DND OGL - Is anyone following this? Thoughts?

I didn’t see anywhere this was being discussed and am curious about Dopers take on it. Admins, merge if needed.

Back in Nov/Dec, I don’t remember when, there was a board meeting with WotC. Transcripts/audio from that had an exec say that WotC, specifically DND was “under monetized.” At the time, my understanding was that the new leaders saw that twenty percent of people playing DND (the DMs) bought most of their products and were trying to figure out how to “monetize” players. I don’t know how they will do that, personally, but that seemed to be what they were saying.

In the past week, leaked documents from WotC indicate that they are trying to get rid of the OGL1.0 and OGL1.0a, which a lot of systems use.

There are a ton of YouTube creators also talking about it.

The highlights.

If anyone wants to make content compatible with 1DND, they have to sign the new OGL1.1, whether commercial or not. The content creator gives control over it to WotC plus has to report earnings over certain thresholds and give WotC royalties. (somewhere in the 15-25% range) The OGL1.1 has language that negates OGL1.0a. The big question is whether or not that is possible and it might not be known until tested in the courts.

I have watched and read many things on it and it hits a lot of creators out there, including Paizo, Green Ronin, Critical Role, and more. As it is the weekend, there has been no new update to know if this is true or not. WotC was going to release the OGL1.1 last week but never did and all we have is the leaked document.

As a non creator but who likes the community, I’m against what I have read in the OGL1.1. It also won’t affect me being a non creator. I can still run both of my games on Foundry and it doesn’t change a thing.

I don’t know how this helps get money from players or if it’s even related to that. DNDBeyond already allowed for purchase of sub classes, items, and spells for your account, which can be used to make characters. However, if this OGL does go forward, I suppose if WotC starts outputting more content, maybe some of it might interest players.

Has anyone else been following this? Thoughts? Thanks!

No immediate thoughts but I thank you for the summary as I have seen lots of YouTube videos that I wasn’t interested enough to watch.


Glad to help! If you have other questions let me know. As I said, I have watched and read a lot about it.


I saw someone from Paizo post a brief comment on Facebook, but I didn’t know what the full story was. Thanks for the links.

Is “compatible” defined anywhere? Because there are a lot of things that can be said to be compatible with any given role-playing game, including some that WotC couldn’t possible have any claim over. WotC has, in the past, released books that are explicitly listed as being connected with D&D, but which have no game-mechanical information in them whatsoever, just giving worldbuilding information about various locales and organizations. If anyone else were to write books like that, sure, they’d be compatible with D&D… but they’d also be compatible with most any other fantasy role-playing game, or might even stand alone without any connection to any game.

If you don’t use any Open Game Content and you are not marketing your product as OGC-compatible, then presumably you don’t need to use the OGL.

Note also that (at least in the U.S., according to the Copyright Office):

Copyright law does not protect the idea for a game, its name or title, or the method or methods for playing it.

It is being driven by D&D and specifically WotC haters. One so-called D^D expert is driving up clicks and members to his FB page by such hysteria.

Remember, that was a draft, not the final document. And maybe not even a real draft.

And it will not affect how your average table-top D&D game is played or run.

Of course many other game companies not only do not have a OGL, but are lawsuit happy.

This might be true in that “your average” D&D game doesn’t use a lot (if any) 3rd party material. For people who DO make a lot of use of materials by 3rd party publishers, this could change quite a bit. For people who play other non-D&D games that were built on the old (to be defunct) OGL, this could change a whole lot.

Thanks for the replies!

@Chronos That’s a good question about compatibility. I think so but IANAL. To expand a bit on @hogarth answer. If I say I’m writing an adventure that is 5E compatible, it means I’m using ideas from 5E, such as a CHA save, AC, hit points, and the like. If I’m not writing something that uses those things, then yes, I could release it in a way that is system agnostic. It makes it clear if a GM could pick it up and start running it for the system they use or not.

The thing is that a lot of companies made games that had nothing to do with a version of DND but used the OGL as is to tell the community that the company was fine with someone writing compatible things with their game. Mutants and Masterminds, DCC, PF1 and even PF2 all use some form of OGL1.0 or OGL1.0a. So, if I write something that is to be used with M&M, I want to state that so consumers know what to use it with.

That’s also why everyone is wondering if the wording of the leaked OGL1.1 can negate the previous versions of the OGL. If it can, that’s what put any systems that used the OGL1.0 or OGL1.0a at risk.

