ruler tag ogl dnd

From OGL 1.0a to the Creative Commons for DnD 5e

17 mins read
17 mins read

This is the OGL horror story of how a wonderful game was gutted and skewered by greed and dehumanization. Some details might be too long to read, click on the “details on X” to see them in depth.

January 2023 was a controversial month for the Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) community. The controversy arose from the need of Hasbro (owner of Wizards of the Coast WotC, and the DnD IP) to make more money out of the loyal customer base they had in the DnD community.

Before January 4th 2023

At the beginning of this century, a group that included Ryan Dancey, all execs of Dungeons and Dragons, decided and implemented a plan to make their company from a leader of a small niche game to the leader of a small industry.

This they did by promoting the idea that all people that play DnD, can also make a living out of it. So nerdy, geeky players (like me), were upgraded from customers to 3rd party creators, professionals and amateurs. Read more on the O G L 1.0a.

In late 2022, WotC CEO Williams said “D&D has never been more popular, and we have really great fans and engagement,” “but the brand is really under-monetized.” (Source the Dicebraker article). These statements were not both true!

True: DnD had never been more popular. The brand got a boost from the Netflix series Stranger Things, but the actual game became “playable” as a group of professional actors started playing out their 3rd party creations on YouTube. Critical Role was possible only because of O G L 1.0a.

Not true: The profitability of the WotC part of Hasbro is at times more than double than of the Toy-side of Hasbro. For many years while the revenues from WotC were lower than the rest of the company, the profits were always higher.

OGL 1.1 January 5th 2023

This announcement by their CEO led to the implementation of a plan, that was been built with the guidance of Kyle Brink and others since 2018 and before (Source the K.Bring Interview with Mastering Dungeons 19:25-24:10). 

This plan was to end the era of the O G L 1.0a, and usher in a monetization plan for 3rd party creators that would include control of what is being published, the ability to mine all 3rd party products, and use their IP to create new products for WotC/Hasbro and to limit the size of the competition to less than 750k/annum income (Source the amazing Linda Codega).

linda codega ogl 1.0a ofl 1.1 ogl1.2 ogl 2.0 creative commons

So they called in 2 dozen big 3rd party content creators and gave them new contracts to sign. THey did this under NDAs, but Codega leaked the contracts given. And here is what the creators were asked to sign in the OGL 1.1:

  • The end of the O.G.L. 1.0a – by signing they were not allowed to use it. (VIII.A)
  • The end of online playing via VTTs, supportive sites, and anything other than printed books and PDFs (I.iii.B)
  • The license for Hasbro to use all IP made for DnD, without attribution or royalties. (XII.B)
  • Hasbro above the courts, becomes the sole arbiter on what is permissible content. If you make any “wrong” content, Hasbro can take your content and use it herself without you being able to publish it. Not even for free. (VIII.B.i.a)
  • If your revenue in a year is more than 750.000$, you need to pay 25% of everything over that to Hasbro. This means that if your profit margin is less than 25%, then you have to stop selling after reaching 750. The profits in the industry are usually less than 15%. (VII.ii.a) and most insidiously,
  • You need to report all your products, incomes etc to Hasbro. This makes Hasbro more powerful than Amazon. (VI.A,B)

Hasbro will know what sells and what does not, they have forced all competitors to make inferior products (because of the limit in profitability) and have a legal license to re-publish without royalties… need I say more?

The fight back

Immediately, less than 3 hours after the Codega article hit the internet, #opendnd was trending on Twitter and Reddit. People were reading up on licenses and contracts. By people, I mean 3rd party creators, aspiring 3rd party creators, their employees and contractors, and DMs with homebrew content (that is me 🙂 and this is my copyright policy now).

Then it hit YouTube.

This brought the actual tears of beloved creators, genuinely nice people, in front of us. I personally was shaken. Youtube was ablaze with OGL content, and the controversy was used by the algorithm to increase views (don’t glaze over, this is important).

No Youtube channel on RPGs was left untouched. People that did not talk about it got boycotted, channels that did a good take rose to new rights, and most important of all, alternatives to DnD were being proposed to DnD loyal customers, and these customers for the first time en-mass did not object to the proposals.

