Paizo Announces System-Neutral Open RPG License

Thursday, January 12, 2023


Open RPG logo over-layed over an image of pathfinder champion Seelah leading a battle


For the last several weeks, as rumors of Wizards of the Coast’s new version of the Open Game License began circulating among publishers and on social media, gamers across the world have been asking what Paizo plans to do in light of concerns regarding Wizards of the Coast’s rumored plan to de-authorize the existing OGL 1.0(a). We have been awaiting further information, hoping that Wizards would realize that, for more than 20 years, the OGL has been a mutually beneficial license which should not–and cannot–be revoked. While we continue to await an answer from Wizards, we strongly feel that Paizo can no longer delay making our own feelings about the importance of Open Gaming a part of the public discussion.

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.

We were there.

Paizo owner Lisa Stevens and Paizo president Jim Butler were leaders on the Dungeons & Dragons team at Wizards at the time. Brian Lewis, co-founder of Azora Law, the intellectual property law firm that Paizo uses, was the attorney at Wizards who came up with the legal framework for the OGL itself. Paizo has also worked very closely on OGL-related issues with Ryan Dancey, the visionary who conceived the OGL in the first place.

Paizo does not believe that the OGL 1.0a can be “deauthorized,” ever. While we are prepared to argue that point in a court of law if need be, we don’t want to have to do that, and we know that many of our fellow publishers are not in a position to do so.

We have no interest whatsoever in Wizards’ new OGL. Instead, we have a plan that we believe will irrevocably and unquestionably keep alive the spirit of the Open Game License.

As Paizo has evolved, the parts of the OGL that we ourselves value have changed. When we needed to quickly bring out Pathfinder First Edition to continue publishing our popular monthly adventures back in 2008, using Wizards’ language was important and expeditious. But in our non-RPG products, including our Pathfinder Tales novels, the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, and others, we shifted our focus away from D&D tropes to lean harder into ideas from our own writers. By the time we went to work on Pathfinder Second Edition, Wizards of the Coast’s Open Game Content was significantly less important to us, and so our designers and developers wrote the new edition without using Wizards’ copyrighted expressions of any game mechanics. While we still published it under the OGL, the reason was no longer to allow Paizo to use Wizards’ expressions, but to allow other companies to use our expressions.

We believe, as we always have, that open gaming makes games better, improves profitability for all involved, and enriches the community of gamers who participate in this amazing hobby. And so we invite gamers from around the world to join us as we begin the next great chapter of open gaming with the release of a new open, perpetual, and irrevocable Open RPG Creative License (ORC).

The new Open RPG Creative License will be built system agnostic for independent game publishers under the legal guidance of Azora Law, an intellectual property law firm that represents Paizo and several other game publishers. Paizo will pay for this legal work. We invite game publishers worldwide to join us in support of this system-agnostic license that allows all games to provide their own unique open rules reference documents that open up their individual game systems to the world. To join the effort and provide feedback on the drafts of this license, please sign up by using this form.

In addition to Paizo, Kobold Press, Chaosium, Green Ronin, Legendary Games, Rogue Genius Games, and a growing list of publishers have already agreed to participate in the Open RPG Creative License, and in the coming days we hope and expect to add substantially to this group.

The ORC will not be owned by Paizo, nor will it be owned by any company who makes money publishing RPGs. Azora Law’s ownership of the process and stewardship should provide a safe harbor against any company being bought, sold, or changing management in the future and attempting to rescind rights or nullify sections of the license. Ultimately, we plan to find a nonprofit with a history of open source values to own this license (such as the Linux Foundation).

Of course, Paizo plans to continue publishing Pathfinder and Starfinder, even as we move away from the Open Gaming License. Since months’ worth of products are still at the printer, you’ll see the familiar OGL 1.0(a) in the back of our products for a while yet. While the Open RPG Creative License is being finalized, we’ll be printing Pathfinder and Starfinder products without any license, and we’ll add the finished license to those products when the new license is complete.

