The Dungeons & Dragons’ OGL 1.1 Tightens Grip On Competition

A dragon roasting several polyhedral dice.
Illustration: Vicky Leta

The new Dungeons & Dragons Open Gaming License, a doc which permits an unlimited group of impartial publishers to make use of the essential recreation guidelines created by D&D proprietor Wizards of the Coast, considerably restricts the type of content material allowed and requires anybody earning money underneath the license to report their merchandise to Wizards of the Coast straight, in response to an evaluation of a leaked draft of the doc, dated mid-December.

Despite reassurances from Wizards of the Coast final month, the unique OGL will develop into an “unauthorized” settlement, and it seems no new content material might be permitted to be created underneath the unique license.

What is the Dungeons & Dragons Open Gaming License?

The unique OGL is what many up to date tabletop publishers use to create their merchandise inside the boundaries of D&D’s reproducible content material. Much of the unique OGL is devoted to the System Resource Document, and contains character species, lessons, tools, and, most significantly, normal gameplay buildings, together with fight, spells, and creatures.

The creation of the OGL model 1.0, which was initially printed in 2000, has allowed a number of outdoor designers and publishers, each beginner {and professional}, to make new merchandise for a recreation that is still fully owned by Hasbro subsidiary Wizards of the Coast (WotC). While this association generally created merchandise that straight competed with WotC publications, it additionally allowed the sport to flourish and develop because of the sources created by the broader D&D group.

In 2022, when WotC introduced plans to develop a revised version of the Dungeons & Dragons guidelines, codenamed One D&D, the corporate mentioned it will replace the OGL as effectively. The OGL has been tweaked a number of occasions since its 2000 launch, and WotC has at occasions transitioned to different royalty-free licenses, however the unique OGL 1.0 had basically remained intact till the corporate mentioned it will develop OGL model 1.1.

What is within the new OGL 1.1?

So much, truly. While the unique open gaming license is a comparatively quick doc, coming in at underneath 900 phrases, the brand new draft of the OGL 1.1, which was offered to io9 by a non-WotC developer, is over 9,000 phrases lengthy. It addresses new applied sciences like blockchain and NFTs, and takes a powerful stance towards bigoted content material, explicitly stating the corporate could terminate the settlement if third-party creators publish materials that’s “blatantly racist, sexist, homophobic, trans-phobic, bigoted or otherwise discriminatory.”

One of the most important modifications to the doc is that it updates the beforehand obtainable OGL 1.0 to state it’s “no longer an authorized license agreement.” By ending the unique OGL, many licensed publishers must fully overhaul their merchandise and distribution with the intention to adjust to the up to date guidelines. Large publishers who focus virtually solely on merchandise based mostly on the unique OGL, together with Paizo, Kobold Press, and Green Ronin, might be underneath strain to replace their enterprise mannequin extremely quick.

This isn’t any mistake. According to the doc procured by io9, the brand new agreements states that “the Open Game License was always intended to allow the community to help grow D&D and expand it creatively. It wasn’t intended to subsidize major competitors, especially now that PDF is by far the most common form of distribution.”

This sentiment is reiterated later within the doc: The “OGL wasn’t intended to fund major competitors and it wasn’t intended to allow people to make D&D apps, videos, or anything other than printed (or printable) materials for use while gaming. We are updating the OGL in part to make that very clear.”

Paizo Inc., writer of the Pathfinder RPG, considered one of D&D’s largest opponents, declined to touch upon the modifications for this text, stating that the principles replace was a sophisticated and ongoing state of affairs.

Chris Pramas, founder and president of Green Ronin Publishing, mentioned that although considered one of their very own merchandise—Mutants and Masterminds—was printed underneath the unique OGL in 2002, and continues to be obtainable in the present day, that they had not seen the up to date OGL, and they don’t consider there’s “any benefit to switching to the new one as described.”

Wizards of the Coast declined to remark for this text or reply particular questions in regards to the leaked OGL doc. A spokesperson directed io9 to a weblog publish the corporate printed in December, which reassures the group that this OGL is not going to materially have an effect on the vast majority of individuals working within the business.

What will occur to the unique OGL?

The unique OGL granted “perpetual, worldwide, non-exclusive license” to the Open Game Content (generally referred to as the System Resource Document) and directed that licensees “may use any authorized version of this License to copy, modify and distribute any Open Game Content originally distributed under any version of this License.” But the up to date OGL says that “this agreement is…an update to the previously available OGL 1.0(a), which is no longer an authorized license agreement.”

