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We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Programming ...


Alex Greene

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One topic has been dominating gaming for the past few weeks. I thought I'd drop a short blog post to address this situation.

OGL 1.1.

On a personal note, this matter bothers me. As a gamer, Games Master, and product developer, I quite enjoy the whole experience of gaming. I've been using roleplaying games to explore all manner of topics, from diplomacy to sexuality to, frankly, NSFW stuff which I have kept away from public consumption.

Many of the games I enjoy carry the OGL license at the back, and it does bother me that some scumbags are trying to rip up protections which had been ringfenced by the old license.

Then Paizo came along with this announcement.

You can go and read it on their website, but there are highlights I can share with you tonight.

For the last several weeks, as rumors of Wizards of the Coast’s new version of the Open Game License began circulating among publishers and on social media, gamers across the world have been asking what Paizo plans to do in light of concerns regarding Wizards of the Coast’s rumored plan to de-authorize the existing OGL 1.0(a). We have been awaiting further information, hoping that Wizards would realize that, for more than 20 years, the OGL has been a mutually beneficial license which should not–and cannot–be revoked. While we continue to await an answer from Wizards, we strongly feel that Paizo can no longer delay making our own feelings about the importance of Open Gaming a part of the public discussion.

We believe that any interpretation that the OGL 1.0 or 1.0(a) were intended to be revocable or able to be deauthorized is incorrect, and with good reason.

We were there.

Shots fired.

The announcement continues.

Paizo does not believe that the OGL 1.0a can be “deauthorized,” ever. While we are prepared to argue that point in a court of law if need be, we don’t want to have to do that, and we know that many of our fellow publishers are not in a position to do so.

And then Paizo drops the mic.

We have no interest whatsoever in Wizards’ new OGL. Instead, we have a plan that we believe will irrevocably and unquestionably keep alive the spirit of the Open Game License.

As Paizo has evolved, the parts of the OGL that we ourselves value have changed. When we needed to quickly bring out Pathfinder First Edition to continue publishing our popular monthly adventures back in 2008, using Wizards’ language was important and expeditious. But in our non-RPG products, including our Pathfinder Tales novels, the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, and others, we shifted our focus away from D&D tropes to lean harder into ideas from our own writers. By the time we went to work on Pathfinder Second Edition, Wizards of the Coast’s Open Game Content was significantly less important to us, and so our designers and developers wrote the new edition without using Wizards’ copyrighted expressions of any game mechanics. While we still published it under the OGL, the reason was no longer to allow Paizo to use Wizards’ expressions, but to allow other companies to use our expressions.

We believe, as we always have, that open gaming makes games better, improves profitability for all involved, and enriches the community of gamers who participate in this amazing hobby. And so we invite gamers from around the world to join us as we begin the next great chapter of open gaming with the release of a new open, perpetual, and irrevocable Open RPG Creative License (ORC).

Paizo then patiently outlines what this means.

The new Open RPG Creative License will be built system agnostic for independent game publishers under the legal guidance of Azora Law, an intellectual property law firm that represents Paizo and several other game publishers. Paizo will pay for this legal work. We invite game publishers worldwide to join us in support of this system-agnostic license that allows all games to provide their own unique open rules reference documents that open up their individual game systems to the world. To join the effort and provide feedback on the drafts of this license, please sign up by using this form.

The closing lines offer hope to us all.

We’ll be there at your side. You can count on us not to go back on our word.

Forever.

We haven't heard from many other game publishers. Stellagama Publishing are working on a contingency plan. At least one game publisher has sworn to drop the OGL document from their future core rulebooks and supplements.

Lightspress Games, one of my favourite publishers outside of TDM, has released a book, for free, as Public Domain. You can use terms found in Berin Kinsman's book Open Glossary and use this book as a reference in your own published fantasy adventure modules. Being public domain, terms such as "good" and "chaotic" and "dragon" can be drawn from Open Glossary. I recommend adding a link to the book on DriveThruRPG in your own works.

Here's the link.

The whole OGL mess has not ended. As of the time of posting, it's only just begun. But between Paizo and other publishers, including ones who jumped in behind Paizo such as Chaosium, it's not hopeless.

I'll get back to talking about Mythras next week. I mean, unless someone else does a Wizards all over the gaming industry.

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