This is a Transcript of Brainwaves Episode 114.
Direct quotes are in italics
[Brainwaves Intro Music]
Iain McAllister(he/him): Happy New Year everyone! We’re back! I’m Iain McAllister
Jamie Adams(he/him): I’m Jamie Adams
Oliver Kinne(them/they): and I’m Oliver Kinne, and this is brainwaves episode 114 bringing you the best in tabletop gaming news.
These are the headlines for the week of 23rd of January 2023.
Wizards changes the deal, pray they don’t alter it further.
All this and more on this episode of Brainwaves.
Iain: Yes everyone we’ve only got one the headline this week and before we get going with it I would just like to warn listeners that one of the interviews we have for this piece contains swearing. That’s my fault as I didn’t tell our interviewee we keep the cast clean. I haven’t beeped it out so as to capture the interviewee’s intent.
News that has been setting our particular corner of the internet on fire over the last couple of weeks has been the leak from Wizards of the Coast of updates to the Open Gaming License and the subsequent fallout across the tabletop RPG Hobby.
In the last cast we covered upcoming changes to the open gaming license from Wizards of the Coast. The Open Gaming License has been around since the release of the Third Edition of Dungeons and Dragons and allows companies outside of Wizard of the Coast to produce content for Dungeons and Dragons and also use the core systems of the game to make their own product via the Systems Resource Document or SRD.
I think it’s worth going into a little history of why the OGL came about before we get into the rest of this still breaking story. A lot of this information comes from reading various sources around the web and speaking to people in the know. We will link to all our sources in the show notes but a good potted history is up on the website The Alexandrian.
A long long time ago back in the heady days of 1997 a company called Tactical Studies Rules was on the verge of bankruptcy. Tactical Studies Rules or TSR were the creators and publishers of a little game called Dungeons and Dragons. Creditors were biting at its heels and there was a very real possibility that the company would be divided up to pay debts.
Around this time another company called Wizards of the Coast was making a game called Magic the Gathering. It had proved very successful and Wizards of the Coast was rolling in money. Being enthusiastic gamers the folk behind Wizards of the Coast used their new found wealth to buy TSR outright and along with that came the rights to Dungeons and Dragons.
TSR had been trying to prop up their failing business by printing more and more books. The market was flooded with Dungeons and Dragons books. Many other publishers had tried to copy Dungeons and Dragons successes, many using basically the same system but changing names and numbers just enough to stop being sued by TSR, who were famously protective of their game.
Wizards set about working on a new edition of Dungeons and Dragons which would eventually be called Third Edition. The history of previous editions of the game is interesting but not really relevant to what comes next.
Alongside the release of Third Edition the leadership at Wizards decided to make it easier for other companies to make content for Dungeons and Dragons. They did this for two reasons as we’ve already said TSR was saturating the market and Ryan Dancy who was the D&D lead realized that the money was not in supplements and adventures but in the core books that the company released. The Open Gaming License allowed other companies to produce adventures and supplements while allowing Wizards to concentrate on the core product line. Secondly it made D&D THE system around so you could find a game no matter where you lived. This of course fed back into the Wizards of the Coast.
As Wizards grew it took on new people. As the company changed and sales of Third Edition products waned some inside the company started to bristle at the OGL letting so many companies use their IP to make their own products. A little while after Third Edition the 3.5 came out and left a lot of publishers holding stock of Third Edition material that folk were no longer interested in as the new game wasn’t backwards compatible with Third Edition.
The OGL still existed so those companies that didn’t fail could keep making products for Dungeons and Dragons. All that changed with the forthcoming Fourth Edition. When Fourth Edition came out the OGL did not come along with it. Instead its place was taken by the GSL, Gaming System License. This required companies to spend five thousand dollars to get early access to the GSL before Fourth Edition released without knowing the contents of the license.
When it was released it contained two clauses the community railed against. You couldn’t continue to produce content under the OGL for older versions of Dungeons and Dragons and Wizards could terminate the contract at any time. We aren’t going to dive into all the minutiae of fourth edition here but in quick succession Wizards model and the massive changes they made to the game launched Paizo publishing and the Pathfinder RPG. Everyone who felt betrayed by Wizards flocked to it. Wizards had failed to leave the ogl behind and had created their biggest rival in the process.
Fast forward to 2015 and the three core books of Fifth Edition are now available for everyone to buy. Not only that but the OGL had returned with some notable exceptions. The OGL was still the one that had been released alongside Third Edition, contained the same language, but referred to a different System Resource Document. Nothing would make its way into the Fifth Edition SRD that wasn’t in the previous Third Edition one.
The core rules had changed and were in the SRD, but spells and the like only existed in the 5th edition SRD if they’d existed in the Third Edition version. The DM’s Guild which is Wizards approved RPG portal online where you can buy PDFs of Adventures and the core books as well, was pushed to the fore for creators to sell their work through a Wizards of the Coast approved portal and the game boomed in popularity.
Oliver: So where did all that leave us at the end of last year 2022? The open gaming license, DMs guild and streaming has contributed to an incredibly healthy environment for Dungeons and Dragons. The rise of folk like Critical Role, the biggest D&D streaming channel in the world, is partly down to the way the OGL can be used. It should be remembered though that organizations of the scale of Critical Role will have different agreements with the Wizards of the Coast. As it stands D&D is the dominant role-playing game by samajan with rivals like Pathfinder and Call of Cthulhu trailing behind it. All that may be about to change.
A whole two weeks ago Wizards were reassuring everyone that there would be no significant changes to the ogl when the new version of Dungeons and Dragons comes out in 2024. There would be some additional royalties for the really big companies and a requirement to report revenue. Since then a leak of Open Gaming License 1.1 was broken by Linda Codega at io9/Gizmodo on the 5th of January and it turns out that the Wizards had some what buried the lead. To give you an idea of the extent of the new changes the leaked license runs to approximately 9000 words when the original license was closer to 900.
