Leaked details about Wizards of the Coast’s plans to change the Dungeons and Dragons license are being received extremely badly.
Dungeons and Dragons fans disagree with what appears to be an effort by Wizards of the Coast to extend control over licensed content through a revised contract. Wizards of the Coast has long used the Open Gaming License to allow content creators to create Dungeons and Dragons products, retain full ownership, and amass substantial profits independently. However, the revised OGL seems to give Wizards of the Coast considerable power to claim these creations as their own.
Rumors regarding the change to the OGL began to spread in December, prompting an official response from Wizards of the Coast. Rumor at the time, however, suggested that OGL had been completely dismantled. Wizards of the Coast responded by confirming that OGL will remain in place, including through the upcoming release of One D&D, Dungeons and Dragons‘next iteration. Wizards of the Coast confirmed at the time that they were planning to update the OGL, but said the changes were to avoid things like third-party “D&D NFT” and exploitation by big companies.
A leaked report revealing what Wizards of the Coast’s specific changes to OGL could be appears to be doing much more than what the company said. One particular change causes considerable anger. It says, “The new and original content you create belongs to you. You agree to grant us a non-exclusive, perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, sublicensable, royalty-free license to use this content for any purpose.” In other words, the new OGL gives Wizards of the Coast free rein to use, sublicense, and profit from the work of others. It does not grant Wizards of the Coast ownership of the work of others, but there will be no need to.
The next section of the updated OGL turns out to be a more terrifying possibility. Gives Wizards of the Coast the ability to “terminate” a licensing agreement with anyone, anywhere, for any reason. If Wizards of the Coast chooses to terminate the license, the licensee is compelled not only to stop using the licensed materials, but also to “destroy all inventory and marketing materials bearing the compliance logo.” In other words, licensed products Dungeons and Dragons branding must be destroyed when the license expires. Again, Wizards of the Coast can do this for any reason.
These leaked changes are already leading to countless reactions within Dungeons and Dragons community of creators. Some believe that this is just legal speech and nothing will change. Others have gone so far as to threaten legal action if the OGL update is released officially. The threat of Wizards of the Coast using the creator’s products for their own purposes or forcing a partner to destroy all their work is much more real than the threat of “D&D NFT”.
Any Dungeons and Dragons the player knows how important the third party market is. This is because OGL, which has been around for over 20 years, has enabled the growth of the third party market. Any significant change to the OGL, whether intentionally positive or not, is an existential threat to this economy and community. Will Wizards of the Coast hear Dungeons and Dragons players’ outrage remains to be seen.
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