We hope that you will continue to support Paizo and other game publishers in this difficult time for the entire hobby. You can do your part by supporting the many companies that have provided content under the OGL. Support Pathfinder and Starfinder by visiting your local game store, subscribing to Pathfinder and Starfinder, or taking advantage of discount code OpenGaming during checkout for 25% off your purchase of the Core Rulebook, Core Rulebook Pocket Edition, or Pathfinder Beginner Box. Support Kobold Press, Green Ronin, Legendary Games, Roll for Combat, Rogue Genius Games, and other publishers working to preserve a prosperous future for Open Gaming that is both perpetual AND irrevocable.

We’ll be there at your side. You can count on us not to go back on our word.

Forever.

–Paizo Inc

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Tags: Community Paizo Paizo Staff Pathfinder Pathfinder Roleplaying Game
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2 people marked this as a favorite.
Driftbourne wrote:

What the ORC horde looks like

ORC .

This video was funny as heck. Best was who Rocket represented.

Go on Paizo

Liberty's Edge

5 people marked this as a favorite.

As a TTRPG player, I am deeply moved by Paizo and its allies moving ahead with the ORC licenses. As a venture agent for Organized Play, I am proud to be associated with Paizo and look forward to welcoming new gamers.

I was somewhat concerned but as I read more about the OGL, I gained more confidence. Perhaps the best part of this news is that many independent publishers know that they do not stand alone. Table top roleplaying games often have parties that focus on cooperation. I think that Paizo and its partners in the ORC understand that we are truly better and stronger when we stand together.

Also, I would love to see a new iconic orc character from the Burning Suns tribe. I think that a certain cabal of wizards has been badly burned.


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Routamaa wrote:
Driftbourne wrote:

What the ORC horde looks like

ORC .

This video was funny as heck. Best was who Rocket represented.

Go on Paizo

Don't miss watching this video, definitely triggers all kinds of positive emotions!


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
William Ronald wrote:

As a TTRPG player, I am deeply moved by Paizo and its allies moving ahead with the ORC licenses. As a venture agent for Organized Play, I am proud to be associated with Paizo and look forward to welcoming new gamers.

I was somewhat concerned but as I read more about the OGL, I gained more confidence. Perhaps the best part of this news is that many independent publishers know that they do not stand alone. Table top roleplaying games often have parties that focus on cooperation. I think that Paizo and its partners in the ORC understand that we are truly better and stronger when we stand together.

Also, I would love to see a new iconic orc character from the Burning Suns tribe. I think that a certain cabal of wizards has been badly burned.

I cheered out loud and physically fist pumped when I read Paizo's announcement on the OGL and ORC. I am in way too deep, but loving it now!


5 people marked this as a favorite.

I become Paizo team a few days before the post and now am full Paizo

go go team ORC


3 people marked this as a favorite.

Huzzah!!!
....Sorry I meant WAAAAAAAAGH!!!!!


2 people marked this as a favorite.
William Ronald wrote:


Also, I would love to see a new iconic orc character from the Burning Suns tribe. I think that a certain cabal of wizards has been badly burned.

This!!!

I already have reoccuring ideas for an NPC in my campaigns every time an evil wizard is involved.

Wayfinders Contributor

6 people marked this as a favorite.
UnArcaneElection wrote:

Now, Paizo MUST come out with an Iconic ORC Redeemer Champion . . . .

Or just bring back the awesome Oloch (the former warpriest iconic.) Yes, he worshipped Gorum, but oh... he was one of my absolute favorite iconics!


3 people marked this as a favorite.

Thank you, Paizo.

Wayfinders

12 people marked this as a favorite.

Need a new Orc heritage that gets +2 on saves against wizards and dragons


4 people marked this as a favorite.