The new doc clarifies additional within the “Warranties” part that “this agreement governs Your use of the Licensed Content and, unless otherwise stated in this agreement, any prior agreements between Us and You are no longer in force.”

According to attorneys consulted for this text, the brand new language could point out that Wizards of the Coast is rendering any future use of the unique OGL void, and asserting that if anybody desires to proceed to make use of Open Game Content of any type, they might want to abide by the phrases of the up to date OGL, which is a much more restrictive settlement than the unique OGL.

Wizards of the Coast declined to make clear if that is in actual fact the case.

Who might be affected by the brand new OGL 1.1?

If the unique license is in actual fact now not viable, each single licensed writer might be affected by the brand new settlement, as a result of each industrial creator might be requested to report their merchandise, new and previous, to Wizards of the Coast.

Additionally, whereas the unique OGL didn’t particularly define what sort of content material third-party creators may make obtainable and revenue from, the up to date OGL could be very particular: The up to date license “only allows for creation of roleplaying games and supplements in printed media and static electronic file formats. It does not allow for anything else, including but not limited to things like videos, virtual tabletops or VTT campaigns, computer games, novels, apps, graphics novels, music, songs, dances, and pantomimes. You may engage in these activities only to the extent allowed under the Wizards of the Coast Fan Content Policy or separately agreed between You and Us.”

The Fan Content Policy might be learn right here, however in broad strokes, it permits for free content material “based on or incorporating our IP. Fan Content includes fan art, videos, podcasts, blogs, websites, streaming content, tattoos, altars to your cleric’s deity, etc.”

The leaked OGL 1.1 draft signifies that WotC could not give licensees a a variety of time to regulate and conform to this new coverage: The doc reads, “if you want to publish SRD-based content on or after January 13, 2023 and commercialize it, your only option is to agree to the OGL: Commercial.” io9’s supply indicated that the ultimate model of the doc was initially meant for launch on January 4, which might have given corporations and creators seven enterprise days to agree and comply.

What’s altering within the new OGL?

The up to date OGL is split into Non-Commercial and Commercial agreements, and the principles are barely completely different for those who’re earning money from direct gross sales or entry to your work. The largest change between the 2 sections is a Tiered Earning system (extra on that later), new royalties, and guidelines for using crowdfunding. There is a few readability given about Patreon and suggestions—mainly in case your content material is obtainable free of charge elsewhere, however individuals can assist you voluntarily with out having their entry affected, you might be thought-about non-commercial.

Additionally, all creators might want to clearly and intentionally distinguish “their content” from “licensed content.” The new doc reads that this have to be completed “in a way that allows a reader of Your Licensed Work to understand the distinction without checking any other document.” The up to date OGL suggests a special colour font, asterisks on the web page, “or putting a separate index or list in the back of Your Licensed Work that lists out what, exactly, You used from the SRD.”

Other components of the brand new OGL doc create a tiered system of categorizing licensees based mostly on their revenues from commercialized work underneath the up to date OGL.

Will OGL publishers need to pay royalties?

Probably not. Unless they’re making over $750,000, licensees get to maintain the cash they earn. But the brand new OGL states that the Commercial Agreement “covers all commercial uses, whether they’re profitable or not.” So for those who go into the crimson on a Kickstarter that earned $800K in backing cash, you’ll nonetheless owe Wizards of the Coast, no matter the truth that you didn’t revenue out of your enterprise.

“Note that if You appear to have achieved great success… from producing OGL: Commercial content, We may reach out to You for a more custom(and mutually beneficial) licensing arrangement,” the doc notes, indicating that WotC is open to creating customized contracts and agreements, however at their discretion. This may point out that “subsidized competition” like Pathfinder won’t get a fantastic deal.

The income tiers are as follows:

A. Initiate Tier. If You have registered not less than one Licensed Work however haven’t generated $50,000 or extra in whole (gross) income from OGL: Commercial merchandise in a given 12 months, You are on the Initiate Tier.

B. Intermediate Tier. If Your Licensed Work(s) have generated greater than $50,000 in whole income in a given 12 months however lower than $750,000, You are on the Intermediate Tier.

C. Expert Tier. If Your Licensed Work(s) have generated not less than $750,000 in whole income in a given 12 months, You are on the Expert Tier.

