Dungeons & Dragons' New OGL Will Be 'Irrevocable' and Bring Mechanics to Creative Commons

Amid all the backlash, Wizards of the Coast is pursuing a radically different strategy for its future open licensing.

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Image: Wizards of the Coast

Dungeons & Dragons released a statement today saying that the future of its open gaming license will include its core rules being placed under the purview of the Creative Commons. The Creative Commons is “a nonprofit dedicated to sharing knowledge, and it developed a set of licenses to let creators do that,” says the newest update from Kyle Brink, the executive producer at Dungeons & Dragons.

This decision is a direct response to a lot of the fears the community had after io9 reported on the initial OGL 1.1 draft on January 5. The CC license will cede Wizards of the Coast’s control over the base rules and mechanics of D&D to the nonprofit that stewards the license, which means that Dungeons & Dragons and WOTC will be unable to touch it and will not be able to revoke it. Likewise, content that goes beyond the remit of using core rules will fall under a new OGL, dubbed 1.2, which will contain specific language denoting the license as “irrevocable”—a massive pressure point for creators who used the original OGL 1.0 and were worried about the implications of the 30-day termination clause in the OGL 1.1.

Additionally, the statement says there will be “no royalty payment, no financial reporting, no license-back, no registration, no distinction between commercial and non-commercial.” All of these things were contested in the draft OGL 1.1, primarily because they were not in the OGL 1.0 and such “strings-attached” contracts deliberately go against the ethos of “open” gaming as described on the Open Gaming Foundation’s website.

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There are a few sticking points from the OGL 1.1 that will continue in the new OGL, called the OGL 1.2. The biggest thing that many creators were worried about is that the OGL 1.0a would be de-authorized. That is still moving forward, but Brink says that the CC license is the company’s attempt to assuage these concerns; specifically mentioned is that all old content will be unaffected by the OGL 1.2, and remain authorized by 1.0a—it’s only newly published material that will have to use OGL 1.2 instead. “One key reason why we have to deauthorize: We can’t use the protective options in 1.2 if someone can just choose to publish harmful, discriminatory, or illegal content under 1.0a.”

Wizards of the Coast seems committed to having a firm stance on bigoted and hateful content—something that people praised in the leaked draft. “If you include harmful, discriminatory, or illegal content (or engage in that conduct publicly), we can terminate your OGL 1.2 license to our content,” reads the statement. While this is, in theory, a well-intentioned and necessary policy, the fact is that this will require moderation and upkeep from WOTC. In the wake of Spelljammer’s inclusion and public treatment of the Hadozee, it remains to be seen if D&D is even capable of moderating this kind of content in a way that will be respectful, inclusive, and progressive. The idea, however, is a good one.

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Additionally, Brink states that “what [Dungeons & Dragons] is going for here is giving good-faith creators the same level of freedom (or greater, for the ruleset in Creative Commons) to create TTRPG content that’s been so great for everyone, while giving us the tools to ensure the game continues to become ever more inclusive and welcoming.” The commitment to create an irrevocable license under the Creative Commons foundation seems like a good step towards making that happen, and it would not have occurred if Dungeons & Dragons creators, influencers, fans, and third party publishers had universally come together to reject the proposed OGL 1.1.

The new OGL 1.2 license will be subject to the same kind of feedback and revision that Dungeons & Dragons books are subjected to. In gaming parlance, this is called playtesting, and will allow fans to share their concerns with Dungeons & Dragons directly. You can view the entirety of the proposed OGL 1.2 here, with feedback surveys due back to WOTC by February 3, ahead of the company reporting on that feedback by or on February 17.

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This article has been updated to clarify Wizards of the Coast moving Dungeons & Dragons’ core mechanics to a Creative Commons License and third-party material will be under the remit of the proposed OGL 1.2.


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