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"What is happening to D&D?" Topic

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Mr Elmo13 Jan 2023 5:26 p.m. PST

It's complete bedlam out there!


djbthesecond13 Jan 2023 6:17 p.m. PST

Released today from WOTC/D&D Beyond – link

Response from a twitterer – link

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP13 Jan 2023 6:18 p.m. PST

I didn't even know that was a thing.

Zephyr113 Jan 2023 10:18 p.m. PST

(DM rolls dice)

"D&D, you lose D8 x 12 Hit Points, " (DM rolls dice again) "and you fail your Saving Throw vs Poison, but you *do* survive this round…"

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP13 Jan 2023 11:24 p.m. PST

Wondered if this would ever show up here. It's all over various D&D forums, both for the newer edition and the original TSR and early WotC games.

It comes down to this:

There is an Open Game License created by Wizards of the Coast some time ago which ostensibly allowed third party individuals and publishers to create D&D materials (including full bore game systems) without having to pay royalties or fear law suits from Wizards of the Coast.

Note that, in actuality, the license is largely unnecessary, as game mechanics, processes, charts and terms are uncopyrightable. Only expressive, artistic content is copyrightable. So the OGL (1.0a) was unnecessary, except to the extent that it was an agreement by WotC that they wouldn't sue people for making D&D stuff.

Cue Hasbro and the new CEO of WotC, Cynthia Williams (if you're getting a strange vibe from that, then you know the fate of TSR…)
They decided they could change the OGL so that not only can they sue anybody they want, they can:
1.) Shut down any product they decide contains objectionable, offensive, racist or bigoted materials. (As defined by whom is not explained, nor is what might fit these terms.)
2.) Force anyone who has gross sales exceeding $50,000 USD a year to report all income to Hasbro/WotC and pay a royalty on gross sales; if over $750,000 USD that royalty is 25% of gross sales (not actual profits, just sales) to Hasbro/WotC.
3.) Seize any materials from any individual or publisher and publish these materials themselves without compensation to the creator.
4.) Prohibit anyone from making any digital material, particularly materials for VTTs (Virtual Table Tops), for D&D, except for sites specifically licensed by Hasbro.

And they would also revoke the original OGL which had been agreed to by those who used it as the basis on which to make a business or product line— including some rather significant current names in the industry, including Paizo, Kobold Press, Goodman Games, Troll Lord Games, and others.

(Cue Darth Vader: "I am altering the deal. Pray I do not alter it any further."

The draft of the new OGL, sent to many of the above publishers and others, was leaked on Gizmodo, and all hell broke loose. As a protest, D&D gamers were urged to cancel their subscriptions to Hasbro/WotC's "D&DBeyond" online digital materials subscription site. The resulting demands for cancelation crashed the server.

It's a royal mess.

And this comes when Hasbro/WotC is being criticized for a fall-off in profits, and has a major motion picture based on the game scheduled to come out this year, as well as a new D&D streaming fantasy series releasing right now on Paramount+.
Hasbro/WotC has also announced "OneD&D" a revision to 5e that's supposed to turn D&D into a proprietary VTT and online game materials with a subscription model with "on site" micro purchases for I have no idea what— probably lame, overblown D&D art and unique, new character classes.
This is all part of an effort to increase profits from "under monetized" elements in D&D— whatever the heck those are supposed to be.

Now fans are threatening to avoid the movie entirely, as well as the streaming service— and they sure as heck aren't gonna sign up for OneD&D, whatever the frick it's supposed to be.


Yesterday, Hasbro/WotC blinked, and put out a "that's not what we really mean" and "that's not what we're going to do, trust us" statement. But nobody's buying it.

Chaosium and several others have announced they're working on their own OGL and an "SRD" (S…Resource Document), which offers standard game rule text which creators can lift verbatim and use in their products so they don't have to constantly rewrite rules that are essentially already written.

As I said, it's a huge mess. Little publishers and single-person shops are rightfully scared that they may lose their businesses and even their creative work outright under an onslaught of Hasbro lawyers. Some are being more aggressive, terminating and clearance selling any products related to the WotC OGL.

