RPG Horizon

Wizards of the Coast, Deception Check Failed

Wizards of the Coasts has released a statement in response to the controversy discussed in this previous article. You can read their statement here, curiously it was released through D&D Beyond, a platform which would not have existed if it was not for the OGL 1.0.

I am going to break this article down line by line, and explain why it is so full of lies and deception. If you only care about what this means for the Horizon digital toolkit project, you may jump to the end of this article.

When we initially conceived of revising the OGL, it was with three major goals in mind. First, we wanted the ability to prevent the use of D&D content from being included in hateful and discriminatory products.

The termination clause did contain wording that would allow WOTC to prevent such material publishing under the OGL, and giving them sole discretion over what would be counted as innapropriate content. However in the past products such as "Eat the rich" have been pulled from DMSGuild, so one can understand why people may fear overreach on the beahlf of WOTC.

Second, we wanted to address those attempting to use D&D in web3, blockchain games, and NFTs by making clear that OGL content is limited to tabletop roleplaying content like campaigns, modules, and supplements.

The OGL 1.1 contained a blanket prohibition of all non print media and PDF digital content. If the intent was only to stop Web3 content they could have put that into the license, instead of including prevention for all digital content. This is a lie.

And third, we wanted to ensure that the OGL is for the content creator, the homebrewer, the aspiring designer, our players, and the community—not major corporations to use for their own commercial and promotional purpose.

This is true. But squashing all independent competition who releases content compatible with your game is not the win WOTC thinks it is. I hope the D&D 5E community can see through this blatant attempt to paint all competition as competition to their hobby, and instead as the allies in the gaming space which Hasbro wanted to squash.

They support "the aspiring designer". Unless they get big enough to become competition. You can design for us, as long as you don't get too big. I'm not certain what Hasbro was attempting with this third point, but I hope it leaves as bad a taste in everyone elses mouth as it does in mine.

Driving these goals were two simple principles: (1) Our job is to be good stewards of the game, and (2) the OGL exists for the benefit of the fans. Nothing about those principles has wavered for a second.

(1) Our job is to generate revenue for shareholders of Hasbro. (2) The OGL is how we excert control over a monopoly in the TTRPG space. I don't think I need to explain why their presented (1) and (2) are blatant corporate speak and not remotely true, but if you need reassurance consider this leak from inside WOTC.

That was why our early drafts of the new OGL included the provisions they did.

This was not a draft. It was sent to third party publishers with a contract to commit to using it. A deal was agreed with Kickstarter over their revenue share with respect to the OGL 1.1. Such agreements are not made over drafts. In addition, many of the third party publishers that were sent the 1.1 and corroborated the leaks have confirmed at no point was it presented to them as a draft.

That draft language was provided to content creators and publishers so their feedback could be considered before anything was finalized.

Still not a draft.

In addition to language allowing us to address discriminatory and hateful conduct and clarifying what types of products the OGL covers, our drafts included royalty language designed to apply to large corporations attempting to use OGL content. It was never our intent to impact the vast majority of the community.

"We don't hate our community, only those of you that get successful and make money."

However, it’s clear from the reaction that we rolled a 1. It has become clear that it is no longer possible to fully achieve all three goals while still staying true to our principles. So, here is what we are doing.

The next OGL will contain the provisions that allow us to protect and cultivate the inclusive environment we are trying to build and specify that it covers only content for TTRPGs. That means that other expressions, such as educational and charitable campaigns, livestreams, cosplay, VTT-uses, etc., will remain unaffected by any OGL update. Content already released under 1.0a will also remain unaffected.

I am going to repeat a part of this with added emphasis.

Content already released under 1.0a will also remain unaffected.

They are still intending to attempt to de-authorize the OGL 1.0a. Otherwise they would have not used the word "already" in this sentence. Their attack on the open gaming community, and the TTRPG hobby as a whole, has not ended.

