WotC Caves — 5E Under Creative Commons

I do not think anyone foresaw how Wizards of the Coast would react to the popular pressure. After the outrage at the overreach detailed in my last post, on January 27th, WotC posted another announcement, signed by the executive producer of D&D Kyle Brink, on the D&D Beyond site. SRD 5.1, which is the basic ruleset for Dungeons & Dragons 5E was released under a Creative Commons license, specifically CC-BY-4.0. You’re free to do whatever you want with it as long as there’s attribution to WotC for publishing the ruleset. Notably, this is not a promise, it’s a done deal. The PDF file is linked in the announcement. This cannot be walked back. The 5E SRD is safe. This also saves the OSR movement, since as they’ve illustrated, just having some kind of D&D-based SRD available seems to be close enough to justify retrocloning an older edition. This is an unqualified victory for the community.

The other thing is that they are no longer seeking to revoke OGL 1.0a. This one comes with asterisks. They have not — at least yet — announced an OGL 1.0b that would be immune to the kind of shenanigans they tried to pull off. Of course, if they’re willing to place the SRD 5.1 under a CC license, doing the same to the final D20 system version of it would be trivial. While the suspicion remains that they might try to revoke the license again, with SRD 5.1 under CC, it’s unclear what that would actually accomplish.

Also according to the announcement, this was because of the survey results, 15,000 customers, most of them angry, telling WotC that they were mad as hell and not going to take this anymore. What the announcement does not mention is that Hasbro had a very poor late 2022 and is going to lay off 15% of its workforce in 2023. There’s also a new movie coming out in March and this kind of bad publicity at this point in time is bad when the customers were already primed by the previous four films to stay away in droves.

Meanwhile, Paizo Publishing has announced that though WotC has bestowed this boon upon the community, work on the ORC will continue. This makes sense. SRD 5.1 being under CC solves problems for 5E third-party publishers, but not for anyone else, and having an industry standard open license just makes sense.

Now, the only thing WotC needs to do to finish winning me back as a customer is release something interesting. I’m not holding my breath, but then, nobody expected this move either.


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