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Thoughts on the One D&D Licensing Announcement


Since the One D&D playtest started, redditors have been calling out about the sky falling because the playtest material had not been released under the Open Game License (OGL).

People pointed out that none of the other Unearthed Arcana playtest material has been released under the OGL, but without WotC saying anything about their intention, nobody really knew what the licensing for OneDnD would be.

Yesterday, they posted on the DnD Beyond forms about their intentions for One D&D’s licensing model. I have some thoughts.


Regular players might not be aware of this because it’s irrelevant to them, but a portion of DnD 5e is licensed under the OGL. This lets anyone use parts of 5e in their products.

There are a range of applications for that: somebody writing a setting/adventure book may want to re-print spells or make sub-classes. Without the OGL, these would be derivative works (or straight-up copies) and WotC’s copyright would prevent authors from selling their adventures.

Another application is making the rules & data available to software. A character builder needs the 5e rules for character creation, the rules for species, the rules for classes, and the rules for spells/items/etc in order to function.

Not all of DnD 5e is published under the OGL. I think it’s only the System Reference Document (SRD), which covers the basics you’d see in the player’s handbook. This is why you might see some 5th edition stuff online, but it’s missing tons of subclasses — anything published after the player’s handbook isn’t included in the SRD.

Some of the more popular services (Roll20, Fantasy Grounds, D&D Beyond prior to WotC buying them) have their own contracts in place to offer the full range of DnD products. Smaller operations like FoundryVTT do not and consequently only offer the SRD stuff.

OGL v1.1

In the announcement, WotC announced their intention is for One D&D to be released under the OGL when it’s complete, but it would be a new revision of the license.

So, what’s changing?

First, we’re making sure that OGL 1.1 is clear about what it covers and what it doesn’t. OGL 1.1 makes clear it only covers material created for use in or as TTRPGs, and those materials are only ever permitted as printed media or static electronic files (like epubs and PDFs). Other types of content, like videos and video games, are only possible through the Wizards of the Coast Fan Content Policy or a custom agreement with us. To clarify: Outside of printed media and static electronic files, the OGL doesn’t cover it.

OGLs, SRDs, & One D&D

This is good for authors working on their own books. For them, it sounds like the status quo will be maintained: they can use the SRD and sell their books in whatever venue they like.

One of the possible “bad” outcomes here was that they’d be restricted to selling on the DM’s Guild, which has its own licensing agreement, but presumably takes a cut of their sales.

DM’s Guild is good because it lets authors use the full range of DnD Products, but there is a vibrant community of creators beyond the DM’s Guild and I certainly would not want to see them go away! You can find all sorts of things on or Kickstarter that relies on the 5e SRD.

This change is terrible for software. Apps & tools to help you play One D&D, like interactive character sheets, will not exist beyond D&D Beyond.

The post specifically says that the big players already have agreements with WotC in place, so if you’ve bought lots of stuff for the Charactermancer on Roll20, you’re probably okay for the time being.

Virtual Table Top Worries

My first question is: how long will that last? They announced an official virtual table-top for One D&D, and why would they choose to allow Roll20 to compete with them once it’s out, especially when the executives think DnD is “under-monetized”. Anyone using Roll20 is not able to buy virtual minis from WotC.

I don’t actually like Roll20 very much, even though it’s what we’ve used across several campaigns for five years. Their leadership team are a bunch of clowns, and the VTT it pretty mid. At least as a player, I don’t see a lot of changes happening to make it better. I think the last big change was dark mode, which inexplicably changes the shape of a bunch of buttons and icons.

FoundryVTT is a better experience, but you have to run it yourself and they do not have anything beyond the DnD 5e SRD material.

Not being able to use the One D&D rules won’t outright kill Roll20 (or any other VTT product), but one of the big benefits to Roll20 is that I can slide them $20 and have an adventure module ready to go. The maps are already set up with the lightning & monster tokens, the DM layer is set up with information, and we can just go.

But if you rely on Roll20 for your character sheet, I think you’re going to start having difficulty and you’ll either need to use D&D Beyond or go back to paper and only use the VTT for tokens. And that’s going to upset people!

