A Brush with the DM’s Guild and the OGL

I want to post more often, so I’m going to upload shorter posts, instead of blogging enormous treatises once a century. I also want to start making a nice little community here. So! Don’t be shy; if there’s something here you like or you have an alternative perspective or a question, leave a comment. So long as everyone’s civil, we’ll all have a good time.


If only my D&D notes were presented so beautifully.

Yesterday, I  lamented to a friend that 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons wasn’t released under the Open Gaming Licence (OGL). I was missing all those cool third party games and conversions, things like the Star Wars d20 System game, Pathfinder, and Deadlands, which I’ve recently discovered. He said:

‘Get your head out of your ass. It is released under the Open Gaming Licence, and there’s this online store come publishing platform that allows you to use the ‘product identity’ of D&D; mind flayers and  beholders and all that good stuff. You dingus.’ [ED: His friend is actually way too kind to say something like that. He may have embellished slightly.]

Regardless, I’m glad that 5th Edition comes with the OGL too. My first brush with the OGL was the Monster Manual 2, where there were two monsters (Razor Boar and Scorpionfolk) printed in different formatting and a little note explaining about the Open Gaming Licence. The OGL allows you to use the mechanics of the game system (in this case the d20 System, now on v.5.1), so long as you don’t use any of the Dungeons & Dragons product identity. These are the bits that are unique to that system, like mind-flayers and beholders. You want to use the d20 System to come up with your own mobs or classes or campaigns, though? Have at it.

It lit my tiny brain up like a spark at a firework factory. I was too young at the time to be able to take advantage of it, but it was ‘the coolest thing ever’. There was a way to create things for a role playing game system that was a massive part of my childhood, without someone going ‘No, you can’t do that, kid.’

Roll on—urgh, Lord—over a decade, and though my love of RPGs and D&D in particular has never faded, I’d forgotten about the OGL until recently. Now it’s back in the old brain pan, and it’s brought a friend. Enter the DM’s Guild.

From some basic exploration, the DM’s Guild seems to be a self-publishing platform that allows you to use fluff from Dungeons and Dragons that you couldn’t use under the Open Gaming Licence. It also allows you to sell material that you make through the store, though Wizards of the Coast splits revenue 50-50 with you.

It’s quite clever, when you think about it. Creators get access to cannon material (setting neutral, Forgotten Realms and Ravenloft only at the moment) for use in their own products without having to licence it at a cost from Wizards of the Coast. Wizards of the Coast get a veritable tidal wave of content they can profit from. They also get the opportunity to headhunt content creators and content they want to buy the rights for.

Now, I’m not naïve. I haven’t looked into it in any depth, there may be an otyugh lurking in it somewhere. The 50-50 royalties split seemed steep on first contact [ED: Probably ‘cause he’s a tight bastard] but it’s hard to tell. Royalties from self-publishing with Amazon range from 35% to 70%, depending on where you live.  A quick google for more traditional publishing figures, (I haven’t tried to verify these figures in anyway, so caveat emptor), turns up 10-15% royalties for hardcover, 8-10% paperback and up to 25% for ebook. Suddenly that 50% looks a lot more enticing.

There’s also the Community Content Agreement, which you have to agree to before you can publish. I’m not sure what the content of this agreement is yet, and don’t currently have the time to explore, but as soon as I do, I’ll post about it. Here’s hoping that there aren’t any sticky surprises.

I’m not in a position to suss it out right now because I don’t finish studying until the end of May, but from May until October, I have a nice chunk of free(-ish) time. Maybe in October, you’ll see some mobs, adventures and campaigns for sale on the DM’s Guild written by yours truly. God knows I’ve been playing D&D long enough; there has to be something interesting rattling around my attic, right?

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