Dungeons & Dragons company gives in to fans and rolls back licence changes

Plans by Wizards of the Coast to claim royalties and partial ownership of homebrew D&D content have been abandoned.

It’s been a tumultuous month for Wizards of the Coast, owners of Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering. Firstly, it was reported that the company had cancelled a number of video game projects based on Dungeons & Dragons; something it still hasn’t clarified, with one studio denying claims its game has been canned.

Then, a furore kicked off within the tabletop gaming community, when an updated and highly controversial version of Dungeons & Dragons’ open game licence leaked.

After several days of silence, Wizards of the Coast has at last issued a statement on the matter, acknowledging the fan backlash and promising to remove the unpopular additions to the licence.

First, let’s sum up what fans were unhappy about to begin with. The open game licence is essentially Wizard of the Coast’s way of allowing people to modify Dungeons & Dragons’ content and gameplay and make money off it.

Some tabletop games, like Pathfinder, are explicitly based on Dungeons & Dragons and yet exist as their own independent products. The popular Critical Role web series would have been affected too, since it also uses Dungeons & Dragons for its content.

The updates to the licence, however, would make it so creators would have to not only pay royalties (if their products make a certain amount of money) but also hand over some of the rights to Wizards of the Coast.

Neither players nor creators were thrilled with the changes, prompting petitions and many fans cancelling their subscriptions to the D&D Beyond online tool set.

‘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.’

Wizards of the Coast promises that the licence will not include any royalty structure and any homebrew Dungeons & Dragons content will remain the property of their creator.

‘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,’ the statement reads.

‘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.’

Whether Wizards of the Coast is being sincere or it’s only rolling its intentions back because of the fan outrage, this should placate players and creators once the updated licence officially releases.

The plan was to do so today, but the company is obviously taking extra time. It concludes with: ‘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.’

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