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D&D leadership issues a fresh apology, details next steps to update the OGL

Some found previous statements to be insulting to long-time fans and partners alike

A photo showing the cover of Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen featuring Lord Soth, some dice, and a collection of dragon miniatures admiring it. Photo: Charlie Hall/Polygon
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Dungeons & Dragons publisher Wizards of the Coast has done an impressive amount of damage to its own reputation over the past few weeks. Now its new executive producer, former video game developer Kyle Brink, has issued a full apology on behalf of his team.

“We are sorry,” Brink said in a post on D&D Beyond. “We got it wrong.”

The thing that Brink and his team got so very wrong is the latest version of the Open Gaming License, also known as the OGL, a decades-old legal framework that allows additional content to be created based on some elements of the Dungeons & Dragons ruleset. Wizards originally said it would change the OGL in order to protect the brand from interlocutors — including attempts to embed blockchain technology into 5th edition D&D. But fans and business partners alike remained skeptical of its intent.

Later, a draft copy of a new version of the OGL — first reported on by io9 and later verified by Polygon — sent shockwaves through the tabletop RPG industry. Its provisions would have upended the business model of many other publishing companies, including Paizo (Pathfinder, Starfinder), Kobold Press, Green Ronin, and others. But smaller, independent creators were caught by surprise as well, with many wondering if they would be able to retain ownership of their D&D-based creative works going forward.

That anxiety was only heightened by Wizards’ week-long silence following the leak. Fans organized on social media and elsewhere, creating multiple petitions and even a boycott of Wizards’ online platform, D&D Beyond. Brink’s post reads as an attempt to stem that bleeding, which is reported to be in the tens of thousands of users.

It’s also notable that this is the first official statement regarding the OGL to have a Wizards employee’s name attached to it in nearly a month.

“Our language and requirements in the draft OGL were disruptive to creators and not in support of our core goals of protecting and cultivating an inclusive play environment and limiting the OGL to TTRPGs,” Brink said. “Then we compounded things by being silent for too long. We hurt fans and creators, when more frequent and clear communications could have prevented so much of this.”

It’s worth noting that this post, released Wednesday, stands in stark contrast to the original apology that Wizards published just last week. That post ended by warning fans, “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.” That post, which was not attributed to any specific individual at Wizards or to its corporate owner, was seen by many as insulting, or even as a refusal to acknowledge the many legitimate concerns raised by fans and publishers. This new apology reads more like a full retreat from the attempted brinkmanship on display in the leaked OGL.

“You deserve some stability and clarity,” Brink wrote, before laying out clear next steps for the new OGL. A new draft version will be released this week, on or before Jan. 20, and a survey will be offered allowing fans to give feedback — not unlike the process used to test and balance the TTRPG itself.

Brink added that whatever form this new OGL takes, it will have no impact on fan-created video content, miniatures or other accessories, content for virtual tabletop platforms like Roll20 and Foundry VTT, or — most importantly — previously-created content and the ownership of that content going forward.

“You will continue to own your content,” Brink said, “with no license-back requirements.”

Despite these new assurances, many creators simply aren’t willing to take Wizards at its word going forward. That includes Paizo, which has already vowed to foot the bill to create a new license that is fully outside the control of Wizards and Hasbro.

Brink, whose previous experience includes work on Guild Wars 2, takes over leadership of the D&D brand from Ray Winninger, who served as executive producer for more than four years. Winninger left Wizards in October after guiding the leading tabletop RPG through an incredible period of growth, including during the first few years of the COVID-19 pandemic.