D&D and its future, and my take on the whole saga
About Open Game License (OGL).
If you are a regular D&D watcher / player, you would know by now about WotC (Wizard of the coast) and its proposed Open Game License 1.1 (or 2.0).
For the uninitiated, allow me to explain the whole situation as simple as possible.
What is D&D?
D&D, Dungeon & Dragons, is a TTRPG (Table top RPG) game framework. D&D has been adapted into video games before, such as NeverWinter Nights series and Solasta.
D&D is basically about a group of people led by a dungeon master (or a game master) to tell adventuring stories by rolling dices to add uncertainty and other elements.
Until around 2015, D&D was mostly confined to TTRPG strictly, meaning it was played mostly locally among groups of friends. Then Critical Role came along which brought it to mainstream and made it entertainment. Since then, its overall popularity shot up massively. Millions of people started to watch D&D sessions as a source of entertainment, myself included.
Now, D&D is a specific kind of TTRPG framework. The current D&D 5th edition and previous versions are owned by Wizard of the coast (WotC). D&D is currently the most popular framework, and I believe it has about 85% market share. This has made other 3rd party companies releasing their D&D game frameworks under OGL license. OGL, Open Game License, is provided by WotC to legally allow 3rd parties to distribute materials based on their D&D editions.
This OGL license was created in 2000 and is truly “open” game license, prioritizing user comforts above all else, meaning it brings little profits to WotC itself. WotC would earn their profits by selling D&D rulebooks, dices, and other merchandises.
On Jan 5 of 2023, OGL 1.1 was leaked which included several terms that it would no longer be “open”. WotC would demand 25% of revenue (not profit) if it’s over 75k, they would have rights to whatever materials 3rd parties would make, and the license would be revocable at whim of WotC.
Why the change?
The top brass at WotC recently changed. Apparently, a few top execs from Microsoft arrived to replace. What they saw from WotC balance sheet as well as the popularity trajectory of D&D made them feel that D&D under OGL 1.0 wasn’t bringing them enough profit, and the new top brass thought to change that.
The D&D community is quite intelligent people. They are often called “rules lawyers” for a reason. They kind of have to be since D&D games are rather complex in nature. Anyone who watch or play D&D games are generally adapt at finding loopholes so that they can exploit weaknesses to their advantage.
So, when WotC OGL 1.1 was leaked, they did the most intelligent thing, cancelling WotC subscriptions en masse to a point that WotC outright threw the whole plan under a rug and is right now keeping it quiet to ride the backlash over.
Unlike gamers who continue to purchase broken games over and over, the D&D community acted wisely. I have to applaud them.
In addition, majority of 3rd party companies seem to be leaving WotC all together.
What now then? And how does this affect me? (Me as in Dean)
OGL 1.1 or 2.0 may not see the light entirely, but it seems clear that WotC is attempting to ride out the backlash. It will probably work normally. But this is D&D we are talking about. The D&D community tends to have a far longer memory span. In our eyes, the trust is gone. OGL can no longer be trusted.
I watch D&D mostly as a form of entertainment which is why I watch Critical Role mostly. I occasionally purchase D&D related books so that I keep up to date with rules. WotC is now blacklisted in my mind. I will not purchase anything from them, ever. I will also not purchase any 3rd party books based on D&D.
Another thing is that I don’t particularly care about D&D itself. As long as it’s TTRPG of some form, I still watch. D&D is only one form of TTRPG. While it may have 85% market share right now, that is bound to change now.
The second most popular TTRPG framework is Pathfinder which I am also quite familiar with. That’s because the very first D&D-like show I watched was actually based on Pathfinder. I’ve also played two Pathfinder PC games in Kingmaker and Wrath of righteous by Owlcat games, so I am quite comfortable with Pathfinder system.
D&D and TTRPG has been synonymous so far. That will change, I assume. We will see.
As for me, I will continue to watch TTRPG stuff on Youtube. I really don’t care which system they use although I do tend to look at systems they use before I watch. That makes D&D shows easier to watch since I know its rules well enough. But I am comfortable with Pathfinder as well. So, nothing will change for me most of time except for a fact that WotC won’t get a dime from me.
As a consumer, voting with your wallet is probably the wisest thing which makes me shake my head when gamers continue to purchase broken games over and over.