Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) publisher Wizards of the Coast capitulated to fans and content creators Friday, announcing that it won’t move forward with proposed changes to a game license that would have clamped down on derivative NFT projects in the process.
Earlier this month, the Hasbro-owned company provoked widespread ire from the tabletop gaming community after it moved to modify a legal framework that has allowed people to produce content compatible with D&D for over 20 years. That included things like D&D-inspired live play shows and podcasts, as well as graphic novels and other media.
Wizards of the Coast already walked back certain changes to its Open Game License (OGL) earlier this month, such as mandated royalties from content creators. However, an updated proposal made clear that D&D content like game mechanics would be prohibited from use in conjunction with third-party NFTs.
The firm had also singled out Web3 developers as a major factor in wanting to alter its longstanding deal with fans and creators. “We wanted to address those attempting to use D&D in Web3, blockchain games, and NFTs,” Wizards of the Coast had written in a blog post weeks ago.
Now, the company is abandoning plans to update its Open Game License entirely, and it will place D&D content included via its System Reference Document under a Creative Commons license that is “open and irrevocable.”
Wizards of the Coast announced its about-face on Friday after seeing initial results from a poll tied to the proposed changes, in which D&D community members overwhelmingly voted against the pending license update. Some 86% of respondents were "dissatisfied with the draft [virtual tabletop] policy," which included language prohibiting derivative NFTs from third-party creators.
“We wanted to limit the OGL to [tabletop role-playing games],” Wizards of the Coast wrote in a blog post. “With this new approach, we are setting that aside and counting on your choices to define the future of play.”
Web3 wins out
The impending ban on NFTs had caused Web3 gaming company Gripnr to pivot away from tapping the Open Game License for its upcoming project The Glimmering, a blockchain-based tabletop game designed to leverage the Ethereum sidechain Polygon. Currently, the company is calculating its next move.
“Given how much of a rollercoaster ride this needless upheaval has been, taking a long and measured look and finding the best option is not something we are willing to rush,” Gripnr Lead Developer Stephen Radney-MacFarland told Decrypt via email. “We are currently looking at various options and consulting with the council to determine the best path forward.”
It’s possible Gripnr could revert back to using the Open Game License, Radney-MacFarland explained, or use D&D content that will be included in the new Creative Commons document. He also said Gripnr is looking at game licenses under development by other companies like Paizo–publisher of D&D competitor, Pathfinder–or could even create its own.
Wizards of the Coast's latest statement doesn't explicitly mention NFTs, but it does note that the newly open approach "means there's no need for a [virtual tabletop] policy." The company did not immediately respond to Decrypt’s requests for comment and clarification.
Although the backlash was largely driven by matters other than NFTs, Web3 creators have apparently emerged unscathed from the licensing drama that took the tabletop gaming community by storm.