Dungeons & Dragons admits Rolling 1 with OGL 1.1

Dungeons & Dragons admits to a "critical miss" with the leaked update to the Open Gaming License of the popular roleplaying game.

Dungeons & Dragons issued an announcement and update to the changes to the Open Gaming License, admitting they "rolled a 1".

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Dungeons & Dragons admits to a "critical miss" with the leaked update to the Open Gaming License of the popular roleplaying game. (Images: Wizards of the Coast/Hasbro)

The Open Gaming License (i.e. OGL) has been a nearly 23-year cornerstone of the Dungeons & Dragons player base and third party creators. It helped the D&D brand reach popularity in the mainstream, thanks to allowing most of the mechanics and rules for the world’s most popular roleplaying game to be used freely by fans and smaller third party creators. However, the leaked draft of the updated OGL caused these same fans and creators to oppose the proposed changes.

On January 11, Wizards of the Coast announced there would be an update to the controversial OGL 1.1 via the Dungeons & Dragons and D&D Beyond official social media channels:

This was followed up today by issuing a statement and news on the OGL development and how it was affected by the overwhelming opposition to the provisions:

The update posted on the DND Beyond official site began with stating the supposed goals of the update to the Open Gaming License:

When we initially conceived of revising the OGL, it was with three major goals in mind. First, we wanted the ability to prevent the use of D&D content from being included in hateful and discriminatory products. Second, we wanted to address those attempting to use D&D in web3, blockchain games, and NFTs by making clear that OGL content is limited to tabletop roleplaying content like campaigns, modules, and supplements. And third, we wanted to ensure that the OGL is for the content creator, the homebrewer, the aspiring designer, our players, and the community—not major corporations to use for their own commercial and promotional purpose.

It should be noted that while the first two points were mentioned in the leaked version of the OGL update that made rounds on the internet, the third point does not seem to be consistent. The leaked OGL 1.1 specifically enumerated revenue Tiers that would be applied to entities that profit from the OGL, largely based on how much they made.

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Fans and creators had an overwhelmingly negative response to the provisions of the updated Open Gaming License that was leaked.

On that note, the update on the Open Gaming License continued by implying that it was Wizards of the Coast themselves that leaked the draft in order to gauge the response of the community and third party creators:

That was why our early drafts of the new OGL included the provisions they did. That draft language was provided to content creators and publishers so their feedback could be considered before anything was finalized.

Following this was an admission that the backlash and negative reaction of the players and concerned creators was not what they had expected:

However, it’s clear from the reaction that we rolled a 1. It has become clear that it is no longer possible to fully achieve all three goals while still staying true to our principles.

The phrase "rolled a 1" has become part of the lexicon of modern slang, referring to a failure. In the D&D rules, it is generally a "critical miss" when an attack is being made; thus, the attack missed and some other bad thing has happened.

This part of the update leads to the announcement that WotC is revising the OGL further and, thus, will not be released this January 13, as initially projected:

The next OGL will contain the provisions that allow us to protect and cultivate the inclusive environment we are trying to build and specify that it covers only content for TTRPGs. That means that other expressions, such as educational and charitable campaigns, livestreams, cosplay, VTT-uses, etc., will remain unaffected by any OGL update.

One key point at this part of the announcement is that content and products released under the OGL 1.0a will supposedly be safe:

Content already released under 1.0a will also remain unaffected.

What follows is the confirmation that WoTC is doubling back on ownership of any content created by non-WotC parties under the OGL, which was one of the major points of contention:

What it will not contain is any royalty structure. It also will not include the license back provision that some people were afraid was a means for us to steal work. That thought never crossed our minds. Under any new OGL, you will own the content you create. We won’t. Any language we put down will be crystal clear and unequivocal on that point.

The update then confirms that the OGL 1.1 will not be released for now, but also stating:

Second, you’re going to hear people say that they won, and we lost because making your voices heard forced us to change our plans. Those people will only be half right. They won—and so did we.

The last part of the update from the Dungeons & Dragons studio blog doubles down on the implication that it was always part of the plan to solicit the gaming community’s feedback before releasing the updated OGL:

Our plan was always to solicit the input of our community before any update to the OGL; the drafts you’ve seen were attempting to do just that. We want to always delight fans and create experiences together that everyone loves. We realize we did not do that this time and we are sorry for that.

The post closed out by thanking the devoted D&D players and creators. The full transcript of the update to the status of the Open Gaming License can be found at the official D&D Beyond website.

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Wizards of the Coast seems to have paused and took notice of the negativity vs. the OGL 1.1. But is it too late?

But is this a scenario of being too little, too late? The damage to the brand trust, particularly with a new edition called OneD&D heralding the end of the beloved D&D 5th edition, may be irreparable. Moreover, this would appear endemic of the situation under Wizards of the Coast and parent company Hasbro, reflected in the similar issues with Magic: The Gathering.

The D&D player community has largely pushed back against the provisions shown in the leaked draft and many have cancelled their subscriptions to D&D Beyond. Plus, third party creators and businesses such as Paizo, Kobold Press, and more have taken steps to address the controversy and initiated their own efforts to create an Open RPG license.

With the Dungeons & Dragons brand expanding further into mainstream media through the upcoming big screen movie Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves and a new live-action TV series on Paramount+, the Open Gaming License controversy may adversely impact these projects.

Geoff Borgonia
Geoffrey "Borgy" Borgonia is a veteran writer, artist, journalist, gamer, and entrepreneur based in the Philippines. When not contributing to some of the top pop culture sites on the planet, he spends the rest of his time running his business, practicing martial arts, working on and developing books, comics, and games. In his man-cave, his only luxury is sleep. Borgy on Linkedin.
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