OGL WotC Unveils Draft of New Open Gaming License

As promised earlier this week, WotC has posted the draft OGL v.1.2 license for the community to see.

A survey will be going live tomorrow for feedback.


The current iteration contains clauses which prohibit offensive content, applies only to TTRPG books and PDFs, no right of ownership going to WotC, and an optional creator content badge for your products.

One important element, the ability for WotC to change the license at-will has also been addressed, allowing the only two specific changes they can make -- how you cite WotC in your work, and contact details.

This license will be irrevocable.

The OGL v1.0a is still being 'de-authorized'.
 
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Please look behind the link for context, but TSR's original owlbear was a spitting image ripoff of the oft-mentioned toy, as show in the image. Sure, it's evolved beyond that now, but they want to prohibit others from evolving owlbear as it now stands? (...and a million other things. They can keep the mindflayer, they've used that as a mark, fair enough, and never released it as Open Game Content.)

This is just ridiculous beyond the fact that they already released owlbear as part of 1.0a.

No backsies. Not even if you say "double undo" and cross your thumbs.

Especially not when the thing you're trying to claim wasn't yours in the first place.

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This is hitting where it hurts the most for WoTC right now. People working on every piece of "IP" they think they have and breaking it down to myths and older references, so it eventually becomes clear for anyone what really is public domain and what is not, also providing easier references for any future litigation WoTC could try (of course, this would be reference, not legal advise or anything similar).
I've seen another post breaking down gnomes to it myths and such.
 

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Michael O'Brien

Hero
Publisher

mamba

Hero
Not sure (now) if this was sarcasm or you actually meant it, but wither way: Yes, that is exactly what we should do!
I meant it, and I pretty much still am too, certainly somewhat jokingly but definitely not sarcastically

Nothing has changed in practice, so if they are over your lines they always were.
of course nothing changed in practice, we are discussing terms of a future license. But those terms have improved in 1.2 over what they were in 1.1. Also, I still find them very much unacceptable after now having the actual proposal
 

Jerik

Explorer
Its interesting that Square Enix has used Mind Flayers (specifically called that) in Final Fantasy for decades with zero issue on the matter.

For whatever reason, TSR was far laxer in enforcing its IP in video games than in other media. The early Final Fantasies used loads of D&D monsters besides mind flayers; there were, for instance, also sahagin (just one letter missing from the sahuagin they were based on) and the ochu (in later Final Fantasies retconned to be plantlike to make it more of its own thing, but originally very obviously the D&D otyugh with the name altered by transliteration to Japanese and back). Even then, though, there may have been some limits; the monster in the original Japanese Final Fantasy called a "bihorudaa" (beholder) was renamed to an "Evil Eye" when the game was localized outside Japan (and the graphic changed to something less obviously copied from a Monster Manual illustration).

It wasn't just Final Fantasy; the early Ultima games included a lot of D&D monsters too, most with the names slightly changed, like mind flayer to mind ripper and xorn to zorn.

Heck, it's still been going on under Wizards of the Coast; D&D gnolls have found their way into Everquest and World of Warcraft, and as far as I know no one at WotC has objected. (There were monsters called "gnoles" in a 1912 book by Lord Dunsany, but they weren't described; gnolls as hyena people are original to D&D.) I'm not sure if it's because WotC wasn't paying as much attention to video games, or because video game companies are rich enough that WotC didn't think it could take them on, but for whatever reason video games have long gotten away with using D&D content that pen-and-paper publishers might have gotten into trouble for.
 

glass

(he, him)
of course nothing changed in practice, we are discussing terms of a future license. But those terms have improved in 1.2 over what they were in 1.1. Also, I still find them very much unacceptable after now having the actual proposal
I know that they are future licences. What I meant (and I thought this would have been obvious, but clearly it was not obvious enough) is that nothing has changed in practice between the "draft" 1.1 and the draft 1.2. The "improvement" is that they have hidden the poison slightly better.

Signing up for either one is still a death sentence for any publisher WotC decides is getting too successful. Everything else is window dressing.
 

For whatever reason, TSR was far laxer in enforcing its IP in video games than in other media. The early Final Fantasies used loads of D&D monsters besides mind flayers; there were, for instance, also sahagin (just one letter missing from the sahuagin they were based on) and the ochu (in later Final Fantasies retconned to be plantlike to make it more of its own thing, but originally very obviously the D&D otyugh with the name altered by transliteration to Japanese and back). Even then, though, there may have been some limits; the monster in the original Japanese Final Fantasy called a "bihorudaa" (beholder) was renamed to an "Evil Eye" when the game was localized outside Japan (and the graphic changed to something less obviously copied from a Monster Manual illustration).

