On Friday, after days of tumult in the board game community, Dungeons & Dragons publisher Wizards of the Coast (WotC) has attempted to revert to its most controversial changes in a rolling update to its decades-old Open Games License (OGL). However, this effort may be too little too late.
Many prominent third-party RPG publishers are now saying they’re ditching OGL, regardless of what changes WotC officially releases in an upcoming new release. Additionally, many in the community have now lost faith in WotC’s handling of the licensed rules system that has underpinned so much of the industry for the past two decades.
Pathfinder publisher Paizo Inc. is behind perhaps the biggest effort to move the industry away from the WotC OGL. The company announced last Thursday that it is creating a new Open Creative RPG License (ORC) designed to be “open, perpetual and irrevocable.”
that “irrevocable” the italics are in the original and intended as a pointed criticism of WotC’s disclosed plans to deauthorize the original Open Games License after the publishers signed off on the update. “Paizo does not believe that OGL 1.0a can ever be ‘deauthorized,'” Paizo writes in its ORC announcement. “While we are prepared to argue this point in court if necessary, we do not want to have to do so, and we know that many of our fellow publishers are not in a position to do so.”
Regardless of OGL’s legal fate, Paizo says it wants to “irrevocably and undeniably keep the spirit of the Open Game License alive” with its new ORC. The system-independent license, designed with the help of IP law firm Azora Law, will eventually be controlled and protected by a nonprofit organization similar to the Linux Foundation, the company says. Until that new license is ready, future Paizo products will be printed without any explicit license, the company says.
Paizo’s ORC effort has already attracted significant support from the community. Call of Cthulhu and Runequest publisher Chaosium, which has never used WotC OGL for its products in the first place, however writes that it is “very happy to work with the rest of the industry to come up with a system-wide OGL that anyone can use.”
Popular D&D module publisher Kobold Press has also thrown its support behind Paizo’s ORC product, but has remained committed to using it for the newly announced Core Fantasy set of rules, codenamed Project Black Flag. Instead, Kobold says it’s “waiting[ing] to see exactly what form the Open Games License might take in this new era,” and “will review the terms and consider whether they fit the needs of our audience and our business goals” when the updated OGL is finally released.
Mutants and lies the publisher Green Ronin is also on board with ORCwith founder and president Chris Pramas comparing public the current OGL fiasco to WotC’s disastrous attempt to push a new game system license for the fourth edition of Dungeons & Dragons back in 2008.
“Who knows when new people will take over the D&D brand and who can say what their vision will be?” Pramas wrote 15 years ago about promoting WotC’s game system license. “Who knows when the political winds at WotC will shift again and things will become even more restrictive? We don’t want to operate under such a cloud moving forward…”