This article quotes a former VP at Wizards of the Coast, Ryan Dancey, who runs the Open Gaming Foundation and spearheaded the OGL. We also recap the current drama around Hasbro’s plans for the Open Gaming License.
Cleverly, Morrus, who runs EN World and EN Publishing, an OGL user, reached out to Ryan Dancey to ask whether Hasbro could deauthorize the Open Gaming License. As we’ll see in a bit, the word ‘deauthorize’ is important.
Dancey thinks not, saying;
Yeah my public opinion is that Hasbro does not have the power to deauthorize a version of the OGL. If that had been a power that we wanted to reserve for Hasbro, we would have enumerated it in the license. I am on record numerous places in email and blogs and interviews saying that the license could never be revoked.
Wizards of the Coast have already tried to clarify the changes that One D&D will bring to the OGL. New editions of D&D bring new rules, in-game and out-of-game, but this time, there’s been much built on 5e’s OGL and a new generation of gamers who’ve not been through a new edition before.
In their update, Wizards said only companies that make a lot of money will have to pay commission, and they want to make sure the OGL only applies to print and PDF D&D content. The license isn’t intended to let, for example, people make computer games or TV programs.
However, concerns remained, and now Linda Codega of io9 got their hands on a draft of OGL 1.1. We can speculate where it came from as Wizards of the Coast has reached out to some 5e publishers to arrange meetings, but these were supposed to be legally secret ones.
In summary, the new OGL is much longer and much more complex.
There are some progress points; the new wording prohibits bigoted content and NFTs. Some companies like Heroic Story have raised millions looking to merge tabletop RPGs with NFTs so this limitation will be dramatic for them.
Games created under the auspices of the OGL will not be able to have their own spin-off Systems Reference Document (a rules summary that others can use). This is what Pathfinder does. Additionally, games created using the new OGL must have a branded badge and be sent to WotC.
The royalties update is, as expected, but with more detail. There will be three tiers; less than $50K, between $50K and $750K, and creators who make more than $750K. If you’re in the last bracket, earning $750K or more, then you have royalties to pay. That $750K is revenue, not profit.
Hasbro is also backing Kickstarter. You pay fewer royalties to Hasbro if you pay anything at all if you use Kickstarter rather than a competitor (such as IndieGogo or Backerkit). As royalties apply to revenue, not profit, runaway Kickstarter pledge tallies (irrespective of how much the creators take home) could result in publishers paying Hasbro.
The new rules are clear; the OGL is for print or PDF products. Virtual tabletops are excluded, as are computer games, novels, graphic novels, music, songs and pantomimes. If pantomimes sound weird to you, then (and this is just conjecture) that might be the legal catch-all for improv shows like The Twenty-sided Tavern and, from there, perhaps into streaming.
Crucially, OGL 1.1 deauthorises the previous OGL. It says; OGL 1.0a is “no longer an authorized license agreement”.
Why is that important? Clause 9 of the current OGL says;
9. Updating the License: Wizards or its designated Agents may publish updated versions of this License. You may use any authorized version of this License to copy, modify and distribute any Open Game Content originally distributed under any version of this License.
In short, Hasbro might not be able to undo the current OGL, but it may be able to disarm it.
Geek Native is aware, off the record, of several 5e OGL third-party publishers thinking of quitting the space in favour of alternative engines. This is not the result Hasbro is likely to be looking for, as their concerns will be with publishers with computer games, animated hit shows, virtual tabletops and crowdfunding projects breaching a million.
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Duh, ANYONE who has read the OGL 1.0a knows this fact.
Except wizards, apparently. Who must have some legal idea of how to approach this of they have decided to do this.