Dungeons and Dragons Is Jeopardizing Its Greatest Strength: Its Ubiquity

Last week, Gizmodo reported on a leaked draft of Dungeons and Dragons’ Open Game License (OGL) 1.1, an updated version of the licensing agreement for creating content using D&D’s basic rules, also called the D20 system, regardless of Wizards of the Coast’s involvement. The new OGL heavily restricts the kind of content one can produce based on Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition, colloquially referred to as “D&D 5e,” or just “5e”, and how you can go about profiting off of that content. This leaked draft represents not just a massive shift in policy for Wizards of the Coast, the company that owns Dungeons and Dragons, but in the strategy underpinning the world’s most popular tabletop roleplaying game (TTRPG).


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/3ad9kn/dungeons-and-dragons-is-jeopardizing-its-greatest-strength-its-ubiquity
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Also, breaking news on this, twitter (and now reddit) has a leak from a purported WotC employee saying that the execs are all in it to screw customers for all the money they can get, everyone who’s not management is in constant depression about all of this and that the only thing that’s made WotC take pause so far has been a measurable uptick in D&D Beyond subscription cancellations.

So.

oh, and edited to add more breaking news - the alternative license that Ren talks about in this article just got more details from Paizo here; https://paizo.com/community/blog/v5748dyo6si7v?Paizo-Announces-SystemNeutral-Open-RPG-License [although at the moment their entire webhost is down due to huge traffic surges because of this announcement].
It’s going to be called ORC (“Open Roleplaying Community”) License - all Paizo stuff will switch to it, they have buy in from a bunch of the third-party publishers for D&D and 2e stuff, and they want it to be hosted by a neutral third-party with a commitment to open source (like, say, Linux Foundation) to prevent anyone worrying about the risk of them doing a WotC.

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Something I haven’t understood about this whole thing is, aren’t game rules not copyrightable? I thought you can copyright the literal text but not the underlying systems? That’s how Null Signal Games has gotten away with their stewardship of Netrunner, by publishing cards that are “compatible with” the FFG game, but not using copyrighted elements like art, literal rules text, etc

I admit I haven’t researched this deeply and I’m a podcast or two behind so forgive me is this is obvious… maybe it’s just a case of “theoretically legal but you’d have to fight WotC in court so untenable”

Someone at the EFF anyway seems to think maybe the OGL was never a good idea for fan creators because it limited you to lesser rights than you’d have otherwise.

edit to add this link I found in the mefi thread in this. sounds like when it comes to RPGs it’s more complicated than “rules can’t be copyrighted” and hasn’t been tested in courts. still seems like the OGL was always kind of a trick tho