• Member Since 5th Jun, 2015
  • offline last seen 4 hours ago

Shrink Laureate

“Trixie hates to interrupt a good monologue,” said Trixie, interrupting a good monologue, “but maybe we should continue it somewhere not on fire?”

More Blog Posts104

  • 46 weeks
    D&D: why the new OGL is really bad

    There's some controversy right now about the new OGL (Open Gaming License) published by Wizards of the Coast, the company behind Dungeons & Dragons.

    I don't talk about D&D here a lot, since I know it's not relevant to Fimfiction, but I think it's worth getting this news out. Also they're owned by Hasbro, the same company that own MLP, so it's worth knowing what they're up to.

    Read More

    8 comments · 313 views
  • 77 weeks
    Story Boost

    I helped edit a story that's really good. You should check it out:

    TShow and Steal
    In the dirty slums of Canterlot, Sunset and Trixie face the harsh life in the streets together. Always together.
    The Sleepless Beholder · 10k words  ·  35  3 · 639 views
    1 comments · 176 views
  • 79 weeks
    Gen 5 Bingo

    With 5 days to go until the next special, remember that you can still get a bingo card here:

    Here's my own Bingo card, only partly filled in after A New Generation:

    Read More

    3 comments · 204 views
  • 80 weeks
    Another reading

    I got another audio reading! This time by Rainbow Infinity Readings. Check it out:

    2 comments · 134 views
  • 89 weeks
    Generation 5 Bingo Writing Contest Results

    Generation 5 Bingo Writing Contest Results!

    We had an impressive turnout for the Generation 5 Bingo Writing Contest, and it took us a long time to pick the winners.

    Read More

    17 comments · 599 views

D&D: why the new OGL is really bad · 4:25pm January 7th

There's some controversy right now about the new OGL (Open Gaming License) published by Wizards of the Coast, the company behind Dungeons & Dragons.

I don't talk about D&D here a lot, since I know it's not relevant to Fimfiction, but I think it's worth getting this news out. Also they're owned by Hasbro, the same company that own MLP, so it's worth knowing what they're up to.

This also affects me personally - details below.

Content warning: politics, business and all the nonsense that entails.


The OGL is the document that allows other companies to make content for D&D, from a short adventure you can play to an entirely different game only loosely based on D&D. There are hundreds of companies that are built on it.

For the new version of D&D planned for 2024, WotC are also planning a new version of the OGL that's much more restrictive than the old one, demanding rights and money that seem grossly unfair to third-party publishers. Worse, they may be planning to retroactively attack third-party companies. Nobody is certain if they can legally do this.

This is all based on a leak, so we don't know for certain what Wizards of the Coast will do.

Here's the io9 article that broke the news.


Dungeons & Dragons has always been bigger than one company. TSR published the first edition of D&D in 1974, and as early as 1977 there were third-party supplements you could buy. These were largely welcomed as adding to the game's viability for players, and therefore its success for TSR. Only when a third-party overstepped the line did they feel the need to take legal action.

A Dungeons & Dragons cartoon ran in 1983, with production by Marvel Productions (yes, a subsidiary of Marvel Comics Group) and animation by Toei (who made some of the first anime in the 1960s, and can now be found animating One Piece, Miraculous Ladybug, and countless anime). Many of the same team who worked on that cartoon would later make the first My Little Pony.

The 1980s was also the height of the "satanic panic", a period where parents who didn't understand D&D thought their children were getting into devil worship or that the game encouraged suicide. Various religious groups encouraged this, spreading misleading or simply false information about the game.

In 1997, TSR was bought by Wizards of the Coast, makers of Magic: The Gathering; they were themselves bought in 1999 by Hasbro.

With the release of D&D 3rd edition in 2000, WotC published the OGL 1.0 as a legal means of determining what parts of the game could and couldn't be legally used by third parties. The OGL covers the basic rules of the game, as outlined in the System Reference Document, or SRD; but it excludes setting details as well as "trade dress", ie anything that makes it look like an official D&D product.

Paizo started publishing both Dragon and Dungeon magazines in 2002 on official license from WotC (but not OGL). In 2007 this deal was cancelled, and they pivoted to publishing serial adventures for D&D under the Pathfinder name, using the OGL, and set in their own world.

D&D 4th edition was released in 2008, without the same OGL. Instead it used a much more limited license, known as the GSL. This edition wasn't very successful - I'm not going to get into the details of why here. A lot of people stayed on the previous 3.5 edition, including third-party publishers. The same year, Paizo announced that they'd be releasing a variant of the 3.5 rules, also called Pathfinder, providing a form of continuity to players who didn't want to move to 4th edition. They were able to do this only because 3.5 was released under the OGL, which continued to grant them rights to derivative works provided they followed the rules.

Pathfinder isn't the only game based on the OGL - there are plenty of others. Some are direct translations of D&D to new settings, while others are completely different games with only a tenuous connection. Pathfinder is notable because, for a few brief months and depending exactly how you count, Pathfinder sales were higher than D&D 4th edition.

In 2014, D&D 5th edition was released, returning to the OGL (with a very minor revision, 1.0a). This edition has been significantly more successful than its predecessor, and in the years since the game has exploded in popularity. Some credit this to Critical Role, a live play podcast / youtube show with big name voice actors; or to its appearance in TV shows like Stranger Things; or to a number of celebrities who endorse D&D, name like Henry Cavill (Superman, The Witcher), Vin Diesel (Fast & Furious, Chronicles of Riddick) and Stephen Colbert (comedian); or to the 2010s being a time when geek culture was finally becoming more mainstream. I think all of these are factors. The fact is, D&D is bigger than ever, and the bulk of that market is 5e.

