New Dungeons and Dragons license less sleazy than I believed?

After hinting that the new Dungeons and Dragons license would be aimed at phasing out the older open licenses, Wizards of the Coast have published more details suggesting that this won't be embodied in the license itself (though they haven't published the license or its terms of use yet):
Q. Do I have to give up my right to publish 3.5 OGL products in order to publish 4e compatible products?

A. No. Publishers are free to print product lines under either the OGL or 4E GSL. We would love to see our industry colleagues convert their entire product offerings to 4E, as we are doing, but we do not expect or require entire companies to convert to the new edition.

Link (Thanks, Michael!)

See also: Sleazy proposed new Dungeons and Dragons license seeks to poison open gaming systems


  1. This is a good development. Now, whether or not Hasbro changed the licence behind the scenes in the past week (which would explain the week-long silence on the issue) to address concerns after this got on BoingBoing, Slashdot, and to the eyes of Richard Stallman, we’ll never know.

    Still, they eventually decided to clarify it and not “poison pill” the OGL, so, awesome.

  2. The gaming sites (enworld, notably) had this clarification from a prospective 3rd party at about the time the furor erupted. The question remains whether this a total ban on dual-badging: We know that a product can’t be released as 4e/3.xd20-inclusive or in two versions, but we are currently unclear as to whether a product can contain two rulesets at all (most commonly the publishing company’s general ruleset (GoO before they folded published a number of Tri-Stat dX/d20 co-stated supplements) or special ruleset for that game (Godlike had a d20 section in the back, there was at least one UA adventure published that included full d20 stats)). Loss of the ability to publish like that would not be helpful to the smaller systems out there.

  3. Still sounds like it might be best to make 3.5 products and 4.0 compatible products to avoid being bound to their 4.0 license.

  4. This part is still nasty —

    Q. Can publishers release new products under both the OGL and 4E GSL?

    A. No. Each new product will be either OGL or 4E GSL. If a new product is published under the 4e GSL, it cannot also be published as 3.x product under the OGL; and vice versa.

    — though I suppose it depends on the definition of “product”. (For digital products, it might not be a big deal; for paper products, it sounds likely to suck.)

  5. I guess the definition of product is just in term of SKU.

    It suck they can’t have one product to do both, but they likely can have 2 different editions, one for each ruleset. That’s my understanding.

  6. -Hubert-

    Q. Can publishers release new products under both the OGL and 4E GSL?
    A. No. Each new product will be either OGL or 4E GSL. If a new product is published under the 4e GSL, it cannot also be published as 3.x product under the OGL; and vice versa.

    Not quite, at least by the terms of the GSL. To do both, you will have to make your 4th E compatible versions non-GSL.

    Which, since the GSL is a revocable license, is probably the way to go anyway:
    “Q) Is the GSL a perpetual license, or is it revocable by WotC for reasons other than violation?

    A. The Game System License Is revocable as it is tied to the D&D trademark and other intellectual property. Because of this Wizards needs to maintain control of the license.”

  7. I find it interesting a company should use this ‘minor leak’ system for anything they do. “Hey Joe Leak the idea we had for making companies only publish under one licence” “Sure Boss” Forums go nuts the screaming and yelling is heard around the world. “Hmmm okay best not do that! Issue a FAQ: We never said that!”

  8. The main thing that sucks about the new license is that there doesn’t appear to actually be any open content anymore — just pointers into the proprietary core books. So we can’t have this anymore.

  9. Has anyone actually looked at 4th ed? I think it’s really LAME. Especially LAME are the new races. I don’t plan on throwing away the masters degree I had to get in 3.5 for the sake of playing something new. I think the best response to all this would be to just not buy it.

  10. I think people are a little to quick to rush to panic on this one. The OGL isn’t going anywhere, several companies have openly said they are sticking with 3.5 regardless of 4E. I think people need to take a breath and just see how this pans out. The hird party publishers have pretty much declared their intentions one way or another at this point.

  11. Have you seen 4th edition, David? I’m guessing from your comment that you’re not one of the developers that paid for early access, so that response seems a little premature. Yes they’ve been releasing teasers here and there, but that’s a far cry from the full edition.

    I am having a difficult time being so cynical about Wizards of the Coast. I mean, I can understand how people can feel offended that another new edition is coming out only a couple years after the previous one. I recognize parent-company Hasbro is a big-C Corporation responsible for such evils as My Little Pony. But I’ve been following the updates and I feel like the developers are genuinely excited about this release – more than just corporate PR. I trust that they’re generally trying to do the right thing. People seem to be ready to pounce on them for even the slightest perceived misstep, and they’ve handled it with nothing but class. I have to respect that.

