Dungeons & Dragons is changing its OGL again, and the recently minted OGL 1.2 represents some significant changes. The OGL, or Open Game License, has traditionally allowed third-party creators to make works and products using certain aspects of DnD material without going through approval processes or paying royalties. OGL 1.2 continues this DnD tradition, but not without adjusting several key factors that fans and creators should be aware of.
DnD publishers Wizards of the Coast were recently met with criticism for OGL changes in the proposed OGL 1.1 revision. Provisions requiring third-party companies to report revenue and pay proceeds if sales exceed certain amounts generated DnD OGL 1.1 backlash, and the appearance of restrictions on permitted content that would revoke the terms of the original agreement, fueled the fire. Recognizing the magnitude of the backlash, Wizards of the Coast went back to the drawing board. While the original OGL doesn’t seem to be coming back, the much talked about OGL 1.1 is also being left behind.
D&D implements a Creative Commons license for core mechanics
Wizards of the Coast has revealed the new OGL 1.2 in a post on D&D Beyond, which both sets out the main elements of the proposal and provides a draft of the license for community analysis. OGL 1.2 makes the big shift of using a Creative Commons license to establish the availability of core D&D mechanics, a choice consistent with the licenses of DnD 5e alternatives like Dungeon World and Blades in the Dark. Although Creative Commons only covers the game’s core mechanics, it makes them fully available for interpretation and implementation without further restrictions.
D&D’s OGL 1.2 offers a perpetual license for most material
Outside of the core mechanics, DnD items previously covered by the OGL (owl bears, for example) now move to OGL 1.2, which offers a “perpetual, irrevocable” license for use. This terminology was missing in OGL 1.1, a fact that caused concern for many creators. The new system also offers a clarified policy for Virtual Tabletop platforms, which OGL 1.1 had apparently threatened. Revenue reporting and royalties are also gone, meaning creators big and small can sell content and run businesses without worrying about extra fees or paperwork. Creator Product Badges, required under the 1.1 changes in DnD open-play license, becomes optional again.
The main provision of OGL 1.1 that remains is the retention of Wizards of the Coast’s right to terminate the license for any creator who violates certain terms of the agreement. In addition to the basic terms of copyright infringement and illegal conduct, the violations covered by these terms have to do with discrimination and harassment. Content or conduct that Wizards of the Coast deems hateful may result in termination of an OGL 1.2 User License, and decisions made under these Terms cannot be legally contested by the other party. These terms leave much to the company’s discretion, but the focus on hateful behavior means that most creators should hopefully avoid crossing lines.
Should D&D’s OGL 1.2 be a big concern?
Ultimately, creators and players may feel more comfortable with OGL 1.2 than with 1.1, with a number of aggressive changes to the previous license being dropped. The average DnD player, new or old, should have essentially the same experience as before under the new license, with the production of abundant third-party content likely to continue in full force and creators still able to make material without jumping through the newly added hoops. However, it does give Wizards of the Coast the power to step in when certain content is critical DnD brand is being used in ways that associate the company with discrimination.
For fans still uncomfortable with the terms of the new license, Wizards of the Coast is currently offering a playtest period for OGL 1.2 and accepting feedback for potential revision. With a draft license available to the public, specific changes and wording can be resolved more easily than with DnD OGL 1.1’s Controversial Leaks. OGL 1.0 has a long-term place in DnD story, and its ending will no doubt remain a sore subject for many fans. After the widespread backlash to OGL 1.1, Dungeons & Dragons OGL 1.2 seems like a step in the right direction.
More: Is Dungeons & Dragons Displacing Other Tabletop RPGs?
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