Not a huge fan of PF system but want to say thanks to Paizo for not only reacting to this whole situatuion but also for creating a new place for creators.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

While Arenathon 2120 Games has not technically been active for quite some time, I have continued to develop several games, including a rules lite RPG. I applaud Paizo for spearheading this effort and look forward to being able to release future products under the upcoming ORC license. Huzzah, Paizo. Huzzah.

Scarab Sages

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure, Companion, Lost Omens, Maps, Rulebook Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

I was floored when I heard about Wizard's/Hasbro's intentions to change the OGL. The OGL made gaming what it is today & allowed for many companies to offer new and innovative products and ideas for players and GMs. I'm so happy that Paizo is creating a new license and that they won't own it and will instead find another entity to manage it, which will be in the best interest of the gaming community.


2 people marked this as a favorite.

I had actually been planning on creating a new campaign using the 5e rules. WotC basically dissuaded me from that and I am definitely sticking with Pathfinder and will never buy another D&D product again. Paizo's decision to craft the ORC with assistance from other third-party game developers helped cement that decision. Thank you, Paizo.


5 people marked this as a favorite.

So good it made sure people who have never played Pathfinder get to experience trying to use Paizo's website!!


3 people marked this as a favorite.
Tangent101 wrote:
I had actually been planning on creating a new campaign using the 5e rules. WotC basically dissuaded me from that and I am definitely sticking with Pathfinder and will never buy another D&D product again. Paizo's decision to craft the ORC with assistance from other third-party game developers helped cement that decision. Thank you, Paizo.

You should probably grab the dnd 2e stuff at least. That can be grabbed for cheap right now and was made in the good days, so has a ton of positive content to use in whatever new games you go for from here.

I hate what wotc is doing now, but I can't forget the greatness of the past either.


Legal Eagle gives his opinion.

Liberty's Edge

7 people marked this as a favorite.

The shallow dive approach he took to this treating TTRPG IP as if it were normal IP is rather... irritating and missed the whole point and reason of the OGL being made in the first place.

The video also REALLY rubbed me the wrong way because he exclusively focused on how it will impact 5e "homebrew" and a couple of the biggest 5e content creators/influencers while completely .... ignoring (?)... all other aspects, usage, and impacts of the OGL and the sketchy "you own your content but you also give it to us for free to sell or use however we want forever and ever amen" section of the 1.1 that was the BIGGEST problem. His citing the two BIGGEST 5e creators/influencer groups as his examples were also completely moot as well since both of them, as far as I understood, are already formally partnered with WotC and wouldn't be on the receiving end of the proverbial shaft regardless.

It's almost like he is either unaware that OTHER RPG systems or publishers even exist,is buddies with the WotC lawyers he mentioned speaking with, or has reasons to go to bat for WotC... he even ends the video with a snide remark about how roleplaying is for nerds and how MtG is what the cool kids do, like... WTF.

I am NOT impressed at all.

Dark Archive

2 people marked this as a favorite.

I mean, its pretty much what happens when you get opinion on someone who is looking at situation from outside without knowing nuances of situation. Its not really worth getting angry, just more of observation of good example of what lot of people from outsider will understand situation like


2 people marked this as a favorite.

I mean, it's true that the OGL is more restrictive than what you could access via fair use. Like "Nominative Use" is a clear cut of Fair Use, but the OGL 1.0a prohibits you from using "Product Identity" which includes the name "Dungeons and Dragons". Which is why the Paizo release of Abomination Vaults says "5E" and Ẅorld's Oldest RPG" but doesn't say D&D anywhere, because it's published under the OGL 1.0a.

Pretty much the reason you would go along with this, even though it's more restrictive than existing copyright law is that it guaranteed that Hasbro wasn't going to sue you as long as you followed the terms of the license. Most likely most of those lawsuits are not ones that WotC would win, but "suing so as to meaningfully damage a potential competitor" is absolutely a thing (it's called "Lawfare") so it was useful (particularly when you were one of the bigger users of the OGL like Paizo) to be able to sleep at night knowing that you're not going to have to defend your use of "Druid" or "Half-Orc" in court (You would win here, but your lawyers don't work for free.)


