Open Gaming License

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Open Gaming License[edit]

Introduced by Wizards of the Coast with Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition, the Open Gaming License is a copyright license for TTRPGs. It rips off of the GNU Public License that made open source software so ubiquitous. The idea is that you can make splatbooks and derivative works without paying hefty royalty cheques, so long as you don't pass yourself off as "official" support material, and you let other people make stuff derived from your stuff. Plus US courts have held you can't copyright game rules, only the words used to describe them, so you don't actually lose that much.

Giving things away for free, even if it means you get truckloads of new content you didn't have to hire writers for, and it gives your product most of the market share, is still scary to execs and suits, so Wizards of the Coast "improved" the Open Gaming License in 2008 to the "Game System License," which allowed developers to use D&D trademarks like beholders, but forces them to stamp their products with WotC and D&D logos, and WotC can change the rules at any time without notice, and if they decide to sue someone the target agrees to pay the legal fees up-front. Understandably, authors said "fuck that noise" and stuck with the OGL.

Eventually Wizards realized (translation: copied from the greedy fucktards at Bethesda) that you don't have to pay writers to make lots of supplements if you let fanboys write them for you and take a hefty slice off the top, so in January 2015, they released the Systems Reference Document for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition under the OGL v. 1.0a containing just enough for supplement writers to write 5e-compatible books and created the Dungeon Master's Guild, which allows developers to use D&D trademarks (and settings like Forgotten Realms) but with Wizards taking half of all revenue and reserving the right to steal your shit to sell again as DLC for their licensed vidyas. This means that Wizards has successfully introduced the concept of paid mods to tabletop gaming, and this time developers seem to have taken the bait. At least you can tell them to fuck off and just use the SRD, even if it's the absolute bare minimum to work with.

When you use the OGL, the stuff that you don't want copied and passed around has to be explicitly stated (See definition 1e, and item 7 below "Product Identity".). Since Wizards retained all trademarks that can possibly refer what the hell something is supposed to be based on or compatible with, "OGL" also sees use to refer to what a system is. This would be confusing, but the exact nature of the OGL means there's no real reason to use it over a very similiar but legally distinct license if the product isn't ultimately a derivative of 3E D&D or, more rarely, d20 modern.

The actual text[edit]

'OPEN GAME LICENSE Version 1.0a'

The following text is the property of Wizards of the Coast, Inc. and is Copyright 2000 Wizards of the Coast, Inc ("Wizards"). All Rights Reserved.

1. Definitions:

  • (a)"Contributors" means the copyright and/or trademark owners who have contributed Open Game Content;
  • (b)"Derivative Material" means copyrighted material including derivative works and translations (including into other computer languages), potation, modification, correction, addition, extension, upgrade, improvement, compilation, abridgment or other form in which an existing work may be recast, transformed or adapted;
  • (c) "Distribute" means to reproduce, license, rent, lease, sell, broadcast, publicly display, transmit or otherwise distribute;
  • (d) "Open Game Content" means the game mechanic and includes the methods, procedures, processes and routines to the extent such content does not embody the Product Identity and is an enhancement over the prior art and any additional content clearly identified as Open Game Content by the Contributor, and means any work covered by this License, including translations and derivative works under copyright law, but specifically excludes Product Identity.
  • (e) "Product Identity" means product and product line names, logos and identifying marks including trade dress; artifacts; creatures characters; stories, storylines, plots, thematic elements, dialogue, incidents, language, artwork, symbols, designs, depictions, likenesses, formats, poses, concepts, themes and graphic, photographic and other visual or audio representations; names and descriptions of characters, spells, enchantments, personalities, teams, personas, likenesses and special abilities; places, locations, environments, creatures, equipment, magical or supernatural abilities or effects, logos, symbols, or graphic designs; and any other trademark or registered trademark clearly identified as Product identity by the owner of the Product Identity, and which specifically excludes the Open Game Content;
  • (f) "Trademark" means the logos, names, mark, sign, motto, designs that are used by a Contributor to identify itself or its products or the associated products contributed to the Open Game License by the Contributor
  • (g) "Use", "Used" or "Using" means to use, Distribute, copy, edit, format, modify, translate and otherwise create Derivative Material of Open Game Content.
  • (h) "You" or "Your" means the licensee in terms of this agreement.

2. The License: This License applies to any Open Game Content that contains a notice indicating that the Open Game Content may only be Used under and in terms of this License. You must affix such a notice to any Open Game Content that you Use. No terms may be added to or subtracted from this License except as described by the License itself. No other terms or conditions may be applied to any Open Game Content distributed using this License.

