January 27, 2023

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D&D’s stricter licensing rules may affect some of its beloved RPGs

Best-selling Dungeons & Dragons-based games could be either stunned or petrified if the leaked document outlining changes to the Open Gaming license is accurate.

On Thursday, a report from io9, based on a supposedly leaked internal document from Dungeons & Dragons publisher Hasbro’s Wizards of the Coast, says parts of the document pull the rug out from under creators who are currently making content using Wizards’ intellectual property. If implemented as written, io9’s reporting could jeopardize the revenue streams of companies like Pathfinder maker Paizo, Kobold Press, Green Ronin, and others.

io9’s analysis of the document shows that it revokes the previous Open Games License – File framework It allows companies and other creators to widely use a version of the applicable D&D rules, if not their own IP – and the prior agreement is considered invalid.

Last month , Wizards said that OGL “It needs an update to make sure it continues to do what it intended to do,” which is to “allow the indie D&D community creators to build, run, and grow the game we all love — without allowing things like third parties making D&D NFTs and big corporations to exploit our intellectual property.”

OGL 1.0 was developed and improved in the lead up to the third D&D release. It is part of the legal framework within which creators are allowed to benefit from work derived from Wizards’ intellectual property. In December, Wizards said it would update OGL with increased privacy — it would only apply to written content and static digital files (such as PDFs), and creators would be required to report related earnings to Wizards on an annual basis. Furthermore, creators who make more than $750,000 a year from these projects will eventually be required to pay a royalty fee to Wizards.

The leaked draft of OGL 1.1, which io9 says it has seen in its entirety, reiterates these claims with additional detail — 9,000 words of detail, says the outlet. but there is a problem:

One of the biggest changes to the document is that it updates the previously available OGL 1.0 to indicate that it is “no longer an authorized license agreement”. By ending the original OGL, many licensed publishers will have to completely overhaul their products and distribution in order to comply with the updated rules. Large publishers that focus almost exclusively on products based on the original OGL, including Paizo, Kobold Press, and Green Ronin, will be under pressure to update their business model at breakneck speed.

OGL does not apply to fan-generated content that is freely distributed. Therefore, processors rely on the most restrictive Fan Content Policy Wide company.

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Reached for comment, Chris Pramas, founder of Green Ronin, told Polygon:

Our home system these days is actually the Adventure Game Engine (AGE), which works sprawlAnd the blue roseAnd the The modern eraAnd the Cthulhu awakensAnd the imaginary ageAnd the Season 5 (crowdfunding later this month). We have done some 5e support like The Book of Demons And the Book of the Righteousand the next Twilight agreement preparation. Our greatest use of OGL these days is Mutants and Masterminds, the long-running superhero RPG from 2002, and now in its third edition. It remains one of our most popular games, and it also has a third party publishing agreement called M&M Superlink that allows other companies to release compatible material. This new OGL is obviously aimed at people who make big money from D&D but OGL does so much more than that. Many other games have been published under the OGL, so trying to nullify it would have consequences that the WotC leadership didn’t seem to have thought of.

As Ross Morrissey, CEO of EN Publishing, weighed in via email:

Now we plan to wait and see what happens. We haven’t seen the final document, but we’re strong advocates of open games and hope it continues. We believe that open games are only good for the games we love, and we allow those games to develop strong third-party support. We’ve been publishing under the OGL for 20 years now, and hope to do so for another 20 years, along with the rest of the amazing open gaming community.

Paizou declined to comment.

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Another new feature of OGL 1.1, according to io9, is that it may incentivize creators to use the Kickstarter crowdfunding platform:

Online crowdfunding has been a new phenomenon since the original OGL was created, and the new license attempts to address how and where these fundraising campaigns can take place. OGL 1.1 states that if the creators are members of the expert tier, “if your licensed work is publicly funded or sold via any platform other than Kickstarter, you will pay 25% royalties on qualifying revenue,” and “if your licensed work is publicly funded.” Collectively on Kickstarter, our favorite crowdfunding platform, you’ll only pay 20% equity on qualified revenue.”

Kickstarter has recently seen increased competition from alternative crowdfunding outlets, incl game found And the ass. Such a partnership, formally enshrined in OGL 1.1, would encourage D&D’s largest crowdfunding campaigns to use Kickstarter’s services.

Recently, 5th Edition D&D compatible crowdfunding projects have been generating significant revenue on Kickstarter. Among those Setting up Auroboros by Chris Metzenwhich grossed more than $1.2 million in 2022; EN Publishing’s Level Up: Advanced 5th Edition, which was awarded In the neighborhood of 830 thousand dollars; Tracy and Laura Hickman (Dragonlance) Skyraiders from Abarax setting triggered More than $500,000.

Kickstarter confirmed to Polygon that it had discussed a plan with Wizards, but denies direct involvement in OGL 1.1. In a statement, Kickstarter said Wizards of the Coast recently reached out to it about these royalties — And I pushed back.

“We are not part of the licensing agreement,” Kate Bernick, Kickstarter’s senior director of communications, said in an email to Polygon. When Wizards contacted us after they decided to change OGL, we advocated for Kickstarter creators to have a lower percentage, because we know what they go through during the creative process. There are also other things that we actively advocate for that would help give back more to the Kickstarter community. We encourage Wizards will collect fees funded by royalties, and return them to a fund for young creators.”

Also sent by John Ritter Roderick, Director of Games at Kickstarter A tweet reflects this statement.

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“I was able to get a lower percentage plus more discussion,” Ritter-Roderick said in a tweet. “There are no hidden perks / no KS money commissions. That’s clearly their license, not ours.”

When reached out to Polygon, a Gamefound representative declined to comment. Polygon has also reached out to Backerkit, and will update this story when the company responds.