We were lucky enough to get an interview with Linda which you will hear next. Just a reminder that there is some swearing in this interview that we have left in so you can get the intent of what Linda is saying
Iain: Hi Linda thanks so much for coming on the cast. Your reporting on the Open Gaming License has been excellent, I’ve been really enjoying the articles. Can you give us a little breakdown of what the leaked open gaming license planned to change about the original Open Gaming License?
Linda Codega(them/they): Just about everything,
Linda: So they they specifically attempted to say to de-authorize the 1.0a and say that you would not be able to use the 1.0a going forward which was in direct contradiction to statements that they had made at other points in time. So that was like the really really big stickler is that they were attempting to use the 1.1 to officially deauthorize the 1.0 which was the biggest change that nobody really expected them to do or even attempt. So that was that was a big thing
Iain: yeah. So that 1.0a says it that exists in perpetuity I think is the language they use in the original one?
Linda: they grant you the use of the license to, you can use the license for your work in perpetuity but there’s also like a small little like trapdoor in another section of that license that says you can use any “authorized” version
Linda: of this license. So technically what they were doing they had an entryway into doing that but they had also previously said on multiple occasions that they were not going to deauthorize that license.
Linda: The other thing is that they were introducing separate licenses in the 1.1 for commercial and non-commercial work which they had previously not done and it was previously assumed that non-commercial work would fall under the fan content policy. However that was changed in the 1.
Iain: all right so they wanted more control over just to sort of free fan stuff that a lot of people do.
Linda: yes they wanted more control over that and they really really wanted to separate that anything that was printed or published as a PDF would basically be under their control and everything else had to be under the fan content policy.
Iain: okay. And did they have plans to change the fan content policy as well?
Linda: not that I know of. The fan content policy was referred to in both the December 21st post that they published on D&D Beyond and it was also referred to in the OGL 1.1 draft that I received.
Iain: yeah because they put that post in December because there were a lot of rumblings about what the OGL was going to be and they basically reassured everyone and said don’t worry it’ll be fine and then the leak came and yeah it’s not fine or it doesn’t look it.
Linda: it is not fine.
Linda: yeah and I’m definitely one of those people who read that that sort of PR statement in mid-December and I was like you know this looks like they understand that people are upset and it looks like they won’t do anything like too terrible so they made me Crow. Full, full egg on my face absolutely where I was just like oh no oh no I’ve made a mistake.
Iain: we were exactly the same. I am we’ve got a news desk forum in the Discord and this piece is currently 126 comments which is our most commented piece on ever and somewhere at the top of that is me responding to the original December piece going this doesn’t sound too bad it’ll be fine.
Linda: right it’s it really was one of those things where I I genuinely did think that they understood that changing the OGL 1.0 would be really bad for the community and they were trying to respect that but it’s clear in the 1.1 that that that was all kind of lip service and they really did not did not care about what people wanted they really just put that out to keep to shut people up.
Iain: yeah there was also a change in sort of loyalty levels and things like that and and the introduction of levels as well.
Linda: yeah so the the ogl 1.1 introduces royalties which were explicitly denied in the 1.0 the 1.0 again grants perpetual non-sub-licensable royalty-free use of the license and this new 1.1 is uh established a three-tier royalty structure where the first two tiers you don’t owe any royalties but you do have to report either all of your products or your earnings depending on how much you earn if you’ve earn over fifty thousand dollars you have to report all your earnings
Linda: and then the the top tier which is called the expert tier if you made over $750000 in revenue and not not in profit it just like in taken revenue
Linda: you would owe 25% royalties on any excess revenue
Linda: so that was, yeah so that’s huge. Royalties are usually something like seven percent ten percent so even 15% is devastating and 25% is unheard of
Linda: or I don’t know if it’s not unheard of I don’t know enough about royalty law but it’s it’s uh untenable I think it’s a really good way to put it
Linda: and while they had said previously in the December OGL statement that they suspected only about 20 people would be affected by this royalty structure I believe that the number is much higher and the number of people who sort of clandestinely received the OGL 1.1 before I released my report and who were already planning escape routes from the OGL 1.0 and the OGL 1.1 lead me to believe that many many more people than just 20 creators or 20 Publishers would be affected by that revenue cap.
Iain: Would you like to take a guess the sort of percentage of creators that might be affected by it?
Linda: I I mean like I really can’t guess because I will fully admit uh D&D is not like my game of choice and kind of never has been sure so I don’t know just how many third-party publishers there are out there and I don’t know how many third-party Publishers are working within that level but. I mean there there are small Publishers that make that like bring in over a million dollars of profit and like only or a million dollars in revenue yeah and see very little of that in profit to the point where if they had to give 25 royalties on anything over $750000 it would ruin their business.
Iain: Right. Yeah. Absolutely. So Wizards have responded to leak in a recent post on D&D Beyond that you reported on. They said they’d roll back the loyalty portion of the ogl 1.1 and drop the license back provision which had scared off a lot of small creators wherein wizards could effectively sort of take their work and use it for their own purposes without asking or payment or anything.
Iain: How do you see the post they made is it just sort of like oh we’re sorry we’re sorry we got caught or is it actually an apology are they actually going to change things?
Linda: This is very much a sorry we got caught.
Linda: I am currently in the process of reporting on Wizards of the Coast and kind of how we got here and I can’t can’t really tell you what’s going on in that in that piece yet but generally speaking I’m confident in saying that this is entirely a deflect, divert and diffuse kind of process. They really do not they do not care that they made people mad they care that it might last longer than a than a quarter it might affect the bottom line.
Iain: yeah a bit of damage limitation more than anything else. Or trying to.
