In a recent interview with Game Rant, the creator of the viral Roll for Sandwich TikTok series speaks about the Open Game License controversy.
The Roll for Sandwich series has become one of the most popular on the TikTok app, seemingly blowing up overnight and going on to become a mainstay on tabletop and food TikTok. The premise is simple, yet enticing: creator Jacob Pauwels uses dice to randomly determine the bread, main, cheese, roughage, “wild magic,” and sauce. Sometimes the creation is a run-of-a-mill sandwich, sometimes it’s something bizarre but delicious, and sometimes it’s a disaster. Game Rant recently spoke with Pauwels regarding his series, tabletop in general, and ongoings within the tabletop world.
As a content creator and fan of D&D and tabletop games, Pauwels had some thoughts about the controversy surrounding Wizards of the Coast’s proposed changes to its Open Game License. His thoughts are in line with how many fans in the community feel: the proposed changes were detrimental to the entire RPG community, they were driven by corporatism, and the changes were largely out of the hands of the majority of people who work at Wizards of the Coast.
Wizards of the Coast’s Profit Seeking Went Too Far
One of the most contentious changes about Wizards of the Coast’s OGL 1.1 was the introduction of a royalty structure that would require any games using the OGL to pay Wizards of the Coast a 25% tax on earnings above $750,000. While this may have seemed like a good idea from the perspective of parent company Hasbro‘s shareholders, it went against the spirit of the open-source licensing that has helped this industry grow so much in recent decades. Pauwels said that although he certainly doesn’t agree with the change, he can understand the mindset that led to the idea.
It boils down to how very large companies and corporations own a lot of these IPs, and a company exists to make money. Unless you are a nonprofit, that’s what they exist to do. And so a lot of times, that’s how the decisions are made. Hopefully, they’re not made in such a way to alienate and to destroy their entire fan base. I don’t agree with it, but I understand why it happened. Hopefully, they take what happened in response as a sign that that was a mistake, and that they should really think about what their community likes about their product and about D&D as a whole.
This change was regarded as monopolistic and anti-competitive by many, ambushing countless independent games that have used Wizards’ Open Game License in good faith over the last two decades. Wizards of the Coast earned $1.3 billion in 2021, and the new license would be affecting competitors that already earned over a thousand times less. This may not be a great deal of money to Wizards, but that 25% could make or break smaller companies who already struggle to put their books on the shelves of game stores.
Immediately after the new OGL was revealed, D&D players mobilized against the change on behalf of the game developers who would be negatively affected. Masses of players spoke with their wallets and canceled their D&D Beyond subscriptions, while outrage on social media and elsewhere on the internet brought the issue massive attention. In response to this feedback, Wizards of the Coast has reversed most of the controversial changes to the OGL. Pauwels acknowledged the community’s response.
I definitely think that the original plan was not a great one, and that the changes that have come out since people raised their voices and canceled their D&D Beyond subscriptions are definitely better.
Since this interview, Wizards of the Coast has backed down completely on its plan to deauthorize the original OGL. As an additional win, a 400-page SRD has been published under the Creative Commons license. The Systems Reference Document details all of the game mechanics and systems that Dungeons & Dragons operates with, and publishing it under a Creative Commons license makes this ruleset accessible to game developers who wish to use the system to create their own RPGs.