WotC Walks Back Some OGL Changes, But Not All

Wizards of the Coast has finally made a statement regarding the OGL. The statement says that the leaked version was a draft designed to solicit feedback and that they are walking back some problematic elements, but don't address others--most notably that the current OGL v1.0a is still being deauthorized.
  • Non-TTRPG mediums such as "educational and charitable campaigns, livestreams, cosplay, VTT-uses" are unaffected by the new license.
  • The 'we can use your content for any reason' provision is going away
  • The royalties aspect is also being removed
  • Content previously released under OGL v1.0a can still be sold, but the statement on that is very short and seems to imply that new content must still use OGL v1.1. This is still a 'de-authorization' of the current OGL.
  • They don't mention the 'reporting revenue' aspect, or the 'we can change this in any way at 30 days notice' provision; of course nobody can sign a contract which can be unilaterally changed by one party.
  • There's still no mention of the 'share-a-like' aspect which defines an 'open' license.
The statement can be read below. While it does roll back some elements, the fact remains that the OGL v1.0a is still being de-authorized.

D&D historian Benn Riggs (author of Slaying the Dragon) made some comments on WotC's declared intentions -- "This is a radical change of the original intention of the OGL. The point of the OGL was to get companies to stop making their own games and start making products for D&D. WoTC execs spent a ton of time convincing companies like White Wolf to make OGL products."

Linda Codega on Gizmodo said "For all intents and purposes, the OGL 1.1 that was leaked to the press was supposed to go forward. Wizards has realized that they made a mistake and they are walking back numerous parts of the leaked OGL 1.1..."

Ryan Dancey, architect of the original OGL commented "They made an announcement today that they're altering their trajectory based on pressure from the community. This is still not what we want. We want Hasbro to agree not to ever attempt to deauthorize v1.0a of the #OGL. Your voices are being heard, and they matter. We're providing visible encouragement and support to everyone inside Wizards of the Coast fighting for v1.0a. It matters. Knowing we're here for them matters. Keep fighting!"

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When we initially conceived of revising the OGL, it was with three major goals in mind. First, we wanted the ability to prevent the use of D&D content from being included in hateful and discriminatory products. Second, we wanted to address those attempting to use D&D in web3, blockchain games, and NFTs by making clear that OGL content is limited to tabletop roleplaying content like campaigns, modules, and supplements. And third, we wanted to ensure that the OGL is for the content creator, the homebrewer, the aspiring designer, our players, and the community—not major corporations to use for their own commercial and promotional purpose.

Driving these goals were two simple principles: (1) Our job is to be good stewards of the game, and (2) the OGL exists for the benefit of the fans. Nothing about those principles has wavered for a second.

That was why our early drafts of the new OGL included the provisions they did. That draft language was provided to content creators and publishers so their feedback could be considered before anything was finalized. In addition to language allowing us to address discriminatory and hateful conduct and clarifying what types of products the OGL covers, our drafts included royalty language designed to apply to large corporations attempting to use OGL content. It was never our intent to impact the vast majority of the community.

However, it’s clear from the reaction that we rolled a 1. It has become clear that it is no longer possible to fully achieve all three goals while still staying true to our principles. So, here is what we are doing.

The next OGL will contain the provisions that allow us to protect and cultivate the inclusive environment we are trying to build and specify that it covers only content for TTRPGs. That means that other expressions, such as educational and charitable campaigns, livestreams, cosplay, VTT-uses, etc., will remain unaffected by any OGL update. Content already released under 1.0a will also remain unaffected.

What it will not contain is any royalty structure. It also will not include the license back provision that some people were afraid was a means for us to steal work. That thought never crossed our minds. Under any new OGL, you will own the content you create. We won’t. Any language we put down will be crystal clear and unequivocal on that point. The license back language was intended to protect us and our partners from creators who incorrectly allege that we steal their work simply because of coincidental similarities . As we continue to invest in the game that we love and move forward with partnerships in film, television, and digital games, that risk is simply too great to ignore. The new OGL will contain provisions to address that risk, but we will do it without a license back and without suggesting we have rights to the content you create. Your ideas and imagination are what makes this game special, and that belongs to you.

A couple of last thoughts. First, we won’t be able to release the new OGL today, because we need to make sure we get it right, but it is coming. Second, you’re going to hear people say that they won, and we lost because making your voices heard forced us to change our plans. Those people will only be half right. They won—and so did we.

