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.


–Paizo Inc

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Tags: Community Paizo Paizo Staff Pathfinder Pathfinder Roleplaying Game
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4 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Yay to Paizo for taking this stand and helping to save the little guys. As many of the lawyers have pointed out, if the revoking was taken to court, WotC would almost certainly lose. But that means facing the legal machine of a megacorp. Almost none of the small players have the resources to fight a protracted legal battle, meaning Hasbro would win by default.

Paizo has given those small publishers a way out and are willing and able to defend themselves. That is worth celebrating.


8 people marked this as a favorite.
Corbain wrote:

BLUF: The ORC should kill OGL. For good.

The OGL is as important to the community as it is to wotc. Killing the OGL would kill a massive amount of good stuff and damage the community. There's a reason Paizo committed to defending the OGL.

2 people marked this as a favorite.

What would be nice is something to buy that would ORC that you can wear like a pin, t-shirt or patch or something
Or like mentioned before a sticker or something.

1 person marked this as a favorite.

I understand a businesses need to make money in order to continue to exist, but what WotC has done is so obviously malicious and done out of jealousy its sickening. If this is how they are going to be conducting business, then I'm out. You have my support as a player and dm all the way, Paizo!

4 people marked this as a favorite.
_Malfaor_ wrote:
I understand a businesses need to make money in order to continue to exist, but what WotC has done is so obviously malicious and done out of jealousy its sickening. If this is how they are going to be conducting business, then I'm out. You have my support as a player and dm all the way, Paizo!

It's not necessarily malicious, it's failure to understand the difference between entertainment products and other products and a failure to distinguish customers from rival companies.

A lot of products are sold almost entirely on what I call "Sparkle" which is easy to market and garners a lot of attention when new. But with entertainment substance is extraordinarily important. Sparkle fades fast. Entertainment products made with a focus on Sparkle are great for a quick return on investment but the product fades quickly and a few years later no one remembers and the investors/company won't care because they already got their return. But obviously the IP suffers for the lack of substance. It seems to me that many pure business people get lots of experience with sparkle, but rarely with substance. And they fail to realize that handling substance requires very different strategies and tactics. This is why so many movies and games as of late are being ruined, because the money folks are focused on sparkle and what's easy to market.

Wotc/hasbro actions are two fold mistakes, first, their move was a strategy to use against other businesses, not customers, second, they are treating the IP like a product sold on sparkle but DnD as an IP is built on substance.

These two mistakes are what they did wrong. Even the supposed attitude of customers being an obstacle is appropriate view in a battle against a rival company. The problem being that we customers and community are not a rival company, which is why it becomes a problem and makes us feel insulted.

2 people marked this as a favorite.

I have been away from table-top since Covid. This year I am planning to return to my gaming club.

It is at this critical point that I return to Paizo and the rest to support #ORC.

Onward to crushing our enemies, see the Executive Board driven before us, and to hear the lamentation of their CEO!

4 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

Something of note from Erik Mona's feed, regarding potential clauses about not bringing ORC's reputation into disparagement via using their rules for mature or controversial themes:


Erik Mona @Erikmona 4h
Replying to @cheezeofages and @KasimirUrbanski

This license will work best if it is available to everyone. If you have to pass some kind of committee approval to use it, it’s going to be DOA. That applies to everybody.

I mean, I get why D&D wants to make rules about potentially objectionable content, since anything that gets published under the OGL will get associated with "Dungeons and Dragons" so if something really transgressive gets out there the blowback is going to hit the entire brand, and this is a hobby that should also be welcoming to actual children.

But if the ORC license covers Pathfinder, and Mutants & Masterminds, and Call of Cthulhu, et al. Someone's particularly extreme Cthulhu horror module wouldn't really reflect on the license or any particular brand.

Of course, there could also be something like how there are actually six different Creative Commons licenses, where you can release something with "you can do whatever you want with this, so long as you give attribution" or "you can use this in the exactly the same way it is presented, no derivative works."

3 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

Mutants and Masterminds uses the OGL currently but no reasonable person would conflate it with D&D.

5 people marked this as a favorite.

For what it's worth, I started a thread recently to talk about adults-only third-party PF2 content. I realize we're talking about the whole of the ORC here, though, and it seems unlikely the ORC will see the same restrictions PF2/Pathfinder Infinite currently does.

2 people marked this as a favorite.

Hot off the press, courtesy of the venerable Devin Night:

3 people marked this as a favorite.

I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in joy and were suddenly satisfied. I think something wonderful has happened.

Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Fantastic. Nice to see you guys coming together for this.

Silver Crusade

7 people marked this as a favorite.

Just voted with my wallet and caught up on my Paizo backlog in support of ORC.

Zug zug Paizo.

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pinktiger wrote:

What would be nice is something to buy that would ORC that you can wear like a pin, t-shirt or patch or something

Or like mentioned before a sticker or something.

Yes, yes, yes. I need an ORC t-shirt. Come on Paizo, make it happen!

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Well done, Paizo.

3 people marked this as a favorite.

I support this direction fully.

I hope the ORC, like the original OGL, is compatible with Free Software licenses as defined by the Free Software Foundation.

It sounds like that is the intent :) <3

The leaked OGL 1.1 definitely doesn't.

2 people marked this as a favorite.

So. Back on topic, I am curious how long it'll be before we get actual details as to what will be in the ORC license. I do hope that everyone involved agrees on transparency for this process seeing that Ha$boro and Wot€ have failed to realize is important for customer loyalty and keeping the rumor bay from going rampant.

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