WOTC Attempts to Deauthorize the OGL 1.0a — Thoughts on the new D&D OGL

by Mike Shea on 8 January 2023

Update: 22 March 2023

Things moved so fast I forgot to update this page. After a huge outcry, Wizards of the Coast pulled back all of its plans. They didn't revoke the OGL 1.0a and ended up releasing the 5.1 SRD under a Creative Commons license. The damage to WOTC's reputation remains, and they're working hard to restore it. Releasing the 5.1 SRD under a creative commons license is a huge step in ensuring no one company can control the whole hobby. It was a tremendous time and a tremendous change. Onward.

Update: 13 January 2023

After a huge outcry and many thousands of people cancelling their D&D Beyond accounts, WOTC released the following statement. While it walks back on royalties, it says nothing regarding their attempt to "deauthorize" the OGL 1.0a for future products, their requirement to register products with them, or their ability to change or terminate the contract. We'll see what the license itself looks like but it doesn't sound much better than what the leaked versions proposed.

8 Jaunary 2022

On 5 January 2023, Linda Codega of Gizmodo revealed the contents of WOTC's new "Open" Gaming License version 1.1. In particular, this new license

Worst of all, Wizards of the Coast intends that this new OGL "deauthorizes" the existing Open Game License 1.0a — the licence used by third party publishers to make D&D compatible material for more than 20 years and one even Wizards themselves said they never intended to be revocable.

What This Means for DMs

The wonderful variety and quality of third party products expands D&D in ways Wizards of the Coast never could do on their own. They're not taking money away from Wizards of the Coast — they're elevating D&D to its current massive popularity. If revocation of the OGL 1.0a comes to pass, the future of third party publishing for D&D is highly uncertain and potentially dead. Publishers are already abandoning projects, pulling products off of stores, and pivoting away from D&D.

What's Going to Happen?

Already third party publishers large and small are pivoting away from WOTC, the OGL, and D&D. Dozens of publishers stated their intent to build their own open systems independent of the OGL including Kobold Press, MCDM, and EN World Publishing. Numerous lawyers have made it clear that the OGL 1.0a can't be trusted but few publishers want to risk fighting WOTC in court over copyright issues that have yet to be legally tested. So many are turning away.

What Can WOTC Do to Fix This?

If Wizards of the Coast wants to turn this around they can do the following:

That would show us all that Wizards of the Coast doesn't just see D&D as a line of profit, but a game and a brand we all love that has changed so many lives over the past 50 years.

What Can You Do About it?

Write Wizards of the Coast. Write Chris Cocks, the president of Hasbro. Write Cynthia Williams the VP of Wizards of the Coast and Dan Rawson the Vice President of D&D. Write real letters. Be polite and brief and specific. Tell them how this makes you feel about the D&D brand. Give them a way to fix it. Wizards of the Coast wants to turn D&D into the next Marvel Cinematic Universe and this move soured the brand with its biggest fans. It hurts their movie. It hurts their video games. It hurts all of their other products.

Reading and Resources

Here's a list of more resources to better understand what's going on with the open game license and what we can do about it:

I plan to keep this article up to date as the new D&D OGL situation changes and more information, particularly the new OGL itself, comes out.