Linda: yes damage control is absolutely like their number one priority rather than actually looking at what the consumer customer wants they really have a mentality that like if they just stay quiet everyone will forget and we can do what we wanted anyway
Iain: Yeah. Companies that haven’t been staying quiet include Paizo who have been getting a lot of attention as the folks who are spearheading a new movement of companies releasing sort of their own style of Open Gaming License and System Resource Document material. That’s been followed by a lot of publishers most recently today I saw the folks behind Apocalypse World announcing their own SRD. How do you think all these new SRDS and OGLS and the, what’s the Paizo one called? ORC is the is the Paizo one how do you think that’s going to shape the future of tabletop role-playing?
Linda: I think we’re really at a flashpoint right now. I think the more licenses the more SRDs that are out there, the better. I do like the idea of the ORC because Paizo will not own it. No one will own it. It will be owned by a it’ll be stewarded first by a law firm and then are hoping to establish a foundation like the Linux Foundation to run it. So I’m all for it I’m just like perfect sounds great I’m happy for anyone who releases an SRD I love that Indie creators are releasing their own like Creative Commons based licenses that people can use. I think that the more options that are out there the better that way we won’t run into an OGL problem again
Linda: so I’m all for it. I really hope that people find new games and new systems and I really hope that this is kind of yeah I hope that this is like a flash point that inspires like a new generation of game designers to do something new and weird and like try something outside of the the norm. Not only because there’s so much available for for people to do and there always has been but because people are actively looking for something different which provides a huge opportunity for people to actually be able to try something different and succeed.
Iain: I have a slight concern of it because it it feels a little bit like I’m at the start of like the HD vs Blu-ray Wars or like VHS vs Betamax. Do you think there’s a possibility there of like a sort of like systems fighting against each other and sort of trying to come out on top or is it just going to be there’s going to be a lot of systems out there and people can pick and choose as they will?
Linda: I think that in order for something like that look that kind of like technology fights in order for that kind of competition to happen I think that people need to have like equal success like equal chances of succeeding um and I think that measuring success has to be the same across all of those. So the problem that you run into when when you look at something like oh well the ORC win out over like Powered by the Apocalypse is that success is only measured by like how many people are having fun at the game table.
Linda: which isn’t really like for profit you know I think that that’s the thing is that neither of these people are or neither of these licenses are interested in making money off of the people using the licenses
Linda: so I think that while I while I understand the concern that like people like licenses will fall I think that the the simple fact is that like if profit isn’t being made there’s no risk to creating this license so it’s not going to really implode quite as much.
Iain: Fair enough. So we mentioned earlier that Wizards have done an extraordinary level of damage to their reputation in a very, very short period of time after a decade after years of building up you know a pretty good uh a pretty good groundswell with fifth edition has been massively popular critical role there’s been a huge boom in the industry. And from your latest piece there also seems to be a movement inside Wizards to try and get the word out about what the management of the company is doing from insiders.
Do you think there’s any way of Wizards sort of undoing this damage internally and externally and how how should they go about that?
Linda: it’s it’s really hard for me to say anything will happen internally and I want to not comment on what’s going on internally because I really don’t know it’s one of those things I’m still working on it. But externally they have sort of passed the trust thresholds for their brand and the community that they’ve built up around the brand because this is just like one thing too many like just kind of another bullshit apology.
Linda: because like over the past like six months we’ve had the the Hadozee yeah and then don’t worry though OGLs fine and then we have this where it’s like sorry we fucked up but we’ll do better next time and I’m just like how many times are we going to trust you and like how many times are we going to pretend that you’re not a multi-million dollar company.
Iain: yeah especially the Hadozee yes because we reported on the um that’s the sort of thing we talk about on the cast. If I remember rightly they’d the previous one with um the Castle Ravenloft supplements when they had some problems as well with the with the I can’t remember the name of the race it’s in it but basically sort of
Linda: the Vistani
Linda actually says the Ribani in the cast but Vistani is correct. A correction will be issued in cast 115.
Iain: thank you very much yeah and they had said at the time that they were going to bring cultural consultants aboard have a whole new process and then when the Hadozee thing came out it turned out they had done none of that. It’s like right I was like okay that’s good thanks for not doing that thing you said you would do. Yeah there’s a trust thing there isn’t there
Linda: right it’s one of those things where if this was just like the first time Wizards of the Coast has fucked up then maybe things would be different but the fact is that they they made people really mad with their the Hadozee thing and they made people mad who were like mad about the Hadozee thing and also people who are mad at people being mad about the Hadozee. They would just they just pissed everybody off like in one fell swoop it didn’t it didn’t matter if like you were anti-woke or if you were pushing for a more inclusive game everybody was pissed.
Linda: it was just like you guys really did not did not read the room and then they continued to like fail their perception checks on reading the room when it came to the OGL like multiple times and I’m just like “what are you guys doing?” and then it’s also the fact that Wizards of the Coast own Magic: The Gathering and Magic: The Gathering has been really suffering especially MTG arena with like micro transactions and uh the the sort of really flubbed anniversary cards that were like really incredibly expensive but you couldn’t use them for anything they were really just collector’s items and like not even very good ones.
Iain: yeah yeah we were reporting on recently the sort of the way they’re basically pushing that that game to the brink of like people not really engaging with it and shops not being able to support it because there’s just so much product out there
Linda: right so they they have been kind of making this bed like for this kind of like trust breach fallout for years and it’s only been in the past six months that people have gotten like this is not working, this is not working, this is not working and I think the ogl 1.1 was just so horrible on so many levels and like kind of was absolutely the straw that broke the camels back
Linda: and I think that that it’s yeah I think that wizard the coast will not be able to recover their reputation or like enjoy any kind of goodwill from the community I just don’t think people will want what to do for it what to do what to do that I don’t think people want anything to do with this kind of company
Iain: yeah it has been quite impressive how much they’ve managed to bring the role-playing game community together over this like everyone from like you know old school absolute like sort of like the original D&D is still the best people right up to like oh no the indie scene is absolutely the best have all come together and gone “what on earth is this? What have you done?”