What it will not contain is any royalty structure. It also will not include the license back provision that some people were afraid was a means for us to steal work. That thought never crossed our minds.

Sure it didn't, I'm certain your lawyers at no point poitned out to you that the wording as presented would give you this capability. Either this is a lie, or they didn't actually think about what terms they were putting into a new license. I know which one of those seems more likely to me.

Under any new OGL, you will own the content you create. We won’t. Any language we put down will be crystal clear and unequivocal on that point. The license back language was intended to protect us and our partners from creators who incorrectly allege that we steal their work simply because of coincidental similarities. As we continue to invest in the game that we love and move forward with partnerships in film, television, and digital games, that risk is simply too great to ignore. The new OGL will contain provisions to address that risk, but we will do it without a license back and without suggesting we have rights to the content you create. Your ideas and imagination are what makes this game special, and that belongs to you.

If they had intended to simply prevent this, they would have already done that in the original license. Again, this was not a draft, it was intended to be final and to be released this week. In addition to this, how exactly are they meant to prevent this without having ownership of your work. If they put into the license "you cannot sue us on-the basis of similarity" then that is the same as them owning the content you create, as they could simply still steal it and claim it was "coincidental similarity".

A couple of last thoughts. First, we won’t be able to release the new OGL today, because we need to make sure we get it right, but it is coming. Second, you’re going to hear people say that they won, and we lost because making your voices heard forced us to change our plans. Those people will only be half right. They won—and so did we.

We have absolutely not won. WOTCs war on the OGL continues. This is worded to both attempt to present to the community that they have won, and that WOTC has won also because of the valuable feedback they received. Neither of these things are true. We have not won because the OGL 1.0 remains under direct attack from WOTC. They have not won because they are backpeddling on an extremely regressive license which was planned for release this week. There have been no winners. Yet.

Our plan was always to solicit the input of our community before any update to the OGL; the drafts you’ve seen were attempting to do just that.

The drafts which were not drafts and were intended to be released as final this week which were not given to the community but instead leaked by the partners that WOTC sent contracts to regarding this new license. This is such a transparent and bold faced lie that is impressive they would put it into black and white.

We want to always delight fans and create experiences together that everyone loves.

"We want to continue making money from all of you buying our games, please don't cancel your D&D Beyond subscriptions."

We realize we did not do that this time and we are sorry for that. Our goal was to get exactly the type of feedback on which provisions worked and which did not–which we ultimately got from you.

Because our license leaked, and you gave us feedback which we in no measure solicited or intended to receive.

Any change this major could only have been done well if we were willing to take that feedback, no matter how it was provided–so we are.

The primary feedback from all entities involved in this has been for WOTC to cease attempting to claim they have the legal power to de-authorize the OGL 1.0. The man who spearheaded the OGL 1.0 has said they do not. Paizo has said that they do not. The lawyer who wrote the text of the original 1.0 is still at the law firm Paizo has confirmed they are partnered with on this matter, so it is reasonable to assume that lawyer also does not believe this power was intended.

Any action other than guarunteeing the legal safety of those continuing to publish works using the OGL 1.0a is not taking on board the feedback of the community.

Thank you for caring enough to let us know what works and what doesn’t, what you need and what scares you. Without knowing that, we can’t do our part to make the new OGL match our principles. Finally, we’d appreciate the chance to make this right. We love D&D’s devoted players and the creators who take them on so many incredible adventures. We won’t let you down.

Part of me does wonder if the line about loving D&Ds devoted players was done at the end of this article purely in response to the leaks which say the higher ups at WOTC view their community as a roadblock between them and their money. This feels very tacked on to the rest of the article to me. Regardless, I am certain they intend to let us down.

Horizon Now

Horizon shall remain on hold until such a time as wizards of the coast ceases their attacks on the open gaming community and OGL 1.0, or Necrotic Gnome releases a version of Old-School Essentials under an alternative license.

Author: Lucille L. Blumire

Published: Fri, 13 Jan 2023 18:00:00 GMT