Saturday, January 14, 2023

The OGL: Analysis of Hasbro's Non-Apology Apology

OK, here we go, an analysis of Hasbro’s An Update on the Open Game License (OGL),” in order:

“When we initially conceived of revising the OGL, it was with three major goals in mind. First, we wanted the ability to prevent the use of D&D content from being included in hateful and discriminatory products.”

First off, remember this: the Constitution guarantees that the GOVERNMENT cannot interfere with your free speech. If you are on someone else’s property or using someone else’s material under contract (the OGL is a contract), they can limit what you say on that property or with that material.

Whether you think this is a good thing or not, is a moot point. It is what they can do, it is within their rights. It is their sandbox, their rules.

Deal with it.

Moving on:

“Second, we wanted to address those attempting to use D&D in web3, blockchain games, and NFTs by making clear that OGL content is limited to tabletop roleplaying content like campaigns, modules, and supplements. And third, we wanted to ensure that the OGL is for the content creator, the homebrewer, the aspiring designer, our players, and the community—not major corporations to use for their own commercial and promotional purpose.”

These two bits here tell us the real, core reason they want to change the OGL – to kill the Clones.

OGL 2.0 is basically the Clone Wars.

They aren’t too worried about Labyrinth Lord, or Swords & Wizardry, or OSRIC, or any of the old-school Clones. It is Pathfinder they want to kill out of vengeance. They also want to kill any chance of there being a 5E Clone to compete with 5.1E.

Just as the original OGL intended, they want others to do all the heavy lifting and create all the support material for their core rulebooks and supplements. They have no desire to publish all the fiddly little low to no-profit yet ABSOLUTELY NEEDFUL stuff that supports the sales of their books.

“Driving these goals were two simple principles: (1) Our job is to be good stewards of the game, and (2) the OGL exists for the benefit of the fans. Nothing about those principles has wavered for a second.”

Fluff and nonsense. While I think they did do a fairly good job with 5E, all things considered, being a “steward” of the game was never a goal. It was all about profits. And they only care about the fans to the extent that they buy their products. So… fluff.

“That was why our early drafts of the new OGL included the provisions they did. That draft language was provided to content creators and publishers so their feedback could be considered before anything was finalized.”

They were testing the waters to see just how far they could go and how much they could get away with. They fucked around and found out.

“In addition to language allowing us to address discriminatory and hateful conduct and clarifying what types of products the OGL covers, our drafts included royalty language designed to apply to large corporations attempting to use OGL content. It was never our intent to impact the vast majority of the community.”

They would have LOVED for the royalty portion to affect a larger number of companies. That would have been free money for them. From my perspective the royalties were never an issue. My sales have always been beer & pretzel money (well, PDF money). It would take me a thousand years of sales to hit that $750,000 minimum.

But yeah, for you guys out there with the big Kickstarters? That’s a killer provision. As in it kills your profit and kills your company

“However, it’s clear from the reaction that we rolled a 1.”

How do we know this was written by some poor schlub and not an executive? They actually used an in-game reference.

“It has become clear that it is no longer possible to fully achieve all three goals while still staying true to our principles. So, here is what we are doing.”

Time to bend over and smile this time, folks!

“The next OGL will contain the provisions that allow us to protect and cultivate the inclusive environment we are trying to build and specify that it covers only content for TTRPGs. That means that other expressions, such as educational and charitable campaigns, livestreams, cosplay, VTT-uses, etc., will remain unaffected by any OGL update.”

I am not sure what all they mean by this; it is fairly non=specific and throwing a bunch of stuff together in with the kitchen sink. I suppose the filkers and gaming mimes will be happy, so we are supposed to be joyful at this clause… oh, wait, there it is

“Content already released under 1.0a will also remain unaffected.”

Ah, there it is, indeed.

‘Already released’ is the operative phrase here. They are saying that with their ‘de-authorization’ of OGL 1.0 and 1.0a that anything already published may continue to be published but that you may no longer continue to publish new items under the OGL 1.0 or 1.0a.