3. Offer and Acceptance: By Using the Open Game Content You indicate Your acceptance of the terms of this License.

4. Grant and Consideration: In consideration for agreeing to use this License, the Contributors grant You a perpetual, worldwide, royalty-free, non-exclusive license with the exact terms of this License to Use, the Open Game Content.

5. Representation of Authority to Contribute: If You are contributing original material as Open Game Content, You represent that Your Contributions are Your original creation and/or You have sufficient rights to grant the rights conveyed by this License.

6. Notice of License Copyright: You must update the COPYRIGHT NOTICE portion of this License to include the exact text of the COPYRIGHT NOTICE of any Open Game Content You are copying, modifying or distributing, and You must add the title, the copyright date, and the copyright holder's name to the COPYRIGHT NOTICE of any original Open Game Content you Distribute.

7. Use of Product Identity: You agree not to Use any Product Identity, including as an indication as to compatibility, except as expressly licensed in another, independent Agreement with the owner of each element of that Product Identity. You agree not to indicate compatibility or co-adaptability with any Trademark or Registered Trademark in conjunction with a work containing Open Game Content except as expressly licensed in another, independent Agreement with the owner of such Trademark or Registered Trademark. The use of any Product Identity in Open Game Content does not constitute a challenge to the ownership of that Product Identity. The owner of any Product Identity used in Open Game Content shall retain all rights, title and interest in and to that Product Identity.

8. Identification: If you distribute Open Game Content You must clearly indicate which portions of the work that you are distributing are Open Game Content.

9. Updating the License: Wizards or its designated Agents may publish updated versions of this License. You may use any authorized version of this License to copy, modify and distribute any Open Game Content originally distributed under any version of this License.

10. Copy of this License: You MUST include a copy of this License with every copy of the Open Game Content You Distribute.

11. Use of Contributor Credits: You may not market or advertise the Open Game Content using the name of any Contributor unless You have written permission from the Contributor to do so.

12. Inability to Comply: If it is impossible for You to comply with any of the terms of this License with respect to some or all of the Open Game Content due to statute, judicial order, or governmental regulation then You may not Use any Open Game Material so affected.

13. Termination: This License will terminate automatically if You fail to comply with all terms herein and fail to cure such breach within 30 days of becoming aware of the breach. All sublicenses shall survive the termination of this License.

14. Reformation: If any provision of this License is held to be unenforceable, such provision shall be reformed only to the extent necessary to make it enforceable.


  • Open Game License v 1.0 Copyright 2000, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.
  • System Reference Document Copyright 2000-2003, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.; Authors Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, Skip Williams, Rich Baker, Andy Collins, David Noonan, Rich Redman, Bruce R. Cordell, John D. Rateliff, Thomas Reid, James Wyatt, based on original material by E. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.
  • (your game here) © year, your real name, company you were working for

Parts of D&D that are not Open Game Content[edit]

The following items are designated Product Identity, as defined in Section 1(e) of the Open Game License Version 1.0a, and are subject to the conditions set forth in Section 7 of the OGL, and are not Open Content: Dungeons & Dragons, D&D, Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master, Monster Manual, d20 System, Wizards of the Coast, d20 (when used as a trademark), Forgotten Realms, Faerûn, proper names (including those used in the names of spells or items), places, Red Wizard of Thay, the City of Union, Heroic Domains of Ysgard, Ever-Changing Chaos of Limbo, Windswept Depths of Pandemonium, Infinite Layers of the Abyss, Tarterian Depths of Carceri, Gray Waste of Hades, Bleak Eternity of Gehenna, Nine Hells of Baator, Infernal Battlefield of Acheron, Clockwork Nirvana of Mechanus, Peaceable Kingdoms of Arcadia, Seven Mounting Heavens of Celestia, Twin Paradises of Bytopia, Blessed Fields of Elysium, Wilderness of the Beastlands, Olympian Glades of Arborea, Concordant Domain of the Outlands, Sigil, Lady of Pain, Book of Exalted Deeds, Book of Vile Darkness, beholder, gauth, carrion crawler, tanar'ri, baatezu, displacer beast, githyanki, githzerai, mind flayer, illithid, umber hulk, yuan-ti.

-Revised (v.3.5) System Reference Document, Wizards of the Coast

Yes, they seem to have trademarked "Ever-Changing Chaos of Limbo" and even Gauths, like seriously out all the interesting and not so interesting beholderkin the only one they decided to trademark was the puny insignificant Gauths? Really makes you wonder what the the guys who wrote the OGL were smoking.

Works that use the OGL[edit]

This is not a complete list.

See Also[edit]