Dungeons and Dragons faces controversy with Open Game License

Photo courtesy of Clint Bustrillos via Unsplash

By Tomas Palmieri

Owned by Wizards of the Coast, Dungeons and Dragons recently underwent an enormous scandal regarding their Open Game License (OGL), in which they attempted to change its guidelines, resulting in mass community outlash. 

Wizards of the Coast’s OGL 1.0 is a licensing agreement established in 2000 in which D&D’s basic rule set could be freely used by anyone for private and or commercial purposes. Recently, Wizards of the Coast attempted to pass an updated version of this OGL 1.0 named OGL 1.1 which they sent only to specific content creators for both D&D entertainment and extra content. This OGL 1.1 completely de-authorized the original 1.0 while also placing heavy restrictions on the monetization of third-party created content for D&D.

After OGL 1.1 was leaked online, the D&D community was up in flames in a matter of hours. Dungeons and Dragons prides itself on the creativity and freedom of those who play it. However, the new OGL seeks to restrict and monetize that creativity. 

This started the #OpenDND campaign, containing an open letter and petition directly opposing the OGL 1.1 changes. 

In addition to this campaign, an anonymous Wizards of the Coast employee leaked the response from an executive in the company to the situation, highlighting the corporate greed and further setting the community ablaze. 

“I’m an employee at WotC currently working on D&D Beyond and with D&D business leaders on the health of the product line… I have never once heard management refer to customers in a positive manner, their communication gives me the impression that they see customers as an obstacle between them and their money… The main thing leadership is looking at is DDB (D&D Beyond) subscription cancellations,” an anonymous Wizards of the Coast employee posted online. 

This led to a wave of unsubscriptions from Dungeons and Dragons Beyond, the online D&D service). 

This negative response prompted Wizard’s to release a revised draft for OGL 1.1 they called OGL 1.2.

OGL 1.2 was filled with not only dishonesty regarding the situation, but subtle changes that provided a small difference in comparison to OGL 1.1. This lack of transparency resulted in even larger community backlash in which content creators began speaking out more frequently about the situation. Some even considered switching to a different game altogether. 

WotC responded to the community’s anger toward OGL 1.2 with a survey asking if players and creators were “satisfied” or “dissatisfied” with certain pieces of the new OGL. Community response was expectedly extremely dissatisfied, ultimately resulting in WotC dropping the move to change the OGL and simply reverting it to OGL 1.0 and instilling the “Creative Commons license.” 

Now, the resolution of this heated situation in the Dungeons and Dragons community is filled with mixed emotions. Some people are happy with the resolution, but others are more critical of the new “Creative Commons license.” Due to the language used in Creative Commons, it is still being considered a step in the wrong direction as WotC will still be able to make money from third party creators as well as revoke their license to the Creative Commons whenever they wish.

For now, the OGL situation within the D&D community is at a ceasefire, but it is very possible that changes may be on the way to either further restrict or un-restrict the core rules of the popular game Dungeons and Dragons.