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Leaked Open Game License Agreement For ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ Reportedly Forbids Bigoted And Discriminatory Content On New And Old Products

A leaked new OGL for Wizards of the Coast's Dungeons & Dragons forbids licensees from publishing any content deemed bigoted or discriminatory. 

A leaked new Open Game License (OGL) for Wizards of the Coast’s Dungeons & Dragons forbids licensees from publishing any content deemed bigoted or discriminatory.

A game in progress, as shown in One D&D - World Reveal Trailer via Dungeons & Dragons YouTube
A game in progress, as shown in One D&D – World Reveal Trailer via Dungeons & Dragons YouTube

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The OGL allowed others to utilize some aspects of Dungeons & Dragons in their own tabletop games — physical or digital. It allows others to use the rules, races, creatures, settings, and more — royalty free.

Paizo’s Pathfinder is an example of this, though published by Wizards of the Coast (WotC). In another case Solasta: Crown of the Magister — an RPG video game by Tactical Adventures — uses the OGL’s System Reference Document (SRD) to use Dungeons & Dragons’ 5th Edition rules (5e). SRD is also utilized in player-published homebrew campaigns and rules.

The Dragon Queen Takhisis attacks a group of soldiers with a Red Dragon. Art by Katerina Landon for Dungeons & Dragons Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen (2022), Wizards of the Coast

The report comes via Gizmodo, citing a leaked draft of the OGL version 1.1 obtained by a “non-WotC developer.” Dated mid-December, it states the 1.0 version is “no longer an authorized license agreement,” and all new content must abide the 1.1 terms.

This means all content, new and even old, will need to be reported to WotC, and comply. “No matter what [Commercial] Tier You are in or how much money You believe Your product will make, You must register with Us any new Licensed Work You intend to offer for sale… including a description of the Licensed Work,” WotC states.

The trio comes face to face with their final opponent in a Japanese Dungeons & Dragon commercial presented during Wizards Presents 2022 - Dungeons & Dragons | Magic: The Gathering via D&D Beyond YouTube
The trio comes face to face with their final opponent in a Japanese Dungeons & Dragon commercial presented during Wizards Presents 2022 – Dungeons & Dragons | Magic: The Gathering via D&D Beyond YouTube

“We’ll also ask for Your contact information, information on where You intend to publish the Licensed Work, and its price, among other things.” Previously, creators didn’t need to seek WotC’s approval. Gizmodo theorizes smaller creators will have the most hindrance, especially when multiple platforms and works are concerned. 

One of the new terms is that WotC can terminate agreements with third parties using the OGL to publish material that is “blatantly racist, sexist, homophobic, trans-phobic, bigoted or otherwise discriminatory.” Yet, the creator must also make clear what is “their content” from WotC’s “licensed content” within the created works.

A Beholder keenly observes its pet goldfish, via Dungeons & Dragons: Xanathar’s Guide to Everything (2017), Wizards of the Coast

Likewise, the mention of “perpetual, worldwide, non-exclusive license” from OGL 1.0 is gone, and in its place WotC “can modify or terminate this agreement for any reason whatsoever, provided We give thirty (30) days’ notice.” Instead, it’s WoTC that gain “nonexclusive, perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, sub-licensable, royalty-free license to use that content for any purpose.”

This applies to anything licensees create- Commercial or Non-Commercial.

A mother giant space hamster prepares to defend her child in Wizards Presents 2022 - Dungeons & Dragons | Magic: The Gathering via D&D Beyond YouTube
A mother giant space hamster prepares to defend her child in Wizards Presents 2022 – Dungeons & Dragons | Magic: The Gathering via D&D Beyond YouTube

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The leaked document has also been somewhat legitimized. Later the OGL 1.1 states those making over $750,000 a year must pay WotC 25% of the excess, but only 20% if funded via Kickstarter, WotCs’ “preferred crowdfunding platform.” A “more custom (and mutually beneficial) licensing arrangement” for those who have “achieved great success” was also mentioned.