Linda: everyone yeah everyone has sort of joyed hands around like a prayer circle just to say like “this sucks we think this sucks”
Iain it’s been quite impressive. So one of the reasons the OGL the new OGL came about was obviously uh the new edition of Dungeons and Dragons, though Wizards don’t want us to use the word edition, is on the horizon. It’s going to be out in 2024 currently entitled titled One D&D what do you think is going to be the effect on one DnD from this when it eventually releases?
Linda: It really depends on how they attempt to release it because uh there have been rumors that they didn’t want to publish this as like a physical product um that still might happen where they’re where they want to move away from publishing books because books are expensive and they’re looking to like make more money. But they might be reevaluating that now that like people are unsubscribing to Dungeons and Dragons Beyond (DDB) and that they don’t have the kind of captive audience that DDB previously like allowed them to have
Linda: so it’s I think it’ll I think that it’s already affecting it I think that like one D&D is already being affected by this Fallout and people are absolutely in boardrooms discussing it and I don’t know if this will be delayed but there is. Yeah One D&D relies a lot on trust and unfortunately for like the designers working on it I like they’re good guys they’re doing their job keeping their head down writing writing the Dungeons and Dragons uh and unfortunately for those guys they’re they’re corporate overlords are going to to screw them yeah.
Iain: thanks very much for coming on the cast Linda I really appreciate you taking the time and uh we’ll maybe catch up with you at some point in the future this continues to explode.
Linda: thanks thank you um I hope everyone has a good night and uh play indie games
Jamie: The leak prompted many companies to open up their game licenses under their own much more generous open gaming license or Creative Commons license.
The Creative Commons license allows the original creators of a work to retain the copyright while allowing other companies to make products inspired by that work. Creative Commons licenses can be specified as commercial or non-commercial i.e. you can make money from it or you can’t.
Now Paizo publishing, the makers of Pathfinder, have led this charge with these announcements stating they’ll be making an open RPG creative license. In their announcement on the 12th of January they said
Oliver: “In addition to Paizo, Kobold Press, Chaosium, Green Ronin, Legendary Games, Rogue Genius Games, and a growing list of publishers have already agreed to participate in the Open RPG Creative License, and in the coming days we hope and expect to add substantially to this group.”
Jamie: It’s worth noting here that kobold press are one of the biggest third party publishers of fifth edition material. Now Paizo says this license will not even be owned by them or anyone who makes money off RPGs. It’ll instead be put into the trust of a law firm initially. Paizo will eventually seek out a non-profit organization to be the steward of the license. They end this piece by saying
Oliver: “We’ll be there at your side. You can count on us not to go back on our word”
Jamie: An update from Paizo yesterday, the 19th of January as of recording date” titled “The ORC Alliance grows” said they have more people on board they list 52 of those companies but say it’s not all of them.
Now he wanted to get the opinion of someone who’s affected by these changes. Jon Hodgson runs Handiwork Games and has been on the show and site a quite a few times being interviewed by Iain. Handiwork Games make a variety of RPGs including the 5th edition powered Beowulf game. Iain interviewed Jon about what he thought of the changes coming to the OGL.
Iain: Thanks very much for coming on the cast Jon. I’d like to start by talking a little bit about how Beowulf came about that you published under the Fifth Edition OGL. What was the process like of producing a game under that license?
Jon Hodgson (he/him): It’s super straightforward actually. Hello it’s nice to be here again um yeah it was really straightforward which is one of the reasons we did it. You know you know you’re tapping into pretty much the largest single audience for role-playing games.
The team that I worked with we’d have a lot of experience with Fifth Edition because it’s basically the same people or a bunch of the same people who did Adventures in Middle Earth which was the the port of the One Ring to 5e so we had a lot of experience there and we knew. Something I really like about 5e is just sort of how hackable it is you know it’s it’s a bunch of bits that you can do a lot with and yeah all very straightforward there’s almost nothing you needed to do you know as long as you’re familiar with the basic rules of OGL publishing: there’s certain phrases you can’t use and and things like that but that’s all fine.
I’m quite I was quite happy with that trade-off right you know um it’s you know yeah very easy there’s nothing to do really other than to put the put the open game license into your into your book
Iain: so you didn’t need to like sort of check in with the Wizards about the things you were doing?
Jon: no no
Iain: You just used the license as was?
Jon: No it’s totally open so you can just you could just use it. I do believe there’s some histories in there going back in in the day to things like the book of erotic fantasy where Clauses you know Clauses were were invoked to but that’s all after the fact you don’t have to preemptively ask permission to do anything you know it’s an open gaming license so yeah.
Iain: sure now of course one of the reasons we’ve got you on this cast is that the Wizards are thinking about making it not so open a game license. How have you felt about the leaked update that’s been about for the OFL?
Jon: oh gosh isn’t it just a massive shame. I’m mostly just sad now because it feels like somebody somewhere doesn’t understand that this is not money left on the table this is a very cheap but incredibly effective marketing tool for Dungeons and Dragons, for Fifth Edition.
Now I always want to be very clear I don’t think the OGL made Fifth Edition I think a bunch of factors made Fifth Edition what it is which is hugely successful right this is when I say made it what it is you know probably the most successful versions of version of Dungeons and Dragons um certainly
Iain: pretty sure we reported sometime last year that it’s like it’s basically made more money than most of the other versions of Dungeons and Dragons put together or something like that
Jon: yeah it doesn’t doesn’t surprise and we live in a time where there’s a whole bunch of things came together you know to make it sort of D&D’s time I think and it just seems like they’re hell-bent on ending that, and it it’s very sad I think it’s a misunderstanding of what it is and what it does for the game and the brand.
