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...

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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I don't think this action changes their plans one bit. They release a vtt for 6e. They only release the base game as paper and pdf. All the main content is released through the vtt. 3pp can't release content through the vtt. They have a GSL like license for 3pp. The vtt and library of content has a mobile app. WotC monetise that. "clone+enhancement" ttrpgs are released, but without the marketing power of Hasbro. Hell, even a few big name players (Mcdm, Kobold, etc) get together and make one customisable/moduler core system (the original goal of Next) based on 5e. And true competition is available. Good for us as consumers
I guess that is possible, but we won't see 6e until probably 2034 or there about. They are getting 10 years out of 5e and I think the want another 10 out of 5.1 before they transition to 6e.

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One of the hazards of living in my part of the world is that news like this gets released when I'm asleep, and by the time I'm awake there's 25 pages in the thread already.

Well, it's certainly good news. And despite people's understandable skepticism, I think the backlash will act as a chilling effect on any future WotC attempts to backstab the concept of open gaming - at least for another decade or so until 2 new generations of execs have come and gone, the institutional memory of this whole blundersaurus is lost, and the new MBA-brandishing cleverclogs in charge has a bright idea...

So, things are better than yesterday. A few things I'll be watching:

- Whether 5.5 ends up under CC/OGL 1.0a or both. Honestly, I think it will be. I suspect we'll see a period of walking on eggshells from WotC now. They've been burnt, and they won't want to do anything that'd cause all this to blow up again. An analogy would be how 5e wound back pretty much all the 4e changes to the Forgotten Realms because WotC knew how badly they blundered there.

- Within the next couple of months, I expect to see some high-level staff changes at WotC or Hasbro. No reasons will be given (nor need they be, to be fair), but someone's big strategic plan just resulted in absolute carnage and PR nightmares and had to be publicly torn up and thrown away. A star is in the decline in upper management right now, and I wouldn't expect that person/persons to hang around.

- What happens to all the 3pp house systems that have been announced in the past month? Some I'm sure will go ahead, and PF certainly got a hell of a boost out of the whole thing, but a lot of the rug just got pulled from under the feet of projects like Black Flag that were pretty clearly going to be someone's 5e houserules.

- I'll be keeping a close eye on Kickstarter. A bunch of projects there were frightened off 5e and went systemless or Pathfinder in the past few weeks, and in general the pipeline of 5e projects there dried up due to uncertainty. Will the creator base return? Will the customer/backer base return? How much damage has been done to the brand, and how many people in either of those camps have legit been alienated to the point of moving to other systems?

Michael Linke

  • They're leaving 1.0a untouched
  • They're putting 5.1 in CC
Are we overlooking the changes that have come in the last few years, around races, alignments, not to mention the upcoming D&D One changes, which aren't addressed by either of these moves? All the people who wanted to empower 3pp, I don't see anything in this announcements that makes it easy for them to publish 6e/One D&D material.

Or 1D&D doesn't have its own SRD at all because they aren't changing most of the core game anyway. Which is why they originally hold back the classes, monsters and spells from being put under the CC-BY license because those are the things that they know are the most important to their changes, not the core rules.

It's not like the 5.1 SRD includes feats (only 1 example feat) or Backgrounds (only 1 example Background) or all of the subclasses (only 1 example subclass for each class). They were very careful with the 5.1 SRD to release a bare bones SRD and not give away the farm the way they felt like they had with the 3.x SRD.

If they keep the basic rules the same, which I suspect they will, they could very easily not put out an SRD for any of their changes and allow DM's Guild creators to use the new material under their own special license which is already not OGL. That gets them their gated garden without the nuclear bomb that they tried to set off.

(This is also why I want them to commit to the 3.x SRD under the CC-BY as well. Because there are things in the 3.x SRD that didn't make it into the 5.1 SRD and shennanigans could still happen in the future if some new executive gets a clever idea and thinks revoking the 3.x SRD needs to happen for some reason).
Well they will probably make another SRD for One D&D once it's released in 2024.

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