The Open Gaming License and Potential Attempt at Revocation

Bearing Witness to Alienation and Seeing a Familiar Pattern

And if the whole world's singing your songs
And all of your paintings have been hung
Just remember what was yours
Is everyone's from now on
And that's not wrong or right
But you can struggle with it all you like
You'll only get uptight
, What Light

In years past, I’ve written Discussing the Open Gaming License and Celebrating 17 Years of the Open Gaming License. I, like many, had assumed (and heard assurances) that the Open Game License (OGL 📖) was a irrevocable safe harbor.

However, Wizards of the Coast (WotC 📖) and it’s parent company Hasbro, via a coup de main, are posturing in a manner that telegraphs an intention of attempting to revoke the OGL. Yes, the language that previous sentence is cumbersome because the legality and actuality will likely only be determined the court of law.

But, let’s be clear, WotC in this “test balloon” has telegraphed its hostility towards the spirit of our collective understanding of the OGL. An understanding extolled in the Open Gaming Foundation’s Philosophy.

I have listened and followed this threat of revocation and ensuing chaos in these early days of , and I feel a sense of familiar loss. A loss akin to the shuttering of Google Reader and Google Plus. Tools that helped facilitate both the creation of communities and a sense of community.

There are echoes of the deprecation of the Atom 📖 with it’s assumptive shift to Visual Studio Code 📖. And one should consider that consider that Visual Studio Code is designed to fracture.

I also see echoes of the OGL in Github 📖’s release of Copilot; a tool trained against a massive corpus of open-source software code; now monetized. The stakes of Copilot are perhaps financially more lucrative, bur perhaps not as qualitatively lucrative as WotC’s OGL antics.

Read the GitHub Copilot investigation for details. It may not be the same situation, but the neighborhoods look familiar to the one WotC looks to haunt.

Rattling in the back of all of this is the legal precedent that you cannot copyright mechanics and rules (though you may copyright the language used to explain those mechanics and rules); then again does the current state of the United States Supreme court consider much of any past rulings?

Given all of this, the logical conclusion for me is to consider OGL “safe harbor” as now poisoned and mined. Perhaps we should have recognized this, given that WotC wrote the license; they crafted the binding spell and granted the gifts. Much like Sauron.

I think to the following:

Myth is a tear in the fabric of reality, and immense energies pour through these holy fissures. Our stories, our poems, are rips in this fabric as well, however slight.

The games intertwined with the OGL created the personal and shared myths that are part of my being and touch and “bind” me to so many others. These holy fissures illumine the tenuous connection to others who find fascination, release, and joy in shared story telling and myth-making.

In this time of disruption and chaos we will see a burst of creativity and invention. We’ll see an interesting inversion of “rulings not rules.” And other unpredictable things; though one thing we can predict: Hasbro in executing its shareholder obligations will seek to extract syphon all that it can from the waters of the once declared safe harbour.

There are plenty of other folks who continue to demonstrate a commitment to facilitating the creation of shared myth. Folks like Tod Foley, creator of Creactive Options Role-Playing Engine 📖. And Kevin Crawford, creator of Stars without Number: Revised Edition 📖 and Worlds without Number 📖. And the folks at The Gauntlet and Magpie Games.

So very many folks who’ve weathered the collapse of Google Plus. Who’ve seen how the Game System License of Dungeons and Dragons: Fourth Edition (4E 📖) created a counter movement which grew so attractive that WotC pivoted to re-join.

And unlike those days, there are now so very many more folks who’ve played Dungeons and Dragons (D&D 📖). Many more folks who have I suspect have come from a place of owning and/or playing a large number of board games. They now have a chance to join in this chaotic and nerve wracking collective attempt to escape the gravity well of a safe harbor turned piratical.

For those still with me, I encourage you to bookmark RPG Planet and add it to your Rich Site Summary (RSS 📖) feed reader. You’ll find all kinds of great Role Playing Game (RPG 📖) content from passionate hobbyists and professionals, who continue to blog and share their love of RPGs.

One tiny change I’ll make is avoiding sending dollars to WotC and Hasbro. I also need to get back to playing games with other people and writing about them. I just got my copy of Trophy Gold 📖, Trophy Dark 📖, and Trophy Loom 📖.