Dungeons & Dragons Backtracks On OGL Deauthorization, Adds Creative Commons License
Hasbro tried to make a sneak attack on the D&D Open Gaming License, but fans were using the Alert feat and fought back swiftly.
For a while there, it looked like Hasbro and its Wizards of the Coast label were about to destroy more than two decades of goodwill from fans, but the company is making some significant moves to reverse course, it announced today (via Gizmodo).
Dungeons & Dragons executive producer announced that they're pulling back from the planned launch of Open Gaming License 1.2, which would replace and deauthorize Open Gaming License 1.0. Wizards of the Coast launched this license in 2000 with the intention being it would last indefinitely.
"When you give us playtest feedback, we take it seriously," Brink wrote. "Already more than 15,000 of you have filled out the survey. The live survey results are clear. You want OGL 1.0a. You want irrevocability. You like Creative Commons. The feedback is in such high volume and its direction is so plain that we're acting now."
In other words, fans made enough noise to cast Disintegrate and Wizards failed its saving roll.
"We are leaving OGL 1.0a in place, as is. Untouched," Brink continued. "We are also making the entire SRD 5.1 available under a Creative Commons license. You choose which you prefer to use."
Brink himself explains the importance of putting the SRD, or System Reference Document, under the Creative Commons license. The System Reference Document version 5.1 is the most recent version of the open-source D&D rules, which allows third parties to use Dungeons & Dragons' basic rules to create additional D&D content or build other games using the rule set.
"This Creative Commons license makes the content freely available for any use. We don't control that license, and cannot alter or revoke it. It's open and irrevocable in a way that doesn't require you to take [Wizards of the Coast's] word for it," Brink wrote. "And its openness means there's no need for a [Virtual Tabletop] policy. Placing the SRD under a Creative Commons license is a one-way door. There's no going back."
These are some major concessions on the part of Wizards of the Coast. As Brink states, the company cannot take the SRD 5.1 document out of Creative Commons after putting it there, and they have no control over the wording of that license. It's legally out of Wizards' hands. We covered the lead-up to this in great detail, which you can read here. Wizards' initial response was the kind of weakly-worded response that companies often offer when they're still going to do the thing people don't like. The trouble with that move is that D&D fans are inherently used to reading into tricky wording and arguing with people about it--there's a reason some D&D players are called rules lawyers.
The level of backlash from the community brought the OGL change to the attention of not just longtime D&D fans but casual ones, and ended up in discussion on countless websites, podcasts, and YouTube channels. D&D has seen a raised profile not just from the continued popularity of Netflix's Stranger Things, but also due to the nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, which kept people indoors and resulted in a 33% increase in profits from D&D from 2020 to 2021.
Along with that sudden boost in profits, Hasbro is turning Dungeons & Dragons into a film, Honor Among Thieves, and it sure seems like the company is hoping to turn it into a fantasy-themed analog to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With all that money on the line, executives likely hoped to lock in all the profits that other companies were making off of their ruleset, but ended up causing exactly the opposite. With this move, it seems finally like Hasbro and Wizards understand the damage they were about to do to one of their most beloved brands and have taken steps to protect it from themselves.
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