Our plan was always to solicit the input of our community before any update to the OGL; the drafts you’ve seen were attempting to do just that. We want to always delight fans and create experiences together that everyone loves. We realize we did not do that this time and we are sorry for that. Our goal was to get exactly the type of feedback on which provisions worked and which did not–which we ultimately got from you. Any change this major could only have been done well if we were willing to take that feedback, no matter how it was provided–so we are. Thank you for caring enough to let us know what works and what doesn’t, what you need and what scares you. Without knowing that, we can’t do our part to make the new OGL match our principles. Finally, we’d appreciate the chance to make this right. We love D&D’s devoted players and the creators who take them on so many incredible adventures. We won’t let you down.
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Google "Wendy's Feast of Legends". It was very much a thing and a physical book with dice, and they even partnered with Critical Role to do a ridiculous one-shot.
It was not a small product, and is the kind of marketing that might become more common as D&D and TTRPGs become more well known.

It strikes me as the kind of product that WotC would be more afraid of than Pathfinder, which is an order of magnitude smaller...
I was not aware they made books. I made mine. And it is absolutely fabulous.

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Well, that was fun
Staff member
What is it with irrevocable licenses. Why is it essential that you can’t be licensed to use something unless it’s forever. If this was the only acceptable license we wouldn’t have half the IP based games, film, TV, books and RPGs we have now. It feels like unreasonable expectations set by the original OGL that didn’t turn out to be irrevocable at all (potentially)

There’s no guarantee it won’t be replaced. Why is it essential that it can never be replaced as long as there is a window for people to adjust. How is having a deal that can never be changed a reasonable expectation.
If you tell somebody you've traded them something permanently, you can't take it back 20 years later because you feel like it, especially if they have built their livelihood and that of those who rely on them, based on that deal you made. We were told it was permanent, we spent 20 years making stuff to support their game, as they asked us to, instead of making competing games. That was the deal.


Well that is a bizarre non-sequitor. Im pretty sure I said in the other totally unrelated thread. I’m a gay man myself but when in Rome. I’m atheist but I cover my legs when I go into a Cathedral. Really not gonna get into all that jazz again here.
I failed to make my point, obviously: This isn't about the substance of your argument back then. But there is a general pattern that you're continuously demanding far less from WotC than many of us are doing. What I'm suggesting is that perhaps we can ask more in both areas (and more), and that your position is the mind-boggling one.

I mean, trying to downplay a document that was based off of very-well functioning (still today!) open-source licenses, was promised to be perpetual and irrevocable by the company and the people who drafted them, and has been mutually beneficial both to WotC and to their third parties as "an old fad that they were doing then, what's so bad about changing now?" is absurd. So I I'm sorry that I can't make an entirely rational argument against it.

If you tell somebody you've traded them something permanently, you can't take it back 20 years later because you feel like it, especially if they have built their livelihood and that of those who rely on them, based on that deal you made.
They just tried. Hence why everyone is turning into Robin Hood vs the Sherriff.

Michael Linke

Or anything recognizable as a RPG. I mean, I could mesh GURPS with AD&D 1E, how far would you have to go from the mainstream to be that incompatible? Do I have to roll SAN checks?
Cortex Plus/Prime is incompatible with D&D. Also Gensys RPG, and the various FFG licensed properties that used similar dice (Star Wars, WFRP 3rd edition, Legend of the Five Rings). Any game that rolls a die to hit a target number can be massaged into D&D compatibility. There are games that don't do that.

Matt Thomason

A 6th edition made different to previous editions. A game incompatible with 5e.
So, the way things currently stand:

We have the rights to 3.0, 3.5, 5.0 (not sure about 4.0?) under the OGL
That gives us the right to a lot of game terminology that Wizards could feasibly claim copyright on.

You cannot realistically own a game design. The mechanics of 6e cannot be legally protected outside of a patent, which would require a very new and unique method in order to get a patent for.

Various game terms might be copyrightable (if complex enough) or trademarkable (if unique enough)

Setting information is absolutely copyrightable, and cannot be reproduced by us.

They are free to license 6e under any terms they see fit, with reference to the earlier OGL or under a completely new license requiring anything they care to name.

BUT - at the very worst, we can clone 6e by using the terms allowed in 5e via the current SRD and its license, rewriting any 6e-specific rules text in our own words, and changing any possibly-protected terms, or by not using the SRD at all and writing everything in our own words and terms (admittedly, this would be a legal minefield and require a heck of a lot of checks to make sure nothing infringed on WotC's rights)

This may not be a desirable situation for Wizards at all, and may even have moral objections to certain parts, but it is however where games stand where it comes to legal protections.

The Sigil

Mr. 3000 (Words per post)
Oh, hey, this account still works! Here's my take on the situation.

