5e to 6e now, OneD&D would have to be a full 6e in order to get people to buy new books and into other mediums.
Why? 3.5e had its own SRD, far more complete than the 5e SRD, ready to go on the day 3.5e was released, and it still sold very well. People were also fairly happy to buy 3.5e versions of previous material, particularly when it was mixed with new stuff as well and often fixed flaws in the old stuff (3.5e psionics, for example, were much better than 3.0).

The prevailing fear here had been that whatever SRD they'd use for D1D would be released under a much more restrictive license than OGL 1.0(a), and that at least part of their efforts was to make sure people couldn't use the 5e SRD to make material for D1D using the more permissive OGL. But apparently cooler heads have prevailed, at least for now, and that does not seem likely to be an issue anymore. And I think it's far too late for Wizards to make any major course corrections regarding D1D at this point – the stuff they're playtesting are details, but nothing that would make it difficult to make material for it based on the older SRD.

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