D&D responds to licensing outrage: "It’s clear from the reaction that we rolled a 1"

Dungeons & Dragons Essentials Kit promo image with book, dice, and DM screen
(Image credit: Wizards of the Coast)

Update (Jan 27, 2023): Publisher Wizards of the Coast has done a full 180-degree turn since the publication of this article and announced that the D&D OGL won't be changing anymore due to the overwhelming public response. 

Original story follows.

D&D publisher Wizards of the Coast has responded to the licensing controversy currently raging across the tabletop RPG community, and although it hasn't released the document in question yet, it does offer some clarification.

Breaking its silence via a blog post on D&D Beyond, Wizards of the Coast states that "it’s clear from the reaction that we rolled a 1" regarding changes to the Open Game License (or 'OGL') leaked to io9 earlier this month. As well as explaining why "early drafts of the new OGL included the provisions they did," it also covers major updates to the leaked draft - specifically, the removal of royalties and questions surrounding content ownership for third-party D&D creations.

More precisely, the new OGL will not contain "any royalty structure." This is a marked change to reports of a 25% royalty fee for third-party creations earning over $750,000 per year. (Despite not going into specifics during the blog post itself, Wizards of the Coast confirms that "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.")

In addition, the revised OGL won't include "the license back provision that some people were afraid was a means for us to steal work. That thought never crossed our minds. Under any new OGL, you will own the content you create. We won’t." Apparently, such language revolving around ownership was to protect Wizards of the Coast from "creators who incorrectly allege that we steal their work simply because of coincidental similarities."

What's more, content already launched under the original OGL along with "other expressions, such as educational and charitable campaigns, livestreams, cosplay, VTT-uses, etc." won't be affected in a future update. Only tabletop RPGs are included within this agreement.

However, we won't be able to see this for ourselves just yet. Wizards of the Coast confirms that the new OGL won't be released today "because we need to make sure we get it right, but it is coming." The company behind D&D then goes on to state that its aim "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... Our goal was to get exactly the type of feedback on which provisions worked and which did not - which we ultimately got from you. 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. Thank you for caring enough to let us know what works and what doesn't."

It's the end to a long and grueling week for the D&D publisher; following the initial leak, over 26,000 people signed an open letter condemning the changes and a major dev announced that it was making its own tabletop RPG as a direct response. Fans then started to cancel their D&D Beyond subscriptions in droves out of protest, and rival publisher Paizo unveiled a new license that was so popular it crashed the website

Whether fans and developers come back following the uproar remains to be seen, but Wizards of the Coast ends its blog post by noting "we'd appreciate the chance to make this right."

If you're feeling a bit lost by all this, check out our explanation of the D&D license controversy. And for a break from the drama, drop in on our guide to the best board games and the best board games for adults.

Benjamin Abbott
Tabletop & Merch Editor

As the site's Tabletop & Merch Editor, you'll find my grubby paws on everything from board game reviews to Lego buying guides. I have been writing about games in one form or another since 2012 and can normally be found cackling over some evil plan I've cooked up for my group's next Dungeons & Dragons campaign.