Best-selling games built on Dungeons & Dragons’ rule set could be stunned or petrified if a leaked document outlining changes to the Open Game License is accurate.
On Thursday, a report from io9. intellectual property of Wizards. If implemented as the io9 reports wrote, it could put revenue streams for companies like Pathfinder maker Paizo, Kobold Press, Green Ronin and others in jeopardy.
io9’s document analysis states that it invalidates the previous Open Games License — the license framework allow other companies and creators to use D&D’s widely played version of the rules, if not its IP — and treat the prior agreement as invalid.
Last month, Wizards say that OGL “needs an update to ensure that it continues to do what it is intended to do”, which is “allowing the independent creators of the D&D community to build, play, and develop games that we all we love — without allowing the likes of D&D and large corporate NFT-generated third parties to exploit our intellectual property.”
OGL 1.0 has been developed and refined in preparation for the 3rd version of D&D. It is part of the legal framework under which creators are allowed to profit from work derived from Wizards intellectual property. In December, Wizards said they would update OGL with more specificity — that it would only apply to written content and static digital files (like PDFs), and creators would be required to Report related income back to Wizards every year. Furthermore, the creators who earn more than $750,000 annually from these projects will eventually have to return the royalties to Wizards.
The leaked draft of OGL 1.1, which io9 says it has fully viewed, reiterates these claims in more detail – 9,000 words of detail, the outlet said. But there is a downside:
One of the biggest changes to the document is that it updates the previously available OGL 1.0 to state that it is “no longer an authorized license agreement”. At the end of the original OGL, many licensed publishers will have to completely overhaul their products and distribution to comply with the updated rules. Major publishers focusing almost exclusively on original OGL-based products, including Paizo, Kobold Press and Green Ronin, will be under pressure to update their business models extremely quickly.
OGL does not apply to fan-generated content distributed for free. For that, Wizards rely on more restrictions Fan Content Policy All the people in company.
Making comments, Green Ronin founder Chris Pramas told Polygon:
Our home system today is actually my Adventure Game Engine (AGE), powering extension, blue Rose, MODERN AGE, Cthulhu awakens, GREAT AGEand fifth season (crowdfunding later this month). We have done some 5E support like Book of youkai and The Book of Righteousnessand coming soon Install Twilight Accord. Our biggest use of OGL today is Mutants & Conspirators, our longstanding superhero RPG from 2002, is now available in Third Edition. It remains one of our most popular games, and it also has its own third-party publishing agreement called M&M Superlink that allows other companies to release compatible material. This new OGL is clearly aimed at those who make a lot of money from D&D but OGL does much more. Many other games have been published under the OGL, so an attempt to recall it will have consequences that WotC management doesn’t seem to think about.
EN Publishing CEO Russ Morrissey also weighed in via email:
Right now we plan to wait and see what happens. We have not seen the final document yet, but we strongly support the game openly and hope that it will continue. We believe that open play benefits only the games we love and allows those games to develop strong third-party support. We’ve been publishing under OGL for 20 years and hope to do so for another 20, along with the rest of the amazing open game community.
Paizo declined to comment.
According to io9, another new feature of OGL 1.1 is that it can incentivize creators to use the Kickstarter crowdfunding platform:
Online crowdfunding is 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 a creator is a member of the Expert Tier, “if your Licensed Work is crowdfunded or sold through any other platform than Kickstarter, You will pay 25% royalties on Eligible Revenue” and “if your Licensed Work is crowdfunded on Kickstarter, our preferred crowdfunding platform, You will pay only 20 % of royalties for Eligible Revenue.”
Kickstarter has recently seen increased competition from alternative crowdfunding outlets, including game found and Backerkit. A partnership like this, officially included in OGL 1.1, will encourage the largest D&D crowdfunding campaigns using Kickstarter services.
Recently, crowdfunding projects compatible with big-ticket D&D 5th edition have generated significant revenue on Kickstarter. Among them are Chris Metzen’s Auroboros Background, earning more than $1.2 million by 2022; EN Publishing’s Level Up: Advanced 5th Edition, Earn in the vicinity $830,000; and Tracy and Laura Hickman’s (Dragonlance) Skyrader by Abarax set, raised more than 500,000 USD.
Kickstarter confirmed to Polygon that it discussed a plan with Wizards, but denied they were directly involved in OGL 1.1. In a statement, Kickstarter said Wizards of the Coast recently approached them about these royalties – and it repels.
“We are not part of the licensing agreement,” said Kate Bernyk, Kickstarter senior communications director in an email to Polygon. “When Wizards contacted us after they decided to change the OGL, we favored Kickstarter creators with a lower percentage, because we know what they go through in the creative process. . And there are also other things we’re actively supporting that will further benefit the Kickstarter community. We are incentivizing Wizards to take their sponsored fees from royalties and put them back into the small creator fund.”
Kickstarter was contacted after WoTC decided to make changes to OGL, so we felt the best move was to support the creator, which we did. Management to get lower % plus more is being discussed. No hidden benefits / no kickbacks for KS. Apparently this is their license, not ours. https://t.co/jHwX1JQKXM
– Jon Ritter (@jonritter) January 5, 2023
Jon Ritter-Roderick, game director at Kickstarter, also sent a tweet that reflects that statement.
Ritter-Roderick said in tweet: “Attempted to get lower percentage plus lots of other stuff being discussed. “No hidden benefits / no kickbacks for KS. Obviously this is their license, not ours.”
When approached by Polygon, a representative for Gamefound declined to comment. Polygon has also reached out to Backerkit and will update this story as the company responds.