I think WotC is probably genuine about wanting to make sure D&D isn't associated with content they find distasteful and I suspect this isn't just the suits - it's probably the rank & file as well. I can't say I particularly blame them; I probably wouldn't want my work associated with content I find distasteful either. However, as others have pointed out, that desire, no matter how well-intentioned, varies in terms of "what is distasteful" not just from person to person, but can vary in the same person over time. More importantly, though, I think it's a mistake to try to exert that sort of control via the Open Game License. First of all, the idea is somewhat antithetical to the concept of "open" but secondly, the OGL has been around so long and used for so many products that as of November 1, 2022 (before WotC started making noises about revisions to the OGL) I don't think much of fandom made the association "OGL product = D&D product." For instance, I don't know if Thirsty Sword Lesbians is an OGL product or not, but even if it was and OGL release, I certainly wouldn't associate it with D&D. I definitely think there's some Streisand Effect going on NOW, though.

But I think the bigger thing here is simple. Money. We've heard the rumors of comments that "D&D is under-monetized" and I can certainly believe execs feel that way. Think about the traditional TTRPG business model - I write a book, I sell you the book, you take the book and play with it over and over again. Even if I charge you a lot, it's a single-sale model, and it puts a ceiling on what I can earn because once we've come to an agreement on a price one time, you can get enjoyment out of the product in perpetuity. (And of course, the Doctrine of First Sale means you can resell the book if you ever want to quit, so now you can transfer the ability to play the game to someone else so I can't collect revenue from that someone else.

What has changed over the twenty years since the release of the OGL 1.0a? Companies big and small have tried to shift from a "sell goods" to "sell services" model, because the "sell services" model provides a steadier stream of revenue. Instead of charging me one big price for a thing I then own and can use as much as I want, companies are trying to sell "the right to use a thing the company retains ownership of for a certain time period" especially in the Intellectual Property industry. The other thing that has happened to enable this is the rise of the internet which makes this much easier for IP products. Instead of buying a DVD for $20 and watching a movie as many times as you want, instead pay $5 to stream a movie one time.

People here have mentioned the failing of 4E as being due to it being licensed under the restrictive GSL instead of under the OGL, and I think that's partly true. But I think Matt Colville did a great job of explaining that originally the plan was to simultaneously release an electronic toolset for playing 4E - a VTT or at least a proto-VTT when the VTT was still more or less in its infancy (yes, I know Fantasy Grounds started in 2004, but functionality of VTTs was still rather limited in 2008 when 4E released because of the limitations of internet speeds, et al. He also mentioned that 4E was rushed out the door before the electronic toolset could be put together properly and it never materialized. My read on what Hasbro as an institution learned from the 4E launch failure was (1) change the game too much and your customer base won't like it and (2) exert too much control with the license and publishers won't support your product.

When 5E was getting ready for launch, WotC did not have a viable VTT, so there was no reason at the time for them to attempt to lock their content behind the GSL... it was wiser to try to harness the "Skaff effect" by releasing under the OGL and re-capture the third-party support that had helped 3E become dominant. Of course, this time, "killer app" that the internet brought to help explode the growth of RPGs, the Virtual Tabletop, was much more ready for primetime. With the rise of the VTT, you are no longer limited to gaming with people in your immediate geographic vicinity. The problem of "I would love to play, but can't find anyone to DM" is all but eliminated. Furthermore, the VTT offers an RPG company the holy grail of revenue stream - it can be sold on a subscription basis! No longer do I have to sell a static book or PDF and let you enjoy it as much as you want; instead, I can charge you a little bit each month for access to the VTT. I would posit that the pandemic helped speed the move to VTTs, but the paradigm shift was that around the time 5E was released, the internet had developed the bandwidth to support high-quality VTTs and there was some competition among VTTs with FantasyGrounds, Roll20, and later comers like Foundry pushing for innovation in the VTT experience.

I'm sure WotC gets that the VTT is their dream revenue stream - the subscription-based model. You don't think they paid $146 million for D&D Beyond last year just to offer you a great way to organize your stuff? No, we know OneD&D is expected to have a significant VTT element. They're pivoting into this space. Without even worrying about whether or not microtransactions will be a thing, if they can get people locked into their VTT, they can finally back off releasing physical books and move to a service-based model - you're paying them every time you play D&D. To maximize profits, WotC has to find a way to shut out competing VTTs to avoid having their revenue stream split and there are only two avenues to do that: (1) make OneD&D incompatible with 5E or (2) prevent competing VTTs from using the material that was released as OGC in the 5E SRD.

