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D&D exec: OGL fiasco worsened by lack of respect for Wizards of the Coast

‘I should have had more of my team in the room,’ says executive producer

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A Black woman in armor stands against a barred door. Image: Olga Drebas/Wizards of the Coast
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 executive producer Kyle Brink says that at least part of the drama surrounding the recent Open Gaming License fiasco came from a lack of respect given to the creative and community teams at Wizards of the Coast. Going forward, he says, more members of those teams will be involved in high-level decisions, and their voices will carry more weight.

The statements were made during an hour-long interview published Monday by the 3 Black Halflings channel on YouTube. Taken in full, Brink’s statements point to what appears to be an evolving relationship between Wizards and its corporate owner, toy and game giant Hasbro.

“I was trying to protect the team from distractions,” said Brink, “like discussing a licensing agreement, so we can make the game, so we can make cool supplements and books. And I should have had more of my team in the room. And that’s been corrected going forward.”

Dungeons & Dragons’ Open Gaming License (OGL) has been in place for more than two decades. It provides a legal framework by which people have been able to build their own tabletop RPGs alongside D&D. But proposed changes to the OGL almost instantly created an adversarial relationship between Wizards and its community. The backlash garnered mainstream press attention, and an organized boycott eventually helped convince Hasbro to back down.

Following io9’s initial leak of a draft of proposed OGL changes on Jan. 5, neither Wizards nor Hasbro provided an immediate response. When one was delivered, on Jan. 13, many saw it as a petulant half-measure and little more. The unsigned statement, delivered on D&D Beyond, read in part as follows:

A couple of last thoughts. First, we won’t be able to release the new OGL today, because we need to make sure we get it right, but it is coming. Second, 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.

“I honestly don’t know who contributed to the unsigned statement before I started posting,” Brink said. “The the statement that came out [...] I read it around the same time you did.”

A second statement, this time a far more full-throated apology, was made on Jan. 19 and signed by Brink.

“I was not pleased with what we had posted,” Brink continued. “This is one of the things that inspired me to take a personal... to put myself into this by name and take ownership of this because I — that was not acceptable to me. That’s not us. That’s not who we should be, and I felt like this needed to be less of a committee thing and more of a D&D thing.”

The “committee” that Brink is referring to is described throughout the interview as a collection of management, executives, and the legal counsel tasked with refining the next version of the OGL. According to Brink, there were dissenting opinions in the room and they came from the team at Wizards. Unfortunately, their protests were not taken enough into account by the larger group. Brink takes personal responsibility for that oversight. From the YouTube video:

I would say [the voices of our creative and our community teams] wasn’t loud enough in the room. And that’s what’s changing. We’re giving much more of a voice to the folks on my team, myself included, who are closer to the community and would be able to catch this kind of thing in the future and have enough volume to prevent it.

Brink went on to say that the authority being given to the Wizards staff is now flowing directly from Cynthia Williams, the president of Wizards of the Coast and digital gaming at Hasbro. Williams joined Hasbro from Microsoft in February 2022, where she previously “drove the expansion of Xbox Gaming and the acceleration of game-creator growth” according to a news release.

“I would say greater respect [is being given to Wizards’ team],” Brink added. “Being heard and being respected is important. And I will say, to do her credit, I know Cynthia has gotten a lot of negative opinion about her, but she listens. And she does change based on information. And she’s one of the most empathetic C-suite people I’ve ever worked with, by a country mile. So I am confident that when she says she’s gonna listen, she’s gonna listen.”

The latest D&D book, an anthology of adventures titled Keys from the Golden Vault, is available now as a digital pre-order. The physical book will be available starting Feb. 21.

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