4 people marked this as a favorite.

I thought it was fairly reasonable. Yes it was coming strictly from a D&D perspective.

Though it did mention the idea of taking and reproducing large sections of the D&D SRD - which is exactly what Pathfinder did originally.


I agree with both sentiments, I also thought he missed the big picture but I thought it was very interesting.


Also, sorry, I meant to put that in the other thread. My bad!

Very excited for the new license and I'm extremely supportive of Paizo taking the lead on this.


2 people marked this as a favorite.

I used to like Legal Eagle, but I noticed lately that he's really leaning on one side of politics and it seems to be affecting his discussions more and more.

Shadow Lodge

5 people marked this as a favorite.

I'm shocked by this revelation.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber; Starfinder Superscriber
Themetricsystem wrote:
The shallow dive approach he took to this treating TTRPG IP as if it were normal IP is rather... irritating and missed the whole point and reason of the OGL being made in the first place.

Legal is a lawyer who discovered he rather enjoyed being an entertainer. I wouldn't put too much stock into his opinions (or anyone else who's simply using this whole thing as spectacle to draw views/listeners).

Dataphiles

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Thanks for this response Paizo!


2 people marked this as a favorite.

This is how gaming companies should conduct themselves. Im in.


2 people marked this as a favorite.

A great move, finally!

I seriously hope ORC freely allows related fanworks of multiple genres, be it novels or pantomimes(snort)...


2 people marked this as a favorite.

Hmm, what name should I publish under? ORChrist games? ORC grimoire? Orcish Witchcraft?

Obviously I need an orc with glasses and a book as my mascot. :)


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

You mean Orcrist?

Grand Lodge

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Lost Omens, Maps Subscriber

This announcement is welcome news for the community at large. Thank you, Paizo, for setting the record straight and taking the lead when those who *should* have done so fumbled that chance. Paizo rolls the critical success that saves the party!


Leon Aquilla wrote:
You mean Orcrist?

Yep. I listen to the audiobook so I've never actually seen it written before.

Shadow Lodge

1 person marked this as a favorite.

As soon as I first heard of the whole issue, I wondered what Paizo's response would be.
I'm glad to be gaming with my buddy, Orkel. ORCL?
It was a good move to make the L silent in the acronym.


(1) Why do we need a new Open RPG Creative Licence? Can you not just use something that already exists, such as Creative Commons, or the GNU Free Documentation Licence.

Several very highly ranked games already use CC, including Blades in the Dark (#6 on rpggeek.com), Dungeon World (#8), Gumshoe (Trail of Cthulhu is #9), and Fate (#30).

They meet your criteria, e.g. published by a neutral third party, irrevocable, robustly reviewed, and in widespread use.

In the interests of efficiency, there is no need to waste time and duplicate what already exists; simply start using the CC licences, which you could do so immediately.

(2) There is nothing wrong with continuing to use the OGL. As you said, deauthorising doesn't make legal sense.

If you want a licence that separates out Open Gaming Content from Product Identity, then you need something like it. This separation doesn't exist in generic licences such as Creative Commons, so is a valid reason if you want to combine both in one document. (Without it, you would need to publish a separate SRD under CC, that just includes nothing you consider product identity; and keep your main product under normal copyright.)

Unfortunately you can't create a direct variation, e.g. to add the word irrevocable, because Wizard's owns the copyright on the text of the licence; but as you said, this is not actually necessary.

(3) Unfortunately neither is compatible with the OGL, so you would have to avoid using any copyright expression.

One way to do this is to use the expressions from an existing published CC system, such as Fate, and simply substitute in the mechanics.

(4) The OGL doesn't cover much from Wizard's anyway. As you said, it is simply mean to cover the core terms so that you can easily create compatible extensions using similar expressions. e.g. it only contains one Warlock eldritch invocation as an example. 95%+ of stuff published by Wizards isn't covered by the OGL at all, so I have no idea why they are trying to change it at all.

