Wednesday, December 21, 2022

The proposed OGL 1.1 is not an open license. Fight for your hobby.

 Today Wizards of the Coast on DnD Beyond released an article called OGLs, SRDs, & One D&D. It talks about Wizards plans for a new version of the OGL. 

The recap the OGL stands for the Open Game License. According to Creative Commons, an open license means the content is free to use how you want it. In practice, this has meant that content was shared to let people use the content in any way, including commercially, the main requirements being that there is proper attribution of the original content used, and that any modifications are released under the same license. With the author listed as the creator of the modification.

The current two versions of the OGL v1.0 (3.X) and v1.0a meet the above criteria except for specific elements. 

  • You are allowed to designate part of the work as product identity which basically saying I am not releasing this part of my book as open content. This is often used for licensed IP like Lord of the Rings or Star Trek. It is sometimes used when the author doesn't want to share their setting but wants to use and modify a popular system.
  • You also explicitly agree to give up your right to cite compatibility to a trademarked product. This is something that you normally have the right to do when releasing a work when it is your content. I could have done this with Blackmarsh as I mostly used common monster names rather than anything specific out of the DnD editions.
The Changes

So what are the proposed changes?

First, we’re making sure that OGL 1.1 is clear about what it covers and what it doesn’t. 

What OGL 1.1 will cover are electronic files like PDF, and printed books this right off mean that OGL 1.1 is no longer an open license as it restricts how you can use the open content. As the definition of open content means you can use it in the manner you see fit.

The next change

Second, we’re updating the OGL to offer different terms to creators who choose to make free, share-alike content and creators who want to sell their products.  

They list a number of requirements that amount to you having to report any sales of any products licensed under the OGL 1.1 as well as a description of what it is you are selling.  And if you make over a threshold ($750,000) then you will be expected to pay royalties by 2024. 

Wrapping it up

This will further bifurcate the third party publisher market. OGL 1.0 and OGL 1.0a content can't be used with OGL 1.1 content as a result of Section 12 of the current OGL.

12. Inability to Comply: If it is impossible for You to comply with any of the terms of this License with respect to some or all of the Open Game Content due to statute, judicial order, or governmental regulation then You may not Use any Open Game Material so affected.

Right now the world of 3PP is divided into those who use open content like Pathfinder, Cepheus, OSRIC, Old School Essentials, and those who publish in community content programs like the DM's Guild.  In fact, I predict there will be three major 3PP communities for Dungeons and Dragons, the ones that continue to use the OGL 1.0a license, those who use the OGL 1.1 license, and those who use community content programs.

I realize there is a lot of speculation and criticism out there that are made because OneDnD is the news of the days. I limited myself to what the article said. At various times in the history of open source and creative commons, unscrupulous companies and individuals tried to put out their own licenses including ones with terms very much like the above. Each and every time this has not ended well for the bad actors and their licenses. Either they reverted back to a traditional commercial license and ceased their use of the open content. Or they came into compliance. 

If you value your freedom to produce and more commonly share the content you create for Dungeons and Dragons then let Wizards know that you find these proposed terms unacceptable. Let them know that the community has the tools right now to fix the issue on their own and will do so as shown by what happen with DnD 4e, the GSL, and Pathfinder.

This is your hobby and your game now. Don't let Hasbro try to take that away from you.

Fight On!


I added some comments on Section 9 of the OGL which appears to be a point of attack by the Wizards' legal team to shut down the OGL.

Section 9 of the OGL

Concerning Bat in the Attic Games, Steady as She Goes and further thoughts on the OGL

For those who are new.

I have long been an advocate of open content released under the open license. Blackmarsh is free for any of use in any manner you see if. Likely the entire content of the Basic Rules for the Majestic Fantasy RPG is open content. 

Some past posts.

You are free now so go enjoy it.

An OGL Primer

A tale of two OGLs

Zweihander, Open Content, and a reply to Daniel Fox.

Ryan Dancy on the Open Game License

Finally some practical effects of making Blackmarsh open content. I would not have had the time or skills to do any of these projects but now folks who read Spanish, French, Italian and Hungarian can enjoy Blackmarsh in their languages as well as fans of Heroes and Other Worlds. 

And because these were solely the work of their respective author who put the work into making a version of Blackmarsh, they get to reap 100% of the financial rewards. Something I am fine with when I shared Blackmarsh as open content.