I actually started corresponding with Derek the Diligent after all this (a genuinely nice person that has 28 subscribers, I am one). He loves Relict, another game aspiring to replace DnD (good one, see Derek’s marathon streams).

And what did Hasbro do?

Nothing immediately, nothing 2 days later, nothing a week later, and 2 weeks later they released an FAQ for the next O.G.L. Dear lord, this was a doozy. (Details on OGL 2.0 with links to all the full texts of the OGLs mentioned here)

Here was a clearly dishonest document, filled with misrepresentations and insulting in a way I never thought publically traded companies could be to their customers! It included the now-infamous phrase:

you’re going to hear people say that they won, and we lost because making your voices heard forced us to change our plans. Those people will only be half right. They won—and so did we.

Hasbro January 13, 2023

You can guess what followed! THis was rubbing salt on open wounds on purpose.

A week later we had the O.G.L 1.2 Draft Proposal. This was the first attempt to include feedback on what was happening. This happened after more than 50.000 paid subscriptions got canceled (mine too). An inaccurate letter preceded that, but let’s focus here! These issues arose in the OGL1.2:

  • The end of the O.G.L 1.0a – by signing 1.2 you not allowed to use it. (Preamble page)
  • The end of online, supportive sites, and anything other than printed books and PDFs
  • (NEW)The imposition of impossible low-quality productions for all VTT competitors to Hasbro (VTT policy)
  • Hasbro above the courts becomes the sole arbiter on what is permissible content. This includes an obligation to exclude jury trials and class action suits. Every single schmuck has to go by himself against Hasbro.
  • (NEW) More weird extra conditions as to what you can ask the court to do. So, even if they copy a book word for word, to make them take it off the shelves, you need to wait for years of litigation, and not be able to ask for compensation for what they sold until the end of the appeals.
  • (NEW) You were not allowed to include in your products things Hasbro does not like, and you were not allowed to do in your personal life things that Hasbro does not like. (6.f)
    • This included the wording “We have the sole right to decide what conduct or content is hateful, and you will not contest any such determination via any suit or other legal action”

And finally, they legally changed the meaning of the word irrevocable for this O.G.L. Now it does not mean that the O.G.L is irrevocable. It means that as long as they don’t find anything wrong in your life and content, you have the right to keep publishing this particular product and give the ability to Hasbro to stop you from making content, or altering the existing books.

Well, it did not work!

Less than 10 days later they backed off.

Not from everything, they still want us not use O.G.L. 1.0a, but they gave instead something a bit better, a creative license. This means that for this set of rules, the SDR 5.1, Hasbro can never take them back. And everybody can use it!

Epilogue: The PR from Kyle Brink

This is the exec that was thrown to us to dismember. Well, he is a nice guy. And he tries to say what Hasbro allows him to say. He is going from YouTuber to YouTuber to rehabilitate Hasbro. This is my favorite interview (up to now 14/2/2023). Ginny Di asks soft questions, he toes the line and then she comments on the answer. It acknowledges that he is not making decisions, and to corner Kyle for what others do is not cool: Watch it, it is worth it!

What is OGL in DND 5E?

This is the way that untill the end of January 2023 all content creators were allowd to enrich DnD with new stories and adventures. Critical Role and Pathfinder would never have existerd without the O.G.L.

Is 5E under OGL?

Leaf Dragon ogl dnd

Yes! Hasbro tried to end this and failed. I made this new dragon using the O.G.L., and I can now publish it because of the creative commons.

What does SRD stand for DND?

System Reference Document. It is basicaly what of DnD you can use without upsetting Hasbro.

98 / 100

Your fav Career Coach! Lambros Stravelakis is a career coach and dungeon master with a unique and often humorous approach to problem solving and helping others. He believes in using fun and humor to unlock the potential for tremendous growth and success. Through his guidance, he has helped dozens of clients find success and fulfillment in their careers. Lambros helps his clients break through the barriers of “the status quo” and use their bold, creative ideas to reach the goals they desire in life and work. He takes a “no-nonsense” approach to get things done, and he’s always encouraging his clients to use their unique talents and ideas to find their own unique paths to success.

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