If you're even vaguely aware of the TTRPG space, then you've heard of the disaster that is going on with Wizards of the Coast and Dungeons & Dragons over the past 2 weeks. It was leaked that Wizards was going to be releasing a new version of their OGL, the Open Gaming License. This license is what has allowed a ton of content creators and 3rd party publishers to create and monetize content for D&D and it has been around for over 20 years. In the leaks of the new version, most of that is in jeopardy.
The leaked OGL intends to replace and revoke the previous version that entire businesses and game systems have been built around. It will replace it with a version that means even a small indie creator who makes $50,000 a year off of OGL related products will have to report their earnings to Wizards. If you're a larger company, or even have a very successful Kickstarter and make over $750,000 in a year, they will be taking 25% of it in royalties (20% if it happens to be from a Kickstarter project). This is a percentage of revenue, not profit. This is bad for any business with heavy expenses (like paying staff, artists, and producing physical books) but is exceptionally bad for Kickstarters. I've backed a few projects on Kickstarter and talked to some creators who have done successful Kickstarters. They aren't exactly flush with cash. So much of what they raise goes towards actually buying making the product that they crowd funded. This will hurt, if not outright kill, the 3rd party market for D&D. And that is Wizards plan.
It wasn’t intended to subsidize major competitors.
They say that it wasn't intended to subsidize major competitors, yet it has been standing for over 20 years. Their largest competitor, Paizo, released Pathfinder in 2009. If this license wasn't intended to allow a major publisher to operate, why has it been allowed for the last 14 years? Better yet, Pathfinder released their Second Edition rules back in 2019. While they include the OGL in it, Michael Sayre, a design manager at Paizo, has stated that it was mostly done for cost and protection of themselves and the freelancers they work with as well as 3rd party publishers who want to make compatible products. He feels that they could make minor changes to the content of the system to release it without the OGL. So who are the major competitors that Wizards of the Coast is suddenly worried about?
It has been a bit more behind the scenes at Adventures in Erylia, but over the last year, I have really been embracing more 3rd party content for D&D. There was a time where I fancied myself a budding designer and wanted to create everything homebrew that I felt was missing for our game. I've since accepted that I just don't have the time to get a usable subsystem out and I have embraced that others have already done the work, probably better than I could.
To create better loot pools for creatures that the players encounter, I have picked up the Monster Loot series by Anne Gregerson. To make mundane, martial oriented items more interesting we have Heavyarms' Complete Armorer's Handbook. To expand the types of potions and add reagents to the word that players can find or harvest, we also have the Alchemy Almanac, also by Heavyarms. To help with inspiration, especially while running games at the store, I picked up a bunch of books of random tables from DiceGeeks. We own and have Kickstarted a few of Kobold Press' monster books. I just recently backed Nord Games' Ultimate Guide to Foraging, Harvesting, and Natural Discovery. I'm a proud member of the DungeonFog Community and have backed Till and Guys' Creators Guide to Epic Locations. And that list may feel like just a bunch of me dropping, but it's also to spread awareness for these creators and lend them our support in what little ways we can.
Going forward, you may be wondering what this means for the show. Right now, it means nothing much. It means me spending time on Twitter boosting the message and showing my support for those who are hurt by this. But Adventures in Erylia itself is not affected by these changes to the OGL. We fall under the fan content policy, as our show is made freely available to all who wish to listen and is listener supported, without paying for anything being forced. We are not currently planning to change systems. We have a lot of time and energy invested into Dungeons & Dragons. It was many of our casts first game. We've come to rely on the D&D Beyond subscription for our character management and rules reference. But that does not mean we are happy. I personally, will not be buying any further books from Wizards. I would like to cancel our DDB subscription, but it would harm our ability to run the show far more than it would hurt Wizards of the Coast’s bottom line.
That said, I am open to the idea of changing. Many of the original founders for D&D Beyond went off to start their own company a while ago that is not locked into the D&D ecosystem. Demiplane already supports Pathfinder 2E, which the cast previously had interest in, but was never able to dedicate the time into properly learning. They are in alpha testing for their character management tool, and when that is open, I would like to give it another shot. I also own Genesys and am confident that I could continue to tell the story we are telling with Adventures in Erylia in that system as well. Similar to PF2E, the problem is needing to take the time to learn the systems and learn them well enough to create a good show. We are nearing the end of our current story arc, perhaps when that time comes, we will take a break for some time to learn those other systems. If you would be interested in coming along with us on that journey, then please reach out and let us know.
As I wrap up my thoughts and feelings about this whole situation, I want to make sure to highlight some of the positives that I have personally seen come out of this. Kobold Press has come out to say that they are working on their own system now codenamed: Project Black Flag. Paizo has announced that they are working on a new, system neutral, Open RPG Content (ORC) License. Both of these are things that I am keeping an eye on regarding the future of the show. We also had Nord Games coming out to say that they will continue to use the OGL, as was its original intent, and are prepared to challenge them in court if Wizards sues them.
There are some rough waters ahead, but we're all in this together!