In wake of D&D controversy, major rival Paizo announces new license so popular it crashed their website

Paizo, Pathfinder, and Starfinder logos on artwork for both games
(Image credit: Paizo)

Major D&D rival Paizo has announced that it is developing its own game system following the recent licensing controversy, and amidst promises that it will be "open, perpetual, and irrevocable," the company's entire website crashed due to overload.

For much of January 12 and today, visiting Paizo.com (opens in new tab) resulted in a 503 error (a problem that often stems from servers being overloaded and unable to provide service). As confirmed by the company's Twitter account (opens in new tab), this began shortly after the Pathfinder developer released a blog post detailing plans for a new 'Open RPG Creative License' in the wake of the D&D furore that's reached a fever-pitch now that publisher Wizards of the Coast has released its response

In terms of Paizo's license, or 'ORC', the company vows that this endeavor will be "system agnostic" and won't be "owned by Paizo, nor will it be owned by any company who makes money publishing RPGs." This license would eventually be passed on to a nonprofit organization with a history of "open source values" like Linux.

Paizo, which originally created Pathfinder in response to changes in an early D&D edition and is now responsible for some of the best tabletop RPGs, is also creating the system with guidance and stewardship from a firm representing multiple game publishers, Azora Law (the co-founder of which laid down the legal framework for the original D&D Open Game License). Paizo promises to cover these legal fees and wants to make sure the ORC license cannot be revoked or changed in any way - even in the event of the company "being bought, sold, or changing management in the future."

Numerous teams have already signed on to ORC, including one - Kobold Press - that vowed to start its own tabletop RPG system earlier this week. Meanwhile, Paizo will continue "publishing Pathfinder and Starfinder, even as we move away from the Open Gaming License. Since months’ worth of products are still at the printer, you’ll see the familiar OGL 1.0(a) in the back of our products for a while yet. While the Open RPG Creative License is being finalized, we’ll be printing Pathfinder and Starfinder products without any license, and we’ll add the finished license to those products when the new license is complete."

D&D publisher Wizards of the Coast hasn't specified when its revised OGL will launch after a draft was leaked to io9 (opens in new tab) earlier in January, and a release date for Paizo's alternative ORC system is equally unclear. However, because over 26,000 have signed a letter condemning the new D&D OGL, it's likely to be watched by many with interest in the coming months.


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.