January 10, 2023: OGL

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Over in the role-playing games world, there’s a lot of talk recently about Wizards of the Coast (WotC)/Hasbro’s plan to release a new Open Game License, or OGL. In short, it seems that WotC will be revoking the initial version of the OGL (1.0a) that has been in place since the early 2000s and replacing it with one that is far more restrictive and proprietary (OGL 1.1). The original OGL 1.0a made it possible for hundreds of companies to release gaming material compatible with Dungeons & Dragons, to extrapolate new games from those rules, and release other game systems using the same license. All that could come to an end with the new OGL 1.1, as it would revoke the previous one.

I’m not a lawyer. I don’t know all the ins and outs of the issue yet. I found a decent summary of the situation from someone who is a lawyer over on Medium.com that I would encourage you to read (Let’s Take A Minute To Talk About D&D’s Open Gaming License (OGL) by Noah Downs). The most salient point to pay attention to is that the OGL 1.0a is a perpetual license, but not an irrevocable license, which means WotC can release the OGL 1.1 with a clause that revokes the OGL 1.0a and replaces it with the newer version, which indeed seems what they intend to do.

What I have to say about this subject is that I’m surprised it took WotC this long to make this move. I love the spirit of the OGL, and its original intent certainly worked to revitalize and expand the hobby gaming market, but it was always the elephant in the room that Wizards was leaving money on the table by letting other people play in their sandbox, especially when Pathfinder, basically a clone of the D&D ruleset, came out and became the powerhouse it is. The closing of the OGL was bound to happen, from a business perspective if nothing else. As my friend likes to remind me, the purpose of a corporation is to make money for its shareholders, period.

What this means for me is that I will be going over my zines that feature the use of the OGL and either revising items to something more generic, or pulling them from sale for the time being until I have a more permanent solution. It also means that my desire and commitment to finish Project Legacy is more solid than ever. I want my own system that I can tinker with and release projects for that doesn’t depend on anyone else’s material and whims.

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