What's new

In September 2021, Wizards of the Coast announced they were working on a new edition of D&D, due out for the 50th anniversary in 2024. They did everything they could to avoid calling this a new edition, instead stressing continuity and compatibility with 5e. The reason for this is clear: they don't want to harm sales of existing 5e books. They used the codename "One D&D" for the new edition, and we don't know what they'll call it officially.

The first playtest materials for One D&D came out starting September 2022. In my opinion, the rules changes are mostly positive, but do mark enough of a departure that this is a whole new edition, whether they call it that or not.

Fans have been wondering whether the new edition would use the OGL or not. In December 2022 they put out a statement saying yes, it would be OGL, and while there would be some minor updates nothing much would change.

A few days ago, io9 published leaked details of the new OGL 1.1. They weren't the first to publish these details, but they have more details than anyone else, and the various leaks all up to a pretty solid story. It seems that Wizards sent this out to select third parties under NDA, and basically everyone who received a copy decided it was urgently newsworthy and anonymously forwarded it to somebody.

What's in the new OGL

If true, the OGL 1.1 is significantly more restrictive than OGL 1.0 in a number of ways:

  • You have to sign up to OGL 1.1 before you can publish anything for new the D&D.
  • You need to report your annual income from D&D-based products. Since OGL 1.1 explicitly
  • Wizards are entitled to 25% of gross revenue above $750,000 (or 20% if via Kickstarter, for some reason).
  • Wizards have the right to terminate the license, shut down your product and demand you physically destroy all unsold copies of it.
  • Wizards are entitled to use your product in any way they want, forever, including changing money for it.

So a publisher of D&D material could be forced to pay a large chunk of their income, enough to make their work unprofitable, and could even have their product completely stolen by Wizards.

Paizo's annual revenue is in the region of $23 million. Most of that is costs - for artists, writers, editors etc. The recent unionisation of their staff (which I support, unions are awesome) prevents them simply paying people less. Their operating profits are already razor-thin. The sudden removal of $5 million per year would drive them out of business. Paizo haven't said anything publicly, but you can bet they're peddling like mad behind the scenes.

At the other end of the scale, you have small publishers who run Kickstarter or other crowdfunding campaigns. If you're offering a physical product, like a book, then you have to factor production costs, shipping etc into your tiers; say your $50 reward involves $35 of costs. But if your campaign is more successful than anticipated you could end up owing Wizards a much larger percentage of that money than you thought. Suddenly your profit per unit has been wiped out, and what should have been a success has turned into a debt. You still need to deliver the product you promised, somehow, but a quarter of the money you need to do that has gone.

Nobody in their right mind would agree to terms like this.

What makes this so much worse is that it looks like Wizards may be trying to retroactively revoke the previous OGL. The new license includes the words:

this agreement is…an update to the previously available OGL 1.0(a), which is no longer an authorized license agreement.

This very specific wording seems like an attempt to revoke the previous OGL in its entirety, making any publication that doesn't sign up to the new OGL in violation. Needless to say, every third-party publisher disagrees with this interpretation.

I'm not a lawyer, so I can't say for certain how legal this is. I've seen lawyers debate this issue at length, and they're not in agreement either. So it seems that the question will stay up in the air until it's decided in court. Legally I think the third parties have a strong case, but with the legal system being what it is, that doesn't guarantee anything.

How this affects me

I'm the creator of Dyslexic Character Sheets, a set of customisable character sheets for players of D&D 3.5e, Pathfinder and Starfinder. I've tried very hard to make this project 100% legal, even regards to artwork, fonts and other assets. Everything I do operates under the OGL, as well as Paizo's Community Use Policy, Wizards' Fan Content Policy, and others. I don't charge any money for my work, but I have a Patreon to support the project.

Without the OGL, I wouldn't be able to do any of this.

I'm not personally afraid of being sued. I'm a very long way down the ladder - there are many hundreds of targets more attractive. And living in the UK means suing me would be complicated.

But I am afraid that corporate greed may destroy something I love.

What can we do?

Spread the word. Make sure Wizards know how staggeringly bad we feel this move is, not just for certain companies but for the hobby as a whole, and ultimately for Wizards themselves. Make them reconsider it before they do anything they can't undo.

Comments ( 8 )

There's a petition here. Not that I expect corporations to care about petitions.

There are companies already preparing to take this whole thing to court, arguing that the wording of the OGL 1.0a stops WotC from revoking it at any point (among a few other things); an attorney for Sad Fishe Games, LLC and Prudence Holdings, LLC dba Prudence Publishing has sent a letter to their legal department that essentially says "you can either clarify and confirm what you're doing here (or not doing as the case may be) with regards to revoking 1.0a or not, and if you don't clarify we're going to start the process bring litigation against you, and also if you are trying to revoke the OGL we're going to bring in everyone else affected by this too."

TL;DR - WOtC has 10 days to clear this up or they're getting sued, and if they do confirm they're breaking the 1.0a agreement, it's class action time baybee

A spectacularly dick move on the part of Nintendo EA Wizards. Sometimes I wonder if the higher management types in all companies and government are obligated to make terrible decisions in order to qualify for their jobs.

Author Interviewer

Man, that stinks. I remember when the OGL first came out and it seemed so transformative and revolutionary. Sad to see it come to this.

Here's the site to show your support, run by independent creators.


More to the point, courts really don't care about petitions. Maybe amicus curiae... which in their modern incarnation are sort of a lawyer's petition.

Login or register to comment