Fiery Series in Dungeons and Dragons – Rhys Ponsford, BHASVIC

Players of one of the world’s most popular and successful role-playing games, Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), have managed to force its major corporate manufacturer to pull out over a controversial profit-optimization plan. Midway through the series, proposals were leaked for a monumental restructuring of long-standing agreements on the game. The game’s maker, Wizards of The Coast, owned by Hasbro, said it wants to change how third-party content is distributed for the game. This previously happened under an agreement known as the Open Gaming License (OGL), which has been in place for over two decades. Many D&D fans opposed the reforms, arguing that it would stifle the thriving community that has formed around the creation of unofficial content that has made the game’s current iteration such successes. Creators have since changed certain aspects in response to the backlash – although many members of the wider community remain skeptical.

A little background: Dungeons and Dragons creates a world full of demons, witches and other fantastical creatures. Two American game designers, Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, have been credited with creating it in the mid-1970s. Unfortunately, it became embroiled in the “American Satanic Panic” of the 1980’s, when some conservative Christians accused it of having ties to occult rituals. But that was clearly unfounded, and little by little, D&D shed such associations. As fantasy increasingly entered the mainstream, so did D&D. Now it’s arguably the most popular tabletop role-playing game (or TTRPG) in the world, and largely responsible for bringing the role-playing game hobby to a global audience. In TTRPGs, players take on the roles of different characters in an act of co-storytelling with a game master – or GM. D&D is such a game.

Previously, a thriving virtual world of unofficial third-party content – or “homebrew” – was key to the game’s success on a global scale. D&D has now become a cultural phenomenon loved all over the world – and thus incredibly profitable.

For context: D&D has been running on an Open Gaming License 1.0 since 2000. This allowed a relative freedom to distribute both free and paid content on the internet. While this sometimes indirectly subsidized large competitors, it also provided an invaluable opportunity for small independent creators to flourish. The changes proposed by Wizards contained in Version 1.1 of the Open Gaming License would have voided this Agreement. This left many of these independent developers feeling concerned and threatened – a key part of the ensuing backlash against Wizards.

Some elements of the new license were not controversial. For example, Wizards said it would allow the removal of content that was “discriminatory” in any way. More controversial, however, were decisions such as the ability to use published content everyone under the OGL 1.1 in a royalty-free manner whenever Wizards chooses. This was seen by many members of the community as a violation of important and necessary creative freedoms.

It’s likely Wizards didn’t anticipate the excitement that erupted across the internet, as thousands of videos, articles, tweets, and general backlash quickly surfaced. Everyone was berating the new changes en masse. In retaliation, fans hit Wizards where it hurt: by canceling their subscriptions in droves to D&D Beyond, a Wizards-powered site with an affiliated premium paid service; Subscriptions to this will fund Wizards of The Coast directly. This unsettled Wizards, and shortly thereafter they announced changes to their proposals. For example, they will now allow content such as current podcasts and videos related to D&D. Otherwise, it would have threatened the vibrant D&D community on YouTube and Twitch, which have been invaluable in spreading the game’s impact and increasing its huge successes.

Currently, despite Wizards’ attempts at compromise, many fans remain skeptical and militant about changes. In a statement to D&D Beyond, Wizards reiterated that their role is to be “good stewards” for the game and that the OGL is ultimately “for the benefit of the fans.” They continued, “None of these principles has wavered for a second.”

The uproar has tarnished Wizards’ reputation within its dedicated community. The new OGL is due to arrive this year. The die is cast; Wizards must work hard to recover from this drastic loss of standing with their community.

The new era of D&D remains ephemeral and nebulous. A schism has developed between the keepers of the game and its followers. Because there are great doubts about who will become the arbiter of the fate of Dungeon and Dragons – and whether the essence of the game will be irrevocably lost.—rhys-ponsford-bhasvic/?ref=rss Fiery Series in Dungeons and Dragons – Rhys Ponsford, BHASVIC

Fry Electronics Team

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