Last week, Wizards of the Coast decided to release a proposed OGL 1.2 in an attempt to undo the damage of their disastrous OGL 1.1 leak. On the surface, this looks like a capitulation to pressure from the community, but the reality is that it is still too restrictive. It’s clear that Hasbro and Wizards leadership care more about extracting more money from the fan base than they do about creating a great product for people to enjoy. Follow the link to the official statement from Wizards over at D&D Beyond here.
Included in the statement is a link to a feedback survey on the contents of the proposed OGL 1.2. I’ve taken the liberty of copying and pasting my answers here. My feelings may not match everyone’s, and I definitely digressed from the questions a times, but I feel strongly that this push by Wizards to turn D&D into just another micro-transaction-laden digital experience will be worse for everyone.
1. Would you like to provide feedback on the content of the proposed OGL 1.2?
2. Now that you’ve read the proposed OGL 1.2, what concerns or questions come to mind for you?
This still feels like a plot by a public company to extract money from its fanbase, rather than an attempt to create a compelling product for its fans to enjoy. I understand that Wizards is owned by Hasbro and Hasbro has a commitment to its shareholders, but this egregious attempt to wring money out of people that have willingly been giving it to you for decades is a bad look, especially in this age of greedy corporations getting gutted by organized people on the Internet.
The OGL 1.0a has allowed Wizards to flourish into a cultural touchstone that is STILL wildly successful compared to most products. The OGL 1.2 is at-best anti-competitive and at worst anti-consumer. We would have gladly supported D&D’s digital future because it would have been the best option with the most access to official content. Yes, other VTTs would have existed and had similar features, and they might have even taken some of your market share (though most would likely have simply collected customers that wouldn’t have wanted your offering in the first place because they couldn’t afford it). This arrogant decision has ruined the reputation that took 30 years to build.
This foolish attempt to extract as much money from your fans as possible is the single dumbest decision you could have ever made. There may be players that desire a digital experience over an in-person or analog one, but there aren’t enough willing to give a team of executives looking for their next bonus to justify this decision. There will be alternatives to whatever digital future you build and your greed will amplify their existence.
3. After reading the proposed OGL 1.2, how has your perception of the future of Dungeons & Dragons changed compared to before reading OGL 1.2?
4. What would be needed to improve your perception of Dungeons & Dragons’ future?
A sincere apology to the community, the removal of the executives responsible for this incredibly stupid strategy (maybe let’s start with Chris Cao and work our way up from there), and a focus on a return to respect for players as people and not walking cash piñatas.
5. How would you rate your level of understanding and your level of satisfaction with the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International? 5 = High, 1 = Low
6. How would you rate your level of understanding and your level of satisfaction with the content found in the SRD that will be released under Creative Commons? 5 = High, 1 = Low
7. Do you have any other comments about the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International and/or the content that will be released under Creative Commons?
The Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license is a fantastic license and a great start to fixing some of the blunders you’ve made so far in 2023. However, the content being released to CC4.0 is incredibly limited: clearly an attempt to prevent anyone from using what you’ve released to build a competitor. However, what you’ve proposed to release isn’t even protected content in the first place. The methods and mechanics of any version of D&D aren’t protectable, so why not release the entirety of them to CC to show that you actually understand and value your players. You want to protect your IP, and I get that. So, do so by keeping your internal creations out of the CC release, but release the instructions for crafting races, classes, etc. so players can go ahead and homebrew to their heart’s content. The fanbase will be better for and far more forgiving. Especially if your plans to become a micro-transaction-heavy digital playset move forward. Let those of us that have no desire to be a part of that world continue to play the game we love without your capitalist hellscape.
8. How would you rate your level of understanding and your level of satisfaction with the Notice of Deauthorization? 5 = High, 1 = Low
9. Do you have any other comments about the Notice of Deauthorization?
You have lied to our faces about why you wish to deauthorize OGL 1.0a. You have invented a boogeyman in order to manipulate your fanbase into accepting a terrible deal. Yes, hateful content is a threat to any platform, but you have failed to explain how the OGL 1.0a fails to prevent hateful content in the first place. Further, the community already takes care of these issues on our own. We are an inclusive place, focused on building up instead of tearing down. There is no need to create a new OGL for this purpose. This is a lie attempting to prevent the OGL 1.0a from being used by those you view as competitors to continue to exist in this space. Do better. If you don’t like competition, just say so. Stop being cowards and just be honest about it. Trying to manipulate us is a bad look.