It wasn't just Final Fantasy; the early Ultima games included a lot of D&D monsters too, most with the names slightly changed, like mind flayer to mind ripper and xorn to zorn.

Heck, it's still been going on under Wizards of the Coast; D&D gnolls have found their way into Everquest and World of Warcraft, and as far as I know no one at WotC has objected. (There were monsters called "gnoles" in a 1912 book by Lord Dunsany, but they weren't described; gnolls as hyena people are original to D&D.) I'm not sure if it's because WotC wasn't paying as much attention to video games, or because video game companies are rich enough that WotC didn't think it could take them on, but for whatever reason video games have long gotten away with using D&D content that pen-and-paper publishers might have gotten into trouble for.
Another recent example is the Mind Flayers in Demon's Souls, which are literally called Mind Flayers, look like Mind Flayers, and have a psychic blast and tentacle-grapple-brain-eat kill move and so on. There was a remake of Demon's Souls recently, which was a huge hit for Sony, and it did not make any changes to them - they're still there, still called the same thing, and so on.

I suspect that the main issue historically has indeed been that videogame companies make a huge amount more money than TSR or WotC. One big studio AAA videogame can easily do $300m in revenue. Not even a very good one - Mass Effect Andromeda, for example, which launched in a terrible state and is at best a profoundly "7/10" (in a good way) kind of game (unlike ME1-3 all of which are at least arguably masterpieces in their own ways), sold 5m copies on launch, where the lowest price was $60, so that's $300m revenue right there.

I think an issue with a lot of D&D monsters, even ones WotC considers "product identity" or however they want to put it, is that they've been used in about a billion videogames large and small. EverQuest was another one which was particularly keen on just outright nicking bunches of "D&D" monsters (albeit ones WotC hasn't claimed as "Product Identity").

It is fair to say most companies have stayed away from the few the 5E SRD explicitly claims: Beholder, gauth, Carrion Crawler, tanar’ri, baatezu, Displacer Beast, Githyanki, Githzerai, Mind Flayer, illithid, Umber Hulk, Yuan-ti.

At least in name. Creatures functionally identical to most of the above except gauths and Giths, but with different names are found in many fantasy games.
 


Haplo781

Legend
Adding the the branding with the trademark ampersand does mean that the case for a morality clause is stronger with this license.

But it is not needed for 1.0a as the use of WoTC brands and trademarks is already forbidden.

The only reason they cite is the need to deauthorize the old license is that morality clause they want to add. If WoTC wants to promote these so called core values, then they can use the official badge program as the carrot.

All they need is a new license that allows the sticker with the trademark that marks the product as “official blessed” and in return you agree to the morality clause and WoTC waives the restrictions in 1.0a that says you cannot use the branding. But to get that you need to sign off on the morality clause.

That would be a powerful market force as stores can sell those books easier and will look twice before stocking books without it.

There might be issues with using other peoples’ work in a product you slap the sticker on, but maybe the OGL license already allows it.

There is no need to deauthorize the OGL to get the benefit they claim is so needed.
They should just revive the System Trademark License for that.
 

It is fair to say most companies have stayed away from the few the 5E SRD explicitly claims: Beholder, gauth, Carrion Crawler, tanar’ri, baatezu, Displacer Beast, Githyanki, Githzerai, Mind Flayer, illithid, Umber Hulk, Yuan-ti.
Historically? Not so much.

I think I've seen some rogue displacer beasts and carrion crawlers pop up in various media too.
 

This is hitting where it hurts the most for WoTC right now. People working on every piece of "IP" they think they have and breaking it down to myths and older references, so it eventually becomes clear for anyone what really is public domain and what is not, also providing easier references for any future litigation WoTC could try (of course, this would be reference, not legal advise or anything similar).
I've seen another post breaking down gnomes to it myths and such.
I'm sure that with enough research, the vast majority of D&D races, classes, and creatures can be shown to be derived from literature, folklore, mythology, and elements of popular culture that aren't Hasbro IP.

