5E, #OPENDND, and supporting 3rd party content creators

5E, #OPENDND, and supporting 3rd party content creators

5E roleplaying is not dead. But it is changing.


With the purported leak of the Open Game License 1.1 ("2.0" as stated by Paizo's recent announcement), many are rethinking their association with Wizards of the Coast and the D&D IP.

The current OGL, version 1.0a, has been in place since 2000. This license allowed 3rd party content creators to use elements of the (then) 3rd edition of Dungeons & Dragons system in order to create compatible gaming supplements and settings that could then be sold.

When the 4th edition of D&D came out, Wizards attempted to curtail the freedoms provided for in the OGL and developed a new Game System License ("GSL"). This new license was not nearly as "open" as the previous version, and as such, saw a much reduced adoption by creators.

With the release of the 5th edition, Wizards returned to the more open 1.0a OGL. The game saw widespread adoption in the community, and 3rd party content creators helped to build and grow the D&D franchise far beyond what Wizards' would have been otherwise unable to do.


Fast forward to 2022, Wizards announced a new version of the game. Not technically a new edition, in their words, but a more robust system, called "D&D One". With the announcement shortly came the announcement of an updated OGL - version 1.1. No real details were available at that time.

Just recently there was a purported leak of the 1.1 OGL which included far more restrictions on content creation, as well as the ability for Wizards to own any content created under the license and the ability to sell anyone else's work as their own, without paying anything to the creators. In addition the new OGL attempts to unauthorize any prior versions of the OGL - potentially threatening 20 years worth of work in the gaming community.

Now the community is mad. Wizards of the Coast has yet to release any kind of public statement or address any of the concerns of the community. The community has largely rallied behind the #OPENDND hashtag and is calling for Wizards to rethink and rescind their proposed OGL publication. Many are also protesting Wizards' decision by suggesting to all community members to cancel their subscription to Wizards' D&D Beyond - an online tool that allows for character creation, digital access to products and supplements, and the ability to create and utilize homebrew (self-made) content. Basically, protesting with their wallets.

In addition, many are looking for new game systems in an effort to move away from 5E and Wizards entirely. While I understand the consternation and aggravation in the community (as a member myself), I think the idea of abandoning 5E altogether to be somewhat premature.

In the most basic sense - if you own and play 5E materials, your money has already been spent. D&D Beyond subscriptions aside, you are not enriching Wizards' pockets by continuing to play. If you don't want to spend another cent on Wizards' products or services, don't. But this also has a rather larger, more detrimental effect on 3rd party content creators - many of whom are responsible for the love and growth of the D&D IP and who rely on that financial support. Many 3rd party creators are caught up in the blitz to abandon 5E without having an alternate place to go just yet.

Paizo, creators of the highly successful Pathfinder series of games, and most likely one of Wizards' largest direct competitors, recently announced the plans for creating a new Open RPG Creative License ("ORC"). Together with other large gaming companies (including, but not limited to Kobold Press, Green Ronin, Legendary Games, Chaosium Inc, et al) they will be working to produce a new license that is not owned by any of those companies, but instead will ultimately reside with an as-yet undetermined non-profit.

Until such time as the ORC, and any other number of proposed new open licenses are created, and content creators have the time to adopt and develop to those systems, they will still be reliant on the 5E OGL 1.0a system and the support of the gaming community. 

5E is a system that many players know. It is widely accepted, and heavily supported through various settings, supplements, modifications, and genres of material. Players all over the world have campaigns set in the 5E system that they have been developing and playing for years with their players. While Wizards' has soured the 5E/D&D name, it doesn't mean you still can't enjoy the game. It doesn't mean you have to abandon the system and try to find another to convert to. It doesn't mean you have to risk losing players while you try and teach them a wholly new system. 

You can play D&D 5E (or any other edition of the game) but not support Wizards any further. 

I am not advocating that you need to stay with 5E. If this is just the final straw in your existing plan to move on, then move on! Learning and playing other systems can only broaden your enjoyment of roleplaying! There are systems and licensed IP and genres galore out there to explore and enjoy and you should absolutely give them a try. 

But if you keep finding yourself wanting to fall back into something familiar, you should not be guilted into not doing so. Don't want to support Wizards? Don't. Just keep in mind there are all kinds of 3rd party content out there that is still accessible (for now at least), that doesn't support Wizards, but does support hard working, dedicated, enthusiastic, imaginative, and amazing people who put their blood, sweat, tears, time, money, and love into creating truly fantastic content for you. People who are currently anxious, some even scared, about what the immediate future means for their main source of support. 

Toss a coin to your Witcher, and support your 3rd party content creators!

*I do my best but writing isn't exactly my forte. If there are any inaccuracies in the above editorial please feel free to let me know!

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