Wizards of the Coast fully retreats from D&D license changes after community outrage

Art of Dungeons & Dragons adventurers fighting a dragon.
(Image credit: Wizards of the Coast)

In a blog post published Friday, Wizards of the Coast announced that it is fully putting the kibosh on the proposed Open Gaming License (OGL) 1.2 that threw the tabletop RPG community into disarray at the beginning of this month.

Instead, Wizards will leave the previously enshrined OGL 1.0 in place, while also putting the latest D&D Systems Reference Document (SRD 5.1) under a Creative Commons License (thanks to GamesRadar for the spot).

The OGL controversy timeline in brief

  • The original OGL was put in place with the third edition of D&D in 2000, and allowed other companies and creators to base their work off D&D and the d20 system without payment to or oversight from Wizards.
  • A draft of a revised OGL 1.1 leaked early in January, which proposed royalty payments and creative control by Wizards over derivative works. This immediately incited a backlash from fans.
  • Wizards backpedaled, introducing a softer OGL 1.2 that would still replace the original, and opened the community survey cited in today's announcement.

With 15,000 respondents in, the results of the survey were pretty damning. 88% didn't "want to publish TTRPG content under OGL 1.2," while 89% were "dissatisfied with deauthorizing OGL 1.0a." 62% were happy that Wizards would put prior SRD versions under Creative Commons, with most of the dissenters wanting more Creative Commons-protected content.

In response, Wizards of the Coast caved. It's leaving the OGL 1.0 in place, and will add the up-to-date SRD 5.1 to the list of prior D&D materials under Creative Commons, permanently allowing its free distribution and use.

"We don't control that license and cannot alter or revoke it," D&D executive producer Kyle Brink wrote in the blog post above. "Placing the SRD under a Creative Commons is a one-way door. There's no going back."

Wizards of the Coast has closed the OGL 1.2 survey, and while this marks a decisive victory for the community, there remain lingering questions and not a little bit of ill will towards Wizards for its initial push to change the OGL. PC Gamer Senior Editor Robin Valentine wonders if the OGL was even worth fighting for in the first place, arguing that this could be an opportunity for a fresh start in tabletop roleplay. "An entire hobby is shackled to a game full of rules and assumptions still deeply bound to decisions made 50 years ago," Robin wrote. "Some of them simply clunky, others increasingly problematic. Is that a situation worth fighting to protect?"

There also remains the question of Paizo and its recently-announced Open RPG Creative License (ORC)—this "system-agnostic" rival license had support from over 1,500 TTRPG publishers as of last week, a mighty head of steam that Wizards may have been too slow to counteract. The OGL is here to stay, but have those smaller publishers and independent creators left for good?

Associate Editor

Ted has been thinking about PC games and bothering anyone who would listen with his thoughts on them ever since he booted up his sister's copy of Neverwinter Nights on the family computer. He is obsessed with all things CRPG and CRPG-adjacent, but has also covered esports, modding, and rare game collecting. When he's not playing or writing about games, you can find Ted lifting weights on his back porch.