So in early January 2023, I read up on the new “draft” of the Open Gaming License (OGL) that Hasbro/Wizards of the Coast (WotC) was pushing out. I’m not a lawyer, but it didn’t pass the smell test for me. It felt like a lot of creative people who had put their time, money and effort into their own products were being screwed. Because I was just starting the 2023 Character Creation Challenge, I didn’t have time to write up a full blog post on the subject. So I tagged Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast in the following tweet.
I never got a response from either group. Knowing how most mega-corporations think, I wasn’t expecting to get one either. I’m just a single guy and most corporations are only thinking about money, how to get more money and ignoring any laws and common decency in a quest for money. So I figured that nothing would happened and I put my energy into the character creation challenge.
Oh boy, was I wrong. Shortly afterwards this issue exploded with the force of an atom bomb. Not only were other gamers upset, but so were the video makers and third-party publishers. This caused so much of a ruckus that it made it onto the various news sites and made Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast look bad. Especially with how horribly they handled the issue in their first attempt to respond.
The critical fumble continued by Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro until they finally backed off and announced that the 1.0a would remain in place and that the 5.1 System Reference Document (SRD) would be placed under the irrevocable Creative Commons. A move that shocked a lot of people (myself included), but it may have been too-little, too-late. A lot of third-party publishers that were giving free advertising to the Dungeons and Dragons game had elected to move to other licenses. Several designers are making changes to remove all SRD references so they would no longer be bound by the OGL. When these third-party publishers released a book, they had something on it that stated it was compatible with Dungeons and Dragons. The name of the WotC flagship game was being seen with each book. Now that reminder will be gone and other games will be promoted instead. Third-party publishers were also a source of talent that WotC could pull for future D&D products. I doubt these freelance writers would be interested in helping after the way they were treated.
Another reaction that the various third-party publishers had was to dump their 5e compatible products. I’m certain they were thinking that if the new OGL went into effect, they would be stuck with inventory they could no longer sell. Since I’m a bargain hunter, I was able to pick up a few books in both PDF and dead tree versions.
This all happened at the end of January before I had finished the Character Creation Challenge. And when the challenge was done, I took a few days off from the site to recover. The challenge is a marathon and can be a little exhausting. I also wanted some time to properly compose my thoughts about the WotC/OGL ordeal.
I wondered if I was really going to comment on this as mid-February hit. Then I walked into my Favorite Local Gaming Store (FLGS) and saw the very large display of Dungeons and Dragons 5e products. My instant reaction was “walk away, I’m still not happy with them.” Normally I’m looking over the books deciding if I want to pull the trigger on a purchase. There are still a few books that I don’t have in my collection. Instead I was looking to see if the Star Trek Adventures books that I wanted had arrived yet and to see what else was new on the shelves.
So since I felt that I needed to get these thoughts off my chest, I started putting together this blog post. As I was researching different aspects (trying to make sure I’m posting correct information) I discovered that the Bank of America has listed Hasbro/WotC stock as “under-performing” due to mishandling of brands and attempting to over-monetizing the Dungeons and Dragons and Magic the Gathering products.
Various WotC representatives are currently on a “restore the goodwill tour” (think of what BP had to go through after the Deepwater Horizon environmental disaster) and if I had a chance to ask them, I’d probably ask the following: “Since several college and white papers will be written about this monumental cock up, do you think they will spell the names of the decision makers right?” In all seriousness, I’d probably ask them what are the lessons learned from this experience and what would they do in the future if this came up again? What I hope to hear is how the OGL discussion would be handled in the open and with all stakeholders before sending out a “draft” with contracts attached. That the C-level executive managers have learned what this game is about (no it’s not just a money spigot) and that they understand that the customers who are purchasing the game are not going to play online. Yes that is an option, but it’s not where we get the camaraderie around the table in a social activity. Yes, the game will make them money, but don’t kill the goose that laid the golden egg. Hasbro and WotC still has a lot of making up to do with the gaming community.
As for myself, I’m still very hesitant about buying any WotC products at this time. The upcoming Dungeons and Dragons movie that is coming out soon is something that I might go to, depending on how things are handled from here on out. It’s already finished and I wouldn’t want to punish those involved in the production who had no say in Hasbro’s critical fumble. It’s not a 100% that I’m going to see it in theaters (as I was planning at the end of 2022) I’m not going to trash my current collection (I’ve already purchased them) but new items? Well, we will see.
Perhaps the silver lining in all of this are players and stores discovering that there are a ton of other roleplaying games out there that can be enjoyed and promoted. I may post more about this topic if inspiration strikes. But I’m going to concentrate on being a muse and doing some creating myself.
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