D&D in 2023 and the OGL

We look ahead to the future of D&D, Wizards of the Coast, the Open Gaming License, and this website.

DnD OGL meme

2023 has just begun and the apocalypse is upon the world of Dungeons and Dragons. Wizards of the Coast, the current owners of the D&D Intellectual Property, want to make more money; nothing wrong with that. But rather than make new and exciting products, it appears that they have decided to make money by stiffing its most hardcore fans and infuriating the entire roleplay community. Not a good plan.

What am I talking about? The Open Gaming License, or the OGL. The OGL is a huge reason for the popularity of the current edition of D&D. That and Stranger Things. Mostly Stranger Things.

The OGL is a simple legal document that allows anyone, including you and I, to create content that uses the basic rules of D&D, and then sell it, without owing a royalty to anyone, or worrying about violating some copyright issue. It is this OGL that has led to all the excellent third-party content that people enjoy in addition to the official D&D adventures. Matt Mercer’s Critical Role, Matt Colville’s MCDM Productions, Kobold Press, Pathfinder, Roll20, Fantasy Grounds, Drive-Thru RPG, hundreds of Kickstarter campaigns and a horde of smaller creators all exist thanks to the OGL.

Matt Colville Railroad
According to WotC, this is Public Enemy #1. God Bless you Matt Coville!

The OGL has been in effect for over 20 years and this influx of content creators frankly saved D&D. All this content is nothing but free advertising for the Wizards of the Coast and has the snowball effect of bringing in more players, selling more D&D products, and making WotC more money. Sure, these little guys make a little money, but it is nothing compared to the profits that WotC collected.

But now Wizards of the Coasts has allegedly decided that they want a piece of that pie too. And eliminate any competition, squeeze out the little guy, and stifle creativity. Despite promising that the OGL would never be revoked (and the fact that wording to this effect is in the OGL), WotC has announced that there will be major changes to the OGL. But then they said nothing about what those changes would be. Since then, numerous leaks have painted a very grim picture of the future of D&D.

If the leaks are true, WotC intends to reap a high royalty off the major third-party projects, rendering them unprofitable. Plus, they want to have full control over every project proposed, have the right to reject any project, and can plagiarize any project for themselves. They also own all rights attached to every product created, and can use that product anyway they desire without paying any money to the initial creator, i.e. you. Worse, it nullifies the previous OGL, and makes every product previously created using it invalid. There is a lot more to this, but if any of this is true, it would be terrible for the players, the D&D community, the D&D brand, and its parent companies, Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro.

I am not the best qualified person to speak on the legalities of this proposal. I’ve included several links that delve further into this unmitigated disaster.

Original Leak of the OGL

OGL Release Response LIVE!

Dungeon Craft Response to OGL

Open-Game-License-1-1-Leak  The link to a PDF of the leaked OGL.

Bear in mind, none of this is confirmed by WotC. But they are clearly aware of this situation and the longer they wait to give a response further reinforces that the worst is true. As I write this, WotC was supposed to release an official statement, but then had to cancel that statement due to the onslaught of negative feedback from the players.

The backlash that has come from the D&D community has been swift and harsh. Players are furious with this blatant example of corporate greed. People have been cancelling their D&D Beyond subscriptions (a key source of income for WotC) in droves. Some have sworn to never play D&D again, refusing to give another dime to a company that allegedly doesn’t give a crap about their own customers. The reactions to these rumors are 100% negative.

This is a public relations nightmare for the company. This is the type of event that gets a lot of people fired. I would not be surprised if there was not a major shake-up in upper management when the dust settles from this debacle. (Polish up that resume, Cynthia Williams.)

Lizards of the Coast
It’s usually a long process to rebrand a company. These guys did it in one week.

So, what does all this mean for D&D and this website. Truthfully, not much. Most players will still play D&D, blissfully unaware of the chaos in the company. And I will still write this blog to help those players. When the 6th edition of the game, called One D&D, comes out next year, I’ll look at it. But if it is as grossly focused on online content, subscription services, and microtransactions as it seems to be gearing up to be, I’ll give it a pass. I prefer my D&D as god Gygax intended, people at a table, playing a game using their minds, pens, paper, and dice; not cartoon avatars and purchasable skins. I don’t mind if that tabletop is virtual, but even if the players are thousands of miles away, they are still together in spirit.

I will still play D&D and I will still write about all my campaign diaries, including tips, advice, and supplemental materials used. I am about to begin a huge campaign in the Tomb of Annihilation, and I am really looking forward to it. I promise that I will complete the Wild Beyond the Witchlight and Dragon of Icespire Peak campaigns. Sadly, the campaign through Waterdeep: Dragon Heist has hit a hiatus (that post is almost done, stay tuned), but I will still give my advice on how to play through all four seasons, even if I can’t “play” it myself.

