It’s now official: Dungeons & Dragons is licensed under the Creative Commons. This makes the popular tabletop roleplaying game “freely available for any use,” Dungeons & Dragons executive producer Kyle Brink wrote in a blog post today.
Just weeks ago, this outcome would have seemed impossible. About a month ago, Wizards of the Coast (WoTC) — the publisher of Dungeons & Dragons and a subsidiary of Hasbro — sent a document with a new open gaming license (OGL) to top Dungeons & Dragons content creators, asking them to sign what they called “OGL 1.1.” The existing OGL, which had been in effect since 2000, made it possible for third-party creators to use the expansive game system to sell their own spell books, modules, virtual tabletops (VTTs), and other content that has helped the game grow into the mega-success it is today. But certain terms in the updated document would have made it impossible for these independent businesses to continue operating. Some creators leaked the document in protest, exposing its predatory terms that would suffocate the prolific fan community. Over 77,000 creators and fans signed an open letter against these changes, and some went as far as canceling their subscriptions to D&D Beyond, an online platform for the game. Finally, WoTC admitted that they “rolled a 1,” or in other words, messed up very badly.
Last week, fans were pleasantly surprised last week when Brink announced that the company was planning to release game materials under a Creative Commons license, a complete reversal from the original, restrictive plan. Today, after getting feedback from over 15,000 fans, Dungeons & Dragons officially released the game system under this lenient license, in all 403 pages of its glory.
The company even addressed concerns about how last week’s initial Creative Commons proposal would impact VTTs, or software that makes it possible for people to play TTRPGs remotely. Now, WoTC has even walked back those stipulations, while also keeping the original OGL in effect.
“This Creative Commons license makes the content freely available for any use,” Brink wrote in today’s blog post. “We don’t control that license and cannot alter or revoke it. It’s open and irrevocable in a way that doesn’t require you to take our word for it. And its openness means there’s no need for a VTT policy. Placing the [Systems Reference Document] under a Creative Commons license is a one-way door. There’s no going back.”
As it turns out, fan communities can accomplish a lot when they rally together. Just ask Ticketmaster.