The now-recalled changes to the OGL have hurt TTRPG fans’ trust in D&D, but other systems may have their chance to come into the limelight.
For much of its lifespan, Dungeons & Dragons has been synonymous with tabletop role-playing games as a whole, with many viewing D&D as the default for tabletop systems. With its near monopoly on playgroups, the recent controversy over publisher Wizards of the Coast looking to change the OGL has impacted nearly the entire TTRPG community. The Open Gaming License is what allows fans to create and profit off of unofficial D&D content, and many have taken to the internet to voice their displeasure about the planned changes. Despite the controversy damaging trust in the TTRPG community, other systems have their chance to make waves.
Because of the OGL, D&D has been able to become a bedrock for TTRPGs, with systems like Pathfinder 1.0 being created under it, and hundreds — if not thousands — of custom campaigns and sourcebooks designed by enterprising Dungeon Masters that can be used with the system. While this does mean that players have an almost endless source of new content for D&D if they look for it, it also means that many TTRPG fans might never end up playing any system other than D&D. With many examining their relationship to WotC in the wake of this controversy, there may be a future of tabletop gaming where this isn’t the case.
Other TTRPG Systems Are Already Making Changes
Even with D&D backtracking OGL 1.1, several major names in the TTRPG community are already making moves to distance themselves from WotC. Pathfinder developer Paizo has announced plans for an open RPG license, and popular TTRPG publisher Kobold Press will be working on Project Black Flag, another open TTRPG system. While these are big names for deeply enfranchised players, it’s likely that most casual fans of D&D might not have heard of them before. However, due to the news of the controversy spreading into mainstream outlets, that’s no longer the case.
The coming landscape could see competitors to D&D becoming larger players in the market, bringing new systems and different approaches to gameplay to wider audiences. With many fans are already looking for new TTRPGs to try out, systems that have previously filled smaller niches in the community may have the opportunity to grow their numbers and become more widely known. If more companies and developers take actions like Paizo and Kobold Press, there could be more core systems TTRPG fans could pull from.
New TTRPGs Will Need To Distinguish Themselves Fast
Already, D&D Beyond — the official D&D resource site — has seen crashes due to the number of players canceling subscriptions in protest, and the story has seen major coverage outside TTRPG circles. The noise surrounding the proposed changes will likely settle, especially now that WotC has rescinded the changes, but people’s trust and willingness to support WotC means that these other systems will have a window of time to really distinguish themselves and attract new players. There will still be an updated OGL coming in the future, so fans will need to wait and see exactly what WotC intends to change about the license. To gain a larger reach in the community, the promised systems will need to arrive before the negative feelings toward WotC settle, or playgroups will simply return to their familiar D&D games again.
Even though the company has walked back on its plans, the relationship between WotC and D&D players will likely not recover to where it stood before the changes were made public. This isn’t WotC’s first run-in with controversy, with Magic: The Gathering having received criticism just last month for its $999 price tag on packs of non-legal cards, and there will no doubt be missteps or poor executive choices made in the future.
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