The OGL is dead. Long live the OGL.

This ain’t a victory lap, it’s a cautionary tale.

The OGL is dead. Long live the OGL.
By N. C. Wyeth. Scanned by Dave Pape. Public Domain.

On Monday, Wizards of the Coast announced that it would be putting an updated version of the Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition Systems Reference Document—5.2, for those keeping track—into the Creative Commons in 2025. SRD 5.2 will exist alongside the SRD 5.1, which was placed into the Creative Commons in March of 2023 following a devastating month of bad press (which, as one of the journalists at the forefront of reporting the foibles of Hasbro’s increasingly corporate movements, is probably the highest compliment one could receive) and an extremely vocal online response to the proposed changes to the Open Gaming License.

This announcement puts to rest one of the pervasive questions that has dogged Wizards of the Coast since last March. It appears that they will not try to resurrect the twenty-year-old OGL in any capacity, it’s unlikely that they will try to create a new game license (perhaps they learned from the backlash to the restrictive “additional” Game System License they published in 2008 for 4E), and—so far, at least—they’re saying that they will not try to force third party 5E producers to agree to sweetheart deals in order to keep publishing their work. 

All of this is fascinating and somewhat sad to watch. The Open Game License was genuinely a revolutionary contract—established two years before the Creative Commons license was developed—and tabletop games across the board, not just D&D, benefited from the free and unrestricted usage granted in the OGL. The OGL should have been the contract to stand the test of time as a testament to the power of open source licensing for intellectual property. But then, as with most good things that are given away in the spirit of joyous creativity and hope for community, capitalism happened.