A lot of it sounds spookily familiar to people I speak to outside of the industry who I have some friends who work in different fields who are much more high-flying and they often suggest things like this you know why isn’t it all sort of clamped down and and on a subscription through an app putting all of this kind of thing um but we shall see how it goes for them. I mean I don’t think it’s going to go very well, but but that remains to be seen right we don’t know nobody knows.
Iain: yeah they haven’t officially released a new version of the OGL yet their last post was on the 12th saying you know we’re going to roll back the loyalty stuff and the the part of the license that would allow them to basically use anybody’s content for free without permission they’re saying they’re going to roll that back but no one knows exactly what that new open gaming license is going to look like.
As it stands Jon, how are you intending to go forward with a project like Beowulf that is currently under the fifth edition OGL. Do you plan to take away from that or just plan to stay with it for now and see what happens?
Jon: Well in the short term we’ll stay with it until we hear what the actual was actually released the big problem is the the OGL has run as well you all know for 20 odd years on the promise it would never go away. That has turned out to be not true so and with the rollback recently on things that were very clearly meant to be in in the contract and and were in a contract and apparently now we’re just a draft of the contract the trust is just gone.
You can’t you can’t entrust your IP and your effort and my team’s effort into into that situation. It’s not tenable at all. Which perhaps is the aim of it right is to just clear out the third parties it might be. So of course more more in the medium term we’re looking at other solutions and moving we will very likely be moving away from the OGL.
As long as we can keep the existing the existing products in print I think we will try to do that I would prefer to do that and I would greatly prefer it if 1.0 a continued and we were able to you know as as was always the terms of it that was irrevocable if it continues then we will continue, but we’re looking outside now at other options um and much more looking at owning it ourselves I want something we own. I don’t want to jump into another OGL.
I think as as wonderful as it all sounds right now and I think it is really um it’s a marvelous situation where a whole bunch of very creative people are are running into that breach and and providing something much more cool and there’s a lot going on and I applaud all that and I think it’s great I just don’t I don’t I would like us to be independent of all of that if I possibly can.
Jon: I think that’s that’s the way forward.
It bothers me a little bit that we’re going from the stability this sort of eight years of stability of the 800 pound gorilla, love it or hate it, it has been a sort of stable time and now I think we’re moving into a situation where there are going to be half a dozen sort of 200 pound gorillas and it’s all very friendly at the moment but I don’t know you know I don’t know what the future holds and nor does anyone else and I I think it’s a dangerous time we’re moving into so we shall see we shall see what happens.
Jon: I could do without it let me tell you
Iain: I can imagine for a smaller publisher like yourself the sort of uncertainty is just like keeping you is the sort of thing that keeps you awake at night.
Jon: the big worry right from the beginning of this for me was was perhaps not the specifics of the changes in the license is just chaos and chaos in the industry.
I worry that retailers I mean it sounds like there are rumors that that the whole D&D experience will be intended to be delivered via an app that there won’t be print books that’s a big, big problem because of the volume that D&D books sell they almost create the shelves for role-playing games in a lot of game shops that then makes a little bit of space for for less you know lucrative RPGs but if that big tent pole goes away how, how do retailers pick out of the sort of six new OGLs from the 200 pound gorillas how do they pick which ones the stock because they can’t stock all of them you know so yeah interesting times.
Iain: I’ve got this slight fear I think it sounds like you have it as well the the we’re sort of at the start of a sort of almost sort offormat Wars like VHS versus Betamax kind of period of role-playing games where there’s all these different OGLs and SRDs out there for different things trying to vie for small publishers attentions. Do you think that’s justified?
Jon: yeah I think so and it it bothers me and again it’s you know, at the risk of repeating myself, I think I’ve got many friends in retail who have all been desperate to point out you’ve got to understand the sheer size of D&D and it won’t simply be replaced by the next largest thing you know. It doesn’t you know the next largest thing and it doesn’t matter we know that’s Pathfinder right but it doesn’t matter who we’re talking about they’re not as big and again it’s all you know
Iain: not by some way
Jon: yeah by a significant margin and it’s not just all D&D takes a step back and I mean there’s a lot of um keen Indies who are like now it’s my time to shine now everyone will you know the scales will fall from people’s eyes and they won’t be stuck in the 5e you know sphere.
I think that’s maybe a little bit optimistic you know um I don’t think uh the existence of D&D stops people buying into games.
Jon: I think D&D just provides something people want which is very unpopular opinion I’ve discovered but there it is I just think it is. And hey I should say as well we make all kinds of different games we don’t just do 5e we do you know a Forged in the Dark game with a|state we do my own little crazy um super indie hippie game of the silver road that’s about as far from D&D as you can get you know we like a bit of everything so I’m not speaking solely as a 5e person, far from it but there’s some realities in the marketplace I think that will perhaps have a greater impact than people are aware of.
I don’t know I don’t know what everyone thinks you know
Iain: do you have a sense at all about how publishers of sort of your size and friends that you know in the industry are feeling about the the new the leaked OGL
Jon: um a huge amount of disappointment from the people I speak to and and just this unfairness of it is is you know that we all put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into what we do and it’s just being taken away without. Yeah it sounds kind of childish but they said they weren’t gonna do that you know and and the fact it was never going to go away meant you could risk more on it and a lot of us have risked a great deal.
I feel so sorry for people who are literally in the middle of a massive backer kit marketing campaign which is a very costly and about to launch a 5e Kickstarter you know because you just must be feeling like “What?” and there’s a lot of money being spent there.
Thankfully we’re we’re in a very fortuitous position actually we couldn’t really have asked for a better position in that a reprint of Beowulf core book is on the horizon but not too close you know so we can if we had to just sell it all tomorrow at a bargain price we could probably do that without dying um but you know other people are in very different positions and yeah it’s scary scary times for people it’s the uncertainty is never a happy place to be
Iain: No indeed. Well thanks very much for your time Jon and maybe we’ll have you back on once the dust has settled around the new OGL
Jon: yeah I mean you can pretty much guarantee anything I’ve said the opposite will happen that seems to be my current track record so good I’m glad to be that lightning rod of wrongness
Iain: great we’ll have you back on for more wrong opinions
Jon: yes fantastic. Always happy to provide them.
