Changes to OGL and Effect on Paizo / other OGL companies


Paizo General Discussion

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If any of you follow gaming news over the last month or so, you are already aware that WotC announced that they would be overhauling the OGL, with the implication being that it would be tighter and more easily controlled by WotC.

A few of the details came out today on the currently unreleased updated OGL. You can read the story here on Gizmodo
Dungeons & Dragons’ New License Tightens Its Grip on Competition

I suggest you give it a read.

I wanted to start a discussion on how this might affect out most beloved of past times, playing Pathfinder and Starfinder, both of which are dependent on the existence of the OGL.

While I am a lawyer, I am not an expert in licensing law. It is all but certain that this will be litigated in court and it will be expensive. BUT I also believe that WotC is on shaky ground at best since the original license states that it is a "perpetual, worldwide, [and] non-exclusive license."

There would also be a clear defense of Latches and Equitable Estopple, which are fancy legal jargon which generally mean that if a party relies you your statements to their detriment, you can't then change your mind midstream.

Obviously, this is but the first salvo in a fight that may last until Pathfinder 3E.


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

Much like when the D&D movie poster stole Paizo's proprietary art and they killed the discussion instantly, I suspect this will not go too well either.

Anyways, I have all the books on my shelf. Let Hasbro come in and try and burn 'em.


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Leon Aquilla wrote:


Anyways, I have all the books on my shelf. Let Hasbro come in and try and burn 'em.

Sure, but I want them to keep making more books. Also, I like the fine people at Paizo to be able to pay rent and buy food while writing said books.

Not to mention Paizo Infinity.


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

I can't control that, unfortunately. My comments were restricted to what I can control.


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There is also this initial response from different lawyer who is also not an IP/licensing specialst.

A lot seems to hinge on how courts interpret the word "authorized".


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Regardless of how it affects Paizo, it's pretty darn gross. I don't blame WotC so much as Hasbro. I hope this drives more people to try out different systems so third-party publishers have more options with who to work with.


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i hope the Hasbro executive bathrooms all have a simultaneous plumbing issue and there's a poop disaster.

this is such an insane move. as the article says it affects more than paizo - even Evil Hat uses the ogl for the FATE SRD.


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What exactly do they use the OGL *for* though? I was under the impression that rules were not copy writable or protectable. Is it just the name "d20" or "d20 system" that they own?


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iirc the OGL says something to the extent of "even if we change this in the future, you can keep using the original version." I believe that has held up in court at least once.

Not sure what Hasbro believes has changed.


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Yeah, that's what you get when they hire a corporate CEO, we can phrase it as we want, but it's damn obvious they want to simply eliminate their competitors and Paizo is probably the first on their target list.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

It's worse than elimination they want to feed directly off their competitors taking money directly from them.

It's a truly gross attempt at monopoly, and such a deeply gross move from WotC.

There is a lot hinging on the word "authorised" and whether that holds water.

Scarab Sages

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SlyZero wrote:
Yeah, that's what you get when they hire a corporate CEO, we can phrase it as we want, but it's damn obvious they want to simply eliminate their competitors and Paizo is probably the first on their target list.

Yes they'll take any wording choice they can to justify an interpretation that favours them. We had a clause in our EBA that a book off day is defined as a 24 hour period where work will not take place. The intent was that you can't be rostered to work into a day your booked off without compensation. Thanks to the wording management has taken it as any 24 hour period not a midnight to midnight day as intended so they can roster people to finish at 9am in the morning then the next day start at 9am. There's 24 hours from 9am monday to 9am tuesday so monday is your book off day. The fact you are trying to shift from being up for a single night shift to being awake for a day shift doesn't matter you had 24 hours off.


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Kobold Catgirl wrote:
Regardless of how it affects Paizo, it's pretty darn gross. I don't blame WotC so much as Hasbro. I hope this drives more people to try out different systems so third-party publishers have more options with who to work with.

I am no fan of WotC, but I have spoken up for many years due to my being part of another community about the dangers of trusting Hasbro with too much or too far. Not surprised by this at all.


