Sunday, January 22, 2023

I Have the Power, You Can't Take It From Me: An Essay Regarding the OGL

I have the power, you can't take it from me...

Twenty-three years ago the role-playing community was given a gift  by a huge corporation that had acquired the first role playing game ever made, Dungeons & Dragons. Ryan Dancey spearheaded this, with the backing of WOTC at the time. The gift was a gift to both gamers and the corporation. Its purpose was two-fold. It allowed any creator to create content for the version of the game, making more content out there that WOTC would not have to produce themselves, but also requiring people to buy their game to use. In time as the license progressed, ways were found to make other editions of the game using the license. That was great news for those of us who wanted something from the eras before the OGL itself. Everyone could produce something for their favorite version of the game. 

 By the power of believing, The strength of the sword...

Regardless of edition wars, we could all make something for the version of the game we loved! We got new versions of AD&D (OSRIC) and OD&D (Swords & Wizardry) by Matt Finch, first. Others followed. As the 4th edition of the game crept in and WOTC issued it its own license their former magazine publisher Paizo recreated the version of the game that the OGL was intended for 3rd edition was revised to become Pathfinder. We have more than 30 years of D&D all available to create adventures and supplemental rules for! 4th Ed, Pathfinder, the OSR... pick your favorite D&D and create for it. We were given a gift. We were given the power to fulfill our dreams of making contend for Dungeons & Dragons. DMs were given the ability to make their campaigns semi-official by publishing them on their own! It was a dream. It was the beginning of a golden age in the history of Dungeons & Dragons. With the 40th anniversary of D&D and RPGs came the 5th edition of the game, and a show called Stranger Things, that featured the game front and center. D&D became vastly popular and gained a huge following. Live play sessions of games caught on and people that never had access to the game started flocking to it. D&D acted as a gateway to the greater RPG hobby, like never before. WOTC has had great success from it, and the smaller publishing houses have benefited from this success. It has been a great time. To many, we had a great gift given by a corporation. Something that seemed too good to be true.

The resistance of evil, The ripples of words...

You know what they say about all good things. WOTC is a part of a bigger corporation. Hasbro. Now in 2023, almost exactly one year before the 50th anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons and roleplaying games they have turned the tables. Anyone reading this likely knows about the draconian license that was leaked and then called a "draft". This was a new draft of the OGL, one that would take most of the rights of the publishers to whom the original was given. It was a terrible piece of corporate greed. It would have devastated some of the larger independent game companies financially, and the way things were worded meant that they could, at some point, charge anyone using the new license. 1.1 was such an affront that the clamor across the internet caused folks to unsubscribe from D&D's moneymaker D&D Beyond. Good. More so with the leak that there would be a more draconian payment plan for that service in the future as well, hurting not just creators, but the fans and consumers as well! This cause WOTC to choose to revise the new OGL. It was still not great. 

Never dreamed I could be someone...

The 1.0A license allowed me to live a dream that I had had since I was 10 years old. I was able to write adventures and material for my favorite version of D&D. We indie folks were able to put out materials that corporations never could. We aren't tied to a bottom line, so we can take older version of the game and say "what could have been if this hadn't been tied to a corporate bottom line?" The worst part about it all, even with a new version of the license being touted (better than the 1.1 but still a raw deal for most) we independent publishers are going to suffer in some way. We have to reword any of our works that we want to use in publishing or else let them sit in purgatory, as is. That would be fine, but some of us are living our dreams and building the universes that we have run our games in for our whole lives. Now we reword what has been published, or not allow it into our future works. It's a raw deal. 

Control of the castle, The rise of a son,

I believe in connection, I believe in the one...

WOTC has proven they cannot be trusted as the custodians of the community. Control and greater competition must rise. The fact that we all need to revise our works if we want to use them in future works and the fact that the new OGLs have NOT been true open licenses for creators to use has caused alliances of other game companies that use the OGL, and may that have their own open licenses to unite under what is being called the ORC License. This is a true open license with an umbrella of game systems under, held by no corporation.  Additionally Matt Finch, who helped many of us out by paving the way for clones and other D&D derived works, is creating a license. Others are releasing material under Creative Commons licenses. This is all making for some unlikely bedfellows under some licenses. But we indie creators must now stand as one.

Don't bury your treasure, Hold back your wealth

Don't play the victim, It's too easy to sell

Now is our time to make a stand. In doing so we must ensure that, not only are their rules we can use for our games and supplements, but that we continue to make those games, and all new games open games, for all to use and create from going forward. This was the promise made to us, and taken away. We must be the new custodians of this promise, and make good on it forever. No more complaining about what WOTC is doing to us. No allowing ourselves to be victims, or giving in and accepting their license, if the do come out with something that is good. We know we cannot trust them. It is time for us to take control. 

Take down the system, That's taking you out...

In the coming months we will all see what options for publishing and re-writing our versions of D&D, and other games will be. What licenses we can use will become clear. WOTC's OGL was the system that we used to make our dreams reality. It's time to take it down. Don't use it. Use any of the new or old alternatives. Band together through new licensing. BECOME the system. It is time for the old to die and make way for the new. We have that power. We thought that they gave it to us, but it was with us the whole time. Now is our time to use that power and usher in a new age for Open Gaming. Now is our time!

I have the power, You can't take it from me

I have the Power in me, It's all that I can be

I Have the Power by Matthew Hussey is quoted here and used as an anthem for this movement. It has been used without permission. You can hear it by following the link. Please share this essay with credit, to all corners of the internet. Make our plight, and our coming rise known! Share this with publishers. Share it with gamers. Share it with people that don't know this is happening! Make it known and gain support!