22 Years Ago I Saved D&D, Today I Want to Save the Open Gaming License

Ryan S. Dancey
11 min readJan 13, 2023

Update: 14 February 2024

It’s been a year since this post was written and I thought it would be a good time to make a final update.

Wizards of the Coast retreated from it’s efforts to deauthorize v1.0a of the OGL. It subsequently performed a release of various D&D content using one of the Creative Commons licenses (but not the right one; the license it used is not a share-alike license like the OGL v1.0a). They ended their public effort to make a new version of the OGL. They went on a PR campaign to talk to the community and express their side of the story. They seem chastened by what happened but no senior executive was fired.

In my opinion, they aren’t done. The forces inside the company that conspired to try this once will eventually rally and try it again. Those forces are driven by mistaken assumptions about the impediment the OGL v1.0a poses to their plans to migrate D&D to a digital future; and they see and want a part of the revenue streams being generated by successful content creators using their IP. Those are unresolved issues that will fester.

We’ll have to remain vigilant. But I can say for now that the OGL v1.0a withstood this challenge with the tremendous support of the community who refused to simply accept that a Fortune 500 company could do what it wanted without regard for its obligations to its customers, shareholders, and partners. It remains the most successful license of its kind and it remains unbroken.

— RyanD

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In the late 1990s, the company that created Dungeons & Dragons, the world’s first tabletop roleplaying game was dying. I was a part of the solution — a sale of TSR to Wizards of the Coast; subsequently I become an employee at Wizards of the Coast. In late 1998 I became the head of the roleplaying business and in 1999 I was made the VP of Tabletop Roleplaying Games and the D&D Brand Manager.

Also in 1999, Hasbro bought Wizards of the Coast. They’ve been a wholly owned subsidiary ever since.

My team and I diagnosed the many problems that beset D&D and we engineered a multi-pronged solution. We released a new edition of the game, the Third Edition. And we convinced the…