D&D OGL 1.1: Potentially Pivoting Your Business

D&D OGL 1.1: Potentially Pivoting Your Business

Writing content for D&D may not be open anymore

With the firestorm created by the new D&D OGL 1.1 leak that came out recently, many businesses that rely on the well-known 5e license have come to the realization that they may have to pivot their business. For small businesses, especially those with a small team or even just a single person, this isn't a small endeavor. After days of reading through articles and twitter, I found the best site to get a straightforward summary is https://www.opendnd.games/.

The original OGL made it easy

I think it goes without saying that many of us with small businesses that revolve around this hobby love the game. Not everyone that started writing and selling published adventures or creating resources for D&D, started off trying to make money. Through one way or another, a creator realizes that their work has value and people will actually pay for it! The catalyst to start a small business is not easy to find and this new OGL jeopardizes that.

Finding out about the original OGL and how simple it was to stay within the guidelines, made the barrier of entry to adapting your content easy. 

It's obviously about money

This change is obviously about money. Honestly, when reading through articles, it's hard to try to see things through a neutral lens. I think the part that really stuck out to me was that those making over $750,000 using the OGL that used Kickstarter would have to pay 20% of royalties and if they used something else they'd have to pay 25%. Think about that.

Many popular independent projects, if not all, have started on Kickstarter. Just off the top of my head, Wyrmwood and Dispel Dice have been doing Kickstarters just to get their products off the ground. They made a lucrative deal with Kickstarter on the chance someone makes a bunch of money using the new OGL. This sounds like business licensing terms to me and I don't think it belongs in an open-game license meant to promote creativity within the community. 

Look, from their perspective, I can kind of understand. Shows like Critical Role are making a lot of money off D&D and Wizards of the Coast (WoTC) doesn't get any cut of that other than a sponsorship that probably has to pay Critical Role for. However, is forcing reporting income and paying royalty fees really the answer?

Honestly, Critical Role pretty much follows the guidelines of the OGL. Their show is mostly free on YouTube and if you pay for Twitch, it's mostly because you're paying for the Twitch feature like emotes or just so you can watch it "live" at the same time as everyone else early. They even partnered with WoTC to publish books based on their campaign settings. WoTC is definitely making a cut there! Which makes this move even more puzzling.

Dangerous moves for small creators

Many of those that they are targeting with the over $750,000 range have been and probably would have continued, partnering with WoTC to continue making money for both parties. This part of the money is only one piece of the OGL. The real danger really is against the small creators. Here's a quote from the opendnd.games site on the OGL: 

"No matter the creator, it locks everyone into a new contract that restricts their work, makes it mandatory to report their projects and revenues to Wizards of the Coast, and gives WotC the legal right to reproduce and resell creators’ content without permission or compensation. The new license can also be modified with worse terms or terminated at any time without any recompense by creators."

I'm going to be real, this part sucks. In a nutshell, WoTC is giving themselves more control over your content and can change the rules whenever they see fit. 

What can you do? 

Read and sign the open letter at https://www.opendnd.games/. They're advocating not signing the new agreement and not revoking the old OGL. If the community hasn't been vocal enough already, hopefully, WoTC releases a statement soon with some good news.

Otherwise, this is a great time for you to check out some other RPGs or even take some time to make your content platform agnostic. One system I like is Quest RPG, which has a very open community license. OSR games based on versions like pre-D&D 3rd Edition are also another option. Here is a great article on OSR games and how what they are.

Unfortunately, rewriting content for your business sucks. You'll have to remarket and honestly, it's a lot of work. At this point, we can only hope that WoTC does the right thing. Otherwise, I'm going to continue researching more tabletop RPGs to expand my business to if they don't do what's right. 


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