Tomb of Annihilation thumb
Can’t wait. Can’t wait. Can’t wait.

As for D&D, it will survive. Nothing can kill the greatest role-playing game in the world. No matter how many times the corporate weasels try. The OGL will probably be modified to something that is still bad, but not unholy horrible. A lot of new RPG systems will be invented and a lot of third-party creators will need your help and support. Including myself.

I have never monetized this website. It is not anything I’m opposed to, but I won’t do it useless I can control the nature of the income streams. No Viagra ads or bullshit pop-ups. I wouldn’t mind affiliate links or curated advertisements or a merch shop, but I honestly don’t even know where to begin. Any advice would be highly appreciated.

I’m not a huge fan of Patreon accounts that provide dubious content and “exclusive” access to the superstar creator, me. If you want to talk to me, write a comment. I have responded to every person who writes me. But I do like products. You pay money, you get something in return. That you own, with no subscription fees. I’ve always intended to create some D&D products, so that the few people who dig my stuff, can have something fun and useful. I’ve not been in a rush to actually make this stuff, but I have some ideas and I now need to accelerate my timetable.

I anticipate that the new OGL will still suck, but that the old OGL will still be honored. Provided that I have stated my intent to use the old OGL before the new one goes into effect. Since that might be as early as tomorrow, allow me to present my intended upcoming products to be produced… soon. They may be on Drive-Thru RPG or even a Kickstarter, but I will keep you posted as they are created, and I would truly appreciate your support. i.e. Buy my stuff. As soon as I make it, that is.

The Travelling Adventurer – Too many adventures have the players leave home and safely arrive wherever the dungeon happens to be. You might have one or two “random” encounters along the way, but they all have the same problem. They are boring! And they never impress upon the players that the world is really dangerous, which is what they are supposed to do. The Travelling Adventurer will be a series of small encounter scenarios that can be dropped into any campaign to spice up the journey from Point A to Point B. Playable as a one-shot or half a session, there are adventures based in all types of terrain, from elven forests to murky swamps, desolate valleys to majestic mountains, and even urban settings; sometimes just getting across town is an adventure. Scalable to any party level, you’ll make your players regret even thinking about leaving home.

Dragon Tower: A Movie Monster Mash-Up – A module-sized adventure, for levels 4-6, this is the full write-up of the adventure I ran my players through when one of them wanted a unique player home and turn it into a zoo. The Dragon Tower has lain abandoned, casting its sinister shadow upon the town for decades. No one who has ever entered has ever returned. Will you be the first to break the curse? The keys required to unlock its secrets are hidden behind several portals, each leading to a different biome, filled with monsters, traps, and puzzles, where each land is ruled by a classic Movie Monster, such as A Teenage Werewolf, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Mummy, and Frankenstein’s Monster. Fully meta and tongue in cheek, your players will either emerge victorious or die laughing. Or screaming. Either works.

Dragon Tower 2; More Monster, More Mash – What does any great movie adventure need? A sequel. For levels 6-8. A new key opens up a new portal, filled with new lands, new puzzles, and new classic monsters. Like The Headless Horseman, The Blob, King Kong, and the OG vamp himself, Dracula. And you thought Strahd was bad. More fun, more meta, more everything. Except originality.

The Sands of Sorrow – A full-sized campaign level adventure. For levels 1-15. Travel to the mystic dunes in the Lands of Intrigue. A land of oppressive heat, and impressive wealth. If you can survive long enough to seize it. The desert hides many treasures buried among its shifting sands. Tombs to plunder, tribes to conquer, and genies to barter with, all at your peril. Is that an oasis, or a mirage, or will you become the next victim buried in the sand? Inspired by the incredible OSR adventure, The Desert of Desolation series.

Doomsday Destiny or Apocalypse Soon – An end game adventure for very high-level characters 15-20. Another campaign level adventure to run after you’ve saved the world in one of the other campaign adventures. Could stand alone or played directly after the events of the prior adventure.

Roleplayers Guide to Ancient Cultures – This is a system-neutral book that will give ideas and inspirations about running campaigns in various cultural settings. What was life really like in a medieval kingdom? Or a Viking Village? Feudal Japan? Celtic England? Pre-Columbian America? Ancient Rome, Greece, or Egypt? A basic premier to bring new flavor to your standard RPG setting. With just enough stats to feel like a sourcebook

The RPG Almanac – Another system-neutral book that is a compilation of all the tips, tricks, and advice that I’ve hidden in 4 years’ worth of meandering blog posts and a dense resource pages. All the good stuff, none of the blather. Maybe, a little blather.