So now they're staring down the choice... make OneD&D incompatible with 5e (remember, they learned "change the game too much and your customer base won't like it") or prevent competing VTTs from using OGC from 5E (they also learned "exert too much control with the license and publishers won't support your product"). They don't dare make it incompatible, so they tried - and are still trying - to choke off competing VTTs from accessing the material that was released as OGC in the 5E SRD. I think it isn't Paizo, MCDM, Kobold Press, or any of these other publishers that they're worried about as their competition (as most of the community has assumed). They're looking at Fantasy Grounds and Foundry and Roll20 and possibly even Steam, World of Warcraft, and the like. The rest of the TTRPG industry publishers? They're just collateral damage. I suspect they'd be happy to say third-party publishers can continue to use OGC - even stuff from the 5E SRD - in static electronic format and books - in perpetuity. They don't need royalties from others, so they're happy to drop those while they backpedal. The VTT is the thing.

After all, these are SOFTWARE people at the head. They're not looking at D&D the game. They're looking at "how can we change D&D from book sales into a subscription service?" I think they have misread the room, not because gamers are creative or smart or any other number of traits, but because most gamers in the VTT space have already formed significant brand loyalty to Fantasy Grounds or Roll20 or Foundry or their VTT of choice - and often feel affinity toward their favorite third party content creators that are getting caught in the blast radius - far more than their brand loyalty to D&D itself.

D&D Beyond may eventually become an excellent VTT, but it can't just be a "good" VTT - it will have to be so much better than the alternatives it overcomes the ill will of VTT users toward them. And with the TTRPG community looking like it's going to splinter again like it was in the 90's where you had Vampire/Werewolf, Shadowrun, Earthdawn, Palladium/Rifts, and several other systems I'm probably forgetting taking significant market share from D&D, I don't think "our VTT is the one that runs D&D" will be enough.

TL;DR: I don't think this isn't about TTRPGs. I think it's all about the VTT space, but I don't see a path forward for WotC that lets them get where they want to go other than "extreme sustained excellence" (which I haven't seen for quite some time so I'm not holding my breath).


Well then it wouldn't be D&D, would it?
That’s one of my many worries in this situation. It wouldn’t be the D&D that I recognize and love playing. Nonetheless D&D will be whatever the people who own the trademark to D&D decide it will be next. No matter how unpalatable that will be to me.

The entitlement and the idea that companies can profit off something paid for, owned and invested in by other people against their current consent until the ends of time is one of the reasons I’m the 10th man on this. There is something I find deeply uncomfortable about taking someone else’s work reproducing it with minor variations and then when they say woah, that’s not what we intended we want to pull out of this arrangement for future products, saying too late. Everything you do now is ours to do with as we like.

My issue is that it’s no longer a good deal for one side of the bargain and they want out. You can say, ha ha. You didn’t leave a clause for thst, boo-hoo to you. But I then don’t blame the company for doing whatever they can to get out of it.


It might be worth putting together a project to contact the various RPG companies who released stuff under the OGL that is not derivative of WoTC IP. The project should ask them whether they are willing to release them under a different licence - probably either ORC or Creative Commons. Having a central register of the resppnses would be useful. This would allow us to salvage as much as possiblefrom the wreckage of the OGL. What do people think? Maybe ENWorld could play a role in this.


Well, that was fun
Staff member
My issue is that it’s no longer a good deal for one side of the bargain and they want out.
Tough. They got what they asked for. They don't get to take back the payment. That was the price they agreed.

If I sell you my car, I don't get to come take it back 3 weeks later and leave you stranded because I changed my mind.

(Edit -- and also, with respect, you're not the one whose livelihood and mortgage depend on the deal you made, and the livelihood and mortgages of your employees and freelancers; it's easy to ponitificate on forums, harder to live it).
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is there a 4e 'clone' created under the OGL?
There is ORCUS: D&D 4E - Introducing Orcus -- a 4E retroclone

But it's basically in beta so it's not much. That said, I don't really think a 4e retroclone under OGL would be legally any different than AD&D/BECMI retroclones under OGL, since those games were never released under the OGL but could be cloned using the terminology permitted by the license anyway.


I think he's saying "what if 6e was so different from anything that came before, that nothing based on any SRD would approach compatibility with it"?

To not be supportable by previous SRDs it would need to be completely unrecognizable as D&D. No classes, no attributes, no spells, no monsters, etc.


My issue is that it’s no longer a good deal for one side of the bargain and they want out. You can say, ha ha. You didn’t leave a clause for thst, boo-hoo to you. But I then don’t blame the company for doing whatever they can to get out of it.
it isn't? have you checked their profits? They keep making more money every year... as I said before, all you state are assertions that are contradicted by all available facts. I am pretty sure them wanting out of this is doing more harm to WotC than simply not having changed the OGL at all.

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