WotC surrenders OGL changes for Dungeons & Dragons (but is the drama over?)

After the massive backlash, Wizards of the Coast admits defeat in changing OGL 1.0a and releases Dungeons & Dragons SRD to Creative Commons.

The saga of the Dungeons & Dragons controversy regarding the proposed changes to the Open Gaming License (OGL) may have come to a close, as Wizards of the Coast makes major announcements. These include retaining the OGL 1.0a and releasing the System Reference Document (SRD) under a Creative Commons license.

Dungeons and dragons wotc ogl surrenders creative commons FEATURED
After the massive backlash, Wizards of the Coast admits defeat in changing OGL 1.0a and releases Dungeons & Dragons SRD to Creative Commons. (Images: Wizards of the Coast/Hasbro)

To say that Wizards of the Coast (WotC) and Hasbro have been under the hot seat these past couple of months would be an understatement. After the OGL 1.1 was leaked online (which was erroneously referred to as a “draft”), fans and third party creators of the Dungeons & Dragons brand were in uproar. The proposed changes were deemed to be restrictive and predatory, with unfair provisions on creative freedom and royalty payments.

But it seems WotC has waved the white flag in favor of the gaming community and third party creators. Will it be enough to recover from the losses in support of the D&D brand? Read on for the details below.

As reported earlier, the Dungeons & Dragons design and marketing teams have attempted to address the pushback against the details revealed in the leaked OGL 1.1. This effort included a survey for the OGL 1.2, whose draft was distributed in a similar manner as prior D&D playtests. But it seems the results of the survey have merely reaffirmed the sentiment of the D&D community of gamers and creators.

As such, Wizards of the Coast appears to have surrendered to the voice of the masses, making the decision to leave the existing OGL 1.0a in place and taking it a step further.

Some of the key results from the survey for the draft of D&D’s OGL 1.2 and the SRD 5.1 were revealed and shared on social media, as well as the official D&D Beyond website. Dungeons & Dragons Executive Producer Kyle Brink broke down the numbers of the survey results:

Already more than 15,000 of you have filled out the survey. Here's what you said:

  • 88% do not want to publish TTRPG content under OGL 1.2.
  • 90% would have to change some aspect of their business to accommodate OGL 1.2.
  • 89% are dissatisfied with deauthorizing OGL 1.0a.
  • 86% are dissatisfied with the draft VTT policy.
  • 62% are satisfied with including Systems Reference Document (SRD) content in Creative Commons, and the majority of those who were dissatisfied asked for more SRD content in Creative Commons.

While most did not expect that the numbers would be revealed, these survey results clearly sent the message to WotC and the D&D design team that the game’s community and third party creators are united in opposing the changes.

Because of the overwhelmingly negative feedback to the proposed changes and the call to keep the original OGL 1.0a, the company behind the most popular tabletop roleplaying game in the world acquiesced. Based on these responses, the people behind Dungeons & Dragons have officially stated the following:

  • We are leaving OGL 1.0a in place, as is. Untouched.
  • We are also making the entire SRD 5.1 available under a Creative Commons license.
  • You choose which you prefer to use.

The rest of the statement goes on to confirm that by placing the SRD rules of Dungeons & Dragons under Creative Commons, it is effectively irrevocable. Given the nature and intent of the Creative Commons license, Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro has no legal say on how the SRD 5.1 will be used by fans and third party creators. This is an unprecedented move for a large company with a popular brand like Dungeons & Dragons to take.

But is it truly over? Wizards of the Coast will have its work cut out for it in order to regain the trust of its player base. The months-long controversy and issues left a bad taste to a large section of the D&D community, as well as the adjacent fandoms such as those of the "let’s play" web series Critical Role.

Dungeons and dragons wotc ogl surrenders creative commons SRD
Under the Creative Commons license, Dungeons & Dragons SRD 5.1 will be open for all fans and third party creators to use freely.

Convincing the thousands of patrons to the D&D Beyond service to re-subscribe will most certainly be a priority. Then there are the traditional tabletop gamers who have moved to other brands, such as Pathfinder, Runequest, Call of Cthulhu, and other D&D competitors as a form of protest to the OGL controversy. And, of course, there is the matter of convincing the fans who have openly called to boycott the upcoming Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves live action film to give it a chance at the box office.

It should also be noted that while the statement from D&D is that the OGL 1.0a will remain untouched, it does not say that it will be irrevocable (a specific line missing from the original text). Moreover, Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast are reportedly very committed to the goal of maximizing the monetization of the Dungeons & Dragons brand. With the OGL 1.1 and OGL 1.2 both being rejected, as well as the VTT proposals to play Dungeons & Dragons online, what other approaches could the company take to accomplish this goal?

Perhaps the answers will be forthcoming after the big screen Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves release, which is expected to tie-in with a Paramount+ TV series and kick-off a D&D live action cinematic universe? Despite D&D already being a household name thanks to appearances in other media such as Stranger Things and The Big Bang Theory, the film being a box office success can be the essential mainstream marketing push Hasbro and WotC needs to move past the recent OGL controversies.

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves starring Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Hugh Grant, Regé-Jean Page, Justice Smith, and Sophia Lillis arrives in U.S. theaters on March 3, 2023.

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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