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Kelseus wrote:


While I am a lawyer, I am not an expert in licensing law. It is all but certain that this will be litigated in court and it will be expensive. BUT I also believe that WotC is on shaky ground at best since the original license states that it is a "perpetual, worldwide, [and] non-exclusive license."

There would also be a clear defense of Latches and Equitable Estopple, which are fancy legal jargon which generally mean that if a party relies you your statements to their detriment, you can't then change your mind midstream.

Obviously, this is but the first salvo in a fight that may last until Pathfinder 3E.

Appreciate the appraisal from a professional. I'm an MBA with an interest in contract and IP law and I know some of the basics but this one is a doozy to me. It's been a heck of a time trying to explain the issue with this to some folks.

It seems like one of those cases where someone up in c-suite get's a really stupid idea and doesn't listen to the warnings from the guys in legal. One of those "we can violate the contract because we REALLY want to. BRILLIANT!" ideas.

But one that frankly is going to do real damage to the hobby until it get's challenged in court. Now here's the fun question. Multiple lawsuits or a big class-action?


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SlyZero wrote:
Yeah, that's what you get when they hire a corporate CEO, we can phrase it as we want, but it's damn obvious they want to simply eliminate their competitors and Paizo is probably the first on their target list.

It may have something to do with the fact that now the Hasbro CEO is former Microsoft, the president of Wizards of the Coast is former Microsoft and Amazon, and the VP now in charge of D&D is former Microsoft 365.


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Raiztt wrote:
What exactly do they use the OGL *for* though? I was under the impression that rules were not copy writable or protectable. Is it just the name "d20" or "d20 system" that they own?

I'm also confused about this. The article mentions that Mutants and Masterminds is built on the OGL. Is Wizards trying to exercise ownership over every d20 system?

This reminds me of when Blizzard released the Warcraft remake with the changes to the community creations, trying to pre-empt another DotA getting away without giving them any money.

Sovereign Court

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Paizo has had 20 years to plan for this - it must be something they put a great deal of thought to, build their work around, and consulted knowledgeable professionals on.

All the things we are now looking at more carefully (eg what is the legal meaning of 'authorised' in the context of the OGL), they must have formed a view on long ago.

I really hope that they, and the other 3rd party creators out there, have a plan that might ensure we remain a healthy, diverse and broad hobby. Rather than the sterile, monopolistic, cash cow that Hasbro are hoping to create.

Hasbro is a corporation with pockets deep enough to spend $140M acquiring DND Beyond, and a plan for earning that back with a profit. This is a serious threat to our hobby.


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Ryan Dancey, OGL architect, weighs in:

Ryan Dancey -- Hasbro Cannot Deauthorize OGL


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Castinus Fulvio wrote:

Paizo has had 20 years to plan for this - it must be something they put a great deal of thought to, build their work around, and consulted knowledgeable professionals on.

All the things we are now looking at more carefully (eg what is the legal meaning of 'authorised' in the context of the OGL), they must have formed a view on long ago.

Here's Paizo's current statement

Paizo wrote:
Paizo Inc., publisher of the Pathfinder RPG, one of D&D’s largest competitors, declined to comment on the changes for this article, stating that the rules update was a complicated and ongoing situation.


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Dancing Wind wrote:

Here's Paizo's current statement

Paizo wrote:
Paizo Inc., publisher of the Pathfinder RPG, one of D&D’s largest competitors, declined to comment on the changes for this article, stating that the rules update was a complicated and ongoing situation.

What that means is "our lawyers have told us not to say anything and we are listening to them."

This is likely to be a protracted legal battle.


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Roll for Combat did an updated info video with a Contract Lawyer. A source that is traditionally friendly to Paizo writ large:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDuHjpwx5Q4&ab_channel=RollForCombat


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They'd probably say the same thing even if it was dead-obvious that WotC wasn't going to be able to put up a fight. They're just being cautious, like one should be when your entire business model is on the line.


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OGL 1.0a is a perpetual license, it cannot be revoked or "un-authorized" without certain conditions being met. Those are rare and require much evidence, and all current evidence would go against Hasbro/WotC being capable of revoking the license under current conditions. WotC can do whatever they like but it is a contractual agreement and the courts tend to give less leverage to those who write the contract. Perpetual means just that, perpetual.

