Changes to the D&D OGL (Open Gaming Licence) are set to rock the foundation of the TTRGP industry. What is the OGL and why are these changes causing a bigger riot than a rampaging tarrasque?
Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) is a cultural staple, providing touchstones, inspiration, and rulesets for media heavy hitters including videogame franchises Neverwinter Nights and Disco Elysium, and TV series Stranger Things and Community. At its heart, however, D&D is a set of rules for interactive storytelling, created and owned by Wizards of the Coast (WotC), a subsidiary of Hasbro since the late 1990s.
The current incarnation of the D&D rules (5th Edition) has been licensed, on an open basis almost without restriction, to anyone who wishes to use them for any purpose. This has caused an explosion of third-party creators since 2014 and has allowed D&D to become the de facto basis for tabletop roleplay gaming. Commercial enterprises produce D&D storylines, but the driving force behind it exists in groups of friends – one of whom acts as the storyteller or “dungeon master” – playing together based on the D&D rules.
Since late 2022, there has been significant concern amongst the D&D community. WotC have made noises about making significant changes to its open licence. A recently leaked updated licence suggests that WotC intend to require royalty payments from enterprises making over $750,000 in revenue through use of the D&D ruleset, and to require that anyone creating on the basis of the D&D ruleset licences elements of their creations back to Wizards.
The updated licence further narrows the industries that can make use of the licence by only allowing the production of printed media and static electronic files for roleplaying games and game supplements. This is bad news for those in other creative industries such as electronic gaming, film & TV, and fantasy literature.
WotC are facing significant backlash as a result of these suggestions, and have delayed announcing their updated licence. They are expected to make a statement shortly, following which we will provide further and more detailed update.