Weekend Update: 1/7/2023

Welcome to the Cannibal Halfling Weekend Update! Start your weekend with a chunk of RPG news from the past week. We have the week’s top sellers, industry news stories, and discussions from elsewhere online.

DriveThruRPG Top Sellers for 1/7/2023

  1. Rolemaster Core Law
  2. Cyberpunk RED
  3. Worlds Without Number: The Atlas of the Latter Earth
  4. Traveller: Central Supply Catalogue ‘23
  5. Blade Runner Core Rulebook

Top News Stories

Text of OGL 1.1 leaked: This week there were reports of a leaked version of Wizards of the Coast’s new version of the OGL, OGL 1.1. Over at Gizmodo, Linda Codega provided the most in-depth analysis of the text, although at least one other source was reporting, the Youtube channel Roll for Combat. While there was a certain degree of skepticism over the leak, analysis done by ourselves and other members of the gaming media have, if not confirmed, at least decided with a high degree of certainty that the document is real. First, both the Gizmodo and Roll For Combat commentators are industry veterans with little to gain and a lot to lose for either fabricating or passing on unreliable information. Second, Kickstarter head of games Jon Ritter confirmed on Twitter that the terms regarding Kickstarter in the OGL were real and had been discussed with WotC. Third, other reputable games media sources have confirmed that the draft, dated to last month, was real and has been seen by others besides those reporting. Finally, several third party publishers, who are known to have received copies of the most up to date version of the new agreement (albeit under NDA) have either ‘expressed concern’ or, more tellingly, retained lawyers since receiving the document.

It stands to reason that the leak is real. However, there are many things we do not know even knowing that. First, there’s absolutely no way to know if the final version of OGL 1.1 (to be released on January 13th, at least as of this publication) will look anything like the leaked document. There is a chance Wizards of the Coast honestly wasn’t expecting the backlash and will change things. There is also a (higher than one might think) chance that this was a ‘deliberate leak’, something engineered within Wizards to gauge public opinion, possibly after receiving pushback from developers under NDA. Whatever the reason, as this isn’t a final document we must assume everything is subject to change.

Second, we don’t know the implications of the new version of the OGL because it’s in legally muddy waters. On one hand, the interpretation that Wizards can ‘de-authorize’ an earlier version of the OGL stands in fairly direct contravention of a number of similar licenses, mostly in software. This could open Wizards to damages under the doctrine of ‘promissory estoppel’, which in essence says that a party in a contract is entitled to do business based on the reasonable assumption that the counterparty will continue to keep their promise. As there are twenty years of OGL games, previous statements from Wizards that this would not happen, and numerous other licenses which indicate WotC’s behavior is out of line, WotC would be responsible for making the businesses that they are destroying, in essence, whole.

On the other hand, the original OGL, in part due to its brevity, is not exactly a legally airtight document. Section 4 of the OGL does not specify that the license granted is ‘irrevocable’, and section 9 states parties can use any ‘authorized’ version of the license while ‘authorization’ (and therefore ‘de-authorization’) is never defined within the terms of the contract. To make this worse, all Wizards really needs to do is threaten to sue or send a Cease and Desist order, whether or not they have a case or do so legally. Their ability to intimidate most of the market into compliance exists because they are the only publicly-traded TTRPG publisher.

Whether or not the final version of OGL 1.1 is as bad as the leaked version, and whether or not WotC wins in court, it is incontrovertible that their intention is to make as much money as possible off of D&D, even if it’s at the expense of the third party publishers who, realistically, are as responsible for the brand’s ascendancy as Wizards is. As a player, though, this need not affect you at all, since there are hundreds if not thousands of RPGs out there, many of which are better than D&D. And if you’re on the fence, or really insist on dungeons for some reason, let me just say the same thing we’ve been saying for the last four years. Maybe…Don’t Play D&D?

Discussion of the Week

What’s an rpg with a specific “genre” that’s not common to see on role playing games?: Fun discussion this week, lots of left-field RPG suggestions for genres that don’t typically get a lot of love from the design community.

Have any RPG news leads or scoops? Get in touch! You can reach us at cannibalhalflinggaming@gmail.com, or through Twitter via @HungryHalfling.

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