10. How would you rate your level of understanding and your level of satisfaction with the types of content covered by the proposed OGL 1.2? 5 = High, 1 = Low
11. How would you rate your level of understanding and your level of satisfaction with the content ownership rights outlined in the proposed OGL 1.2? 5 = High, 1 = Low
12. Do you have any other comments about the types of content covered and/or the content ownership rights outlined by the proposed OGL 1.2?
Since the OGL 1.2 aims to reduce the number of places we are allowed to use officially licensed content, the SRD 5.1 should include a larger selection of content available for use. The original intention of the SRD was to give players the basic ability to play D&D without purchasing any official books and have enough information to build their own games or at least whet their appetite for more content. Since the new monetization strategy is for all players to either have a digital subscription or be encouraged to spend money on cosmetics for a future digital project via micro transactions, there should be a larger portion of content made available via the SRD. Especially since the SRD will no longer be usable by third-parties making content that Wizards finds to be competitive.
13. How would you rate your level of understanding and your level of satisfaction with the “You Control Your Content” section? 5 = High, 1 = Low
14. How would you rate your level of understanding and your level of satisfaction with the “Warranties And Disclaimers” section? 5 = High, 1 = Low
15. How would you rate your level of understanding and your level of satisfaction with the “Modification Or Termination” section? 5 = High, 1 = Low
16. Do you have any other comments about the “You Control Your Content”, “Warranties And Disclaimers”, or “Modification Or Termination” sections?
I actually appreciate the commitment to preventing hateful content or conduct, except for the part where a faceless corporation is the sole arbiter of what is and isn’t hateful content or conduct and can unilaterally revoke this license without recourse (which is the opposite of “open”, I might add).
“We have the sole right to decide what conduct or content is hateful, and you covenant that you will not contest any such determination via any suit or other legal action.”
If a licensee firmly believes that you are a) over-reacting (a phrase your leadership team has been quick to throw at the fanbase in the last few weeks), or b) disingenuously accuse a competitor of hateful conduct/content in order to remove their content from sale, there is no way to challenge such an abuse of power. Let the fans do as we have always done and remove hateful content from our play space as we always have. Alternatively, allow an independent third-party review system to be utilized, if you insist on having a failsafe to remove licenses.
17. How would you rate your level of understanding and your level of satisfaction with the Virtual Tabletop Policy? 5 = High, 1 = Low
18. Do you have any other comments about the Virtual Tabletop Policy?
Finally, we get to the real reason for this OGL 1.1/1.2 debacle. It is no secret that Wizards has been working on their own VTT solution for years. Sadly, instead of competing to have the best VTT on the market, your plan is to simply cripple the competition so that only you can provide a complete experience. This is, again, the very antithesis of open. Further, it goes against the spirit of D&DG and tabletop RPGs as a whole. When one table comes up with a cool new way of playing, we all benefit. The hobby benefits. YOU benefit. Just because you aren’t making ALL of the money, doesn’t mean you aren’t making ENOUGH money. This is everything wrong with corporate greed. If Hasbro needs to continue to grow to appease shareholders, then they should either make themselves a private company, spin Wizards off as its own private entity, or just stop worrying about making the line go up. Such an asinine way of running a company and shows that leadership at Hasbro have no idea what made D&D successful in the first place.
19. Have you used the OGL 1.0a or previous versions of the OGL to create third party content?
20. Do you want to create third party content for Dungeons & Dragons in the future?
21. Would you be comfortable releasing TTRPG content under the proposed OGL 1.2 as written?
22. Why do you say that?
Because as it stands, the OGL 1.2 is a bad faith agreement that serves to support everything wrong with corporate greed, instead of focusing on the original intention of the OGL 1.0a, which is to grow the hobby and to provide an open collection of content for the fanbase to enjoy in whatever way made the most sense to their group.
23. How would you rate your interest in using the Content Creator Badge as part of your third party works? 5 = High, 1 = Low
24. Do you have any other comments about Content Creator Badges?
If I thought creating and sharing third party works was a good investment of my time under a less-restrictive and self-serving OGL, I might be interested. But as it stands, the Content Creator Badge is just a symbol of willingness to serve Wizards rather than the community at large.
What other feedback do you have for us (related to the Open Games License or otherwise)?
I desperately hope enough people have similar feedback to encourage Hasbro and Wizards to rethink their priorities in this matter. I have loved D&D for more than half of my lifetime. I have spent more time in the last two weeks researching alternative solutions to continuing one of my favorite hobbies than I have ever spent in the last two decades. This poor executive vision has severely damaged the brand value of D&D and I really hope it’s not the death of it. But if this aggressive plan to monetize everyone through terrible business practices continues, I can’t continue to be a part of this community.