Look at that, I even got the year right this time.

Sorry this comes a little late – lot of stuff came up this week, and on top of that lost power Monday night when I was trying to get it finished; plus this is one of those pages I was going to skip and then ended up unskipping. I do have the next page at least sketched already due to that.

Really though, the main reason is the elephant of the room, which I will now spend a little time below complaining about; nothing further useful about the comic will be said, and the below will just be “PastUtopia complains about his job like he used to in the olden days when he had a corporate job” segment. How nostalgic.

Anyway; as many of you know, my “day job” these last little over 2 years has been making D&D content as a “3rd Party Publisher”. This was under something called the “Open Game License”, a 20+ year old open license that was perpetual and, according to its creator and the lawyer that wrote it 20 years ago, irrevocable. Unfortunately in the those 20 years, D&D has gone from a brand that was worth a little bit of money, to a brand is worth probably more than a billion dollars, pulling in hundreds of million each year.

Unfortunately, money numbers that start with a “b” attracts corporate greed like shit attracts flies, and so the company that makes Dungeons and Dragons decided that it was time to build their own Walled Garden with all the fun stuff like subscriptions, digital content, all that good shit video games have done to turn them from games into more efficient money printers, but they had a problem: blokes out there were still selling books and making their own non-terrible money squeezing machines, and they thought maybe those would get in the way of their dreams of getting it to a billion dollar a year brand.

So, they decided to kill the OGL 1.0a. This is something I’ve known to some extent was coming for awhile, but until recently, I thought this was going to be for the next edition of the game coming out next year, rather than for current edition of the game: after all, it was already released as open content under a perpetual license that had existed for 20 years, and half a dozen large 3rd party companies exist in the space that creates… it seemed like a pretty safe bet.

Now there’s a question: can the legally do this? The answer is probably not. And that comes from lawyers (including the one I paid). But until that fight happens, anyone not willing to foot the legal fees probably has to back off the industry, and that probably includes me. In more pugnacious hours, I consider taking that fight, but it’s frankly irresponsible, since even the low end estimates put the cost at 10-50k (and the high end estimates are literally 10x that). I’d be better for me to just pony up some money for legal fees to fund whatever bigger fish wants to take that fight until it’s resolved – not only can they better afford, I’m not a great person to get sued; I’m generally not fastidious enough to be absolutely sure I wouldn’t make a mistake their lawyers could nail me for.

The other half of this is immense pushback. While the open letter me and a bunch of other creators endorsed has gotten 54,710 signatures (so far), it’s even beyond that. It’s being covered in most major news outlets, and increasingly large YouTube Channels (with sub counts climbing into the millions), almost universally extremely unfavorable to Wizards of the Coast. Honestly it’s not clear to me that pushing this through will be worth it for them, as they will probably irrevocable damage the next edition of the game, provisions of the OGL 1.1 aside.

So what’s actually wrong with the OGL 1.1? Well, you can read it in all it’s glory here; but the short answer is a lot. The open letter above is a good summary, but basically it’s not really an open license: WotC would not only own everything you publish under it, they’d be able to resell it without credit or payment, ban you at any time from using it, change the royalties at any time, you would have to submit all works to them for approval, you’d have to report all earnings to them, and, oh yeah, they’d charge royalties of 25% on anyone they want (currently large publishers, but again, they can change that at any time under the rules). Ultimately, it reads more to me like “please go out of business” than a serious attempt at a useable license.

But at the end of the day, they can write whatever they want into the new license. The absurdity is their attempt de-authorize the old perpetual license. While some argue it doesn’t say “irrevocable” that’s because that wasn’t commonly used at the time (according the person that wrote it and the lawyer that wrote it – fortunately their both still around), and it was intended to be irrevocable (and in their view, is); but WotC is not strictly speaking trying to “revoke” it. They are trying to make “no longer authorized” and therefor invalid under the provision of OGL 1.0a that people can use “any authorized version” (making something restrictive that is supposed to be permissive – a legal loophole)… but this is also no dice as there’s no provision in the license for making it no longer authorized. Further-… well, obviously I could go on, but I think at this point I’m just ranting.

Anyway… the TL;DR is that legally they probably cannot win, but 95% of 3rd parties (me included) are going to have to back off if they try for at least awhile, as being bankrupted by a lawsuit would be no real different than losing it (and most lawyers I speak to are confident WotC could at least do that without much hope of us recovering legal fees).

They may still change course, or delay, or whatever, but at the end of the day, they’ve probably destroyed the edition anyway, so even if they don’t kill folks off directly, they may have done it indirectly.

No idea what the future holds. I’ll figure something out. In the short term, I’ll see if things work out (and as annoying as things are the moment, they might be fine in the long run)… if they don’t, I’ll figure something else. I never planned to do this for a living, I just sort of fell into it, so if I fall out of it won’t be the end of the world. Unfortunately I’m fairly invested (monetarily speaking) into the next Kickstarter I haven’t run yet, so if I cannot run that it’ll be a bit of a downer, but not a crisis.

I’m halfway just salty about this shit is this is part of what made me leave the video game industry, so having it follow me to this new industry just because this industry became to profitable and shitty corporate executives in suits literally cannot help themselves pisses me off. This was a pretty fun job I largely enjoyed and seemed to be going well, so to have to ruined by a bunch of donkey fuckers wearing suits for no real reason (it probably won’t even get them what they want in the long run, and they’ll just bounce to another corporation as they sink their last one as always), is annoying.

….Anyway, that’s a good old fashion “I’m going to use this box as my #life-blog #complaint-box”. I try to avoid doing that, but I felt that (a) a lot of you folks that have been around forever would want more details than my vague complaints, and (b) I have poor restraint after dealing with this shit for a month when it comes to not ranting about it.

Have a good one and see ya’ll in slightly less than two weeks.