This of course kills all the Clones, stakes them through the heart.

For players, this is meaningless. They can’t take away your books. For publishers, this is disastrous. Game publishers survive based on their latest, greatest work. Without continual support and line dies, the ‘long tail’ of sales depends on new product to help sell the old product.

For example, when I produce a new product, I sell about a third of all copies I sell in the first month. Another third is then sold in ever shrinking numbers within six months. The final third in the next 18 months. Any sales following that are incidental.

HOWEVER, those incidental sales can be very nice when a new buyer finds my product line through my publication of a new product. Invariably, when I publish a new product, I get a couple of new customers who go through my back catalog and buy anything from a few to every other product in that back catalog. With more than 50 products in that back catalog, those can be very, very nice sales.

Again, for me and other vanity press companies, that’s just money to buy PDFs from other companies.

For real publishers, that’s their bread and butter.

Hasbro wants to starve the Clones and their creators.

“What it will not contain is any royalty structure.”

Yeah, that would have been some sweet, sweet FREE cash, but really, a drop in the bucket compared to what they can make with that effort placed elsewhere. So, an easy sacrifice to mollify the masses.

“It also will not include the license back provision that some people were afraid was a means for us to steal work. That thought never crossed our minds. Under any new OGL, you will own the content you create. We won’t. Any language we put down will be crystal clear and unequivocal on that point. The license back language was intended to protect us and our partners from creators who incorrectly allege that we steal their work simply because of coincidental similarities. As we continue to invest in the game that we love and move forward with partnerships in film, television, and digital games, that risk is simply too great to ignore. The new OGL will contain provisions to address that risk, but we will do it without a license back and without suggesting we have rights to the content you create. Your ideas and imagination are what makes this game special, and that belongs to you.”

I’m on the line about this one. They do, indeed, need to include language as to that effect, to protect their own IP, as there have been plenty of stupid lawsuits over similar issues, and they are a gross pain in the ass. The language in the ‘OGL’ 1.1 might have been over-zealously written; it has shark written all over it. Or maybe they were hoping to get away with something. Could go either way.

But if it was an accident, that’s pretty damn stupid.

And if it was intentional, that’s either not reading the room right (which they do continually), or it was put there as another easy sacrifice.

“A couple of last thoughts. First, we won’t be able to release the new OGL today, because we need to make sure we get it right, but it is coming.”

Thank you for telling us to bend over and get ready for it. See, this time they kissed us first.

“Second, you’re going to hear people say that they won, and we lost because making your voices heard forced us to change our plans. Those people will only be half right. They won—and so did we.”

Wow. That’s just so sad.

“Our plan was always to solicit the input of our community before any update to the OGL; the drafts you’ve seen were attempting to do just that.”


“We want to always delight fans and create experiences together that everyone loves. We realize we did not do that this time and we are sorry for that.”

Please keep giving us your money. Please stop canceling your subscriptions to D&D Beyond! Please?

“Our goal was to get exactly the type of feedback on which provisions worked and which did not–which we ultimately got from you.”

We really did not think that you peons cared enough and would scream this loudly. Quelle surprise!

“Any change this major could only have been done well if we were willing to take that feedback, no matter how it was provided–so we are. Thank you for caring enough to let us know what works and what doesn’t, what you need and what scares you.”

We can now dump the provisions we included as easy drops and still look like we listened to you. Suckers.

“Without knowing that, we can’t do our part to make the new OGL match our principles.”


“Finally, we’d appreciate the chance to make this right. We love D&D’s devoted players and the creators who take them on so many incredible adventures.”

You buy our tuff and pay us money. What’s not to love?

“We won’t let you down.”

Too late.

TL; DR: Nothing has really changed, they gave up two things that were there most likely just to be sacrificed, gave up some stuff that was kind of fuzzy anyway, but kept the main provision that kills the Clones. Still rat bastards.

At this point I still expect to take down my products about a week or so after "OGL" 2.0 is released, or a day before the sunset clause on OGL 1.0/1.0a.

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