@DrDeth - Yes, it is only the leaked version. We don’t know the full text of it. There is speculation all across the board. Some say it is to test how it is received. Some say that companies that received it, like KS or even Paizo, had it arrive with contracts, and that it seems weird to send out contracts with a draft. I don’t know.

In general, yes, this has huge implications in the TTRPG hobby space. A lot of people are employed or run companies that created compatible 5E content and they are in this waiting period to find out what it means for their livelihood.

Thanks for the replies!

Which is why the original OGL, the one used with 3rd edition, was carefully designed to make people want to follow it. Amazingly, it turned out that doing what people want was really good for WotC’s business. I think these revisions amount to corporate goose-vivisection.

I’ve certainly heard that arguement, but I don’t know if I’ve ever seen evidence to support that conclusion. One of the things the OGL did was make it possible for Paizo to become a fairly big competitor when WotC released the 4th edition of D&D.

As to the OP, I’ve been following along, but I haven’t purchased any third party products under the OGL and don’t really have a stake in this. I’m more concerned about WotC’s annoncement to their shareholders that they want to monetize D&D and are looking towards the video game industry for inspiration. Depending on how they go forward with that scene from One D&D, I may stop purchasing from WotC for that reason.

A lot of people are panicking over that one monetizing line. I am a “wait and see”. Maybe they are just talking about stuff like the D&D movie and merchandising, or maybe a big online small purchase Official D&D game.

IMHO, as one-time maker of D&D stuff, 6th edition is coming too soon. Sure, it is inevitable, but 5th has reached its pinnacle it seems to me. Look what happened when 4th was released.

It ended up reducing WotC’s percentage market share, yes. But it was a piece of a much, much larger pie. Tabletop roleplaying games, as a whole, got a huge boost from the OGL.

If WotC had just referred to merchandising as well as their IP being used in movies, shows, novels, etc., etc., I wouldn’t be the least bit concerned. But they specifically used the same language we’ve heard used in the video game industry these last few years. With One D&D, I believe they’re going to do their best to make D&D an experience that requires you to be connected online in some way, shape, or form. It won’t happen all at once, but in a few years they’re going to be producing the game in a manner to make as many of us recurrent spenders as possible.

I think WotC is avoiding any mention of the next edition of D&D being a new edition. Another thing that doesn’t bode well I think. I’m fine with a new edition, but don’t tell me it’s not a new edition when it clearly is.

It wouldn’t be copyright law that would be the sole or even the most important factor, but much more trademark law. Anything that is advertised using D&D trademarks would be affected.

That is normal, they havent yet fully admitted that 5th edition is 5th edition, they still call it “Next”.

First of all, Wizards of the Coast cannot retroactively “get rid of” the Open Gaming License 1.0 or penalize publishers providing products under that license. Publishers can continue to produce games, scenarios, and supplements under the current OGL, which exists in perpetuity. The Game System License that WotC released D&D 4th Edition does have limitations but since almost nobody plays 4th Edition rules it is virtually irrelevant. OGL 1.0a, under which “5E” was produced is also perpetual although it has specific royalty requirements that the RPG community should have rebelled against there; however, because WotC has such an entrenched position in the TTRPG space and a great marketing machine, they have dominated the market even beyond Dungeons & Dragons with many new and adapted settings aspiring to be “5E” compliant for the sake of market appeal.

Going forward, WotC clearly plan to drive the “One D&D” market into “subscription microservices” and other nonsense that sounds good to MBAs babbling to one another but has little to do with how most players—even those devoted to the Dungeons & Dragons system and the WotC settings—actually play the game. Their model, based upon a video game business model that works only because players are literally restricted to using their service, doesn’t really make sense for the interpersonal roleplaying space because you literally don’t need anything but some rules, dice, and a tabletop environment (real or virtual) to play a game, and depending on how loose the gamemaster is you can be pretty liberal with even those basics. The example of Paizo sweeping in with their Pathfinder “3.5E” rules is a pertinent example of how when the publisher does something the community of players and GMs doesn’t like they produce a vacuum where someone else can fill the void.

