So recently things blew up on Twitter. The controversy involved Wizards of the Coast and its iconic role-playing game, Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), and something I had never heard of – ‘The OGL’. What was the OGL, why was I reading pages of legal document in my evening, and why were D&D creators super annoyed.
This controversy, which I definitely 100% didn’t understand, caused a stir in the tabletop gaming community. It all centered around changes made to something called the Open Game License (OGL) and its effects on third-party content creators.
So to help me research it, I actually turned to some AI processing tools. One of which, chatGPT, answered a tonne of my questions before I could put together my knowledge here. Whether we live in a real or fantasy world, things are getting quite magical!
What is the Wizards of the Coast D&D Controversy?
The controversy started with changes made by Wizards of the Coast to the OGL, which allows third-party content creators to create and sell products compatible with D&D. The changes have been seen by some members of the community as too restrictive, limiting their ability to create and share content. The controversy has caused different opinions and perspectives to arise, with some supporting the changes made by Wizards of the Coast and others opposing them. The role of social media in spreading information and opinions about the controversy has been significant.
What is the OGL in D&D?
The Open Game License (OGL) is a licensing agreement between Wizards of the Coast and third-party content creators, allowing them to create and sell products compatible with D&D. This is why I had never really come across it, but so many people I followed on Twitter had! The OGL plays an important role in the D&D community and industry, fostering a kind of ecosystem of third-party content, including adventure modules, character sheets, and digital tools to aid in game play. And if you haven’t seen custom D&D character sheets, you really need to!
The history of the OGL dates back several iterations and has had a significant impact on the D&D community and industry, allowing for a thriving community of content creators and enthusiasts.
But hold on, there’s loads of different gaming licenses…
What is the Difference Between OGL and NGL?
The Open Game License (OGL) is a type of licensing agreement used in the tabletop role-playing game industry, while the No Game License (NGL) is a type of licensing agreement used in the computer and video game industry. The main difference between the two is the type of content they are used to license. The terms of each license also differ, with the OGL being more permissive and allowing for more flexibility in the creation and distribution of third-party content.
How about the OGL and the EGL?
As we’ve covered, OGL stands for Open Game License, while EGL stands for the Exclusive Game License. The Exclusive Game License is a type of licensing agreement used in the tabletop role-playing game industry that restricts the use of certain content to a specific publisher or company. Unlike the OGL, which allows for the creation and distribution of third-party content, the EGL restricts the use of certain content to a specific company or publisher, thereby limiting the flexibility and creativity of third-party content creators. The use of exclusive licenses is relatively rare in the tabletop role-playing game industry and is often seen as less permissive than open game licenses such as the OGL.
So what Did Wizards of the Coast do?
Wizards of the Coast, a subsidiary of super-toy-chain Hasbro, purchased the rights to Dungeons & Dragons backn in the mid 90s. Since then, they have been responsible for publishing new editions of the game and overseeing its development.
Under Hasbro, D&D has seen so many supplements been official launched. Check out our list of some of the best official D&D campaigns published for D&D.
The recent controversy surrounding Wizards of the Coast and the OGL stems from changes made by the company to the licensing agreement, which most of the members of the community (at least on Twitter) have seen as super restrictive.
Specifically, and as far as I’ve read, WotC sought to heavily restrict the use of certain terms, logos, and trademarks associated with D&D, as well as impose restrictions on the use of D&D-related character races, classes, and spells in third-party content. This, couple with a signifcant percent cut for all sales using any D&D related product, would significantly render third-party products as worthless to their original creators.
AFAIK, the changes have been met with mostly negative reactions, with a few supporting the company’s decision and mostly openly opposing it. Quickly I noticed a lot of people planning on boycotting WotC altogther.
Regardless of the outcome of the controversy, Wizards of the Coast will continue to play a significant role in shaping the future of D&D, but it seems it might lose a whole bunch of previously loyal creative followers.
Regardless of what happens regarding the OGL fallout, a silver-lining is likely to be that a large chunk of RPG gamers may have tried out different RPG systems!
Boycotting WotC? 5 Epic Alternative RPG Systems
Starfinder – This is one of my all time favorites, as its based on Pathfinder / D&D 3rd Ed. It’s a science fiction RPG set in a distant future, where players explore the galaxy and embark on missions as members of a starship crew. You can even play as a rat class!
The One Ring Roleplaying Game – A RPG set in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth, in which players take on the roles of characters living in the world of The Lord of the Rings.
13th Age – A fantasy RPG that blends classic tabletop gameplay with modern storytelling techniques and character customization options.
Genesys Roleplaying Game – A system-agnostic RPG that allows players to create stories in any genre, from fantasy to science fiction to historical fiction.
Dread – A horror RPG in which players create characters and embark on suspenseful and terrifying adventures. The game uses a unique mechanic in which players pull blocks from a tower, with the tension rising as the tower becomes more unstable.
Does Pathfinder Have an OGL?
Yes the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game kinda uses an open game license. The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game uses the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Compatibility License, which is similar to the Open Game License used by D&D. Like the OGL, the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Compatibility License allows third-party content creators to create and sell products compatible with the game. The use of open game licenses in the tabletop role-playing game industry has fostered a thriving ecosystem of third-party content and allowed for a thriving community of players and creators.
What is OGL Level?
The “OGL level” refers to the extent to which a product is covered by the Open Game License. In general, products that use the OGL are required to follow certain guidelines and include specific information, such as a statement of the product’s compatibility with the game, a list of material that is designated as Open Game Content, and a statement of the product’s copyright status. The OGL level of a product can vary depending on the amount of Open Game Content it contains, with products that contain more Open Game Content being considered to have a higher OGL level.