My group doesn’t use Roll20 for our character sheets since I’ve got Everything on D&D Beyond. We manage the sheets there, and use the Beyond20 browser extension so we can roll on D&D Beyond but have it sent into the chat on Roll20. I think the character sheets are another part of Roll20 that suck, so this is really nice for us.

But it’s another thing I worry about going away. If WotC want to politely discourage using D&D Beyond with Roll20 instead of their tabletop product, it would be pretty easy for them to continually mess with the character sheet pages to break the browser extension.

I really don’t want that to happen. I like the D&D Beyond character sheets a ton, but I absolutely hate the concept of their 3D tabletop product. I want it to be simple and 2D. It’s already a lot of work to produce good play areas.

It seems substantially more difficult to set everything up in a 3D environment. TaleSpire is cool, but I suspect the high level-of-effort is why I’ve only seen a couple dedicated YouTube-video-creator-types using it.

DM’s Guild Prediction

The DM’s Guild is a place for people to sell their own DnD supplements, and some times WotC includes less-official 5e books there.

If you publish on DM’s Guild, it has its own license that lets you use any WotC material instead of restricting authors to only the SRD. This is how Keith Baker is able to publish Eberron supplements (since WotC owns the rights to his setting):

Under the DMs Guild program, you can publish D&D material that has no setting or uses the Forgotten Realms, Ravenloft, Eberron, Ravnica, Theros, Arcavios(Strixhaven), Radiant Citadel, or Spelljammer settings.

Ownership and License (OGL) Questions, DM’s Guild Support Site

The DM’s Guild is not an official WotC site though! It’s run by Drive Thru RPG (which is part of Roll20 now — they merged earlier this year) in agreement with WotC. Their eCommerce software is, um, somewhat dated (to be kind).

With WotC buying D&D Beyond and wanting to expand their digital offerings, I expect that they’ll terminate the agreement with Drive Thru RPG and re-launch the program on D&D Beyond. It has a lot more potential there: the existing system for homebrew can be monetized, and they can let people sell 3D models for minis/terrain/dice to use in the VTT.

I think I like that conceptually? If somebody can choose to either sell a PDF or a PDF with all the DnD Beyond data set up for using new items/classes/etc in the character builder, it opens up a lot of options for players!

My groups stick to official WotC options for characters because doing otherwise means not using the DnD Beyond character sheet, or doing a ton of data entry into DnD Beyond to make it work. Even something simple like a magic item that can be used once per short rest requires building out a ton of data so the charges show up and reset properly.

I’d love it if I could buy unofficial character options and make them available to my players. I just hope they don’t make it mandatory for DM’s Guild authors, because I can see a lot of people not wanting to go to the effort.

Closing Thoughts

I don’t know if One D&D will be good or bad yet. The rules themselves seem like improvements over 5e, but WotC’s desire to monetize DnD more heavily is probably going to drive us into a walled garden where they remain in control of everything at all times and will charge you a subscription for it.

My main group actually started with Starfinder, not 5e. We switched to 5e because the DM wanted access to more ready-made modules; Starfinder was relatively new and not nearly as popular as Pathfinder (or DnD).

Paizo has a much more consumer-friendly strategy for digital sales: if you buy books from Paizo, you can link your Paizo account to 3rd-party services and they’ll be able to see what you’ve got, and you don’t have to pay a second time for a book you’ve already got.

You still (probaby) need to pay something, but the cost of the book is removed. A lot of work goes in to converting rulebooks into data that apps can use, so I don’t mind paying an extra $5 or whatever to cover their costs!

I already own this book on, do I get a discount for Pathfinder Nexus?

Yes, if you own a copy of the PDF for that book. When you connect your Paizo account to Pathfinder Nexus, you can get a deep discount for any PDFs you already purchased through The “digital” access must be unlocked through owning the PDF – hardcover-only purchases do not qualify for the discount.

Pathfinder Nexus FAQ on the Demiplane Forums

If there are plenty of adventures for PF2 and Demiplane (which was founded by the same folks who started DnD Beyond) ends up being a good character sheet app, we’ll have to see if One D&D remains a compelling TTRPG.