OGL and alternative RPGs | TTRPGs

CW: brief mention of HP

Hello, I’m Rogan and welcome! For those who aren’t involved with the TTRPG community, January was a wild time for us. The first half of this video, I’m going to attempt to give you an abbreviated rundown of what happened, because it was a lot. The second half will be giving some suggestions for other RPGs that are NOT D&D, because there are so many out there!

First, all of the abbreviations! D&D is obviously Dungeons & Dragons, the tabletop role playing game – which is abbreviated as TTRPG. Wizards of the Coast, the current owner of D&D and D&D Beyond, the online gaming tool, is usually abbreviated as WotC or simply Wizards. They’re owned by Hasbro, yes that Hasbro. The whole wild ride started because of the OGL, the Open Gaming License, which is what allows game developers to modify, copy, and redistribute some of the content. Basically, make stuff for D&D using D&D branding. I know this is a lot for people who aren’t part of the community, so I will try my best to keep it as streamlined as possible!

People have been using the same OGL for many years, and Wizards planned an update. An updated draft, so they claim, was leaked in early January 2023. Most of the changes were things that would earn more money for Wizards from the third party creators and companies. Of course, that sparked a major backlash from the community. There were concerns from the community about the potential of Wizards taking ownership of independently created content, taking a large percentage of any profits from live streams, published adventures, and other things. As a way to show their displeasure, several hashtags were started, #OpenDND being one of the largest, and many canceled their D&D Beyond subscriptions. This is a rare show of unity from such a large and varied community. It was so big that Wizards canceled their original plan and pushed back the release date. They did eventually issue a statement that was very broad, and just angered the community more, both for its delay (just over a week later) and for its blame-shifting. There was also a personal apology from Kyle Brink, executive producer of D&D. He attempted to reassure the community that their content was safe, and announced a survey to get feedback about the new OGL.

After over 15,000 responses, mostly negative, Wizards finally stepped down. They announced that they would leave the OGL as is, and making the whole SRD (System Reference Document, basically all the system rules and mechanics) available under Creative Commons. This is huge, because once something is in Creative Commons, it can’t be taken back or revoked. Now people can choose to continue using either the original OGL or the SRD for the rest of time. This applies only to the current OGL and SRD. Wizards is likely to create new ones for the next edition of D&D. When that happens, people will have to decide if they want to switch to a new edition, or continue using the “old” one.

However, many people are saying too little too late. Wizards waited for too long to make a response, and when they did, it was very questionable. Other large competitors in the TTRPG space also stepped up and said they would be releasing their own system or offering up other options to D&D. WotC’s largest competitor is Paizo, another TTRPG publisher well known for Pathfinder and Starfinder. They led the charge for creating a new license called Open RPG Creative License or ORC for short. No one company will own it, and it will be open to anyone who wants to join and use it. It will essentially be the OGL, but not controlled by any company. A law firm will be responsible for the stewardship of it, to ensure it will always be safe against any nullification or removal of rights.

That was a lot! I hope it was clear enough, but if you have any questions, please leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer. I also want to point you in the direction of Linda Codega. They did a fantastic job of reporting this whole situation as it unfolded. I’ll leave some links below to some of their articles, and their Twitter. 

What does this mean for me? I will probably still play D&D with my home group, and I do have video of my first ever one-shot that I DMed. Would there be an interest in seeing clips or the entire thing? Let me know! Before this whole OGL thing, I’d already played some other systems, and was already curious about running other systems. Now, since there’s been a lot of interest generated for other options that aren’t D&D, that’s pushed me to be more active about looking into options. I want to go through a few that I’ve played or seen that I would love to play eventually.

Starting with Pathfinder and Starfinder, which I already mentioned! This is probably the system closest to D&D in terms of fantasy, style, mechanics, and so on. Pathfinder is a modified version of an older edition of D&D, and adds many options to various classes, plus more abilities for the core roles. It also made some changes and created some more balance in terms of hit points, spells, maneuvers, etc. At some times, Pathfinder was able to outsell D&D itself! But in general, it’s consistently ranked second to D&D in terms of sales. Starfinder is basically Pathfinder, but sci-fi, science fantasy. Content is meant to be easily shared between the two, Starfinder is just more futuristic. It draws a lot of inspiration from franchises like Star Wars or Alien, but is set in the same universe as Pathfinder’s materials is, in the distant future. I have not yet played Pathfinder, but hopefully that will happen soon!