    The license issue is a little tricky, though – it’s hard for me as a player to appreciate the implications. My understanding is that the GSL is explicitly tied to “core” D&D, and part of the philosophy there is that they’re trying to make all products interoperable. I like that a lot personally, but it necessarily means pruning each developer’s ability to craft their own variant rules. There will also be a new Open Gaming License that will presumably be much less restrictive to allow for variations on the theme. They did say the new OGL would be for “non-fantasy” d20 games, which is a bit of an oxymoron. Hopefully they’ll be flexible about that – I think there’s plenty of room for even close cousins.

  12. as Mike above said, this is NOT the new Open Gaming License. This is a special, Quality Controlled, 4th edition compatible license, not the 4.0 version of the OGL.

    Wizards stated this is a reply to a bunch of publishers of OGL material piggybacking poor products onto D&D 3.0 / 3.5 under OGL. They want more control of what is tied in with the D&D brand name for the publishers who create content intended to go into a D&D game, not just generic fantasy or other games built using their system. This allows publishers to use their special mark for D&D 4.0 compatibility, but the license is a bit more restrictive. I do think when we get the new OGL, It’ll be better managed. I hope they talk about power design and such, and instead of having to convert from modern, their OGL SRD talks about different settings (Like, different skill / feat sets for fantasy/modern/etc….

  13. “There will also be a new Open Gaming License that will presumably be much less restrictive to allow for variations on the theme.”

    Ehm, you got a source for that? Because from what I’ve read so far (Which might be lacking, I haven’t been following things THAT closely.) they explicitly said that there will not be a new Open Gaming License and that, at most, we’ll get a different version of the GSL that allows non-fantasy material, à la d20 Modern, but that will presumably be just as limited and revocable as the fantasy GSL.

    So far, I have heard nothing about them bringing us a new OGL and everything about them explicitly abandoning the idea of open gaming in favor of a “royalty-free license” they can revoke “to protect their IP”.

  14. I’m playing 4th edition under an NDA that prevents me saying anything specific about the rules, but I can and will say it’s the most fun I’ve ever had playing D&D. As far as the game goes, it’s great and I expect it will quickly take over the D&D world assuming they don’t completely bork the licensing.

    As far as the licensing: WotCs position is very difficult; in this age when traditional copyright models are becoming increasingly misfit to out technological state, they produce a tricky product copyright-wise (game rules and source material) that obviously benefits if it’s easy for others to expand and build upon it, but they obviously want to keep control of the base so as to make money off it. Essentially a wildly inflated version of the same IP issues faced by other industries.
    In the past, their attempts to navigate these tricky waters have involved a great deal of lurching madly about before settling on a more or less reasonable course. So I’m inclined to cut them a bit of slack, and not get too excited until we wait and see where things wind up.

  15. OK, I’m not going with my page-and-a-half-at-10-pt.-font-and-1-inch-margins (I checked) rant on this thing, at least not unless I’m asked, but I’ll just say this: I’m still wondering if this will provide any protection to fans who aren’t publishing commercially, or if Wizards will revert to being one of the companies like Palladium where fans don’t always publish material for the company’s system even if it wouldn’t harm the game in the marketplace because of fears over C&Ds and legal action.

    The pencil-and-paper RPG market is fairly small as gaming sectors go, and the fanbase is mostly developed by a small cadre of outspoken, true fans who love to publish their own stuff, so penalizing those fans for being fans via legal threats tends to diminish the size of the fanbase for a game over time, as they quite evangelizing the game and recommend other systems instead. The rest of the fanbase tends to need regular influxes of new material, and requires it to be of a variety that it makes it impossible for the small number of publishers to provide it all, so unlike in the computer gaming world, saving some sectors like the competitive FPS genre, fan-made works for the game are often a critical part of support for the game as a whole, even before new players brought in by the aformentioned true fans are taken into account.

    This is one of the reasons I’m really skeptical of Wizards’ actions so far, and am disgusted with their marketing plan in general; they want to act all open, but the most glaring, important things to know are left unstated unless the fanbase gets up in arms about it. I suppose we could call it “Decision by Ranting Crowd” marketing. I get that the developers are excited, but frankly, they’re the developers; if anyone is going to be excited, it will be them and the portion of the fanbase that finds anything new for their favorite game to be A Good Thing.

