Paizo Announces System-Neutral Open RPG License #Copyright #OGL #WotC #TTRPG #RPG #DnD #Contract @paizo

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Yesterday, Paizo announced that they were developing a “system-neutral, open RPG license.” It’s overwhelmed with traffic, so you’ll have to be patient when trying to load it. They had a form for volunteering to review it and give feedback. After I signed up, I noticed some text that said it was for game designers only, so I doubt I’ll get an advanced copy for review. Maybe that’s a good idea considering my initial impression.

Same Old Song & Dance

As I’ve been running into the ground for well almost 15 years, the OGL isn’t a real license, and claiming it is has done a lot of damage that we’re finally seeing manifest in real harm, which I predicted. You can’t say I haven’t been warning you that this day would come. Talking about irrevocability or any other concept that applies to contracts shows that you’re missing that critical point, and that’s exactly what Paizo does in this announcement.

We believe that any interpretation that the OGL 1.0 or 1.0(a) were intended to be revocable or able to be deauthorized is incorrect, and with good reason.

Unless their position is that those interpretations are incorrect because they simply don’t apply to non-contracts, then they’re advancing the same false narrative that Wizards of the Coast (“WotC”) has since at least 2004. The fact that they intend to state their proposed consideration in a separate document suggests that we’ll be dealing with a “contract” with far too much uncertainty as to what it actually licenses. Maybe it’ll be an unmalleable appendix rather than a separate document — we don’t know — but everything I read in that press release leaves me pessimistic.

Remember, the OGL should have been an acknowledgement of the material WotC conceded they didn’t own. If they wanted it to be a real license, then it must be 1) specific about exactly what material the public now use, and 2) that material must be material the public otherwise wouldn’t have been able to use. That is, the consideration must be both obvious and real. Any other approach with Paizo’s license will mean that Paizo is continuing to feed the public that false and dangerous narrative. Granted, no one’s going to die because of this, but people’s livelihoods are on the line, so “dangerous” fits in that context. If you continue to buy into it this false narrative, you’ve learned nothing from the turmoil the OGL has caused, but you can’t blame WotC for it any longer. Like the danger from cigarettes, the information is out there, so it’s on you if you accept the risks.

And now we finally have WotC’s official statement, which demonstrates a victim complex. They 1) still intend to treat it as a legitimate license (of course); 2) act as if, on the week the final copy was to be distributed, that they were always just looking for feedback; and 3) overfocus on the non-discrimination provision to which no one objected, all to make themselves look like the good guy. Additionally, as Stephen Radney-MacFarland pointed out, you expect us to believe that they “didn’t see this coming”? Unbelievable, and yet paradoxically exactly what we expected.

But It’s Pazio!

You may believe Paizo’s promise of irrevocability even though it wouldn’t be legally enforceable. Some of the readers of this blog know Paizo management personally, so maybe you’re right for trusting them. But consider this: What if Hasbro’s chief rival, Mattel, decides to take advantage of Hasbro’s tarnished reputation and enter the RPG market? What would be their best way to jump start such an effort? If I were them, I’d buy Paizo, and if that happened, would you still trust Paizo to do the right thing? Do you know any Mattel executives? Would that even matter? Would a $7.18 billion business never change course because they’re a “nice bunch of guys”?

Still, everyone, including me, should give Paizo a chance. Maybe they’ll surprise me despite this reckless language.

Let’s see what they actually do.

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