The focus on “monetization” also suggests that the company will de-emphasize a focus on quality in favor of a higher quantity of opportunities for monetization, which…well, D&D has a strong historical hold on tabletop roleplaying (essentially being synonymous with the term for the general public) but trying to glide forward based upon past reputation is not in and of itself a viable strategy. I’m sure they’ll get a lot of people signing up for this service initially but if it doesn’t deliver some unique benefits I can also see many people reverting to their 5E games or even looking elsewhere, and it isn’t as if there is a dearth of alternatives just in OSR fantasy gaming alone. And if WotC starts trying to get litigious about their supposed control of intellectual property that is nominally derived from Dungeons & Dragons as a brand they are going to find some substantial limitations in what those legal protections actually mean. They might be able to establish that specific terms or mechanics are protected by trademarked or copyright but it isn’t as if they can prohibit everyone else from using an icosahedral die or using the generic term “critical hit”.

The OGL was originally intended to encourage third party content by small creators because it rendered a benefit to WotC in getting growth in the system from work that was already being produced without having to sue small publishers with constant “cease & desist” orders, and then they could find work that was popular and offer to support or buy out the producer, which was easy for a large publisher to do and generally beneficial to both parties; in brief, it allowed them to benefit from experimental publication without having to pay for the failures. Which worked fine until they made arbitrary changes to the system that nobody wanted and shot themselves in the foot. This time around, they’re pointing the barrel straight into their gut and saying, “Give me money or I’ll pull the trigger!” Does anyone really care? I guess we’ll see.

Meanwhile, Goodman Games is making a killing off of Dungeon Crawl Classics, Chaosium is doing handsomely with their new editions of Runequest and Call of Cthulhu and associated supplements, and there are more “Old School Revival”-type games than you can shake a stick at, notwithstanding million dollar kickstarters for unique games like Mothership and Old Gods of Appalachia. If there was every a time for WotC to try to screw over the TTRPG community by trying to hold them hostage to a ridiculous subscription-based support model instead of just producing good content that people want to play, this is not it.


Thanks for all the replies!

@Chronos I agree the OGL was great for 3E and the gaming community in general. I had too many games to play, which is a shame.

@Odesio I agree that they are being cagey on a new edition. Probably avoiding it due to bad press but 1DND is a new version, I agree.

@Stranger_On_A_Train I agree, and several videos I have watched also agree, that they can’t get rid of the OGL1.0 or OGL1.0a licensing. They can probably make trouble and become the litigious TSR of the past. I’m really curious if they are going to a subscription microservice and how that works with a TTRPG but maybe they think new players are used to that and will pay? I don’t know. I also agree that it is a very strange strategy on their part.

Thanks for the replies!

So, I’m sure Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast has the war chest to go out and sue third party creators willy nilly for real or perceived incursions on their supposed intellectual property (and SLAPP sue anyone who complains about this practice). The question is, what does this expensive effort this get them? It would be one thing if they were offering some kind of unique service based upon IP that they created or products utilizing trade secrets or proprietary information, where they could claim that the offending parties are encroaching on their special domain of practice that ensures their profitability. But in fact, D&D isn’t very unique at all; both the ‘special’ rules such as spells and most of their settings are based upon prior works (if slightly laundered); the mechanics aren’t some special formulation of statics (and D&D has actually taken rules and mechanics from other systems in various editions); and there is literally nothing about the experience of playing the game that cannot be reproduced by playing similar high fantasy themed games like Pathfinder or any of a vast number of OSR-type games beyond the fact that they don’t have Dungeons & Dragons on the cover.

Fundamentally, Dungeons & Dragons is a brand, and its success has always been predicated on its promotion, not only by whatever company owned it at the time but also its enthusiastic players and people promoting it at conventions, in magazines and fanzines, et cetera. The “wizards” out on the coast seem think that they can do all that passion-building on their own platform where they charge for the experience even though you are perfectly free to pick up any set of rules you like and play the same game sans “One D&D”, which may be a degree of fandom that the Walt Disney Company can manage to imbue in its adherents but I’m dubious that WotC can recreate that kind of corporate-fanaticism unless they can produce some actual dragons. Frankly, I think this is just a circle jerk of MBAs seeing a business model that works well in one domain and thinking they can just transfer it wholesale to another without understanding how it will work. As I do not play the game, I’m morbidly curious whether this experiment in trying to turn a roleplaying game into a kind of social media game experience will be as much of a dumpster fire but I have no stake in the outcome other than slyly recommending other games to disgruntled players and GMs.


Uh, no? The very first handbooks released in 2014 referenced it as 5th edition. It’s all over their website.