Iain: as was mentioned in the interview with Linda, Wizards of the Coast issued a response to the leak. we are going to read that response in full now.
Jamie: “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. 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.
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.
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. 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.
However, it’s clear from the reaction that we rolled a 1. 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.
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. Content already released under 1.0a will also remain unaffected.
What it will not contain is any royalty structure. 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.
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. 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.
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. Our goal was to get exactly the type of feedback on which provisions worked and which did not–which we ultimately got from you. 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. 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. We won’t let you down.”
Iain: that response was released on Friday the 13th of January.
On January the 18th Wizards released a further follow-up in a post titled “A working conversation about the open gaming license”. In this post Kyle Brink, the executive producer on D&D lays out an apology for the way they have handled the announcement of a new OGL so far and goes on to listings that will not be impacted by the updated ogl these include: video content, virtual tabletop content like roll20 and the like DMs Guild content, OGL 1.0a content that’s the current version of the OGL that it actually exists, your revenue, and the ownership of your content.
Kyle is effectively confirming that there’ll be no reporting of finances no loyalty scheme and that current content made under the ogl 1.0a will not be affected. He does not however say anything about the language in the leaked ogl 1.1 that would deauthorize the ogl 1.0a for future products.
On Thursday 19th, yesterday from the day of recording, a new post came out “entitled starting the ogl “playtest”” in air quotes. This post contains the current version of OGL 1.2 and though we haven’t read it yet it seems to stick to what Karl said it would. They also announced that they were going to be putting the Dungeons and Dragons mechanics into a creative of Commons license as we mentioned earlier.
They also say the new OGL 1.2 will be perpetual and irrevocable. The original OGL license was perpetual which didn’t mean it would never end it just means it didn’t have an end date. perpetual and irrevocable in legal terms means it really can’t be cancelled. However it is still going to deauthorize 1.0a Wizards still seem to be quite keen on that because it allows them to control content they’ll be coming out. Their Community is invited to provide their feedback in that post and will provide links to that.
Okay. Thanks for sticking with us through all that folks as we go through the biggest news for the industry since the sale of Asmodee at the start of last year we’re going to put links to all our sources that we’ve used so you can read up on this yourself from folk that are way better informed than we are. We’ve done our best to sort of put this into an understandable format with a flow that we think makes sense and we hope we’ve achieved that. We’d especially like to thank Linda Codega and Jon Hodgson for giving us their time at quite short notice.
So personal thoughts on this. Wizards have done a fantastic job of destroying 10 years of trust built up with Fifth Edition
Jamie: I think over 10 years
Iain: yeah over 10 years OGLs been around for, well the OGL itself has been around since Third Edition and many, many publishers have basically based an entire career on that making content for Dungeons and Dragons, and what happened with the ogl 1.1 “leak” and we’ll come to that air quotes leak in a second is that they have completely destroyed that trust overnight.
Jamie: I think it’s been said by a number of places I know I think it was Dicebreaker that was interviewing Steamforged Games
Jamie: and they said yep the the spell is broken the empire united must divide they didn’t say that but yeah
Iain: words to that effect
Jamie: words to that effect, and it seems like now is the time
Iain: now file this slightly under rumor but I heard that there were a few publishers that had signed this version of 1.1 so the fact that this like output was called a “leak” in air quotes seems to be kind of not right if people have signed it and send it back to Wizards. You absolutely should not have signed this contract because it takes a lot from you.
I would just like to remind people that if you were earning over $750000 any money you earned over that was subject to basically a 25 tax under the ogl 1.1 and Linda said in our interview that that Wizards had estimated that to be about 20 Publishers Linda reckoned it was a lot, lot more than that.
Critical role who are like THE big Dungeons and Dragons streamer right now, Vox Machina, all that jazz they’ve got animated shows about them they are the Dungeons and Dragons sort of like public representative in the mainstream I think that’s fair to say. They issued a fairly wishy-washy statement that was very middle of the road and was basically meant to not annoy anyone best I could tell they didn’t want to know the community and they didn’t want to annoy Wizards. They are still to come out and say what what’s happening basically they just walked a line for now.
Jamie: They’ve walked a line but I think it’s pretty clear that there’s a Critical Role RPG that’s probably going to be coming very soon from its own system from its own studio. Worth saying there’s been a great deal of misinformation flying about the internet from rumors that the Dungeon & Dragons discord has been banning people or blocking people from mentioning the OGL leak or the next edition of Dungeons and Dragons, D&D One or One D&D, sorry, about being a monthly subscription and they’re not being a physical book this is all just misinformation. Don’t listen to it check your sources check your facts.
I know things are a bit up in the air right now a little bit crazy remember that people will always have an angle and they want to make for example wizard of the coast seem like the bad guys here and I’m not sticking up for Wizards of the Coast here I’m simply saying there are people who are much more pointed in their anger.
Iain: yeah there’s a lot of anger out there some some understandable some of it a bit pitchfork after the monster and yeah be very very careful about what you’re reading and what you’re listening to Linda Codega at Gizmodo is who we spoke to and John Hodson from Handiwork Games.
Linda just put out a piece today basically summarizing kind of how we got here and where we’re at kind of like we were trying to do just now so that they put out that piece today and that’ll be a great summary I’m sure I haven’t had a chance to read it yet but Linda’s been doing absolutely fantastic work so please do go and read their work. And if you like their work please do share it as well because that’s how these folks get paid don’t just sort of sub tweet it or anything actually share about work that’s how you know people get paid and it’s how you know if you can’t give us money for month to month, creators like ourselves like that as well just share our work that’s great. .
