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Free League declares two OGLs, hurried by DnD licence changes

Intensified due to the D&D row, Free League is revamping the Year Zero Engine OGL - creators will have an "irrevocable" right to sell royalty-free work

DnD Free League OGL - A wizards casting a fiery phoenix spell

Free League is the latest tabletop RPG publisher to announce its own Open Gaming License due to the D&D OGL controversy. In fact, it’s got two to declare. One is a rework of its current Year Zero Engine OGL, which is based on Wizards of the Coasts’ own OGL v1.0. The other is a licence for its upcoming Dragonbane RPG, which will allow for third-party modules, though not entirely new games based on the ruleset.

According to its January 16 newsletter, Free League Publishing began devising these licences in 2022, but the work was “intensified” due to news that the DnD OGL was changing. “It’s clear that it is high time for Free League to have an OGL that is fully our own,” says CEO Tomas Härenstam.

The Year Zero Engine is the system Free League uses for most of its RPGs – tweaking as necessary – all the way from Mutant: Year Zero to the Blade Runner and upcoming Walking Dead RPGs. Its updated OGL is designed for ease-of-use, and will give creators the “irrevocable, worldwide, and royalty-free right” to make and sell their own material based on the system. Free League is also updating the Systems Reference Document that accompanies the Year Zero Engine OGL and includes all its usable content, to reflect new rules added in its more recent games. Apparently this will encompass “rules for chases, vehicles, travel, and magic.”

DnD Free League OGL - a dragon swooping down on an axewielding hero

Dragonbane is Free League’s Kickstarted reboot of Sweden’s oldest RPG, Drakar och Demoner, which started out life in 1982. The publisher is developing a new licence for this game, which is intended only for third-party Dragonbane content, rather than new games derived from its rules.

However, Free League says the licence will allow creators to “share or sell Dragonbane modules, and without paying any royalties to anyone”. It’ll also let you slap a special “a module for Dragonbane” logo on your work. To give perspective, the DnD OGL v1.0 does not let you refer to D&D or any of Wizards’ trademarked terms, instead requiring something ambiguous like ‘for use with 5e’ on OGL products. For a while, ‘the world’s greatest roleplaying game’ was used by many third-party creators as a euphemism for D&D, but Wizards trademarked that term in 2022.

DnD Free League OGL - The Dragonbane module logo

Free League believes that, as per Wizards’ latest statement, its two games published under Wizards’ open licence, the upcoming The Lord of the Rings Roleplaying and Ruins of Symbaroum, “can continue largely unaffected even after their updated OGL”, but adds that it’s continuing to monitor the situation.

This is the latest in a series of RPG publishers declaring new licences and games after news that Wizards plans to change its OGL. In just the last week, Kobold Press announced work on its own RPG, smaller OSR publishers began to extricate themselves from the OGL, and – backed by Chaosium and Kobold Press – Paizo announced a new open licence (called ORC) that anyone can use.