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The DnD Community Wins – For Now

The backlash against Wizard of the Coast’s (WotC) proposed Open Game License version 1.2 has succeeded. WotC stopped moving ahead with proposed changes from OGL 1.0a and enshrines the System Reference Document (SRD) into Creative Commons. The DnD community wins! For now.

Why do I write that? Simple, I expect a new non-OGL version of Dungeons and Dragons to come out after this, a new version of DnD that’s completely closed-source. What do I think about this? Because it’s the smart thing to do and it’s how they’re going to make money.

I’ve seen this before, especially when I worked at RapidMiner. They had a great open-source platform that was version 5. Up till that point, they were providing services and support for their open-source platform. It was able to pay its bills but it constrained its growth. By providing a closed-source product they could sell and grow more, in theory.

They released version 6 of the platform with new features a few months later. At first, there was low adoption, and sales flagged, everyone was still using the open-source platform. Then the community started to defect and go to other open-source products like Python and R. However, over time they began to stabilize as versions 7 and 8 came out. They had created enough value in the closed-source version that beat out the open-source version.

I believe something like this will happen to DnD and WotC. They’re going to create a version of DnD that will lock you into their virtual tabletop (VTT) and their new rules that will preserve their chance at revenues.

This, of course, will destroy some of the smaller 3rd party creators that rely on creating DnD games, virtual tabletops, and products. They build continue to build upon the new Creative Commons 4.0 license and OGL 1.0a.

I believe that WotC will suffer from years of flagging or shrinking revenues until there’s enough space between the open-source version of DnD and a new one. When RapidMiner changed, there was a backlash from the community but the CEO stepped in and explained the change clearly. That appeased about half of the community and they stayed. The other half left. I expect WotC to lose more than half their community because of badly they handled this.

What’s going to happen now? That’s hard to predict but I suspect Paizo will continue developing its ORC license, which will continue to splinter the community. I don’t know what that license will look like, it might be better than Creative Commons, but I worry that it might lock 3rd party creators and game developers into their license.

In my opinion, Creative Commons works well and I release all my free games under that but maybe ORC will be better. I wait with bated breath.

I also believe that the community will continue to evolve as all the goodwill WotC built over the years burns up. This is a great time for game creators, writers, artists, and all other Makers and Creators to shine.

Yes, the DnD community wins, for now. Continue to create your adventures, play your games, and make your stories. The games will go on but they’ll look different, and that’s OK. After all, we can’t play the same boring old games every time, can we?

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