(5) Even as a non-lawyer, whoever wrote the purported OGL 1.1 has no understanding of logic.

If it *is* a version of the OGL, then releasing it gives the licensee a choice (similar to GNU licences). If they choose OGL 1.0a then it contains terms such as "4 ...grant you a perpetual, worldwide, royalty-free, non-exclusie license", and "9... You may use any authoerized version of this License", and you comply with *all* of the terms in the selected license.

If instead you choose OGL 1.1 Non-Commercial then it contains terms like "VIII. A. OGL 1.0(a), which is no longer an authorised license agreement", but this is a bit stupid, because the license is referring to a version that you didn't select. If you select OGL 1.1 Non-Commercial, then the OGL 1.0(a) doesn't apply *because you didn't select it*.

There is no provision that allows you to mix and match terms between the licence. I.e. you can't have both OGL 1.0a and OGL 1.1 Non-Commercial terms at the same time, so the deauthorisation only applies if you don't select OGL 1.0a; and doesn't apply if you do. Quite silly from a logical point of view.

(It would be better for them to try and de-authorise OGL 1.0a in a public statement on their website, not within the terms of an alternative version of the licence that won't apply if not selected; although I don't think that would work either. That is not what authorised means in the original context; it was meant so that random person can't create something called OGL 7.0 and force Wizards into it.)

(6) If Wizard's don't want OGL 1.0a to apply to stuff they release that it absolutely trivial to achieve; don't release it under a version of the OGL! Release it under some other licence, such as GSL 2.0. This is trivial if they wanted to do it. Nothing forces them to use the OGL.


Hilary Moon Murphy wrote:
UnArcaneElection wrote:

Now, Paizo MUST come out with an Iconic ORC Redeemer Champion . . . .

Or just bring back the awesome Oloch (the former warpriest iconic.) Yes, he worshipped Gorum, but oh... he was one of my absolute favorite iconics!

No, we need an Iconic that Seelah would be honored to fight alongside. And I want a picture of them doing exactly that . . . fighting against a Dragon and an Evil Wizard.

Liberty's Edge

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Thank you, Paizo.

Thank you for the ORC. It does feel like I am witnessing history being made, even if only for this hobby of ours.

You're doing the absolute right thing.

And it is awesome how far you progressed since a year ago, as far as goodwill and relations with the fanbase goes. Jim Butler and everyone involved did earn their laurels. Kudos to all.

And thanks for reopening this thread so that we could read it and contribute.

Even though that will give more work for Jessica Catalan, favoriting even more grateful posts.

Lots of love to everyone. Hope you all succeed beyond any expectation.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Thanks for the update and yes it sounds sane to me given the insanity that has been floating around.

One caution I would have is not looking to the Linux Foundation as a steward. While I am a long time Freedom Software advocate, I am mindful of the number of corporate interests there are in the Linux foundation. It seems benign, but some actions of late have made me question its commitment to open source philosophy.

Instead, consider the Software Freedom Conservancy, which is basically a legal entity which advocates all aspects of the open source ethos.

https://sfconservancy.org/

Whatever you decide. I feel you are already on the right side of history and so I look forward to another expansion of creative output which always occurs when people can just create without fear.


Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I have vowed not to give any money to WotC again for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately this means I will miss out on playing Baldur's Gate 3, which is a bummer (don't even mention the other option, I am not remotely interested). Unless purchasing it means my money will go only to Larian Studios, which I doubt is the case. Also, no more minis from the Icons of the Realm line, which is a huge bummer as well (I was *this* close to buying the tarrasque "mini" last month). Also no GI Joe RPG for me now.


3 people marked this as a favorite.
sly_gryphon wrote:


(1) Why do we need a new Open RPG Creative Licence?

Legalities don't work like that. That's why.

Also, public perception.

