Dungeons & Dragons Has Burned Up All the Goodwill
As fans of tabletop RPGs, they debate what to do with Wizards of the Coast new draft of Open Gaming License Per dungeonsthe lack of goodwill might be the thing that stirs up the most resentment between fans D&D and the company ahead.
What happened to Wizards of the Coast?
Wizards of the Coast has one hard few weeks. After io9 reported a leaked draft of the proposed update for the Open Gaming License (OGL) — the standard license agreement that governs all third-party publishers creating content for the fifth edition — fans immediately took to social media to hear their thoughts. The new OGL 1.1 was an incredibly restrictive and predatory license, and nobody was happy with it. It turns out that after two decades of giving a vast creative space nearly unlimited freedom of expression, any attempt to take it away will be met with hostility. Lawyers, both professional and lay, took apart the leaked OGL 1.1 and the original OGL 1.0a to see how many of those changes Wizards of the Coast could legally get away with. The interpretations differed.
Then it was quiet. Over the course of eight days, confusion and excitement turned to anger and frustration. There’s no greater unifying force than a common enemy, and Wizards of the Coast answered fans’ and creators’ worst fears by staying quiet. With no reassurances or transparency, the silence grew more and more scathing as many fans and creators trying to wait out the updated OGL became convinced that the lack of communication was all but caught in the act.
When Wizards of the Coast finally released a statement on Jan. 13, it was too little, too late. Then, when the next announcement came on January 18th – this time directly from Kyle Brink, the executive producer at dungeonsthe last of the good will Wizards of the Coast could have enjoyed from its fan base was completely burned.
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The trust is gone
And now Wizards of the Coast has an even bigger problem. Although it has clearly returned to the drawing board several times – first with OGL 1.1, then with the deprecated OGL 2.0 FAQ, then with the new OGL 1.2 draft (this is open to a feedback cycle known as playtesting) and the following transparent communication – there are almost no more fans willing to contact the company in good faith. Although Brink is more sincere in his statements and has directly apologized for the company’s actions and states that he hopes to work with the larger TTRPG space, the fact is that very few people are willing to do so.
This is partly due to WotC’s behavior over the past six to eight months. from the takeover of DnD Furthermore for recording the Hadozee (and their subsequent redemption), to the cash grab, which was the release of overpriced goods Magic the Gathering Anniversary Packs, WotC has burned goodwill like it needs it to stay warm over the winter. Additionally, the fact that OGL 1.1 existed at all, and was even contemplated, is a testament to the kind of mindset that might still exist at Wizards of the Coast.
What happens to dungeons now?
Even the most innocuous offers from Wizards of the Coast are now treated with suspicion and negativity. Many parts of the TTRPG space, having seen aggressive and direct tactics over the past two weeks, don’t want to admit Wizards of the Coast has heard them and are trying to find a middle ground. The “all or nothing” approach that the TTRPG discourse invades is hurting not only Wizards of the Coast, but RPG fans in general.
Unfortunately, this is just the way things work. Wizards of the Coast has been cornered and is offering concessions. Wizards has ulterior motives, of course, and its adjustments don’t mean anyone has to trust WotC. But there has to come a point where the TTRPG space has to agree that this incredibly clumsy retreat, mess, and massive surrender wasn’t the plan. Of the two scenarios – either a giant corporation miscalculated the response to a new legal document, or, as the conspiracy theory angle would suggest, Wizards of the Coast wanted all of this to be done to “push something” on its fans – the former is much more likely. This is a community that literally invented the term “rules advocate”. WotC just didn’t realize how literal that would be taken.
So what is happening now is that the power vacuum is splitting into factions after the village comes together to defeat the dragon that is terrorizing their community. There are some people willing to concede that the latest OGL 1.2 and the agreement to set some of the rules for free use under the Creative Commons license is a good start for a good faith conversation with a giant corporation. There are some people who believe that any attempt to deauthorize OGL 1.0a means that Wizards isn’t really interested in changes. There are many who think people are being tricked because this latest OGL 1.2 only seems to be better, but is actually just as bad as OGL 1.1 or even worse.
The answer to who is right about what boils down essentially to legal speculation. Wizards will say whatever it wants. It’s up to the fans to decide what they will fight for. Also, “which of these fan groups is right” isn’t the question the TTRPG space needs to ask itself. The question every TTRPG fan needs to ask is: How willing are you – as a player, as a creator, as a company – to abide by the rules of others? And what are you willing to give up to play alongside Wizards of the Coast?
dungeons isn’t the only game out there – and never has been
The fact is that Wizards of the Coast will try to disable OGL 1.0a. It has made this explicit and incredibly clear, and in my opinion no amount of backlash or feedback or threats of legal action will dissuade it. That’s not to say people shouldn’t tell the company not to. Every fan and creator needs to check out OGL 1.2 and try to figure out how much they’re willing to endure and what they’re willing to fight for. If the answer is “None of that,” you need to find a way out of the garden, and fast. The walls come up. During D&D A huge part of the TTRPG industry, it’s far from the only sandbox fans and developers need to play in.
Parting ways with Wizards of the Coast is extremely and frustrating, especially since it’s a trait people also have visceral emotional ties to, but I would hope that people take the love that comes from the games to the gameplay itself divert and not to the product. Additionally e.g Third Party CreatorsWotC says it will keep its claws off products made under 1.0 (on the first page of the new OGL 1.2, in the paragraph just below the creator badges), but… who believes that?
There are dozens of companies out there trying to lead the way towards a full separation of the party from Wizards. The new ORC license, the third-party system announcements, even the dozens – if not hundreds – of indie systems being shared under Creative Commons licenses are all tools that allow any RPG fan or creator to to remove themselves from supporting Wizards of the Coast if they find the final release of OGL 1.2 really objectionable. You can still play fifth edition without ever backing Wizards of the Coast again. Nobody will try to stop you.
It is my sincere hope that the space can come together to continue fighting for the good of those who rely on the inevitable OGL 1.2, while also making room for the many, many people who do not want to risk going to bed with Wizards go the coast again. I believe that the biggest divisions within the TTRPG ecosystem in the coming weeks and months will not come down to how much power space wrests from Wizards of the Coast, but rather how space work will function to diversify the scene and to diversify separate individual identities from a single enterprise product – and whether this wildfire of righteous wrath will allow a broader, multi-system TTRPG environment to grow from the ashes of Wizards of the Coast’s scorched earth.
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