Why Are Dungeons & Dragons Fans so Upset About the OGL 1.1?

    An image from Candlekeep Mysteries, published by Wizards of the Coast

    Image: Wizards of the Coast

    The Open Gaming License (or OGL) is a default use license established in 2000. It allowed fans to use portions of the Dungeons & Dragons intellectual property in their own work without oversight from Wizards of the Coast (the Hasbro subsidiary that owns D&D).

    The basis for the OGL was rooted in software licensing, directly inspired by the GNU/Linux license. Under the OGL—which anyone could use, without any special permissions or contracts needed—fans were allowed to create their own games, adventures, characters, items, and creatures that were explicitly compatible with Dungeons & Dragons, and sell that work for money.

    Attached to the OGL was a System Reference Document, which outlined the exact parts of the Dungeons & Dragons IP that people could use, including stats and mechanics for races, classes, spells, creatures, and combat… more or less everything you might need to run a game. The SRD currently attached to the OGL 1.0(a)–the most recent, authorized version of the license–is nearly 400 pages long. Over 23 years, the OGL and the attached SRD led to a huge amount of D&D fans investing their time and money in third party publishing, or 3PP.

    Over the past 23 years, multiple publishing companies that specialize in producing D&D-compatible, third-party content were established. Some of these companies include Kobold Press and Green Ronin. Other companies produced independent games that used the OGL as a base, like Paizo’s Pathfinder and Evil Hat’s Fate.

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