While we cover a lot of MTG news, recently, Magic hasn’t been the only controversial Wizards of the Coast game. Now that 30th Anniversary Edition has been and gone, Dungeons & Dragons is stepping up to wear the controversial crown. Thanks to a leaked document, it appears that Wizards of the Coast is updating the D&D Open Game Licence (OGL) to crack down on competition. As you might imagine, news of these proposed plans hasn’t gone down well within the D&D community. So much so, in fact, that some third-party publishers are threatening to jump ship and create their own game systems.
The “Open” Game Licence
Dubbed OGL 1.1, due to the significance of the changes, news about the new OGL first broke in late December 2022. This followed a wave of initial controversy surrounding the upcoming One D&D platform currently in playtesting. Responding to concerns about how D&D’s monetization strategy will be changed, Wizards released a statement to clear the air. In this statement, WotC emphatically declared, “the OGL is not going away,” while outlining the broad strokes of the changes. Doing their best to reassure players, Wizards of the Coast closed their statement on D&D Beyond with the following.
“Bottom line: The OGL is not going away. You will still be able to create new D&D content, publish it anywhere, and game with your friends and followers in all the ways that make this game and community so great. The thousands of creators publishing across Kickstarter, DMsGuild, and more are a critical part of the D&D experience, and we will continue to support and encourage them to do that through One D&D and beyond.“Wizards of the Coast
Upon its release, this statement from Wizards helped to quell much of the controversy that concerned D&D players. Recently, however, a new report from Gizmodo has reignited fears, as OGL 1.1’s latest revision includes some dramatic changes. In their exclusive report, Gizmodo revealed that not only are licensing changes on the way, but no one is safe. Unlike previous revisions to the OGL, the new document reportedly claims that OGL 1.0 is “no longer an authorized license agreement.” This means that publishers will have no choice but to agree to the new terms if they want to keep using the IP.
While licensing agreement updates aren’t uncommon, publishers and players alike are hesitant to accept OGL 1.1 with open arms. Reportedly growing from a mere 900-word document to an over 9,000-word codex, OGL 1.1 is significantly stricter. According to Gizmodo, the expanded document now “addresses new technologies like blockchain and NFTs, and takes a strong stance against bigoted content.” Within the OGL 1.1 document, WotC explains its desire to update the Open Game License that has existed since 2002.
“The Open Game License was always intended to allow the community to help grow D&D and expand it creatively. It wasn’t intended to subsidize major competitors, especially now that PDF is by far the most common form of distribution.”Wizards of the Coast
Content Creating Calamity
Alongside better outlining what content third parties are able to produce, OGL 1.1 also reveals a new monetization strategy. Alluded to in the statement from December 2022, the updated OGL 1.1 document reportedly includes details about how some companies will have to pay royalties in 2024. Proposed as a tiered system, OGL 1.1 would force creators earning about $750,000 a year to pay royalty costs of 20-25%. Thankfully, creators earning less than $750,000 in total revenue get to keep all the money they earn. Despite this assurance, however, the incoming unavoidable royalties have concerned D&D fans as part of the brand’s recent tremendous growth can be attributed to the generous OGL 1.0 document.
As if the threat of royalties didn’t concern enough, OGL 1.1 includes an even more worrying prospect for creators. Namely that Wizards gets the right to use any content that licensees create, regardless of if they make a profit. “You agree to give Us a nonexclusive, perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, sub-licensable, royalty-free license to use that content for any purpose,” OGL 1.1 reportedly states. Unfortunately for concerned creators, this stipulation doesn’t only apply to the “fewer than 20 creators” making more than $750,000. Instead, every Dungeons & Dragons creator that’s selling a product will be required to agree to the updated OGL.
Understandably, D&D creators and players alike haven’t been too happy with Wizards following this shocking reveal. Alongside widespread condemnation from fans across social media, high-profile creators have denounced the leaked Open Game License updates. Speaking to IGN, Pat Mooney, the Lead Designer at Flagbearer Games, for instance, voiced their concerns about OGL 1.1.
“The most painful part of the new OGL is the clause that gives WotC the right to use any of my content, in perpetuity, royalty-free. I’m planning to Kickstart a sourcebook on the American Revolution in the spring.
More than half of my book will be “fluff,” or worldbuilding, history, and other narrative content that has nothing to do with rolling a die. Yet if I publish under the OGL 1.1, by the letter of the agreement, WotC could republish all my writing at their discretion. It’s not right.”Pat Mooney | Via IGN
Is This the End?
Thankfully, while what we know of the OGL 1.1 doesn’t paint a pretty picture, it isn’t all bad news. Within the document, for instance, Wizards of the Coast highlighted that they’re expecting a significant backlash to the licensing update. In fact, Wizards even states that they’re welcome to be proven wrong about their planned OGL revision. “We will receive community pushback and bad PR, and we’re more than open to being convinced that we made a wrong decision.” From this statement, it appears that should players and creators alike complain enough, Wizards might just revise the OGL anew.
While Wizards’ preemptive reaction to pushback is welcome, some content creators aren’t waiting around for Wizards to fix things. Kobold Press, for instance, who is one of the largest publishers of D&D content under the OGL, is taking matters into their own hands. In a recent statement, Kobold Press announced their intentions to create their own TTRPG system to compete with D&D.
“As we look ahead, it becomes even more important for our actions to represent our values. While we wait to see what the future holds, we are moving forward with clear-eyed work on a new Core Fantasy tabletop ruleset: available, open, and subscription-free for those who love it—Code Name: Project Black Flag.”Kobold Press
Thankfully for MTG players, the impact of Wizards’ latest debacle shouldn’t affect Magic: the Gathering all too much. That being said, it’s clear from the recent fireside chat that the monetization of Wizards’ brands won’t be slowing down. Subsequently, MTG players should expect to see the near-overwhelming release schedule continue for the time being.