Wizards of the Coast today announced the release of a new SRD based on the Open Gaming License for their popular Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition game. This was a wholly unexpected move by the company, who released a much more restrictive license over the OGL for their previous version of the game.
The OGL version presented is the exact same one that was used for the 3rd Edition of Dungeons and Dragons (with some corrections to add in periods but failed to fix some missing white space – both versions were ran through a diff program to identify changes) .
Because it uses the OGL, it builds on the same framework as the huge success of the open publishing movement of D&D 3rd Edition. Instead of using the original System Reference Document 1.0, it now uses the System Reference Document 5.0, which is specific to 5th Edition. The Product Identity declarations include specific items mentioned in the SRD itself such as various races and place names.
This validates all of the third party products that have been created using the OGL during the release of D&D 5th Edition and today’s release, but even updates of the license would allow this, according to Section 9 of the OGL, which reads:
9. Updating the License: Wizards or its designated Agents may publish updated versions of this License. You may use any authorized version of this License to copy, modify and distribute any Open Game Content originally distributed under any version of this License.
This means that any content released for D&D 5th Edition under the OGL can also be used via the OGL in just exactly the same way that other OGL content has been used for other existing systems, as long as the other rules in the license are followed.
On top of approving the OGL for use with D&D 5th Edition, Wizards have also developed what they’re calling the DungeonMasters Guild. This is clever piece of marketing by them as a way to act as a sales front with their partner OneBookshelf while crowdsourcing material while re-using assets and increasing mindshare within the existing digital and print on demand markets, where they are currently weak. Essentially it operates as a new front-end to the D&D 5th Edition properties; all previous products that are not from this new edition can be purchased here, and the DnDClassics front-end is still available (although don’t expect to see DMs Guild content on there).
Doing this requires that content being uploaded becomes part of the community, through a Community Content Agreement, which is administered by OneBookShelf; before you can use or upload content as part of the community, you have to agree to the terms within it. The full terms are only available to view if you log into to the DM Guild site and go to your account and attempt to create a new title. In the interests of news reporting, the exact terms of the agreement have been reproduced below from screenshots showing the binding terms that are required to agree with before being able to publish content under the Community Content Agreement for the site.
It would make more sense for OneBookShelf to make this public facing and make it easier to understand as it’s full of legalese, but that’s what the page explaining the DMs Guild attempts to do. That page is quite comprehensive, but distilled down amounts to:
- 5th Edition content only
- You retain ownership of original IP
- The potential for work to be made “canon”, leading to purchase of the IP
- You set the pricing of products you create
- Uses the Community Content Agreement that says you offer your work up for others to use as well, in some of the same way as the OGL
- Legal statement is recommended* for inclusion in products published
- No approval process for content, but consequences for breaking publishing rules will occur
- Similar to how being a full publisher works at OBS, but a customer account is used – the same customer account across all OBS properties.
- Only one DM Guild account, which sits atop your OBS account, allowed at any time, which can be suspended.
- Products made this way can only be distributed and sold via the DMs Guild and OneBookShelf
- Products can be sold as PDF as well as in print
- Short promotional previews can be held off-site
- Access to use existing resources in the Guild such as artwork or maps, or purchase and add your own
- 50% royalty instead of the 65% or (70% for exclusivity) publishers receive
- Payments are made by Paypal
- Transfer fee of $2 instead of $1 for withdrawing to Paypal (although you don’t need to withdraw)
- Royalties are held for 60 days after sales before being made available (to prevent fraud)
- Only for Forgotten Realms at the moment, but other settings may become available in the future
- Publishing and production is handled by OneBookShelf
Something that is interesting is that within the DMs Guild, crediting other authors isn’t being enforced, but is being recommended to be done as part of best practices. They are also only recommending rather than requiring inclusion of a legal line regarding ownership of their properties within products made this way. Lawyers may find this interesting. Another thing they may find interesting is the statement in Section 4 about not being able to sell derivatives of work developed via the DMs Guild on other sites; technically if you make something for the DMs Guild and then make something else based on it for the OGL but with the content for the DMs Guild removed you could be breaching that.
One thing that is hidden within the terms of the Community Content Agreement is that both Wizards and OBS can choose to send royalty-free copies of works you create for “promotional and administrative” purposes (Section 7).
There are some differences between what can be published via the OGL and via the DMs Guild, which is nicely summated by a table on the DMs Guild “What is” page:
An interesting fact is that despite today’s release, the core and supplementary books for the 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons are not yet available to buy online in digital format, something that many customers have been asking for a while. Today’s release may actually signal that this is due to happen. Not making your game system available digitally to the community you are attempting to build a shared revenue partnership with reduces your potential partnership involvement. Especially if your the tools and the license you’ve just released only allows your partners can only be used to release products for that version of the game system.