I've already started taking 5E rules in my homebrew from the 5E SRD and have been re-writing things for my new version of it, Trailblazer. I'll give it away for free for anybody under OGL 1.0a and WotC can go to the 666th level of the Abyss for all I care.

Ryan Dancey has stated the OGL cannot be revoked or deauthorized and had they intended for WotC to have that power it would have been enumerated in the OGL.

If I was Paizo, I would be contacting the Electronic Frontier foundation as any legal decision giving WotC the power to revoke OGL 1.0a will have MASSIVE effects on open source software licensing and the perpetuality that exists in that space as well.


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"perpetual" does not mean "irrevocable".

An article by an IP lawyer on the subject.


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Grankless wrote:

"perpetual" does not mean "irrevocable".

An article by an IP lawyer on the subject.

True, but there is no language within the perpetual license on how specifically to revoke it, thus certain conditions must be met. That is a tough road to hoe for WotC as there is a two way quid pro quo in the license and all they can do is throw money at lawyers to drag it out and wear down the opponents before a decision is ever made. Again, the EFF is the best bet here because any decision on this will have HUGE ramifications for open source software licensing and they have won against bigger entities than WotC/Hasbro.


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Leon Aquilla wrote:

Much like when the D&D movie poster stole Paizo's proprietary art and they killed the discussion instantly, I suspect this will not go too well either.

Anyways, I have all the books on my shelf. Let Hasbro come in and try and burn 'em.

That's the biggest blessing for other 3rd party publishers. If they can't touch Paizo, then that gives a big defense in court afaik.

Not a lawyer of course, so I could be mistaken on this.


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Xyxox wrote:
Grankless wrote:

"perpetual" does not mean "irrevocable".

An article by an IP lawyer on the subject.

True, but there is no language within the perpetual license on how specifically to revoke it, thus certain conditions must be met. That is a tough road to hoe for WotC as there is a two way quid pro quo in the license and all they can do is throw money at lawyers to drag it out and wear down the opponents before a decision is ever made. Again, the EFF is the best bet here because any decision on this will have HUGE ramifications for open source software licensing and they have won against bigger entities than WotC/Hasbro.

Thanks for sharing.

It is pretty clear that the legal standing WOTC has to revoke a previously listed as unrevocable agreement is hazy. It has been pointed out that irrevocable could reasonably be interpreted as authorized forever. Those terms are often legally interchangeable.

They are using creative language in the proposed OGL 1.0a to try to put the lid on pandoras box. It will be very difficult to argue this in court in good faith.


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Jon_Danger wrote:
Xyxox wrote:
Grankless wrote:

"perpetual" does not mean "irrevocable".

An article by an IP lawyer on the subject.

True, but there is no language within the perpetual license on how specifically to revoke it, thus certain conditions must be met. That is a tough road to hoe for WotC as there is a two way quid pro quo in the license and all they can do is throw money at lawyers to drag it out and wear down the opponents before a decision is ever made. Again, the EFF is the best bet here because any decision on this will have HUGE ramifications for open source software licensing and they have won against bigger entities than WotC/Hasbro.

Thanks for sharing.

It is pretty clear that the legal standing WOTC has to revoke a previously listed as unrevocable agreement is hazy. It has been pointed out that irrevocable could reasonably be interpreted as authorized forever. Those terms are often legally interchangeable.

They are using creative language in the proposed OGL 1.0a to try to put the lid on pandoras box. It will be very difficult to argue this in court in good faith.

Another thing about contractual agreements, which accepting a lciense essentially is, courts turn to original intent and to get to the original intent one must look at the original FAQ regarding WotC's ability to revoke a version of the OGL, hence let's fire up the Wayback Machine and take a look...

https://web.archive.org/web/20010429033432/http://www.wizards.com/D20/artic le.asp?x=dt20010417e

If you go read that, WotC admits EVERY version of the OGL is PERMANENT. Now, agreeing to OGL 1.1 could force you to do everything under OGL 1.1, which is why no creator should accept the terms and conditions of OGL 1.1. It's a trap.


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A demand letter has allegedly been sent on behalf of a couple of small publishers.

(Discord link with an embedded pdf link, I assure it is a pdf and is safe and just a demand letter.)