According to the doc, “If, and only if, You are generating a significant amount of money (over $750,000 per year across all Licensed Works) from Your Licensed Works, The revenue You make from Your Licensed Works in excess of $750,000 in a single calendar year is considered “Qualifying Revenue” and You are answerable for paying Us 20% or 25% of that Qualifying Revenue.”

The draft goes on to clarify that for those who make $750,001, you’ll owe Wizards of the Coast 25 cents, as they’re solely asking for royalties on the one greenback made in extra of the Expert Tier. As said of their announcement in December, WotC suspects that “less than twenty” corporations are on the Expert Tier.

Who has to register work with Wizards of the Coast?

The up to date OGL says that “no matter what Tier You are in or how much money You believe Your product will make, You must register with Us any new Licensed Work You intend to offer for sale… including a description of the Licensed Work. We’ll also ask for Your contact information, information on where You intend to publish the Licensed Work, and its price, among other things.”

Creators may also be required to make use of a selected badge with the intention to publicly and clearly establish their work as coated by the up to date OGL, they usually must give WotC a replica of the publication. The early draft means that many of those processes might be dealt with via the corporate’s official digital toolset, D&D Beyond.

This is a big change from the unique OGL, which allowed creators to publish with out reporting. While it is smart that Wizards desires to observe who’s utilizing the Open Game Content, this seems like an unattainable job. People are promoting their work throughout dozens of platforms, and generally one product is being offered on a number of platforms. Whatever the reporting system appears to be like like, the most important burden will probably be on the smallest creators.

Kickstarter is D&D’s most well-liked crowdfunding platform

Online crowdfunding is a brand new phenomenon because the unique OGL was created, and the brand new license makes an attempt to deal with how and the place these fundraising campaigns can happen. The OGL 1.1 states that if creators are members of the Expert Tier, “if Your Licensed Work is crowdfunded or sold via any platform other than Kickstarter, You will pay a 25% royalty on Qualifying Revenue,” and “if Your Licensed Work is crowdfunded on Kickstarter, Our preferred crowdfunding platform, You will only pay a 20% royalty on Qualifying Revenue.”

This implies that the up to date OGL is straight encouraging Kickstarter over some other platform, together with non-public firm websites, as any non-Kickstarter income over $750K will incur a 25% royalty, and solely Kickstarter income will get a break. There isn’t any motive said why Kickstarter is Wizards’ most well-liked crowdfunding platform.

There can be a piece within the up to date OGL devoted to circumstances surrounding crowdfunding. Even for Initiate and Intermediate tiers, there are strings connected to utilizing any crowdfunding platform, not simply Kickstarter, to get a undertaking off the bottom. The two details are that “you may only crowdfund the production of Licensed Works,” and that “no infringing materials are given out as perks or rewards.”

The energy is again at Wizards of the Coast

While there’s a lot extra to parse, the principle takeaway from the leaked OGL 1.1 draft doc is that WotC is preserving energy shut at hand. There isn’t any point out of perpetual, worldwide rights given to creators (which was current in part 4 of the unique OGL), and one of many caveats is that the corporate “can modify or terminate this agreement for any reason whatsoever, provided We give thirty (30) days’ notice.”

WotC additionally will get the correct to make use of any content material that licensees create, whether or not industrial or non-commerical. Although that is couched in language to guard Wizards’ merchandise from infringing on creators’ copyright, the doc states that for any content material created underneath the up to date OGL, no matter whether or not or not it’s owned by the creator, Wizards can have a “nonexclusive, perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, sub-licensable, royalty-free license to use that content for any purpose.”

There are a variety of implications on this prolonged coverage, and the ramifications of this up to date OGL may have a chilling impact on new licensed merchandise. As solely “static” merchandise are included, all work that publishers do for digital tabletops could need to be provided as non-commercial, free merchandise, which de-incentivizes their manufacturing. The royalties related to any firm making above $750K may additionally immediate publishers to carry again further merchandise or scale down initiatives so that they keep underneath the Expert Tier.

Wizards of the Coast is clearly anticipating these OGL modifications to me met with some resistance. The doc does be aware that if the corporate oversteps, they’re conscious that they “will receive community pushback and bad PR, and We’re more than open to being convinced that We made a wrong decision.”

io9 has reached out to extra publishers and creators, and can replace this text as new data turns into obtainable.

Want extra io9 information? Check out when to count on the newest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s subsequent for the DC Universe on movie and TV, and every little thing it is advisable to learn about the way forward for Doctor Who.

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