Blackmarsh in Spanish!

Périlleuses contrées: Fangenoire (Blackmarsh in French)

Italian version of Blackmarsh

Blackmarsh in Hungarian!

Blackmarsh for Heroes & Other Worlds


Wes350 said...

"...let Wizards know that you find these proposed terms unacceptable."

What!? No!

Let them do this.

The RPG hobby will be better off in the long run the faster this 'one true brand' nonsense kills itself off.

Robert Conley said...

I agree Wizards/Hasbro is not the only alternative the hobby has. But I think everybody benefits when Wizards isn't trying to roleplay as the evil corporate masters of the hobby like during the runup to 5e.

JB said...

Um. Why not simply publish material under the old (1.0) OGL? Why would anyone release material under the 1.1 (i.e. new) OGL?

What's the benefit?

[apologies for being obtuse]

Chris said...

JB - any bet their new platform will require v1.1 to be used on it :-)

Robert Conley said...

@JB, the problem as I see it will turn the hobby of 3PP into a series of walled garden with people's created content trapped inside except for those who continue with the old OGL like the OSR. And worse anything based on those works will be trapped as well as to day all the licenses for community content programs come with a no derivative work clauses.

JB said...

@ Rob:

Is this just about being able to write/market to 6E (or 5.5 or whatever is the proper version number for "One D&D")?

Just taking this section of the hobby, i.e. the D&D section (and "D&D Adjacent" games...retro-clones, derivatives, fantasy heartbreakers, whatever): all of the various creators can continue to write and contribute to their preferred system (or systems) using the original OGL, sharing with the community as a result. And the only ones who will be trapped in a "walled garden" will be those who buy into the corporate racket of 1.1 and insist on writing under its auspices.

Am I supposed to feel sorry for them?

I mean, I ALREADY feel sorry for anyone who continues to buy and upgrade every new version of D&D that hits the market...every sucker who buys into getting an "improved" version of D&D (and thereby helps line the pockets of WotC/Hasbro). But MOST of the creators should know better than to do that, shouldn't they? And the new folks entering the hobby that are (perhaps) ignorant and readily succumb to the corporate charms of WotC...don't they owe it to themselves (or to their would-be customers) to educate themselves out of their ignorance, discovering 'what-has-come-before' rather than just jumping into a soul-reaping license agreement? I mean, if they want to be conscientious contributors and sharers of their artistic visions?

I guess I don't get it. You wrote:

"If you value your freedom to produce and more commonly share the content you create for Dungeons and Dragons then let Wizards know that you find these proposed terms unacceptable."

Leaving aside why WotC would listen to anyone, so long as money continues to flow into their coffers (the only thing that gets them to sit up and listen is people refusing to pony up cash, as when they lost their majority of the market share to Pathfinder during the 4E fiasco)...leaving that aside, I still ask: why?

If you 'value your freedom to produce and share D&D content' just write it under the 1.0 OGL. Ignore the new OGL altogether. Don't use it. Wouldn't that solve the problem?

Or am I still missing something? That's quite possible. I don't even use the original OGL in my works, as my text is my own and I studiously avoid the use of others' specific intellectual property in my (admittedly derivative) works. I'm a legal idiot but I do my best not to infringe on other people's trademarks or copyrights and so far I've avoided legal trouble. But that doesn't mean I'm not an idiot about this stuff.

BUT...I have a couple projects in the hopper that may indeed end up being released under the 1.0 OGL (for...reasons. Good reasons). And this new OGL? Why would I even care about it? So that I can use a virtual platform under the direction of WotC? That's kind of the antithesis to what I see as the benefit of playing tabletop RPGs.

SO...I appreciate the analysis and info on the new OGL and the direction WotC is going and steps they're taking to control their property / product. Thank you for that. this particular case...I may not be the target demographic for outrage. Sorry if that makes me sound like a jerk or dumb-ass.

Venger Satanis said...

Free D&D by evolving beyond it. ✨️

jedavis said...

> Um. Why not simply publish material under the old (1.0) OGL? Why would anyone release material under the 1.1 (i.e. new) OGL? What's the benefit?

Trilemma is worried that there is some ambiguity in the "Updating the License" clause - . I don't know whether it's a reasonable or unreasonable worry.