It has been exactly one week since Wizards of the Coast released a statement postponing their announcement of a new Open Gaming License Agreement (OGL)  for Dungeons and Dragons, after reporting by Linda Cordegaon January 5th,  describing a leaked version of the proposed OGL document with a contract attached. No notation on the contract or the document that indicated it was a draft to her source

The situation has moved rapidly. Wizards of the Coast has made three statements in less than one week. One on Jan 18; a “Working Conversation” post with a named byline written in a very different tone from Jan 13th’s “staff” bylined statement, promised open communication moving forward. Then 24 hours later a surprising new statement was issued bring us to the current status:

On January 19, 2023, one day after announcing roll back of the proposed restrictions and royalties on the Dungeons and Dragons OGL Wizards of the Coast’s, Executive Producer for D&D, Kyle Brink, announced that Wizards was moving to a Creative Commons model, but there was still going to be an OGL.

It’s been one week since you looked at me,
Cocked your head to the side and said, ‘I’m Angry’
-The Barenaked Ladies, “One Week”

Key Takeaways

  • “OGL 1.2 will provide you a perpetual, irrevocable license” to use SRD materials
  • Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization dedicated to sharing knowledge – Wizards/Hasbro will NOT control the license.
  • “no royalty payment, no financial reporting, no license-back, no registration, no distinction between commercial and non-commercial.”

The primary source announcement about Creative Commons with information from Brink can be found here:

Key differences in this draft document vs the leaked document that was not labeled draft to community creators in Nov/Dec:

  • OGL 1.2 will only apply to TTRPG content or virtual tabletops (VTTs). Any other product or good exists as part of the Creative Commons or outside the scope copyright.
  • A clarification of why deauthorization of the OGL1.0a DOES NOT mean it’s now unlicensed – previous content is still licensed under the OGL.
  • “Only two sections can be changed once OGL 1.2 is live: how you cite Wizards in your work” and how the creator and the corporation can contact each other.
  • The draft document is appropriately and clearly labeled with a “draft” watermark and cannot be interpreted as final

A direct link to the draft document of the new version of the OGL that would exist in a creative commons environment is in the link below – but I strongly recommend reading Brink’s announcement before reviewing it, because the biggest news is they are going to publicly workshop the OGL in the same manner they did while developing 5e. The community be part of the workshopping process.

Click to access OGL1.2_DraftForDiscussionPurpose.pdf

Unlike the draft sent out under NDA in November/December (not labeled draft, sent with a contract that may or may not have been binding) This draft is being clearly treated as such separating it from controversy of the unmarked leaked document that preceded it.

It’s Been One Week

One week ago today, on Jan 13, 2023, Wizards of the Coast ended it’s silence on a story circulating since a “leaked” OGL sent to select individuals with a contract attached. Though upcoming  changes to the existing OGL were announced to the public on Dec 21, 2022, no one had publicly seen the proposed changes. Two weeks later, Linda Codega scooped the story for Gizmodo on January 5, 2023.

It would eventually leak that at least as early as November, Wizards had been approaching select third party creatives with their plans for the new OGL and everyone involved was under an NDA. The creatives were concerned about mailings with a copy of a document that did not contain the notation of the words “draft” and what looked like a binding legal contract committing them to an agreement that did not look much like the license they were currently operating under.

Wizards “announcement of an upcoming announcement” is a community meme, but most often it involves product lines and warnings of changes in content or strategy for its active products. The business aspects of WotC announcements are usually contained in shareholder facing scheduled events, shareholder meetings, and regular business reports. The OGL statements do not fit neatly into the pattern of communication that has been established during the Chris Cocks era of Wizards leadership since 2016.

In the week between Codega’s article and WotC canceling an announcement on the 12th, then making a statement on the 13th, speculators and content creators filled the space with “what ifs”, Content creators who were concerned for longer than the general public had been aware of the issue organized quickly around a clear plan of action focusing on withdrawing from the Virtual Tabletop tool D&DBeyond.

However the Open Gaming License has a great deal of overlap with other specialized information communities involved in open licensing and copyright. These include traditional publishing, software licensing, and intellectual property law.

Mainstream celebrities who are deeply active with many of these issues while advocating for creative rights took notice. Wizards ceding the floor to silence gave the podium to influencers they may not have considered.  Thus we have Neil Gaiman reblogging Cory Doctorow, an author and Creative Commons activist about the negatives of the EXISTING OGL.

There are also collections of lawyers who are or used to be role playing gamers sharing their in-group experts between themselves discussing case studies and describing how the OGL itself might be limiting content creators more than if they didn’t sign it. OGLs are considered a recent legal product in IP law so they are exciting spaces for lawyers to be able to truly contribute new information or legal innovation to that community of practice:

It is in this environment of activism and information sharing that on January 12 a planned announcement was postponed and on January 13.  Hipsters of the Coast reported, Wizards of the Coast would  NOT be releasing a new OGL that day..

Five days since you laughed at me
Saying, “Get that together, come back and see me”
-The Barenaked Ladies, “One Week”

That statement, while clear, did not create a sense of accountability. It was followed up five days later with the Working Conversation statement identifying Kyle Brink as a single point of contact for the public on Jan 18. This is in contrast to previous practice to prevent harassment and targeting of Wizards staff by using collective bylines previously.

The use of the Creative Commons solution had been written about by community members but until the Jan 19, “OGL ‘Playtest” Statement, there had been no previous indication that Creative Commons was even under consideration as a potential licensing model.

It’s been an extremely active week in an area of community that had been lying fallow for over two decades. A great deal can happen in a week.

Hipsters of the Coast will be following these developments with further news, editorial and analysis as it happens. Check back for more breaking OGL stories!

Adrienne Reynolds (she/her) has the DCI number 7801. She is conducting a longitudinal ethnographic study of Cultural Actors in Magic: The Gathering initially undertaken at Bryn Mawr College and continued independently. You can find her on Twitter as @DreamtimeDrinne and on Discord at DreamtimeDrinne#9349. When not desperately seeking a game of Magic, she is working towards making our workspaces more human centered.

Don't Miss Out!

Sign up for the Hipsters Newsletter for weekly updates.