Another popular series of TTRPGs is World of Darkness, which has multiple systems, but the best known is probably Vampire: The Masquerade. VTM is a game of personal and political horror. You play as a vampire, struggling for survival and supremacy. There’s multiple clans people are in, you have to bite people to keep going, and fight for your survival in a cruel, cruel world. I’ve played this before, and I would absolutely play it again! World of Darkness also has other systems where you can play a werewolf, wraith, mage, and others.

One system that I’m very interested in is Kids on Bikes. It’s a very simple system that uses a full set of six dice. You assign each dice an attribute and roll that specific dice when asked for an attribute. The system calls back to the 80s, the adventure films and coming-of-age stories of the era. You typically play as kids in small towns trying to solve big mysteries. They also have a spin-off called Kids on Brooms, which is a more magical version, where you’re kids in a magical school with classes and such. I first learned about these systems when I watched Misfits and Magic from Dimension 20. I LOVED that season, because it’s basically a satire of Harry Potter. It makes fun of how so many of the things in this world make no sense, and they use common sense to solve problems. It’s fantastic! I am looking into learning this system and potentially running it.

The last system I’ll share for today is Spire. I’ve played this only once before, but would love to play it again! In this system, you play as one of the revolutionary dark elves fighting against the high elves who rule the towering city of Spire. This is a brutal game, and you will suffer from bodily or psychological harm, from oppressors or rivals. But if you’re willing to do what it takes, you could potentially push Spire over the edge into full-on rebellion. When I played this, my character barely made it through! This is interesting to play because it uses only d10s, and the mechanics are a little different. Bonds are very important in this, so you have to have some form of relationship with the other characters to have good success in this game. I would play again, and maybe even run a game.

I hope you learned about some new systems today! I have played several more that I didn’t mention today, and I’d love to talk more about them, and maybe in more detail than I did today. I’ve linked all the TTRPGs I mentioned today in the description below. If there are any systems you think I should check out, let me know in the comments and why! Also, let me know if you’re interested in seeing clips or whatnot from my first time DMing. Of course, feel free to share any other thoughts or questions you have. I want to hear from y’all! Bye.

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Linda Codega: https://gizmodo.com/author/lcodega

Twitter: https://twitter.com/lincodega

 – First article about the OGL: https://gizmodo.com/dnd-wizards-of-the-coast-ogl-1-1-open-gaming-license-1849950634

 – Paizo’s ORC announcement: https://gizmodo.com/paizo-wizards-of-the-coast-dnd-open-rpg-ogl-1-1-1849982443

 – WotC response after a week: https://gizmodo.com/dungeons-dragons-ogl-license-wizards-of-the-coast-wotc-1849985196

 – Community response: https://gizmodo.com/dungeons-dragons-wizards-hasbro-ogl-open-game-license-1849981136

 – D&D goes into CC: https://gizmodo.com/dnd-wizards-of-the-coast-ogl-1-1-creative-commons-licen-1850008294

 – Opinion – Burned up goodwill: https://gizmodo.com/dungeons-and-dragons-dnd-ogl-goodwill-1-2-feedback-1850036746

 – OGL update scrapped: https://gizmodo.com/dungeons-dragons-will-no-longer-deauthorize-its-open-1850041837

 – A summary in slide form: https://gizmodo.com/dungeons-and-dragons-ogl-1-1-explained-wizards-of-the-c-1850006448

Pathfinder: https://paizo.com/pathfinder

Starfinder: https://paizo.com/starfinder

World of Darkness: https://www.worldofdarkness.com/

Kids on Bikes: https://www.huntersentertainment.com/kidsonbikesrpg

Spire: https://rowanrookanddecard.com/spire-rpg/

Published by Rogan Shannon

Hello there! I'm Rogan, a queer deaf guy who has a passion for leadership and advocacy. I create YouTube videos about a lot of different topics - being deaf, queer, reading, language, and whatever else interests me!

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