And having a license specialized to rpgs.

Liberty's Edge

6 people marked this as a favorite.
GM DarkLightHitomi wrote:
sly_gryphon wrote:


(1) Why do we need a new Open RPG Creative Licence?

Legalities don't work like that. That's why.

Also, public perception.

And having a license specialized to rpgs.

Also I am 200% sure that the people mentioned in the blog post have far more knowledge both legal and business about all this than all casual posters (self included) combined.


FYI WotC respond to the community on D&D Beyond.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Lucas Yew wrote:

A great move, finally!

I seriously hope ORC freely allows related fanworks of multiple genres, be it novels or pantomimes(snort)...

Now, now... Can't have freelancers muscling in on that big RPG PANTOMIME MONEY, can they? ;)

Seriously, though, this is great news! Glad to see that Paizo and so many other publishers are fighting to keep the creative spirit of the original OGL alive. Thank you, everyone!


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Hopefully not a daft question, and apologies if it's already been asked; but do we HAVE to be creators to sign up to the mailing list so that we can follow along with the creation of the ORC?


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber; Starfinder Superscriber
guillaumeag wrote:
FYI WotC respond to the community on D&D Beyond.

We're 72 hours beyond that news cycle.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Please can you make an Open RPG sticker? Or an #OpenGaming? So we can buy it to show our support. I would buy books direct from you but the international shipping is really high for physical books.

I would take great pleasure sticking an Open RPG sticker on my 5E books. And then taking a photo to share on social.


Leon Aquilla wrote:
guillaumeag wrote:
FYI WotC respond to the community on D&D Beyond.

We're 72 hours beyond that news cycle.

Essentially it's "oh hey, please don't abandon us, we won't completely rape and pillage this community!" One employee of WotC already stated that the upper management plans on letting the outcry die down, everyone to forget, and THEN to slam out the new super-restrictive OGL without caring. They only are seeing the bottom line for immediate profits and thinking they can bully content creators into toeing the line and rob them of everything of interest.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

First thing you've done in a while that I've approved of, Paizo. Well done. Well done indeed.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Maps, Rulebook Subscriber

BLUF: The ORC should kill OGL. For good.

At first, I didn't want to think that WotC would be as stupid as the "leak" makes them out to be. (In a way, I suspect this is a trolling exercise.) Given the high volume of amazing content (I support way, way, waaaaayyyyyy too many on Kickstarter), it's no wonder they would want to tap into that creative market.

It's almost ironic that WotC, formed by a group of gamers, nearly killed D&D, then bought it to keep it alive. I didn't game for a while, shortly after 3rd Edition came out, but I kept my subscriptions to Dragon and Dungeon magazine going throughout my haitus.

When I restarted, it was right before the announcement of 4th Edition. I literally skipped the bulk of 3rd Edition and spent a lot of money catching up. 4th Edition was no surprise, Hasbro wanted to change the nature of the game from role/roll-playing to a mini-buying rush, nearly killing D&D. The only reason I bought 4th Edition core books was because Paizo was offering 10% discount on an entire order. I made sure to clear my wishlist and the discount more than covered the price of the cost.

I moved along with PF, ignoring 4th Ed and 5e until recently when I finally made a friend that's a gamer. (Previous attempts to find a gaming group all failed.) So, I jumped back into 5e.

Near the end again. (rofl)

What is ironic is Hasbro bought WotC and nearly killed D&D a second time, and now they seem to think the 3rd time's the charm, trying to focus D&D on pay-to-play content and services (I'm not against making money, but not keen on vampiric payment schemes either), as well as futilely trying to tap into the creativity of thousands of content creators without actually having to work at it. It would be like IBM suddenly declaring they could confiscate all code written for PCs, ever. (IBM has a very shady past, so it's no surprise when corporations attempt such things.)

I look forward to the new license. Even if WotC doesn't follow through, the ORC should kill OGL.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I approve this message.

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