Yeah it’s complete mess, this is a continuously evolving story we’ll no doubt be back on this piece the next cast in a couple of weeks time we try and keep people up to date on our Discord if you want to come and join us there this is constantly evolving and we’re sharing bits and pieces there as we go so yeah go there as well.
Yeah it’s a complete mess basically Wizards have destroyed a lot of trust overnight they’re trying to get it back the Creative Commons move was a huge surprise to a lot of people that may have done something to help repair some of the damage. But it’s going to take a long time I think for Wizard to gain trust back and I don’t know how that affects One D&D when it comes out in 2024.
Jamie: We’ll see what happens with reception when the Dungeons and Dragons film comes out later this year and also the recently optioned I believe Dungeons and Dragons television show.
Jamie: Is it too little too late? That might be too cynical but and I’m sorry Oliver that this was basically role-playing games, role-playing games role-playing games, role-playing games.
Oliver: no no it’s fine it’s a big story and you know for me someone who doesn’t know too much about it even though I can see that there’s obviously lots of contradictory information coming out: Wizards saying one thing, seems people have signed the license even though because it’s in their statements seem to be saying it was only a draft or something so yeah it’s all well you know.
I can see why Wizards was trying to protect their property and I get all that and and maybe the original license wasn’t quite as key as it could have been but um they seemed to have gone completely opposite way and and tried to make as much money out of their product as possible so yeah we’ll as you say we’ll have to see what’s happening and see what what’s would you know basically watch the space
Iain: one last thing before we move on to the rest of the news, and there is other news to come. Please don’t go after the people making Dungeons and Dragons. The designers and writers and artists who are actually involved with making the books that you love and we all love and the game you love they are not responsible for what corporate people are deciding to do with this game. Do not go after the people actually making Dungeons and Dragons. You can object to the corporation, and you should in a lot of ways, don’t go after the individuals involved in actually writing the books you love. Thanks very much.
Jamie: coincidentally hasbros lost a good deal of Revenue uh his shares fell something ridiculous last quarter. Coincidence?
Iain: let’s not subject ourselves to rumour
Jamie: Now onto the rest of the news.
Oliver: As you can imagine we’re not done with the fallout of Wizards move just yet. As a result of the open gaming license changes three European RPG Publishers have banded together to form the European RPG Studios Union.
The studios involved are Studio Agate, the French publisher behind Shadows of Esteren and the 5th edition powered Fateforge, Uhrwerk Verlag a German publisher known for Spittemond and Malsturm, Acheron Games maker of old history RPG Lex Arcana and Inferno which adapts The Divine Comedy to fifth edition.
The organization said it would advocate for RPGs
Iain: “as a genre of literature and form of art before national and european institutions”
Oliver: in a statement to site Dicebreaker they said they would be advocating for those working in the industry across Europe and seek better protections and conditions for those in the RPG industry the organization supports the efforts to keep D&D open to all.
They said to Dicebreaker
Iain: “We stand ready to work with the actors of this movement to make role-playing games more open and accessible both for the public and for content creators. The idea is to defend the open source spirit of the OGL which allows a microcosm to exist, to publish, and to live from this work. Hasbros current stance threatens many jobs in Europe”
Oliver: I think it’s always good to see unions being formed and protecting workers rights and all that so this is another step in the right direction and it sounds like it’s really gaining momentum on the back of the OGL news as well which is good to see.
Iain: yeah from what I learned from uh Flavien Loisier who’s the current head of Hachette UK there’s a there are unions for a sort of board game and that sort of tabletop stuff in France but obviously not as much in the way of RPG protection so yeah great to see fantastic
Jamie: And thank you Oliver for taking the European publisher names so that you know I did not butcher the German Publishers and games
Oliver: I hope I’ve done a good job of the French names as well
Jamie: If you are a native French speaker please let us know
Iain: please address all complaints to Oliver at
Jamie: think you’ll find care of Iain at the giant brain
We all know the last couple of years have been extremely problematic to say the least for all sizes of companies across the tabletop industry.increased shipping prices, covid-19 with the factory shutdowns, Brexit in the UK and much much more have led to a very stressful and expensive time for many companies.
One of the latest casualties of these is Funagain Distribution a distributor for many companies including Roxley games probably most famously known for the brass series of games.
In a post on Twitter Funagain Distribution posted the following
Oliver: “We are sad to make this announcement. We will be ending operations in the next few months. Our last day to accept orders will be Feb. 10. Our fulfillment team will continue on all pending projects in the warehouse and any that are already en route. We’ll miss you all.”
Jamie: The full statement contained in the image attached to the Tweet says
Oliver: “We regret to inform you that Funagain Logistics and Funagain Distribution will be ceasing operation. Our last day of business will be on April the 30th, 2023 after that date, we will no longer be offering any kind of fulfilment, storage, or distribution.
The decision to close this business was not easy but the impact of the past two years on operational costs has prevented us from being able to move forward into the future.
Our team will continue to fill all pending projects currently in our warehouse, projects that are already enroute to our warehouse and web store orders until March 3rd, 2023. After that period we will stop fulfilment and shift our core staff’s focus to closing the warehouses.
All clients are requested to make alternative arrangements for the fulfilment and storage needs as soon as possible. At that time we will assemble your product for exit, settle any outstanding invoices, and then schedule a designated pickup window. “
Jamie: Sad to see another company closing its doors. Definitely gonna affect some Kickstarter campaigns. Fewer companies offering distribution usually quite bad for the industry at large, leads to monopolies and monopolies are bad folks
Oliver: Funagain has been I think a big name that probably many of us will have come across indirectly you know like Roxley um there’s a big name so yeah big impact on the industry and you wouldn’t have expected a company like necessarily go under but obviously yeah logistics is tough at the moment so it’s hard
Iain: Just remember that folks when you’re like weighing your Kickstarter project please be kind to all these companies because this sort of thing is happening all the time and it’s probably going to happen more as the year goes on so yeah just be as kind as you can please
Regrettably we are not done announcing closures of companies.
