RPG fans irate as D&D tries to shut its “open” game license

Enlarge / Excuse me, but do you have the proper rights to that spell? (credit: Aurich Lawson | Wizards of the Coast)

For decades now, Wizards of the Coast (WotC) has made the core framework of its popular Dungeons & Dragons RPG (D&D) widely available to other game makers as part of an expansive, royalty-free Open Gaming License (OGL). But a planned update to the license imposes more restrictive terms and royalties of up to 25 percent for some revenue from large companies, according to an early leaked copy.

The reported changes have some in the tabletop gaming community up in arms, with one organized group already calling the unreleased license update “a betrayal” and “objectionable, if not downright illegal.”

How did we get here?

WotC’s original Open Gaming License (version 1.0a) dates back to the early 2000s and establishes a relatively forgiving set of guidelines for creators hoping to build new creative content on top of the core D&D rules. The short document is mainly designed to help clarify which parts of WotC’s D&D publications are “Open Game Content” (e.g., rules and mechanics that would be difficult for WotC to copyright in the first place) and which parts constitute “Product Identity” (e.g., trademarked terms and copyright-protected characters and worlds created by the company).

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