Kickstarter’s Director of Games, Jon Ritter, addressed the matter on Twitter. “Kickstarter was contacted after WoTC decided to make OGL changes,” Ritter reveals, “so we felt the best move was to advocate for creators, which we did. Managed to get lower % plus more being discussed. No hidden benefits / no financial kickbacks for KS. This is their license, not ours, obviously.”

Jon Ritter insists Wizards of the Coast demanding less royalties for Kickstarter backed games using Dungeons & Dragons' OGL was down to pure negotiation, not illicit kickbacks or the like via Twitter
Jon Ritter insists Wizards of the Coast demanding less royalties for Kickstarter backed games using Dungeons & Dragons’ OGL was down to pure negotiation, not illicit kickbacks or the like via Twitter

Since 2020, some have tried to pin claims of racism against Dungeons & Dragons. This began with op-eds from hobby journalists claiming orcs, and their inherent evil nature, were negative stereotypes of black people.

Principle Rules Designer Jeremy Crawford confirmed two months later that recent changes- removing orc’s evil alignment and intelligence penalty- “reflect where our hearts are and indicate where we’re heading.”

Orcs as depicted in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

Since then we’ve seen sensitivity readers reviewing campaigns, trigger warnings, begging for feedback from fans “who may have been underrepresented historically,” removing races for lineages, entirely removing negative traits from orcs and kobolds, and adding a wheelchair accessible dungeon,

2021 had the removal of “problematic lore” deemed to be offensive stereotypes- such as roleplaying races who engage in slavery, supremacism, blindly following powerful or charismatic leaders, ritual sacrifice, and cannibalism. Paizo also announced they would remove any depiction of slavery from Pathfinder

Two human slaves are dragged off by the underlings of the Drow, deeper into the Underdark via Into the Darklands We Trod (2008), Paizo Inc, Jacob Burgess

This seemed to do little, as WotC were still accused of racism when their new One D&D edition launched. WotC would later remove the monkey-like Hadozee race, after them also being accused of a black racist stereotype and lore being compatible African slave trade.

Race was fully removed from Dungeons & Dragons on December 1st last year, due to being “a problematic term that has had prejudiced links between real world people and the fantasy peoples of D&D worlds.”

A trio of Hadozee, as seen in What is Spelljammer: Adventures in Space? | D&D Direct via Dungeons & Dragons YouTube
A trio of Hadozee, as seen in What is Spelljammer: Adventures in Space? | D&D Direct via Dungeons & Dragons YouTube

The draft OGL 1.1 document has other issues for creators as well. WotC note that the OGL was not intended to “subsidize” or “fund major competitors,” nor for “anything other than printed (or printable) materials for use while gaming.”

As such, anything outside of printed media or “static electronic file formats” will need the “Wizards of the Coast Fan Content Policy or separately agreed” with WotC. 

The Knights of Solamnia march to their duty via Dungeons & Dragons Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen (2022), Wizards of the Coast
The Knights of Solamnia march to their duty. Art by Daarken for Dungeons & Dragons Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen (2022), Wizards of the Coast

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Larger licensed publishers are reportedly scrambling to meet the leaked terms, which have grown from less than 900 words, to over 9,000. The document also allegedly stated “if you want to publish SRD-based content on or after January 13, 2023 and commercialize it, your only option is to agree to the OGL: Commercial.”

The OGL 1.1 draft was reportedly intended to launch on January 4th, with a mere seven business days for all related parties to meet the new terms. 

Paizo declined to give comment to Gizmodo, but added the new terms were (in Gizmodo’s words) a complicated and ongoing situation. Green Ronin Publishing’s founder and President, Chris Pramas, stated that he had not even seen the updated OGL, and felt there couldn’t be “any benefit to switching to the new one as described.”

