Earlier today, Kyle Brink, Executive Director of Dungeons and Dragons at Wizards of the Coast, released a new statement regarding the recent controversy surrounding potential changes to the Open Gaming License (OGL).

Brink announced that Wizards would not be implementing any changes, or adding new conditions, to the OGL 1.0a—the gaming license that has covered D&D since 2000—nor would they be releasing a new version of the license.

Wizards also circulated an “OGL Playtest” survey to the D&D community last week, which had 15,000 participants. As a result of the responses they received, Wizards will be moving the System Reference Document v5.1 into the Creative Commons License immediately.

You can read the full detailed statement here.

Key Takeaways

  • Wizards will keep “OGL 1.0a in place, as is. Untouched.”
  • Wizards intended for only TTRPGs would be covered by the new OGL licensing, but they have abandoned that strategy and all content will be irrevocably covered by Creative Commons.
  • “SRD 5.1 available under a Creative Commons license.”
  • These are concurrent licenses, with Creative Commons generally perceived as more open. Third party creators will be able to choose which arrangement they would prefer to use to release their content.

Today’s announcement has the practical effect of removing Wizards and Hasbro from any actual (or perceived) obligation to manage the license. Instead, it will be managed by the Creative Commons, an independent non-profit group that provides a standardized methodology to “grant copyright permissions for creative and academic works; ensure proper attribution; and allow others to copy, distribute, and make use of those works.”

If you have ever used information or graphics in Wikipedia, you have interacted with assets managed under the Creative Commons license.

Where do things stand now?

Since the initial reporting by Linda Codega about the “draft” document on January 5, 2023, the tone and nature of communications from Wizards of the Coast has been reactive rather than proactive. Several controversial reports involving community leaders, business writers, and lawyers, have featured prominently in both gaming press and mainstream outlets such as CNBC and NPR.

Then last week, we reported on the opening of the public survey and the OGL “playtest” and detailing the communications history around the OGL.

As of today, all discussions or suppositions are now immaterial—there will be no changes to the existing rights under the OGL 1.0a and additional open rights are now available for the community through the Creative Commons. There will, however, be an ongoing impact on the community’s level of trust and the risks content creators will have to assess moving forward.

On Twitter, D&D provided a direct link to the new legal document with the SRD 5.1 that includes a Creative Commons preamble.

BackgrounD & Context

Wider Business Environment

Hasbro, like other manufacturing companies, has had a difficult financial year in 2022. Hasbro is also restructuring due to changes in its fiscal landscape and is laying off 15% of its workforce. Hasbro is not alone in this IP/Product space. Similar issues are happening at Disney, for example.

How Does This Affect Wizard’s Stated Goals?

In the first statement released on January 13—an unusually casual post with a byline of “staff”—the corporate goals behind the new licensing scenario were three-fold:

  1. Wizards “wanted the ability to prevent the use of D&D content from being included in hateful and discriminatory products.”
  2. The ability to address use of “D&D in web3, blockchain games, and NFTs by making clear that OGL content” did not extend to those uses.
  3. To prevent “major corporations” from using D&D for their own commercial and promotional purposes.

The ways in which these goals were worded allowed for broad interpretations from the community to imagine multiple scenarios where any content creator, regardless of scale, would be affected. Not all of these concerns were realistic but they filled the content void and created communal agreement that it was difficult to parse what Wizards was really attempting.

Kyle Brink addressed these goals in today’s statement, saying: “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.”

Data Matters

The playtest survey was originally intended to run for two weeks, from January 19 until February 3. But the large number of responses and the lopsided nature of their answers appear to have convinced Wizards that the survey didn’t need to run for the full two weeks.

I recommend reading today’s statement to see these statistics in their original context these. However, these two are by far the most important data points:

  • “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.”

The current reciprocal relationship between the D&D community and Wizards would be unsustainable with these results. Wizards withdrawing the updated OGL is a recognition of this reality.

Hipsters of the Coast will be following these developments with further news, editorial and analysis as it happens.

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.

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