  16. I’m glad to see this topic revisited. I was rather surprised to see people jumping on the paranoia bandwagon on the last post. I never really understood all the suspicion of WotC trying to rip people off, or whatever the current fear is, but to me it just seems like they’re trying to release a new, interesting, and better game. If you’re hesitant to switch, that’s fine, but I’d encourage you to reserve final judgement until the product is in your hands.

  17. @17: Personally, I think with the new edition coming up you have to separate two things: The criticism of the actual game and the criticism of the proposed licensing.

    The people hesitant to switch are in the “criticism of the game” camp, whether they don’t like what they’ve heard so far, think they already have enough 3.5 material that they don’t need a new system, whatever.

    The other camp, though, is what is talked about here or at the earlier “paranoia bandwagon”, and that’s IMO something that’s much more important and much more relevant to the gaming hobby as a whole, so “paranoia” (Personally, I’d say “healthy skepticism” in most cases.) is much more called for.

    After all, if the game sucks and (some) people don’t play it, whoopdedoo, whatever. Doesn’t really matter all that much to the hobby in general. (Although I have a hard time believing that, both because it’s D&D, the gorilla-in-the-gaming-room and because it’s WotC/Hasbro, the company with the biggest marketing budget in the hobby. Not to mention that much of what I’ve heard sounds pretty cool.)

    But the licensing, that’s important because it can have a huge influence on what the hobby in general looks like. Looking back at the d20 “bubble”, the original dedication to “open gaming” changed the hobby immensely, both negatively (By flooding the market by huge amounts of badly produced and written supplements.) and positively. (By giving many new designers the chance to tap into the gaming market with an established property to use and play with, thus creating many new companies or giving existing ones new chances. It also gave us one of the most-used open license for gaming system that many independent systems use now.)

    So whichever way you swing as far as D&D-the-game is concerned (I’m not a D&D player myself.), what WotC decide to do with their license is something that can potentially make big waves, both positively and negatively, for the hobby in general. So the massive reaction to the original “poison pill” situation is, IMO, at the very least understandable.

  18. @16 Maybe I’m not reading this right, but are you saying that virtually all D&D fans either publish their own stuff or need more and more diverse material than is published by WotC? Maybe the sample of people I know is not representational, but most players I know don’t use a lot of stuff that isn’t either official WotC stuff or homebrew non-published stuff.

    That said, I certainly want the licensing to allow as much latitude as possible. I’m all for independent content, but what I’ve read so far doesn’t give me a great deal of concern.

  19. Mord: WotC has traditionally published only a few adventures per year. So a lot of GMs end up relying on third party sources to fill the gaps or otherwise deal with problems that present themselves… The list of the commonly referenced third parties for a while included Dungeon, though it was licensed from WotC, because it was published by Paizo. But a lot of those third party sources take stuff freelance. Without those freelancers, the 3PP sources don’t do so hot, as they’re stuck having difficulty producing huge numbers of adventures per year. Neither will WotC in the DDI era, as they’ll be needing those same freelancers even more than they do now. And the best way to learn how to write a professional-grade adventure is to write them and publish them. So allowing fans to publish material helps keep the talent pool of good writers topped up. Suing the potential members of that pool is bad mojo, in part because they’re often the most influential types (the ones who decide their friends are playing D&D and not Rifts, Shadowrun, World of Darkness, or any of a hundred other games) but also because you’re destroying your own talent pool of contributors.

    And while any given GM may stick to WotC’s published material, the number of games out there means a diverse amount of material is needed, because not all groups want to play what’s given to them by WotC. Other GMs which roll their own may derive inspiration or simply look for convenient material to swipe from what’s easily available and those which stick to WotC sources may do the same when their backs are against the wall and they need to find something on the fly but don’t want to make it up. Do a majority of GMs choose WotC stuff? Yeah. However, the popularity of certain books probably indicates that not all groups go for the same type of campaigns. In fact I can think of 4-5 relatively successful third party companies in the 3.x era who primarily focused on adventures and who tended to have quite widely differing styles, from old-school dungeon crawls to modern site-based adventure paths, all of which tended to range somewhat far from WotC’s own house style. Look at the massive split between FR players, Greyhawk players, and Eberron players… many groups which play in one setting don’t play adventures for the other two settings. So already WotC’s own market is comprised of 3 groups which don’t like to interact. That should say that the market still supports a diverse range of play, but WotC’s need for huge numbers probably keeps them from publishing anything more than a small number of adventures.

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