A barbarian fends off a sabertooth-tiger via Pathfinder Quest For Frozen Flame Adventure Path Trailer
A barbarian fends off a sabertooth-tiger via Pathfinder Quest For Frozen Flame Adventure Path Trailer

Changes to the OGL have been a topic of hot debate for months. In November 2022, an alleged leak claimed WotC wasn’t going to continue making a new SRD for One D&D

In a statement to Comicbook.com, WotC insisted they would “continue to support the thousands of creators making third-party D&D content with the release of One D&D in 2024.” They also stated the OGL would “continue to evolve,” but they were unabale to give specifics with the early development of One D&D. 

A group of villagers walk through the forest, oblivious they are about to be ambushed by dragonborn by Ralph Horsley for Dungeons & Dragons Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen (2022) via Artstation
A group of villagers walk through the forest, oblivious they are about to be ambushed by dragonborn. Art by Ralph Horsley for Dungeons & Dragons Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen (2022) via Artstation

Following comments by WotC CEO and President Cynthia Williams in early December 2022 — stating Dungeons & Dragons was “really under monetised“— fans grew concerned for the franchise’ future. Finally, a statement was offered via D&D Beyond’s blog (a digital toolset for 5e). 

In summation — and specifically noting they wished to address “rumors and misunderstandings” — WotC stated One D&D would be covered by OGL 1.1 and include an SRD, delivered in early 2023 and once One D&D had finished development respectively.

The Dragon Queen Takhisis’ Dragon Army marches forth, with a Red Dragon in tow. Art by Evyn Fong for Dungeons & Dragons Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen (2022), Wizards of the Coast

WotC noted at the time they wanted the OGL to avoid “allowing things like third-parties to mint D&D NFTs and large businesses to exploit our intellectual property.” Also matching with the leaked document, they stated the OGL would only apply to printed media and static electronic files.

Further, there would be different terms for “free, share-alike content and creators who want to sell their products.” There were some elements different from the leaked mid-December OGL 1.1, which predates the late December blogpost.

A surreal structure rises out of the ground amid ruins, surrounded by sand, some water, and cliffs. Dragoconic creatures fly around the spire. Art by Julian Kok Joon Wen for Dungeons & Dragons Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen (2022), Wizards of the Coast
A surreal structure rises out of the ground amid ruins, surrounded by sand, some water, and cliffs. Dragoconic creatures fly around the spire. Art by Julian Kok Joon Wen for Dungeons & Dragons Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen (2022), Wizards of the Coast

For example, WotC also noted OGL-related revenue would need to be reported if it was over $50,000 a year, but royalties would only be demanded from those making over $750,000 a year from 2024 onwards. They noted that less than 20 creators worldwide would be affected by the latter, and promised creators would find “very little is going to change from what you’re already used to.”

“Bottom line: The OGL is not going away,” WotC reassured. “You will still be able to create new D&D content, publish it anywhere, and game with your friends and followers in all the ways that make this game and community so great.”

Five adventurers, one of them a sorcereress, examine the corpse of a Red Dragon amid the burning ruins of farm houses by Kieran Yanner for Dungeons & Dragons Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen (2022) via Artstation
Five adventurers, one of them a sorceress, examine the corpse of a Red Dragon amid the burning ruins of farm houses by Kieran Yanner for Dungeons & Dragons Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen (2022) via Artstation

“The thousands of creators publishing across Kickstarter, DMsGuild, and more are a critical part of the D&D experience, and we will continue to support and encourage them to do that through One D&D and beyond.” As aforementioned, OGL 1.0 agreement is now unauthorized.

When Gizmodo asked WotC for a statement and about the leaked OGL, they linked them back to the D&D Beyond blogpost.

The leaked OGL 1.1 document does have WotC admitting if they do upset their consumers and licensees, they know they “will receive community pushback and bad PR, and We’re more than open to being convinced that We made a wrong decision.”

Armies clash as the sky turns blood red, and a Red Dragon and its rider scorches the unfortunate souls beneath. Art by Dominik Mayer for Dungeons & Dragons Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen (2022), Wizards of the Coast
Armies clash as the sky turns blood red, and a Red Dragon and its rider scorches the unfortunate souls beneath. Art by Dominik Mayer for Dungeons & Dragons Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen (2022), Wizards of the Coast

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