There are a few other adventure ideas that I might pursue such as The Mere of Dead Lizard-Men (swamp) and The Seas of Discontent (ocean). The links below just go to the various PDFs proving that I had these plans on this date: January 12, 2023.

Apocalypse Soon OGL

Doomsday Destiny OGL

Dragon Tower 2 OGL

Dragon Tower OGL

Mere of Dead Lizardmen OGL

Roleplayers Guide to Ancient Cultures OGL

Sands of Sorrow OGL

Seas of Discontent OGL

The RPG Almanac OGL

The Travelling Adventurer OGL

I hope that the fears of this horrible OGL prove to be unfounded and that WotC can repair the damage already done and D&D can go back to business as usual. I do not have any hatred for WotC and I will always be grateful to them for saving D&D, I just pray that they can now save themselves (from themselves). But I still look forward to the coming year, playing, and writing about, my favorite game. I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject and your opinions of my plans moving forward. Let make this a huge conversation and bring our tight-knit community even closer.

As always, fingers crossed, and Game On!

17 thoughts on “D&D in 2023 and the OGL

  1. Honestly, I was always surprised the OGL got corporate approval in the first place, good for the game or not, so the fact they’re trying to walk it back is only a surprise because I thought they’d have tried to do it years ago. Someone needs to explain what happened to Sony and the Betamax tape to them, but corporations are prone to certain kinds of mistakes.

    The real thing that worries me is the shift towards online content in One D&D, I like my physical books.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Incredibly, this is similar to how TSR’s pursuit of money, and refusal to care about the players that led to their downfall all ultimate sale to WotC. They should know better. I’ll bet that this decision came from the suits at Hasbro, who, like other greedy suits before, have no idea what this product is or understand their customers. As for One D&D, there will still be physical books, but the focus and support will all be online for an additional subscription fee.

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    2. The OGL was created by the creatives at WotC who cared about fan support and understood the game. Not lawyers and corporate weasels who only care about money. When they made the OGL, WotC was independent and not owned by anyone. They knew what they were doing.

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  2. Don’t forget WoTC is just a small cog in the Hasbro machine. Their book designing model (hiring a bunch of freelancers, each working on a specific thing + careless editing) irritates me a lot more than anything they could do to make more money. I understand the consternation but, like shikomekidomu said, what did you expect? Subscriptions and steady income is what big corporate wants nowadays.

    And Rich, you will have a busy year! Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Completely right, as always. Thanks for being with me from the start. I told my wife that if I win the Mega Millions then I’m buying Hasbro or at least WotC and then fire every single weasel responsible for this dumpster fire.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Rich,
    I would be very interested in The Travelling Adventurer, especially if you put it up on Kickstarter.
    Keep up with the blog, am enjoying it.
    Regards,
    Ian…..

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Happy new year Rich.

    With everything that is continuing to come out of Wizards about the OGL, it will be interesting to see where it lands. I do agree though that Hasbro’s statement recently about D&D being under-monetised is worrying about how they are going to try to squeeze more money out of people who have already bought books and potentially licensed minis.

    I have to say though Rich, more than that I am looking forward to more of your actual play reports. Both as a player and as a DM. It’s very engaging stuff and gives a real feel of being there at the table with you guys. Tomb of Annihilation would be fun to read along with.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Nils, I will still do my D&D diaries, for free forever if need be, since most players have no idea about this controversy and will still need support. I’m a leave no player behind kind of DM. Thanks for always being there with me.

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  5. I love your adventure ideas. If you do need cartography done for the adventures, I would recommend this guy: https://dysonlogos.blog/about/. He does great maps, and may even already have the one you need. If not, I do know he does commissions. I have never seen so many maps in one place. I have been on his blog for several months now, and I know that I haven’t lookeed at all his maps yet. He was actually responsible for the maps in the Eberon and Theros sourcebooks, and did the maps for Dragon heist, and a ton of other stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Really surprised that WoTC (Hasbro) don’t explore other revenue options, like minis, GM screens for specific campaigns, rather than this landlord licensing and focus on digital content. Will be watching closely where this ends up with recent announcements.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The trouble with books in WotC’s eyes is that outside the core books, only the DM buys all the other stuff, like screens, minis, and adventures. But in the digital realm, they can charge every player for every item.
      Also, the profit margin is higher. To physically print each books costs about $10, probably less. But a PDF costs nothing, therefore more $.
      But the real money is in monthly subscription fees and micro transactions. From Every Single Player. FOREVER!

      Like

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