I know many folk in the hobby have been worried about Gil Hova, designer of many games including Wordsy and The Networks. Gil was very active on social media and a member of the Ludology podcast. He hadn’t been heard of much recently but has popped back up on Twitter to let everyone know he is okay and that his games company Formal Ferret games will be shutting down he starts this thread by saying
Jamie: “so a big update I am closing my game company Formal Ferret games and leaving the ludology podcast. I haven’t been to play testing in several months and I will not be actively designing games for the foreseeable future“
Iain: He goes on to say that his mental health crashed in 2021 and he spent 2022 getting back on his fet. He says he no longer wants to be running a business and that he is in the process of signing over all his games to other publishers. This includes his in progress Kickstarter campaign game High Rise.
Gil says this is not down to any one person or a thing just his own personal situation and brain chemistry. Gil will no longer be posting to Twitter but is keeping his account open.
It’s really great to hear that Gil is okay, I know plenty of people were worried about him. We wish him all the best. It does take a lot of guts to admit to this kind of thing in public and um yeah we do we do wish him all the best for the future no matter what he does
Oliver: yeah definitely we wish him all the best yeah I think we all have sort of missed Gill on the on the twitters and everywhere else
Jamie: and it’s great to see him being so open and honest and I hope it’s something that we can normalize among let’s be honest. Men. I’m talking to you, talking to myself we’re rubbish at talking about our feelings and things that are wrong.Talk about it yeah you know you’re not more masculine by shutting up
Oliver: and you’re not alone either that’s the thing
Jamie: exactly thank you Oliver you’re the gentle one and I’m hard and brutal
Iain: shouty Scottish therapy versus not shouty therapy
Oliver: German not shouty, anyway
Jamie: Te UK success story that is Games Workshops has had a wee tumble in it’s usually unblemished rise.
On Tuesday the 10th of January Games Workshop reported half year results below expectations causing a five percent fall in the share price. U.S sales were less than expected and operating profit dropped 14% to 75.7 million pounds. The group also noted it had lost 1 million pounds in Chinese sales due to covid-19 lockdowns.
Chief executive Kevin Roundtree said
Iain: “Games Workshop and the Warhammer hobby are in great shape”
Jamie: The share price has since regained its value and made up the five percent fall within the week.
I mean you could argue it’s a small course correction but it is worth noting as usual that although Games Workshop is on a stratospheric rise it’s not all smooth sailing your stock price can go up as well as down your money is not safe
Oliver: I just always find it funny when they say oh a huge profit drop well you still made 75.7 million yeah
Jamie: I know exactly
Oliver: so yeah I get that the 14% drop is probably worrying but yeah it’s not if we’re a huge profit
Jamie: which I believe 75.7 million pounds will afford you one small Space Marine arm from Forge World
Jamie: and not even a particularly good one
Oliver: unpainted as well
Jamie: Of course unpainted come on if you want the paints I mean we’re talking you need like 76 million
Iain: yeah those paints are expensive and brushes
We had don’t have much in the way of Jobs, Opportunities, and Events coming up just now but Cardboard Edison Awards are open for submissions until 31st of January. This is an annual competition and a really good one. It’s a competition for games that are not currently published so it’s a great opportunity if you’re an aspiring designer to get your game looked at by an experienced judging panel.
You don’t need to have like a fully made game for the initial entry just so there are some videos and then showing off. All the details are on the Cardboard Edison site. Cardboard Edison is also a great resource if you are an aspiring designer its got lots of information about how to playtest how to prototype, getting into printing and publishing all that kind of thing. Really good site I do recommend checking them out
Jamie: Are you stealing my Awards section?
Iain: what’s your point?
Jamie: nothing nothing
Oliver: fight, fight, fight, fight
Iain: we would just like to take a moment now to give a shout out to our lovely patrons who don’t steal anything from us they just give us money instead because they’re absolutely adorable. Especially James Naylor and Shaun Newman are our current executive producers. You can join them from just one dollar a month just helps us out with running costs of the site and the cast. There’s loads of other ways to support us including buying T-shirts from sir meeple and lovely metal dice from metallic dice games
But Jamie before we go it’s the first Monopoly news of the Year.
Jamie: yep new year same old Monopoly.
Now a record-breaking news story here from the distant past of late October. In July of 2016, go with me on this, Neil Scallon of Three Bridges in West Sussex set a new world record for collecting the most official Monopoly sets with 1677 different versions of the game. Now over the years Neil has reclaimed his title in 2018 and 2019 and finally as of 31st of October 2022 he set a new world record with 3554 different Monopoly sets, oh yes. Congratulations Neil I wonder how many of them you’ve played more than seven maybe?
Oliver: Big shelf of shame there
Jamie: that’s assets, that’s that’s Financial assets right there.
Iain: If you go to the link we’ll provide folks you can look down Neil’s entire list he owns and it is it’s quite entertaining. There’s an Alan Turing Monopoly I’m just looking generally now.
Jamie well thanks very much for listening if you like what you’ve listened to the best way to help us out is to share the podcast drop us a review and a rating on iTunes per chance you can also follow us
Email: [email protected]
Jamie: send us your thoughts, your hopes, your dreams, your wishes any games you want to play this year any games you’re looking forward to this year. If you understood the ogl that we talked about anything you’d like to say. Did we butcher any pronunciations?
Iain and if you’re a small publisher who’s affected by the ogl we’d be really interested to hear from you about what you think about the current changes to ogl and whether you’ll be giving feedback to the ogl 1.2. Please do get in touch and let us know what you think.
Thanks very much for sticking with us to a longer than normal cast folks and we’ll see you in a couple weeks time with more tabletop news bye for now
Oliver: thanks very much have a happy New Year
Jamie: yeah bye bye bye