When leaks about an upcoming Dungeons & Dragons license shakeup surfaced earlier this month, many fans and creators were outraged by apparent changes that could limit their ability to produce derivative games, shows, and other content.
In the end, however, NFTs proved to be the largest target, which was disappointing news for Web3 gaming firm Gripnr, which was developing a project that attempts to recreate the fantasy-themed tabletop smash for a new era. Now that it’s clear that D&D’s parent company has no interest in NFTs, the company is changing course.
The current version of the D&D Open Game License has been around for more than 20 years. It allows fans and companies to make content that works with the famous tabletop game by borrowing certain elements from a System Reference Document.
Wizards of the Coast recently got rid of some of the more annoying parts of the new license, like the requirement to pay royalties. However, the latest version of the license still says that D&D content can’t be used in NFTs.
“We wanted to address those attempting to use D&D in Web3, blockchain games, and NFTs by making clear that [Open Game License] content is limited to tabletop role-playing content,” D&D publisher Wizards of the Coast wrote in a blog post.
Late in 2021, a firm in Louisiana began making The Glimmering, a tabletop game based on blockchain. Using the Ethereum sidechain network Polygon, it aimed to make it easier to play while recording currency, items, and experience points on-chain, among other things, like giving rewards to creators and people who watch over The Glimmering sessions.
The game’s whitepaper says that the Open Games License and System Reference Document would be used to “bring The Glimmering to life.” Stephen Radney-MacFarland, the lead game developer, said that as soon as the news of the controversial license update got out, some of Gripnr’s top managers got together for a meeting.
“It was a good amount of chaos,” he said. “We had to go back and rethink, ‘How are we going to do this?”
The best course of action for Gripnr was to proceed with the project while revoking all uses of the Open Games License and System Reference Document. And Gripnr believes that its game does not infringe any of Wizards of the Coast’s protectable intellectual property.
The company had previously received communications indicating Wizards of the Coast “may not be happy” with The Glimmering, so Radney-MacFarland stated that the proposed license’s ban on NFTs was not entirely shocking.
Refusing to roll the dice
Last week, Gripnr gave a long answer to the latest proposed version of the license, pointing out problems with modifications that go far beyond a ban on blockchain apps. In the end, it came up with a plan to make a new open-source license for tabletop role-playing games.
“The best path forward for Gripnr and many other companies in the industry is to abandon the [Open Games License] and find licenses or other methods that will allow us to continue our business,” it stated. “To be candid and blunt, Wizards has no broad right to prevent the use of Web3, blockchain, or NFTs in tabletop gaming.”
The blog post also said that it was “disingenuous” for Wizards of the Coast to say that NFTs were one of the main reasons it wanted to update the license, since its parent company, Hasbro, has sold NFTs before, including digital Funko Pop collectibles and Starting Lineup NBA action figures that came with NFTs.
Even though The Glimmering hasn’t been released yet (the on-chain campaign is set to launch in March), Gripnr has released the Genesis Collection of NFT heroes that will be used to play the game. Radney-MacFarland said that the sale of the heroes was one of the reasons to move forward.
“We were definitely not going to pack things up and go home,” he said. “We’d already put in a great deal of work [and] sold out of our first run of NFT heroes.”
The heroes’ attributes, such as their weapons, armor, and backgrounds, are chosen at random. These attributes tell a lot about each character. Only one hero from the Genesis Collection has ever been sold on OpenSea. That was in October 2022.
Radney-MacFarland is a veteran of the tabletop gaming industry. He has worked for both Wizards of the Coast and Paizo, which makes Pathfinder, one of D&D’s biggest competitors. The game’s creator said that he is currently reworking The Glimmering and making changes to make up for the fact that the Open Games License and System Reference Document will no longer be used.
The Tower of Power, a one-hour game session on Gripnr’s Discord server, gives potential players a taste of what The Glimmering will be like. It still uses the version of Gripnr’s game that includes the D&D license since the current version hasn’t been taken away yet.
Radney-MacFarland said that the game will still have things that are common in tabletop games, like 20-sided dice, spells, adventures, and treasure. Given the need to differentiate itself from its legendary inspiration, however, certain elements, such as certain monsters and sections of the game’s mythology, are likely to change.
“Our orcs will be a little different,” he said. “It’s going to be very familiar to what people are used to playing and a bit different in parts, but I don’t think those parts will be too grating.”
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: All content provided on this website, any hyperlinked sites, social media accounts and other platforms is for general information only and has been procured from third party sources. We make no warranties of any kind regarding this content. None of the content should be interpreted as financial, legal, or other advice meant to be relied on for any purpose. Any use or reliance on this content is done at your own risk and discretion. It is your responsibility to conduct research, review, analyze, and verify the content before relying on it.