Even for things that WotC considers their own IP, there's probably ways to make them legally distinct while being similar enough for most gaming purposes. Illithid are something WotC has always counted as "product identity" and their own creation, but a vaguely aquatic humanoid with a squid-like face and telepathic powers that seems like something out of a Lovecraftian story isn't a concept they own, the basic concept appears in a number of other works under different names. I remember when HeroForge had to remove it's squid-head option for designing miniatures because of a legal complaint from WotC. . .it wasn't that it was just a squid-headed miniature design option, it was that it specifically had four tentacles in a diamond-shaped ring around a central mouth, had large raised bulbs on the side of the head, and had a number of other design similarities to how illithid had been depicted by WotC consistently since the late 1990's that made WotC take legal action.
 

Heck, it's still been going on under Wizards of the Coast; D&D gnolls have found their way into Everquest and World of Warcraft, and as far as I know no one at WotC has objected.
Everquest is absolutely a fountain of D&D creatures, classes, and races that copy closely from D&D, but WotC never has taken action in the 24 years the game has been active. Just about all the current major D&D classes except Warlocks and Sorcerers are in there (because they weren't in D&D when EQ was created), same with the core races (only lacking dragonborn and tieflings, because the former wasn't a part of D&D yet and the latter was setting-specific at the time), and a HUGE number of monsters, spells, and various elements.

In thinking of things (due to this whole mess of trying to figure out what is REALLY the IP of WotC) that aren't specifically WotC IP, in that you can point to other works and say they have the same thing under the same name, in substantially the same appearance and behavior, EverQuest has stood out in my mind as something that could be an example for the vast majority of D&D "stuff".
 

Haplo781

Legend
Everquest is absolutely a fountain of D&D creatures, classes, and races that copy closely from D&D, but WotC never has taken action in the 24 years the game has been active. Just about all the current major D&D classes except Warlocks and Sorcerers are in there (because they weren't in D&D when EQ was created), same with the core races (only lacking dragonborn and tieflings, because the former wasn't a part of D&D yet and the latter was setting-specific at the time), and a HUGE number of monsters, spells, and various elements.

In thinking of things (due to this whole mess of trying to figure out what is REALLY the IP of WotC) that aren't specifically WotC IP, in that you can point to other works and say they have the same thing under the same name, in substantially the same appearance and behavior, EverQuest has stood out in my mind as something that could be an example for the vast majority of D&D "stuff".
Yeah if WotC tries to sue for trademark infringement they're gonna have a tough time explaining that.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
@Sacrosanct

Would the no offensive content thing have changed anything you put in your recent Twilight Fables?
Oh heck yes. Twilight Fables has a warning disclaimer on the front cover lol. Depending on the whim of Hasbro, they could have shelved the whole thing, even though here is no promotion of racism, sexism, or others. But because it's based on historical folklore, there are creatures that are potentially problematic, especially when it comes to consent (like faun and Finnbheara).
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
Yeah if WotC tries to sue for trademark infringement they're gonna have a tough time explaining that.
Coincidentally I spoke to Tim Kask a few days ago re: the bulette. He owns the rights to it. But according to him, because he didn't defend that right when TSR and later WoTC kept using it, he doesn't have a leg to stand on in court.
 

Haplo781

Legend
Coincidentally I spoke to Tim Kask a few days ago re: the bulette. He owns the rights to it. But according to him, because he didn't defend that right when TSR and later WoTC kept using it, he doesn't have a leg to stand on in court.
Yeah, all it takes is a licensed EverQuest TTRPG being publishedunder ORC or something and suddenly WotC is up a creek.
 


JEB

Legend
Yeah, all it takes is a licensed EverQuest TTRPG being publishedunder ORC or something and suddenly WotC is up a creek.
Funny enough, there already was an EverQuest RPG published under the OGL. (World of Warcraft as well.) Dunno how that factors in, though.
 


JEB

Legend
Huh. Did they happen to release those monsters as open content by any chance?
EverQuest and World of Warcraft both - if I'm reading them correctly - released all the game rules as OGC, but none of the names or descriptions are attached to them. So there are open content rules for iksar and tauren and such, but you can't call them that.
 

Jerik

Explorer
IANAL, and hopefully one of the people posting here who are lawyers will chime in and clarify, but it should be noted there are big differences between copyrights and trademarks. Trademarks can be lost if you don't defend them; copyrights can't. Also, copyrights are automatic (though there are benefits to officially registering them); trademarks have to be specifically registered, and each name, brand, or logo has to be trademarked separately. As far as I know, WotC never tried to trademark specific monster names like "gnoll" or "treant", but if they did, their use in EverQuest certainly could cause them problems. However, that would have no effect on their copyright—you don't lose copyrights by not defending them.
 

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