It's now been picked up by some major news outlets in the US and UK.
The EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) has weighed in as well, which could be a source of legal support for small producers and others impacted by this.

For the record, WotC brings in about $1 USD billion (yes, with a "B") of Hasbro's overall revenue, roughly 15-20% of the company's yearly take. That includes D&D, M:tG and some other products marketed under WotC's Avalon Hill brand.

I'm watching this closely, as I've been putting together some edition-neutral short adventures to sell myself through DriveThruRPG. That's on hold, for now.

Prince Rupert of the Rhine14 Jan 2023 2:09 a.m. PST

I wouldn't have a clue last time I played (A)D&D it was still owned by TSR Bane was still alive, Midnight hadn't become Mystra and Elminster was just a wizard.

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP14 Jan 2023 6:03 a.m. PST

Thanks, Parzival.

Arjuna14 Jan 2023 9:07 a.m. PST

I still play Red Box from 1984 or so from time to time.
Custom adventures etc.
Did I miss something?

GamesPoet Supporting Member of TMP15 Jan 2023 3:43 a.m. PST

Thanks for the synopsis, Parzival.

I hadn't played (A)D&D since college, too many years ago, until 2020 when I GMed for my nephews and nieces via zoom. I won't be publishing my creations, although sounds like a mess and a half for others that do.

Mr Elmo15 Jan 2023 5:20 a.m. PST

You have really stepped in it when CNBC notices:


Isn't Pathfinder old D&D? Just play that instead. If you can make it once, you can make it again.

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP15 Jan 2023 12:50 p.m. PST

Thanks for the link, Mr. Elmo.
That article is an excellent summary, but misses the essentially element that the game mechanics and processes aren't legally considered intellectual property, as recently re-established in a significant court case:


In summary, the publisher of Bang!, a card-based quasi-roleplaying game, sued the makers of Legend of the Three Kingdoms for copyright infringement. Bang! is built around a Wild West theme. LotTK is built around Asian historical fantasy, but uses entirely identical game mechanics and processes, even down to the function of individual cards. Only the fluff and the art is different.

Turns out, that's all that needs to be different. The court reaffirmed the long standing precedent that game mechanics and processes ARE UNCOPYRIGHTABLE. Only the artistic expressive content— the fluff, as it were, is protected by copyright.

So WotC/Hasbro's claim they are protecting their intellectual property is meaningless noise. They don't have any. They have a brand, and some fluff. But the rest— the game mechanics, the processes, the ideas, the concept of classes, even the terms "Fighter, Cleric, Magic-user, Druid, Thief, Ranger, Rogue, Paladin, Warlock, Sorcerer," etc., etc. they don't own. Nor do they own Hit Points, Armor Class, THAC0, charts, d20, d6, advantage, disadvantage, magic missile, orc, elf, dwarf, or all the other things that could make up a fantasy role playing game.

They own the phrase "Dungeons & Dragons," but only because it's trademarked. They might own "githyanki", "illithid", "mindflayer", and other uniquely D&D words. They do own Greyhawk, Forgotten Realms, Mystara, and such, but only in the way these are artistically presented, save where they've trademarked these terms and any elements of these settings.

And if they have any IP lawyers with any knowledge or intelligence, they should have been informed of this, and of the above linked case ruling.

Essentially, as I said, the have a brand. And that's really all they have. And they may have just shot it in the head.

Bunkermeister Supporting Member of TMP15 Jan 2023 1:50 p.m. PST

Good to know Parzival.
I suspect they are hoping that their lawyers can scare people into compliance. Big lawyers on retainers for big companies can write letters that are frightening to one man operations who have no lawyers and who would be bankrupt with a $10,000 USD judgement against them or even just the expense of defending a lawsuit.

Mike Bunkermeister Creek

Bandolier18 Jan 2023 8:16 a.m. PST

I bought the D&D books for one of my sons about 6-7 years ago. He and his mates played once a week for a few years. I asked him about this when I heard about the rumblings and grumblings of the community recently. He said they've basically ruined the new version and he was glad he got to enjoy the game before WoTC wrecked it by squeezing the fun out with misplaced morality and control. He's glad he can still enjoy his version instead of the current "nonsense" version.

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