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32, 2011 Top 16

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Note that this is a leaked draft. Until it's actually released, who knows what the real version will look like. They could have even leaked it themselves to gauge reaction and figure out what to change, or one faction could have to sabotage the faction which is pushing for this version.

Liberty's Edge

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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

One of the things I see here is the want for Wizards to "monetize" the 5th edition third party product via Royalties. Pretty much a lot of the 3.0/3.5 material has either been updated or revamped to the point that the license is is a secondary thought at this point.

PF2 likely could be published as it's own content without the need for the license, as it is far removed from 3.5 stile rules. My humble and earnest take on this is that the license is used currently only to continue the setting on a familiar structure of classes and D20 paradigm.

To me, Pathfinder would do fine without the license alltogether, whether that means "third edition" or an errata to adjust rules to further distiguish from the IP.

The real question is what Starfinder is gonna do. I expect that Starfinder 2nd edition has already been in the works already, bringing in line with and unifying with the Pathfinder system, and having time travelers go back and forth between the settings... wouldn't that be exciting?

I believe Paizo will be fine no matter what the new OGL is gonna be. PF2 likely can work without it, or the legality of such a move may prove to be wizard/hasbro overreaching past the current 5th edition line.

Grand Lodge

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I just hope PFS/Organized Play isn't yanked out from under us!

As an aside,

thaX wrote:
...having time travelers go back and forth between the settings... wouldn't that be exciting?

This is already happening in both Organized Play programs.


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If they could do this, it would have been done years ago in my opinion.

The only possible reason for this if they go after Paizo would be Hasbro sensing financial weakness in Paizo and wanting to grind them down economically until they give up. We all know big companies with deep pockets can make it too expensive to operate hoping to break the will of another company to drive them out of business. That's the only angle I can see Hasbro taking if it plays hardball with smaller companies and goes directly after Paizo which seems like it's only real competitor in the marketplace.


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Hasbro's really speedrunning the process of setting all the goodwill they earned with 5e on fire during this edition change. It's kind of impressive.


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Deriven Firelion wrote:
... The only possible reason for this if they go after Paizo would be Hasbro sensing financial weakness in Paizo ...

Hasbro has decided that DND is not "monetized" enough. This sounds like an effort to monetize DND at the expense of third-party content creators rather than investing in producing a better and/or more profitable product.


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DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:
It's worse than elimination they want to feed directly off their competitors taking money directly from them. .

Zoology does differentiate between predation and parasitism, after all.


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On the other hand, Hasbro might feel obliged to proceed; an unexploited monetisation opportunity could be considered a breach of trust for a publicly listed enterprise.

Vigilant Seal

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Grimmerling wrote:
DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:
It's worse than elimination they want to feed directly off their competitors taking money directly from them. .

I'm not sure about that. Something tells me they are going to try monetise the hell out of the playerbase. Subscriptions, NFTs, loot boxes, the whole lot. I think they know this is going to cause a kickback and want to try make sure there isn't an easy alternative for players to switch to. So yeah, the goal is to eliminate the competition completely.


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Hopefully the attempt to "unauthorize" the OGL 1.0a will be rejected - I do not believe that the attempt will hold up in court.

Well - Hasbro seems so finally have united the role playing community. The bad news is that they now are united against Hasbro.


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Brodda Rindoc wrote:
Grimmerling wrote:
DM_aka_Dudemeister wrote:
It's worse than elimination they want to feed directly off their competitors taking money directly from them. .
I'm not sure about that. Something tells me they are going to try monetise the hell out of the playerbase. Subscriptions, NFTs, loot boxes, the whole lot. I think they know this is going to cause a kickback and want to try make sure there isn't an easy alternative for players to switch to. So yeah, the goal is to eliminate the competition completely.

The fuller comment on the investor's call was that they want players to spend as much as DMs do. That's a scary thought.


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I guess we might get a 5th errata of the CRB soon after the 4th. With the OGL text removed and any (hopefully few) SRD references expunged. I'd think the simplest future path for Paizo is to step away from WotC's licensing scheme altogether: WotC are clearly not interested in being reasonable going forward.


