Wizards Get Creative, Maybe Save The World

While it’s not normal Hackaday fare, we’ve covered the Dungeons & Dragons licensing kerfuffle, partially because we’re all nerds at heart, and also because it’s worrying that an Open Source styled license could be “deauthorized”. I did touch base with the Open Source Initiative, and got a telling comment that this issue was outside their purview, as the OGL 1.0a didn’t rise to the definition of an OSI approved license, and the update looked to be a disaster.

Since our coverage was published, Wizards of the Coast released part of the Fifth Edition System reference Document (SRD) under a Creative Commons license, removed the profit sharing language from the OGL update, but notably left the language in place about deauthorizing the 1.0a version of the license. As you can imagine, fans were still unamused, and we informed WotC of our displeasure when they launched a survey, asking fans their thoughts on the new license.

And the outpouring was overwhelming, with over 15,000 survey responses in just over a week. The vast majority (90% for some questions) informed WotC that they had lost their collective minds. That response, combined with a plummeting subscription count on DND Beyond, Paizo’s explosion of popularity and new ORC license announcement, and the plethora of publishers jumping ship, has finally shone the light of reason upon management at WotC.

The latest announcement is a win in basically every regard. The OGL 1.0a will not be deauthorized, and the entire 5e SRD has been released under the Creative Commons 4.0 By Attribution license. That’s an interesting choice, as CC-BY-4.0 is a very permissive license. It’s not “viral”, as it does not place any licensing restrictions on derivative works, and there are no restrictions on commercial use. The only restriction is that attribution must be included. The latest SRD is now available under both licenses, you pick your preference. So as a reward for going through the trauma, we get a sizable chunk of the game under an even less restrictive license. Bravo.

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Wizards Slay The Dragon That Lays The Golden Egg

Hail, and well met adventurers! There’s rumors of dark dealings, and mysterious machinations from that group of Western mystics, Wizards of the Coast (WotC). If this pernicious plot is allowed to succeed, a wave of darkness will spread over this land of Open Source gaming, the vile legal fog sticking to and tainting everything it touches. Our quest today is to determine the truth of these words, and determine a defense for the world of open gaming, and indeed perhaps the entire free world! Beware, the following adventure will delve into the bleak magic of licensing, contract law, and litigation.

Ah, Dungeons and Dragons. The original creation of Gary Gygax, refined by countless others, this table-top role-playing game has brought entertainment and much more to millions of players for years. In 2000, WotC made a decision that opened the mechanics of that universe to everyone. The 3rd Edition of Dungeons and Dragons was released under the Open Gaming License, a very intentional port of Open Source licensing to table-top gaming — obviously inspired by the GNU Public License. Ryan Dancey was one of the drivers behind the new approach, and made this statement about it:

I think there’s a very, very strong business case that can be made for the idea of embracing the ideas at the heart of the Open Source movement and finding a place for them in gaming. […] One of my fundamental arguments is that by pursuing the Open Gaming concept, Wizards can establish a clear policy on what it will, and will not allow people to do with its copyrighted materials. Just that alone should spur a huge surge in independent content creation that will feed into the D&D network.

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