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D&D’s OGL Saga Continues as Penny Arcade and ‘Critical Role’ Speak Up

4 Minute Read
Jan 15 2023
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After WotC’s “OGL update” more creators have spoken up and spoken out about changes, including the folks behind two of D&D’s biggest liveplays.

The OGL saga continues through the weekend. After Wizards of the Coast released their “update about the OGL”, more people in the community spoke up about the situation. Including both Penny Arcade and Critical Role. These two names are behind the liveplays that helped spread D&D’s popularity. Penny Arcade had Acquisitions Inc. which ushered in 4th Edition and the idea of “watchable D&D”, and Critical Role who turned their D&D campaign into everything from makeup and merch to an animated special, streaming now.

And this past Friday, both issued statements about the ongoing situation that were of varying degrees of critical of WotC’s shenanigans, while acknowledging the harm done to the community.

Penny Arcade Speaks Out

image credit: Penny Arcade

In a post and related comic titled Ogle, Penny Arcade denounces WotC’s recent actions, though not without first outlining their history:

“I remember when you came to us and wondered how you could get people to try D&D, and we suggested a podcast. Different time, huh?”

After explaining that Penny Arcade isn’t paid to make Acquisitions Incorporated (the show, which is indeed surprising) and that it’s mostly done because it’s fun, they talk about WotC’s financial difficulties:

I understand that something happened to the stonk, and that this caused an ever widening circle of black crows to erupt over your offices (figuratively) and your brand (literally). I also know many, many people who work there and would never have anything to do with this. The people I know are drawing tentacles or painting museum-quality pieces or trying to figure out how to stuff as much classic Dungeons & Dragons texture into the new version as they can. That is to say, they understand perfectly well what Dungeons & Dragons is and you can ask them about that at any time.

But the best sentiment comes at the end. It touches on what makes RPGs like D&D unique:

“Dungeons & Dragons isn’t really a brand – it’s a culture, which is a million times better than a brand.  And it’s not like that doesn’t have direct implications for the bottom line: D&D is on its most successful iteration ever precisely because it’s a universal touchstone.  I’ve heard – you know, from you – that streaming and podcasts are to thank for that.  I can’t really make heads or tails of your apology, but let me say this: you have entered treacherous waters entirely of your own volition.  Literally, just turn around, and walk back out.

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Critical Role Issues Their Own Statement

Critical Role, makers of, well, Critical Role also spoke out later that same day, with a much subtler statement in comparison:

Critical Role has always supported creators and game development in the tabletop space. We stand by our industry peers, as well as anyone who takes a risk creating a new system or developing an original idea.

The beauty of gaming comes from the opportunity to share inclusive, diverse, and compelling stories from a wide spectrum of creators. That’s exactly why we launched our own game publishing company a few years ago – because we believe that broadening the field of creators boosts the entire industry.

The success we have experienced is thanks to the passion and interest of the greater tabletop community and we commit to fostering an environment that allows everyone the opportunity to easily share the stories they wish to tell.

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This statement makes no mention of the OGL at all. Though they do say they support creators and game development in the tabletop space. Some believe that Critical Role is trying very carefully not to pick sides. Others posit that Critical Role is “saying what they can,” while offering the supposition that their hands may be tied by contracts.

D&D Beyond is a longtime sponsor of the show, since before WotC acquired them. Wizards of the Coast has a reputation for fairly strict NDAs and other clauses. Former employees have spoken up in the past about having to adjust their social media practices.

While the community may disagree on what ‘Critical Role’ meant by their statement, the community at large, from 3rd party publishers and livestreamers, to people who just play the game, continue to speak up and speak out.

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