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This being the American legal system, Paizo could win but lose - an ultimate victory in the court followed by going bankrupt because legal fees are a beach. So, they might decide to ditch OGL and rework the game as a less expensive and disruptive proposition than a protracted legal battle.

We might end 2023 with Pathfinder 2.5e where your attributes are Might, Agility, Stamina, Smarts, Wits and Personality, you lose Life Points if an attack beats your Protection Class, and you cast Arcane Missile at a Birdbear.

We might also see a TTRPG market where anguished sensitive fans who bought into the open-minded 5e era WotC abhor the corporate money grab by Hasbro lords of boards and decide to explore other RPGs, which wouldn't be that bad.


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keftiu wrote:
Hasbro's really speedrunning the process of setting all the goodwill they earned with 5e on fire during this edition change. It's kind of impressive.

I was physically in the room when they did something similar with another property. It coincided with a release of official material and a mysterious fire. If not for that, I think there would have been a lot more outcry.


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Totally Not Gorbacz wrote:

This being the American legal system, Paizo could win but lose - an ultimate victory in the court followed by going bankrupt because legal fees are a beach. So, they might decide to ditch OGL and rework the game as a less expensive and disruptive proposition than a protracted legal battle.

We might end 2023 with Pathfinder 2.5e where your attributes are Might, Agility, Stamina, Smarts, Wits and Personality, you lose Life Points if an attack beats your Protection Class, and you cast Arcane Missile at a Birdbear.

We might also see a TTRPG market where anguished sensitive fans who bought into the open-minded 5e era WotC abhor the corporate money grab by Hasbro lords of boards and decide to explore other RPGs, which wouldn't be that bad.

Those birdbears sound dangerous.


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Freehold DM wrote:
Totally Not Gorbacz wrote:

This being the American legal system, Paizo could win but lose - an ultimate victory in the court followed by going bankrupt because legal fees are a beach. So, they might decide to ditch OGL and rework the game as a less expensive and disruptive proposition than a protracted legal battle.

We might end 2023 with Pathfinder 2.5e where your attributes are Might, Agility, Stamina, Smarts, Wits and Personality, you lose Life Points if an attack beats your Protection Class, and you cast Arcane Missile at a Birdbear.

We might also see a TTRPG market where anguished sensitive fans who bought into the open-minded 5e era WotC abhor the corporate money grab by Hasbro lords of boards and decide to explore other RPGs, which wouldn't be that bad.

Those birdbears sound dangerous.

I'd bet they have a threat level of 4


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Trondster wrote:

Hopefully the attempt to "unauthorize" the OGL 1.0a will be rejected - I do not believe that the attempt will hold up in court.

Well - Hasbro seems so finally have united the role playing community. The bad news is that they now are united against Hasbro.

If it goes to court it will be thrown out quickly as WotC themselves stated clearly that EVERY OGL would be PERMANENT in the original OGL FAQ:

https://web.archive.org/web/20010429033432/http://www.wizards.com/D20/artic le.asp?x=dt20010417e

Third parties relied upon that information to make decisions. They cannot revoke it now.


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I'm amused by the timing of that PBS hit-piece on the OSR community that just so happened to drop right in the middle of this growing OGL situation. WotC doing a little media battlefield prep, if I'm not mistaken. Wizards really must be worried about the optics of this whole thing if they're already thinking along those lines....


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Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

My thoughts on this. Wotc wanted this version leaked so when the real one drops it'll be terrible but less so and people can say, see looks it's better than what was leaked and just go along with it.

**takes off tinfoil hat**


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John Lance wrote:
I'm amused by the timing of that PBS hit-piece on the OSR community that just so happened to drop right in the middle of this growing OGL situation. WotC doing a little media battlefield prep, if I'm not mistaken. Wizards really must be worried about the optics of this whole thing if they're already thinking along those lines....

What they want is for everything to be handled by a license that is more draconian than the GSL was and may try to accomplish it, but their own words about the OGL would rise to the level of contract in a court and their attempts would be thrown out. The FAQ was used to make business decisions more than 20 years ago and they clearly state that every version of the OGL would always be permanent. I wonder if Hasbro even knows that FAQ exists as it has subsequently been removed from the WotC web site, but as we all know the internet is forever.

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